When In Seoul - My Top Travel Tips for Traveling to South Korea

When In Seoul - My Top Travel Tips for Traveling to South Korea

Posted by Sarah Kinsler-Holloway on

I get asked when I'll be hosting a retreat in Korea all the time.  While that sounds amazing, it may not be in the immediate future I thought I'd share some of my travel tips for visiting Seoul, or South Korea in general.

South Korea, is an amazing country that blends ancient traditions with incredible innovation. From towering skyscrapers and bustling markets to serene palaces and Buddhist temples, Korea offers an experience unlike any other. To help you plan a dream trip, here are some essential travel tips:

  • K-ETA: Most travelers won't need a visa, but a Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) is required. Apply online at least 72 hours before departure. https://www.k-eta.go.kr/
  • Currency Exchange: The Korean Won (KRW) is the local currency. I always withdraw money once I get to my international destination. I take a little bit out at the airport and then find another ATM when I'm in the city for better exchange rates!
  • Download Apps: Essential apps include a translation app (like Naver Papago), a subway navigation app (like Subway Korea), and a ride-hailing app (like KakaoTaxi).
  • Getting Around: Seoul boasts one of the most efficient public transportation systems globally. The subway is clean, affordable, and easy to navigate with English signage. Taxis are readily available and relatively inexpensive.


Must-See Sights + Experiences:

  • Gyeongbokgung Palace: Immerse yourself in Korean history at this stunning royal palace complex.
  • Bukchon Hanok Village: Wander through charming alleys lined with traditional Korean houses (hanoks) - it's so beautiful!
  • Myeongdong: Explore this vibrant shopping district with endless stores, street food stalls, and trendy cafes.
  • Insadong: Discover traditional Korean crafts, souvenirs, and art galleries in this historic district. This is one of my favorite areas!
  • N Seoul Tower: Enjoy panoramic views of the city from this iconic landmark.
  • Demilitarized Zone (DMZ): Take a guided tour to the heavily fortified border between North and South Korea. This is an experience not to miss.
  • Jean Frigo Hidden Bar: If you know me, I am all about the experiences and unexpected surprises. You must check out this hidden bar.  


Foodie Delights:

  • Korean BBQ: Do not miss this national dish of grilled meats cooked at your table. I still have dreams about Korean BBQ. 
  • Kimchi: A staple fermented side dish made with spicy cabbage. I admit it's an acquired taste, but it's so good for you!
  • Bibimbap: A colorful rice bowl with vegetables, meat, and a fried egg. I could eat this every day!
  • Korean Fried Chicken: If you've never had Korean fried chicken you are missing out.  They arguably have the best out of any country/culture. 
  • Street Food: From savory tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) to sweet hotteok (pancakes filled with brown sugar), Seoul's street food scene is a culinary adventure.


Beyond Seoul:

  • Weekend trip to Jeju Island: Explore this picturesque volcanic island known for its scenic landscapes. Climb to the top of Mt Jeju - the tallest point of South Korea.
  • Korean Spa Experience: Unwind and rejuvenate at a traditional Korean spa (jimjilbang) with saunas, hot tubs, and massage services (they're everywhere) or visit some of the most well-known spas like Sulwahsoo, Yeo Yong Guk or Lee Moon Won, an amazing headspa clinic
  • Gyeongju: Discover the ancient capital of Silla kingdom, filled with historical treasures and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This is where I lived while completing my Anthropology degree!

Korea is a country that thrives on surprises. Be open to exploring hidden alleyways, trying new foods, and experiencing local customs!

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