EXPLORE SOUTH KOREA
This East Asian nation has come along way since the Korean War in 1953. Despite sharing one of the world’s most heavily militarized borders with North Korea, South Korea is recognized as a top international destination for both business and leisure travel. The lush green countryside dotted with cherry trees, small coastal fishing villages, ancient Buddhist temples and sub-tropical islands are just a few of South Korea’s highlights. With well developed urban centers, recreational facilities, parks and modern infrastructure in high-tech cities such as Seoul, the capital, South Korea has something for everyone.
SOUTH KOREA TOP 5 THINGS TO DO
Tour Seoul Palaces
Seoul is sometimes referred to as the City of Palaces with five located in the capital city Seoul. Gyeongbukgung is by far the grandest. Prepare to spend half a day to cover the entire cultural park and museum. A world heritage site and considered the most beautiful palace is the Changdeokgung. The other three are Cheonggyeonggung, Deoksugung, and Gyeonhuigung.
Noryangjin Fish Market
Noryangjin is the largest fish market in South Korea. All the fish used in restaurants, shops and by the general public comes from this market. Originally built in 1927 but relocated in 1971 to its current destination. It was further renovated in 2016, and now it is a multi-story complex with about 700 stalls and a large number of restaurants providing the perfect photo opportunity for fish and selfie lovers.
This refreshing stream is a popular hangout spot in Seoul. With beautiful landscapes, waterfalls, footbridges and public artwork locals come to escape the city’s hustle and bustle. Sit under one of the twenty-two bridges or dip your feet in the cool water. It’s also a good way to avoid traffic when traveling around downtown as you pass by the highlights of the city like the Dongdaemun, Gwangjang Market, and Insadong.
Witness Korean Culture at Insadong
Insadong is where you can get a glimpse of the ancient Korean culture and its artistry. In the 1390s Inssadong was famous for its artisans and today its a popular market for people who want to purchase locally made crafts, arts, and souvenirs. If you want to take home some souvenirs from the country, Insadong is the perfect place to buy them.
Visit the DMZ
A visit to South Korea is not complete without paying a visit to the place that separates North Korea from South Korea. The border is heavily guarded and a visit to this uptight frontier is an unforgettable experience. Some tour operators offer trips to the Demilitarized Zone, a few even take you inside the well-known ‘Blue Room’ which is the only place where you are in North and South Korea at the same time.
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SOUTH KOREA TOP 3 FESTIVALS
Mountain Trout Ice Festival
This is the most popular winter festival of South 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 to drop their fishing rods in. Then they sit patiently and wait for their catch.
Boryeong Mud Festival
Roughly half a million visitors gather at the Daecheon Beach each year to enjoy the Boryeong Mud Festival. They dance, slide, wrestle and and just roll about in the mud. This festival is an international sensation and attracts visitors 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.
SOUTH KOREA BASICS
Language: The official language of South Korea is Hangul but most locals speak basic or conversational English.
Currency: South Korean Won.
Visa: Visiting South Korea requires a valid passport and a visa. Use these free online visa checker and calculator tools so you know if a visa for South Korea is required (which depends on the country you’re from) and if so, how long it will take to process your visa and the cost.
Electricity: South Korea operates on 220 V supply with a frequency of 60 Hz. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each new country you visit.
Lonely Planet South Korea: Check price on Amazon
WHAT TO EAT IN SOUTH KOREA
Some of the most delicious, traditional dishes that you must try when in South Korea are listed below. Don’t drool!
Dak Galbi: This is an absolute favorite South Korean dish. It is prepared by combining spicy chicken, cabbage, sweet potato, and chewy rice cakes. Dak Galbi is available everywhere in South 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 South 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: 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 South 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 those who do not like 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 is one of the favorites.
WHERE TO STAY IN SOUTH KOREA
South Korea is a reasonably 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. Whether you’re a backpacker, flash-packer or a luxury vacationer, South Korea will not disappoint you.
A basic hotel room in South Korea can cost less than $30 dollars. If you’re looking for accommodation that includes western amenities and comforts then there will be more options to choose from in the big cities and popular tourist hotspots like Seoul. 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 very popular year-round destination you know!
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in South Korea. However, if you are backpacking in South Korea or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in East Asia very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
BEST TIME TO VISIT SOUTH KOREA
Top South Korea destinations like Seoul aren’t weather reliant and the weather conditions at any time of year won’t affect your trip to these large cities. However the best time to visit South Korea in general is between April and May and also September and October. This is when most of the main tourist destinations will have their best weather (not too hot or cold). Summer time is between June and August and if you don’t mind crowds and heat it’s a good time to visit too. For lower prices visit South Korea in Winter between November and March which is considered low season. Wrap up warm because this place can get extremely cold.
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 are backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating street food then budget between $30 to $50 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $50 to $100 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants then budget about $100 to $200 plus a day.
IS SOUTH KOREA SAFE FOR FEMALE TRAVELERS?
Safety is a concern for most people traveling to South Korea. Pick-pocketing, bag-snatching and other scams to take advantage of tourists are common. Female travelers should be extra careful when walking alone or at night. Some parts of South Korea are dangerous so do your research before you go and avoid these places. Based on many years of solo travel in East Asia I would never leave home without travel insurance and recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your South Korea trip.
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SOUTH KOREA FLIGHT DEALS
SOUTH KOREA TOURS & ACTIVITIES
SOUTH KOREA PACKING TIPS
Packing for a trip to South Korea, like most other places in East Asia, is a breeze. You really don’t need as much travel gear as you may think for a trip to South Korea and it’s always best to travel light whenever possible.
That said, the gear you do bring on your trip should be the very best option available for you and that doesn’t always mean the most expensive. Jetset Bunnies around the globe are always discovering the latest and the greatest in travel gear for women and this is where we share our fabulous finds with you.
It’s so easy to travel light in hotter climates just remember to pack lightweight and breathable lose-fitting clothing. Be prepared for very cold morning and evenings depending on the month you visit and pack a warm sweater, coat, gloves and hat.
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. Read our related blog post with advice on how to choose the best backpacks for women travelers. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
So if you’ve found your travel inspiration, figured out the practicalities and got the travel gear it’s time to stuff it all in a bag and go right? Well, no, hold your horses, you see there’s an art to packing which we have (almost) perfected. Hop to our Travel Packing Tips for all of the latest on this topic.