Its your first time in Korea and everything from the language to the culture is different. Don’t worry, I’ve got your back! 3 years ago I came to Korea for the first-time and there were a lot of things that I struggled with. In fact, I wish someone had written a first-timers article for me! Nonetheless, with these simple tips you can ensure that your first trip to South Korea is an incredible one!
1. T Money Smart Card
First things first-time: Transport. Once you arrive into Korea, you’ll no doubt be spending some time in the nation’s capital, Seoul. But how do you get around the city? Well, there’s a subway system, buses and taxis like any other major city, but purchasing tickets in advance or using cash is super inconvenient. To that end, you can get ahead of the game with a T Money smart card.
T Money is essentially a transport card that you can use on any forms of public transportation. However, they are a multi-faceted smart card as well, meaning you can use it like a debit card in some popular franchises and stores. Smart right? Oops… Dad Joke. The best place to buy a T-money card is at a convenience store or from the dispensers in subway stations. You can top up your card at the designated machines at any subway station.
Additionally, as if that weren’t enough, the cards come in the most adorable designs, with special limited-edition cards available in certain places. If you’re lucky, you might find your favourite K-Pop idol’s T-money card is in stock! Moreover, you can even make your own T-money card with your own personal design at a Cashbee machine. Simply upload any photo you like from your phone and the machine will print it onto your card. Cashbee machines can be found at popular sites, such as Hongik University Station.
2. Papago Translate App
I’m no mind reader, but if it’s your first time in Korea, I will assume you aren’t familar with the Korean language. Language is one of the biggest worries people have when travelling to a new country but with the Papago translate app, communication can be as smooth as possible.
Papago was developed by the Korean web giant, Naver and so it is more finely attuned to the Korean language than Google Translate. Of course, the Korean hangul is entirely different from the English alphabet, so will you have to input each Korean letter when you want to translate something you’ve seen? Nope. Papago has an image reader function which means you can snap a photo of a menu, notice etc. and Papago will translate it all for you!
Despite living in Korea for over 3 years, Papago is still my daily go-to app. In the picture above, you can see how the honorifics toggle works, allowing you to speak in either formal or informal Korean language, depending on the situation. However, when in doubt, use formal!
3. Kakao Metro App
Another great tool for transportation is KakaoMetro, or any of the Kakao transport apps for that matter. With KakaoMetro, you can see entire subway metro maps and plan the best route to get from A to B.
Although English announcements and maps are widely available on Seoul public transport, planning the fastest or easiest route to a destination can be difficult for first-timers. KakaoMetro will provide you with more than one choice of route so you can pick what suits you best at the time. What’s more, you’ll get an accurate ETA and price quote too!
As well as KakaoMetro, you can download KakaoMap and KakaoT, the latter with which you can hail taxis, similar to Uber.
Finally, the store with anything and everything you could possibly need during your first-time trip to Korea, Daiso. If you’re travelling on a budget, Daiso will likely be your best friend when in Korea. Similar to a dollar store, Daiso is a Japanese-brand with everything from umbrellas and stationery to pet food and home decor!
If you’re caught out in the rain or need an emergency pair of socks, Daiso is the place to go and you can find them all over Seoul. Additionally, they have a huge range of cute gifts and cards, a cost-efficient way to surprise a friend.
Follow the tips above and I guarantee you will have a carefree yet memorable first-time trip to Korea! I hope you have an incredible experience here, perhaps even one that wills you to come back here again!