TripCheers Travel Guide : South Korea

Korea, a country in East Asia has been divided into two states, the North and the South. While the North is under political unrest and is known to be the most secretive, the Southern Korean region is still very tourist friendly. South Korea is considered a First World while its counterpart would be considered a Third World. The two major places in South Korea that you should visit are Seoul and Busan.

1) Jeju Island
Jeju Island, the biggest island in Korea, has the Hallasan dormant volcano (also a UNESCO heritage site), you can hike the volcano and enjoy the most scenic view from the top. Jeju also has beaches where you can swim and surf. Some of these beaches are the Jungmun beach, Emerald Bay and Shinyang. Another place in Jeju is ‘Loveland’, an adult theme park with huge casts of suggestive sculptures. You might also find very different (you understand the meaning of different) souvenirs here. Please do not visit this place with your family, there’s absolutely nothing here that’s meant for that kind of an audience. If you’re travelling with your family, you could go for a water massage to calm your nerves at the Hanwha Therapy Resort or relax at an outdoor spa arrangement  at Jeju Waterworld.
How to get here ? You could take a direct flight or use the international ferry terminal to take a ferry to Jeju Island.

Jeju Island 1COURTESY :

Loveland Jeju 1COURTESY :

2) Bhukhansan National Park and Seoraksan National Park
If you’re one for adventurous hikes, Korea has some of the best spots you can explore. The Bhukhansan and Seoraksan National Parks are known to be the best hiking options in Korea. Most of the hikes can be completed in a few hours or within a day. Situated in the northern part of Seoul, there are three peaks inside the Bhukhansan National Park –  Baekundae (2,744 ft), Insubong (2,659 ft), Mangnyeongdae (2,623 ft). The Seoraksan National Park is known for its floral density and scenic views. Make sure that you’re wearing appropriate footwear when you go hiking.
How to get here ?
You can get to Bhukansan National Park via bus no. 704 from the city. You could drive down to Seoraksan from Seoul (takes about 3 hours without traffic) or take a bus from Sokcho city. The nearest rail station to Seoraksan is at Jeongdongjin.

Bhukhasan 2

3) Shopping in Seoul
The best place to shop in Seoul for women and beauty lovers is Myeongdong with loads of cosmetic stores. Some of the beauty brands available here are Etude House, TheFaceShop, Nature Republic, Innisfree among many others. If you’re looking for wholesale shopping , head to Namdaemun. Dongdaemun and it will give you the feel of shopping in Bangkok with its affordable street style clothing solutions.  On the other hand, Garosugil is for high end designer clothes and cafes where you can satisfy your appetite after all the intense retail therapy. A combination of cheap and high end apparels are available at Express bus terminal underground shopping. A very well known place for souvenirs in Seoul is Insadong.

Seoul Shopping 3COURTESY :

4) Gwangalli Beach
The Gwangalli Beach (also known as Gwangan beach) is located in Busan. Recently, the beach has undergone a cleaning drive and so, the waters are especially clear, attracting various people from different places. Go around evening time to get a view of the bright lights of Gwangandaegyo Bridge that stretches across the horizon and a splendid sunset view. You can stay back for a meal in the evening at one of the many fancy restaurants along the main road.
How to get here ? The beach is usually crowded and there’s very little parking space so use the metro that drops you off at Gwangan metro station.

Gwangalli beachCOURTESY :

Tourist Tips :

1) Vaccinations
Consider getting a Hepatitis A vaccination before travelling to South Korea as there are some cases of Hepatitis A in Seoul and other Korean cities. If your itinerary includes internal locations, take a typhoid vaccination and the Japanese Encephalitis vaccination.

Hepatitis A

2) Water
The tap water in South Korea is said to be better than the water in the States. However, if you’re not okay with the taste, continue drinking bottled water to avoid any health problems and sickness.

3) Transport
Korea is well connected and apps like the Seoul Metro and Busan Metro Map come in very handy when you’re overwhelmed with the train maps and the routes. For food tips you can also download the VisitKorea app. These apps have language preferences so you will not have to worry about understanding the maps or other travel instructions that are primarily in the local language.

TransportCOURTESY :

4) Claiming Taxes
To claim taxes you’ll have to check in at the counter, bring your luggage to the tax-free claiming counter and let them have a look at the items you’ve purchased. After this, you will have to get a stamp and bring it back to the counter to check in your luggage. It makes sense to claim taxes only if you’re buying very high-value items since the procedure is a little cumbersome and you might end up paying more than the original price of the item, if you wish to claim taxes on lower value items. The duty free shops at Korea Airport list their product prices in US Dollars so just be in know about that.


5) Food and Local eats
Korea is the land of street food and authentic dishes that you can devour through your trip. However, street food is more easily available in the night compared to the daytime. Some of the famous foods include : teokbokki (spicy rice cakes- found on the streets of Sindang Teokbokki Town); hotteok (dessert pancakes); kimbap (seaweed rice rolls); eomuk (fish cake). A  famous drink off the streets, is the Korean Rice Punch (shikhye). For dessert you can go in for a Nutella banana crepe cake. You might find the savoury dishes a little spicy so be prepared for all the spice coming your way.

Here are a few Korean phrases that will help you on your trip :

Yes: YE
It is nice to meet you: BAN-GAP SUP-NEE-DA
Take me to my hotel: HOTEL-LO GAP-SEE-DA

Plan your trip :

South Korea has a humid continental climate and the rains are usually in the summer months (June through September). Summers get too humid and winters might be too cold for you to even step out of your hotel room. The best time to visit is in fall or spring since the country has the best weather around this time. An added bonus in spring is the cherry blossoms.


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Written and edited by Vrushti Oza.


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