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Can you see Jeju Island without hiring a car? This was my thought after spontaneously booking a flight from Busan to Jeju before ending my 10 Day South Korea trip in Seoul.
The reason I thought this is as I typed into Google after booking the flights ‘how to spend 2 days on Jeju Island?’ lots of road trip itineraries and car hire blog posts appeared, but as I was travelling to Jeju Island solo, hiring a car was not an option so what was I to do if I wanted to see the best things to see in Jeju Island??
As it happens Jeju Island is perfectly accessible to visit and see without hiring a car and possible to visit as a solo traveller, here’s what I found to help you plan your trip to Jeju Island!
To SEE my 2 Days in Jeju Island, have a watch of my YouTube video:
Jeju Island has a public bus system and a pretty good and regular bus system in Jeju City especially. From Jeju Airport I caught the bus 20 minutes to my hostel – Rainbow In Guesthouse (which I really recommend by the way, it’s a super clean and friendly hostel with good dorm rooms).
I had a T Money card after being in Busan, this works on the transport there, in Seoul and many other South Korean Cities and you will need one to use the buses in Jeju so keep that in mind. You can buy a T Money card in Supermarkets like 7/11, metro stations and online in advance if you like to be organised. I’m not sure if you can buy one in Jeju Airport though, I doubt it so try and get it before arriving on the island.
So getting from the Airport to your accommodation if you’re staying in Jeju City without a car will not be a problem- you can get the Airport Public Bus or get a taxi but of course, the bus will be cheaper. Keep reading to see where I recommend you stay on Jeju Island if you’re not hiring a car.
The public bus on Jeju Island connects many areas of the Island so it is possible to spend the day catching the bus from place to place. I read this post which is really helpful, it explains the City Buses that run around Jeju, the Tourist Shuttle Bus and any other buses that are available.
However unless you’re planning on visiting just one or two places I feel like you could waste a lot of time waiting for the bus, even the website linked above notes that, and trying to visit four or five popular spots on Jeju Island in one day by bus could be hard work and take a long time. If you have one week on Jeju Island or a similar time frame and don’t need to rush, the bus will work well for you.
Jeju Island must have plenty of day tours I thought, and luckily I was right.
In fact, I spent my 2 days on Jeju Island out on day tours, I saw so much of the island going to the best places to visit on Jeju Island and most importantly I learned so much about the island from my guides.
There are 3 main tours of Jeju Island which are perfect for visitors who do not want to hire a car.
There’s a West Tour, East Tour and South Tour. There’s no North tour seen as the North is pretty much Jeju City.
There are many tour operators on Jeju Island and they have set weekly schedules of when these tours run, for example, Yeha Tours which are a company I went out with, run their West Tour on Monday, Wednesday & Friday, East Tour on Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday and South Tour only on a Sunday.
Each company’s daily schedule will vary but this seems to be the way it is set up.
All of the East, West and South Day Tours of Jeju Island that I saw include hotel or nearby hotel pick up’s and drop offs’, a local English speaking guide, lunch and entry fee’s meaning you will not need to spend any more money whilst on the tour.
West Tour with Yeha Tours
I got picked up in a nice big coach along with 35 other people, this sounds like a big group but actually, it didn’t feel it at all.
We started the trip by visiting Hyeopjae Beach- a beach with crystal clear water and one of the top rated beaches on Jeju Island, followed by Halllim Park- a nature park full of different types of gardens and some caves, it was really beautiful and peaceful here.
Our next stop was Osulloc Tea Museum, this was very touristy and more like a shop than a museum but it has some green tea fields outside and also an Innisfree shop on site which is a beauty brand with natural products made from Jeju Island. I’m not that into beauty products but it is a hit with those that are!
Lunch was a simple buffet followed by an hour boat cruise to see Mt Sanbang and see the island from another perspective, the boat was busy but I actually really enjoyed being out on the water.
After this we met the Women Divers of Jeju Island, back before tourism on the island, women had to earn an income somehow so they took to the sea free diving to collect sea cucumbers, octopus etc which they then sold. They used to dive all year round and only recently acquired wet suits. I can only imagine how hard it is to do but it was amazing to see 4 Women very happy, friendly and ready to take photos with us and tell us a bit about what they do via a translator.
The last stop of the day was either the Teddy Bear Museum or Cheonjeyeon Waterfalls, obviously, I opted for the waterfall, it wasn’t that impressive but it was a nice end to the day in nature.
I really enjoyed going out with Yeha Tours because of the big comfy bus we had and the time we had in each place- we were given 30-60 minutes in each place and given a meeting point so we didn’t walk around in a big group the whole time and could explore on our own.
Our guide was nice and gave us all the information on the bus as we drove around. There were no strenuous activities included in the West Tour of Jeju Island and it made for a really enjoyable and easy day out.
The only negative of the tour and this is of the West tour rather than Yeha Tours is that everywhere we went was very touristy, but we were tourists on a day tour so I guess there’s not much getting round that, but it did feel like we didn’t see that much real natural beauty.
South Tour with Core Travel
I got picked up by a lovely guide and was surprised when he took me to his minivan and said that there would only be 3 of us on today’s tour.
We started off driving towards Jeju Islands Mysterious Road– the road that is an optical illusion as it looks like it’s going uphill but actually if you stop the engine as we did, the car rolls downhill.. spooky!
Mount Hallasan is Jeju’s highest mountain and the Mother of Jeju. A roundtrip to the top takes about 11 hours but we got out and hiked for 30 minutes up Eoseungsaenak Mountain which is next to Mount Hallasan. The walk was fairly hard with lots of steps but it’s a well-trodden path and the view at the top was really impressive and totally worth it.
On the way to lunch we stopped by 1100m Altitude Wetland Trail, the trail only took 10 minutes or so but it was a beautiful walk. It’s a trail surrounded an area of wetland which is very unusual given the high altitude of where it’s located. I loved it here because it was so quiet, we didn’t see any other tourist.
Lunch was in a local seafood restaurant but being a vegetarian I had a delicious Bibimbap instead.
Next, we went to the coast to see Jusangjeoli Cliff, this was the most touristy part of the day really with lots of people there but the coastline is really impressive and a must-see place on Jeju Island.
The biggest Buddhist Temple of the island Yakcheonsa Temple was next which is very impressive and very beautiful. This temple is pretty unique as it was only built around 30 years ago and we had the time to walk inside the temple and our guide gave us lots of information about Buddhism in Korea.
After a quick visit to Cheonjiyeon Waterfall and some Green Tea Fields which were much more picturesque than the green tea museum I visited the day before, the tour was done and we were heading back to Jeju City.
I really liked my day out with Core Jeju. I was a bit dubious at first that there was only 3 of us but actually it was so perfect and much more personal, it meant I could ask the guide lots of questions and he really did share is 8 years of knowledge from living on Jeju with us, I found out so much valuable information I wouldn’t have known unless he told me. We were in no way rushed at each stop and I felt this South tour with Core Jeju showed me the more natural side of Jeju that I had been wanting to see.
If you want a smaller group tour around Jeju Island, have a look at Core Travel’s website here.
It’s worth noting that each company seem to visit slightly different places on each tour. For example, the South Tour itinerary that Yeha Tours offer is different to what I did with Core Jeju so be sure to have a good look on the site’s to see where the itinerary takes you and which ones takes your fancy the most.
Personally, I really recommend Yeha Tours for the West Tour and Core Jeju for the South Tour. Both offered a different experience in terms of places visited and the tour type which overall gave me a great insight into the island, so if you have 2 days to spend on Jeju Island, doing both of these is a great idea!
One thing to note is that the best place to stay on Jeju Island without a car is Jeju City. I know you may not be going to Jeju- an island known for its natural beauty to stay in a City but in terms of using the public bus and being picked up and dropped off by organised tours, Jeju City is the best place to be.
Jeju City is pretty big and split into 2 parts – Old and New which are either side of the Airport.
I stayed in Rainbow In Guesthouse so if you’re looking for a hostel in Jeju City I really recommend staying here, it has dorm rooms and private rooms.
Alternatively, have a look at all hostels and hotels in Jeju City on Booking.com here. I use Booking.com to make all of my bookings as I love its great deals and flexible booking options.
On both of my tours, the guides said that Jeju Island is notorious for car accidents so if you do hire a car, even for just a day please be careful. It’s well known that some tourists come to the island and drive far too fast and often after a beer with lunch and cause accidents so even if you are careful and are a sensible driver you do need to be extra careful of those driving around you!
If you want to get an idea of how much it will cost to hire a car on Jeju, have a look at Rental Cars here which search through all of the best rental companies.
I hope this helps you plan your trip to Jeju Island!
For more of my posts from South Korea see:
This post contains affiliate links but at no extra cost to you. I received a complimentary tour with Yeha Tours and Core Travel in return for content but I genuinely had a good experience with both and recommend both to you.
I’m Ellie Quinn!
I’m a travel addict who has been travelling on and off since 2010. In the Summer of 2018 I quit my office job in London, left my flat and I now travel and blog full time! Yes, I’m living that dream!
NOV-DEC: PROBABLY INDONESIA
If you want to join or read more about the details of the group tour.