Six Great Tips to Follow While Traveling to South Korea
South Korea may not find a place on every traveler’s itinerary, but it is one destination that should be visited at least once in a lifetime. The land of the morning calm has a whole lot of fascinating ‘faces’ to be experienced — history, food, culture, and religion. Here are some tips that travelers and expats can keep in mind while contemplating traveling to South Korea.
1. Try Your Hand at Korean
There is no better way to break the ice when in a foreign land than speaking in the native language. Converse with the locals in their mother tongue and win their hearts. But before you can do that, you’ll need to first pick up a few phrases that you can speak easily. Maybe you can even learn a bit of the Korean alphabet so that you manage to read instructions, if necessary. The official writing system of Korea is Hangeul. Contrary to popular belief, it is very easy and the basics of the language can be learned quickly.
2. Immerse Yourself in the Pulsating History and Culture
To be able to truly experience a new country completely, it helps if you’ve done some research into the destination country’s history and culture. Creating a connection with the place you’re going to be visiting will help you understand their traditions and culture. Also, learn about the many festivals Koreans celebrate throughout the year. Agricultural rituals and myths are a big part of the Korean festivals, with Seollal (New Year’s Day) and Chuseok (Harvest Festival) being the biggest ones among them. Time your travel to this part of the world such that your visit coincides with one of the festivals there.
If history interests you, read up about the Joseon dynasty and the Korean War. Some of the century-old traditions are still alive in Korea. The traditional Korean dance and music are still performed due to their continuing popularity with the masses. Travelers and even expats visiting South Korea truly enjoy the mix of old and new while exploring their way through the land of the morning calm.
3. A Date with History and Nature in Korea
Despite a history dating back to more than a thousand years, it’s surprising that South Korea’s culture has not changed much. Travelers can enjoy and experience some of the nation’s oldest cultural heritage sites — Gyeongbokgung Palace (main palace in Seoul), and Gyeongju also called a ‘museum without walls’. Countless royal tombs, palaces, and temples are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites that travelers can enjoy visiting, especially in Gyeongju.
The Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival held in Busan has become a traveler-friendly festival and is close to spots such as Tongyeong, Gyeongju, and Ulsan. For those in search of inner peace and tranquility, enrolling in a one- or two-day temple stay program is an interesting and unique way to experience temple life in Korea. One almost has to live like a Buddhist monk. This program allows travelers to stay in temples across South Korea.
The outdoorsy and not-so-religious travelers can opt for hiking. The Korean peninsula has a predominantly mountainous terrain with several hike trails to explore. Some of the popular hiking trails are Daedunsan near Jeonju, Jirisan’s Baemsagol Course near Namwon, Wolchulsan near Mokpo, and Jogyesan near Suncheon.
4. Savor the Unique Cuisine of Korea
Yes, dog soup exists and is also served in several restaurants across Korea, but its demand is steadily dwindling and it may also go out of fashion in a few years. Most restaurants in the bigger cities of South Korea do not serve dog soup, though some in the countryside do. But over the centuries, Koreans have created a varied and fascinating culture of food that includes meat dishes, stews, soups, noodle dishes, seafood, and several types of vegetable side dishes. Korean food is primarily non-vegetarian because it relies heavily on meat and fish. Expecting to find vegetarian food across South Korea is a challenge, although cities like Seoul do have some options. One good option for vegetarians is trying the Buddhist temple meal.
The country’s number one side dish is Kimchi. It is made of salted and fermented vegetables, stored in jars over a prolonged period. Do try the Korean street food, though you would not have a variety of options to choose from. Dishes such as Naengmyun, Kimchi, Gamjatang, Korean BBQ, Pajeon, are a must-try. Korea also has a fun cafe culture. Most cafes are equipped with Wi-Fi and are a big hit with people who are constantly on the move.
5. Pamper Yourself with Retail Therapy
A visit to South Korea is not complete until the malls and shopping complexes have been explored. Cities like Seoul are flooded with places of shopping interest — Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, Insadong, and Garosugil, among others. You can go crazy shopping, but just keep in mind that most of the shopping places close at 10 pm. Prices are mostly fixed, and haggling is not entertained. Brand labels could be misleading, so shop at your discretion. The locals too love shopping. After fashionable apparel, it is the skincare products that are a big hit with shoppers. Busan has the largest department store in the world.
6. Buy Travel Insurance
Yes, before embarking on your journey to South Korea, consider purchasing some sort of travel insurance. It is prudent to go through the many travel insurance options available to you and then buy the one that best suits your purpose. A policy that covers theft, medical costs, compensation for delays and baggage loss, travel cancellations, etc., can be purchased. It is best to buy a travel insurance policy before you start traveling. For worldwide travel insurance, travelers and expats can consult Global Travel Insurance. With Global Travel Insurance, you can buy and extend your policy even when you’re on the move for most plans offered by the site.