Language – Korean and hangul 한글 is the Korean alphabet. English is not widely spoken around the country, and even in the larger cities like Seoul and Busan, many Koreans—especially adults—are still very shy when it comes to speaking English. Children and teenagers are more likely to know the language and assist you when asking for help.
Currency – The unit of currency is the ₩ Korean Won (KRW). Banknote denominations come in 1000, 5000, 10000, and 5000 KRW. Coins range from 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 won. Debit and credit cards are accepted everywhere, with no minimum charge.
Weather – Korea is one of the only of places in the world where you can experience the textbook descriptions of all four seasons. The best time to visit is either the spring (Mar-May) or autumn (Sep-Nov), when the weather is not extremely hot or cold, and nature is at its most spectacular. Expect frigid, harsh winters with light snowfall, and muggy, hot summers.
Transportation – When it comes to transportation, Korea is a well-oiled machine. The only downfall is that with the language barrier, figuring out how to get around can pose somewhat of a challenge. But what you have available to you is inexpensive taxis, timely buses, impressive subway systems, and both slow regional trains and fast inter-city bullet train. For travelers, the best thing you can do is invest in a T-Money card, a transportation card that can be used on buses, subways, and even taxis. For more info, jump to the ‘Plan Your Trip‘ section of the page.
Food – Korean cuisine is savory and spicy. It is defined by rice, fermentation, and pork. Staples include korean barbecue (고기구이), bibimbap (비빔밥), and on every table, you’ll find kimchi (김치), the quintessential side dish. This is not a vegetarian friendly cuisine, however if you are looking for traditional vegetarian meals, you’ll most likely find them at Buddhist temples.
Safety – Korea is considered to be one of the safest destinations in the world, especially for female solo travelers. Since most businesses/establishments stay open all night long, there is little need to be vigilant when being alone late at night. Koreans are very honest and non-confrontational. The only thing to be cautious of is verbal harassment/drinking-related misbehavior from people in nightlife areas.
Health – Drinking the tap water is not advised. Also, Korea has been suffering from a serious air pollution problem, ranking 5th country on the countries with the world’s worst air pollution list. Those with severe respiratory conditions are advised to check the air quality indexes while traveling.
WIFI/Sim Card – Korea has the world’s fastest internet, readily available in many public spaces like tourist attractions and cafes. At the 1st floor arrivals hallways in Incheon Airport, you can buy the KT Olleh data-only sim card (only for unlocked phones), which includes unlimited data. Buy a 1-day card (6,600 KRW), a 5-day card (27,500 KRW) or a 10-day card (38,500 KRW). This is highly advised given that many of the navigation tools in Korea are all web-based mobile applications. South Korea is on the Keepgo mobile hotspot list.
What To Bring Home – Soju, beauty products and cosmetics, engraved dojang name seals, stationery goods, metal chopsticks, cute socks, Korean snacks, street fashion