BY EUGENIA LIEW
Congratulations on booking your virgin trip to South Korea! This vacation destination is crowd favourite among local travellers; and for good reason too. Not only is it home to countless picturesque spots, but it is also famed for its delicious local food, as well as a bustling shopping scene that is a godsend for shopaholics in need of retail therapy.
That said, travelling to a foreign land for the first time can be daunting. This is especially so for South Korea, where the country is a whopping 143 times bigger than Singapore and the main language is not English. Thankfully, we’ve got you covered.
Here are our top five tips to prepare you for your first time in South Korea.
The public transport systems can get confusing, but luckily there are a few useful apps you can download to make navigation simpler. This includes Subway Korea, Seoul City Metro, Korea Tour, and more. The public transport network maps on these apps are downloadable, and have the English names of the stations and places of interests for the convenience of tourists. The Korea Tourism Organization also has an official app called Visit Korea: Official Tour Guide, which also provides information like the latest hotel rates and itinerary planning tips.
Travelling to and from the Airport
There are several ways to travel from the Incheon International Airport at varying costs.
Airport Railroad Express (AREX), Seoul Metropolitan Subway, Airport limousine buses, and taxis. If you’re zipping downtown to Seoul, we recommend the AREX. It skips all the traffic so the estimated travel time of 43 minutes is reliable and unlikely to change much. If you’re on a business trip and need to rest and/or travel in comfort, consider the Airport Limousine bus which has spacious seats
The cost of food like local ramyeon and dishes are relatively affordable, but if you prefer other cuisines like Western food, you will need to set aside more money for your meals. Simple local fare at the homely cafes along the street are easy on the wallet and usually cost no more than $10.
Where to Shop
If you’re in South Korea, you must pick up some Korean cosmetics! They cost 30 to 50 percent less than in Singapore, so make sure you stock up. The most popular shopping district is Myeongdong, which is located right in the heart of Seoul. It sells makeup, as well as fashionable apparels and accessories from big well known brands. Coming in a close second is Dongdaemun, which sells similar items, but from wholesale and small shops instead. This district is great for late night shopping—some shops close as late as 5am!
Seasons and the Best Times to Visit South Korea
No matter which season it is, do your research on the weather so you know what to expect!
Spring (Apr – June): This season is one of the most popular times to visit Korea because it is neither too hot nor chilly, and the beautiful cherry blossoms are in bloom.
Summer (Jul – Aug): The heat can get pretty intense during summer, so make sure you prepare comfortable and breathable clothes! The tap water is also drinkable, so tote your water bottle along with you at all times.
Fall (Sep – Nov): If you’re a fan of red and brown landscapes and scenery, this season is for you. Like spring, the weather at this time is the least extreme and the most comfortable.
Winter (Dec – Mar): Brrr! Winters in South Korea swing from moderate to extreme—especially from January onwards. It is best you check the weekly forecasts online before leaving Singapore.
Other Useful Tips
- Leaving a tip for servers and cleaners is generally expected in America and several European destinations, but like Singapore, it is not practised in South Korea.
- There are two types of taxis: The regular silver or orange ones, and the premium black ones. The latter is significantly more expensive, and is a luxury ride for those with spare cash and want added comfort.
- The toilets are generally clean and available at most places of interest. However, some travellers have shared that dust bins are hard to find, so have a plastic bag in your purse in case you need to hold on to your trash for a while.
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