Best GPS To Use For Driving In South Korea

You are convinced that driving around South Korea for your impending holiday there is the way to go. Check out our post on Driving Holiday in South Korea where we piece together all the relevant information and provide concise details on each of them.

To have a carefree driving experience in South Korea, GPS is a must have. From many travel forums, you will realise that foreign GPS are not allowed in South Korea, while the Korean GPS only recognises the Hanguk language. This a a major concern for would-be holiday-makers.

Before you freak out, here is a silver lining. Through our recent experience, we have pieced together a list of the best GPS to use for driving in South Korea so that you will “never get lost” (or at least minimise it). 😉

1. In-vehicle GPS

We rented our car from Lotte Rent-a-Car, one of the largest car rental company in South Korea. We requested in advance for an English GPS and it came free. Small scale rental companies only have Hanguk GPS while English GPS (if any) is payable.

The in-vehicle English GPS is your number one choice. It has all that Daum Map has to offer with improved features. Everything from destination searches, search results and instructions are in English.

In addition to speed camera, traffic light camera, mobile traffic camera alerts; even speed bums have alerts! This feature is the best and definitely must-have. South Korea has the most unimaginable number of speed camera! For speed camera that tracks based on average speed, this GPS keeps track of that for you too. Thumbs up for this GPS!

2. Daum Map

If you are unable to lay your hand on an English in-vehicle GPS, then this is the next best thing to have.

In South Korea, the Korean GPS is dominated by two companies namely, Naver Map and Daum Map. The two GPS apps are almost identical to each other. As such, we didn’t bother trying both. We went with Daum Map.

Daum Map is also known as Kakao Map. If the name Kakao sounds familiar, well, they own Kakao Talk (the WhatsApp of South Korea), Kakao Taxi (where you can call for a taxi without paying booking fee) and of course the famous Kakao Stores (a must visit when in Seoul).

Features of Daum Map

A. Destination Search

Daum Map mobile app used to only recognises destination input in Hanguk, However, as of the latest update in January 2018, you can now input in English (plus a couple more other languages supported by the app).

Searching for a destination via telephone number is supposedly the most accurate and hassle free. The cons is the telephone number that you got might not be updated. So we kept this as our last option.

We searched predominantly with the name of the attractions or addresses. Should the app fails to recognise what you typed, you may want to translate into Hanguk. We tried using Google Translator and the hit rate is miserable. The most accurate translation is to search online for the name of the attraction/shop/restaurant that you are going, and copy the Korean name into Daum Map. We had a 95% hit rate using this method.

B. Search Results

The mobile app is now able to display results in English. Nevertheless, there are still hits and misses. To minimise such situation, the best is to plan your trip ahead. Use the English web version of Daum Map. The search results will be displayed in English. To save the location as favourite, you need to create a Kakao Account and stay logged in.

C. Route Suggestion

Suggested route are direct (no beating around the bush) with accurate toll amount provided.

Daum GPS for driving in South Korea

Throughout your journey, colour codes are used to indicate traffic condition. Green being smooth traffic, orange refers to slow traffic while red means extremely bad traffic (best to avoid). The fourth colour is black. We don’t really know what that indicates but we figured it is most likely to mean “no data available”.

D. Ease of Understanding

In South Korea’s city roads, there are many bridges and underpasses to cross. At critical turns or split road junctions, a 3D image of the exact structure of the road, right to the detailed number of lanes, is shown. The lane that you are supposed to take will be highlighted in orange. If you are required to cross a bridge or an underpass, it will be clearly shown. You can’t go wrong with this GPS.

Both visual and vocal instruction are given. Best of all, this GPS doesn’t lag, meaning when your car reach the required turn, the GPS is at pace with you.

E. Speed Camera Warning

Driver is alerted whenever he/she goes beyond the speed limit. Distance countdown to speed camera are provided too.

3. Waze

As mentioned earlier, foreign GPS are not allowed in South Korea. As such, the ONLY workable GPS app for driving is Waze.

Waze was bought over by Google. As such, it shares numerous similar features (including the irritating ones) with Google Map.

The disadvantages of using Waze is you need to stay online (SIM cards in South Korea is expensive); and Waze crashes easily.

Features of Waze

A. Destination Search

If you are familiar with Google Map, then search as you would with Google Map, in whatever language that you choose and supported by Waze.

B. Search Results

90% of the search results from Waze are similar to Google Map. Don’t bother sorting saved favourites by alphabetical order though. It doesn’t work!

C. Route Suggestion

This is one of those irritation that we got from Waze and Google Map. Both apps tend to suggest a longer beat around the bush route. Maybe, you might think, the problem lies in our setting. Well, we’ve tried all the combinations and the problem persisted.

Some directions can be wrong too. For example, Waze might show your destination or your current location on the sea. We suggest using Waze as a backup. If used as a primary, cross check Waze’s suggested location with another (preferably Korean) GPS.

Waze is dependant on users feeding it with traffic condition. Therefore, you wouldn’t get any traffic details from Waze when in South Korea. Toll amount is also not available.

D. Ease of Understanding

Waze tends to give verbal instruction that is difficult to comprehend. In addition, it always read out the full name of the street that you are supposed to turn to. These really peeved us off since knowing that information means nothing to us. In fact, it prolonged and clouded the instruction unnecessarily, causing us to lose focus. Thus, as you guessed, volume on our Waze is always off.

In South Korea, Waze is doable but not the best of choice. The many bridges, underpasses and split roads means it requires a great amount of guesswork from the driver. Maybe with voice on, it might perform better. But, with voice off, you need map reading skills to better navigate. One important point to note is Waze tends to lost its way and goes round in circle.

Both visual and vocal instructions are given. However, Waze lag by at least 10 metres when your car reaches the required turn. These confusion causes us to miss a couple of turns. That’s when we decided to put Waze as backup.

E. Speed Camera Warning

Not accurate and very limited. Would depend on the in-vehicle GPS even if it is in Korean language!

4. Google Map

Google map is limited to public transport only. Coming soon: Which GPS To Use For Exploring Seoul.

5. Here Map

Here Map is our favourite GPS app to-date. Unfortunately, they can’t be used in South Korea. Coming soon: Top 3 Driving GPS To Use.

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