We will show you a 12-day itinerary and give you travel tips to undertake a trip to South Korea on your own.
Quite an adventure was our trip to South Korea. As we have done on other occasions, we want to tell you in this first post of the series of stories on Charcotrip the itinerary and travel tips to undertake the adventure to South Korea on your own.
Can Mexicans travel to South Korea? Can Europeans travel to South Korea? For both questions the answer is YES and you do not need to obtain a visa. When you arrive they put a stamp in your passport and you don’t even have to pay anything.
Check here, if a visa is required to travel to South Korea and what are the requirements.
With Western Europe the time difference is 7 hours. Guaranteed jetlag.
From USA (California time) the difference is 16 hours! that is, when it was 4 in the afternoon in Korea, in San Diego it was 12 at night.
As always: wherever you come from, one of the travel tips is to try to adjust as soon as possible to the schedule of South Korea.
The official currency is the WON. We hadn’t bought won in advance and we didn’t met any difficulty there. We were cashing everything out of the ATM. Now, everything will depend on the conditions of the bank to know if it is convenient or not to withdraw money abroad (sometimes between the exchange rate and the commission a lot of money can be wasted).
To give you an idea, here are some exchange rates:
- 1 usd = 1,273.82 Won
- 1 euro = 1,345.96 Won
To get to South Korea: we traveled by plane arriving at the Incheon airport (with Qatar Airways), in Economy class (one way in a two-seats row). The advantage of flying with this airline was that we were able to make a one-day stopover in Doha, so we took the opportunity to visit that city.
The price to have a reference: from London to Seoul: 650 euros per person.
Within the country we used different means of transport, take them all into account when making an itinerary in South Korea. Since the transport times of each one may vary.
We used the train twice on our trip to Korea, the first one from Seoul to Jeonju with a high-speed train. Punctual and very good service. The second train was from Andong to Seoul, this one was slower since it was not high speed but the service was just as good, on this train something happened that I was not used to: when one of the railway employees passed by the car and left, he turned to see the passengers and bowed. Something I hadn’t seen anywhere.
To travel by train in Korea, there is a pass that allows you to take the trains free of charge for a certain period of time. We did not acquire it since we calculated the cost of the pass and the trains that we would take and it was not convenient for us. In fact, some routes did not fit well with the trains, which brings us to the second transport that we used in the country:
A good option too, in addition to reaching many more places than trains because the Korean railway network is not as extensive as it can be seen in other countries.
Moving within the cities
In Seoul we took the subway and we walked. We used the taxi only once, to reach the DMZ tour that we missed for a few minutes, the little joke was expensive. To go from the airport to the city you can take a train or a bus.
In the other cities urban bus and walk. Many times the signs were only in Korean, the good thing is that there was always some indication that we arrived at the right place, be it other tourists or some sign in English for stops with tourist attractions.
Accommodation in Korea
During our trip to South Korea we stayed in four hotels which I list here:
- Seoul: Hotel Noble
- Jeonju: Gung Tourist Hotel
- Gyeonju: Hwang Nam Guan
- Andong: Goryeo Hotel
In general, the hotels were of good quality and at a reasonable price (in the range between 50-80 euros).
Something that they have available for guests in almost all hotels is an insecticide! In the first hotel I saw it, I was scared because I thought: if they put it here, it means there are cockroaches. Luckily I didn’t see any and as we stayed in other hotels we saw that it was a common practice. But the first time I saw it, it shocked me.
Get your flight to South Korea at the best price
Packing the suitcase for South Korea
For the time we were there it was more than enough with my 40-liter backpack (even though I had clothes for every day of the trip, I mean, I didn’t wash clothes during the trip).
- If you are not very attached to your brand of soap or bath gel or your shampoo, you can leave them at home. In all the hotels (at least the ones we stayed in) they give a complete kit for the bathroom, that is, gel for bathing, shampoo, some even the sponge, razor, etc.
- The slippers, just don’t take them, they will be a dead weight in your suitcase since they are provided in the hotels.
Itinerary to travel to South Korea
We traveled the country for a total of 12 days. As always, short, but better than nothing. I think that despite the short time, we have made the most of the days we were there. But yes, we were going at a calm pace, maybe we could have seen more things in the same period of time but we preferred to go slow. Here we leave the itinerary that we follow through South Korea:
0 – Doha: Doha city tour
1 – Seoul: Arrival and first contact
2 – Seoul: Changdeokgung Palace, secret garden, bukchon village,
3 – Seoul: JSA Tour (blue buildings), Dorasan station, observation deck and third tunnel
4 – Seoul: Suwon visit, Hwaseonghaengung Palace, Deoksugung Palace
5 – Seoul: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Buddhist Temple, Gangnam District and Cheong-gye-cheon Stream
6 – Seoul: Changgyeonggung Palace, Chongmyo Shrine, train and arrival in Jeonju
7 – Jeonju: Maisan Park and Tap-Sa Temple, Jeonju Downtown Walk
8 – Busan: Beomeosa Temple and Mall
9 – Gyeongju: Visit of the tumuli, Seokguram Grotto, Bulguksa temple
10 – Gyeongju: Mount Namsan
11 – Andong: Hahoe Village, Central Andong
12 – Seoul: Insadong and farewell
Interesting facts about South Korea
In Korea it is possible to wear the traditional costume (called hanbok), in Insadong, in Jeonju, in Bukchon village there are advertisements where they offer it, the price is not excessive. Everything will depend on the type of service you want: some include taking photos, etc. I did it in Bukchon village in a museum where for something like 10,000 won (10 euros) they offered to dress me up and be able to walk inside the museum to take the photos I wanted. There were others who walked around the city with the clothes so it depended, anyway I didn’t want to go out in the street with the dress, needless to say, it was a fun experience!
Ah on this subject: the hotel where we stayed in Gyeongju was a Hanok (traditional hotel) and they offered traditional clothes for free, only you had to put them on yourself. Just so that you take it into account when making your itinerary in South Korea, I did not use the service because I had already fulfilled my desire to get dressed and I did not have much time. But a traditional hotel is always a nice place to take photos!
Selfies in south korea
Keep in mind that Koreans looooooooooooooooove selfies, I’m telling you that so you don’t despair of seeing everyone with the stick looking for the best angle, in fact I’m not used to taking many direct photos of the faces of the locals, not to bother them. But in Korea one can see how they love to photograph themselves and to be photographed, so take advantage here!
It is false that English is spoken everywhere! yes, always with signs you can fix everything. Also, in restaurants, menus usually have photos.
The food, is very spicy, of course! but it is a much stronger spicy than we are used to in Mexico, result: I had stomach pains, but yes, the food was very good. So one of the travel tips for South Korea is: if you are not used to spicy food or have a sensitive stomach, ask before!
Some time ago I read somewhere that someone said that Korea was a cheap copy of Japan. Nothing is further from reality, whoever has gone and thinks like that is because they did not open their eyes (or their mind) well. Korea is a country with a very own personality, which yes, has a very famous neighbor. I say this to make it very clear that if you go to Korea, you go to Korea, you are not going to a copy of China, Japan, or any other country.
Keep this in mind, is one of the travel tips that will allow you to fully enjoy South Korea.
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