Jeju is an island located off the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. Occupying an area of 1878 sq.m it is Korea’s largest island. A round trip along the coastal route is about 280 Km. Although there are public buses serving major destinations, driving in Jeju is the more convenient option as it saves you time and gives you the freedom to explore this beautiful island.
It certainly helps that the roads are well paved and clearly signposted. Do note that cars here are left hand drive so it may take a little time to adjust if you’re used to “right-hand-drive” cars. You will need an International Driving Permit (IDP) from your country’s motoring association before you arrive. It is a mandatory requirement by car rental companies in Korea.
Renting a Car
One of the more established local car rental companies in Jeju is Lotte Rent-a-Car (formerly known as KT Kumho). First register as a member to get discounted rates, sometimes as high as 60% depending on seasonality. Please be aware that you will need to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) first before booking the car. You are required to fill in the IDP number during the registration process. After getting pass the lengthy signup process, booking the car is relatively easy. I rented a Kia K3 on my recent 4 day trip for 229,100 Korean Won (about US$212) after 60% discount. Works out to about US$53 a day. Do remember to request for an English GPS if you do not understand Korean. The rate includes GPS, full insurance cover and damage waiver.
Collecting the Rental Car
Upon arriving at Jeju International Airport look for the car rental counter.
They will guide you to the courtesy bus that will take you on a 5 min ride to the Jeju Auto House where their rental cars are located. This is also the place where you return the car and the bus will send you back to the airport.
Info: Jeju Auto House is open from 8 am to 10 pm daily. Early pickups and returns from 6 am can be arranged. Their email response is quite fast, usually within hours.
Take a queue number from the ticket dispenser in the middle of the registration service counter and wait for your turn.
Once registration is done and rental contract signed a service staff went through the features of the car and how to operate the GPS functions. Clear return instructions was provided as well as telephone no of the return location, and an emergency number to call in case of accidents. Must say that I was impressed with the efficient service. The Kia K3 was in good condition and had about 34,000 km on it when I took the car.
Using the Car GPS
Our car came with a large 7″ GPS which served us well throughout the trip with no problems locating hotels, restaurants and places of interest we wanted to go. To find the location you will need to enter either the name of the destination or the 7-digit phone number, which is my preferred option. The GPS will display the matching phone nos in its database preceded by area code (064) for Jeju. Select the number highlighted in yellow followed by “Guide” on the bottom menu and the GPS unit will begin calculating the route, distance and travel time.
Useful tip: To save you time I have compiled a list containing GPS telephone numbers of Jeju’s places of interest. Hope this helps 🙂
Driving in Jeju
Places of interests are located across the island so you will need to plan ahead. The Southern part around the Yongmeori Coast, Jungmun and Seogwipo region is where most of the scenic spots like Oedolgae (filming location for ‘Daejanggeum’), Jeongbang falls and Cheonjiyeon Falls are located. On the East there is Seongsan Ilchulbong (also known as Sunrise Peak) and scenic Seopjikoji Beach. You will need at least 4 full days to cover the “must see” places of interest.
Do observe the speed limits which are strictly enforced by speed cameras. The speed limit is 50 km/h in towns, 60 km/h on two-lane roads, and 80 km/h on four-lane roads. It is relatively easy to find your way around as traffic is usually not heavy. There are numerous speed bumps especially near school zones so do be careful around these areas. Coastal route 1132 circles the island. while routes 1139 and 1118 which takes you through center part of the island around Mt Hallasan are more scenic and relaxing with less stop starts. Be acquainted with the topography and plan the route ahead so you don’t have to back-track.
Here’s an interactive map of Jeju you can use to plan your drive.
Jeju is a beautiful island so take your time, drive carefully and have a great time.
Returning the Rental Car
Give yourself ample time (I suggest at least 2 hours) before check-in to settle the car return. You need to return it to the Jeju Autohouse where you picked up the car with a full tank. There is a petrol station about 100m before you arrive at the rental return. I used only half a tank for the 4 day 350 km journey. Total petrol cost : $54,000 Korean Won (about US$50).
Their courtesy bus will send you back to the airport terminal.
Affordable Accommodations in Jeju
Here are some recommended accommodations right in the heart of Seogwipo. These are in great locations with easy access to attractions in the Southern part of Jeju where all the major attractions are located.
1. The Island Blue Hotel, Jeju is a 4-star hotel right in the city center walking distance to great eateries.
2. Days Hotel Jeju Seogwipo Ocean – spacious and clean with valet parking facilities.
3. The Ocean Palace Hotel is a bit old but the rooms are huge and clean with recent renovation. Great location with views of the ocean from higher floors.