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Landscape and Nature Fine Art Photography by Canadian artist, Tricia McLellan.

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Renting A Car Abroad?

04 07.10

This isn’t a post about which company you should or shouldn’t use. It isn’t about car insurance (but do make sure you research it first or you’ll be paying more than you need to). It’s about driving somewhere you’ve never driven. About places with different written and unwritten rules.

Locations: South Korea | Guam | Hawaii | California | Ireland | Sweden


South Korea

My story starts years ago when I lived and worked in Taegu, South Korea for several years. I was quite happy to use public transit for most of my travels. Their bus system, both within and between cities, was fantastic. It was cheap, fairly convenient and abundant. During one return ride from a mountain excursion, however, I was required to drive us home during rush hour as I was the only other person in the vehicle who drove standard. Having never driven in Korea before, I had no idea where I was going and was kindly given directions by a friend in her best English (keep in mind that navigation is difficult even in your own language). I was terrified! I didn’t know the ‘official’ rules of the road in Korea. I was well aware that the lanes there are narrower than ours in Canada and that drivers change lanes without warning. This seemed to be very well and good when Koreans were doing it, but it wasn’t something I was trained in. Lesson learned? Try not to be the only other person in the car who claims to know how to drive a manual vehicle. You may be called upon to do so. Obviously, I made it in one piece.

The tale doesn’t quite end there. I went to Cheju Island, a large island off the south coast of Korea, and my Korean travel companion did not have a drivers’ licence. After getting through some red tape (A.K.A. Bribing the officials…), the company allowed me to rent a vehicle. I’m not sure how it was accomplished, but I think that one of the rental people lent me his own car and took my rental car. The car they charged me for was beat up and filthy inside as if it was used on a regular basis and rarely cleaned. To top this off, I found out, while down-shifting on a very steep mountainside, that the brakes in this jalopy were in need of changing. Thankfully, it was a stick shift and I was able to use the engine to slow down the vehicle!! Lesson learned? It seems to be a good idea to rent a manual vehicle when visiting a mountainous country?

Learn more about South Korea at the Lonely Planet website.
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