Last Updated on June 19, 2019 by Christine Kaaloa
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.com
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
English speaking Travel Agents in Korea:
Xanadu Travel: 02-795-7771
Shoe String Travel: 02-333-4151
Zenith Travel: XXX has had problems with cheating it’s customers (see comment and article link below)
Tour Joy: 02-776-9871
Note: some expats will even book at E-Mart & Homeplus travel agencies.
South Korea Travel Guide
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)
* 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.
TRANSPORTATION in South Korea
Main Seoul Airports
Getting to Seoul via Incheon & Gimpo
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.
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
Transportation Websites in Korea:
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.
Read my top 5 travel tips for Seoul
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
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 three ways to move long distance: express bus (kobus), 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
WHERE TO STAY 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.
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!
Other places I’ve stayed at~
PJ Hotel (Under $100) 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.
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.
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.
*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.
Mobile carrier services KT/ SK Telecom/ LG (read my blog on “Getting a Korean phone…“)
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
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 Center – Tel: +82-2-1330, Operating Hours: 09:00 – 18:00 (365 days) Daegu Directory of English speaking Medical practices
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.