South Korea is a fascinating destination for a road trip, offering a unique blend of modern cityscapes, traditional culture, stunning landscapes, and delicious cuisine. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, a road trip through South Korea is sure to be an unforgettable experience.
One of the best things about South Korea is the diversity of landscapes and attractions that you can explore on a road trip. From the bustling streets of Seoul to the tranquil beaches of Jeju Island, to the rugged mountains of the Seoraksan National Park, there's something for everyone in this beautiful country.
In addition to the natural beauty of South Korea, there's also a wealth of cultural attractions to discover. From ancient temples and palaces to traditional markets and villages, to the vibrant K-Pop and entertainment scene, there's no shortage of fascinating places to visit and things to see.
One of the best ways to experience the culture and cuisine of South Korea is through its street food scene. From crispy fried chicken and spicy tteokbokki to savory seafood pancakes and steaming bowls of bibimbap, there's no shortage of delicious and affordable options to sample on a road trip through the country.
Another great thing about South Korea is its well-developed road network, making it easy to navigate and explore the country by car. With efficient highways and well-maintained roads, you can easily cover a lot of ground and see many of the country's top attractions in a relatively short amount of time.
Overall, a road trip through South Korea is an excellent way to explore this vibrant and fascinating country. With its stunning natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, delicious cuisine, and efficient road network, there's no better way to experience all that South Korea has to offer.
The capital of South Korea is all about the senses. It’s studded with small markets, street food venues, and plenty of souvenir shops. Seoul offers an interesting choice of highlights, including the ancestral shrine of Jongmyo, Deoksu Palace, Changdeok Palace, and Insadong.
South Korea offers the visiting travellers a number of natural attractions. For more active holidays, you should definitely head to Gangwon and Gyeonggi, where you’ll have a plethora of outdoor activities at your disposal. The northernmost provinces are ideal for trekking and hiking. It is also a region where you’ll find the idyllic towns of Incheon and Suwon, with a UNESCO-listed fort, and the little village of Panmunjeom, where you’ll learn more on the local culture and cuisine.
The heart of South Korea pulses in the Jeolla Province. It is a stunning showcase of South Korea’s flora at its best, with beautiful orchards, interesting flowers, and idyllic vistas. The Korean coast is also a place worth visiting if you enjoy spending your free times close to nature.
Geomundo and Hongdo rank among the most popular holiday rivieras. For smaller settlements with unique character choose places such as Yeosu or Mokpo, whereas if you are into modern architecture and more lively semi-metropolises, travel to Gwangju. Many holidaymakers are also interested in a trip to Jeonju, where you can admire traditional housing.
Even though Chungcheon is one the least popular regions among travellers, it is a genuine treasure trove of attractions. It hides beautiful natural parks, rice terraces, and pristine islands. Traditional architecture can be found in Gongju and Buyeo, interesting bird species in the Songnisan National Park, and lakeside resort accommodation options in Danyang.
Suggested Road Trips in South Korea
Seoul to Busan: This road trip takes you from South Korea's vibrant capital city of Seoul to the scenic coastal city of Busan, covering a distance of approximately 400 km. Along the way, you'll pass through historic cities like Gyeongju, famous for its ancient tombs and temples, as well as stunning natural attractions like the Seoraksan National Park.
Jeju Island: A road trip around Jeju Island is a must for first-time visitors to South Korea. This volcanic island off the southern coast of the mainland is renowned for its stunning landscapes, including picturesque beaches, lush forests, and scenic waterfalls. A circular route around the island is approximately 180 km long and takes you past many of the island's top attractions, including the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes.
Seoul to Gyeongju: This road trip takes you from the bustling city of Seoul to the historic city of Gyeongju, covering a distance of approximately 300 km. Along the way, you'll pass through scenic countryside, charming villages, and important cultural sites like the UNESCO-listed Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto.
All three of these road trips offer a unique and diverse glimpse into South Korea's rich history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you're interested in ancient temples, stunning landscapes, or modern cities, there's something for everyone on a road trip through South Korea.
South Korea follows right-hand traffic; thus, overtaking takes place on the left. The minimum driving age here is 18; however, if you’d like to rent a car, you’ll be required to be at least 21.
Each motorist driving along South Korean roads should possess the following documents which are required by law: driver’s licence, International Driving Permit, insurance documents, registration documents, passport. It is advised to always carry your insurance documents along in South Korea.
When it comes to drinking and driving, the allowed blood alcohol level is 0.05% so even one larger drink may take you beyond this limit. It’s best to just abstain from drinking before driving. What’s more, it’s vital that all passengers wear seatbelts as the penalties for breaking this rule are pretty severe. You’ll have to pay as much as W 30,000 for not following the regulations.
There is a possibility to get an on-the-spot fine for the following offences: taking a bus lane, talking on the phone while driving, signal violation, and speeding. Bus lanes are market by blue lines.
If you would like to rent a vehicle, this option is available in all major South Korean cities and at international airports. The wide choice of interesting rental vehicles available at renowned car rental companies will cater to the needs of the most demanding tourists.
The general rules concerning speed limits are the following: 30-80 km/h in built-up areas, 60-80 km/h in rural areas, and 80-120 km/h on motorways.
There are a number of toll roads in South Korea. It is possible to pay at toll gates or use a special Hi-Pass system that allows you to drive through the gates without stopping. The amount to be paid is mostly dependent on the road type as well as the distance that you would like to cover. Toll roads are the best maintained roads in the country and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the great driving experience that they offer.
The most frequently encountered types of speed cameras in South Korea are fixed cameras and the speed enforcement system is pretty efficient across the country. Many of these devices record your average speed over a certain road section and use it as a basis to asses if you’ve exceeded the limit. What’s more, it’s illegal to use any devices that can warn you that you’re approaching a speed camera.
When taking a road trip in South Korea, there are a few things to be aware of to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey:
Driving on the right: South Korea drives on the right-hand side of the road, so if you're used to driving on the left, it may take some getting used to.
Traffic congestion: Major cities like Seoul and Busan can experience heavy traffic congestion, particularly during peak commuting hours, so it's best to plan your routes accordingly and allow extra time for travel.
Tolls: Many highways in South Korea are tolled, so be prepared to pay for road use. You can use cash, credit cards, or the T-Money transportation card to pay tolls.
Parking: Parking in major cities can be challenging and expensive, so it's best to plan ahead and research parking options in advance.
Road signs: Most road signs in South Korea are in both Korean and English, but it's still a good idea to familiarize yourself with basic road signs and traffic rules before embarking on your road trip.
Weather: South Korea can experience extreme weather conditions, particularly during the summer months when typhoons and heavy rains are common. Be sure to check weather forecasts and road conditions before setting out on your journey.
GPS and navigation: While GPS systems are widely available in South Korea, they may not always be accurate, particularly in more rural areas. It's a good idea to have a map or backup navigation system on hand, just in case.
The best time to take a road trip in South Korea depends on your preferences and the places you plan to visit. Here's a breakdown of the different seasons:
Spring (March to May): Spring is a popular time to visit South Korea, as the weather is mild and pleasant. The cherry blossoms bloom in April, making it a particularly beautiful time to take a road trip.
Summer (June to August): South Korea can get hot and humid in the summer, particularly in August. However, the beaches are in full swing and there are plenty of outdoor festivals and events to enjoy.
Fall (September to November): Fall is a popular time to visit South Korea, as the autumn foliage is spectacular. The weather is mild and there are fewer crowds than in the summer.
Winter (December to February): Winter in South Korea can be cold and snowy, particularly in the mountains. However, it's a great time to enjoy winter sports and hot springs.
Overall, the best time to take a road trip in South Korea is during the spring and fall, when the weather is mild and the scenery is stunning. However, each season has its own unique attractions and charm, so it's worth considering what you want to experience on your road trip and planning accordingly.
The cost of a road trip in South Korea can vary depending on your travel style, accommodation preferences, and activities. Here's a breakdown of some of the main expenses you can expect:
Car rental: The cost of renting a car in South Korea varies depending on the type of car, rental duration, and rental company. Generally, you can expect to pay around KRW 50,000 - 80,000 (USD 45-72) per day for a mid-sized sedan, or KRW 80,000 - 120,000 (USD 72-109) for a larger SUV.
Gasoline: The cost of gasoline in South Korea is around KRW 1,500-1,800 (USD 1.35-1.62) per liter. Depending on the distance you plan to cover, you can expect to spend around KRW 50,000-70,000 (USD 45-63) on gasoline per week.
Accommodation: Accommodation in South Korea ranges from budget guesthouses to luxury hotels. On average, you can expect to pay around KRW 50,000-100,000 (USD 45-90) per night for a mid-range hotel or guesthouse.
Food: South Korean food is delicious and affordable, with many options for street food and local restaurants. You can expect to pay around KRW 5,000-10,000 (USD 4.50-9) per meal at a local restaurant, or KRW 2,000-5,000 (USD 1.80-4.50) for street food.
Overall, a rough estimate for a road trip in South Korea would be around KRW 1,000,000-1,500,000 (USD 900-1,350) per person per week, including car rental, gasoline, accommodation, and food. Of course, the actual cost can vary depending on your travel style and preferences. It's also worth noting that public transportation in South Korea is efficient and affordable, so if you're traveling solo or on a budget, taking the train or bus may be a more cost-effective option.
If you're planning a road trip in South Korea, here are some guidebooks and road maps that can be helpful:
Lonely Planet South Korea: This guidebook provides comprehensive information on travel in South Korea, including recommended routes, attractions, and accommodations.
Korea Road Atlas: This detailed road atlas includes maps of major cities and highways in South Korea, as well as information on tolls, rest areas, and attractions.
South Korea National Geographic Adventure Map: This waterproof map is designed for outdoor enthusiasts and includes information on hiking trails, national parks, and other outdoor activities.
Korea Tourism Organization website: The official website of the Korea Tourism Organization provides information on road trip itineraries, attractions, and events, as well as practical travel tips and advice.
Overall, it's a good idea to have both a traditional road map and a guidebook or online resource for planning your road trip in South Korea. This will help you stay on track and ensure that you don't miss any must-see attractions or scenic routes.