Ultimative FREE South Korea Travel Guide 🇰🇷 ✨
South Korea became a favorite Travel destination for tourists all over the world offering an unforgettable travel experience. So in this ultimate guide, I'll cover everything you need to know for an amazing South Korea trip from Basic Information about the country, weather info all around the year, Visa and Entry Requirements, Transportation, Must Visit Spots and recommended Activities or Festivals in Korea.
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1. BASICS

South Korea is an East Asian country known for its culture, exceptionally delicious food, and technology-driven economy. It is located on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula and is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with a population of over 51 million people. Of these, approximately 40% live in and around the capital city of Seoul. The country is also known for K-pop music, Korean dramas, Skincare and Fashion and gained popularity worldwide in recent years.

2. PLANNING

2.1. Weather

Spring (March - May)

Spring in South Korea is mild and generally pleasant. Make sure to bring a jacket for the still chilly evenings and nights. Temperatures in March are around 3°C (37°F) to 13°C (55°F), in April ranging from 8°C (46°F) to 19°C (66°F) and in May between 14°C (57°F) to 24°C (75°F). Spring is also known for its beautiful cherry blossoms, attracting many tourists.

Summer (June - August)

Because of the Korean Monsoon, summers in Seoul are hot and humid. June temperature is similar to May between 14°C (57°F) to 24°C (75°F), while July and August are the hottest months of the year. Temperatures ranging from 23°C (73°F) to 30°C (86°F) or even higher. July and August also experience a significant amount of rainfall, so be prepared for occasional showers or thunderstorms.

Fall (September - November)

Autumn in Seoul is mild and considered the best time to visit. September starts with temperatures ranging from 19°C (66°F) to 26°C (79°F) and gradually cools down. October brings crisp and cool weather, with temperatures ranging from 11°C (52°F) to 19°C (66°F). November gets colder, with temperatures ranging from 4°C (39°F) to 12°C (54°F). Autumn foliage is another highlight, with vibrant colors across the city.

Winter (December - February)

Winters in Seoul are cold and often snowy. December starts with temperatures ranging from -3°C (27°F) to 5°C (41°F). January and February are the coldest months, with temperatures ranging from -7°C (19°F) to 1°C (34°F). Snowfall is common during winter, creating a picturesque atmosphere. It's essential to bundle up and be prepared for icy conditions.

Current Weather

My Recommendation

The busiest times are March to early April because of Cherry Blossom & End of October to November because of the Fall Foliage. If you want to avoid those crowded and overpriced periods, I recommend coming end of April to June or September to Mid of October.

2.2 Visa

When planning a trip, understanding the entry requirements is crucial. Fortunately, South Korea has made it easier for travelers from various countries to explore its beauty through the K-ETA (Korean Electronic Travel Authorization) system. Check if your home country is on the list for K-ETA Countries via the following link.

Also just a note, that some countries don't even need the K-ETA anymore until end of 2024, so check this info extra here:

 If your country is not in this list, then it might be, that you need a visa to travel to South Korea or that your home country is having a different agreement with South Korea. Therefore please check the visa requirements here:

2.3. Health

Make sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date, including measles, mumps, rubella, and influenza. While no specific vaccinations are required for entry, being immunized is recommended by most countries.

Having comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical expenses is strongly recommended too. It provides peace of mind knowing you're covered in case of illness or injury.

2.4. Flight

Incheon International Airport (ICN) and Gimpo International Airport (GMP) are the primary hubs that connect South Korea to the world. Incheon International Airport, located around 1 hour from Seoul, is the larger of the two and offers a wide array of international flights. Gimpo International Airport, about 40 minutes from Seoul, mainly handles domestic flights like to Jeju and some short-haul international routes. Both are known for their modern facilities and efficient services.

Incheon International Airport
@nextstopkorea
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2.5. Hotels

Choosing the right accommodation for your South Korea trip sets the tone for a comfortable and memorable stay. From budget-friendly options like guesthouses and hostels ranging from $30 to $60 per night, to mid-range hotels providing a balance between comfort and cost in the range of $60 to $150 per night, and upscale hotels offering luxury from $200 onwards, South Korea caters to all types of travelers. 

As you explore different neighborhoods to stay within Seoul, consider Myeongdong (Jungno) for most convenient sightseeing, Heongdae (Mapo) or Itaewon (Yongsang) for nightlife and Gangnam for Shopping. These central locations not only grant easy access to bustling markets, vibrant culture, and historic sites, but they also offer a range of accommodations that suit various budgets. 

If you want to save money and don't mind a daily commute in the subway, you can also check accommodations a bit outside of the city centre. And if you're looking for the fully traditional Korean experience than have a look at Hanok-Stays - the Korean traditional housing. 

2.6. Language

While English is commonly spoken in most tourist hubs like Myeongdong, Gangnam, Hongdae or Itaewon, branching out with basic Korean phrases can truly enrich your Seoul experience. Learning a handful of key expressions can help you navigate beyond the popular areas and connect with locals on a deeper level.

Learning the korean alphabet called hangeul is actually easier than you might think and with some basic phrases like "안녕하세요" (annyeonghaseyo) for "hello" and "감사합니다" (gamsahamnida) for "thank you" you can already achieve a lot when talking to Koreans.

2.7. Hotlines

The area code for South Korea is +82, so when calling a South Korean number from abroad, you need to dial this country code before the actual phone number. There also are area codes that vary for different cities and regions (e.g. 02 for Seoul, 051 for Busan, 010 for mobile phone numbers). But for the following numbers those are not necessary either if you are in South Korea:

2.8. Money

South Korea uses the Korean Won (KRW) as its currency, so familiarize yourself with the currency and the current exchange rates. 

Make sure you've saved enough funds to cover accommodation, activities, and unforeseen expenses. Flights, Hotels and activities can be quite pricey, but you can save a lot through Korea's cheap public transportation and food options.

Depending on your general budget and standards, I recommend

70-110$

per day per person including accommodation, transportation, food and activities.

Credit cards are widely accepted and offer convenience, security, and favorable exchange rates. Among the credit cards commonly recognized in South Korea are Visa, Mastercard, American Express, JCB, and many more. Remember to inform your bank of your travel plans to prevent any payment disruptions.

I recommend you get some cash, even though you can pay almost anything with your credit card - you know.. just in case. You can either use one of the exchange booths at the airports, in Myeongdong or Itaewon or you get cash through your credit card from an ATM, e.g. located in front of most convenience stores. Usually those offer quite bad exchange rates, so check out the following service and their Kiosks at the airport:

If you're too afraid that your Credit Card could be declined, I can highly recommend the Namane Card - a transportation card that works like a korean bank card. Find more about that in the Paragraph about Transportation.

2.9. Packlist

✴ Papago

The biggest challenge when traveling in Korea is the language. Papago is by far the best Korean to English translator, can also translate websites and even has a conversation and photo feature.

✴ Kakao/NaverMap

Since Google Maps has limited functionality in South Korea, it is recommended to download one of the Korean map apps. KakaoMaps and NaverMaps are the two most commonly used options.

✴ KakaoTalk

Koreans mainly use KakaoTalk instead of WhatsApp or Telegram. So when you make a new friend, they usually don't ask for your cell phone number, but for your KakaolD.

✴ Naver

Instead of Google, Naver is the most used search engine in Korea. Restaurant reviews, blogs, booking tools can usually be found quickly on Naver. Compared to Google, I tend to find a local recommendation or hidden gem here more easily.

✴ KoRail

It you are planning a trip to another city in South Korea, you will need a KTX ticket. The easiest way to book this is to use the official Korail app. This way you also avoid the many rip-off websites online.

✴ Taba / KakaoT

Compared to most other big cities, cabs in Korea are much cheaper, so sometimes it's more convenient to take a cab. With Taba or KakaoT that is super easy and you can pay with credit card in the cab.

✴ Seoul Bike

One of my favorite activities in Seoul is a bike ride along the Han River. Although you can find larger bike rentals at the hotspots, you are much more flexible with the Seoul Bike App. Once set up, you can rent and return a bike within seconds.

✴ Currency

There are several different apps in the appstore, but they all have similar functions to convert currencies quickly and easily. Especially in the beginning it helped me to get a feeling for how much money I spend.

✴ AirVisual

In Korea people wear a mask not just because of Covid, but also because of the regularly occurring fine dust pollution. With AirVisual, you can quickly see when it is advisable to wear a mask outside and to do indoor activities.

2.11. Etiquette

✴ Bow:

Bowing is a common form of greeting and showing respect. The deeper the bow, the more respect is conveyed.

✴ Take your shoes off:

It's customary to remove your shoes before entering someone's home or certain traditional establishments.

✴ Don't give tips:

Tipping is not common in South Korea and may even be refused. Exceptional service is already included in the price.

✴ Use Both Hands:

When giving or receiving items, especially money or business cards, use both hands. This gesture reflects politeness and respect for the person you're interacting with.

✴ Remember when Eating:

During meals, wait until the eldest or the host starts eating before you begin. Additionally, avoid sticking chopsticks upright into a bowl of rice, as it resembles a funeral ritual.

✴ Respect Elders:

Respect for elders is deeply ingrained in Korean society. Use formal language and honorifics (ending sentences with "-yo") when addressing older individuals. When pouring drinks, hold the bottle with two hands when offering to someone older than you.

✴ Be silent on Public Transport:

Maintain a quiet demeanor when using public transport. Loud conversations and phone calls are generally considered rude. Use headphones if you want to listen to music or watch videos.

✴ Cover Shoulders and Knees at Temples:

If you plan to visit temples or religious sites, dress modestly. Cover your shoulders and knees as a sign of respect for the sacred space.

✴ Queue up:

Whether you're waiting for public transport, entering an establishment, or even using an elevator, respect the queue. Cutting in line is considered impolite.

✴ Sort trash:

South Korea has strict waste disposal regulations. Sort your trash into different categories, including food waste, recyclables, and general waste. Familiarize yourself with the local guidelines to contribute to the country's eco-friendly efforts.

3. ARRIVAL

3.1. Incheon Airport

When arriving at Seoul's Main Airport there are some important steps to go through. First, you'll proceed to immigration, where you'll need your passport and visa ready for inspection. The process is generally efficient, and friendly immigration officers are there to assist you in English or Korean.

After that, you'll head to baggage claim to collect your luggage. Incheon Airport is known for its quick baggage handling, so I promise you won't be waiting long!

Once you have your bags, it's time to breeze through customs. Please check the latest customs regulations for South Korea when packing your suitcase.

Finally, you'll step out of the arrivals area into a bustling terminal filled with helpful signs and information booths. Make sure to get a Korean SIM Card and some cash before leaving the airport. Find a map of the Airport Facilities below.

3.2. Internet

Right after clearing customs, you'll spot various kiosks and mobile service providers offering SIM cards tailored to your data and duration needs. Whether it's a short stay or an extended visit, you can easily choose a prepaid SIM card with a suitable data package.

Once inserted into your phone, you'll be instantly connected to South Korea's fast and reliable mobile networks, ensuring you can navigate, communicate, and share your Korean adventures with ease. It is usually much cheaper, faster and more reliable than buying an International Data Package from your home network provider. Just make sure your phone is not SIM-locked by the company you bought it from (still quite common in US & Japan).

Here my recommendation for tourists:

And here my recommendation for both - short & longterm travelers / Visa holders. Refer to Nextstopkorea to get some discount on longterm contracts!

In case you come for a few weeks and with a friend or in case your phone might have a SIM Lock, maybe getting a Pocket Wifi Device is an option for you:

4. Transportation

4.1. Transportation Cards

First, let me introduce you to your new best travel-buddy: a Korean transportation card! Those smart cards offer a convenient and efficient way to pay for various modes of public transportation, including subways, buses, taxis, some ferries and even can be used as a payment method at many convenience stores. Users can recharge those cards and use them as often as they want by easily tapping them on card readers when boarding or leaving public transportation. They can be used not just in Seoul, but in the whole country, even on Jeju Island.

You could also buy single ride tickets at the vending machines in every Subway station or get the MPass, which is like a 1 to 7 Day unlimited pass. But for this ticket to be worth it, you have to take the Subway at least 7 times per Day.

So I would highly recommend you to get a transportation card, here are two options explained:

✴ T-Money Card

As an originally government founded company this is the most common card in South Korea - you probably heard of this one too. You can basically find them everywhere with different designs, for example by Kakao or Line Friends or the most famous Kpop Groups (around 4,000-7,000 KRW). You can top up money (only by using cash) at convenience stores and at the machines in every Subway Station and then use it in the whole country for public transportation.

✴ Namane Card

Even though many people might not know about this yet, this is my recommendation! You can not just freely personalize the design of your Namane Card, you can also use it like a normal Korean bank card, top it up with cash or your foreign credit card (with a small transaction fee) and check the remaining amount easily in the app. It's much more convenient and especially for tourists the best option.

You can buy the Namane Card for 7,000 KRW in advance and then pick it up at one of the Kiosks in Incheon Airport (it will be printed with your favorite design within a few minutes):

4.2. Navigation Apps

Some people prefer to read the Seoul Subway or Bus Map simply as it is.. That's absolutely not an option for me :D Luckily there are many Apps you can use to find the best way to get from A to B:

✴ GoogleMaps (works to some extent)

✴ Seoul Subway App

✴ KakaoMap

✴ NaverMap

✴ ...

The last App of this list is the one I use and the one I explain in my Subway Guide. There is no special reason, why I would recommend NaverMaps in comparison to KakaoMaps, it's like Apple vs. Samsung.. You always like what you first got used to :D

4.3. Transportation from Airport

One of the first exciting steps is making your way from Incheon Airport to the vibrant heart of Seoul. There are different options I will just list here. For a full Guide click on the link below!

✴ Airport Railroad Express (AREX)

The AREX is a high-speed train service that provides a fast and quite cheap transportation option from Incheon International Airport to downtown Seoul between 5am and 10pm.

EXPRESS TRAIN TO SEOUL STATION

This is the fastest option, taking approximately 43 minutes to reach Seoul Station without any other stops or traffic jams. The fare is 9,500 Won for adults,

ALL STOP TRAIN WITH MANY STOPS

This train stops at multiple stations and takes about 59 minutes to reach Seoul Station. The fare is lower than the express train - around 4,000 KRW and can be simply entered with a Korean Transportation Card like a normal Subway.

✴ Airport Limousine Bus (my fav!)

Airport limousine buses operate 24/7 and offer a convenient way to reach various destinations in Seoul. The fare can vary based on the route and destination - on average, it can range from 10,000 to 20,000 KRW. You can find detailed route information and fares on this website:

You can easily buy the bus ticket at the airport between Exit 4 & 5, so you don't have time pressure in case your flight is late or you need longer than expected to walk through immigrations etc.

✴ Taxi

In comparison to most western countries Taxis in Korea are quite cheap and usually easily available at the airport. The Taxi fare from Incheon Airport to downtown Seoul can vary based on traffic conditions and the specific location. When leaving the Airport the first "row" is for buses, the second "row" is for all kinds of Taxis (see map above).

GENERAL TAXI

A normal Taxi with often only Korean speaking drivers - a trip to Seoul Downtown is around 70,000 KRW, more if there is a traffic jam or detour. Those Taxis are usually orange, yellow or white. Tip: Show them your Hotel address in NaverMap if they don't speak English.

INTERNATIONAL TAXI

A Taxi option only for foreigners with a fixed price, drivers that speak a bit of English and a reservation system. Alternatively you can find it between Exit 4 & 5 at the Airport. Fares start at 70,000 KRW.

PRIVATE TAXI

The little bit fancier brother of the general taxi.. Those black Taxis are absolutely not worth it in my opinion and with around 100,000 KRW very overpriced. Be careful of English speaking people on the taxi line pushing you to take one of the black taxis!

✴ Private Driver

Of course like at any bigger airport worldwide, you can also get a private airport transfer from various travel agencies and online platforms. Prices for private airport transfers can vary based on the service provider and the type of vehicle but they're sometimes even cheaper than Taxis! I can recommend the easy service from Klook and its partners:

✴ Rent Car

If you need to go to places that are not reached by public transport, you can also rent a car. Be aware, that driving in and around Seoul is definitely challenging and stressful due to traffic and parking availability. I would only recommend it to very good and safe drivers. Rental car prices vary based on the type of car and rental duration.

I usually book my rent cars for anywhere in South Korea via Klook or directly via Lotte Rentcar. Please be aware that you usually need an international drivers license (on Klook some only accept Korean licenses, so check that well) and the credit card that was used when making the booking.

4.5. Transportation within Seoul

From the extensive subway network, various bus routes, well-maintained roadways, comparably cheap Taxis, to the impressive bicycle-sharing system and numerous pedestrian-friendly areas - There are endless ways to explore Seoul. I will explain some in the following paragraphs.

For all public transportation options: Try to avoid the rush hours during 6:30 - 9am and 4:30 - 7pm, as it can get really really busy and crowded in Subways or on the streets during that time.

Seoul
@nextstopkorea
My chosen home and favorite city of all - South Korea’s Capital city is known for its unique mix of modern skyscrapers and traditional Hanok Houses, the best food and endless things to do at every time of year.
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✴ Subway

The Seoul subway fare system is based on distance, so the first 10 km start from 1,250₩. For longer trips a small additional fee will be applied when leaving the station. Seoul Subways usually start operating at 5am and the last train leaves around midnight or until 1am. After that there are usually only night busses and taxis available.

The Seoul subway system is a marvel of efficiency and connectivity, making it the lifeline of the city's bustling urban landscape. With over 20 lines crisscrossing the metropolis and reaching even the farthest corners of the city, it's no wonder that Seoul's subway is renowned as one of the best Subway Systems in the world. Not only is it the fastest way to beat the notorious traffic jams, but it's also remarkably cheap, clean and safe. 

✴ Bus

With an extensive network of routes covering virtually every nook and cranny of Seoul, the bus system is a reliable and cost-effective mode of transit. Especially for people that might be too overwhelmed by the Subway system or that want to see Seoul's lively street scenes while moving from one exciting destination to the next, taking a bus is a great alternative.

You have to enter the bus in the front tapping your T-Money Card on the card reader next to the bus driver. When you want to get out, press the "Stop"-Button and tap your T-Money Card again when leaving through the back doors. I recommend you to keep track of the buses' route on the map, so you don't miss your station, as the screen and speaker announcements are often in Korean only.

Good to know: Seoul Buses are color coded. The red buses are going out of the city (e.g. Incheon or other regions in Gyeonggi Province), the blue ones connect different districts within Seoul, green buses mostly stay within the same district and the very tiny yellow ones are local buses making small loops around a neighborhood.

✴ Taxi

Taxis are comparably cheap in South Korea, so I'm taking a taxi way more often than in Europe. The basic fare of a general Taxi is 4,800 KRW and then the taximeter will keep track of the kilometers travelled. 

To grab a Taxi you can either wait on one of the Taxi Stands at big train or bus stations and around the main tourist attractions, use the app KakaoT or simply hail one off the street by raising your hand. Different than in most other countries, the RED sign saying “빈차” in the window of the taxi symbolizes that it is free. Green is taken and blue is done with work for the day, so avoid those.

Like I mentioned earlier, I recommend you to avoid the black private or "Deluxe" Taxis as they usually offer similar services to normal taxis but for a much higher price. General orange or white taxis are my go to choice^^

✴ Bike

The "Seoul Bike" system - called 따릉이 (Ddareungi) - offers a unique and eco-friendly way to explore the city. With a convenient app and a well-organized network of rental stations, it's easy for both locals and visitors to hop on a bicycle and pedal through Seoul's vibrant streets. The bikes are not only convenient but also affordable, so you can literally see the green white bikes so often on the street or along the Han River.

4.6. Transportation to other cities

While Seoul offers a vibrant and bustling urban experience, I highly recommend travelers to venture beyond the city limits to truly immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of South Korean culture and landscapes. Take a short train or bus ride to discover the country's hidden gems. By venturing out of Seoul, you'll unlock a deeper understanding of South Korea's diverse heritage and natural beauty, creating unforgettable memories along the way.

✴ Train

The high-speed KTX trains are the stars of the show, bringing passengers to other major cities like Busan, Jeonju, Gyeongju or Daegu at speeds of up to 300 km/h (186 mph). The well-maintained rail network also includes slower, more scenic options, such as the Mugunghwa trains, which provide a leisurely journey through picturesque landscapes making stops at smaller cities too. 

✴ Express Bus

Express buses in South Korea are a convenient and affordable way to traverse the country's diverse landscapes and reach destinations beyond the bigger cities. These comfortable, long-distance coaches offer a well-organized network that connects urban centers to charming rural areas and scenic countryside. The buses are equipped with modern amenities, ensuring a pleasant journey with features like Wi-Fi, spacious seats, and on some routes even onboard restrooms.

✴ Rent Car

Within Seoul: Absolutely not recommended! Driving in and close to Seoul is definitely challenging and stressful due to the insane traffic and parking availability. I would only recommend it to very experienced drivers, but even then I would avoid it on all costs :D  

Going out of Seoul? Totally fine and a fun way to see more of the country's stunning landscapes. Especially on Jeju Island or if you're going to a rural area a Rental car is highly recommend to stay flexible and comfortable.

5. EXPLORING

5.1. Must visit places

If you travelled a lot you probably learned one thing: You can never see everything! I lived in Korea for 2 years now and still there are so many places on my bucket list.. it's a never ending story!

So when you come to South Korea, I would recommend you to see some of the "Must Sees" that are tourist hotspots for obvious reasons and mix it up with unique experiences and hidden gems. Here a list of the most famous places in Seoul:

Bukchon Hanok Village
@nextstopkorea
Bukchon Hanok Village is Korea's most famous Hanok Village with a beautiful view on the N Seoul Tower on top of Namsan Mountain. The village offers a glimpse into the city's past with its well-preserved architecture, narrow alleyways, and tranquil courtyards. The fact, that people still live in those houses or rent them for visitors, shows how Koreans still value their traditions until today. Also check my favorite Photospot & the Crafting Activity!
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Gyeongbokgung Palace
@nextstopkorea
Gyeongbokgung Palace, built in 1395, is Seoul's largest and most majestic palace, standing as a captivating testament to Korea's architectural brilliance and royal heritage. Its sprawling grounds, adorned with ornate pavilions, serene gardens, and intricate details, offer a glimpse into the opulence and grandeur of the Joseon Dynasty. Exploring the palace allows one to immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of Korean history, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a deeper understanding of the country's cultural legacy. Many tourists rent a Hanbok - the korean traditional clothing - for their visit, check the link below to find a rental store.
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Lotte World Tower
@nextstopkorea
Lotte World Tower is an impressive architectural marvel and one of South Korea's most iconic skyscrapers. Standing tall at 555 meters, it offers breathtaking panoramic views of Seoul from the observation deck, making it a must-visit destination for both locals and tourists seeking an unforgettable experience.
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N Seoul Tower
@nextstopkorea
N Seoul Tower, also known as Namsan Tower, is an iconic landmark and observation tower located in the heart of Seoul, South Korea. Standing at a height of 236 meters on Namsan Mountain, the tower offers breathtaking panoramic views of the cityscape, including the Han River and surrounding mountains. Aside from its observation deck, N Seoul Tower boasts various attractions, such as restaurants, gift shops, and the famous "Locks of Love" where couples attach padlocks symbolizing their eternal love. Every Day at 3pm you can see a korean cultural performance in front of the tower.
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Yeouido Hangang Park
@nextstopkorea
Yeouido Hangang Park, situated along the Han River in Seoul, is a picturesque urban park with expansive green spaces, cycling paths, and recreational facilities. Among young Koreans it is the most popular spot for picnics, leisure activities, and enjoying stunning views of the river and the N Seoul Tower or Bukhansan. Check surrounding activities and places for explanations and more fun things to do there! Also please note, that the "I SEOUL U" Sign in one picture is not there anymore as the city changed it's slogan to "My Soul, Seoul" and therefore sadly removed all those signs.
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Gangnam Station
@nextstopkorea
From luxurious boutiques and high-end restaurants to stylish clubs and entertainment venues, Gangnam embodies the modern and cosmopolitan spirit of the city, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a taste of Seoul's upscale lifestyle. Also don’t miss the Gangnam Style Horse Dance Stage
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5.2. My Recommendations

If you are looking for some Alternatives to the main tourist spots mentioned above, here some less famous and a bit less crowded recommendations:

✴ Tongin Market 

✴ Namsangol Hanok Village

✴ Deoksugung Palace

✴ Changgyeonggung Palace

✴ Bongeungsa Temple

✴ Gyeonggui Line Forest Park

✴ Eunpyeong Hanok Village

✴ Euljiro Pocha Street

✴ Jeongdong Observatory

✴ Ssamziegil Insadong

✴ Changdeokgung Palace

✴ Seoul Forest

✴ Ihwa Mural Village

✴ Ansan Mountain

✴ Sejong Village

✴ Blue House (Cheong Wa Dae)

✴ Seoullo 7017

✴ Cheonggyecheon Stream

✴ Nodeul Island

✴ Haneul Park

5.3. Must do Activities

5.4. Other places out of Seoul

Even after 2 years I have an endless bucket list of places I want to visit in this country. Here 10 of my favorite trips from Seoul either short One-Day-Trips or longer journeys if you have enough time:

✴ DMZ Tour:

Take a guided tour to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to understand the divided history of North and South Korea. Please keep in mind, that many DMZ Tours do not include the most famous part - the Joint Security Area (JSA) - but they are still very much worth a visit!

Joint Security Area (JSA)
@nextstopkorea
The picture most people have in mind when thinking about the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea is actually just one small part of it: The Joint Security Area. You can see the highly secured border to North Korea from a few meters away and see the famous blue buildings where different politicians met with Kim Jong Un.
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✴ Suwon:

Explore the impressive Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon - designed in the late 18th century to defend the city - and many other sights very close to Seoul City.

Suwon
@nextstopkorea
Explore the impressive Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon - designed in the late 18th century to defend the city - and many other sights very close to Seoul City.
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✴ Nami Island:

Known for its natural beauty and tree-lined paths, Nami Island gained fame from K-Drama "Winter Sonata" but is definitely recommend all over the year!

Nami Island
@nextstopkorea
Known for its natural beauty and tree-lined paths, Nami Island gained fame from K-Drama "Winter Sonata" but I definitely recommend it all over the year - especially during Fall Foliage!
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✴ Busan:

Known for its stunning beaches and fresh seafood, this coastal city is a must-visit. It's one of my favorite places in South Korea!

Busan
@nextstopkorea
Known for its stunning beaches and fresh seafood, this coastal city is a must-visit. It's one of my favorite places in South Korea and even though it's just another big metropole, it has a very very different vibe in comparison to Seoul.
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✴ Jeonju:

A beautiful huge Hanok Village in the middle of the country especially recommended during Cherry Blossom. Must Try: Jeonju Bibimbap & ChocoPie!

Jeonju
@nextstopkorea
A beautiful huge Hanok Village in the middle of the country especially recommended during Cherry Blossom. Must Try: Jeonju Bibimbap & ChocoPie!
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✴ Gangneung:

Famous for Coffee and its stunning beaches this East Sea city is a perfect retreat from the crowded and hectic metropolis.

Gangneung
@nextstopkorea
Famous for Coffee and its stunning beaches this East Sea city is a perfect retreat from the crowded and hectic metropolis. Especially K-Drama and K-Pop Fans will have a lot to see here!
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✴ Danyang:

My absolute top recommendation but unfortunately there are not many organized group trips yet. If you're in to plan it yourself, this is one of the most beautiful spots to visit! (Combine it with the close by city Jecheon for a 2-3 day trip)

Danyang
@nextstopkorea
My absolute top recommendation for travelers, that like to organize a tour by themselves, as unfortunately there are not many organized group trips to Danyang yet. (Combine it with the close by city Jecheon for a 2-3 day trip)
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✴ Gyeongju:

Often referred to as the "Museum Without Walls," Gyeongju is a UNESCO World Heritage site with ancient tombs, temples, and ruins.

Gyeongju
@nextstopkorea
Often referred to as the "Museum Without Walls," Gyeongju is a UNESCO World Heritage site with ancient tombs, temples, palaces and ruins. It's the Go-To-City for people who really want to deep dive into old Korean culture, history and traditions.
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✴ Jeju Island:

A volcanic island with dramatic landscapes, waterfalls, and hiking trails. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular travel destination.

Jeju Island
@nextstopkorea
A volcanic island with dramatic landscapes, waterfalls, and hiking trails. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular travel destination. For Jeju I highly highly recommend getting a rent car as traveling around by public transportation will take you much longer. It's still possible of course and there are good offers for private drivers too, if you don't want to drive yourself.
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5.5. Food

Korean food is the reason I decided to move to Korea instead of any other country :D It's crazy delicious and has so so much to offer. Here some examples for Korean Dishes:

✴ Kimchi:

The Korean National Dish -Fermented Napa Cabbage

✴ Bibimbap:

Rice Bowl with Vegetables, Red Pepper Paste, Beef or Tofu

✴ Bulgogi:

Thinly Sliced Marinated Beef or Pork grilled to Perfection

✴ Tteokbokki:

Spicy Stir-fried Rice Cakes often with Fishcake

✴ Korean BBQ:

Usually Pork belly or Marinated Beef or Pork Ribs

✴ Jjajangmyeon:

Chewy Noodles with a thick, savory Black Bean Sauce

✴ Korean Fried Chicken:

The best Fried Chicken of the World.. trust me

✴ Kimbap:

Seaweed Rolls with Rice, Vegetables, Beef, Crab or Tuna

✴ Naengmyeon:

Spicy (Bibim〃) or non spicy (Mul〃) Korean Cold Noodles

✴ Haemul Pajeon:

Savory Seafood Pancake (or a Green Onion Version)

If you're overwhelmed with finding great restaurants, cafes or in general putting together a great itinerary, let me plan that for you:

5.6. Festivals

Koreans loooooove festivals, experiences and fun activities.. So there are endless festivals happening during the year. From Music, art, traditions, food to fireworks or other special occasions - Korea offers festivals for everyone!

✴ Chilgapsan Ice Fountain Festival

Snow and Ice Sculptures, grilled potatoes and the best part: a completely frozen waterfall (January)

✴ Jeongwol Daeboreum Fire Festival

Marks the first full moon of the lunar year with fire-related activities. (February)

✴ Gwangyang Plum Blossom Festival

200,000 square metres of plum trees near the Seomjin River, in an area known as Maehwa Village in Gwangyang. (March)

✴ Cherry Blossom Festivals

Join locals in celebrating spring's arrival with breathtaking cherry blossoms. Jinhae Gunhangje Festival is one of the most famous. (April)

✴ Buddhas Birthday Festivals

Lantern Displays, Big parades and my favorite: special temple stay offers in temples all over the country. (May)

✴ Gangneung Danoje Festival

Traditional festival featuring mask dances, rituals, and cultural performances. (June)

✴ Waterbomb Festivals

Big music festivals in every bigger city in Korea featuring fun water activities - water guns are a must to bring to cool down. (July)

✴ Boryeong Mud Festival

Enjoy mud-based activities, music, and fireworks at this unique and lively summer festival. (August)

✴ Andong Mask Dance Festival

Experience traditional mask dance performances, showcasing Korean folklore and culture. (September)

✴ Seoul Firework Festival

A stunning fireworks display along the Han River, accompanied by music and performances. (October)

✴ Geoje Island Flower Festival

Enjoy fall at its best on the beautiful island with this event full of flowers and activities for the family. (November)

✴ Lantern Festivals

Colorful lantern displays that illuminate the hearts of many cities in South Korea, the biggest one happens in Seoul. (December)

5.7. Shopping

Korea is a shopper's paradise, where traditional markets and modern malls coexist harmoniously, offering an array of unique and trendy products. 

Most stores and markets open around 10 AM and close between 9 PM and 10 PM. However, some smaller shops might have shorter hours, and certain areas, like Myeongdong, stay bustling well into the night. And of course most Convenience Stores are open 24 hours. Banks, Post offices and government organizations usually open from Monday to Friday 9 AM to 6 PM.

Here some recommended places to shop:

✴ Myeongdong for Skin Care & Streetfood

✴ Dongdaemun Market for Clothes

✴ Dongmyo Market for Second Hand

✴ Hongdae Street for Clothes & Accessories

✴ Namdaemun Market for various stuff

✴ Insadong for Traditional Craft

✴ Department Stores for various stuff

✴ Duty Free Shops for various stuff

✴ N Seoul Shop for Souvenirs

I am certain that you will love your stay in Korea and even if you won't be able to see and explore everything (I lived here for 2 years and there are still endless things I haven't done) I hope that you will go home packed with great memories! Come back soon ♡

Make sure to check out my other Guides:

I also have more detailed Infos on my Blog:

And finally don't forget to tell me if this Guide helped you:

* * *
CURATED BY
When I made the move from Germany to Korea in 2021, my life took a thrilling turn. From day one, I've been sharing this amazing journey with my Instagram community, as "Next Stop: Korea." Living the city life in Seoul, I've become the go-to buddy and your guide for friends and family visiting but also organized trips and planned itineraries for some of my lovely followers. So, if you're looking for tips on the must-see spots, those hidden gems that don't make the guidebooks, and the best of what Seoul has to offer, I've got you covered! But hey, as much as I adore Seoul, I'm all about encouraging travelers to explore beyond the city limits. Think the beaches of Busan, the coastal charm of Gangneung, the culture explosion in Jeonju, and the paradise vibes of Jeju – I've been lucky enough to explore over 40 of these fantastic places, and my Korean adventure wishlist is still going strong! :D Fast-forward to 2023, and I officially became a Content Creator for the Korea Tourism Organization and also got the title of “Global Seoulmate” - an Ambassador for the city of Seoul. It has made me even more excited to share the wonders of this incredible country! I'm here to be your go-to Travel Guide, offering practical advice, killer itineraries packed with Must sees, hidden gems and my personal faves, and the lowdown on Korea's stunning landscapes, unique architecture, friendly folks, and mouthwatering cuisine. Plus, if you're thinking about making the leap and moving to Korea, I've got your back with consultation calls and lots of infos about that on instagram. Long story short, I'm all about making your Korean adventure unforgettable, so don't hesitate to reach out. Let's make your K-adventure one for the books! 🇰🇷✨
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Ultimative FREE South Korea Travel Guide 🇰🇷 ✨
South Korea became a favorite Travel destination for tourists all over the world offering an unforgettable travel experience. So in this ultimate guide, I'll cover everything you need to know for an amazing South Korea trip from Basic Information about the country, weather info all around the year, Visa and Entry Requirements, Transportation, Must Visit Spots and recommended Activities or Festivals in Korea.
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Free

1. BASICS

South Korea is an East Asian country known for its culture, exceptionally delicious food, and technology-driven economy. It is located on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula and is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with a population of over 51 million people. Of these, approximately 40% live in and around the capital city of Seoul. The country is also known for K-pop music, Korean dramas, Skincare and Fashion and gained popularity worldwide in recent years.

2. PLANNING

2.1. Weather

Spring (March - May)

Spring in South Korea is mild and generally pleasant. Make sure to bring a jacket for the still chilly evenings and nights. Temperatures in March are around 3°C (37°F) to 13°C (55°F), in April ranging from 8°C (46°F) to 19°C (66°F) and in May between 14°C (57°F) to 24°C (75°F). Spring is also known for its beautiful cherry blossoms, attracting many tourists.

Summer (June - August)

Because of the Korean Monsoon, summers in Seoul are hot and humid. June temperature is similar to May between 14°C (57°F) to 24°C (75°F), while July and August are the hottest months of the year. Temperatures ranging from 23°C (73°F) to 30°C (86°F) or even higher. July and August also experience a significant amount of rainfall, so be prepared for occasional showers or thunderstorms.

Fall (September - November)

Autumn in Seoul is mild and considered the best time to visit. September starts with temperatures ranging from 19°C (66°F) to 26°C (79°F) and gradually cools down. October brings crisp and cool weather, with temperatures ranging from 11°C (52°F) to 19°C (66°F). November gets colder, with temperatures ranging from 4°C (39°F) to 12°C (54°F). Autumn foliage is another highlight, with vibrant colors across the city.

Winter (December - February)

Winters in Seoul are cold and often snowy. December starts with temperatures ranging from -3°C (27°F) to 5°C (41°F). January and February are the coldest months, with temperatures ranging from -7°C (19°F) to 1°C (34°F). Snowfall is common during winter, creating a picturesque atmosphere. It's essential to bundle up and be prepared for icy conditions.

Current Weather

My Recommendation

The busiest times are March to early April because of Cherry Blossom & End of October to November because of the Fall Foliage. If you want to avoid those crowded and overpriced periods, I recommend coming end of April to June or September to Mid of October.

2.2 Visa

When planning a trip, understanding the entry requirements is crucial. Fortunately, South Korea has made it easier for travelers from various countries to explore its beauty through the K-ETA (Korean Electronic Travel Authorization) system. Check if your home country is on the list for K-ETA Countries via the following link.

Also just a note, that some countries don't even need the K-ETA anymore until end of 2024, so check this info extra here:

 If your country is not in this list, then it might be, that you need a visa to travel to South Korea or that your home country is having a different agreement with South Korea. Therefore please check the visa requirements here:

2.3. Health

Make sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date, including measles, mumps, rubella, and influenza. While no specific vaccinations are required for entry, being immunized is recommended by most countries.

Having comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical expenses is strongly recommended too. It provides peace of mind knowing you're covered in case of illness or injury.

2.4. Flight

Incheon International Airport (ICN) and Gimpo International Airport (GMP) are the primary hubs that connect South Korea to the world. Incheon International Airport, located around 1 hour from Seoul, is the larger of the two and offers a wide array of international flights. Gimpo International Airport, about 40 minutes from Seoul, mainly handles domestic flights like to Jeju and some short-haul international routes. Both are known for their modern facilities and efficient services.

Incheon International Airport
@nextstopkorea
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2.5. Hotels

Choosing the right accommodation for your South Korea trip sets the tone for a comfortable and memorable stay. From budget-friendly options like guesthouses and hostels ranging from $30 to $60 per night, to mid-range hotels providing a balance between comfort and cost in the range of $60 to $150 per night, and upscale hotels offering luxury from $200 onwards, South Korea caters to all types of travelers. 

As you explore different neighborhoods to stay within Seoul, consider Myeongdong (Jungno) for most convenient sightseeing, Heongdae (Mapo) or Itaewon (Yongsang) for nightlife and Gangnam for Shopping. These central locations not only grant easy access to bustling markets, vibrant culture, and historic sites, but they also offer a range of accommodations that suit various budgets. 

If you want to save money and don't mind a daily commute in the subway, you can also check accommodations a bit outside of the city centre. And if you're looking for the fully traditional Korean experience than have a look at Hanok-Stays - the Korean traditional housing. 

2.6. Language

While English is commonly spoken in most tourist hubs like Myeongdong, Gangnam, Hongdae or Itaewon, branching out with basic Korean phrases can truly enrich your Seoul experience. Learning a handful of key expressions can help you navigate beyond the popular areas and connect with locals on a deeper level.

Learning the korean alphabet called hangeul is actually easier than you might think and with some basic phrases like "안녕하세요" (annyeonghaseyo) for "hello" and "감사합니다" (gamsahamnida) for "thank you" you can already achieve a lot when talking to Koreans.

2.7. Hotlines

The area code for South Korea is +82, so when calling a South Korean number from abroad, you need to dial this country code before the actual phone number. There also are area codes that vary for different cities and regions (e.g. 02 for Seoul, 051 for Busan, 010 for mobile phone numbers). But for the following numbers those are not necessary either if you are in South Korea:

2.8. Money

South Korea uses the Korean Won (KRW) as its currency, so familiarize yourself with the currency and the current exchange rates. 

Make sure you've saved enough funds to cover accommodation, activities, and unforeseen expenses. Flights, Hotels and activities can be quite pricey, but you can save a lot through Korea's cheap public transportation and food options.

Depending on your general budget and standards, I recommend

70-110$

per day per person including accommodation, transportation, food and activities.

Credit cards are widely accepted and offer convenience, security, and favorable exchange rates. Among the credit cards commonly recognized in South Korea are Visa, Mastercard, American Express, JCB, and many more. Remember to inform your bank of your travel plans to prevent any payment disruptions.

I recommend you get some cash, even though you can pay almost anything with your credit card - you know.. just in case. You can either use one of the exchange booths at the airports, in Myeongdong or Itaewon or you get cash through your credit card from an ATM, e.g. located in front of most convenience stores. Usually those offer quite bad exchange rates, so check out the following service and their Kiosks at the airport:

If you're too afraid that your Credit Card could be declined, I can highly recommend the Namane Card - a transportation card that works like a korean bank card. Find more about that in the Paragraph about Transportation.

2.9. Packlist

✴ Papago

The biggest challenge when traveling in Korea is the language. Papago is by far the best Korean to English translator, can also translate websites and even has a conversation and photo feature.

✴ Kakao/NaverMap

Since Google Maps has limited functionality in South Korea, it is recommended to download one of the Korean map apps. KakaoMaps and NaverMaps are the two most commonly used options.

✴ KakaoTalk

Koreans mainly use KakaoTalk instead of WhatsApp or Telegram. So when you make a new friend, they usually don't ask for your cell phone number, but for your KakaolD.

✴ Naver

Instead of Google, Naver is the most used search engine in Korea. Restaurant reviews, blogs, booking tools can usually be found quickly on Naver. Compared to Google, I tend to find a local recommendation or hidden gem here more easily.

✴ KoRail

It you are planning a trip to another city in South Korea, you will need a KTX ticket. The easiest way to book this is to use the official Korail app. This way you also avoid the many rip-off websites online.

✴ Taba / KakaoT

Compared to most other big cities, cabs in Korea are much cheaper, so sometimes it's more convenient to take a cab. With Taba or KakaoT that is super easy and you can pay with credit card in the cab.

✴ Seoul Bike

One of my favorite activities in Seoul is a bike ride along the Han River. Although you can find larger bike rentals at the hotspots, you are much more flexible with the Seoul Bike App. Once set up, you can rent and return a bike within seconds.

✴ Currency

There are several different apps in the appstore, but they all have similar functions to convert currencies quickly and easily. Especially in the beginning it helped me to get a feeling for how much money I spend.

✴ AirVisual

In Korea people wear a mask not just because of Covid, but also because of the regularly occurring fine dust pollution. With AirVisual, you can quickly see when it is advisable to wear a mask outside and to do indoor activities.

2.11. Etiquette

✴ Bow:

Bowing is a common form of greeting and showing respect. The deeper the bow, the more respect is conveyed.

✴ Take your shoes off:

It's customary to remove your shoes before entering someone's home or certain traditional establishments.

✴ Don't give tips:

Tipping is not common in South Korea and may even be refused. Exceptional service is already included in the price.

✴ Use Both Hands:

When giving or receiving items, especially money or business cards, use both hands. This gesture reflects politeness and respect for the person you're interacting with.

✴ Remember when Eating:

During meals, wait until the eldest or the host starts eating before you begin. Additionally, avoid sticking chopsticks upright into a bowl of rice, as it resembles a funeral ritual.

✴ Respect Elders:

Respect for elders is deeply ingrained in Korean society. Use formal language and honorifics (ending sentences with "-yo") when addressing older individuals. When pouring drinks, hold the bottle with two hands when offering to someone older than you.

✴ Be silent on Public Transport:

Maintain a quiet demeanor when using public transport. Loud conversations and phone calls are generally considered rude. Use headphones if you want to listen to music or watch videos.

✴ Cover Shoulders and Knees at Temples:

If you plan to visit temples or religious sites, dress modestly. Cover your shoulders and knees as a sign of respect for the sacred space.

✴ Queue up:

Whether you're waiting for public transport, entering an establishment, or even using an elevator, respect the queue. Cutting in line is considered impolite.

✴ Sort trash:

South Korea has strict waste disposal regulations. Sort your trash into different categories, including food waste, recyclables, and general waste. Familiarize yourself with the local guidelines to contribute to the country's eco-friendly efforts.

3. ARRIVAL

3.1. Incheon Airport

When arriving at Seoul's Main Airport there are some important steps to go through. First, you'll proceed to immigration, where you'll need your passport and visa ready for inspection. The process is generally efficient, and friendly immigration officers are there to assist you in English or Korean.

After that, you'll head to baggage claim to collect your luggage. Incheon Airport is known for its quick baggage handling, so I promise you won't be waiting long!

Once you have your bags, it's time to breeze through customs. Please check the latest customs regulations for South Korea when packing your suitcase.

Finally, you'll step out of the arrivals area into a bustling terminal filled with helpful signs and information booths. Make sure to get a Korean SIM Card and some cash before leaving the airport. Find a map of the Airport Facilities below.

3.2. Internet

Right after clearing customs, you'll spot various kiosks and mobile service providers offering SIM cards tailored to your data and duration needs. Whether it's a short stay or an extended visit, you can easily choose a prepaid SIM card with a suitable data package.

Once inserted into your phone, you'll be instantly connected to South Korea's fast and reliable mobile networks, ensuring you can navigate, communicate, and share your Korean adventures with ease. It is usually much cheaper, faster and more reliable than buying an International Data Package from your home network provider. Just make sure your phone is not SIM-locked by the company you bought it from (still quite common in US & Japan).

Here my recommendation for tourists:

And here my recommendation for both - short & longterm travelers / Visa holders. Refer to Nextstopkorea to get some discount on longterm contracts!

In case you come for a few weeks and with a friend or in case your phone might have a SIM Lock, maybe getting a Pocket Wifi Device is an option for you:

4. Transportation

4.1. Transportation Cards

First, let me introduce you to your new best travel-buddy: a Korean transportation card! Those smart cards offer a convenient and efficient way to pay for various modes of public transportation, including subways, buses, taxis, some ferries and even can be used as a payment method at many convenience stores. Users can recharge those cards and use them as often as they want by easily tapping them on card readers when boarding or leaving public transportation. They can be used not just in Seoul, but in the whole country, even on Jeju Island.

You could also buy single ride tickets at the vending machines in every Subway station or get the MPass, which is like a 1 to 7 Day unlimited pass. But for this ticket to be worth it, you have to take the Subway at least 7 times per Day.

So I would highly recommend you to get a transportation card, here are two options explained:

✴ T-Money Card

As an originally government founded company this is the most common card in South Korea - you probably heard of this one too. You can basically find them everywhere with different designs, for example by Kakao or Line Friends or the most famous Kpop Groups (around 4,000-7,000 KRW). You can top up money (only by using cash) at convenience stores and at the machines in every Subway Station and then use it in the whole country for public transportation.

✴ Namane Card

Even though many people might not know about this yet, this is my recommendation! You can not just freely personalize the design of your Namane Card, you can also use it like a normal Korean bank card, top it up with cash or your foreign credit card (with a small transaction fee) and check the remaining amount easily in the app. It's much more convenient and especially for tourists the best option.

You can buy the Namane Card for 7,000 KRW in advance and then pick it up at one of the Kiosks in Incheon Airport (it will be printed with your favorite design within a few minutes):

4.2. Navigation Apps

Some people prefer to read the Seoul Subway or Bus Map simply as it is.. That's absolutely not an option for me :D Luckily there are many Apps you can use to find the best way to get from A to B:

✴ GoogleMaps (works to some extent)

✴ Seoul Subway App

✴ KakaoMap

✴ NaverMap

✴ ...

The last App of this list is the one I use and the one I explain in my Subway Guide. There is no special reason, why I would recommend NaverMaps in comparison to KakaoMaps, it's like Apple vs. Samsung.. You always like what you first got used to :D

4.3. Transportation from Airport

One of the first exciting steps is making your way from Incheon Airport to the vibrant heart of Seoul. There are different options I will just list here. For a full Guide click on the link below!

✴ Airport Railroad Express (AREX)

The AREX is a high-speed train service that provides a fast and quite cheap transportation option from Incheon International Airport to downtown Seoul between 5am and 10pm.

EXPRESS TRAIN TO SEOUL STATION

This is the fastest option, taking approximately 43 minutes to reach Seoul Station without any other stops or traffic jams. The fare is 9,500 Won for adults,

ALL STOP TRAIN WITH MANY STOPS

This train stops at multiple stations and takes about 59 minutes to reach Seoul Station. The fare is lower than the express train - around 4,000 KRW and can be simply entered with a Korean Transportation Card like a normal Subway.

✴ Airport Limousine Bus (my fav!)

Airport limousine buses operate 24/7 and offer a convenient way to reach various destinations in Seoul. The fare can vary based on the route and destination - on average, it can range from 10,000 to 20,000 KRW. You can find detailed route information and fares on this website:

You can easily buy the bus ticket at the airport between Exit 4 & 5, so you don't have time pressure in case your flight is late or you need longer than expected to walk through immigrations etc.

✴ Taxi

In comparison to most western countries Taxis in Korea are quite cheap and usually easily available at the airport. The Taxi fare from Incheon Airport to downtown Seoul can vary based on traffic conditions and the specific location. When leaving the Airport the first "row" is for buses, the second "row" is for all kinds of Taxis (see map above).

GENERAL TAXI

A normal Taxi with often only Korean speaking drivers - a trip to Seoul Downtown is around 70,000 KRW, more if there is a traffic jam or detour. Those Taxis are usually orange, yellow or white. Tip: Show them your Hotel address in NaverMap if they don't speak English.

INTERNATIONAL TAXI

A Taxi option only for foreigners with a fixed price, drivers that speak a bit of English and a reservation system. Alternatively you can find it between Exit 4 & 5 at the Airport. Fares start at 70,000 KRW.

PRIVATE TAXI

The little bit fancier brother of the general taxi.. Those black Taxis are absolutely not worth it in my opinion and with around 100,000 KRW very overpriced. Be careful of English speaking people on the taxi line pushing you to take one of the black taxis!

✴ Private Driver

Of course like at any bigger airport worldwide, you can also get a private airport transfer from various travel agencies and online platforms. Prices for private airport transfers can vary based on the service provider and the type of vehicle but they're sometimes even cheaper than Taxis! I can recommend the easy service from Klook and its partners:

✴ Rent Car

If you need to go to places that are not reached by public transport, you can also rent a car. Be aware, that driving in and around Seoul is definitely challenging and stressful due to traffic and parking availability. I would only recommend it to very good and safe drivers. Rental car prices vary based on the type of car and rental duration.

I usually book my rent cars for anywhere in South Korea via Klook or directly via Lotte Rentcar. Please be aware that you usually need an international drivers license (on Klook some only accept Korean licenses, so check that well) and the credit card that was used when making the booking.

4.5. Transportation within Seoul

From the extensive subway network, various bus routes, well-maintained roadways, comparably cheap Taxis, to the impressive bicycle-sharing system and numerous pedestrian-friendly areas - There are endless ways to explore Seoul. I will explain some in the following paragraphs.

For all public transportation options: Try to avoid the rush hours during 6:30 - 9am and 4:30 - 7pm, as it can get really really busy and crowded in Subways or on the streets during that time.

Seoul
@nextstopkorea
My chosen home and favorite city of all - South Korea’s Capital city is known for its unique mix of modern skyscrapers and traditional Hanok Houses, the best food and endless things to do at every time of year.
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✴ Subway

The Seoul subway fare system is based on distance, so the first 10 km start from 1,250₩. For longer trips a small additional fee will be applied when leaving the station. Seoul Subways usually start operating at 5am and the last train leaves around midnight or until 1am. After that there are usually only night busses and taxis available.

The Seoul subway system is a marvel of efficiency and connectivity, making it the lifeline of the city's bustling urban landscape. With over 20 lines crisscrossing the metropolis and reaching even the farthest corners of the city, it's no wonder that Seoul's subway is renowned as one of the best Subway Systems in the world. Not only is it the fastest way to beat the notorious traffic jams, but it's also remarkably cheap, clean and safe. 

✴ Bus

With an extensive network of routes covering virtually every nook and cranny of Seoul, the bus system is a reliable and cost-effective mode of transit. Especially for people that might be too overwhelmed by the Subway system or that want to see Seoul's lively street scenes while moving from one exciting destination to the next, taking a bus is a great alternative.

You have to enter the bus in the front tapping your T-Money Card on the card reader next to the bus driver. When you want to get out, press the "Stop"-Button and tap your T-Money Card again when leaving through the back doors. I recommend you to keep track of the buses' route on the map, so you don't miss your station, as the screen and speaker announcements are often in Korean only.

Good to know: Seoul Buses are color coded. The red buses are going out of the city (e.g. Incheon or other regions in Gyeonggi Province), the blue ones connect different districts within Seoul, green buses mostly stay within the same district and the very tiny yellow ones are local buses making small loops around a neighborhood.

✴ Taxi

Taxis are comparably cheap in South Korea, so I'm taking a taxi way more often than in Europe. The basic fare of a general Taxi is 4,800 KRW and then the taximeter will keep track of the kilometers travelled. 

To grab a Taxi you can either wait on one of the Taxi Stands at big train or bus stations and around the main tourist attractions, use the app KakaoT or simply hail one off the street by raising your hand. Different than in most other countries, the RED sign saying “빈차” in the window of the taxi symbolizes that it is free. Green is taken and blue is done with work for the day, so avoid those.

Like I mentioned earlier, I recommend you to avoid the black private or "Deluxe" Taxis as they usually offer similar services to normal taxis but for a much higher price. General orange or white taxis are my go to choice^^

✴ Bike

The "Seoul Bike" system - called 따릉이 (Ddareungi) - offers a unique and eco-friendly way to explore the city. With a convenient app and a well-organized network of rental stations, it's easy for both locals and visitors to hop on a bicycle and pedal through Seoul's vibrant streets. The bikes are not only convenient but also affordable, so you can literally see the green white bikes so often on the street or along the Han River.

4.6. Transportation to other cities

While Seoul offers a vibrant and bustling urban experience, I highly recommend travelers to venture beyond the city limits to truly immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of South Korean culture and landscapes. Take a short train or bus ride to discover the country's hidden gems. By venturing out of Seoul, you'll unlock a deeper understanding of South Korea's diverse heritage and natural beauty, creating unforgettable memories along the way.

✴ Train

The high-speed KTX trains are the stars of the show, bringing passengers to other major cities like Busan, Jeonju, Gyeongju or Daegu at speeds of up to 300 km/h (186 mph). The well-maintained rail network also includes slower, more scenic options, such as the Mugunghwa trains, which provide a leisurely journey through picturesque landscapes making stops at smaller cities too. 

✴ Express Bus

Express buses in South Korea are a convenient and affordable way to traverse the country's diverse landscapes and reach destinations beyond the bigger cities. These comfortable, long-distance coaches offer a well-organized network that connects urban centers to charming rural areas and scenic countryside. The buses are equipped with modern amenities, ensuring a pleasant journey with features like Wi-Fi, spacious seats, and on some routes even onboard restrooms.

✴ Rent Car

Within Seoul: Absolutely not recommended! Driving in and close to Seoul is definitely challenging and stressful due to the insane traffic and parking availability. I would only recommend it to very experienced drivers, but even then I would avoid it on all costs :D  

Going out of Seoul? Totally fine and a fun way to see more of the country's stunning landscapes. Especially on Jeju Island or if you're going to a rural area a Rental car is highly recommend to stay flexible and comfortable.

5. EXPLORING

5.1. Must visit places

If you travelled a lot you probably learned one thing: You can never see everything! I lived in Korea for 2 years now and still there are so many places on my bucket list.. it's a never ending story!

So when you come to South Korea, I would recommend you to see some of the "Must Sees" that are tourist hotspots for obvious reasons and mix it up with unique experiences and hidden gems. Here a list of the most famous places in Seoul:

Bukchon Hanok Village
@nextstopkorea
Bukchon Hanok Village is Korea's most famous Hanok Village with a beautiful view on the N Seoul Tower on top of Namsan Mountain. The village offers a glimpse into the city's past with its well-preserved architecture, narrow alleyways, and tranquil courtyards. The fact, that people still live in those houses or rent them for visitors, shows how Koreans still value their traditions until today. Also check my favorite Photospot & the Crafting Activity!
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Gyeongbokgung Palace
@nextstopkorea
Gyeongbokgung Palace, built in 1395, is Seoul's largest and most majestic palace, standing as a captivating testament to Korea's architectural brilliance and royal heritage. Its sprawling grounds, adorned with ornate pavilions, serene gardens, and intricate details, offer a glimpse into the opulence and grandeur of the Joseon Dynasty. Exploring the palace allows one to immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of Korean history, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a deeper understanding of the country's cultural legacy. Many tourists rent a Hanbok - the korean traditional clothing - for their visit, check the link below to find a rental store.
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Lotte World Tower
@nextstopkorea
Lotte World Tower is an impressive architectural marvel and one of South Korea's most iconic skyscrapers. Standing tall at 555 meters, it offers breathtaking panoramic views of Seoul from the observation deck, making it a must-visit destination for both locals and tourists seeking an unforgettable experience.
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N Seoul Tower
@nextstopkorea
N Seoul Tower, also known as Namsan Tower, is an iconic landmark and observation tower located in the heart of Seoul, South Korea. Standing at a height of 236 meters on Namsan Mountain, the tower offers breathtaking panoramic views of the cityscape, including the Han River and surrounding mountains. Aside from its observation deck, N Seoul Tower boasts various attractions, such as restaurants, gift shops, and the famous "Locks of Love" where couples attach padlocks symbolizing their eternal love. Every Day at 3pm you can see a korean cultural performance in front of the tower.
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Yeouido Hangang Park
@nextstopkorea
Yeouido Hangang Park, situated along the Han River in Seoul, is a picturesque urban park with expansive green spaces, cycling paths, and recreational facilities. Among young Koreans it is the most popular spot for picnics, leisure activities, and enjoying stunning views of the river and the N Seoul Tower or Bukhansan. Check surrounding activities and places for explanations and more fun things to do there! Also please note, that the "I SEOUL U" Sign in one picture is not there anymore as the city changed it's slogan to "My Soul, Seoul" and therefore sadly removed all those signs.
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Gangnam Station
@nextstopkorea
From luxurious boutiques and high-end restaurants to stylish clubs and entertainment venues, Gangnam embodies the modern and cosmopolitan spirit of the city, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a taste of Seoul's upscale lifestyle. Also don’t miss the Gangnam Style Horse Dance Stage
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5.2. My Recommendations

If you are looking for some Alternatives to the main tourist spots mentioned above, here some less famous and a bit less crowded recommendations:

✴ Tongin Market 

✴ Namsangol Hanok Village

✴ Deoksugung Palace

✴ Changgyeonggung Palace

✴ Bongeungsa Temple

✴ Gyeonggui Line Forest Park

✴ Eunpyeong Hanok Village

✴ Euljiro Pocha Street

✴ Jeongdong Observatory

✴ Ssamziegil Insadong

✴ Changdeokgung Palace

✴ Seoul Forest

✴ Ihwa Mural Village

✴ Ansan Mountain

✴ Sejong Village

✴ Blue House (Cheong Wa Dae)

✴ Seoullo 7017

✴ Cheonggyecheon Stream

✴ Nodeul Island

✴ Haneul Park

5.3. Must do Activities

5.4. Other places out of Seoul

Even after 2 years I have an endless bucket list of places I want to visit in this country. Here 10 of my favorite trips from Seoul either short One-Day-Trips or longer journeys if you have enough time:

✴ DMZ Tour:

Take a guided tour to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to understand the divided history of North and South Korea. Please keep in mind, that many DMZ Tours do not include the most famous part - the Joint Security Area (JSA) - but they are still very much worth a visit!

Joint Security Area (JSA)
@nextstopkorea
The picture most people have in mind when thinking about the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea is actually just one small part of it: The Joint Security Area. You can see the highly secured border to North Korea from a few meters away and see the famous blue buildings where different politicians met with Kim Jong Un.
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✴ Suwon:

Explore the impressive Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon - designed in the late 18th century to defend the city - and many other sights very close to Seoul City.

Suwon
@nextstopkorea
Explore the impressive Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon - designed in the late 18th century to defend the city - and many other sights very close to Seoul City.
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✴ Nami Island:

Known for its natural beauty and tree-lined paths, Nami Island gained fame from K-Drama "Winter Sonata" but is definitely recommend all over the year!

Nami Island
@nextstopkorea
Known for its natural beauty and tree-lined paths, Nami Island gained fame from K-Drama "Winter Sonata" but I definitely recommend it all over the year - especially during Fall Foliage!
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✴ Busan:

Known for its stunning beaches and fresh seafood, this coastal city is a must-visit. It's one of my favorite places in South Korea!

Busan
@nextstopkorea
Known for its stunning beaches and fresh seafood, this coastal city is a must-visit. It's one of my favorite places in South Korea and even though it's just another big metropole, it has a very very different vibe in comparison to Seoul.
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✴ Jeonju:

A beautiful huge Hanok Village in the middle of the country especially recommended during Cherry Blossom. Must Try: Jeonju Bibimbap & ChocoPie!

Jeonju
@nextstopkorea
A beautiful huge Hanok Village in the middle of the country especially recommended during Cherry Blossom. Must Try: Jeonju Bibimbap & ChocoPie!
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✴ Gangneung:

Famous for Coffee and its stunning beaches this East Sea city is a perfect retreat from the crowded and hectic metropolis.

Gangneung
@nextstopkorea
Famous for Coffee and its stunning beaches this East Sea city is a perfect retreat from the crowded and hectic metropolis. Especially K-Drama and K-Pop Fans will have a lot to see here!
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✴ Danyang:

My absolute top recommendation but unfortunately there are not many organized group trips yet. If you're in to plan it yourself, this is one of the most beautiful spots to visit! (Combine it with the close by city Jecheon for a 2-3 day trip)

Danyang
@nextstopkorea
My absolute top recommendation for travelers, that like to organize a tour by themselves, as unfortunately there are not many organized group trips to Danyang yet. (Combine it with the close by city Jecheon for a 2-3 day trip)
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✴ Gyeongju:

Often referred to as the "Museum Without Walls," Gyeongju is a UNESCO World Heritage site with ancient tombs, temples, and ruins.

Gyeongju
@nextstopkorea
Often referred to as the "Museum Without Walls," Gyeongju is a UNESCO World Heritage site with ancient tombs, temples, palaces and ruins. It's the Go-To-City for people who really want to deep dive into old Korean culture, history and traditions.
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✴ Jeju Island:

A volcanic island with dramatic landscapes, waterfalls, and hiking trails. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular travel destination.

Jeju Island
@nextstopkorea
A volcanic island with dramatic landscapes, waterfalls, and hiking trails. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular travel destination. For Jeju I highly highly recommend getting a rent car as traveling around by public transportation will take you much longer. It's still possible of course and there are good offers for private drivers too, if you don't want to drive yourself.
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5.5. Food

Korean food is the reason I decided to move to Korea instead of any other country :D It's crazy delicious and has so so much to offer. Here some examples for Korean Dishes:

✴ Kimchi:

The Korean National Dish -Fermented Napa Cabbage

✴ Bibimbap:

Rice Bowl with Vegetables, Red Pepper Paste, Beef or Tofu

✴ Bulgogi:

Thinly Sliced Marinated Beef or Pork grilled to Perfection

✴ Tteokbokki:

Spicy Stir-fried Rice Cakes often with Fishcake

✴ Korean BBQ:

Usually Pork belly or Marinated Beef or Pork Ribs

✴ Jjajangmyeon:

Chewy Noodles with a thick, savory Black Bean Sauce

✴ Korean Fried Chicken:

The best Fried Chicken of the World.. trust me

✴ Kimbap:

Seaweed Rolls with Rice, Vegetables, Beef, Crab or Tuna

✴ Naengmyeon:

Spicy (Bibim〃) or non spicy (Mul〃) Korean Cold Noodles

✴ Haemul Pajeon:

Savory Seafood Pancake (or a Green Onion Version)

If you're overwhelmed with finding great restaurants, cafes or in general putting together a great itinerary, let me plan that for you:

5.6. Festivals

Koreans loooooove festivals, experiences and fun activities.. So there are endless festivals happening during the year. From Music, art, traditions, food to fireworks or other special occasions - Korea offers festivals for everyone!

✴ Chilgapsan Ice Fountain Festival

Snow and Ice Sculptures, grilled potatoes and the best part: a completely frozen waterfall (January)

✴ Jeongwol Daeboreum Fire Festival

Marks the first full moon of the lunar year with fire-related activities. (February)

✴ Gwangyang Plum Blossom Festival

200,000 square metres of plum trees near the Seomjin River, in an area known as Maehwa Village in Gwangyang. (March)

✴ Cherry Blossom Festivals

Join locals in celebrating spring's arrival with breathtaking cherry blossoms. Jinhae Gunhangje Festival is one of the most famous. (April)

✴ Buddhas Birthday Festivals

Lantern Displays, Big parades and my favorite: special temple stay offers in temples all over the country. (May)

✴ Gangneung Danoje Festival

Traditional festival featuring mask dances, rituals, and cultural performances. (June)

✴ Waterbomb Festivals

Big music festivals in every bigger city in Korea featuring fun water activities - water guns are a must to bring to cool down. (July)

✴ Boryeong Mud Festival

Enjoy mud-based activities, music, and fireworks at this unique and lively summer festival. (August)

✴ Andong Mask Dance Festival

Experience traditional mask dance performances, showcasing Korean folklore and culture. (September)

✴ Seoul Firework Festival

A stunning fireworks display along the Han River, accompanied by music and performances. (October)

✴ Geoje Island Flower Festival

Enjoy fall at its best on the beautiful island with this event full of flowers and activities for the family. (November)

✴ Lantern Festivals

Colorful lantern displays that illuminate the hearts of many cities in South Korea, the biggest one happens in Seoul. (December)

5.7. Shopping

Korea is a shopper's paradise, where traditional markets and modern malls coexist harmoniously, offering an array of unique and trendy products. 

Most stores and markets open around 10 AM and close between 9 PM and 10 PM. However, some smaller shops might have shorter hours, and certain areas, like Myeongdong, stay bustling well into the night. And of course most Convenience Stores are open 24 hours. Banks, Post offices and government organizations usually open from Monday to Friday 9 AM to 6 PM.

Here some recommended places to shop:

✴ Myeongdong for Skin Care & Streetfood

✴ Dongdaemun Market for Clothes

✴ Dongmyo Market for Second Hand

✴ Hongdae Street for Clothes & Accessories

✴ Namdaemun Market for various stuff

✴ Insadong for Traditional Craft

✴ Department Stores for various stuff

✴ Duty Free Shops for various stuff

✴ N Seoul Shop for Souvenirs

I am certain that you will love your stay in Korea and even if you won't be able to see and explore everything (I lived here for 2 years and there are still endless things I haven't done) I hope that you will go home packed with great memories! Come back soon ♡

Make sure to check out my other Guides:

I also have more detailed Infos on my Blog:

And finally don't forget to tell me if this Guide helped you:

* * *
CURATED BY
When I made the move from Germany to Korea in 2021, my life took a thrilling turn. From day one, I've been sharing this amazing journey with my Instagram community, as "Next Stop: Korea." Living the city life in Seoul, I've become the go-to buddy and your guide for friends and family visiting but also organized trips and planned itineraries for some of my lovely followers. So, if you're looking for tips on the must-see spots, those hidden gems that don't make the guidebooks, and the best of what Seoul has to offer, I've got you covered! But hey, as much as I adore Seoul, I'm all about encouraging travelers to explore beyond the city limits. Think the beaches of Busan, the coastal charm of Gangneung, the culture explosion in Jeonju, and the paradise vibes of Jeju – I've been lucky enough to explore over 40 of these fantastic places, and my Korean adventure wishlist is still going strong! :D Fast-forward to 2023, and I officially became a Content Creator for the Korea Tourism Organization and also got the title of “Global Seoulmate” - an Ambassador for the city of Seoul. It has made me even more excited to share the wonders of this incredible country! I'm here to be your go-to Travel Guide, offering practical advice, killer itineraries packed with Must sees, hidden gems and my personal faves, and the lowdown on Korea's stunning landscapes, unique architecture, friendly folks, and mouthwatering cuisine. Plus, if you're thinking about making the leap and moving to Korea, I've got your back with consultation calls and lots of infos about that on instagram. Long story short, I'm all about making your Korean adventure unforgettable, so don't hesitate to reach out. Let's make your K-adventure one for the books! 🇰🇷✨
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