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Tips for Renting a Car in South Korea

Renting a car in South Korea is the best way to explore the country and driving is relatively easy. Having your own car gives you the flexibility to travel at your own pace and see places that are simply not possible on group tours or public transport. These are our top tips for renting a car in South Korea:

Renting a Car in South Korea

The best and easiest way to explore South Korea is by car. Once you leave the major cities, having a car is a huge advantage and allows you to easily visit some incredible places which are not easily accessible via public transport. Our rental car allowed us to visit Korean gems such as the Hahoe Folk Village, the stunning mountain temples of Haeinsa, and many other hidden treasures dotted around the country.

Renting a car also saved us money, as we were able to fly from Busan rather than Seoul, and the fares were cheaper. If you are planning a trip to Jeju check out our tips. Having a car also meant we could also save money on hotels by staying just outside towns and cities as we toured the country.

Tip 1: Book Your Rental Car in Advance

To secure a rental car in South Korea, it’s best to book in advance. We suggest using a reputable rental company like Rentalcars.com, as they offer a wide range of cars at competitive prices. Considering the amount of driving you’ll be doing in South Korea, it’s worth selecting a larger and more comfortable car if possible.

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Tip 2: Avoid One-Way Rentals

One-way rentals in South Korea can be expensive and difficult to arrange. It’s recommended to pick up and return your rental car at the same location to save money. However, if you must return your rental car to a different location, prepare to pay a significant fee.

Tip 3: Use Public Transport in Seoul

Seoul has an excellent public transport system, and it’s cheaper to rent a car outside of the city. Traffic in Seoul can be challenging, and parking can be costly and limited. Consider renting a car after exploring Seoul by public transport.

Tip 4: Drive on the Right-Hand Side of the Road

Similar to the US and Europe, South Korea drives on the right-hand side of the road. Keep in mind that road signs and speed limits are written in kilometers per hour.

Tip 5: International Driving Permit (IDP)

You’ll need an International driver’s Permit (IDP) to rent a car in South Korea. This document is a translation of your home country’s driver’s license and is mandatory. Make sure to obtain an IDP from your home country that issues your license before traveling.

Tip 6: Purchase a SIM Card

Purchasing a SIM card with data upon arrival in South Korea is essential for navigating in your rental car. You’ll find it useful for researching places to visit on the go. We suggest purchasing a KT Olleh sim card or renting a 4G Wifi portable hotspot for multiple devices.

Tip 7: Navigation

Google Maps is not available in South Korea, but alternative apps like Maps.me, Waze, or Naver Maps work well. Note that Naver Maps requires an active South Korean cell phone number to operate.

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Tip 8: Tolls

Most highways in South Korea are toll roads, and tolls can add up quickly. Ask your rental car company for an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) sticker for the windshield to pay tolls electronically.

Tip 9: Fuel

Gas stations in South Korea are plentiful, and most are self-service. Paying for fuel is easy, but make sure you have a credit card that works in South Korea.

Tip 10: Parking

Parking in South Korea can be challenging, especially in major cities. Look for designated parking areas, and be aware that street parking is not allowed in some areas.

Tip 11: Driving in Rural Areas

Driving in rural areas of South Korea can be a bit different than driving in the city. Expect narrow roads, winding turns, and steep inclines. It’s best to take your time and enjoy the scenic drive.

Tip 12: Emergency Services

If you encounter an emergency while driving in South Korea, call 119 for fire and medical emergencies and 112 for police emergencies. Both numbers are available in English.

13 | Automatic or Manual

Most cars in South Korea are automatic which means driving in south korea is very easy. Our rental was a basic saloon and had lots of extra features and extras like reversing cameras,  electric seats, and an amazing sat nav built-in.

14 | Spare Wheel

A South Korean car rental likely won’t come with a spare wheel. However, there are lots of garages so getting a puncture fixed shouldn’t be an issue. Make sure to have the emergency contact number of your car rental company in case you need assistance.

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15 | Signage

The main destinations and road signs are in English and Korean and exits are numbered similarly to the USA.

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