Advance Planning

Three months before Check your passport validity; start learning hangeul (written Korean), a straightforward alphabet. Book ahead for super-popular tours.

One month before Book accommodation, especially hanok (traditional house) rooms, as these have only three or four guest rooms in total, and templestays. Book the USO tour to the DMZ.

Two weeks ahead If you are travelling over any of Korea’s major holidays, book all internal transport well ahead of time. Book tables at sell-out restaurants.

Resources

  • Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/south-korea) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more .
  • Korea Tourism Organization (KTO; www.visitkorea.or.kr) Official government-run site.
  • Korea4Expats (www.korea4expats.com) Covers many aspects of Korean life.
  • Korea.net (www.korea.net) A treasure trove of background detail on the ROK.
  • Everyday Korea (www.everydaykorea.com) Info on a whole range of Korean topics.

Top Tips

  • It's worth investing in a KR Pass even if you make only one longish trip on a fast train, such as Seoul to Busan return.
  • Save money on public transport fares (and also pay for taxis) using a touch-and-go T-Money Card (or Cash Bee Card).
  • Check with local tourist offices about free guided tours with students and others citizens who speak English and other languages.
  • Spend over ₩30,000 at shops participating in the Global Refund scheme and you can claim VAT back on leaving the country.
  • Hops from Seoul to Jeju-do on budget airlines may seem cheap, but check on baggage restrictions and extra costs before deciding – flying with Korean Air or Asiana may work out a better deal.

What to Take

  • Phrasebook, mini dictionary
  • Travel plug
  • Insect repellent
  • CDMA-enabled phone
  • Painkillers
  • Padlock
  • Small backpack for day hikes
  • Slip-on shoes (for taking off and putting on quickly when entering and exiting abodes)
  • Medical kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Penknife
  • Torch (flashlight)
  • Earplugs
  • Eye mask
  • Inflatable pillow
  • Raincoat

What to Wear

The vast majority of Koreans wear western-style dress these days, although you’ll sometimes see people in hanbok (Korean clothing). The best version of this type of clothing – in fine silks and organza – are usually worn by women, and sometimes men, for formal occasions. More casual pyjama-style hanbok are made from cotton and are very comfortable for everyday wear.

For business, Koreans are quite formal and wear suits and ties. Out on the hiking trails or golf courses you’ll see locals kitted out in the latest high-tech performance gear as if they were about to scale Everest or compete in the Masters.

Pre-departure Checklist

  • Check the validity of your passport
  • If you plan to hire a car, bring a current international driving permit
  • Check airline baggage restrictions
  • Check government travel websites
  • Call banks and credit-card providers and tell them your travel dates
  • Organise travel insurance
  • Check whether your mobile phone is compatible with Korea's WCDMA digital standard