I’ve just finished four days of driving in Jeju – it’s been great!
Well, most of it. That full day of torrential rain kinda put a dampener on things, but still, it added the moodiness and drama of the island.
Just in case you didn’t know, Jeju is an island off the south coast of South Korea. The population is around 600,000 and it’s 45 miles across and 25 miles from north to south. It’s one of the most popular places for South Koreas to go on holiday, and I flew over from Japan to have a driving holiday in Jeju, so I could cruise all around the coast.
I couldn’t find much information on driving in Jeju, or on hiring a car in Jeju, so I wanted to put together this post to cover everything I’ve learned in the past four days on Jeju Island.
Why hire a car on Jeju?
There are bus tours and public buses on Jeju, which are good according to other travel bloggers, but I wanted to drive in Jeju on my own time. I wanted to spend as long as I liked at each place, and have the independence of a car.
Of course at the back of my mind I was worried about driving in South Korea, and how different it would be, but I’ve driven in quite a few places around the world now – how difficult could it be?
I know it might seem scary to hire a car abroad, but provided you follow this car hire advice you can enjoy the freedom of the open road, without having to worry.
Where to hire a car on Jeju Island
I got my Jeju car rental through AJ Cars. Mainly because they were the cheapest ones through Booking.com when I searched, and didn’t have horrible online reviews.
I paid £91.89 for 3 days car rental on Jeju, with a 2pm pick up and drop off. Of that £52.26 was the car and £39.63 was the ‘Full Protection Insurance’.
I didn’t know at the time but this also included GPS – more on that later.
They gave me a four-door Kia Morning, AUTOMATIC (dreams). It was scratched, dented and chipped, as most of the cars seem to be on Jeju, and so I took about 100 photos of it on my phone with the car hire place in the background as evidence.
The guy from AJ Cars also went round the car with me and pointed out the big scrapes and told me to photo them.
I picked it up and dropped it off at Jeju International Airport.
If you’re hiring a car from the airport you will need to take a short transfer bus ride out to the car rental. Follow the signs for ‘Rental Cars’ at the airport, and then look for your bus. Mine had AJ CARS written in huge letters on the side (though I still managed to walk past it twice).
It takes less than 5 minutes to get to the car hire, and it’s a free transfer.
At the Jeju car hire
You will need to get a paper slip with a number from the machine. I was seen straight away (I was hiring a car in November).
I’d tried to be jammy and turned up an hour early for my booking. She said no.
But 15 minutes later, she said yes.
Yayyyyyy, free 45 minutes.
Took about 5 minutes to do the paperwork and then I went to find my wheels.
Once you’ve worked out how to start it (peddle compressed, while you press the on button – I normally drive a 2006 VW Golf!) then you drive round to the checking station for lessons on GPS, and to check the condition with the AJ staff.
Working your in built GPS
The GPS they gave me was really good, but also really annoying. It took me a day or two to get the hang of it. Mainly because I kept saying yes and agreeing when the guy was showing me how to use it, even though I couldn’t understand what he meant.
So, basically, the GPS speaks in English, well, American, but you can only programme it in either Korean, or numbers. At first I was trying to match up the Korean letters with the name of where I wanted to go.
No, don’t do this.
You need to find out the telephone number of where you’re going, and you can use the last 7 digits to set your destination. They do actually give you a map of some key points, with the numbers written out. Very useful, except I didn’t actually want to go to any of those places.
You’ll get the hang of it.
One other point. The GPS has ADS. Yes, ads flash up on screen when you’re trying to work out whether to go left or right. Maybe one every ten minutes or so.
AND, it beeped insanely at me if I was even 1km/h over the speed limit. Sometimes it would get confused and beep for the speed limit of the side street, rather than the main road I was on. Made me jump outta my skin the first few times.
It was really useful once I got the hang of it though, and I liked the large screen, and the help and support it gave me in its own way.
Oh my god I’ve just realised the only conversations I’ve had this week is with the GPS.
Solo travel hey?!
Using Google Maps and Naver in Jeju
Google Maps is limited in South Korea. You can look up where a place is, but it won’t map out how to get there.
Instead, Koreans use Naver. I found this to be absolutely annoyingly inferior to Google Maps and couldn’t wait to delete it off my phone. It was rubbish in Seoul when I was walking around, and even worse driving.
One of the most annoying things about trying to use Naver for driving in Jeju, was the fact it told me about EVERY single speed bump. It was infuriating. I think the fact that they are such big open roads, and you have to go so slow, means they’ve put these speed bumps in on all the big roads.
And Naver wanted you to know about them aaaallllll.
Also, I had no internet, so finding addresses / phone numbers / locations, was tricky.
I managed it though.
If you’re worried you could see about picking up a WiFi hot spot at Jeju airport to help you get around. I think this, combined with actually listening to the tutorial on how to use the sat nav, and asking questions if you don’t understand, will help no end with your Jeju road trip.
TOP TIP: There is public Wi-Fi you can use for free in most places, but it’s not reliable for on the go.
Is driving in Jeju difficult?
I actually found driving in Jeju pretty simple and straightforward. I was just following the coastal road and so always had a vague idea of where I was, as if I went right I’d be in the sea.
Driving on Jeju is SLOW. There’s one road that goes 70km/h but most are 50 and the roads make you slow down to 30 about half a mile before a roundabout. That’s 30 KM not mph. So 18mph.
I’d read online that there’s CCTV everywhere here, including at red lights and known speeding spots. I hope I don’t find out if that’s true. Although within about 20 minutes of driving I’d seen police speed checking on the side of the road.
The only problems I had with driving in Jeju was directions, before I worked out the telephone number thing – or wanted to go somewhere I couldn’t find the number to. It was more of an informational / internet problem, than with the actual driving.
The other drivers were absolutely fine.
I found the roads in Jeju to be mostly well surfaced, although in the Segwipo you had to watch out for the pot holes. If you’re worried this website provides fairly comprehensive details of what the driving conditions are like in various countries.
How to get petrol on Jeju Island
My Jeju car rental company wanted the car petrol level back as it had been hired to me, or, I think, if there was any more they would buy it off me. I’m not entirely sure on that one.
It so happened that I gave it back exactly as it was anyway, on one bar.
I went to a petrol station I just saw on the side of the road. In Jeju, or at least at that petrol station, the guy there filled it up for me. I told him how much – I guessed at 20,000 won (£13.09) – which ended up giving me half a tank. Turned out to be all I needed for my drive round Jeju.
I gave him cash, I don’t think he would’ve taken card, and went on about my day.
Easy as that.
TOP TIP: Before you get in the car have a look what side your petrol cap is on.
Parking in Jeju
Everywhere I went there were parking spaces. Most were totally free – although I’m not sure they would be if you’re hiring a car in Jeju in the summer.
The only place I paid was the first place I visited on Jeju, in Aewol, which seemed to be 2000 won (£1.30) for however long you were there. I just paid a lady in cash, who may, or may not, have actually been official.
Top tips for driving around Jeju
– Before renting a car in Jeju, make sure to check Korean traffic law and road signs.
– Make sure you know where the lights / air con / windows / mirrors controls are, before you drive off.
– Bring your passport and driving license to the pick up (see below).
– I don’t know about additional drivers, but I’ve read they can be added for free at some car rental companies in Jeju.
– I got the Full Protection insurance through Booking.com, but it’s absolutely up to you. They didn’t try and sell me any extra on pick up so I assume I’d got all bases covered.
– I would actually recommend getting a Wi-Fi egg to make finding addresses etc, easier, especially if you’re driving by yourself – like I was.
Drinking and driving on Jeju
The drink drive limit on Jeju Island is 0.03% (in England it’s 0.08%), as it is across Korea.
I didn’t drink at all in the day on Jeju. In fact, I only had one beer on the last night at about 7pm with food.
Not worth it.
Driving in Jeju
If you want to hire a car in Jeju, I’d say go for it. Just be careful, get the insurance, drive safe, learn to use the GPS before you leave the car park, and have fun!
OH BEFORE I GO…
International Drivers Permits in Jeju
You cannot hire a car in Jeju if you don’t have an International Driving Permit (IDP). In England you can get this at the local post office by just taking in a passport photo of yourself, your driving license, and £5.50.
Tell them it’s for South Korea and they’ll know what to do and which one you need. They look weirdly simple, and fake, but that was all they wanted to see at the AJ Cars pick up desk. My actual pink card wasn’t even asked after.
In the words of the Post Office counter lady in Portsmouth – ‘Ooo… you’re brave. Driving out there!”
Nah Carol, it was an absolute breeze. Easier than England!