About South Korea
South Korea is an amazing country that has admirable landscapes, 5000 years of rich history and culture and offers a myriad of extraordinary experiences to its travelers. Its beautiful beaches, ancient temples, thriving cities and outstanding natural greenery and friendly people make it heaven for people from across the globe.
South Korea was utterly destroyed during the Korean War in 1953 but has come a long way since then. Today it is recognized as an international destination for business and travel and has well developed urban centers, recreational facilities, parks, hi-tech transportation and modern infrastructure. The people too are generous and hospitable making your stay in South Korea memorable and full of happiness.
South Korea Travel Info
Language: The official language of South Korea is Hangul. Most of the locals are efficient in English and have a knack for learning the language and so you will not face any problem in interacting with them.
Currency: South Korean Won.
Visa: To get a visa to enter South Korea, you must have a passport valid for the next six months, with two blank pages for Visa stamp. You need a copy of the completed application form, your onward/return journey tickets and a proof for sufficient funds. A single entry visa is valid for three months from the date of issue.
Electricity: South Korea operates on 220 V supply with a frequency of 60 Hz. All appliances that are used in Europe, UK, Australia, Africa and Asia are compatible here. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
South Korea Festivals & Celebrations
Mountain Trout Ice Festival: This is the most popular winter festival of Korea with thousands of visitors braving the sub-zero degree temperature to take part in ice fishing. It takes place on the frozen river in Gangwon district where people drill holes in the ice and drop their fishing rods in it. Then they sit patiently and wait for their catch. A way to celebrate the catch is to bite into the head of the trout.
Boryeong Mud Festival: Roughly half a million visitors gather at the Daecheon Beach every year to enjoy the Boryeong Mud Festival. They dance, slide and roll in the mud and wrestle. The fun factor involved has made this festival an international sensation resulting in attracting travelers from around the world. After sunset, the celebration continues with a concert by some of the most popular K-Pop artists.
Jindo Sea Parting Festival: Several times during the year, in South Jeolla Province, the sea around Jindo parts and allows visitors to walk along a narrow path formed by the parting of the sea. This is a called the Moses Miracle and is caused by the tide. The path formed is nearly 2.8 kilometers long and 60 meters wide.
Safety In South Korea
South Korea is a moderately safe place for tourists. Just like any other country, thefts, robberies, and scams take place in certain parts of the country. You should be aware of the areas that you need to avoid while you are traveling across the country. Some parts of South Korea are considered dangerous so always do your research before you travel and make sure that you avoid any dodgy areas. Based on many years of solo travel around Southeast Asia I would never leave home without travel insurance. I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your South Korea trip. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Top Things To Do In South Korea
Tour Seoul’s Palaces
Seoul is also called the city of Palaces and has five beautiful ancient sites in the capital city itself. Of the five palaces, Gyeongbukgung is by far the grandest. If you want to cover the entire cultural park cum museum, you need at least half of the day in hand. The next palace which is also a World Heritage Site and the most beautiful of all is the Changdeokgung. The other three are Cheonggyeonggung, Deoksugung, and Gyeonhuigung each unique in its own way.
Jogyesa Buddhist Temple
This Zen Buddhist temple is located in the urban business district of Seoul and is usually swarming with tourists and locals passing in and out of its doors. The most spectacular aspect of the temple is the ancient trees on the compound that are about 500 years old. On top of the trees, there are banners and colorful streamers tied. This gives a very vibrant feel to the entire atmosphere.
Visit the National Museum of Korea
The National Museum is a vast and impressive building that updates its visitors about Korea’s past from prehistory to the Korean Empire Period (1897-1910). If you do not have much time, ensure that you visit the Joseon Dynasty Gallery. Golden Treasures from The Great Tomb of Hwangham, and the Baekje Incense Burner depicting the artistry of the 6th and 7th century are among the must-see exhibits.
Hike to N Seoul Tower (or YTN Seoul Tower)
You can get the best view of the entire city from the Seoul Tower or the Namsan Tower. You can reach the tower either through a cable car or by hiking up the mountain.
At the Namsan tower, you can find many attractions like museums, stores, and restaurants. At the tower is the Locks of love where couples hang padlocks symbolizing their love and devotion towards each other. You can also click surreal pictures if you are not interested in clipping your ‘wish lock.’
Enjoy Nori Madang
When in Korea, taking a glimpse of the Korean culture before the war is a must. At the open-air theatre of Nori Madang, you can hear, see and experience Korean Culture at its best. Nori Madang is a blend of traditional music and dance and colorfully displays the Korean culture to those who do not have time to explore it more deeply.
Visit the DMZ
The visit to South Korea would not be complete without visiting the place that separates North Korea from South Korea. The border is heavily guarded and is on a regular basis subject to speculations. A visit to this uptight frontier is an experience that you won’t forget easily. Some tour operators offer trips to the Demilitarized Zone, and a few might also take you inside the well-known ‘Blue Room’ that is the only place where you are in North and South Korea at the same time.
Witness Korean culture at Insadong
In Insadong, you can witness Korean Culture before modernization. The place is getting a bit touristy recently, but most of the tourists stop here to get a glimpse of the Korean culture and its artistry. Inssadong was in the 1390s famous for its artisans, and till date, it is a market for people who intend to purchase locally made crafts, arts, and souvenirs. If you want to take home some gifts from the country, Insadong is the perfect place to buy them.
Shop at the Noryangjin Fish Market
Noryangjin, the largest fish market in South Korea and all the aquatic life form used in the restaurants, shops and by the general public, is supplied from this market. The market was originally built in the year 1927 but was relocated in 1971, to its current destination. It was further renovated in 2016, and now it is a multi-story, state-of-art complex which has about 700 stalls and a large number of restaurants providing the perfect photo opportunity to all the selfie lovers.
This refreshing stream is among the most loved hangouts of Seoul. It’s beautiful landscapes, waterfalls, footbridges and public artworks make it a spot where people come to escape the hustle and bustle of the town and spend some time under one of the twenty-two bridges or just sit dangling their feet in the water. It is the perfect way to avoid traffic when traveling to the downtown area passing through the highlights of the city like the Dongdaemun, Gwangjang Market, and Insadong.
Visit The Olympic Park
This vast park was the epicenter of the 1988 Olympics. While taking a stroll in its paths, you might come across the stadiums surrounded by trees, ponds, and sculptures. It also has a modern art gallery and a museum on the history of the Baekje Dynasty. The remains of Mongchon Fortress, a fort surrounded by a moat, constructed in the 3rd century AD during Baekje dynasty also stands tall in the park.
Other than these top things to do in South Korea, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Plan ahead so that you can take your time exploring and be prepared to be flexible because sometimes travelers you meet along the way will have the best suggestions for undiscovered gems.
What To Eat In South Korea
Koreans love a good meal, and their dishes are all about big serving and cheap ingredients. Some of the favorite food items are listed here.
Dak Galbi: This is an absolute favorite Korean dish. It is prepared by combining spicy chicken, cabbage, sweet potato, and chewy rice cakes. Dak Galbi is available everywhere in Korea, and they even have a festival dedicated to the dish, the Dak Galbi Festival.
Bibimbap: Bibimbap is one dish that can be instantly recognized in Korea. It is a bowl of rice adorned with an assortment of veggies, a fried egg, and some spicy gochujang sauce. It is also served in a hot stone bowl within which the egg is cooked in front of your eyes.
Kimchi: Kimchi is not exactly a meal but more of a side dish and is among the hot favorites of South Korea. Pickled cabbage is served along with almost every authentic Korean meal.
Andong Jjimdak: This dish has originated from Andong and is prepared with chicken, potatoes, carrot, onions, and vegetables marinated in soy sauce and then served with rice cake and glass noodles. It is another version of the basic chicken stew cooked in various countries.
Juk (traditional Korean Porridge): For the ones who do not prefer spicy food, Juk is the ultimate solution. The porridge can be eaten sweet as well as savory including meat and sea-food based porridge. For the ones opting for savory porridge, mushroom porridge will be the perfect pick.
Where To Stay In South Korea
South Korea is an incredibly affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in South Korea is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget. Hostels and dormitories make travel to South Korea affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
If you’re traveling to South Korea during peak season or wish to stay in a luxury hotel then it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have already been snapped up. South Korea is a pretty popular year-round destination you know!
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in South Korea.
If you’re backpacking in South Korea or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Asia very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
South Korea Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit South Korea
The best time to visit South Korea depends on where in South Korea you’re visiting.
South Korea Travel Budget
South Korea is generally an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets. The cost of your trip to South Korea really depends on the level of comfort you will expect while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating street food then budget between $25 to $35 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $35 to $60 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in places like Seoul then budget about $60 to $150 plus a day.
- Budget: $10-25
- Mid-range: $25-$60
- Splurge: $60+
Meal For One
- Budget: $1.00-$5.00
- Mid-range: $5-$15
- Splurge: $15-$50+
South Korea Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to South Korea, like most other places in Southeast Asia, is a breeze because it’s so easy to travel light in hotter climates. Tropical Southeast Asia climates also mean high humidity so lightweight and breathable lose fitting clothing is essential.
Be prepared for the occasional cool evening depending on the month you visit and pack a warm sweater just in case. If you’re visiting during the wet season bring a rain jacket and an umbrella. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need in the larger cities such as Seoul.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to South Korea include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to South Korea check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Asia Packing List For Female Travelers.