Public transportation is really convenient in the main cities of Korea, but if you’ve been wanting to explore the countryside, especially Jeju Island, renting a car provides much more freedom. It will let you see more, give you more time to visit landmarks and you will get to discover hidden spots hardly accessible by public transportation. So if you feel ready to take the wheel, here is all you need to know to rent a car for foreigners in Korea and basic knowledge on driving regulations in Korea as well.
Requirements and Documents Needed Before Renting
To rent a small or middle-sized car, you have to be 21 years-old (international age) and have at least one-year experience driving. For bigger cars, the requirements can be different, so check on your supplier’s website beforehand.
To be able to go through the rental process, you will need your passport, your local driver’s license and an international driver’s license/permit (this paper can only be produced in your home country, and is only valid if your country is part of the Geneva Convention or Vienna Convention). You cannot rent in Korea without the IDP, because the company cannot insure the car.
Note that you must have those 3 documents with you at any given time when driving.
Korea and Jeju Car Rental Companies
When renting a car in mainland Korea and Jeju-do Island, booking online is easiest. You can book directly with one of the major 2 renting companies in Korea: Lotte Rent-a-Car and AJ Rent-a-Car.
Those two companies have the highest number of pick-up locations in the country, and their website is available both in Korean and in English.
You can also look at comparison websites such as Rentalcars, which shows the prices of all the rental companies existing in Korea, including Lotte Rent-a-Car and AJ Rent-a-Car.
Once you’ve decided on which company and which car to rent, you can easily follow the step-by-step procedure on your supplier’s website. Just be careful on the following points.
Insurance LDW (Loss Damage Waiver) or CDW (Collision Damage Waiver)
Insurances, called LDW or CDW, are an option when booking your rental. However, it’s highly recommended to subscribe to one as repair costs could be quite high in case of an accident. There are different formulas for your waiver, according to the ceiling of deductibles. For more information on cost and waiver ceilings, check your rental company’s website before completing your transaction.
Know that even if you apply for an insurance policy, in case of an accident, you might have to compensate for the operational loss (also called inactivity of the vehicle). This compensation is generally half of your daily rental fee multiplied by the number of days the car is going through repair and cannot be used.
If you want to add an additional driver, make sure to look if there’s an option for it during your booking procedure. In case there’s not, just notify the company that you want to add a second driver when picking up your car.
The additional driver must meet the same age and experience requirements and has to produce the same documents has the main driver (see listed above).
Picking-up Your Rental Car
When picking up your rental car, the procedure is quite simple. First, give your reservation number and the needed documents listed above. If you want to add an additional driver, make sure to ask the clerk at this stage. You will then have to pay the rental fees with a card under the name of the person who made the reservation. Next, sign the contract and check the car for any scratches or bumps with the company’s staff. You will then receive a copy of the contract and the key of the car.
Taking the Road
Navigate in Korea
The GPS is included in the rental cost and is available in both Korean and English in most cars. During your reservation process, make sure to check the English box in GPS options, so the staff will set the GPS in English before you leave.
If you know some Korean, you can easily switch the language in the backhand menu in case you need to set your destination’s address in Korean.
Speed Cameras in Korea
One of the best features of Korean GPS is that they warn you of any speed cameras, might they be fixed speed cameras, mobile speed cameras or two-staged speed traps. This really comes in handy considering the tremendous amount of speed cameras you will drive by, especially on Jeju Island.
Korean Driving Regulations
Driving in a foreign country can be quite intimidating, especially after noticing the way bus and taxi drivers can act recklessly on the road. Before taking the wheels, make sure you are familiar with all the regulations in effect in Korea. Here are the major rules you have to know:
In Korea, you drive on the right (like in the US, Canada, etc).
When the traffic signal is red, you can turn right. Just don’t forget to yield to pedestrians who might be crossing in the crosswalk.
When the traffic signal is green, you cannot turn left. You have to wait until the left arrow is green to do so.
When the traffic light is blinking orange, don’t stop as it only warns you to be cautious.
At intersections with no signals, priority goes to: 1. cars already inside the intersection, 2. cars coming from a wider lane than yours, 3. cars coming on your right.
You can pass a car on either the left or the right. Do not pass inside tunnels.
Yield to buses and pedestrians.
Watch out for cars suddenly stopping in the middle of the road: you are liable if you bump into them no matter the circumstances.
For a more comprehensive list of all the Korean traffic regulations, check the website KoRoad organized by the Korean ROAD Traffic Authority.
Korean Speed Limits
Ordinary road (2 lanes) / City: 60 km/h
Ordinary road (4 lanes): 80 km/h
School zone: 30 km/h
Motorway: 90 km/h
Highway (2 lanes): 80 km/h
Highway (4 lanes): 100 km/h
Highway (West Coast or Central Korea): 110 km/h
Those speeds are susceptible to change according to the road profile, weather, and vicinities, so make sure to check the speed limit signs frequently.
Korean Traffic signs
To check all the Korean traffic signs, road marks, and their meanings in English, check this link.
Now that you know how to rent a car for foreigners in Korea, you’re ready for the big leap, and all that’s left for you is to decide on the course of your road trip. If you’re planning to go to Jeju Island and looking for the best drives, you can check this article “Jeju: The Beauty Is in the Drive”.