Driving between Jeonju and Gyongju in January
Replies: 10 - Last Post: Dec 9, 2012 4:21 AM Last Post By: chrisj
Dec 2, 2012 7:17 AM
Driving between Jeonju and Gyongju in JanuaryI've been reading mixed opinions on driving in Korea - here's what we have in mind, what do you think?
We are a party of four holidaying in Korea from 2 January. We will take a train or bus from Seoul to Jeonju then spend a couple of days exploring that area and making our way to Geongju via Haein-sa. We can skirt around Daegu to avoid urban traffic. My husband, with 25+ years driving experience, mainly in Australia but some in the US and Japan as well, would be behind the wheel. He has an international license; he is a good, defensive driver having had no accidents since he was a teenager. But he's never driven in snow.
I understand the Korean transport system is excellent and the rate of road crashes high however having our own car would allow more flexibility and reach.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts, thanks.
Dec 3, 2012 1:54 PM
1I've driven that route. You should have no problem at all. I wouldn't even think twice about it.
Where are you getting your car from? I had GPS in English. I didn't find driving that route any different than in the US, except I thought the Korean drivers were politer..... Maybe in Seoul there is a problem......
Dec 3, 2012 2:28 PM
2I didn't drive in S. Korea myself but I really didn't see anything strange in the traffic. I thought it was mostly defensive style and drivers were polite too. I wouldn't hesitate if I had to rent a car.
Another thing is that public transport is excellent, both trains and busses, so that might be a better alternative if you husband feels insecure.
There's nothing strange about driving in snow either, although that's easy for me to say (we have lots of snow in winter). You just lower the speed, drive more carefully and leave more space ahead and behind. It's good to try how the car behaves, especially brakes, when you're not experienced. It's more difficult though if roads get icy (even black ice), when temps drop down to 0 C. That can be a bit tricky, more than below 0 C.
Dec 3, 2012 4:20 PM
3Two out of three ... I think we're leaning towards driving. I've done more research since posting and it looks like one-way rental fees are pretty high so we I think we'll take the train from Seoul to Busan and collect the car there. We'll be picking it up on a Sunday afternoon so hopefully that will mean an easier time getting out of town. We'll do a 3 or 4 day loop taking in the south coast to Mokpo, Jeonju, Haein-sa, and Gyeongju. Or something like that.
If you have and specific recommendations along that route I'd love to hear them -- accommodation, favourite restaurants, off-the-beaten path places. We've devoured the LP Korea and have a good idea of the places they cover we'd like to visit but if you have anything to add ... thanks.
Dec 3, 2012 6:31 PM
4To follow up on my post:
I know of course everyone's experiences will be different. I've lived in Korea for nearly 4 years and have been driving my own car since late March of this year.
TBH, in 4 years, I've never heard Korean drivers described as "polite." Both Koreans and foreigners who I know living here describe driving here in negative terms (Koreans will tell you that Korean drivers are dangerous).
Highway driving is a little better than city driving, particularly if there's no much traffic.
The big thing you have to watch out for is taxis (in the cities) and buses (in the cities and highways). There's nothing like a gigantic bus tailgating you at 100 kmh.
As far as driving in the snow, I haven't done it in Korea as I haven't had a car in winter yet, but i've seen it for 3 winters. ( I drove plenty in the snow back in the US). The behaviors I've observed in Korea are not safe for winter driving. Speeds often aren't reduced and there's still the same close-cutting etc. (this is compared to where I'm from in the Northeast US where people do drive slower in snow and ice).
Really, just don't do it unless you have experience in Korea (or Asia)
Dec 3, 2012 6:57 PM
5We rented a car in the summer, so I am not sure exactly how much help I will be for you. Different season, obviously..
I strongly recommend Nagan Stone Village, the Boseong Tea Plantations, and Maisan Provincial Park. Since I saw those places in a different season, it will be up to you to figure out if they are worth visiting in January. I also visited Darangyi Village on Namhae Island.
What I didn't care for, in particular, is the hanok village in Jeonju - so touristy- and the Bamboo Forest in Damyang.
I rented a car through Hertz (from the airport in Busan). Price was surprisingly low and the car came automatically with a GPS in English which was a life-saver - though nobody could tell me that in advance. Returned to the same location.
I highly recommend this duck restaurant in Goryeong, but even with GPS it will take some intrepid fortitude on your part to find it:
Dec 3, 2012 9:37 PM
Well, drive a car in Korea is never easy as you think.
Even the driver goes with very defensive way, most of Korean drivers want to drive a car like "F1"
(Even Taxi driver, sometimes!)
There is a English sign to show your way, if you lose your control at a glance, next will not be easy in Korea.
Korean driver doesn't drive the car with POLITE WAY.
Billions of horns you may hear if you drive in a safe way or slow speed.
Dec 4, 2012 5:31 AM
7As I said in my OP -- mixed opinions. I guess the problem with the question is that in asking about driving in Korea I'm asking a comparison question and without my knowing what sort of driving experience each of you is comparing it with, well, it's just hard to know. I thank you all for your input -- we'll wait until we arrive to decide for sure. We'll be spending several days in Seoul to begin with which will give us a chance to talk to more people and see first hand how bad it is in Seoul (where we would never drive in any case). And thanks for your tips along the route shelemm.
Dec 5, 2012 6:12 PM
8It snowed yesterday. And it's an awful mess. No cleanup. Now it's just slush or compacted snow. Cars sliding. Fortunately, I didn't come across any accidents. But the way people were driving, I was surprised that there weren't. There's certain things one needs to do when driving in icy conditions, like pumping the brakes when you start to slide. Just sayin'.
Dec 7, 2012 7:55 AM
9I have driven in France, Spain Italy, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, and now Korea. I had a driver in China and Jamaica. Also, I've driven in almost every major US city including Manhattan.
Here are my observations:
If the roads are dangerous, then they are dangerous no matter who is driving and no matter the vehicle: bus, car, taxi, etc. I had no option in China, but I am sure it was more dangerous having someone else drive as the driver took risks I never would have. Jamaica also seemed tricky with so many people and animals walking along curvy roads.
I absolutely never came across any dangerous situations in Korea like I witnessed in China or Jamaica. Not even close.
When I went to Poland, people advised me against driving, but I found it it quite safe and everyone was well-mannered. Driving in Poland can be expensive because of the amount of car theft there, and insurance rates reflect that. Where I've been behind the wheel, I felt Italy was by far the most difficult place I've driven. Even then, I would not hesitate to do it again.
Korea was a snap, especially with GPS in English, and when I went by taxi in Seoul or Busan, it also seemed rather effortless for the driver, and I never felt threatened. Vary rarely did a car pass me, and I kept to the speed limit - the GPS would sound an annoying alarm if I went over the limit.
There is no doubt that vehicular mortality rates are much higher in Asia than in Europe or the US. I understand that from what I saw in China, but I am a bit baffled about Korea as I never even saw anyone having car trouble or in an accident. My guess is that car rental rates would be sky-high if it was such a danger. If YOU drive safely, I am confidant you will find it no different than in the US.
Dec 9, 2012 4:21 AM
10The advantage of using long distance rail or bus is that there are no holdups as there are dedicated lanes for intercity buses. I often used to zoom past gridlocked cars in the other lanes when I took a bus. Boeseong Tea Plantation is best seen in July when it's green. Tapsa (Maisan) was a good suggestion. I would hire a car at Gyeongju as the attractions there are spread out. Korea is also right hand drive like the US & China. Lived there for years and saw some very dangerous driving in that time. Running red lights, ignoring pedestrian crossings, & erratic weaving, speeding eg
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