South Korea gained its popularity since the booming k-pop raised and became worldwide spread. Beside that, the conflict between South and North Korea also illustrated in the news headline, made everyone knows about what’s happening in the country which used to have same background, same culture, but separated after World War II.
Well, that’s not the reason why I traveled to South Korea. South Korea has been promoting the tourism as Jeju Island became the new seven wonders of the world. Furthermore, South Korea attracts foreigners to fly allover from their home to teach English to Korean students, with high salary on hand, and also the opportunity to travel. I stayed in total 25 days in South Korea, starting my trip from South to North, excluding Jeju Island. 25 days is quiet long, here I’m gonna tell you little things about Korea that might be helpful for you if you’re going there.
When to Visit South Korea
Let’s start with basic thing. South Korea has four seasons same as western countries, spring, summer, fall, and winter. Spring is the time where the flowers especially cherry blossoms, usually lasts from late-March to early-May. Summer, might be crowded especially in Busan, with the hot and humid temperature but also receives the most rainfall between June to September. Autumn is my favorite, from mid-September to early-November. The trees gone yellow and red, mild sunshine and chill weather. Winter starts from mid-November to mid-March. The temperature can drop until -20 degree Celsius in some area. Prepare your warm clothes during winter, and not to worry, The houses or apartments normally equipped with heating floor.
Eat and Treat in South Korea
Talking about food, who doesn’t know about kimchi? Fermented side dishes made from napa-cabbage. Actually there are more side dishes on Korean cuisine, It’s easy to find street food everywhere in Korea. The most common thing you’ll see is odeng (fish cake with broth), fried snacks (fried octopus, fried shrimp, etc), gimbap (rolled rice with veggies inside, looks like sushi), tteokboki (spicy rice cake). I must say that Korean food is pricey for me (I’m from South East Asia, that’s why).
For street food it costs around 2000-3000 won. A regular meal may costs around 5000-8000 won, and if you’d like to try Korean BBQ (I love it) or full Korean Cuisine, it’s about 30,000-50,000 won for 2-4 people. Food is expensive but alcohol drink is super cheap. Makkgeolli is my favorite, it’s a 1000 won rice wine. Soju, the famous drink from Korea and tastes just like vodka, also not that expensive, and Mekju which is Korean beer.
Getting around with Public Transportation
Transportation is easy everywhere in South Korea. In big cities they have subway, normally subway is around 1200 won-1500 won each way. In Busan you can buy one day pass for only 4,500 won. Buses are also well integrated but i prefer to use subway, easier. Intercity buses run frequently from the bus station. Each city has more than one bus station, named Dongbu (East Terminal), or Seobu (West Terminal) but whichever bus terminal you choose, you can still easily transfer either by subway or bus to your destination. If the duration is about 1-2 hours, the bus costs around 5000-7000 won. If it’s around 3 hours like from Seoul to Sokcho, it costs around 10,000 won. More than 3 hours, around 20,000 won. If you have higher budget, you may use the speed train KTX. If you’re staying quiet long in South Korea, consider to buy T-Money. A prepaid card that you can use for mostly all the transportation.
Internet Connection and Shopping Matter
Don’t worry about the internet connection because wi-fi can be found mostly in every corner of South Korea. Sim card is about 20 dollars, and rent a mobile is even more expensive. I could survive without buying sim card because wi-fi is nearly everywhere, same as payphone.
Koreans are very stylish and fashionable. I had a low self-esteem attack once I got there, but not to worry, clothes are super cheap in Korea, even cheaper than the food. I didn’t have warm clothes at all when I got there, so I bought some in Busan. Long sleeve shirts are sold only for 2000-5000 won. I got a nice warm jacket for only 25,000 won. I was thinking to buy boots as well, super cheap 15,000-30,000 won for nice boots, but I prefer the comfort walking with sport shoes, good thing I could control myself not to shop too much.
Stay on Budget
A room in a 2 star hotel can cost about $70 for a night, while staying in hostel is cheaper. A bed in in a dorm usually costs around $10-$20/night. For single traveler with tight budget, dorm is affordable, or try using couchsurfing like I did to press the budget. Travelers coming along with family can try to use airbnb and look for apartment to live, usually cheaper than hotel.
Other General Things
Generally Koreans are really nice and helpful. There was one couple I met on the street and I asked them where the address referred to, they kindly took their car and drove me to the address, well, even though it’s wrong place, same building number but different apartment. At least they have the willing to help. Younger people tend to speak a bit of Korean than the older. Sometimes even though they’re unable to speak a word, they still try to explain with gesture. I also had a good experience being treated by strangers that I met.
Koreans love hiking. There are many hiking trails with clear path and directions so it’s easy to hike by yourself. Many elders hike rather than the young, they said it’s elder things to do when they have nothing more to do, to spend their time.
To be honest, one thing that made me pretty bored of South Korea is, everything looks the same. Every city that I’ve been to, they all look mostly the same. The buildings look the same, the temples look the same, and the mountain pretty much looks the same. It’s still nice to visit South Korea, maybe not for a long time.
The chance to meet k-pop star is small. I asked my Korean friend if she had ever met any k-pop star and she told me, it’s a rare opportunity to see the stars hanging around the city. So, don’t dream too much, ladies!
Also read my journey to these cities in South Korea:
Traveled in 16 November-10 December 2015
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