If you are going to Seoul check out this quick guide. I had the opportunity to spend an amazing two years and counting teaching English. I spent most of my weekends in Seoul so I know a thing or two. I never thought I would fall in love with the people, food and life in Korea. This city has so many great things to offer but is often overlooked. They have amazing shopping malls, markets, palaces and neighbourhoods!
Population: 10,120,000 million
Climate: Temperate climate with four seasons
Currency: Korean Won (KRW)
Official Language(s): Korean
Before you Arrive
To visit Korea, most of the world's countries are not required to obtain a visa. For us Canucks we are the only country that is allowed to be in Korea 180 days without a visa :)
But there are a list of things you must have:
1. A passport valid for 6 months at the time of departure
2. An onward or return ticket
3. Sufficient funds
4. Proof of where you will be staying
There are two major airports, Gimpo Airport and Incheon Internal Airport. Gimpo Airport is located in Seoul but Incheon International Airport is located about 61 km from Seoul. The best way to reach the city is by AREX which takes you to the city in about 40-60 mins depending on if you take the express train or regular train. The express train runs every 25-40 mins and the regular train every 10 mins. You can buy tickets for a single trip which costs about 14,800 KRW ( $17 CAD) for express or 4,250 KRW ($5 CAD) for the regular train. From Gimpo you can take the metro line 5, 9 or Airport Railroad.
Another option is to take a bus to the city centre. There are lots of buses that go to different areas of Seoul. Make sure you know which Gu (neighbourhood) you will be staying in. At Incheon you ca get a ticket for the bus right outside the passenger terminal, they can also guide you to the bus you need at the Airport info desk. There are also night buses for late flights from 12 am- 3:50 am. There are two bus types; deluxe and standard. Deluxe will cost you about 15,000 KRW to get into Seoul, while the standard will cost about 10,000. From Gimpo to Seoul it will cost you about 6,500 KRW depending on where you're going and what kind of bus you take.
For comfort and ease you could also just take a taxi. The taxi stands are at the arrival levels of each terminal. The taxi ride takes about 45 mins and costs around 60-100 KRW. The standard fare for a regular taxi is 3,000 KRW and 5,000 KRW for a larger taxi. Also you will be responsible for paying an extra 8,000 KRW for the toll road. From Gimpo the standard rate is 1,900 KRW.
Korea is known to have one of the most efficient subway systems in the world. Maneuvering around Seoul is very easy whilst the subway system is in 4 different languages. You can even download the subway map so that it is more convenient for you. Also buses are pretty frequent but there is less English on the buses. Taxis are pretty cheap, they start at 3,000 won to get in but aren't overly expensive for short distances. There are also hop-on-hop-off buses that take you to the most popular areas.
Koreans pride themselves on learning English although they can be very shy. They also speak what is called 'Konglish,' which is a mix of Korean and English.
But here are a few phrases you should know:
Thank you- Kamsahamnida
What to See
Seoul is a pretty big city with tons of attractions. They have a great mix of cultural activities and well as entertainment. There are a plethora of shopping malls, unique cafes, markets, neighbourhoods and local attractions to do!
Namsan Tower and Gyeongbukgung Palace are the most popular attractions for tourists. From Namsan Tower you get an amazing aerial view of Seoul. Although Gangnam has gotten a lot popular because of Korean Pop Stay Psy and his hit Gangnam Style. The bright lights and flashing signs will captivate your mind. There are also neighbourhoods like Itaewon, Hongdae, Sinsa, Chinatown, Yeouido and lots of others to explore.
What to Eat & Drink
Korea has a diverse amount of foods, they even have some for the different seasons. There are so many local foods to try. You can find a lot of cheap Korean dishes at food stands throughout Seoul but be sure to try the national dish 'Chicken Rice'.
Must try Dishes:
Korean BBQ, Bibimbap, Kimchi, Dakgalbi, Yukhoe, Gimbap and more!
Other things to try:
Bingsu, Hotteok, Chapssaltteok, Bungeoppang and more!
Where to Stay
Korean hotels are pretty expensive. If you want an affordable hotel I would suggest staying in Guesthouses or Love Motels. Love Motels get a bad wrap because people often use these places to "Hook-up" but they are nicer than most guesthouses. I would suggest staying in the Myeongdong area because it's central to everything.
Other Places to Visit
Here are some other great places to visit in Korea!
Busan-- Located in the South East of Korea, Busan is the second largest city in Korea and known for their seafood. Lots of locals and foreigners flock there for the laid back beach feel. In the summer the beach is usually packed with people wanting some sun. There is lots to do there from fish markets, aquariums, culture villages and more.
Jeju Island-- Jeju Island is known as the Hawaii of Korea. It is south of the mainland and you need to take either a ferry or plane to get there. Most people visit here to relax and enjoy outdoor activities including surfing, horseback riding, and hiking.
Tongyeong--This is actually not very popular amongst foreigners because of it's difficulty to get to. There is so much to offer in Tongyeong; from the beautiful islands around the mainland, the fresh seafood and beautiful scenery.
Ulleungdo--A small island located to the East of mainland Korea. Ulleungdo is often overlooked. It has amazing views and beautiful clear water. It can be a little difficult to get to but this island is worth a visit.
Daegu--Daegu is the fourth largest city in Korea. Located in South East Korea, Daegu is known as a textile city. I have never been there but I have had students tell me that people are the best dressed down there. They also have great subtropical weather compared to the rest of the county.
Incheon--Home to the largest airport in Korea, Incheon has more to offer than just connecting flights. Incheon has the largest Chinatown in Korea and houses the multi billion dollar city (Songdo). There are also great beaches and islands surrounding it.
Or contact by email: