Do you feel restless in your normal routine and want to plan a trip somewhere, but don’t know where to go? This overview is designed to give you a quick summary of what to expect in a particular country so you can decide if it might be a fit for your trip! While this is by no means comprehensive, you can get a great idea of how country might match you. Check out this tag to find more about South Korea! Go to this tag to find more “Everything You Need to Know” posts!
Each metric is given an overall score between 1 and 10, and the ratings are briefly explained.
Go here if you are looking for: A modern experience in a more casual environment. Traveling in South Korea is comparable to Japan, but you’ll find a lot more hustle and informal interactions than Japan.
This explains the prevailing sort of experience you might have in this country.
Overall experience: 8.29/10
What your travel experience might revolve around.
Natural and landscape views: 7
- How beautiful and unique are the landscape and nature views?
- Because I didn’t stop in Jeju Island, I didn’t see South Korea’s most beautiful views. However, most of the parks and gardens in the other cities are literally fit for emperors. In Seoul, all the Royal Palaces have beautiful gardens because the royal women weren’t allowed to exit. Some of the larger palaces have entire “Secret Gardens” that were private sanctuaries for royal women and children to spend time and study, and make up almost half of the entire palace. These areas are still very well-preserved with all kinds of flora.
Historical attractions: 8
- To what extent can you see physical evidence of the country’s culture?
- Although some original physical history has been lost through time and war, South Koreans have done a good job keeping alive what has remained and supplementing it with replicas of what used to be. They have many, many UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are truly worth a visit. Even though some sites are similar to others, many sites complement each other to tell South Korea’s political, social, cultural, and religious history.
City culture: 8
- How should you expect locals to react to you? How does it feel to be in the city?
- I loved being in South Korea. It was much more person than Japan, and people were very willing to help me. The owner of the hostel I stay at in Seoul basically gave me a SIM card for free. When I bought a T-Money card (the public transportation card that works all over the country), I bought it in a small convenience store near where I was living in Seoul. The cashier couldn’t speak any English, but she could understand what I was saying and helped me buy the card and load it with funds. It was a great start to my time in South Korea.
- How unique is the local food and how available is food from home?
- I personally love Korean barbeque, so getting authentic barbeque was super delicious. In Seoul, there was a night market in Dongdaemun that included all kinds of foods. I love street food, so this was heaven: there were Korean noodles, shawarma, Nutella banana crepes with corn flakes (I literally had this every day), fresh fruit juices, and mochi – and red bean -covered strawberries. They were SO GOOD. I also had one of the best alfredo dishes I’ve ever had in a restaurant in Suwon. The breakfast at a hostel I went to was incredibly fancy noodles and fries. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Go to South Korea, you will be taken care of!
- How much do souvenirs cost relative to everyday items and how representative are they of the local culture?
- I’m not one for shopping, but if you are, South Korea is the place to be. They have some of the most popular beauty and fashion products in the world, and you can get them cheapest directly from them. If you go to the DMZ, you can get really interesting trinkets from North Korea without actually going to there.
- How clean is everything, including trash along the streets, water, and food?
- While I don’t expect any other country to live up to the cleanliness standards of Japan, I think that Seoul comes close. Everything is very clean, and water is safe to drink. When I was in Seoul, I ate a good amount of street food and saw hordes of other travelers and locals doing the same. In the subway systems and train stations, everything is very clean as well. Other cities in South Korea also live up to a high cleanliness standard.
Tourism services: 8
- Are there people who specifically serve tourists outside private hotels and accommodation?
- While there aren’t typically information desks/offices specifically for tourists, the South Korean government has actually done a really great job to boost their online presence. There is a phone app called Subway Korea for the subway systems in Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, and Gwangju. It works even without internet. There’s also a fantastic tourism website, VisitKorea, by the Korean Tourism Organization for the entire country. (It’s also an app.) This website was incredible for me when I needed to figure out how to get to different places that weren’t serviced by a train or subway system. Everything is written in great English and ~10 other languages. For all the attractions listed, there are public transportation instructions and the name of the attraction written in Korean so that you can figure out how to get to the place without breaking your wallet. In some areas, the subway mays also include little icons of popular attractions near particular stops, which can help prompt you in planning your schedule while in South Korea.
[Recommended Read: Everything You Need to Know About Japan]
- Are you going to freeze or sweat to death?
- When I was there in late April, everything was peachy and comfortable. You might want to avoid South Korea in the winter for fear of freezing.
- What currency is used? (Not a rated category)
Cost: 5 (higher rating means lower cost)
- Overall, is this country expensive or not?
- Not too cheap, but also not too expensive. For the most part, the prices I saw were slightly lower than the prices I am used to from the US (in more mid-range cities, not prices like those from the Bay Area or New York City).
Approximate time needed to visit the whole country: 2 weeks
- How much time do you need to devote here? (Not a rated category)
- I spent about a week and saw a good amount of the country, but I am planning a trip back to see the parts of the country I missed the first time. You’ll need a little longer if you want to visit Jeju, because you need to fly or take a boat.
Speed of Wi-Fi: 7
- How fast is the Wi-Fi?
- You should be able to accomplish what you need to.
Accessibility of Wi-Fi: 7
- Can you connect to Wi-Fi when you need it?
- Some of the most popular attractions (such as the Palaces in Seoul) have free Wi-Fi networks, and some restaurants offer connections as well.
[Recommended Read: Automatically Save and Grow Money for Travel]
Culture and Immersion: 7.25/10
- What language do locals speak? (Not a rated category)
English level of the typical local: 5
- If you really needed help, how much could a typical local help?
- Most Koreans don’t speak English, but a surprising number of them can understand what you mean if you speak slowly. I found that this worked in many contexts, from the cashier who helped me buy and load money on my T-Money card, to the bus drivers who indicated to me where I could get off the bus at the right stops.
Approachability of locals if you can’t speak the language: 8
- If you can’t speak the local language, how willing are locals to patiently help you?
- People are quite friendly and willing to help.
Signage for an English speaker: 8
- If you can’t read the local language, can you read the signs?
- Most signs are in both Korean and English. Apparently Korean is one of the easier languages to learn to read, and you can take an afternoon to learn the symbols that make up the language and be reading it in a day. It’s definitely not necessary, but may make the times when there’s no English a little bit easier.
- If you buy something (especially at street markets), how much do you need to haggle?
- Even at street stalls, there isn’t much haggling needed.
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Intercity buses, trains, and planes: 8
- How easy is it to get from one city to another? How understandable is the system?
- Get to one of the bus stations in the city and you should have no problem finding your way to another city. Often, there are multiple bus stations in a single city, so it’s best to make sure you’re going to one that will have the bus you want. The VisitKorea Tourism Website includes this information.
Taxi reliability: 6
- How many taxis are there? How likely are they to cheat you? How friendly are the drivers to foreigners, especially if you don’t speak the local language?
- In most cities, public transportation is adequate and quite good, including to and from the airport. If you arrive to a city late and don’t want to use public transportation, or you are in a city that doesn’t have much infrastructure – such as Gyeongju – the taxis aren’t expensive. They will work with you, but try to really push for them to use the meter. The one time I allowed the driver to not use it, he tried to cheat me by naming a price 10x what it should have been.
Intra-city transportation: 8
- How easy is it to get where you want to go within the city?
- In larger cities (Seoul, Daegu, Busan, etc.) it’s incredibly easy. In smaller cities, like Gyeongju, it’s not so easy. For farther attractions, you can still find ways to get there, but you need to consult the VisitKorea Tourism Website. I don’t think I can overstate how useful this website was in helping me navigate transportation to wherever I wanted to go.
- If you want to get some exercise, how easy it is to walk from place to place?
- Combined with public transportation, walking got me everywhere. There are times when I had to walk a bit farther than I would have liked, but the cities are walkable.
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Did this help you plan your trip? What else do you want to know? Leave a comment below!