If you plan to go to South Korea, there are a few things you need to know before your trip. This Asian country has many charms, from its history, its culture, its impressive landscapes, to its spectacular modernity, all of these make it a must-see destination. In order to enjoy your stay, you should keep these tips in mind so that you can enjoy your trip much more and not miss its wonders.
This is what you should know before going to South Korea
Navigation data is expensive
The SIM cards available for tourists have prices ranging from 50 US dollars for a month. And if you do not have a green card, you cannot access the deals that locals get.
Wi-Fi is everywhere
Getting a SIM card can be expensive and very difficult to obtain, but you may not need it. In South Korea there is Wi-Fi connection almost everywhere. It can be found in every metro station, as well as many trains and buses. So you can do very well without a SIM card, using Wi-Fi instead.
You must buy your SIM card at the airport
If you decide you prefer to get a SIM card rather than relying on Wi-Fi, a good option is to reserve one and pick it up at the airport. It is difficult to find tourist SIM cards anywhere other than the airport. The other option is to rent a portable Wi-Fi device. This is often a bit cheaper than a SIM card and can also be picked up at the airport.
Google Maps does not work properly
For those travellers who are very used to using this application, this can be a very shocking thing. And, it is not that Google Maps does not work at all, but it does not update regularly and the maps do not load correctly. Public transport directions work, but walking and driving directions do not.
No need to tip
The price you see on a restaurant or bar menu is exactly what you will pay. In fact, tipping can seem quite rude, just like in Japan. Tipping could suggest that you believe a waiter is hierarchically below you, which should obviously be avoided. Save those pennies for dessert!
The climate varies a lot during the year
Of all the things to know before going to South Korea, the weather may be the most shocking. So you should consider this when planning your trip. These are their climatic seasons:
- Spring: runs from March to May and is the best time to enjoy cool temperatures and see cherry blossoms.
- Summer: it is from June to August, it is characterized by being very hot and humid in the cities, but generally manageable.
- Autumn: from September to November. This season is short with cool temperatures ranging from 10 to 20 degrees. It is typhoon season.
- Winter: it goes from December to March and temperatures drop to -3 degrees.
The metro is efficient, but do not overlook the buses
Riding buses in foreign countries can be stressful, but do not worry about it in South Korea. The buses are safe, efficient and regular. For certain routes, they will be even faster than taking the subway.
Bank cards are widely accepted
Unlike Southeast Asia, a place where you can rarely pay by card. While I would recommend having some cash in South Korea, most restaurants and stores allow card transactions. However, if you decide on street food for dinner, the payment is only in cash.
The culture of beauty is very marked
South Korea’s beauty industry is one of the largest in the world. South Koreans are usually very glamorous. Seoul areas, like Myeondong, are packed with beauty shops selling everything you never imagined.
Prepare to feel badly groomed
If you are backpacking, you are likely to feel scruffy while in South Korea. In other Asian countries you are likely to look acceptable, but here you will feel very poorly dressed compared to what the locals wear. Especially in Seoul.
If you are thinking of traveling to Seoul, it is advisable to pack some fancy suits if you want to visit good restaurants and bars. It is not required, but it can make you blend better.
The prices are quite high
The hostel’s dormitories cost around 20,000 won (about $ 18) per night. Street foods cost between 2,000 and 5,000 won. Cheap restaurant meals cost 5,000 to 10,000 won. And, train rides cost between 5,000 and 25,000 won.
Elders must be respected
Most Asian societies have great respect for older people, however, Korea developed a kind of language to honour their own. So if you are addressing someone of hierarchical superiority (such as a boss, client or teacher) or an elder, you will need to use different names and word endings. Doing it wrong is considered very rude.
You will only use informal versions if someone is younger than you, an employee or a student. It is unlikely to affect you as a tourist, but you should always try to be politer and respectful to older Koreans.
If you are traveling alone, you will need to get a friend for dinner
In some restaurants, such as Korean barbecues, a minimum of two diners is often required, if you go alone you are not served. There are some restaurants that charge an additional fee to allow you to sit down and eat unaccompanied.
It can be tricky for vegetarians and vegans
South Korean food has a lot of meat, from barbecues, Korean fried chicken, and street food. Even bibimbap (typical Korean dish) often contains beef, although it can usually be ordered without it.
South Korea is safe for single women
This country has a low crime rate, so anyone can feel safe during their trip. The locals can be shy when talking to foreigners, but they will certainly help if they can.