Every thing you should know earlier than touring to South Korea

Has any nation gained as a lot cachet in recent times as South Korea?

As soon as missed by vacationers headed to its larger East Asian neighbors, the nation is popping into an obsession for a lot of, because of its cutting-edge know-how, stylish delicacies, the world’s greatest pop bands and among the most fun films and TV collection being made anyplace. 

Add to all this centuries of custom and copious pure blessings, all in a rustic scarcely bigger than Eire, and also you’ve received one of many planet’s nice journey locations.

Secure, pleasant and possessing excellent infrastructure, this can be a really straightforward – to not point out rewarding – place to discover. Learn on for tricks to make your go to even simpler: all you should know earlier than your journey to South Korea.

Full your pre-trip registration 3 days earlier than your flight

Most vacationers – together with residents of the US, Australia and the UK – can go to South Korea visa-free for as much as 90 days (as much as six months for Canadians). Nevertheless, you’ll nonetheless want to use for a Korea Digital Journey Authorization on the K-ETA website at the least 72 hours earlier than departure. It’s a easy course of, and your Ok-ETA is legitimate for 2 years from the date of approval.

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Time your go to with the bushes

We recommending planning your go to to South Korea for spring or fall, when the peninsula will get its most temperate climate. Bonus factors in the event you can time it to coincide with one of many nation’s two durations of arboreal magic. Korea’s cherry blossoms begin blooming in mid-March on Jeju-do Island, off the south coast, and sometimes seem in Seoul in early April. In late October and early November, the leaves of Korea’s many historic ginkgo bushes flip into good golden torches, giving Seoul and different cities a very regal search for a number of weeks.

Thoughts these two main holidays

The 2 durations that may trigger vacationers actual issues are the multi-day Lunar New 12 months and Chuseok (fall harvest) holidays, when Koreans hit the street en masse, making reserving a bus or prepare ticket almost not possible. The dates change every year, so remember to examine when these are earlier than making journey plans. 

In the event you can’t keep away from a vacation, base your self in Seoul or Busan for its period. Loads of companies keep open, and the cities might be surprisingly peaceable with everybody out of city.

Use frequent sense and maintain these numbers useful, simply in case

Theft and violent crime are uncommon in South Korea. Scams and pickpockets concentrating on vacationers are just about nonexistent, and Koreans sometimes exit of their strategy to be hospitable to guests. Nonetheless, as ought to anyplace, train primary warning and customary sense. Korea has strict drug legal guidelines, and don’t even suppose about attempting to sneak previous them. Nightlife usually revolves round heavy consuming, so know your restrict to keep away from placing your self in a sketchy scenario.

In the event you do have an emergency, name 112 to achieve the police, 119 for emergency companies or 1330 to achieve the Korea Journey Hotline, the place an operator will join you to the suitable service and function an interpreter. That quantity may also be used to achieve the Korea Vacationer Police.

South Koreans greet each other with a easy, respectful bow © RUNSTUDIO / Getty Photos

Be able to get private

The everyday greeting here’s a fast bow – nothing dramatic, only a head nod deep sufficient on your gaze to fulfill the ground – however you’ll generally be supplied a handshake as an alternative. If you’re, anticipate extra of a delicate clasp than the outdated squeeze-and-pump.

You’ll doubtless be requested questions extra private than you’re accustomed to by somebody you simply met. On the prime of this listing is your age. This knowledge level is important to Koreans, because it informs how they discuss to 1 one other: how formal their verb endings needs to be and whether or not to make use of honorifics. Inquiries about marital standing, occupation and your opinion of Korea are additionally frequent. Reply politely, and be happy to return the query.

Is North Korea a priority?

Regardless of worldwide headlines, South Koreans don’t fear about an assault from North Korea – and neither do you have to. Navy clashes are very uncommon, and hazard to civilians is rarer nonetheless. A guided tour to the DMZ generally is a fascinating and really nowhere-else expertise. From afar, North Korea can appear virtually comical in its eccentricities, however if you’re South Korean troopers North Korean troopers you, the geopolitical stakes hit completely different. Plus, many excursions supply what could also be your solely likelihood to really step foot on the planet’s most secretive nation.

Monitor the air high quality

Even in COVID-free occasions, it’s a good suggestion to all the time carry a masks as air high quality can often drop to fairly nasty ranges. That is very true in spring, when mud blown off the deserts of Mongolia and northern China combines with native air pollution to create unhealthy air. Obtain an app like IQAir Air Visible (for iOS or Android) to maintain monitor of present situations and the upcoming forecast throughout the nation.

Put on what you want, however don’t pack something too risqué

As a traveler, you’ll be able to be happy to decorate for the climate and luxury. Koreans are fairly relaxed about apparel, even when they’re extra modest than you may anticipate. If visiting a temple, whereas shorts are fantastic, tank tops and miniskirts aren’t. Each women and men continuously put on t-shirts on the seashore, and it’s greatest to go away the Speedo or thong at residence. Korean ladies virtually by no means put on low-cut tops, and feminine vacationers might discover that doing so brings unwelcome seems to be. Tattoos are actually frequent amongst younger folks, but even nonetheless some bathhouses will deny entry when you have any ink.

Be taught your ga, na, da, ra, ma, bas

Primary English is extensively understood in Korea by people below 50, and signage is sort of all the time in each Korean and English. But it’s nonetheless a superb (and respectful) thought to be taught a little bit of the language. 

Past memorizing just a few important Korean phrases and phrases, studying hangul, the Korean alphabet, is like having access to a secret bonus degree of Korean journey. In the event you can sound out the letters, you’ll discover that you just already know what issues like 카페 모카 (ka-pe mo-ka), 비빔밥 (bibimbap) and 사우나 (sa-oo-na) are. 

Hangul is simple to be taught. King Sejong the Nice, who oversaw its creation within the fifteenth century, declared {that a} clever man might choose it up earlier than midday and even an fool might be taught it in 10 days. Let’s Learn Hangul teaches the Korean alphabet in an interactive, easy-to-follow manner.

A conductor stands on a platform in front of a train in a station, Seoul, South Korea
Trains and different public transport choices in South Korea are handy, clear and environment friendly © EQRoy / Shutterstock

Make the most of Korea’s world-class public transportation

Korea’s subways, trains and buses are clear, handy and environment friendly. It could actually generally appear to be a brand new station is added to the Seoul metro each month, and the rail and intercity bus networks will take you to each nook of the nation. Public transportation is reasonable: bus and subway fares in Seoul begin at simply ₩1250. In all of South Korea, Jeju-do is the one place the place renting a automotive may make sense, and even there it’s most likely not mandatory.

With plentiful English data and smart design, public transportation in Korea makes getting from right here to there a breeze. To get transferring, begin by selecting up a T-money transit card at a comfort retailer or from a merchandising machine in any subway station. Separate kiosks can be utilized to load cash onto your card. Faucet your card each if you board and get off the subway or bus. Fares are calculated by distance, so in the event you neglect to faucet when disembarking, you’ll be charged extra and received’t be capable to switch at no cost. You may as well use T-money playing cards in most taxis.

When touring longer distances, it’s easy sufficient to simply purchase intercity bus or prepare tickets at stations. For the high-speed KTX prepare and among the extra in style routes and occasions – departing Seoul on Saturday morning, for instance – it’s a good suggestion to buy upfront. You may get bus tickets on the BusTago web site and prepare tickets on the web site of KORAIL, the nationwide railway operator.

Keep related with these important apps

Wi-fi is so prevalent in Korean cities that you are able to do with out a native SIM card, however in the event you resolve that you really want one simply in case, or in the event you plan to go to rural areas, the simplest place to select one up is at one of many many telecom roaming centers at Incheon Airport upon arrival. You may as well lease a telephone in the event you didn’t deliver your personal.

Useful apps to obtain embrace Naver Map (iOS and Android), which works higher than Google Maps in South Korea; MangoPlate (iOS and Android) for locating eating places and cafes; Subway Korea for navigating cities’ metro techniques; and Kakao T (iOS and Android), which is like Uber however for taxis.

A diner with chopsticks reaches for meat on the grill at a barbecue restaurant, Seoul, South Korea
Eating in South Korea is a communal affair, so that you might need to rustle up a gaggle to take pleasure in its famed barbecue eating places © Patrick Foto / Getty Photos

Eat with others and don’t be afraid to shout for service

Consuming is a communal exercise in Korea, and plenty of eating places, particularly barbecue joints, don’t supply single servings. So in the event you’re touring solo, you may both have to tug somebody out of your hostel together with you (not a tricky promote) or loosen your belt and order pork stomach for 2 (poor factor).

At eating places, waiters received’t come investigate cross-check you, and most locations have name buttons on every desk. Give it a push, and somebody might be proper over. In any other case, to seize the waitstaff’s consideration, increase your hand and shout, “Yogiyo!” (“Over right here!”) Water is normally self-service, and sometimes facet dishes are, too. In case your server doesn’t set a bottle of water in your desk, go searching for a water dispenser and stacks of metallic cups. On the finish of your meal, take the examine to the entrance counter to pay. There’s no tipping.

You might need to be versatile about your eating regimen

When you’ve got meals allergic reactions or a selected eating regimen, you’ll have a tough time discovering locations to eat or getting clear details about elements. Vegetarianism and veganism are slowly gaining reputation in Korea, however not many eating places cater to those diets. Even dishes that you just may suppose are vegetarian are sometimes made with anchovy broth or fermented shrimp.  

Acknowledge that LGBTQI+ acceptance nonetheless has a protracted strategy to go 

Whereas attitudes are slowly altering, Korea stays a conservative society in lots of respects, and anti-LGBTQI+ prejudice is frequent. Even so, LGBTQI+ vacationers usually tend to be on the receiving finish of curious – if misinformed – questions than any kind of open hostility. Public shows of affection are typically frowned upon – although this goes for straight {couples} too.

Seoul has small homosexual districts in Itaweon and Jongno-3-ga, whereas the Hongdae-Sinchon-Ewha college hall is one other place the place LGBTQI+ Koreans really feel comfy being themselves. 

Women separate wheat in a field in rural South Korea
Whenever you go away South Korea’s ultra-modern cities, you’ll be able to encounter the nation’s slower paced, extra conventional facet © Grant Faint / Getty Photos

Get out of city

There are two Koreas. We don’t imply North and South, however slightly Seoul and every little thing else – or, a bit extra broadly, city Korea and rural Korea. The nation has a repute for being a hyper-paced, extremely wired pop-culture dynamo, however its hinterlands current a a lot completely different image, and also you’d be lacking out large time in the event you skip them. 

The Korean countryside is gorgeous, mountains and rivers  make for stunning vistas, and life is lived in another way right here than within the cities. The inhabitants is older – most individuals below 40 have decamped to the cities – and the tempo is slower. At the very least as soon as in your journey, get out of the cities and immerse your self on this extra conventional facet of Korea.

Roll with the nudges

Koreans stay life in a rush, they usually accomplish that in a densely populated nation, so that you shouldn’t anticipate the identical sense of private house or public courtesies you discover in your house nation. Koreans received’t maintain doorways open for you or apologize in the event that they stumble upon you when strolling. When getting on or off the subway, they doubtless received’t say, “Excuse me” – they’ll simply nudge you apart. They’re not being impolite, although. 

Whenever you stay in a metropolis as crowded as Seoul, it’s simply not sensible to express regret each time you knock shoulders with somebody – you’d be apologizing continuously. This may be maddening to outsiders, however simply settle for it and roll with the nudges.