South Korea is quickly becoming a leading travel destination. Korean pop (K-pop) and Korean television dramas (K-drama) have led to a rise in interest in South Korean culture and cuisine.
Seoul, the South Korean capital, is a popular place for first-time visitors to start, but there are plenty of other places to travel to as well. Whether your trip is to enjoy the shopping, dining, or culture of South Korea, here are five things to know and do before you go.
South Korea enjoys all 4 seasons
The landscape across South Korea is diverse, but every region experiences the four seasons. Decide when you would like to go based on the weather and seasonal attractions.
The seasonal calendar is similar to that in the United States. Spring and Fall are the most pleasant times of the year. The temperature is tolerable, and the foliage is in bloom.
Spring is popular for those who want to see the flowering cherry blossoms. The blooms appear at different times around the country, so it can be difficult to plan the perfect time.
Fall is a good time to visit South Korea. The foliage turns various colors of red and orange while the weather is still pleasant.
Summer and winter are both harsh, making those seasons the least popular. If you enjoy the snow and lighter crowds, winter could be a good time to come.
Notify your bank and cell phone provider of your trip
The Korean Won is the currency used in South Korea. An ATM is an easy way to get Korean money without visiting a currency exchange shop.
Your bank must be notified to ensure you can access your funds while abroad. Ask about fees for transactions while you are chatting with them. If the transaction fees are high, look for a credit card with a 0% foreign transaction fee to take on the trip.
Cell phone companies can add an international plan to your account for the duration of your time in South Korea. This will make it possible to call, text, and use cellular data. If this is not an option based on your mobile carrier, ask if a SIM card will work. These can be purchased in the States or convenience stores in Seoul and other cities.
There is more to South Korea than Seoul
Plan some time outside of the city. There are many excursions available that would be considered a day trip.
Most trips to popular places outside of Seoul can be made riding mass transit. It may take a subway ride and a bus ride, but it is well worth the experience. Purchase a train card to save some Korean Won if you intend to travel frequently by subway.
There are tour companies that provide multi-day trips that visit many towns, attractions, and cities throughout the country. This can be a big help if you have time and want to see all of South Korea.
Shopping is king in South Korea
If you like shopping, then South Korea, specifically Seoul, is the place for you. There are multiple districts that specialize in specific goods and styles.
- Myeong-dong – Cosmetics and high-end fashion clothing
- Dongdaemun – Shopping for those on a budget
- Insa-dong – Souvenirs and cultural knickknacks
- Garosugil – Cafés and designer clothes
In most stores, bargaining is not appropriate. It is important to know that many vendors do not speak any English. You can use the calculator on your phone to communicate prices.
Use apps to your advantage
There are three main areas that apps on your cell phone can come in handy:
- Download a VPN app for security and convenience
Cybersecurity is an important consideration on vacation. Hackers may take advantage of touristy places to attack an unsuspecting person.
Download a VPN app to your cell phone and your computer. This will provide encryption for your private data.
A VPN can also be helpful to evade geo-restrictions. Access to some websites, streaming media services, and email servers can be blocked when traveling abroad. A good VPN will allow you to select a server in your home country and make it appear you are accessing the site from there.
- Get a local travel app to make transit easier
There are several apps designed to help you navigate the trains, buses, and other forms of transportation available in South Korea.
These apps describe routes, track arrival times, and can help you find popular tourist attractions.
You can find a useful list of applications here.
- Use a translation app for help
Languages like Korean can be very difficult to learn in a short period of time. Of course, learning a few phrases is ideal.
A translation app could be handy in smaller shops or towns where there may be few English speakers around. Download it ahead of time to make sure you learn how to use it and are not scrambling the moment you need a translation.
South Korea is a popular place to visit. The shopping and food alone draw many visitors each year. Keep these five things in mind to get the best out of your trip.
Gabriela Kurtz contributed this guest post. Kurtz is a professional blogger.