Beginner's Guide to Renting a Car in Korea for 2023

Beginner's Guide to Renting a Car in Korea for 2023

How to Rent a Car in Korea 2023

Map of South Korea
PUBLISHED ONAugust 24, 2023

South Korea, a stunning blend of traditional and modern wonders, offers an unforgettable driving experience. From the bustling streets of major cities to the breathtaking landscapes of Jeju Island, there's so much to explore.

But before hitting the road, it's essential to understand the rental process, road rules, and driving conditions in South Korea. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of everything you need to know about renting a car and driving in this amazing country.

Key Takeaways on How to Rent a Car in South Korea

  • South Koreans drive on the right-hand side of the road.
  • A valid driver's license and international driving permit are required to drive in South Korea.
  • Options for car rentals include online reservations with Korean car rental companies such as AJ Rent and Lotte Rent.
  • Recognizable road signs in Korea are also in English, assisting foreign drivers.
  • Driving hotspots include the scenic routes of Jeju Island and the impressive highways in major cities.

Requirements to Drive in South Korea for Tourists

As a tourist, you need the following to drive in South Korea:

  • A valid home country's driver's license: Your license must be valid for the duration of your driving experience in South Korea.
  • International Driving Permit (IDP): An IDP is mandatory for foreign drivers. The International Drivers Association can help you get an international driving permit in South Korea.
  • Credit Card: Most Korean car rental companies require a credit card for security purposes.
  • Minimum and Maximum Age: The minimum age to rent a car in South Korea is 21 years, and there is no maximum age limit.

Car Rental Companies in Korea

You can conveniently rent a car online before your trip or directly at rental offices found in major cities and airports such as Jeju International Airport. Remember to compare rates and availability before making a reservation.

Car Rental Counter at Korean Airport

This photo is the property of

South Korea is home to several reputable car rental companies. AJ Rent and Lotte Rent are among the most popular, offering a wide range of vehicles to suit different needs. Both companies provide online reservation options, making the reservation process straightforward and convenient.

Table: Compare AJ Rent and Lotte Rent Car Rental
Car Rental CompanyOnline ReservationPrices (Average Per Day)International ServiceAccess to Cities and TownsRequirements
AJ RentYes40,000 - 100,000 KRWEnglish Service AvailableAvailable in Major Cities and Tourist DestinationsValid driver's license, IDP, Minimum age 21, Credit Card
Lotte RentYes45,000 - 110,000 KRWEnglish Service AvailableAvailable in Major Cities and Tourist DestinationsValid driver's license, IDP, Minimum age 21, Credit Card

Please note that the prices given are average ranges and may vary depending on the type of car and the rental period. The requirements mentioned are the basic ones; additional documents or conditions may be required depending on the specific rental policy of the companies.

Select the Right Car

Choosing the right car depends on your planned itinerary, personal preference, and budget.

If you're exploring urban areas, a compact car is perfect due to its easy maneuverability in traffic jams and smaller parking lots.

For countryside travel or a trip to Jeju Island, consider a larger vehicle for a comfortable ride.

Reserve a Car Rental in Korea

The reservation process involves selecting your desired vehicle, entering your rental and return dates, providing driver's information, choosing any extra insurance or additional services (like an additional driver or one-way rental), and finally, payment.

Adding insurance coverage, such as personal accident insurance or personal effects coverage, can make you feel much safer when driving. It's also one of the most popular travel tips for tourists.

Requirements for a Car Rental in Korea

In addition to having a valid driver's license and an IDP, you may need to meet other requirements set by the car rental companies. These include a minimum age limit of 21 years and providing a credit card for a security deposit.

You need an International Driving Permit along with your driver's license as it would allow you to drive a car in South Korea and also rent a car for you to drive.

Pick-up and Drop-off Locations

In South Korea, most car rental companies have outlets at major airports and city centers, making pick-up and drop-off convenient for travelers.

For those arriving at Jeju International Airport, you will find numerous car rental offices within a 1-kilometer radius of the airport.

Companies such as AJ Rent and Lotte Rent have offices conveniently located near the airport, so you can start your self-drive adventure on Jeju Island right after you land.

If you are flying into Incheon International Airport, the main international gateway to South Korea, there are many car rental companies located inside the airport itself.

You can pick up your car rental and head directly to Seoul or other major cities, which are just a short drive away. AJ Rent and Lotte Rent are also available there.

Similarly, if you are arriving at Gimpo International Airport, you will find car rental offices located both within and near the airport. This gives you the flexibility to pick up your rental car immediately upon arrival or after settling into your accommodation.

Car Rental Companies at South Korea Airports
AirportRental Companies AvailableDistance from Terminal
Incheon International AirportAJ Rent, Lotte Rent, and othersRental offices are located in the arrivals hall
Jeju International AirportAJ Rent, Lotte Rent, and othersNumerous rental offices are directly outside the terminal
Gimpo International AirportAJ Rent, Lotte Rent, and othersRental offices are located within a short walking distance from the terminal.

Remember to consider traffic conditions and the office hours of your selected car rental company when planning your pick-up and drop-off times. Advance online reservations are highly recommended to ensure the car type of your choice is available and ready for your trip.

How to Get the Best Deals on Your Rental Car in South Korea

Getting the best deals on car rentals involves comparing prices from different companies, booking in advance, and considering smaller, local companies that may offer competitive rates. Also, beware of any additional costs like one-way rental fees.

Here are some of the best tips and tricks for getting the best deals on your rental cars in South Korea:

Here are some of the best tips and tricks for getting the best deals on your rental cars in South Korea:

1. Book in Advance

Early booking is key to securing the best deals. Prices tend to rise as the pick-up date approaches, so booking your car rental a few months in advance can save you a significant amount of money. It is recommended to book at least 4-6 weeks in advance to get the best deals.

2. Compare Prices

One of the most effective ways to secure the best deal on a car rental is to compare prices across different rental companies. This is where car rental comparison websites come in handy. These platforms aggregate prices from various car rental companies, allowing you to compare rates and find the best deal easily.

Here are some popular car rental comparison websites:

  • This website provides a comprehensive comparison of car rental prices from a wide range of companies. It allows you to filter results based on your preferences, such as car type, rental company, price range, and more.
  • Kayak: Kayak is a travel search engine that includes car rentals. It compares prices from many different car rental companies and provides a variety of filter and sort options to help you find the best deal.
  • Expedia: Expedia is a travel booking website that also offers car rental comparison. It provides a user-friendly interface and allows you to bundle your car rental with flight and hotel bookings, which can lead to additional savings.
  • Skyscanner: Known primarily for flight comparisons, Skyscanner also offers a car rental comparison feature. It aggregates prices from various sources, providing a broad overview of your options.

When using these platforms, remember to:

  • Check multiple websites: Rates can vary between different comparison websites. Make sure to check more than one to ensure you're getting the best deal.
  • Consider all costs: The listed price may not include all costs. Be sure to factor in additional costs such as insurance, taxes, and fees for any extras you may need.
  • Read the terms and conditions: Before booking, read the rental terms and conditions. Look for information about fuel policy, mileage limits, cancellation policy, and what happens in case of an accident.

3. Avoid Airport Pick-ups

While picking up your rental car from the airport may seem like the most convenient option, especially after a long flight, it can often be more expensive.

This is due to added fees and surcharges that rental companies often apply to airport pick-ups, known as airport concession fees. These fees are charged to the rental company by the airport for the privilege of operating there, and these costs are often passed on to the customer.

Instead, consider picking up your rental car from a location in the city. Many car rental companies have multiple pick-up locations, including in city centers or nearby hotels. These locations often have lower rates as they don't include the airport concession fees.

If you are a seasoned tourist in South Korea, you can use public transportation to reach your rental car company's office efficiently. Of course, for newbies, this is not always the case, as South Korea's public transportation can be very confusing, especially the subway lines and bus lines.

Remember to factor in the cost and time of getting to and from the city pick-up location when comparing prices.

In some cases, the convenience of an airport pick-up may outweigh the additional cost. However, in many cases, picking up your car in the city can lead to significant savings.

4. Minimize One-Way Rental Costs

One-way rentals, where you pick up the car at one location and drop it off at another, can be quite expensive in South Korea. This is because rental companies often charge a one-way fee to cover the cost of returning the car to its original location. This fee can be substantial and can significantly increase the overall cost of your rental.

If possible, plan your trip so that you can pick up and drop off your car at the same location. This could involve creating a loop itinerary where you return to your starting city or choosing a central location as your base and making day trips from there.

For example, if you're planning to visit both Seoul and Busan, you could start and end your trip in Seoul, taking a round trip by car, rather than picking up the car in Seoul and dropping it off in Busan.

If a one-way rental is unavoidable due to your travel plans, be sure to factor the one-way fee into your budget. Also, compare the one-way fees of different rental companies, as these can vary.

In some cases, you might find it more cost-effective to return your car and then take a train or flight to your next destination. For instance, if you're planning to visit Jeju Island, it's often cheaper to fly there and rent a separate car on the island rather than taking a car ferry.

5. Choose Your Car Wisely

The type of car you choose to rent can significantly impact the cost of your rental, as well as your overall driving experience in South Korea.

Economy and compact cars are usually the cheapest to rent. They're also typically more fuel-efficient, which can save you money on gas. These smaller cars can be easier to navigate through narrow city streets and crowded parking lots. Popular models in these categories include the Hyundai i10 and Kia Morning.

Midsize and full-size cars offer more space and comfort, which can be beneficial for longer drives or if you're traveling with a group or family. These cars are typically more expensive to rent and have higher fuel consumption.

However, they often come with more features and amenities, such as advanced safety systems and more comfortable seating. Popular models in South Korea include the Hyundai Sonata and Kia K5.

SUVs and vans are the most expensive to rent, but they offer the most space and are a good choice for large families or groups. They also offer more luggage space, which can be beneficial if you're planning to do a lot of shopping or have a lot of gear. Popular models include the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Carnival.

When choosing your car, consider your needs in terms of space, comfort, and budget. Also, keep in mind that most cars in South Korea are automatic, which can make driving easier if you're used to this type of transmission.

Remember, the cheapest car may not always be the best value. Consider all factors, including fuel efficiency, comfort, and the car's features, when choosing your rental car.

6. Look for Discounts and Deals

Car rental companies often offer a variety of discounts and deals that can significantly reduce the cost of your rental. Here are some common types of discounts to look out for:

Early Booking Discounts: Some companies offer discounts if you book your rental well in advance. This is a win-win situation as the company secures a booking, and you get a reduced rate.

Long-Term Rental Discounts: If you're planning to rent a car for a week or more, look for companies that offer discounts for long-term rentals. The daily rate often decreases the longer you rent the car.

Off-Peak Discounts: If you're traveling during the off-peak season, you may be able to secure a lower rate. Car rental demand decreases during these times, and companies often lower their prices to attract customers.

Membership Program Discounts: Many car rental companies have loyalty or membership programs that offer discounts or benefits to members.

These can include a percentage off the rental price, free upgrades, or free additional drivers. Some companies also have partnerships with airlines, hotels, or credit card companies that can provide discounts.

Coupon Codes: Keep an eye out for coupon codes, which can offer a percentage off your rental or a specific dollar amount off. These can often be found on the rental company's website, in promotional emails, or through a quick internet search.

Bundled Discounts: If you're booking flights or hotels as well as a car rental, check if there are discounts for bundling these services. Travel booking websites like Expedia often offer significant savings if you book your flight, hotel, and car rental together.

Remember, the cheapest listed price may not always be the best deal. Always factor in any additional costs, such as insurance or fees for extras, and make sure to read the rental terms and conditions.

By keeping an eye out for discounts and deals, you can ensure you're getting the best value for your money.

7. Limit Additional Extras

While additional extras like GPS, child seats, or additional drivers can enhance your driving experience, they can also significantly increase the cost of your rental. One of the most important and often the most expensive extras is insurance.

Car rental insurance is crucial as it protects you from potentially high costs in case of an accident or damage to the vehicle. However, it's important to understand what type of insurance you need and not pay for unnecessary coverage.

Here are the main types of rental car insurance:

  • Collision Damage Waiver (CDW): This covers the cost of repairs to the rental car if you're involved in an accident. Some CDWs come with a deductible, which is the amount you'll have to pay out of pocket before the insurance covers the rest.
  • Theft Protection (TP): This covers you in case the rental car is stolen. Like the CDW, it may come with a deductible.
  • Third-Party Liability (TPL): This covers damage to other vehicles or property, as well as injuries to other people in an accident where you're at fault.
  • Personal Accident Insurance (PAI): This covers medical costs for you and your passengers if you're involved in an accident.

Before purchasing insurance from the rental company, check your existing car insurance policy and credit card benefits. Some car insurance policies and credit cards provide coverage for rental cars, which could save you from buying duplicate coverage.

If you decide to purchase insurance from the rental company, be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully to understand what is covered and what isn't.

Also, keep in mind that the cost of insurance can vary between rental companies, so factor this into your comparison when looking for the best deal.

8. Check the Fuel Policy

The fuel policy of a car rental company refers to the agreement regarding the fuel usage and refilling of the rental car. It's important to understand the fuel policy as it can impact the overall cost of your rental.

In South Korea, car rental companies generally rent cars with a full tank of fuel. Here are the most common types of fuel policies:

  • Full to Full: This is the most common and usually the most cost-effective fuel policy. You pick up the car with a full tank, and you return it with a full tank. If the tank is not full when you return the car, you'll be charged a refueling fee, which is often more expensive than the cost of fuel at a local station.
  • Pre-Purchase (Full to Empty): With this policy, you pay for a full tank of fuel upfront when you pick up the car, and you return the car as empty as possible. While this is convenient, it can be more expensive as the rental company often charges a higher price per liter than local fuel stations. Also, you won't get a refund for any unused fuel.
  • Pre-Purchase with Refund: This is similar to the pre-purchase policy, but you get a refund for any unused fuel. However, the rental company may charge a service fee for this.
  • Pay on Return: With this policy, you pay for the fuel you've used when you return the car. The rental company calculates the amount of fuel used and charges you accordingly. This can be convenient, but the price per liter can be higher than at local fuel stations.

In South Korea, fuel is relatively cheap, and credit cards are accepted at all fuel stations. If your rental company's fuel policy is full to full, it's usually most cost-effective to refill the tank at a local station before returning the car.

9. Inspect the Car for Damage

Before driving off, inspect the car for any existing damage to avoid being charged for it when you return the car. Take photos or videos as evidence if you find any damage.

Cost of Gas Per Liter in Korea

As of 2023, the average price for a liter of gas in South Korea ranges between ₩1,500 to ₩1,600 for Unleaded and slightly less for Diesel. Prices can vary, so it's always a good idea to check for the most recent figures.

South Korea's Road Infrastructure

South Korea's roads are generally in excellent condition, with a comprehensive network of well-maintained major highways. The signage is clear, and road markings follow international standards, which makes driving in South Korea a pleasant experience even for foreigners.

You need to download other mapping apps, however, as Google Maps does not work perfectly in South Korea due to security purposes. Better alternatives include Naver Maps or Kakao Maps.

Most Common Road Accidents in South Korea

Common road traffic accidents in South Korea often involve speeding and ignoring traffic lights. Hence, observing the speed limit and traffic regulations is crucial for a safe driving experience.

Speed cameras are installed on all roads and Korean highways, and they're really strict, even in public transport. They're really strict with the maximum speed, so always take that into consideration. Fellow drivers in Korea can be hot-headed, especially during rush hour traffic jams, so always keep your cool.

In addition, South Korea has a very stringent drunk driving rule. South Korea has a zero-tolerance policy for drunk driving, and it is strongly advised that travelers avoid getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.

The legal blood alcohol limit in South Korea is 0.03%, which means any detectable amount of alcohol in your system while driving can result in steep fines and even jail time. Foreign drivers should be aware of this law before renting a car in South Korea.

Remember that you are in a foreign country and always pack loads of patience, especially when driving in South Korea.

Identifying Road Signs

Road signs in South Korea are an integral part of the driving experience. They not only assist in navigation but also maintain traffic order and safety. These signs are generally bilingual, featuring both Korean and English text, making it easier for international drivers to understand.

Here are some common South Korean road signs that foreign drivers should familiarize themselves with:

  • Prohibition Signs: These are mostly circular signs with a red border and a black symbol, used to indicate actions drivers are not allowed to take, such as no entry, no U-turn, or no parking.
  • Mandatory Signs: These are blue circular signs that tell drivers what they must do, such as keeping left or right or following a certain direction.
  • Warning Signs: These are usually triangular with red borders, warning drivers of upcoming hazards like curves, intersections, or pedestrian crossings.
  • Information Signs: These are generally rectangular and provide valuable information, such as indicating the presence of a gas station, parking area, or rest area.
  • Highway and Expressway Signs: These signs guide drivers on highways and expressways. They are often green or blue and provide information about exits, distances to destinations, and rest areas.
  • Special Regulation Signs: These signs inform about special regulations applicable to the section of the road where they are placed. For instance, bus lanes or maximum speed limits.

Understanding these signs can greatly improve a foreign driver's navigation and overall driving experience in South Korea.

Road Rules and Traffic Regulations in South Korea

South Korea's traffic regulations are similar to those of many other countries. Some key rules include:

  • Driving is on the right-hand side.
  • Seat belts are mandatory for all passengers.
  • Mobile phone use is prohibited while driving unless using a hands-free device. Thus, put your cell phones away.
  • The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.03%.

You can refer to this South Korea driving guide for a more comprehensive discussion of traffic rules and regulations.

Manage Road Emergencies

In the event of a road emergency, roadside assistance is available through the Korean Automobile Association (KAA). You can reach the KAA by dialing 122. In addition, most rental car companies offer their own emergency roadside assistance.

Gas stations can also offer some form of assistance to you, especially if you run out of phone batteries to call 122.

Parking System in South Korea

Street parking in major cities in South Korea is typically metered, and payment can be made using credit or debit cards. There are also numerous paid parking lots. Blue signs indicate public parking spaces, while yellow signs denote private parking lots.

List of Self-Drive Tours in South Korea

Tourists can drive across the entirety of South Korea. Some of the best self-drive destinations include Jeju Island, known for its stunning natural beauty, and major cities like Seoul and Busan, which boast a mix of historic sites and modern attractions.

Self-Drive Tours in South Korea
Road TripsDistanceDays for Road TripAttractions
Seoul - Busan599km (72 miles)Allow 12 daysGyeongsangnam-do, Daegu, Suwon, Hwaseong
Mokpo - Busan446km (277 miles)Allow 10 daysJeollanam-do, Suncheon-man Bay Ecological Park, Yeosu, Tongyeong, Changwon
Jeju City211km (131 miles)Allow 3 daysJeju-do, Magpie

These road trips offer various experiences, such as natural vistas, history, food, coastal views, and island vibes. It is recommended to drive with caution, avoid peak traffic times, and use the Hi-Pass toll system.

KakaoMap is suggested for navigation in South Korea, and motorcycles are not allowed on major highways.


Renting a car in South Korea provides the freedom to explore this beautiful country at your own pace. With well-maintained roads, clear signage, and a plethora of car rental options, your driving experience in South Korea promises to be an enjoyable one.

For more insights, check out our comprehensive guides or learn more about why you need an International Driving Permit. Enjoy your road trip to the Land of Morning Calm!

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