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South Korea Travel Guide

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Destinations in Korea (Posts)

travel seoul, seoul tourism, what to do in seoul, what to see in seoul SEOUL travel busan, busan tourism, what to do in busan, what to see in busan, busan in 48 hours, busan itinerary, BUSAN travel daegu, daegu tourism, what to do and see in daegu, travel korea DAEGU TRAVEL JEJU, JEJU TOURISM, JEJU TRAVEL GUIDE JEJU GUIDE
travel jeollanam-do JEOLLANAM-DO travel jeollabuk-do, jeollabuk-do tourism, travel korea JEOLLABUK-DO travel muju, travel korea AYURVEDA YOGA CAMP travel pohang POHANG
seoraksan, hike seoraksan SEORAKSAN TRAVEL SUWON, SUWON TRAVEL GUIDE, SUWON TOURISM, TRAVEL KOREA SUWON
travel korea, crazy korea, CRAZY KOREA TRAVEL KOREA, TIPS FOR TRAVEL KOREA KOREA TIPS & TRICKS korea festivals, festivals in korea FESTIVALS IN KOREA jjimijilbangs in korea, bathhouses in korea, korean bathhouses, korean spas KOREAN BATHHOUSES & LOVE MOTELS

 


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Korea Travel Guide & Tips

GETTING AROUND SOUTH KOREA

South Korea Travel Survival Guide & Tips:  View Korea Weekend Trips in a larger map

From the Airport (Incheon or Gimpo):

Getting to Seoul~

Subway|AREX– Cheapest route. Directions: Take the metro to Gimpo Airport and transfer to Seoul. As of 2011, a metro will operate direct between Seoul Station and Incheon Airport. Transit time: hour and a half.

Airport shuttle bus Costs anywhere from 10,000W-16,000W.

Getting to other major cities~

Airport Express bus:

There’s long-distance buses going from Incheon Airport to other cities. Visit the Tourist Information desk on the bottom floor of the airport or check out : kobus.co.kr.  The buses are located outside of the baggage claim terminal. There’s a ticket seller station outside with bus timetables and a long row of signs for different inbound buses.

i.e.  Dongdaegu (Daegu)  to Incheon Airport:  Cost: Approx 37,000W, Travel time: 4hrs 40 min

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Buying KTX or Express buses tickets:

KTX– Korail  and Express busKobus– are the *best* ways to get around Korea. If you’re a foreigner, booking a reservation and purchasing a ticket must be done IN PERSON. You can’t use your own country credit card to book reservations.

Visit Korea’s information on transportation>>

English-speaking tourist hotline

(*any questions about transportation or time schedules) 1330 for Seoul. Outside of Seoul, just add a city code in front of 1330.  051 for Busan,       053 for Daegu,       042 for Daejeon.

Tourist Information desk

Located on the bottom floor of Incheon Airport is a tourist information desk. They can provide you with any time of information you need.  Also, depending what city you’re visiting, there is usually a tourist information office, either in a bus or KTX station or nearby it. Many large cities have a city bus tour also.

Mobile phone rentals in international airports

Korea runs on a CDMA phone network, so GSM phones don’t work. You may want to consider a mobile phone rental. Korea offers them for cheap and you can pick them up at major airports like Incheon, Busan. My favorite is  SK Telecomm. There’s a cheap daily rate and you’re charged per minute or per text. You have the option for standard phones, smartphone and hotspot.  Read How to Rent a Phone in Korea

Best Websites on Korea

For tourists:  Official Korea Tourism Organization website

For foreigners moving to Korea:   Korea4expats.

Teaching/ Finding English Jobs in Korea: Dave’s ESL Cafe

Learning Korean Online: Learn Korean

Check my Links for my K-blogger list.

Consulates & Embassies

Korean Consulate Information Embassies in Korea

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English speaking Travel Agents in Korea:

Xanadu Travel: 02-795-7771

Shoe String Travel: 02-333-4151

Kangsan Travel:051-747-0031

STA Travel:02-733-9494

Zenith Travel: XXX has had problems with cheating it’s customers (see comment and article link below)

WhyPayMore: 02-318-5115

Tour Joy: 02-776-9871

Note: some expats will even book at E-Mart & Homeplus travel agencies.


Korea Travel Guide & Tips:

Travel South Korea on a Shoestring Budget

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City BUS Tours*

Korea has hop-on/hop-off buses in main cities and they’re made for tourists. These take you to all the main tourist points in that city and it’s generally under 10,000Won for the entire day.  Generally, the Information Desk at the Bus or Train station would know  the schedule and boarding location and it’ll be close to the station. Under $10, The best way to see major city sites in a day  (Seoul, Daegu, Busan, Daejeon, Ulsan, Incheon Gyeonju, Samcheok)

Goodwill Guides

* You pay their transportation, entrance fees and meals and they show you the places you want to go. They’ll share history and some local insight.  Very helpful and full of information.

Take the DMZ Tour These tours are one or half day tours that are highly recommended. Book in advance to secure a seat. They fill quickly.  You’ll get a tour of the DMZ, tunnels and train. Highly recommended.

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TRANSPORTATION in South Korea

Transportation Websites in Korea:

Long distance buses express buses:   Kobus.co.kr Train- KTX/Korail:   korail.co.kr

Local transportation in Korea:  Metros, Local Buses, Taxis

Taking a Taxi in Seoul (read this CNN article for the Complete Guide to Seoul taxis) Taxis are reliable but you still have to be a little on guard if you’re foreign to taking taxis in Korea. There have been thefts in the past and while not all taxis are sketchy, they can drive aggressively or get heated quickly in a dispute. Try your best to pronounce your Korean destination well or take a business card to show them the address. Also, take the taxi information down- name of company and cab number.  Seoul is trying to cut down on taxi crime so they’re offering $500 for reported crimes.  I almost never take taxis, unless it’s late at night and I’ve missed the last metro or there’s no other way to get somewhere. Here’s my video tips on how to avoid airport taxis.

T money-Cards For Seoul and large cities like Daegu and Busan, there are metro cards with buying power- you can use them to pay for taxis, buses and metros.In Seoul, you can buy per ride passes and this is economical as there’s a return/refund card machine to collect your used cards. The T-money cards are loadable at recharge stations in the metro; however, you will pay a non-refundable fee of something like 5,000Won.

Subway Maps Seoul Seoul Metro Line Map (interactive map- plots quickest route and time it takes) Daegu         Daejeon          Busan         Gwangju

Taxis: Taxis in Korea can feel cheaper than many countries. Taxis are metered. Some taxis in Seoul have English translation taxis. The ones to avoid are the black taxis. They tend to be a little more pricy.

Long distance transportation in Korea:

There are two ways to move long distance: express bus, KTX train and ferry.

KTX trains: KR Pass  3-10 day pass offers unlimited KTX train rides. It offers a real bargain if you’re doing heavy cross-country traveling. Read: How to get the best deals on the Bullet Train (Chosun Ilbo)  If you choose to forego the pass and want to pay point-to-point, there are 3 types of train: the fast, medium and slow (Mungunghwa). The fast train runs at peak times and you’ll pay more to get there in a short time. The slow train is the cheapest but may take as long as the Express Bus. Website : korail.co.kr

Express buses Take a little longer than the KTX. But they’re cheaper and still comfortable. They always stop at a rest stop midway for a food/bathroom break. Seats can be comfortable and you’ll get to see more of the countryside. Like KTX trains, you can only purchase in person. Website : www.kobus.co.kr

 Ferry transportation are generally recommended when you’re visiting one of Korea’s many little islands or if you’d like to travel to Japan.

Travel Train or Ferry to & Within South Korea (Seat61) * to China & Japan Busan Ferry Schedule from Busan to Japan (Sparkling Korea) *Japan destinations: Osaka-16.30hr, Shimonseki 8.30hts, Fukuoka-3hrs, Isuzuhara- 2.40hr, Hitakatsu- 1hr * Island destinations from Busan Ferry Terminal: Jeju-do / Geoje-do / Tongyeong Busan Port & Ferry Information Ferry terminals in Busan Ferry to Russia (from Incheon)* Vladivostok, Zarubino, Sokcho (Korea) Beetle Ferry from Japan to Korea

Transportation in Korea– Maps

Domestic Air Routes in S.Korea        Korean Railway Route Map               Map of Korea   .

 


 

 

ACCOMMODATIONS IN SOUTH KOREA

There are a handful of options for overnight accommodations in South Korea, ranging from a co-ed jjimjilbang/bathhouse to a temple stay.

Guesthouses/Minbaks Jjimjilbangs (read my posts about my favorite one)   Cost: 6,000-10,000W * 24-hour  sauna, bathhouse and overnight facility. Sleeping accomodations are simple- you get a smock, key for a locker to store your bag, a towel for bathing, a blanket and a wooden block for sleeping. Where do you sleep? Mostly, amongst others on the wooden ondol floor.

Love Motels (read about them)  Cost: 30,000W*Cheaper than a hotel and sometimes, if you dig well enough… better and nicer!

Temple Stays    (read about my experience) Cost: $25-50 *Stay at a Buddhist temple amidst the mountains and learn what temple life and practice is all about. Unique experience.

Hanok Traditional Houses $50+

HANOK HOUSES, JEONJU HANOK HOUSE, TRADITIONAL KOREAN HOUSES

Other places I’ve stayed at~

PJ Hotel (Under $100) recommend Type: Boutique Hotel Location: Myeongdong area, Seoul   (Read my review)

Hong Guesthouse $15+ Type: Hostel Location: Hongdae/Hongik University, Seoul. A standard house with 3 floors of rooms (basement included). Lockers are small, front desk isn’t always great with tourist information and facilities not fabulous. Avoid the basement dorm ! Great if you’re looking for a party house but not if you want a peaceful night.

sleeping at a korean jjimjilbang, haeundae beach spa busan, best jjimjilbangs in busan

South Korea Travel Survival Guide: Accommodations in Korea

 


LIVING IN KOREA

 

BANKING IN KOREA:

KEB, Daegu Bank, Citibank are banks which have online account access and management for foreigners. I had a KEB, Daegu Bank and Nonghyup Bank (the latter is what the  EPIK program set us up with), but KEB is the best for foreigners. They have a low fee to send money home. They also have a PC and Mac computer program where you can access your money and do transfers wherever you’re at.  NH has been helpful; they issue a debit card which acts as an ATM card and allows me to make store purchases like a credit card; KEB is similar. Daegu Bank has the most limitation.  More great  information for expats on banking.

Transferring money overseas (back home): NH charges 15,500 for under approx $5,000 bank transfers; 18,000W for under $10,000 transfers. This is slightly cheaper than DB which charges 23,000W for approximately $2,000-5,000 bank transfers and 28,000W for approx $5,000,000-10,000,000 W transfers.

banking in Korea, keb expat banking korea

South Korea Travel Survival Guide: Banking in Korea

*You will need to take your bank routing number, checking account, home bank address and contact details.  Also take your passport, ARC and proof of work contract at your school.

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COMMUNICATION

Mobile carrier services KT/  SK Telecom/  LG (read my blog on “Getting a Korean phone…“)

International Calls (aside from Skype) Hanarophone, calling card rates Internet/Broadband services

NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES (by AIRPORT CODE): From SEL: China (PEK, Shanghai), TPE, Japan (OSA, TYO, NRT), SIN, KUL, BKK, MNL, GUM, Bali, DEL Alt Airports: PUS, TAE

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VEGAN/ VEGETARIANISM IN KOREA

Outside of Seoul, there’s not many veggie restaurant options for vegetarians and vegans. Loving Hut is a chain of vegan restaurants with locations in main cities.  They also sell frozen chicken and beef flavored soy or vegetable protein items for you to take home and sizzle up. iherb.com is an online grocery shopping service where you can have your groceries, herbs and grains shipped to you. Many vegetarians I know have used this service to find products they can cook with. Occasionally, you may find an international market in your city. If your city has many foreigners from different countries, be on the lookout for them. Itaewon in Seoul is the easiest and most accessible one and you can get things like garbanzo beans, grains, cous cous, etc… Costco. For imported products, you’ll pay a little extra for them, but it’s a small price to pay for comfort. Ashleys Restaurant isn’t vegan or vegetarian, but can sometimes offer a wealth of vegetarian and western options. Check out or download a Happy Cow app for restaurant listings in your location.

.HEALTH IN KOREA

Korea has really cheap and good health care and it’s making its way to being one of the key countries for medical tourism, dental and plastic surgery.  Pharmacies are commonly placed and called “Yahk”.

Medical Tourism Promotion CenterTel: +82-2-1330,  Operating Hours: 09:00 – 18:00 (365 days) Daegu Directory of English speaking Medical practices

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INFORMATION WEBSITES:

Dave’s ESL Cafe

Daejeon Transportation

Daegu Daegu Pockets Daegu’s Transportation Information– Bus, Metro, Express Bus, etc.. More on Daegu’s Transportation Information (* decodes some of the bus terminals) Jeonjagwan (전자관) plaza- electronics plaza similar to Yongsan electronics mall in Seoul. It is located just down from EXCO and Costco. Take a train to Dongdaegu Station and catch a cab from there.

Download map of Daegu’s Banwoldang area (found on internet)

7 Comments

  1. Travel Center says:

    Hi there, So nice writing about Korea! Here is more tip for you. In ICN, from travel center(located in B1), you can purchase some good and reasonable transportation packages. There are ‘express train and T-money card’, ‘express train and international taxi’ and ‘express train and EG sim card(phone card)’. With express train, you can go to Seoul station directly(This is the fastest and the best way to go to Seoul area). And you can choose between three other options what you need. If you have many and heavy bags, you can take a taxi after going to Seoul station with express train and if you need to buy sim card, you can choose third options. I hope this information i give you today will be helpful for you and your friends who are going to visit Korea later. Thank you.

  2. John Power says:

    Hi all,

    I am a journalist with a Korean newspaper. I’d respectively ask that you remove Zenith Travel from your list of travel agents for the sake of visitors to your site. Here’s why:

    http://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20110926000729

    Thanks.

    • @John: Thanks so much for this update. I’ll leave your comment in my post so that if there any questions, then people can refer to your article.

  3. Mai says:

    Hope you are feeling better in India, your site has been so helpful to me, I am going to Korea in July! Gonna to test to the waters to see if I want to come back in 2 years to teach English.

    M

  4. Mellie says:

    VALUABLE INFORMATIN FOR A SOON ‘EX PAT’ MOVING TO BUSAN! YOU ROCK! THANKS FOR SAVING ME TIME/AGGRAVATION AND M ONEY!
    MELLIE

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