South Korea travel tips

south-korea, travel

🚧 This page will probably be a work in progress for a long time. There’s always more to add as I find the time to write!

Before departure

  • Rent a pocket wifi or buy an international eSim.
    • Pocket wifis are easier to use in that you simply just connect to it via wifi and you’ll have internet access pretty much anywhere in Korea. One very minor downside is that you need to carry it around with you. However, if you’re already planning on carrying a travel bag with you at all times, this might not be an issue at all.
    • An international eSim essentially gives you a Korean phone number, and you’re able to use data via that. One benefit to this option is the Korean phone number; some restaurants might ask you for a Korean phone number to place a reservation. I’ve been able to get around this thanks to very understanding restaurant staff. For example, they offered to put their number down, so as long as we hung around the restaurant, they could come find us when they received the text.
  • Make sure you have outlet adapters. Plugs in Korea are Type C and Type F, so you’ll need some sort of adapter to charge your electronics. Pro tip: bring/buy one adapter, and bring an extension cable/power strip with you! Now, one adapter can power multiple electronics as long as you’re not pulling too much power all at once.
  • Download an app for the subway system. I’ve sworn by this one, and have used it for all of my trips. If you’re on Android, there is an identical app, but the icon has a yellow background.
    • You need to select the stations that you’re departing from and arriving at (so a little extra research is required on your part), but once selected, it’ll display the soonest arrival time and also a list of all of the stops you’ll encounter along the way, along with any transfers you must make.
    • The colors of the train lines in the app are the actual colors of the train lines, so you can just memorize the colors if that helps, e.g. “take the blue line until Chungmuro, and transfer to the orange line to Yaksu.”
  • Naver Maps is also helpful as it sometimes might be more accurate than Google Map for store hours and directions. However, in my experience, Google Maps has been pretty reliable for buses.
  • This one’s a no-brainer, but make sure you bring Korean won! This will be useful for smaller purchases, like refilling your subway tap card or buying water at the convenience store[^1]. You’ll also be able to use your credit card at almost all places, but make sure you contact your bank first to let them know that you’ll be traveling abroad so they don’t block your card when you try to use it internationally!

[^1]: I’ve been told that the water infrastructure in South Korea has been updated so that we may safely drink the tap water. However, water from the convenience store is so cheap that I’d strongly advise everyone to play it safe and avoid tap water.

After arrival

  • Pick up your pocket wifi or sim/eSim.
  • Pick up a TMoney card from basically any convenience store in the airport, like a GS25. This is the card that you’ll be using to pay for the subway and buses. It costs 4000 won to buy, and then load it with 5k-10k won so you can make it to your place of stay. Every subway station will have machines for reloading your TMoney card; it’s only the very first load that will be done at the convenience store.
  • Finally, find your way out of the airport, either via train or bus. There are two options for trains: one that goes directly straight to Seoul Station (the AREX train), and another one that stops at (possibly all) stops along the way.

Places to go

Seoul

Ikseondong

Insadong

  • 🍽️ Cafe Onion Anguk
    • This is a MUST if you’re in the Insadong/Ikseondong area since this cafe is just north of both areas, and it’s right next to the Anguk subway station. Such a pretty cafe with a nice calm/cozy/chill vibe to it, with an assortment of beautiful pastries.
    • I highly recommend the mini eggplant pizza!

Bukchon Hanok Village

Myeongdong

  • 🍽️ Myeongdong Kyoja Main Store
    • In my opinion, this is a must-go-to restaurant. I think it has consistently won the Michelin Bib Gourmands award (high-quality dining at a reasonable price). There are only 3-4 items on the menu (depending on availability), but the first two items, the kalguksu (칼국수) and mandu (만두) are the staple items, and they’re both delicious.
    • There are actually two locations in Myeongdong. The location that I’ve linked above is the main location, and its sister location is just north of it; if you’re walking from this location, it’ll be on your left.

Namsan Tower

  • 🍽️ Mokmyeoksanbang 목멱산방
    • This restaurant is north of Namsan tower, just outside the perimeter of the mountain-like area of Namsan.
    • I think this place has been awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmands award a few times (high-quality dining at a reasonable price). I personally can’t really tell the difference between good and bad bibimbap, but nevertheless, I enjoyed my meal here!

Dongdaemun

Gwangjang Market

  • 🍽️ Woo Lae Oak (Ulaeog)
    • This place has been awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmands award (high-quality dining at a reasonable price). The cold noodles (냉면) were pretty delicious; however, I can’t comment on the meats because my group wasn’t really hungry when we chose to eat here.
    • If you get the cold noodles, you should try adding mustard (in one of the sauce bottles already on the table) to it. Maybe try a dab in a spoonful of broth first, but hear me out… a group of locals next to us did it, so we tried despite how weird it seemed… but man, it was surprisingly good!

Gwanghwamun Palace

  • 🍽️ Tosokchon Samgyetang
    • This restaurant is to the east of Gwanghwamun Palace, not at the palace. I just couldn’t find a better “location” category to place this restaurant.
    • I LOVE this place. It was recommended to me by a friend who grew up in Korea, and it has become one of the few restaurants that I must visit everytime I’m visiting.
    • However, after bringing my friends here, they did point out that it’s a little difficult to eat because you’re presented with a whole chicken in your broth with only chopsticks and a spoon to break apart and eat. Oh well, it’s worth it.

Hongdae

  • 🍽️ Oreno Ramen Main Store
    • This place was awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmands award in 2019 (high-quality dining at a reasonable price). It was pretty great ramen, so I think it’s well-deserved.

Gangnam

  • 🍽️ Mingles [website]
    • 2-star Michelin restaurant, and I think that speaks for itself. This was by far my favorite dining experience ever; everything was delicious. However, it’s reservation only, and it might be really difficult to get a reservation…

The Hyundai Seoul

Busan

Gamcheon Cultural Village

Shinsegae Centum City Department Store

Oryukdo Skywalk

Jagalchi Market

  • 🍽️ Seunggi Ssiat Hotteok
    • I think this is their old location, i.e., food truck in the middle of a large pedestrian intersection. Their new location is just a few steps north of where Google Maps says it is. It’ll be kind of like a storefront on your right if you were to walk north from this location.
    • A very popular food stand for hotteok (호떡). I was recommended to try this particular food stand by two different locals!

Taejongdae

Gwangalli Beach

Haeundae/Haeundae Beach

  • I’d suggest exploring this area during the evening/night to get a taste of the nightlife in this area.
  • 🍽️ Haeundae Wonjo Halmae Gukbap
    • Local restaurant, open 24 hours, SO GOOD. This place was recommended to me by a friend who grew up in Busan.
    • I shamelessly ate here three times during my stay in Haeundae. The rice version seems to be the staple, but I think I personally preferred the noodle version better…
    • There are two locations for this restaurant on the same street. The location I’m recommending is the one that’s more north of the two. It is also the only location that stays open for 24 hours.

Seomyeon

  • A super popular place for young adults. I’d suggest exploring this area during the evening/night to get a taste of the nightlife in this area.
  • 🍽️ Gijang Home-made Noodle
    • This place was recommended to me by a friend who grew up in Busan.
    • Small local restaurant, but delicious. In my opinion, what’s really unique about this restaurant is that their noodles are made in-house. You can actually see them making the noodles right in front of the restaurant!

Gyeongju

Hwangnidangil

Daereungwon Tomb Complex

Woljeonggyo Bridge

Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond

© 2024 Peter Cheng