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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Driving in Korea – A License for Adventure

Tired of the tedious buses? Taxis taking too much of your mekju money? Perhaps its time to consider getting wheels of your own for getting around town.  Depending on from where you come, that can be relatively easy or you might have to make a short, but painless, trip to Enyong.

Once upon a time, a large chunk of the foreigner community in Ulsan had wheels of their own. Whether they had cars, motorcycles or scooters, getting around town was no problem. It seemed that everyone had a way to easily get around.  For a few years, some of the more enterprising and industrious of the foreigners organized scooter rallies (PDF) – a sort of scavenger hunt on wheels  – where dozens of foreigners hit the roads en masse for a weekend of fun. These days, not so much. Many are content to ride the buses or pay for taxis. All of which is fine, but if getting more independent or getting off the beaten path is what you crave then you’ll need wheels – and a license.

If you are from one of the countries that honors a Korean drivers license, then Korea reciprocates and will honor the license you carry from your home country. Consult your home country’s immigration rules to see if Korean licenses are acceptable there.  If you already possess an International Driver’s License,  sweet! You’re ready for the open road.

If your country, like mine (USA) doesn’t approve Korean licenses, you will have to acquire a Korean driver’s license. Here’s how to get one and get on the road.

To begin, you can either exchange your license for a Korean license or simply obtain a local license. Exchanging means you surrender your home license, which will be returned when you leave. If that seems scary, then you might consider spending the extra time on taking an embarassingly simple written test, a driving test and attending a class. I got my Korean license back in 2004 and was required to only do a written test of 20 questions., most of which were regarding rules that Korean taxis and buses regularly violate. There are a whopping 40 questions six percent of which are on how to operate a vehicle. The test essentially contains the following logic, if taxis or buses can and do it you should not. Welcome to Korea. I may be a little facetious here, but once on the road on your own wheels you’ll see how close to the truth I am.

You will be required to take a physical exam – again, embarassingly simple. It consists of the ability to see, to sit/squat and the ability to grip something akin to a steering wheel or handle bars. And you should probably be able to read.  Welcome to Korea.

Your driving test will consist of your ability to handle bends, curves, direction change, intersection, parallel parking, railroad crossing, pedestrian crossing; you’ll be graded on how many people you can kill, I think, since stepping into a pedestrian crossing does not guarantee you can ever cross safely; incline, time limit, gear change, emergency, sudden braking, etc. for a total of 15 topics.  If you have driving experience in any rational country, you’ll do fine on the test providing you don’t do anything the buses or taxis do. Welcome to Korea.

You will need the following when you visit the driver’s license office:

  • Your passport
  • Your Alien registration card
  • Money – expect about 50,000 or less in various fees.

For the details – and confusing array of what’s required – go to the Korean Driver’s license site.

How to get there:  There are 26 different places to get a license in Korea. For us here in Ulsan, your ticket to driving pleasure can be obtained  in Eonyang. Take Highway 24 along the Taewha in Ulsan to Eonyang. Take Highway 35 south in Eonyang. Just before the entrance to Toll Road #1,

turn right to follow the Taewha river again, and follow it for a kilometer or so. You’ll see the Driver’s license test facility on your left. If you take a taxi, show the driver this address: 532-1, Cheonjeon-ri, Sangbuk-myeon, Ulju-gun, Ulsan, Korea (532-1 천전리 생복면 울주군). To get there by bus, take any of several buses to Eonyang and from the Eonyang Bus station, take Bus 323 If you can read Korean, the map below may provide some details – readers beware – up is south and left is east. Welcome to Korea.

Once you get your license, hit the road and see something of Ulsan. Where to go and what to do ideas are plentiful in our Travel section. Not sure where to get a decent set of wheels? Through the years, foreigners have found a number of good motorcycle shops that can help. Check out our Partners page for some decent shops that can speak English and will treat you well.

Now all we need is for someone to organize another scooter inferno.