We are so happy to write this Korea Travel Guide for Korea visitors. South Korea is one of the hottest travel destinations in the world. Millions of tourists travel love to opt for a Korea tour each year. There are a number of reasons for that. But we believe the main reason for that is the harmonization of traditional and modern Korean culture. You can enjoy fabulous skyscrapers, ultra-high speed internet, K-Pop, and beautiful old Palaces and history in one place.
I hope this Korea Travel Guide can assist you in a comfortable, safe and enjoyable Korea tour.
Considering the enormity of an entire Korea tour, we will focus on providing you some general tips about the Korea tour. Bulk to the Korea tour tips will be related to Seoul, the most popular singular tourist destination in South Korea.
Here you go with the most useful tips for your Korea tour.
- A Few Pre-Korea Tour Tips
- Korea Trip Planning
- Korea Travel Guide
- Where To Stay in Seoul
- Things To Do in Seoul
- Korean Foods
- Must-buy Items in Seoul
A Few Pre-Korea Tour Tips
Before we go ahead with some in-Korea tips, it is important to have a little understanding of what you must do in the preparatory stages of your Korea tour. Here are a few tips:
General Information about Korea
Currency: Korea Won (KRW)
Cash & Credit Card
You will not need to carry much cash in Seoul because most stores take international credit cards (Visa, Master, and etc.) in South Korea. And you can draw cash on your international cards through easily accessible local ATMs for shopping at smaller stores (that only accept cash).
Electricity Socket: 220V AC
Weather and temperature Just like most of the other parts of South Korea, Seoul is a lush green metropolitan city with amazing scenery. The weather is highly humid and warm during July and August. It can be freezing cold during the winter months. The best time to visit Seoul in the spring when the cherry blossoms at its peak. The autumn months are renowned for their amazing fiery foliage. In both seasons, the temperature ranges less than 20 degrees Celsius and you can comfortably enjoy outdoor activity and site seeing. Check Seoul Weather and Temperature Here.
No worries! South Korea is one of the safest countries in the world. But we always get travel insurance when we travel abroad. Because medical emergencies overseas can be really expensive. We recommend going with World Nomads as they are specialized in travel insurance.
Language: Korean (Hangul)
Hangul is the official language of South Korea. Though it may not be possible for you to learn the language for a short Korea tour. However, it is smarter to learn common use of phrases and words. It may take a day or so of practicing through YouTube. The dividends are rich in terms of South Korean public attention that you can gain by showing some familiarity with the local language.
History of Korea
Having some amount of understanding about South Korean history and culture will help you in exponentially increasing the worth of our Korea tour experience. Though it is not a pre-prerequisite, you will love the feel of a cultural experience with pre-hand understanding. Online sources are loaded with such information and this is the Korean history Youtube video that I found.
Tipping and others
- In most places, tipping is not common and you don’t have any obligation to tip in South Korea. My friend was surprised when a server politely refused his tip when he visited Korea for the first time. I guess the only case you may have to consider tipping is a travel guide. Ask the agency about the tipping policy before you book a travel guide service.
- Calling a server loudly is not accepted as a good manner in western countries, but it’s a bit different in Korea. Some restaurants have a call button on the table so that customers can call a server (There is no designated server for you in most Korean restaurants.). If they don’t have a call button, you need to call them “Yeogiyo” and it means “Here” in Korean.
- You should off your shoes when you are within a house.
Korea Trip Planning
Korea Travel Budget
If it’s your first time to visit Korea, it might be hard to guess the travel budget. I would like to share the average budget for a trip to Korea including accommodations, transportation, and foods.
– Guest House (Bunk bed): $20~$40
– Entire House or Hotel (Studio): $60~$100
– Entire House or Hotel (two rooms): $80~$160
Air ticket depends upon your budget, flight duration, and preferences. But the important thing is that the early bird ticket is less expensive than the last-minute ticket. DY and I usually find the cheapest ticket when we travel abroad because we want to use our budget more to the experiences at our traveling destination.
– Bus/Subway in Seoul: $11~12
– Taxi: Basic fare of a taxi is 3,800KRW up to 2km and added 100KRW per 132m or 31 seconds.
Less than $20 in Seoul(One-way)
– Incheon airport to Seoul
Airport Bus: $12
AREX (Airport Railroad): $8
Regular Taxi: $50~60
– Street food: $2~$5
– Korean Restaurant: $7~$10
– Korean BBQ: $13~$20/person
– Fine Restaurant: $17~
SIM Card or Pocket Wi-Fi
It’s hard to imagine traveling abroad without a smartphone these days.
It is advisable to book a Korean SIM card in advance through online sources to enjoy on the go connectivity. You can pick up them from the airport and the data rates are not high and you will surely like to be accessible online at all time.
Must-Have Apps for Korea Travel
Google Maps don’t work well in South Korea. Please, download Naver Map including the best apps for Korea travel. And South Korea is heaven for a variety of delivery foods. You can even order foods to the Hangang park using your smartphone. Here are the recommended Must-Have apps to enjoy Korea in a safe and comfortable way.
Korea Travel Guide
Where To Stay In Seoul
This is something that has a deep relation with your luxury preferences and allocated budget for lodging. Seoul is a city that caters for travelers for all budgets. You can find expensive 5-star accommodation as well as moderately to cheaply priced hotels, Airbnb apartments, guest houses, and even student hostels. No matter what type of accommodation are you looking at, it is advisable to book well in advance. Most lodging facilities allow online advance bookings and payments. However, the purpose of your visit is the most important factor to select places. So I would like to recommend to you the most famous three places to stay in Seoul.
Hongdae Area (Hongik University Station)
Hongdae is famous for its trendy cafe, pub, and nightlife to young travelers. But, it’s not all the aspects of Hongdae street. Originally, it’s an epicenter of the urban indie culture of Korea. Many famous artists started out their career here. Here’s the way to get to Hongdae from Incheon International Airport.
Gangnam is a planned district that shows all kinds of the latest trends in Seoul. You can enjoy and experience almost every aspect of Korea, such as night-life, shopping, fashion, technology and more.
Here are three places you can consider staying and the Five Best Attractions in Gangnam.
1. Gangnam & Sinnonhyeon station area
2. Samsung station area
3. Jamsil station area
Please, check this article to get to Gangnam from Incheon International Airport.
Myeongdong is close to the Seoul City Hall, Insadong, Jongno, and Namdaemun. These areas are closer to mass transit facilities and most of the tourist attractions in Seoul. And If one of your purposes for the trip is shopping, Myeongdong is the first place you should consider. Myeongdong Shopping Street is filled with tons of stores from the huge and luxurious department stores to the small shops sell various stuff at a reasonable price.
And it’s not only for shopping. There are many famous historical places like the Gyeongbokgung Palace of the Joseon Dynasty.
Check the way to get to Myeongdong from the Incheon International Airport here.
Transportation In Seoul
Things To Do In Seoul
‘Things to do in Seoul’ might be the main section of this Korea Travel Guide. Seoul is one of the most exciting and diverse tourist destinations in the world, packing a huge list of attractions. From day trips to historical monuments to enjoying the thrilling nightlife, there is something for everyone in Seoul. Here is a short list of things to do in Seoul(Of course, you can customize the itinerary following your preferences) :
A Day Trip to Korean History!
: Bukchon Hanok Village – Gyeongbokgung Palace – National Folk Museum of Korea – Insadong
If you already searched attractions in Seoul, you might have seen a lot of photos taken in Bukchon Hanok Village and Gyeongbokgung Palace. Through this beautiful time travel, you may fall in love with Korean traditional culture and beauty. After a long walk of Korean history, don’t forget to visit a Korean traditional cafe and see the handmade souvenir items in Insadong.
A Day for Shopping and Korean Street Foods
: Namdaemun Market – Myeongdong Shopping St. – Cheonggyecheon – Gwangjang Market
Namdaemun market is famous for the attractive price and various products and Myeongdong is heaven for K-beauty product fan. And several shops support immediate tax refund service as well. After shopping, when you walk along a beautiful stream, Cheonggyecheon, you will arrive at the Gwangjang Traditional Market. You can enjoy a variety of Korean street foods. Bindae-tteok(mung bean pancake), raw octopus and fish, Mayak-gimbap(kind of sushi), Dongtae-tang(pollock fish stew), and etc. Having a raw octopus will be one of the unforgettable moment of your life. If you are not that brave, we recommend you to try Bbindae-tteok with Makgeolli(rice wine), Dy and my favorites!
Travel Tip: It’s very crowded on weekends afternoon & Bring some cash.
A Day Trip with Mountains in Seoul
: Bukaksan Seoul Fortress Wall Hiking – TongIn Market & Seochon Village – Namsan N-Tower
Fortress Wall of Seoul is a good path for hiking lovers with a nice daytime view. We recommend you the course from Malbawi Information Center to Changuimun Gate. It takes about two hours and you should bring some water because there’s no store on the route. After that, let’s visit Tongin Market to try Korean Food Dosirak(lunch box). You can find a guy with black lunch box containers with a how-to-use Dosirak Cafe instruction banner. Seochon is famous for trendy cafes and small workshops of young artists. Then let’s move on to the Namsan N-Tower to enjoy a beautiful night view of Seoul. Riding Namsan Cable Car is one of the interesting experiences of N-Tower.
A Day Trip to Gangnam Area
: Lotte World – Seoul Sky – COEX – Bongeunsa Temple
Gangnam refers to the streets near the Gangnam station in a narrow sense but sometimes it means a bigger area including Jamsil, Samseong, Chungdam, and Sinsa-dong. Lotte World is a huge amusement complex with theme parks, aquarium, shopping malls, restaurants, theaters, and the Seoul Sky. The Seoul view from the glass observatory at 555 meters high will show you gorgeous scenery of Seoul. COEX is Seoul’s greatest exhibition venue and a tourist attraction by a lot of malls, Byeolmadang Library, and SM Town at COEX Artium. If you want to feel an oriental atmosphere in the heart of the metro city, Bongeunsa temple is a great choice. Check out the best 5 Attractions in Gangnam.
A Day Trip for understanding Korea
: The War Memorial of Korea – Itaewon – Hangang Park
The War Memorial of Korea is a history museum with a theme of war. And Itaewon is a gathering place for foreigners, foreign commodities, foreign cultures, and restaurants. Feel the multi-cultural vibes and foods. There are a dozen riverside parks in Hangang. People enjoy their leisure time walking and having meals at the riverside park with their family and friends. It is used for many festivals and there are many sporting facilities. Find festivals or events in Hangang or just hang out on the grass of the riverside having ChiMac.
Other Things To Do in Seoul
- The National Museum of Korea, Trickeye AR Museum, and Grevin Museum: For art and history lovers
- Hanul Park, Seoul Forest, and Bukhansan National Park: For the people who love nature
- Seoul Hangang (Han River) Cruise
- Seoul Hangang (Han River) Kayaking and Paddle Boarding Experience
Best Attractions outside of Seoul
- Nami Island, Petite France, and Garden of Morning Calm & Gangchon Rail Bike
- DMZ Tour
- The National Folk Museum of Korea
- Everland Amusement Park & Carribean Bay
Classes in Seoul
- Korean Cooking Class with Traditional Market Tour
- Seoul K-Pop Dance Class for Beginners (Hongdae)
- Seoul K-Pop Dance Class for Beginners (Gangnam)
Must-See Performances in Seoul
- Nanta Show Seoul
- Jump Show
- Chef Show – the next generation of BIBAP!
- The Painters Hero Show
- Fireman Show
Tasting new food is one of the best reason we travel abroad. Delicious foods always make us happy and let us know we are alive!
Famous Korean Foods
- Kimchi is a unique Korean dish made by washing, draining, salting, seasoning, and fermenting vegetables.
- Korean BBQ is one of the best culinary experience you can enjoy on your Korean tour. The presentation is always the most amazing and artistic (so is the taste).
– Dwaeji-Galbi: Pork spareribs butterflied cut, marinated in a sweet soy sauce mixture, and chargrilled.
– Samgyeopsal: Fat-streaked pork belly grilled and dipped in ssamjang (red soybean paste dip). Also eaten wrapped in lettuce leaves.
– Bulgogi: Beef marinated in soy sauce, honey, onion, garlic, and then grilled.
- Bibimbap is a dish made up of various vegetables and ground meat. After you get the bowl, you should mix all of the ingredients with spicy gochujang (red chili pepper paste) and sesame oil.
- Jeon refers to seafood, meat, or vegetables, thinly-sliced or chopped, seasoned, coated with flour, and pan-fried in egg batter. Bindaetteok is a kind of Jeon.
- Jajangmyeon is a Korean-style Chinese food, which is prepared by slicing pork, onion, and seafood on a boiled noodle with Chunjang (Chinese Soybean Sauce).
- Tteokbokki is thin rice cake sticks stir-fried in a spicy gochujang sauce with vegetables and fish cakes.
- Naengmyeon is buckwheat noodles served in a chilled meat-based broth.
- Japchae is glass noodles stir-fried with beef and assorted mushrooms and vegetables.
Recommendation to Enjoy Korean Dishes
There are abundant of Korean restaurants on the road wherever you go in Korea. And you may want to enjoy many kinds of Korean foods during your stay. We strongly recommend you visit below three kinds of Korean restaurants.
- Korean BBQ Restaurant
- Korean Street Foods in Traditional Market: For instance, Gwangjang Market.
- Hanjeongsik Restaurant
It is a modern contemporary setting to take traditional Korean cuisines in order. You can taste a variety of Korean dishes based on traditional recipes. But the problem is that most of the Hanjeongsik restaurants are expensive.
Cafe Streets in Seoul
- Yeonnamdong Cafe Street (Hongdae)
- Garosugil Cafe Street
- Gyeongridangil Cafe Street
Must-buy Items in Seoul
K-Pop and Character Goods
There are several places to purchase K-Pop goods in Seoul.
- Myeongdong: Myeongdong Underground Shopping Center, Buru’s Ddeurak
- Dongdaemun: K.Art Offline Store
- Gangnam: SMTown at COEX Artium
- Line Friends & BT21 Store: Hongdae, Myeongdong, Lotte World, Itaewon, Garosugil, Incheon Airport DFS, and etc.
- Kakao Friends Store: COEX, Hongdae, and etc. Find a Kakao Friends store near me.
K-Beauty is being another wave of Hallyu in the world because of the quality and efficacies. There are a lot of cosmetic shops on the shopping streets in Seoul, such as Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, Gangnam, Itaewon and Hongdae.
Hanbok (Traditional Korean Clothing) and Crafts
There are many Hanbok and traditional craft stores in Insadong, Bukchon, and Samcheongdong area. Purchasing destination’s traditional clothes and goods is always a nice choice for first-time visitors.
Seaweed, Kimchi, snacks and instant noodles are the most popular foods to bring. Most of all, we’d like to recommend purchasing Ginseng products for your parents or friends. Because Korean Red Ginseng is famous for its efficacies for boosting the immune system of the body.
Traditional Korean Liquor
Soju and Makgeolli are Korea’s most popular alcoholic beverages. Famous brands of soju are Andong Soju, Munbaeju, and Hwayo, and etc. It would be a great souvenir if you bring one bottle to your country so that you can recall the memory of Korea.
Here are just a few tips to make your Korea trip more rewarding. Please remember, this content is just to give you a head start on a Korea tour. Plan your Korea trip well in advance to make the best use of your time and money. A neatly planned trip will be more enjoyable and lesser expensive.
If you have any questions about Korea travel, don’t hesitate to ask us using the below comment section.
Best of luck.
DY & Jay