Fancy taking a road trip in Korea? You may have heard songs of praise about Korean public transportation and the KTX bullet trains, but nothing can compare to the ease of driving your own car. When it comes to day trips from Seoul, hopping in a car is often the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to get to your destination. Having a car allows you to hit multiple travel destinations in one day, with no time wasted waiting for buses and trains. If you have a license in your own country, you may be eligible to rent and drive a car here in Korea too! I recently rented a car for a weekend trip to Jeju. Furthermore, at the age of 22, I am actually too young to rent a car in my home country! Thankfully that wasn’t the case here. Let’s take a look at how to rent a car in Korea!
Find a Foreigner-Friendly Rent a Car
On my hunt for the right rent a car, I asked for recommendations in the ‘Expats in Korea’ Facebook group. If Korean language is a problem for you, I highly recommend asking for help in these groups. In my case, while I was comfortable with Korean, I prefer to read complicated T&Cs in my native language. Furthermore, when it comes to rental cars, there are different rules for foreign residents and Korean nationals, and other pitfalls to watch out for.
Rent a Car Eligibility
In order to rent a car in Korea YOU MUST:
- Be over 21 years old (over 26 to rent luxury car, SUV or van)
- Have at least one of the following: International Driver’s Permit [IDP] (Chinese, Taiwanese and Indonesian IDPs not accepted), Korean driving license, USFK [United States Forces Korea] driver’s license
- Have at least 1 or more years’ driving experience
TAMRA Rent a Car
I ended up speaking to one of the managers at TAMRA Rent a Car, a reputable vehicle institution in Jeju. The manager was a native English speaker and spoke to me through his personal Facebook account, which made him more trustworthy. After a discussion about my schedule, the price, and the range of cars that would be suitable for me, we transferred over to the official TAMRA Rent a Car Facebook messenger channel, in order to access the reservations portal. Several people had tagged TAMRA Rent a Car in the comments beneath my post, so I had a good feeling about them.
Speaking with the TAMRA rep, he provided me with three different car options, ranging between 65,000 ~ 92,000 KRW for 2 days’ rental. I chose the Hyundai Avante 2021. While this was not the cheapest car available, it was the only one equipped with a dashcam/black box. For me, having a dashcam is essential, especially when it comes to rental cars. If the car is damaged by fault of another driver, you can provide both the rental company and insurance providers with dashcam footage as evidence. If you fail to provide evidence, you may be liable to pay a lot of money, even if the damage wasn’t your fault!
As well as the actual rental fee, you should always purchase the Basic Collision Damage Liability (CDL) insurance, which varies in price depending on the chosen vehicle and duration.
TAMRA Rent a Car Insurance
Basic Collision Damage Liability (CDL) Exemption for Damages between 100,000 KRW – 1,000,000 KRW. Conditions • 20% of Repair Fees (Range 100,000 KRW ~ 1,000,000 KRW) • Loss of Business Compensation ( 50% of 1 day’s rental fee – depending on season) according to how much time the car will take to be repaired. • Does not cover roadside assistance, towing, tires, rims, side mirrors, mirrors, or keys. *Does not cover At-Fault Accidents. In the event the repair fee exceeds our insurance coverage limit (3,500,000 KRW), the lessee will be responsible for covering the damage costs. Does not cover accidents on UDO island.
In addition to the insurance offered by the rent a car office, you may choose to purchase another form of insurance. I bought extra coverage via rentalcover.com in order to insure myself in instances that were not covered by the basic CDL. In my case, this extra insurance cost only 31,000 KRW. The RentalCover site is extremely easy to use too, simply type in the country where you are renting a vehicle and the dates.
If I wanted to, I could’ve rented the cheapest car, with no basic CDL or extra insurance, but I would have been tense the entire trip. When you play it safe with insurance, you can enjoy a proper relaxing vacation.
How to Make a Reservation
You will need to provide details of the following:
- Full name (as on your passport or ARC)
- License (Korean domestic, IDP or USFK)
- Contact number
- Accommodation address (i.e. hotel, Airbnb)
- Desired Pick-up and Return times
If you plan to share the car with additional drivers, you need to input their details during booking as well. I was the main and only driver of my rent a car, and used my valid IDP, which I obtained in my home country before coming to Korea.
There are several websites online that claim to offer IDPs as products. You must ALWAYS purchase your IDP in person in your country of origin. A typical IDP lasts 1 year before expiry. In order to avoid IDP scams, search an image of your particular country’s IDP so you know what is legit and what isn’t.
Websites to AVOID:
- International Drivers Association (internationaldriversassociation.com)
- IDLID Services (realmilage.com)
- International Automobile Association (international-permit.com)
- IDLSERVICE.COM (idlservice.com)
“Here at Tamra, we get around 10–15 people per month coming to rent a car with a useless document that they bought on the internet thinking it was an authentic IDP. By not being aware that many scammers exist on the internet, claiming to sell “international driving licenses/permits” and using the words “IDP” in their predatory marketing practices, customers fail to read the legal disclaimers these scammers put on their websites.”TAMRA Rent a Car website
Read the T&Cs!!!
Be honest, how many times have you read the terms and conditions for a product or service? It is something we are all guilty of, and usually not a problem so long as you’re using reputable brands. However, when it comes to insurance and rental items, you can never be too careful. Many institutions will hide traps in their T&Cs, designed to nab even more money off of their customers. This is why it is so important to do your homework, research the reputable brands and read the T&Cs.
Picking up the Car
We arrived into Jeju International Airport and headed out exit 5, through the car park to the Rent a Car free shuttle bus service. TAMRA Rent a Car is located very close by to the airport, within walking distance, but you may choose to take the shuttle bus if you have a lot of heavy luggage. Additionally, if you have booked with a different rent a car company, most — if not all — of their shuttle buses run from here.
Once you arrive at the TAMRA office, it is time to check in. You can either check in via the self-service digital screens, or in person with the front desk staff. Additionally, just like flight tickets, you can do online check-in the night before you pick up your car. I received a notification reminding me of the booking the day before, with the opportunity to check in online. Checking in online really sped up the process on the day!
After the staff had checked my booking, my IDP, and passport, we were taken to our car outside. At this point, it is very important that you take close-up videos/photos of the car before you step inside. Rental cars do not come sparkling new and many will have bumps and scratches from previous drives. Be sure to photograph these so that you are not blamed accidentally when you return the car.
On the Road
It is also worth doing some research on the roads you’re going to be driving. I even visited a local driving zone stimulator to practice ahead of time! Because I am from the UK (where we drive on the right) and I had never driven an automatic car before.
A well-known Jeju driving tip is to mind your speed — there are cameras absolutely everywhere!
Returning the Car
Do a check over the inside and outside of the car, referring to your initial video/photos to see if there are any changes. What’s more, something that may look like a scratch or ding may actually just be some dirt! Next, you’ll need to refuel the car to the amount that was in the car when you rented it. I was short a few litres when I returned the car, so they charged me 5,000 KRW for the remainder.
Be sure to remind yourself of the return times. Some places may specify a specific return time, but TAMRA just requires you to return by 8:00pm. The staff member who checked us in was kind enough to advise us to come by 7:30pm at the latest, as it gets very busy and if the staff do not see you before 8:00pm you may be charged for an extra day. When you arrive back at the rental place, the staff will check over the car, both inside and out. Assuming there are no problems, you are free to go! You can head back over to the airport or use the free shuttle bus service again.
TAMRA Rent a Car Review
Trustworthy Staff, Easy serviceTrustworthy Staff, Easy service
Location & Directions
TAMRA Rent-A-Car Jeju Address: 5 Gonghang-ro, Jeju-si, Jeju-do Operating Hours: 8:00am - 8:00pm everyday Directions: Jeju International Airport Gate 5. Cross over the taxi ranks and parking lot until you reach the main road. TAMRA Rent-A-Car is on the other side of the crossing; OR use the shuttle bus service on the right-hand side of the parking lot when you exit Gate 5.