traveling to South Korea

South Korea

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South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK), is a country in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula and lying to the east of the Asian mainland.

1.  16 Things to Know Before Travelling to Korea

Travelling on a holiday to a country for the very first time can be very exciting. You have a whole new adventure waiting for you, but the idea of planning and being in a foreign land can be a bit distressing. You have completely no idea what’s awaiting you – the kind of people, the culture and the laws governing the country you are visiting. Which is why, I’ve decided to compile my guide to travelling Korea based on my own experience, hoping it will shed some light and preempt you of what to expect when you visit Korea for the first time.

1. How many days is enough for a Korea holiday trip?
My trip was actually 8 full day. In this trip, we joined the K Shuttle tour from US Travels for 3 days, it brought us along the route from Seoul to Busan, hopping cities like Buyeo, Jeonju and even Gwangju! We had 2 days in Busan, and another 3 days in Seoul.

I know I’ve missed out quite a lot, like the famous Jeju Island which takes a lot of time to reach, and many other iconic places. I think, ultimately, it depends on your main purpose of visit. Ask yourself if you are visiting for the scenery, cultural experiences or more of shopping. I find 8 days enough, but 10 days could have been better so that I can touch on more places like Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan and Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul. If you’re here solely for shopping, 8 days are more than enough

2. Language

The official local language is of course Korean. However, be prepared that most of the vendors do not speak English, even in touristy areas. If you’re a Chinese, you can still understand a little as they know a few Chinese characters like the price of their merchandises. If you’re not, you may have to start doing some hand language with them.

Unfortunately, most of the locals can only understand a little bit of English and they can hardly converse with you in English.

3. Money matters
Each KRW1,000 is about SGD1.2. My friend taught me to simply add an additional 20% of the Korean won and remove the 3 zeros behind. KRW10,000 would be of course around SGD12. Going by denominations of 1,000 would make your calculation easier.

Most places accept credit cards too. My exchange rate that time was SGD1 = KRW842. I changed money at Raffles Place Arcade.
4. Public transport

Trains arrive on time and on a frequent basis. If you purchase the Korea T-money card, which is our ez-link card equivalent, each ride would mostly cost KRW1, 250 (~SGD1.50) unless you go slightly further, then it will add another KRW100-300. You have to tap in and out of the gantries when you board the train.

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2.    10 Best Places to Visit in South Korea

Occupying the southern half of the Korean Peninsula is the country of South Korea. Completely distinct and independent from neighboring North Korea, South Korea is a thoroughly modern, engaging and thrilling destination for travelers. Major cities like Seoul offers the buzz of an urban metropolis along with fantastic nightlife and a chance to discover the latest technological marvel. However, South Korea is also home to scenic national parks and plenty of places where you can slow down and enjoy the atmosphere. From islands off the coast to the fearsome border zone in the middle of the Korean Peninsula, there are countless things to do, see and explore on your next trip to South Korea.

10. Suwon

Sunset at Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon, South Korea

The city of Suwon is the capital of Gyeonggi Province, and it is just 30 km (20 miles) outside of Seoul. It is easily accessible from Seoul by car or train, but it often skipped over by travelers. If you visit, you’ll be able to see the World Cup Stadium, affectionately called Big Bird, that hosted the quarter finals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. If you’re not a soccer fan, head instead to the historic 18th century Hwaseong Fortress, where you can tour the architecture and even try your hand at archery on the premises.

9. Chuncheon

Surrounded by scenic lakes and towering mountains in Chuncheon, the capital city of Gangwon Province. Chuncheon is the location of a popular Korean soap opera called Winter Sonata, and a lot of visitors in the city come to see some of the most common filming locations. Other travelers come for the food, because Chuncheon is known as a foodie’s paradise. After touring major attractions like the Soyang Dam, Statue Park or Cheongpyeong-sa Temple, head to Dakgalbi Street. This street features the dish dakgalbi, a grilled chicken meal with spicy vegetables and rice. Dozens of restaurants on the street offer the same iconic dish, each offering slight variations on the recipe.

8. Busan

The second largest city in the entire country is Busan. It’s also a major port, and it is known for boasting beautiful beaches as well as hot springs and opportunities for outdoor recreation. Busan’s Gamcheon Cultural Village, known as the Santorini of Korea, is a stunningly colorful hillside community overlooking the water. While in Busan, you’ll also have the chance to visit several temples, the most popular of which is Beomeosa Temple. While the city boasts all the shopping and museums you might expect from an urban area of its size, some of the most popular attractions include Haeundae Beach, Taejongdae Park and the beautiful Nakdong River Estuary Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

7. Jeonju

At the peak of the Joseon Dynasty, Jeonju was its spiritual capital. Today, Jeonju is filled with temples and museums and is one of the best places to visit in South Korea. If you want to embrace the local culture and get to know its history, make your way to the Jeonju Hanok Village. There, you can see traditional homes from the early 20th century, make the traditional Hanji paper or sip the locally made soju. Another popular attraction in the city is the impressive Jeonju National Museum, home to a staggering collection of artifacts. While in Jeonju, try the famed Korean dish Bibimbap, which originally comes from this region.

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3. The Most Beautiful Places in South Korea

Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond

Located near the city of Gyeongju, this 7th-century palace complex contains well-preserved temples, museums filled with ancient relics, and three small islands. Its star attraction is the surrounding Wolji Pond, an artificial lake that perfectly reflects the buildings (especially at night) and becomes covered with lotus flowers in the summer.

Cheongsando Island
Southern Cheongsando Island is known for its untouched beauty—think terraced rice paddies, panoramic ocean views, and fields of yellow rapeseed flowers. The island is also famous for embracing the concept of slow living, hosting a «Slow Walking Festival» every year in which visitors and residents are encouraged to stroll the walking trails as slowly as possible to better soak in the scenery.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), Seoul
Built in 2014 near Seoul’s Dongdaemun Market, this Zaha Hadid-designed plaza is well worth exploring for a few hours. The building’s seven levels can be explored on a guided tour or at your own leisurely pace, but the on-site history museum and clothing market are just added bonuses to the architecture itself, designed with no angles nor straight lines.

Samgwangsa Temple, Busan
Samgwangsa Temple is known for its annual lantern festival, an event honoring Buddha’s birthday (usually in late May) that attracts over a million visitors every year. During the festival, countless lanterns light up in spectacular colors beneath the night sky.

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4. TOP 10 Most Popular Korean Attractions

With so many places to visit, planning a trip to Korea can be overwhelming. To help you decide where to go, Korea Tourism Organization has created a list of the top 10 most searched attractions in Korea as of 2017. These attractions are perfect for adding to your tour schedule! If you only have a short amount of time, you can select a themed course of similar attractions. If your schedule allows, you can follow our three-day tour of all 10 attractions. No matter which option you choose, keep reading to find our travel tips for each attraction to make your visit much more enjoyable.

No.1 – Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace was the major legal residence of the royal family during the Joseon Dynasty. Carrying a meaning of “a place where the new king can enjoy prosperity of great blessings,” this was the first palace built during the Joseon Dynasty. The palace is unique for its vast area and harmony of buildings, and is the only palace to have all four major gates still remaining to this day.

Within the palace grounds, you can see a multitude of restored buildings. Visitors will enjoy looking at the variations among buildings, each serving a unique purpose. Of course, even before entering the palace, tourists enjoy gathering at Gwanghwamun Gate to watch the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony; be sure to time your visit to include this cultural performance in your tour. Gyeongbokgung Palace also offers special evening admissions once a year, so don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the evening atmosphere at the palace grounds if your schedule allows.

☞ Address: 161, Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul
☞ Directions: Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 5.
☞ Operating hours: November-February 09:00-17:00 / March-May, September-October 09:00-18:00 / June-August 09:00-18:30 (Last admission: 1 hr before closing)
※ Closed Tuesdays
☞ Admission: Adults 3,000 won / Teenagers & Children 1,500 won
☞ TIP) Gyeonghoeru Pavilion Admission (Reservation required)
— Open period: April-October (7 months)
— Admission hours: 10:00, 14:00, 16:00 (and 11:00 on weekends)
— Reservation method: Online reservation via palace website during open period 1~6 days in advance
☞ Website: www.royalpalace.go.kr (Korean, English)

No. 2 – N Seoul Tower

Seoul’s landmark attraction is none other than N Seoul Tower, located atop Namsan Mountain in the center of the city. The tower draws in visitors year-round, and is most famous for the view it offers of the cityscape at night. For hallyu fans, the tower is a must-visit attraction, having been featured in dramas like “My Love From the Star (2013)” and “Legend of the Blue Sea (2016).”

The tower features not only an observation deck, but also atmospheric cafés and restaurants among other facilities. N Seoul Tower is a great place to spend an enjoyable evening with friends or loved ones, taking in the beautiful nightscape over a cup of coffee.

☞ Address: 105, Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
☞ Directions
• Public transportation: Chungmuro Station (Seoul Subway Line 3, 4), Exit 2 → From Chungmuro Station Exit 2•Daehan Theater Bus Stop, take Namsan Circulation Bus No. 02 to N Seoul Tower Bus Stop
• Namsan Cable Car (Ticket booth): Myeong-dong Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), Exit 3. Walk approx. 10min. (Address: 83, Sopa-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul)
☞ Operating hours (Observatory): Sunday-Friday 10:00-23:00, Saturday 10:00-24:00
☞ Admission (Observatory): Adults 10,000 won / Children 8,000 won
※ Adult fare applies from age 13, and child fare applies to ages 3-12. Children under 3 years of age enter free of charge
☞ TIP) The secret of N Seoul Tower’s color: The light on the pillar of N Seoul Tower is not random; the light changes to reflect the concentration of micro dust in the air. A blue light indicates clear air with little dust, green indicates an average amount of dust, while a red light signals an extreme amount of micro dust in the atmosphere.
☞ Website: www.nseoultower.com (Korean, English)

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5.    10 Best Places To Visit In South Korea In 2019: Perfect Recipe For An Exotic Asian Vacation

The elusive, exotic land of South Korea beckons every traveler and backpacker to experience its many wonders. You’ll be spoilt for choice when shortlisting places to visit in South Korea, which offers such an unbelievable range of unexplored natural sites and urban delights.

There are tradition folk villages and swanky cities, gorgeous islands and breathtaking natural vistas. Here is a list of our top picks of places to visit in South Korea, from the popular to the unexplored, from countryside villages, grand Buddhist temples & palaces to ancient fortresses and high-tech urban cities.

Top 10 Places To Visit In South Korea
Here is the perfectly curated list of places to visit in South Korea on your next trip. Keep scrolling down and read along!

1. Seoul

The dazzling capital city will impress you with its dizzying mix of modern architecture, party vibes, pop culture, beautiful parks & glittering promenades. Vibrant Seoul is not just a buzzing urban hub but also rich in history and culture. With gorgeous palaces, chic restaurants and stylish boutiques, Seoul is charming all the way. The National Museum and War Memorial take you through the history of the country, while the cool shopping district of Gangnam gives you a taste of the city’s ritzy side.

Ideal for: Nightlife, Shopping, Culture, Architecture
Key attractions: Changdeokgung Palace (with an amazing Secret Garden), Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok village (for its pagodas and old world charm), Lotte World amusement park, Bukhansan National Park, N Seoul Tower for panoramic views.

2. Jeju Island

This stunning island just 85Km off the coast is one of the most beautiful places in South Korea. Having been voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, the pristine beauty of Jeju-do will take your breath away. Surreal white sand beaches surrounded by pine forests, volcanic craters and lava caves, beautiful botanical gardens and a rich culture are some of the high-points of this natural paradise.

Ideal for: Nature, Photography
Key attractions: Seongsan Sunrise Peak, Halassang national park, Seopjikoji promontory, Hyeopjae & Hamdeok beach, Cheonjiyeon Waterfalls

3. The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

The DMZ is one of the most famous places to visit in South Korea to get a better understanding of the conflict between North and South Korea & the current state of affairs. The DMZ is full of interesting sites that make for an engaging lesson in modern history. You can take a peek into North Korea at the Observation Post and feel the rush of adventure while walking through the Infiltration Tunnel. It is advisable to take a guided tour that includes a visit to the Joint Security Area (JSA).

Ideal for: Historical Sites
Key Attractions: Freedom Park, Dorasan Station & Observatory

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6. BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN SOUTH KOREA

Seoul
The vibrant, modern city of Seoul definitively lives up to the ‘24-hour party’ tag that other cities can only pay lip service to. A buzzing urban expanse that is striving to reshape its hardened concrete and steel edges with gorgeous city parks, cultural landmarks and tasteful design. You’ll find a host of exciting places to eat, drink, shop and relax, whether you’re in Hongdae’s chic bars and restaurants or the stylish boutiques of Apgujeong. Those shopping for arts, crafts, jewellery, antiques or souvenirs, should head to the wonderful markets and shops of Insa Dong.

Whilst Seoul is embracing all that is modern, it is also rich in history. In the city there are five major palace complexes, which were built under the Joseon Dynasty and provide fine examples of traditional architecture. Whilst all of the palaces are worthy of a visit, Changdeokgung Palace with it’s beautiful Secret Garden and the ornate Gyeongbokgung Palace which has an hourly changing of the guard ceremony with soldiers dressed in Joseon-era uniforms are highly recommended.

Gyeongju
Once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla, Gyeongju is a coastal city in South Korea with a rich selection of cultural and historical attractions. Its Silla heritage stretches back over 1000 years, with ancient sites, relics and ruins found throughout the city. The Gyeongju National Museum is home to countless treasures and the 23 ton Emille Bell cast in AD771. Gyeongju’s other highlights include the scenic Anapji Pond, Tumuli Park which is the site of incredible giant grass-covered burial mounds and the ancient UNESCO World Heritage Listed Bulguk-sa Temple. Just out of town, dramatically located on the slopes of Toham Mountain, Seokguram Grotto is another must see! Gyeongju is the historical and cultural heart of South Korea, providing an unrivaled insight into the country’s history, religion and culture.

Seoraksan National Park
Designated as a Biosphere Protection Site by UNESCO, the 400 000 sq km Seoraksan National Park’s unique rock formations, wildlife, hot springs, dense woodland and temples from the Silla-era make it an area of South Korea that simply has to be visited. Each area of this incredibly beautiful park has its own unique appeal and attractions. Translated as Snowy Crags Mountain, Seoraksan is the third-highest mountain in South Korea. Seoraksan provides a spectacular backdrop for the park’s two temples — Sinheungsa and Baekdamsa.

Jeju Island
Although it lies only 85km off the coast of South Korea, Jeju Island (more specifically Jeju-do) has developed its own unique history, traditional dress, architecture and linguistic traditions. With a moderate climate that differs surprisingly from the mainland, Jeju-do has a sub-tropical southern side and a more temperate northern region. On the island, which was recently voted one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, you’ll find exquisite botanical gardens, sandy beaches, lava caves, a folk village and the O’Sulloc Tea Museum where you can learn about South Korea’s famous traditional tea culture.

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7.  Stunningly Beautiful Places To Visit In South Korea

Internationally known for rapid, modern technological advances and urbanization, South Korea preserves a large amount of tradition as well as natural beauty. As a result, it is a country full of spectacular sights of both industrialized, urban cities as well as cultural, suburban and rural areas. It is a diverse country for both city tourists and wild adventurers. Here’s our guide to some of South Korea’s best places.

Namhansanseong Fortress

2,000 years ago Namhansanseong Fortress served as one of the four largest fortresses that protected the country’s capital, back then called Silla, from Tang China. Today, it currently stands as a historic monument for tourists in the Namhansanseong Provincial Park on top of Mount Namhan.

Gobungun, Changyeong
Gobungun, Changyeong is a green grassy field that has the appearance of many small hills. It is actually a site of over 180 ancient tombs that date to the fifth and sixth centuries. The majority of the tombs were built for those of royalty or high governmental status.

Gyeonbokgung Palace
Established in 1395, Gyeonbokgung Palace houses the Throne Hall, which stands as one of the most, if not the most, iconic structures of the Joseon Dynasty. It was the center for essential state affairs as well as storage for ancient Korean royal books that were looted by the French military.

Changgyeonggung Palace
Located in the heart of Seoul, Changgyeonggung Palace served as the residential palace for queens and concubines of the Jeoson dynasty. During the Japanese colonial rule, the building became a zoo and a botanical garden, but later returned to its former refined status.

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8. 25 Thrilling Things To Do in Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, South Korea, is a huge city with many things to do.
An immediate glance and you’ll probably notice that shopping and dining are two of Seoul’s most prominent features.

But after a little more research and wandering around, you’ll notice that there’s a rich history (Seoul has been a settlement for over 2,000 years), mountains and parks, countless neighborhoods and a fascinating Korean culture.
The list of top things to do in Seoul could go on and on, that’s why I thought instead of trying to tackle every attraction the city has to offer, I’d just cover 25 of the most amazing things I think there are to do in this entertaining and delicious city!

1. Gyeongbukgung Palace

One of Seoul’s most renowned historical attractions and most visited sites in the city is the Gyeongbukgung Palace. It was one of the main palaces during the Korean Joseon Dynasty, originally constructed at the very end of the 14th century. Unfortunately, the palace was destroyed during the Japanese invasion in the 1500’s, but it was rebuilt and remodeled some 200 years ago.

The palace grounds are HUGE – it’s like a park in and of itself. You can browse through all sorts of interesting building and also check out the gardens. My favorite place in the Gyeongbukgung Palace was the courtyard filled with all the clay pots used to store fermented chili pastes and kimchi!

Located in central Seoul, very close to touristy areas like Insadong, the palace is very easy to get to.

Entrance: 3,000 Won ($2.63)
Hours: 9 am – 6 pm from Wednesday – Monday, closed on Tuesdays
How to get there: Take the Subway to Gyeongbokgung Station and Exit #5

2. Bukchon Hanok Village

Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul, located adjacent to the Gyeongbukgung Palace, is one of the most interesting things to do in Seoul. Exploring the streets and checking out the Korean traditional homes was a lot fun. Within the village there are also a few homes that have opened their doors as guest houses – not the cheapest, but looked like a great experience.

After getting a map at the tourist information center within the village, I followed the main walking route, stopping at a series of viewpoints. In the main areas of the village there are nice little restaurants and boutique shops. I had a great time walking around the antique village while sampling Korean touristy street food. It really reminded me of the Chengyang village in China.

Entrance: Free
Hours: I’d go anywhere from 10 am until about 6 pm
How to get there: You can either walk from the palace or take the subway to Anguk Staion and Exit #1 or #2 – then walk 5 minutes north.

3. Jogyesa Buddhist Temple

Located in the middle of Seoul’s business high rise buildings district is the Jogyesa Korean Buddhist temple. It’s almost always buzzing with locals and tourists streaming in and out. The temple is a Zen Buddhist temple, though it reminded me of the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple in Colombo.

Undoubtedly, one of the coolest things about visiting the temple was the ancient trees on the compound – apparently over 500 years old. Strung up on the trees were banners and paper steamers made from brightly colored paper. It was a pretty cool site to see!

Entrance : Free
Hours: Open around the clock
How to get there: Get off the subway at Jonggak Station and Exit #2

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9.  5 Things You Must Do in South Korea

Written by: Gemma Taylor
South Korea is a great destination for those looking to get off the beaten track – and it’s also a popular gap year option to stop and earn some cash by teaching English in Korea. Whether you’re here for pleasure or work, here are the five things you must do when passing through The Land of the Morning Calm!

Spend some time in a jimjilbang
Backpacking in South Korea

Popular with young and old, the Korean jimjilbang (or naked sauna) should definitely feature on your Korea bucket list. Not just a sauna in the traditional sense, these bathing rooms resemble something more akin to a Turkish bath, with separate areas for massage, icy cold plunge pools and hot tubs. Most saunas are gender segregated and they also have a cafeteria and chill out area where you can re-commune and hang out with friends of the opposite sex. In the larger towns and cities the saunas will generally be open 24 hours so if you’re on a very tight budget (or your just visiting another town and don’t want to pay for accommodation) they’re a great place to get your head down – just grab one of the free sleeping mats and hit the floor.

How much does it cost? About 7,000 won (approx. £4) for 24 hour access to all areas, though if you want a massage or food you’ll have to pay a little extra.

Eat galbi
Fire & meat – it’s one of man’s oldest and most delicious combinations! From the caveman lighting a fire to roast his catch and the enthusiasm whipped up by a sunny day and a hot barbecue – the Koreans have also created their own version in the form of galbi. Popular with travellers, expats and citizens alike grab a few friends, grab a few beers and get munching.

How much does it cost? If you go with a group of friends galbi and a couple of beers will cost you around 8,000 won per head (approx. £4.50), but as they say – some things in life are priceless!

Visit the DMZ

Coined the ‘scariest place on Earth’ by Bill Clinton during his visit in 1993 – the recluse state North Korea has inspired many an intrepid traveller to wonder what life is like there. Unfortunately travelling in North Korea is very expensive, with tours costing upward of £2000, not to mention the flight to the point of departure (probably Beijing). However, there is an easier way to get a glimpse of life under Kim Jong Un and that’s by travelling to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) between the two countries of the Korean peninsula.

How much does it cost? Independent travel in this area is out so you’ll want to look into a tour operator (these depart mostly from Seoul and are surprisingly cheap at around 40,000 won (£25) for the day.

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10 Beautiful Places in South Korea

10 Beautiful Places in South Korea

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