Renting a car in Korea was something that I was really nervous about going into the trip. I had to go to AAA before we left and get an international drivers license which is a confusing book thingy with a passport photo in it. I also read a couple blogs that mentioned the craziness which is driving in Korea and booked a one way car rental with a company affiliated with Hertz. The couple days we spent with Nicole and Matt in Pyeongtaek I was able to pick up some traffic tips.
- Drivers do what they want and only obey traffic signs if there are cameras.
- The police do not enforce traffic, CCTV cameras and remote speeding cameras enforce traffic.
- If there are no cameras red lights are suggested stops
- Traffic moves like a slinky speeding up after the speed cameras and slowing down before them.
- If there is an accident a percentage blame is placed on each driver by an arbitrator.
- You cannot turn left on green, only a green arrow, unless there is a blue sign on the light.
- Google was not allowed to map South Korea so no google maps.
- Highways are toll roads
That is the insight I took into renting a car, along with hopes of getting a GPS in English. We were able to get a GPS in English which was a life saver. The GPS is way more advanced than the GPS in the states, including playing live TV. The GPS also tells you when there are speed traps and lights with cameras in them. We did discover that they are not always big fans of tunnels and will occasionally forgot to tell you to get off the highway when you should.
We rented a Kia Morning which is basically a mini clown car and might be smaller than a mini. I wanted the smallest vehicle possible and sure did get it. It get over 40 MPG as a positive with gasoline costing $5 a gallon (our total gas bill was $24).
When we rented the car they went around and recorded scratches and tried to setup the GPS, but couldn’t get the mount to stick. We ended up with Katy holding the GPS and tell me the directions which would shut off if she brushed the power cord. Needless to say this was not a very sustainable arrangement. The second day using a massive amount of spit I was able to get the suction cup to stick to the windshield.
Overall renting a car worked out very well and it was realistically easy to get around with the GPS. We would not have been able to see all that we did between Haiensa and Gyeongji without the car. My tactic driving was to be the slowest car in the smallest car and it worked out way better than it sounds.
When we went to return the car we had a hiccup with them saying that there was a new scratch on the bumper. I was able to convince them with a random photo I took picking up the car that the truck parked in front of us prevented us from seeing the scratch and was not charged for it after a couple phone calls and 30 minutes. They even drove us to the train station and we literally made the train with less than 2 minutes to spare. We will wait and see how many speeding and traffic light violations I racked up in three days in the coming weeks.