My Top 3 Travel Secrets for Travel (and Korea)

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For travel  bloggers, nothing is more fun than to share trade secrets with other travelers or with your community. When Chris of South Korea posted his Top 3 Travel Secrets and tagged me in it, I was thrilled. I too, had seen the year-old Tripbase travel meme on Legal Nomads‘ blog and commented on it almost the week before receiving this challenge.

As I said, I excited to share some of my new travel secrets…

Then nervous… only three?

Should I choose travel secrets I’ve discovered centric to Korea or pertinent to the type of travel I aspire to?  My traveler’s savvy would be vastly different in a developing country, than it would be in a safe and developed country like Korea. I was split down the middle between rugged backpacker and expat living in Korea.  I decided to merge the two for now, so here goes…


My Top 3 Travel Secrets:


1.  Map it!

As travelers, some of us don’t like looking map-touting tourists, but having it around for quick access is helpful.  Unless you know how to speak the language of the country  or plan to get around via taxi, you’ll find yourself either needing to ask someone for directions or the bus driver if he’s going in your direction.

With a map, all you have to point your finger! It’s also a convenient catch spot for jotting down transit information, when you’re asking for advice from the tourist information desk.

How do you get a free city map? Airports, tourist offices and occasionally, transit hubs.

Grab one. Circle your destination in advance so when you whip out your map, you can quickly and easily point to the spot you’re going to.

I like to jot notes about the bus lines I’ll need to take.

2. Take photos of important details and things you need to remember.

A traveler-on-the-go, I make it a safe habit to take backup snaps of the bus and train schedules… and other details I might have trouble remembering.

I snap rental car license plates, parking stalls … even a store I need to return to. Chances are I won’t have to resort to the photos, but if I’m in a bind, it comes in handy and I can show it to people if I need help. It also helps when I’m too lazy to write things down.

When I traveled and worked on shows with MTV, we’d always get hooked up with Hertz rental cars. The cars came with convenient point & shoot remote key chains that would honk the car horn, flash its lights and pop the trunk. That’s how I’d find my rental car in a parking lot. After I got my first car which –gasp– didn’t have a remote key and spent valuable time frantically scouring the parking lot, I started taking photos!

Note for expats: If you don’t use the photos of your bus schedules, you can upload it to Facebook to share with your fellow expats’ future journeys.

city bus schedule in Gwangju, Korea

The local country bus schedule in Boseong Bus Terminal

3. Jjimjilbang it!

While I’ve recently done a post on Korean Love Motels, my cheaper and more favorite weekend bed stay is a jjimjilbang.

Jjimjilbangs, the Korean combination of a bathhouse, spa and sleeping sprawl (read about sleeping in a jjimjilbang).

It’s the perfect solution for budget backpacker types and Korean families looking for weekend fun-on-the cheap. Most of them are clean, safe, are open 24 hours (but double-check). Moreover, some offer various rooms of recreational fun, ranging from PC and DVD rooms to noraebangs and golf courses, etc… They have snack bars and soap/bath products for cheap sale, unless you bring your own.

You’re given a key to your own personal locker, a towel and smock outfit; and if you’re there to sleep, the facility may offer either cots or just a simple mat, blanket and wooden block (for a pillow) on the floor.

Costs range from 6,000-10,000W.

Find your own spot.  Nighttime and one of the jjimjilbangs I stayed at in Busan.

What are your top 3 travel secrets? Let me know and leave a comment.


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19 Comments. Leave new

  • Where do you get to put all your backpacker’s baggage if you want to stay overnight at a jjimjilbang?

  • Pretty much sums up my default travel style. Two minor exceptions though. First is sometimes I walk to the edge of town, climb a short ways up a mountain to a lookout point and camp if its summer and theres no available “budget” accom.

    Second, and big one is that I practise point #2 for maps as well. For me, everything’s digital. I literally pull up Google (intl.) or Naver/Daum (Korea) maps, mark where I want to go and take a photo of the screen. Done. Quick and easy. The very act of that usually ensures I’ll remember where the heck I’m going without the map anyway (so battery loss is no biggie). No PC on the move? Hit up a net cafe. Plus, I’m freed from the discretionary shackles of what some half-baked tour operator or tourist information worker (who has never actually spoken to a real live tourist) has deemed actually map-worthy.

    Same goes with tourist map boards at the site etc. Snap a photo. The zoom feature on replay mode is more than sufficient to read the captured text.

  • when looking for someplace specific i would google map it. or in the case of korea daum map it and then snap a picture with subway station, exit and location of the place. and it is great because the maps include the little quicke marts that are littered everywhere to use as landmarks. =)

    • @Alan: Good one! Thanks for mentioning it – Daum Map— it’s in Korean & still a bit alien to me, but if you know Hangul it’s an awesome resource!Google is U.S. friendly (it sometimes finds difficulty locking places abroad)– when it does lock on a location, you’ll get stuff like Korean subway stations or landmarks; I’m always grateful for that! Google Earth is also a good one to use. It has pictures and the 3D aspect can be helpful in locating visual aspects of buildings. Once used it to plot my walk to a hostel in Thailand- very helpful 😉

  • Good stuff! I especially love #2. It’s something that hadn’t occurred to me until within the past year, and true enough, it’s good to take pictures of things like schedules or where you car is parked. Also, if you’re venturing into new territory and want to be able to find your way back, taking pictures of street signs is like sprinkling bread crumbs for the return journey.

    • @Gray: Thanks. Yeah, these weren’t my power secrets but ones I’ve found incredibly handy in getting around recently. I use them more and more when I travel these days.

    • @Gray: Thanks. Yeah, these weren’t my power secrets but ones I’ve found incredibly handy in getting around recently. I use them more and more when I travel these days. Can’t wait to see what your top 3 are!

  • Nice blog. where do most waygook hang out in Daegu? I heard of place called Sinae, is that correct?

  • One of my best travel secrets is… FORGET ABOUT IT! It’s true. Many people stress over packing. I say forget about it. Pack what you need, and if you forget about it, no worries. There’s nothing you can’t purchase on the road (except medication in some cases).

    A second trick is to bring an external drive. While out on the road for multiple days, I find it extremely helpful to organize photos and videos if I can pull them off the cameras at the end of each day and organize them on a disk. Then, when I return home, I have a much easier time posting blogs or creating videos.

    • @Steve: Thanks for your tips. I like the Forget About it Tip! It’s so true– we stress too much over packing. As for the external drive tip, that’s something I’m always reluctant to try (i’ve already had 2 HD’s die on me & I didn’t treat it anywhere near rugged), though I will have to start using one for longer travels. Is there a particular brand you find can handle heavy knocks? BTW–Keep up the great video work– do you shoot that all by yourself?

  • Hi Christine:

    I like your 3 travel secrets, I will use them…It was good reading!

  • That’s a great idea about mapping it out – it also helps if you’re the sort of person that navigates by cardinal directions (Go east for a kilometer, then look for the big road and turn south).

    BTW, you forgot to tag three people to continue the meme 🙂

    • @Chris: Whuh? I tagged 5 bloggers. Well, maybe I should go back and tag them more formally in my post…not just on Facebook! I just went back to your site and realized you mentioned jjimjilbangs. Drat. Do I have to change mine or can I keep it?

      As for the mapping it, yeah,… it’s good for road map backups. God knows the GPS always go crap at some point & you’re wishing you’d MapQuested it! But I actually used that map for my trip to Jeju Island and getting around by bus! LOL.

  • Wow…! Great tip!! They are also used outside of Korea, except jjimjilbang. Im proud of it!!!

  • I’ve never stayed the night at a love motel but I might take advantage of one in tokyo if it is cheaper than a hostel, there’s nothing stating you have to have someone in there with you. Although I’ve known of a few travelers who had too much to drink and lost their bairings and ended up staying at a love motel until they sobered up.

    I’m definitely going to take tip number #2 on my next trip though. Thanks for the future time saver.

    • @Cornelius Aesop: Aahh… travel monkey, I didn’t think to tag you at the time, drat! I’m sure you would’ve had some awesome tips. Yeah, not sure if Tokyo love motels will be as cheap as they are in Korea or as nice. Hope you blog it if you do it. Friends also mentioned staying at a time capsule hotel or if you really had to budget it, a PC bang! Japan is something I’m considering in the near future just because it’s so close.


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