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  • Writer's pictureWandering Eli

South Korea Travel Tips

Updated: Feb 26


Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village

Planning your first trip to South Korea? If you're a first-time traveler looking for insights on South Korea, you've come to the right place.


I've been wanting to write some travel tips for first time travelers to South Korea for a while. So this post is packed with essential travel tips to make your journey smoother. Let's dive into the basics and get you prepared for an amazing adventure!





1) Learn basic Hangul

Most younger people do speak English, or at least understand some basic words (especially in Seoul). But it would still be good to learn some basic words and sentences. Saying hello, thank you and learn how to order food and drinks can be so much useful, plus you won't be stressed out while trying to get people to understand you. Also, if you're planning to travel to cities outside of Seoul, or to the countryside, knowing some basic Hangul can really be helpful to read city names, bus stops and so on!


2) Travel planning for Korea


Whether you're staying a few days or a few weeks, getting to know a bit of the places you want to go to is really important, and this also includes where to go, how to move around the country, transportation, costs, etc... Korea is quite cheap compared to Western countries, but after Covid-19 hit, everything got expensive, especially if you're going to Seoul and want to stay in the most popular areas. Be prepared is better than be shocked afterwards!


3) Life-saving travel apps!


KakaoTalk Even though it's pretty obvious, Kakaotalk is the messaging app every Korean uses.

• Naver Maps and Kakao Maps

These are the only apps you need to move around South Korea (Google maps does not work, and even if it does is not reliable. So avoid yourself trying to rely on it.)

Kakao Taxi, Taba It's easy to use. You select the taxi option and type in your destination, then choose the option to pay to the driver (available for KakaoTaxi). Taba is a new app launched for foreign visitors, and it should be offered in multiple languages.

Papago vs. Google Translate

I personally use Google Translate when I need it. I don't feel there's much difference between them, but maybe it's because I'm just used to it.

Subway Korea app You can choose the city and simply check how to get to your destination. There're also other options for transportation apps, such as KakaoMetro and KakaoBus, but with Naver and Subway Korea, you can get around just fine!


4) Choosing between Sim card and e-Sim

Even though South Korea has free wifi almost everywhere, it's still important to have your own wifi. I have an iPhone and I personally always had issues with connecting my phone to free wifi networks. So I'd say that the best and also easiest choice is to buy an e-Sim or a sim card at Incheon airport. It is super easy and convenient to order and pay for it online. You can check it here. You can buy an e-Sim and follow the instructions on how to activate it, or you can pre-order a physical sim online, and then pick it up at the mobile phone kiosk at the terminal of your arrival. It's easy and very quick! I've used both options, similar prices, but I found the e-Sim is more convenient since you can buy and activate it before your trip.


5) Money and Cards (Most important things to know!) • You can pay by card almost everywhere. You will need cash only to buy street food, and charge your transportation card. • It's best to have a prepaid or credit card that's Mastercard. I always had issues paying with Visa (such as it being declined)! Same goes for foreign debit cards (works only for withdrawing money) • I never exchanged money before coming to Korea, or traveling anywhere! Withdrawing money at the airport's ATMs is cheaper and quicker. There are global ATMs at the airport, so you can simply withdraw the amount you need. However, mind that you'll almost likely have to pay an international withdrawing fee (probably still cheaper than exchanging money), so it's better to withdraw all the money you need at once! • You can't withdraw money from all Korean ATMs, because they don't all work with foreign cards. So, when withdrawing money make sure to go to → WOORI Bank ATM (works with debit, prepaid, credit cards).

• Have multiple cards with you, if one does not work, you'll have options.

• Foreign debit cards never worked for me to pay in stores, only prepaid and credit cards.


6) Tmoney for convenient travel

Tmoney is the transportation card people use in Korea. Where to buy a Tmoney card in Korea? You can simply buy it at one of the convenience stores at Incheon airport. Most of them have super cute designs so you won't be disappointed :) Just ask for Tmoney card (티머니, or 교통카드). Remember that you can load your Tmoney only by cash! You can recharge it at any convenience store (CU, 7 Eleven, GS25, Emart24, Ministop), or at the charging machines of any subway station.

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