With minimal planning, I completed my first solo bike trip around South Korea’s Jeju Island in June. As a foreigner and traveler who can’t read and speak broken Korean, I managed to conclude the journey of approximately 250km in five days. I’m going to share my experience and tips to set off for the challenge.
Where to rent a bicycle?
I was recommended to rent a bike with Biketrip. The rental shop is conveniently located about 500 meters outside of the Jeju Island International Airport on the north side of the Island. On a strip of car rental companies, the shop is right next to Star Rent Car.
I rented an entry-level road bike and a pair of panniers for the road. The package also comes with a helmet, a safety lock, a front and rear light with portable batteries, and a top tube bag. I repacked my necessary belongings in the panniers and left my luggage with the shop. No deposit was required when I rented. But the shop made a photocopy of my passport, and I signed rental agreement.
Who to contact if I have questions on the road?
Most of the bike shop staffers speak basic English, but Biketrip’s Jeju branch manager Mr. SungHoon Son speaks English fluently. I had grabbed his business card before I hit the road. Biketrip also provides roadside assistance service during their hours of operation. They promise they will reach their customers within an hour anywhere on the Island.
What’s it like to cycle around Jeju Island?
The CEO of Biketrip said cycling along the coastline of Jeju Island is approximately 240km with 900m to 1,000m elevation gain. Finding accommodation during low travel seasons is relatively easy as one can seek them along the way, according to avid travelers in Korea. These accommodations include guesthouses and resorts. Therefore, the only reservation I made on this trip was my bicycle rental. With no advanced accommodation reservation, it gives me freedom to ride any distance a day.
Biketrip’s Jeju branch manager Mr. Son directed me to the coastline from the bike shop, and he advised me to follow the blue line on the ground. The blue line indicates a cycling path along the coast. Along the way, I encountered blue street signs in Korean and English signaling the distance needed to travel to the next destination such as a beach or a town. With a map, the blue line on the ground, and the blue street signs for cyclists, it made the solo cycling journey effortless.
I was advised to cycle anti-clockwise to appreciate the views.
I hit a storm, then what?
This video shows the amount of the wind I encountered on my third day when I was on the southwest side of the Island.
I pulled over at a roadside cafe for a while, and I checked the weather. It turned out the winds were at 26km/h with gusts up to 43km/h. I quickly came up with a plan B after researching online, and I decided to take a rest day at a spa resort instead.
Crossing the finishing line
On my last day, I rode about 50km from the northeast side of the Island back to the bike shop in Jeju City, which is in the center north of the Island. I played some Linkin Park to motivate me. Traffic became heavier as I cycled through downtown Jeju City. My mindset changed from cycling in open areas to urban cycling.
This selfie showed the bike shop was just right behind me, which it concluded my cycling journey.
Two apps I’d like to mention for this trip
- Google Translate — to resolve language barrier, I used the audio, text and photo translator.
- Strava — to document my cycling data such as distance, time and elevation gain, etc. I also rely upon it as a digital map.
What would I do differently?
- First aid kit — I will pack a light kit next time. I had a minor accident which caused two cuts on my right leg.
- Earplugs — Some of the guesthouses are in dormitory style, so earplugs can help drown out snoring noise.
- Hover Camera — It’ll be cool if I can document parts of my journey with aerial shots.