There must be a logical explanation why driving in Korea is more difficult than in the United States. At first glance, you can clearly see that there are many vehicles and too few roads to handle the traffic in an orderly manner. This situation may be the reason taxis and other vehicles drive aggressively, weaving in and out of traffic. Buses and heavy trucks are required to use the extreme right lanes but very often wander into other lanes.
In addition, experience is a factor in driving in Korea. Americans have been driving for many years. As a result, we developed and learned safe habits when around motor vehicles. In Korea, the motor vehicle growth was sudden, thus not allowing for the development of safe habits as in the United States.
On every road in Korea, you can expect to find people. On expressways, extra caution is required around road repair and maintenance sites. Maintenance workers are prone to step into the path of traffic and drivers must be prepared to stop immediately. Also watch for workers when going through tunnels and toll gates.
There are many pedestrians in Korea. Traditionally, they have felt that they have as much right to the use of the roads, and therefore expect vehicles to yield to them. This behavior creates a real hazard for you as the driver. It is wise to reduce speed when driving around pedestrians, especially children. Many Korean children have a preconceived notion that by raising their arms, a vehicle will stop to allow them to cross the street. Watch out for them and prepare to stop. Pedestrians also become confused while crossing roads, often stopping suddenly and then moving into the paths of moving vehicles. A common occurrence is for pedestrians to run or walk into traffic lanes from the front or rear of halted or parked vehicles and other blind spots.
Although much of Korea is using the motor vehicle as a means of transportation, there are still some people who rely on other more economical means of transportation. It is not uncommon to find yourself sharing a road with animal or human drawn carts. Even more unpredictable and hazardous are bicycles and motorcycles. They are usually overloaded and unstable. Slow down and give them lots of room, as the operators are noted for weaving into the paths of passing vehicles. Even more disturbing are the motorcyclists who drive on the extreme right side of the road at an excessive rate of speed and pass your vehicle on the right (one should constantly keep an eye on rear view mirrors to reduce the element of surprise).
Other hazards on Korea roadways are created by nature. Two of the more notable ones are potholes, created by the winter freezing and thawing process, and flooding, caused by the rainy season. Slow down. Avoid potholes if you can. Potholes damage tires, oil pans, or even entire cars.
Truly, driving in Korea is a challenge. Relax, be calm, be alert, and drive defensively!
Driving is Exciting and Challenging
Korea is a tourist's delight. There are many parks, museums, ski areas, mountain resorts, and amusement parks within driving distance. Korea is a vast museum exhibiting a rich cultural legacy that dates back millennia; at the same time it is a country that has modernized rapidly in recent decades and is full of fresh vitality. Even in the big cities, you'll find that amidst the high-rises and bustling traffic, the essence of dynastic Korea lingers on around the old palaces, pavilions, and city gates, and the fragrance of a distant era still pervades the atmosphere in the smaller villages of the countryside and at mountain temples. Korea is a land of breathtaking scenic beauty and of friendly people who await your visit with warmhearted hospitality.
There's an excellent network of primary and secondary roads with numerous roadside rest stops and picnic areas in Korea. There are also lots of hotels. But there is also concern about keeping a full tank of gasoline.
Korean gas stations sell gasoline by the "liter" and equates to about $3.50 per gallon. It is therefore a good idea to keep your vehicle "topped off" and to know the location of Army Air Force Exchange System (AAFES) and United States military gas stations. Locations of these gas stations is provided below. NOTE: Not all facilities provide towing and services capabilities. Prior to departure for a driving trip, ensure your vehicle is in good repair.
None of the AAFES and few of the military gas stations in Korea sell diesel for POVs. However, you may purchase diesel fuel at about $1.40 per gallon at off-post Korean gas stations.
If your car breaks down on the expressway, the Korean police will help you by either providing minor parts or by calling a wrecker for you. In case of an accident, show your Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) card to get help.
Roadside rest stops on expressways provide reasonably priced snacks and refreshments and Western-style facilities.
A Value Added Tax is levied (standard rate 10%) on most goods and services provided in hotels, tourist facilities and major restaurants. Tips are included in your bill as an additional ten percent service charge.
Carry extra Korean money (Won) since most Korean stores, rest areas and gas stations don't accept U.S. dollars.
Where to Buy Fuel/Vehicle Service
Camp Casey / Area I
Camp Page / Area I
Camp Red Cloud / Area I
Seoul (Yongsan) / Area II
Camp Humphryes / Area III
Osan AB / Area III
Camp Long / Area III
Kunsan AB / Area IV
Camp Carroll / Area IV
Camp Walker / Area IV
Camp Hialeah / Area IV
Pusan Pier 8 / Area IV
Tips for Vehicle Breakdown
When a vehicle becomes disabled on the expressway,
move the vehicle to the right side of the roadway
and place a triangular warning sign 100 meters or
more behind the vehicle during the day.
Driving Distances - Kilometers (multiply by 0.6 for miles)
AM/FM on the Road (Radio Frequencies )
Like most items in Korea, prices have been increasing. Tolls range from as little as 900 Won for a short (3-5km) stretch to about 20,000 Won for a trip from Seoul to Busan. Prices are higher for multi-axle vehicles and buses.
Plan ahead and ensure that you have enough money to exit the Expressway system.
As a passenger in a Taxi you are expected to pay for tolls in addition to your fare