When it comes to experiencing the best that travel has to offer, Korea ranks right up there on the list. In 2018, Korea saw a 15.1 percent surge in foreign visitors highlighting its rising popularity. Korean culture has exploded on the scene well beyond its take on beauty and skincare, and in the country, there are endless adventures to be experienced and hidden beauties to be seen by hopping on a motorbike, like visiting some of its stunning national parks or exploring its many coastal cities. However, as always recommended before heading to an adventure in a foreign country such as a biking adventure, there are some preparations to make including the legalities to secure and of course, a list of great starting points to get you started on the right foot (or wheel).
The Essentials: The Legal Angle
Before you can head off on your motorcycle adventure in Korea, it is important that you first take care of the requirements of getting around Korea by motorcycle including converting your license to a local one. If it is your first-time expat, you will be required to pass a test which is a one day process. Depending on the motorcycle you intend on riding, this will determine the category of license you apply for. Motorcycles that are less than 125cc will require a motorcycle license while those over 125cc will require you apply for a second small class category. You should also consider your riding skill and type of bike you will be riding (2 wheelers versus 3 wheelers). Trikes provide more stability for bike riders while two-wheel bikes suit those that are more about speed rather than cruising.
You should also familiarize yourself with the motorcycle laws of Korea including the banning of motorcycles on highways and the requirement to stay in the hand lane. Therefore, when planning your routes keep this in mind. Local bikers and biking clubs are great resources when planning your riding route and can help you avoid those main roads. Finally, travel insurance is compulsory for motorbike riders in Korea.
Getting Ready To Ride
As always recommended, riding a motorcycle comes with its own risks and responsibilities. Therefore it is up to you to become familiar with a few basic health and safety rules when riding and exploring Korea. While there are bike repair shops scattered across the common motorcycle routes, knowing a bit of DIY yourself can come in extremely handy especially on long rides. This includes securing the correct gear like a well-constructed motorcycle jacket and helmet. You will also want to avoid open-toe shoes (particularly for long rides up the coast) as shifting gears can be painful. When riding, be sure to maintain appropriate space in traffic. This can be difficult on some of the more congested roads in Korea. While there is the presence of motorcycles in Korea, it is not an expansive one and as a result, many motor drivers are aware but not completely accommodating. Routes that are less traveled and less busy can be a good respite.
The Local’s Secret: Gyeongju to Gampo
Once you have gotten past the necessities, it’s time to plan your route and head out to explore. While Korea has become known for its digitalization and technological progress, it is also popular for its scenery including stunning sights like the Ggotji Beach and the Seongsan Sunrise Peak. If it’s the beauty of mountain scenery you are after, follow the route 4 track between Gyeongju and Gampo. About an hours ride and popular with the locals, you will see the emerald seas Gampo is known for and explore the public market.
Go East Coast: Seorak Mountains
The east coast of Korea is home to some of Korea’s beautiful coastal cities and attractions including the popular Seorak Mountains. It is also less populated which is great for novice motorcycle riders and those travelers looking for the perfect photo opportunity. There is a bit of a climb and a fair few twists so beware of your riding skills. However, with minimal traffic and great weather, it can be a truly unforgettable experience, filled with cherry blossoms and azaleas. You can choose whether to make it a day trip by riding from Seoul or break your ride up by staying at one of the many affordable hotels and boarding houses along the way.
Sometimes the beauty of a new destination is best experienced by going a little off the beaten path. Exploring Korea by motorcycle gives you the chance to get close and personal with some of the country’s undiscovered (and some more of the more hyped) sights. If it is adventure and beauty you’re after, hop on that bike and come see what Korea has to offer.