Korea is a beautiful place to visit and can be somewhat intimidating if you do not know the language. Many Koreans are knowledgeable in English but are shy in speaking the language. So, if you are travelling to South Korea for the first time, here are some travel tips you may want to keep handy.
Preparation for your trip
Learn Hangul + some key phrases
The language spoken in Seoul is Hangul, also known as Korean. Most Koreans were taught to speak English; however, many are too afraid to speak it or may have forgotten the skills since they do not need to speak it often. Do not be worried about getting around Seoul, as there are many useful apps out there now that can help with translation if there is an issue.
If you are looking for some apps to use to assist with translation, I suggest Papago.
It is important to learn some key phrases like:
Money Matters in Korea
The currency in Korea is the Korean Won which is approximately 1000 Won to a dollar. Although the rate changes daily you have to check. The denominations are 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, and 50,000 notes and 500, 100, 50, and 10 coins.
Credit and debit cards are used in Korea and most Korean stores take any form of credit card just in case you are not comfortable carrying a large amount of cash with you while travelling. However, some traditional markets do not accept cards but cash so you would need to bring in cash when visiting those kinds of markets.
NOTE There is no tipping culture in Korea. it is considered rude to provide a tip however a few in the restaurant do accept tips.
Culture and Religion
In South Korea, there is a mix of Christian, Buddhist, and Catholic with a few non-practising. When it comes to dressing, Koreans are a tiny bit conservative. It is okay to wear bum shorts, short skirts and dresses but opening the chest or shoulder region is frowned on.
How Expensive is life in Korea?
Well, I think this is relative and I am not sure what part of the world, you are reading from. You should know that a meal is anywhere from 6,000 KRW to 30,000 KRW. Drinks in the bar can go up to 7,000KRW, so many people just buy from the convenience stores. The bus and Subway ride is usually between 950 -3,000 KRW depending on the distance. One travel tip on saving money in Korea is to take public transportation more than using taxis.
There are several accommodation options from staying in a hostel to staying in a hotel. For the hostels, they are usually cheaper, you may have to share a room and a bathroom. You can also get an Airbnb. There, you will find plenty of options. There are nice hotels but it could be pricey.
Korea is a relatively restrictive society and so your google maps will not be functional here. I advise you to install the Naver or Kakao map. I use the former and I enjoy it as it has an English Interface.
The subway is the best. It is clean and fairly cheap. Download the subway app to help you plan your route.
You can also use the bus to travel within a city and without too. You can also use the KTX which is the fast train that cuts the travel time in half.
There are smaller airports around Korea, but the main ones are in Incheon and Gimpo, Jeju. I believe the longest flight around the country is an hour or so.
Travel tips on what to eat In Korea
Korean food is a must-try Here is a quick list of food to try:
Korean street food! There are so many!
Safety Issues In Korea
I remember when my friends used to call me to know if I am safe seeing North Korea is close. South Korea is pretty safe and there is no need to worry.
You will get stared at, especially if you are African or a brown, or black-skinned person. Just be prepared. Maybe not in Seoul, but in other parts of the country where there aren’t many foreigners. On many occasions, people have walked up to me to touch my braids, asking if it was my hair and how I wash it.
I remember a funny incidence my friend told me when she visited a sauna. How the ladies all gathered to see if her skin or the water would change colour.
Is Korea a racist country?
Everyone has a different experience. Some will say yes, others, no. I’ll just say that they have lived so far away from the world that they know little of life outside of Korea. I believe the more they travel and see other people, the less likely they are to becoming racist.
There is a huge drinking culture in Korea, and it is pretty normal for Koreans.
Skincare in Korea
This is topnotch. There are a lot of brands with their stores. Some of the popular brands include:
Travel tip on things to do on your visit to Korea
It depends on the number of days you have. I recommend you start with Incheon. There is plenty to see and do here. If you have time, you can visit Seoul, Busan or Jeju.
Major things to do.
In Incheon, you can check here for some things and places to visit there.
Top Attractions in Incheon
Museums and Exhibitions
What to pack
On a final note, take Korea for what it is. And here it is! Travel tips for first-timers to South Korea. Did I miss anything? Let me know if this has helped in planning your trip here.