Are you excited for your trip to South Korea but you don’t know what to do or where to go? Is it your first time traveling to Korea? If yes, read up and keep these things in mind.
1. Wear Comfortable Shoes
They say Koreans travel by BMW (bus, metro and walking). Wear your most comfortable shoes because will definitely do a lot of walking while in Korea.
2. Dress Appropriately
Korea has four seasons. Before traveling to the country, do some research on the weather. It’s freezing during winter season from December to February so make sure to wear something that will keep you warm. It is still cold in early spring, from March to early April. The weather becomes warm from mid April. Summer is from June to August. Summer in Korea can be really hot and it usually rains a lot. Autumn is from September to November. It becomes really cold from late October.
One more thing, girls can wear mini skirts or shorts but please avoid wearing revealing tops.
3. Download the Subway Korea app
The Subway Korea app is an offline app where you can find everything you need in taking the subway. You don’t need to connect to a wifi for it to work accurately. There are a lot of trains in Korea and the transfers can be confusing if you are not to used to their system. So get this app and don’t get lost.
4. Use T-Money Card
T-money is a transportation card which you can use in the subway, bus and some taxis. The train will be your main transportation while in Seoul since most tourist attractions can be reached by train. You can save ₩100 each ride by using T-money than purchasing single journey tickets. You can purchase the T-money card and charge it at any convenience store or subway vending machines.
5. Avoid traveling from midnight to early morning.
Subways are closed at 12 midnight. If you missed the last train and you don’t know which bus you have to take, you’ll probably be looking for a taxi. But taxi fare from 12mn to 4am is relatively high compared to regular rates. In my experience, when we went to Jinhae, we came back to Seoul at past 12midnight so we had to take a taxi to go back to the guest house and it charged us at around ₩26,000 for a 5-minute ride.
6. Tax-free for Foreigners
Foreigners can shop tax-free for a minimum purchase of ₩30,000. There are shops where you can get instant refunds. Some shops will require you to present your passport while others do not. In case you didn’t get instant refund, you can get the refund at Incheon International Airport before departure. Just look for the Tax Refund Counter at the airport and make sure you have the receipts with you.
Just recently, the Korea Tourism Organization announced that foreign tourists are eligible for a 10% tax refund on hotel accommodations. Click on the link for more details and for the list of the hotels.
7. Souvenir Shopping in Insadong
I prefer buying souvenirs in Insadong because it cheaper. Also, if you pay in cash you can get discounts and freebies.
8. Rent a Hanbok
To complete your Korea trip, it’ll be nice to experience to wear their traditional dress, Hanbok. For me, the best souvenir I can have for every Korea trip is a stunning photo wearing a Hanbok in a palace. I like wearing Hanbok because it’s comfortable to wear.
Did you know that you can enter all 5 palaces, National Folk Museum and Jongmyo Shrine for free if you are wearing a Hanbok? There are Hanbok rentals shops around Insadong and places near the Gyeongbukgung. Rental fees start at ₩14,000 for 4hrs.
9. Eating in Restaurants
In Seoul, you’ll find restaurants in every corner. Most staff in restaurants cannot understand English but they usually have English menus. Take note, some menus require a minimum of 2 portions of order. So don’t get confused when they tell you that you cannot order 1.
When you are done eating, you don’t have to ask the staff for the bill like what we do in the Philippines. You should stand up and go to the counter to pay and then you can leave. The counter is usually located near the door.
10. No Tipping
You don’t have to give tips to restaurants, hotels or taxi drivers for their service. South Korea has a no-tipping culture. Koreans are nice and helpful. If someone helps you to carry your luggage or even if someone’s gone out of their way just to help you, you can just sincerely thank them. You don’t need to give tips because they will refuse to accept it or they might feel offended.
But there are also situations where you have to give tips, like if you join group or package tours. Most of the times, you have to give tips to tour guides and drivers.
There are discounts especially for foreigners. You can get discounts coupons when you arrive at the airport or you can get them online.
12. Do not put your powerbank or batteries inside your check-in luggage
This is just a reminder for a hassle-free travel. They scan luggages after check in, so wait until you are cleared to depart Korea. If they cannot reach you, they will open your luggage to remove your powerbank.
13. Respect the Culture and Tradition of the Country
It is a must when traveling to foreign countries. Every country has their own culture and tradition. And you cannot expect the locals to adjust according your needs and wants.
Is it safe to Travel to Korea?
Definitely Yes! I’ve traveled to Korea several times and I’ve never experienced being treated bad or being scammed. You can even leave your stuff in your table at coffee shops or at train/bus stations unattended. No one will be interested.
If you still don’t know where to go, here are the usual places that tourists visit when in Seoul.
Getting there: Gyeongbokgung Station, Exit 5 or Anguk Station and Exit 1.
Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon
Getting there: Anguk Station, Exit 3. Walk straight from the exit (towards east) for about 5-min.
N Seoul Tower
Getting there: Take the Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus or Cable Car
Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus
1. Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus No. 02
– Take the bus from the closest subway station: Chungmuro Station (Seoul Subway Line 3, 4), Exit 2 (in front of Daehan Cinema) or Dongguk University Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 6.
2. Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus No. 03
– Take the bus from the closest subway station: Seoul Station (Seoul Subway Line 1, 4), Exit 9, Itaewon Station (Seoul Subway Line 6), Exit 4 or Hangangjin Station (Seoul Subway Line 6), Exit 2.
3. Namsan Circular Shuttle Bus No. 05
– Take the bus from the closest subway station: Myeong-dong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), Exit 3 or Chungmuro Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 2 (in front of Daehan Cinema).
Get off at Myeong-dong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4) and Exit 3.
Walk for about 15 minutes following the street on the right side of the Pacific Hotel. The cable car boarding place will be seen ahead.
Credit to Korea Tourism Organization
Getting there: Myeong-dong Station , Exits 5, 6, 7 & 8.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Getting there: Anguk Station , Exit 1 or 2. Go straight for about 300m.
Changdeokgung, Insadong and Bukchon are close to each other. So visit these places while you are within the area.
Dongdaemun Design Plaza
Getting there: Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station and Exit 1.
Getting there: Get off at Gapyeong Station, and take a taxi to Gapyeong Wharf or take the Gapyeong Tourist Bus.
Those were just some of the popular places in Seoul and nearby places. You can add more to your itinerary if you have enough time in Korea. Enjoy your trip!