If you like Asian food, you need to visit South Korea. It is all so delicious and there is so much to try! I unfortunately didn’t have much time in the city so I wasn’t able to explore outside of Seoul but I have heard that South Korea has a lot to offer. Below is some tips if you are heading to Seoul.
Many international airlines fly into Seoul Incheon International Airport including Air Canada, United Airlines, Delta Airlines and American Airlines. From Canada, there are direct flights from Vancouver and Toronto. From the US, there are direct flights from LA, San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Chicago and Houston. No visa is required for Canadians or Americans to visit.
The KAL Limousine shuttle bus from airport to the city center and vice versa is one of the best ways to get into the city and to the airport. It costs 16,000won per person, and it is on a first come first serve basis. You can buy the ticket as you are entering the bus. If taking the shuttle from the airport to the city exit the airport at Gate 10. You can also ask the people at the info desk which bus to take and they can give you the number. The buses are very comfortable and clean and it is about 40 minute drive. You can also take the subway which will cost a bit less (8,000won) or a taxi but it will cost you a lot (90,000).
Base rate for normal taxis is 3,000won with additional charge of 100won per 142km or 35 seconds. If traveling outside the city boundaries, it will add 20% as well as late night fares from midnight to 4am. Taxis are slightly cheaper than America. The metro is also very easy to use, clean and air conditioned. It only costs a few dollars to get from one side of the city to the other.
Before You Go
- There is free Wi-Fi available all around the city at tourist attractions, subways and the airport so there is no need to get a plan on your phone.
- There is no need to tip in restaurants. Extra side dishes can be provided at no extra cost.
- Starting this past January, they implemented tax free shopping. For purchases exceeding 30,000won, you can claim a tax refund at the airport before departure (within 3 months of purchase).
- When eating rice out of a bowl, it is best not to pick it up as this can be considered impolite.
- Here they use type C and F power socks (which is the rounded two pronged plug). The standard voltage is 220 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. So make sure to bring a converter in case even though a lot of the hotels have western plugs.
Where to Stay
There are many good places to stay in Seoul but choosing a location will depend on what you want to do. The City Hall area, north of the river, is a great location as you are walking distance to the markets and very close to a lot of the tourist attractions. If you are looking to shop and eat, Gangnam is a great area to stay in. You can also find guesthouses/homestays in the old village of Bukchon.
Where to Eat
There are many local Korean dishes that you will have to try and you can find a lot of them at the markets for cheap. Each dish in the market shouldn’t be more than a few dollars. Here is a list of foods to keep an eye out for:
- Dolsot Bibimbap – rice, veggies and meat (if you want) in a hot stone pot
- Bulgogee – marinated beef barbeque
- Kimchee Pancake
- Kimchee – fermented vegetable
- Spicy Rice Cake (ddukbokkie)
- Monk Bean Pancake
- Dried Fish Snacks
- Fish Cake Soup
- Live Baby Octopus
- Gingseng Chicken Soup
- Seafood Pancake
- Pumpkin Porridge (hobakjuk)
Here are a few places to try while you are in town.
- Gwangjang Market – definitely need to go here and you can try many of the items listed above. Try to go on a weekday as Friday and the weekends are packed.
- Pro Ganjang Gejang Sinsa (Gangnam area) – get the blue crab (which is in season spring and autumn) and the seaweed pancake is also good!
- SMT (Gangnam) – delicious Korean fusion food but quite expensive.
What to Do
- Walk around Bukchon, an old village that is still a residential area where you can see the traditional Korean architecture. There are many alley ways that provide different views of the city.
- Walk down Insa-dong street (runs from Jongno 2-ga to Anguk-dong) and watch how they make Kings Candy (Kkul-Ta-Rae). You will see many booths down the road but the best one is the one seen in the picture below. You will also find many souvenir shops here.
- Rent a Hanbok (the traditional Korean outfits for both men and women). The best place to rent Hanbok’s for the day is on Insa-dong street and the address is: 55-2, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu (4th floor of the building). Their phone number is 02 738 9170. Here you will find the best and newest selection of Hanboks. It will cost you 13,000won for 4 hours or 25,000won for the day. They have lockers here to store your normal clothes.
- If you don’t want to spend 4 hours in a Hanbok or don’t have the time to rent one, go to the Hanbok Experience at the Insa-Dong Info Center and try one on and take pictures for only 3,000won. They are open from 10am-12pm and 1pm-5:30pm.
- Eat at the Gwangjang Market and try all the local foods!
- Explore Gangnam. There are many shops on Garodu-gil and bars/restaurants on Serosu-gil.
- Shop at the Namdaemun Market. You can find many good souvenirs here as well and handbags, shoes, and clothing. Prices are all quite reasonable and people don’t seem to bargain but if you are purchasing a few items from one stand it is worth a try.
- Visit the N Seoul Tower for a good view of the city and the love lock trees. There is a whole area filled with love locks. Place one here with or for your significant other! You can buy a nice colorful lock there that won’t rust quickly for about $8US but if you want to save some money, bring your own lock. They also have station where they can laser carve a picture of your choice on a block of wood. A small picture is 13,000won and a large one is 25,000won. It will take about 15 minutes to make.
- Visit the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Seoul has 5 palaces but this one is the main one. When there last was a royal family in 1926, this is where they stayed. The other palaces were built in case of emergency. Every palace was built the same – with a water moat surrounding it and the mountains in the background. It costs 3,000won to enter. If you want to see the Party Place (one of the buildings inside the palace) you have to reserve your spot online (at no cost) as they only let 70 people in per day. Reservations open a week in advance. Also, try to time your visit to get there shortly before 10am or 2pm as this is when they have the changing of the guards. They are all actors but it is a cool site to see and it is free. Enter the main gate and go to your left and stand behind roped off area in line with the ticket booth for the best view.
- At the other end of the Gyeongbokgung Palace (opposite of the main gate) you can exit and see The Blue House (the White House of South Korea).
- Go to the Jogyesa Temple. It is very close to the Gyeongbokgung Palace and is nice to see.
- Hike Inwang Mountain. Military used to be the only ones allowed on the mountain but it just opened to the public in 2015. It takes about 3 hours.
- Go to the Dongaemun Shopping Complex (East Gate Mall) to shop. It is open until 5am!
- If you have limited time in the city or are there with a group, hire a tour guide and driver for the day. VIP Travel Co. is a great company to go with, although a little on the pricier side. For an 8 hour English tour, with an English speaking tour guide, in an 8 person minivan, it will cost around 400,000won. Entrance fees, meals and parking are not included though. You can build your own itinerary with the help of the agency or you can just have them provide you with one. You can pay cash or credit card. If you do this, request Cindy Kang as your tour guide. She is great!