South Korea Traffic Rules and Road Conditions: Driving on Vacation

south korea traffic and roads conditions

South Korea is a dream destination and driving around is a nice way to discover the country, since you can go about at your own pace. Nevertheless, high traffic in South Korea can get quite chaotic and not all foreigners are up to the adventure of using Korean GPS.

If you are planning a trip to South Korea, you must have a lot of questions on your mind, such as “do I need a special license to drive in Korea?” or “what side of the road do they drive on?” and more.

Read our expert recommendations to help you decide whether you would like to drive around South Korea during your vacation, book a tour, or if you would rather rely on public transportation.

Can foreigners drive in South Korea?

Yes, international tourists are allowed to drive in South Korea. If you are wondering what visitors need in order to drive in South Korea, keep in mind that you will be required to have a valid International Driving Permit. Remember that an IDP needs to be issued in your home country, and that it serves as a translation of your local driver’s license that does not substitute it.

Therefore, if you would like to drive in South Korea as a tourist, you will need to carry both your driver’s license and your International Driving Permit on you. It is also a good idea to keep your passport at hand as well, in case you get stopped for some reason.

Do I need an International License to Rent a Car in Korea?

In order to rent a car, you will need to meet the following requirements for driving in South Korea:

  • You are at least 21 years old
    Drivers under 25 years of age may be charged a surplus
  • Valid local driver’s license issued a minimum of 1 year prior
  • Valid International Driving Permit (IDP) following the Geneva convention or the Vienna convention
  • Valid passport with the necessary South Korean visa
  • Valid credit card issued in the driver’s name

If you are traveling during high season, or during South Korean holidays, it is advisable to reserve your rental car online in advance. Busy holiday destinations such as Jeju Island may run out of cars during high season, so make sure to prepare ahead.

Also make sure to get car insurance to ensure your peace of mind. You may also ask the car rental agency for an English GPS, although these are not always available. Using a Korean GPS may seem daunting at first, however, we will go over some practical workarounds.

How to Use the Korean GPS

Fortunately, many tourist destinations in South Korea clearly display their phone numbers. This can be used to search for many venues on your Korean GPS, even if you cannot read the language.

  • Click the Get “directions” tab, which reads as follows in Korean characters: 길찾기
  • Select the “search by phone number” icon, which reads as follows in Korean characters: 전화번호검색
  • Key in the phone number of your South Korea destination
  • Confirm your destination by pressing the “quick navigation” button, which reads as follows in Korean characters: 바로탐색
  • Wait for your route to load on the GPS device
  • Press the “guide start” button, which reads as follows in Korean characters: 안내시작 to begin driving

Traffic Rules in South Korea and Road Conditions

South Korean road conditions are generally good as roads are well paved, and traffic lights are functional. While most drivers comply with traffic laws, a minority drives at excessive speed or changes lanes without signaling.

Keep the following in mind while driving in South Korea:

  • Drive on the right side of the road
  • Children under 6 years old must use a child car seat
  • Wearing a seatbelt is mandatory for passengers of all ages
  • Do not drink before driving as random alcohol checks are frequent and having more than 0.05% Blood Alcohol Level can be fined
  • Wait on site until the police arrives if you are involved in any kind of accident
  • Speed cameras are common on motorways
  • Speed limits are 100 to 120 Kilometers per hour on expressways, 80 kilometers per hour on open roads, and 60 to 80 kilometers per hour inside cities
  • Expressway tolls may be paid using cash, credit cards, or a Hi-Pass card
    The blue lanes are for cars equipped with an automatic payment device, which often are not included in rental cars, so use the other lanes
  • Park near shopping malls and tourist destinations. Avoid parking anywhere that is not clearly marked as a parking space, as doing so may be fined
  • Make sure to have a hands-free set if you wish to use a mobile phone while driving

Now that you know everything you need to know about getting around South Korea by car, you can get on with the more fun parts of planning your next vacation such as making a list of activities you would like to do there as well as monuments you want to visit.

While planning your dream vacation, make sure to check back to this website frequently as it will be updated as soon as the South Korea online visa is officially made available. Applying will be very easy and take no more than a few minutes from your smartphone, tablet, or personal computer.