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South Korea: Experience And Recommendations

Discussion in 'Asia' started by krnd, May 5, 2016.

  1. krnd

    krnd New Member

    Hey there!

    With the increasing interest in South Korea as a vacation destination, I figured I could provide some advices from a tourist and resident perspective, having been in both sides of it now. I will try to update this often as more things pop to my mind that can help out your experience be even better, as well as the resident's experience when meeting foreigners.


    - Incheon International Airport is one of the best and safest airports in the world. I guarantee you, the experience itself within the airport will be a whole different world than you expected; there are cinemas, restaurants, an ice skate ring, and so much more! transportation inside the airport to reach each terminal is excellent and the staff as a whole will make you feel right at home. Having been in this airport for 4 trips already it has never disappointed, the one thing I don't recommend is exchanging cash in it, other than a minimum required to get around.

    - If you're staying in Seoul I will recommend you to stay in Hongdae, there are plenty of hostels of good quality and enough foreigns to not feel lonely if you're the kind that doesn't want to be a minority. For the ones that like quiet surroundings with still a decent amount of people, and prefer to head to the more crowded areas later, I recommend you find hostels around the subway exit #3, however if you are the opposite you will want to stay around subway exit #9 (the most crowded area and some of the best nightlife in Seoul).

    - Subway will be your lord and savior of transport. Depending where you come from this will be a huge shock, but a lot of the directions are referenced with subway station exits. Seoul's subway system is a big deal and it's the most efficient way to get around Seoul, even more so than renting a car.

    - Head to Myeongdong (명동) after you've left your things at the hostel of your choice. Now if you've ever been to Hong Kong this place is quite similar, there are a lot of Chinese shopping and a lot of vendors on the streets. It isn't an intrusive experience that you'll be faced with, most clerks are nice and they're just trying to get their job done. The main reason you will go to Myeongdong is for money exchange, they've got the best rates in Korea, and you will want to exchange any cash you've got in there. Nearby you've got some cheap restaurants that you can fill your stomach with, they're literally a couple of steps close!

    Korea is not just Seoul

    - To put in contrast your experience in Seoul and find some more of the beautiful Korea without having to deal with the crowded metropolis that is Seoul, you should head to some other places known to have a lot of cultural and gastronomical value (food is a great incentive, I know this much!).

    - Sokcho is an amazing place for those looking to do some climbing/hiking in one of the most beautiful mountains in Asia, Mt. Seorak. Sokcho is located towards the north of South Korea so you will find the whole place tends to be a little bit more chilly than Seoul, that comes with it's benefits though, the sea-food is waaay cheaper than the one you will find in Seoul (I'm talking 300% decrease in price), not to mention the quality is incredible.

    Don't fear the locals, but don't pester them either

    - You will meet both, shy and outgoing Koreans, there is a misconception that the average Korean will hate you because they're nationalist. The average Korean is curious, has a kind heart, and usually just doesn't care about others outside their small circle of trust and friendship. Now this doesn't mean a Korean won't be willing to help you out if you're having trouble finding a place or ordering a meal, quite the contrary they'll be GLAD to help you out, however do not expect them to go out of their way and provide you help unless you request it. Most of the time I see tourists that find shy Koreans cute and keep on harassing them over it (yeah, it is called harassment) just to get reactions, this is possibly the worst thing you can do and an easy way for people to not only feel uncomfortable real quick, but get some well deserved hate from residents.

    - A lot of Koreans will understand English to certain extent, but if you're going to a foreign country that speaks a different language please have some respect and learn some words that will come useful (for your own safety too), it doesn't matter if you write them down or learn them, but actually do something about it. I have seen people who cannot eat certain meats because of their religion, which is completely fine, until you realize it's your own fault if they serve you any (due to miscommunication) as Korea is the country with the most meat consumption in Asia..
    amelia88 and Admin like this.
  2. sararas

    sararas Member

    I've only been to Seoul once, but it definitely was the best 5 days of my life. One of things I like about Seoul is the wide sidewalks. Also, I forgot the name of the place but there was this mountain we hiked. According to my Korean colleague, that mountain used to be a mountain of trash. But the local government transformed it and turned it into a park where locals alike can get their daily dose of walking exercise. It's not literally a mountain where the climb is hard, because there were actually stairs. One of the interesting bit that I could remember is that the flight of stairs is numbered top to bottom. That is, the higher you climb the number gets lower to encourage climber to take a few more steps to the top. I thought it was kind of a good motivation.
  3. Coco

    Coco Active Member

    Thank you for this comprehensive guide! You are very right, the Incheon International Airport is a destination in itself. I remember back when my husband was in America and booked a flight home, he opted for a certain Korean airline. It was his first time then to even visit Korea and he was amazed by their airport. Unfortunately, he didn't have time to even explore the place since he was crunched for time. But he said that the airport was leaps and bounds beyond our very own. And he really wanted to buy some cosmetics, for me of course since he knows I love them, but didn't have the time to do so.

    Fortunately, we were able to go to Korea and visit it not just for the airport but the country itself. And here's a few places that I can recommend to anyone wanting to visit the country:
    • Seoraksan National Park. This is a must visit destination only because it's complete. It has temples, forests, rock pinnacles and beautiful wildflowers.
    • Dadohae Haesang Maritime Park. There's something wonderful about these little pieces of islands that sometimes resemble humans or animals. It's said that there's about 10,000 of these pieces which I'm not sure since I didn't count them. Lol.
    • Insadong Shopping Street. There's lots of quaint shops around this area where you can buy clothes and souvenirs. There are also street performers which add to the fun. And oh, galleries and cafes are around here as well.
    Anyway, with regards to Koreans, they're generally nice. I've had Korean classmates in college and they can be quite shy at times. But there are a few who's outgoing and fun to be with. Why are Koreans so good with table tennis though? Is it like a common sport there? There's this classmate that I have in PE then, he was so good in table tennis, he's like a pro player. Haha.
  4. Corzhens

    Corzhens Active Member

    Thank you for posting this thread. It's like reading a tourism phamphlet. Some 2 years ago, we had plans of going to Seoul for our usual tour. But my niece who went to Seoul ahead of our planned trip had discouraged us. She said that Seoul is a very expensive city where even the soda is very expensive. In fact, all she brought home were some packs of seaweed, that's the only item she could afford.

    But we have enough budget for a trip. In fact, next year we have plane tickets for Osaka, Japan. And I'm expecting to spend more because I believe that Japan is the most expensive place in Asia. With Seoul, we probably can consider a trip by January, maybe to experience the snow.
  5. amelia88

    amelia88 Active Member

    I've only been to Seoul too, but I loved it - I felt like there was a great mix of both the modern and the historic.

    One of the coolest things I saw was the Cooking Nanta show - I thought that was really awesome. I also loved the shopping (I think Seoul is a shoppers paradise!) and the interesting palaces. One other thing I did which I thought was fun was a cooking class. We learned how to make bulgogi and kimchi and it was just unique to get to learn how to make something traditionally Korean!

    And yes - the airport there is FABULOUS. One of the best that I've had the pleasure to travel through. I wouldn't have minded being delayed there, since there actually seemed to be a lot to do to keep you occupied!
  6. Phileas80

    Phileas80 Member

    I worked in South Korea for six months, there's a lot to do there but you get the most out of the country when you have Korean friends. Seoul is easy to navigate but other places are more difficult to experience fully due to language difficulties. Culturally Korea has a lot to offer food wise and Koreans are extremely proud of their cuisine, there are a load of great eating experiences in the country from more traditional dishes such as bulgogi, kimchi jjigae and dak galbi to more modern treats like chicken and beer or fire chicken with melted cheese.

    For an outsider Korea is quite homogenous and you won't necessarily experience major differences as you go from city to city as you may in other countries, however, Jeju Island is definitely worth visiting as it's a beautiful island with a more laid back feel and it offers something different visually from other places which become identikit after you've seen a few of them.
    Last edited: May 18, 2016
  7. Miya

    Miya Active Member

    Thanks for this great post! I've always wanted to visit Seoul and I might plan a trip later this year. Are there any good hostels (or even hotels) that you can recommend? Something affordable and in a comfortable/safe environment? I know you say something near exit #3 would be best but I was wondering if you've stayed in any that you would personally recommend?
  8. krnd

    krnd New Member

    I'd personally recommend the 1969 guesthouse. It's affordable, the bathrooms are incredibly CLEAN (which is hard to come by), and the host is an incredibly relaxed man (he lives there with his wife). I had no issues with him nor the guests, it is located in a calm area but not dead and it's 10 minutes away walking from hongdae subway exit #3.

    Mr. K truly is a wonderful host, you can grab some delicious toast and cereal for breakfast too, and he is a pretty considerate person.

    Here's a link in case you're interested http://www.booking.com/hotel/kr/1969-guesthouse.en-gb.html
  9. Miya

    Miya Active Member

    Thank you so much! Having the link is incredibly helpful. I'll be sure to keep this place in mind when I travel to South Korea. It's always nice to be recommended a place because sometimes the reviews online are not so accurate.