I’ve always read about travellers taking rental cars to go around Jeju Island so on my last trip there, I decided to try it out myself. Here are my thoughts from that experience. As I am Malaysian, part of these are applicable to Malaysians specifically.
International Driving License
One special requirement for driving in South Korea is to have an International Driving Permit. You can apply for them at your local Land Transport Authority where you usually apply for driver’s license. It costs RM150 for a year’s worth of driving permit. Get ready a passport sized photo and patience to queue up for your turn. No driving tests required. Alternatively, I read that you can get the permit for a fee at the car rental. Best to ask them first.
Finding the best rental company and rate
So I did a research on companies that do offer rental cars. There were a few well known ones that I read about including Avis, Lotte, KT, AJ and more. I did comparison on the cars available for rental and their rates for the 2 day I will be using them. I ended up renting from SIXT as they looked legit and offered a Hyundai Avante at an affordable rate of about RM260 for 2 days which includes insurance and navigation system. These companies will require advance bookings so if you’re looking for last minute ones, you might be able to find one at the airport as I saw a lot of companies offering rental cars. I’m not sure how reliable they are though.
Arrival in Jeju and to the rental place
When I booked the car, they had given specific instructions on where to go from the airport as the rental office is not near the airport. They have a specific shuttle that goes there. Need to ask a personnel at the airport to know where to wait. Once there, the company will need to make copies of all personal identifications and give a quick briefing on the car’s handling.
Driving on the other side of the road and in winter
This was my first time driving in a country other than my own and what’s even more challenging is that the driver’s seat is on the left and they drive on the right side of the road. At first I was afraid of the idea. I remembered my dad struggled when my family rented a van on our trip to Switzerland when I was little. So when we got our car, I was really being careful. After a while, you get used to it. Some initial challenges were to make sure I didn’t drive too near to the right of the lane, knowing when to stop for pedestrians (In Malaysia, the pedestrian watch for cars), making a right turn at a junction (In Malaysia, we wait for the traffic light), driving on a snow covered road, parking the car. Luckily the car came back in 1 piece.
Google maps or Waze doesn’t work in Jeju Island! If you’re lucky, you can get an English language GPS navigation system. We were given both the Korean and English GPS. It was actually quite easy to use the Korean GPS as well. You just needed to key in the last 7 or 8 digits of the phone number of the place you wanted to go. Of course, if you know how to read Korean, it will be helpful so that you can make sure it’s going to the right place. For English GPS, we used a Garmin one. Addresses are searched in full to get the right location. Not sure how updated they are but we sometimes get different route between the 2 GPS. Some locations are found in the English one, some can only be found in the Korean one. Luckily we had both.
Adhere to Speed Limits
I read that in Jeju they take seriously the speed limits on the road. So while driving there, I tried to follow the speed limit as much as possible. However, I do notice that the locals (Or I think they are locals) drive above the speed limit sometimes. It can be quite slow sometimes but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Maybe they are more aware of the roads that will have police patrolling around.
If I can do it again, I would. The idea of driving to places in another country is definitely something I would love to try out in my future travels. It can give quite the convenience especially going to places far away. It would also save a lot of time and money if you’re in a big group.