What you should know before traveling to South Korea!
Do you dream of it? South Korea is definitely your next destination? We understand you!
For a few days of vacation or for a year of PVT, this country will leave you with wonderful memories. But don’t confuse speed with haste and do your research.
Here are the things you absolutely need to know before you arrive or even plan your trip!
The papers, always the papers…
The visa: mandatory
Nobody likes paperwork. But rest assured, Korea’s new K-ETA tourist visa (or Electronic Travel Authorization) is more of a formality than anything else.
This visa is valid for two years for a period of 30 to 90 days and costs only 10,000 KRW (about 8 euros). Mandatory, the visa must appear on your checklist under #1.
To apply, go to Official site of K-ETA. Finally, if you wish to stay on Korean soil for more than three months, here here to inquire about visas.
The public transport system in South Korea is really very efficient. However, if you want more freedom and want to visit Jeju Island in particular, you may need to rent a car. The international driving license is mandatory for this.
Good, that Online request is completely free, it may take several months before you receive the approval in your mailbox. Do the math as much as you can and plan at least 2 or 3 months before you receive it.
Choose your dates well
In Europe it is common to go on vacation in the summer. Be careful because the Korean summer has nothing to do with the one you know in France.
In July and August, South Korea experiences the monsoon, which is a hot and very humid season. We do not recommend you to leave at this time as you will have difficulty enjoying city walks or hikes.
Prefer spring between March and June or autumn between September and November. The air is getting drier, fresher and the landscapes much more beautiful!
In winter, the cold remains a distinctive sign of the month of February!
A few Korean words…
Surely you will be surprised when you arrive in Korea that there are no subtitles! (Yes, yes, we’re talking to you K-Drama fans). To respect the codes and be polite, it’s important to learn the basics:
- Bonjour: Hello (Hi)
- Thank you (gamsahamnida)
- Goodbye : Goodbye (annyeonghi gyeseyo) Goodbye (annyeonghi gaseyo)
Of course, most everyday things, such as subway station names, are translated into the Latin alphabet.
However, this does not apply to most brands, the products you buy or the restaurant menus.
Therefore, learning Hangul (the Korean alphabet) can help you in certain situations. Plus, it only takes a few hours to learn! And I promised. In fact, this is one of the reasons for its invention by King Sejong.
It’s not a myth, Koreans love to eat spicy and even spicy food. That’s why they often think of European cuisine “fade”.
Get your tissues ready because you’re bound to get a runny nose! Again, to avoid unpleasant surprises, you can save a few words of Korean.
When ordering at the restaurant, do not hesitate to ask: « 안맵게해주세요 (a maep-kae hae-juseyo), please make it less spicy”.
Korea is not JUST Seoul…
Of course it is a must-see on your trip and certainly the city where you will spend the most time because there are so many things to see.
Visit palaces (Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Deoksugung), Buddhist temples like the famous Jogyesa or trendy areas like Hongdae or Myeond-Dong for shopping.
Seoul is an incredible city where you never get bored!
But know that to see “the real Korea” In order to enjoy all the authenticity of this fascinating country, you have to leave the capital.
For this purpose, we recommend you to take some 2 or 3 day trips to Jeju Island, Busan or Gyeongju and Jeonju, the cities of Korea with the largest number of UNESCO-listed monuments.
A hyper-efficient transport network!
This is good because it is very easy to get around Korea. The rail network is well developed and punctual.
The ITX is the equivalent of the interregional in France and the KTX of the TGV. Allow 3 hours by KTX to reach Busan from Seoul. Are you planning to visit a city that is not served by trains?
No panic. Long-distance bus trips are really comfortable and cheap! The bus journey between Gyeongju and Seoul takes an average of 4 hours.
The Seoul subway is amazing. Modern, clean and very reliable, it has 20 lines including one that welcomes you right upon your arrival at Incheon Airport.
To ride the subway, take your T-Money card to a general store. It’s much more convenient than the one-way ticket because you can top it up and even use it to pay for the taxi or bus!
To top it up, just find the terminals present at each station and insert the desired amount of cash. As a reminder, a subway ride currently costs 1,250 won.
Apps to download in Korea
Seoul is a vast maze that’s easy to get lost in, but there’s no shortage of apps to help you find your way.
Essential among the essentials: Kakao Map is certainly one of the best to find your way around, to get from one place to another as easily as possible or to list the various points of interest in its surroundings.
In the same category, City Mapper is also very handy, especially as a pedestrian.
Going to Korea without speaking a word of Korean can make many people feel anxious, especially at the thought of having to ask someone for something.
When it comes to troubleshooting, Google Translate is your friend. With the app, you can communicate and translate the scriptures in no time at all by taking a simple photo.
Download a conversion application (from KRW to €) for your future purchases, respect your budget.
If the idea of traveling to a country radically different from France is stressing you out, don’t worry. South Korea is a country with many amenities and very easy to get to if you come as a tourist.
So you will find convenience stores every 500m (CU, 7Eleven, GS25, E-mart etc.) and you have the pleasure of finding toilets (without having to look for them) free, self-service and very well maintained. , whether in the subway or on the street!
GOOD TRIP ! And don’t forget to try your luck!
How to travel cheaply to Korea?