Security Alert May 17, 2024

Worldwide caution, update may 10, 2024, information for u.s. citizens in the middle east.

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Travelling to Singapore

Travellers should refer to the  ICA website  for the latest information on travelling to/from or transiting through Singapore. For the latest updates on Singapore's COVID-19 situation, please refer to the MOH website at  https://www.moh.gov.sg/covid-19 .   

Entry and Exit

Singapore passport holders are not required to apply for visas for short-term entry into the Republic of Korea (less than 90 days).

Travellers intending to travel to the Republic of Korea should refer to the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Singapore’s website for the latest entry requirements.

Travellers may also refer to the Embassy of Singapore in Seoul’s  website     and Facebook  page  for the latest travel updates.

Safety and Security

Travellers should undertake the usual precautions and be responsible for your own safety. In addition, be mindful of your belongings (e.g. passports, credit cards and cash) in crowded places and areas frequented by foreigners. You may also download the free "Emergency Ready App", released by the South Korean  government  for more information on local emergency services, hospitals and emergency shelter locations.

Singaporeans should take extra precaution when hiking in the mountains, particularly at night. It would be best to go with a guide who is familiar with the route and terrain. There have been several incidents of Singaporeans getting lost in the mountains while hiking in the dark and requiring rescue assistance. 

It is mandatory for foreigners to carry their passport or alien registration card at all times. Failure to produce either of the aforementioned when asked to by law enforcement officials is a chargeable offence. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of drugs can result in long prison sentences and heavy fines. 

Additional Information

Air quality varies throughout the year, and yellow dust pollution typically peaks during Spring. Depending on the levels of pollution, the South Korean Government may advise all, particularly the elderly and those with respiratory issues, to restrict their outdoor activities. The Korea Meteorological Service Website ( http://www.kma.go.kr/eng/weather/asiandust/forecastchart.jsp ) does provide pollution related forecasts, though this is typically only available from March to May.

General Travel Advice

Overseas Travel – Be Informed & Be Safe [Updated on 5 February 2024]

Singaporeans planning overseas travel are reminded to take the necessary precautions, including being prepared to deal with accidents, natural disasters or terrorist attacks. Singaporeans are also reminded to be familiar with your destination’s local laws, customs, and COVID-19 regulations.

Demonstrations do occur in major cities across the world. Such demonstrations can sometimes escalate into violence. It is important for Singaporeans to keep abreast of local news, avoid any protests or demonstrations and heed the advice of the local authorities.

When participating in outdoor leisure activities overseas, Singaporeans should be mindful that certain sporting activities, especially in open seas, may carry risks. Besides ensuring that one has the physical competencies and appropriate condition to undertake the activity, every effort should be made to ascertain if the trip organiser or guide is reliable and competent, and that appropriate safety and contingency plans are in place. When in doubt, Singaporeans should consult the relevant professional bodies or sporting associations for specific advice.

For those planning to travel, here are some tips:

Before travelling

  • Familiarise yourself with our network of overseas missions.
  • Purchase comprehensive travel insurance and be familiar with the terms and coverage.
  • Equip yourself with research about your destination’s entry requirements, current situation, local laws and customs.
  • eRegister with us on our website ( www.mfa.gov.sg ) so that we may reach out to you during an emergency.

While travelling

  • Always take care of your personal safety, remain vigilant and monitor local weather news, advisories, and security developments.
  • Exercise caution around large gatherings and avoid locations known for demonstrations or disturbances.
  • Be prepared for possible delays and last-minute changes in travel plans especially during unforeseen events such as natural disasters, social unrest or terror attacks.
  • Stay connected with your friends and family. Inform them of your whereabouts and provide them with your overseas contact details.
  • In the event that you require consular assistance, please contact the nearest Singapore Overseas Mission or call the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Duty Office at +65 6379 8800/+65 6379 8855.

Advisory: Email Scams

There have been reports of individuals receiving scam emails/messages purportedly sent from friends in distress overseas. These emails/messages typically originate from an email address/social media known to the receiver bearing claims of the sender getting into trouble overseas and urgently requesting financial assistance. The sender would also claim to have approached a Singapore Embassy/Consulate and the local Police for help to no avail.

MFA takes the safety of all Singaporeans very seriously.  Singaporeans in distress approaching our Overseas Missions for assistance will be rendered with all necessary consular assistance.  If you receive such emails/messages from purported friends seeking funds transfers, we strongly advise you to call them first to verify the authenticity of the emails/messages before responding to their request.  It is also not advisable to give out any personal information such as NRIC/passport numbers, address, telephone number, etc.  Any form of reply, even one of non-interest, could result in more unsolicited emails.  Members of the public who suspect that they have fallen prey to such scams should report the matter to the Police immediately.  Should Singaporeans abroad require consular assistance, they can contact the nearest Singapore Overseas  Mission  or call the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 24-hr Duty Office at +65 6379 8800/+65 6379 8855.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a ministry of the Government of Singapore responsible for conducting and managing diplomatic relations between Singapore and other countries and regions.

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In My Korea

Complete South Korea Travel Guide 2024: Korean Travel Tips

Planning a trip to Korea but not sure where to start? First-time traveller who isn’t sure if Korea is the right country for your next trip? Worried about travelling to Korea and facing problems with the Korean language, culture, money, Internet, transportation, hotels, food, or etiquette? Then this complete South Korea travel guide is packed full of tips that you’ll certainly need.

You’ll find all the best Korean travel tips and advice in this article. Whether you’re a first-time traveller to Korea, or you’ve visited before, this South Korea travel guide will show what to see, when to travel, and which places to visit, as well as help you avoid any difficult situations or surprising culture shocks.

This guide is designed to walk you through everything you need to know to prepare for your trip to Korea. You can use it to plan your itinerary, to pre-book travel essentials, to learn about what festivals and seasonal events are on, and to find more reasons to want to travel to Korea right now.

Table of Contents

Affiliate Disclaimer :  This site contains affiliate links and I may earn commission for purchases made after clicking these links.

What’s In This South Korea Travel Guide

South Korea Travel Guide For Seoul And Korea

This South Korea travel guide covers all the essential information you need to plan a trip to Korea. This is useful for first-time travellers to Korea who might not be aware of uniquely Korean cultural and travel issues. Even if you’ve visited Korea before, I’m sure you can learn a lot from this travel guide.

This article contains lots of insights and knowledge about travelling to Korea and is quite long. I’ve added links in each section to articles that provide more information about each topic. Therefore, I suggest viewing this South Korea travel guide on a desktop computer as it will be easier to read.

What Are You Looking For?

To help make it easier for you to find what you’re looking for, I’ve broken this article into the following sections. Click the quick links below to jump straight there or keep reading through all parts.

Korean Travel News And Travel Restrictions

Latest Travel News

Current Requirements To Travel To Korea

Entry Requirements

Why You Should Travel To Korea

Why Visit Korea

The Best Time To Visit Korea

When To Visit

How To Book Flights To Korea

Flights To Korea

Where To Stay In Seoul New

Where To Stay

Cost To Travel In South Korea

Korea Travel Costs

Travel Money And Money Exchanges In Korea

Travel Money

Mobile Phones And Internet In Korea

Phones & Internet

Using Public Transport In Korea

Public Transport

Best Places To Visit In Korea

Where To Visit

Best Day Tours From Seoul

Seoul Day Tours

Best Sights To See In Korea

Sightseeing Spots

Best Activities To Try In Korea

Korean Activities

Best Korean Festivals To Join

Korean Festivals

Recommended Itinerary For Korea

1-Week Itinerary

Cultural Issues When Visiting Korea

Culture Issues

Language Issues When Travelling Korea

Language Issues

Health And Safety Issues In Korea

Health & Safety

Personal Travel Tips For Korea

Korean Travel Tips

Korean Travel News And Travel Restrictions 2024

Latest Korean Travel News

This section of the South Korea travel guide will show you the latest travel news and restriction updates, including any temporary or permanent changes to the entry process, visa changes, and other things that might affect travel to Korea. COVID-related updates will also be posted here.

Latest Korean Travel News In 2024

This section will detail any interesting or important travel news that could affect travellers to Korea, such as price increases in public transport, travel changes, new services, or closures.

The Korean government is aiming to boost tourism to Korea by doubling the amount travellers can claim back in tax when shopping in Korea. From 2024, travellers will be able to claim up to 5,000,000 KRW on eligible purchases with a limit of 1,000,000 KRW tax back per transaction. Source : Korea Herald

From August 2023, the price to travel on buses in Seoul is set to rise. Bus fares will rise to 1,500 KRW per journey. From October 7th, 2023, Seoul’s subway fares will rise to 1,400 KRW per journey. Other cities in Korea will enact similar rises throughout 2023 to cover higher costs of public transportation. Source : Korea Herald

From July 15th, 2023, the requirement to register your health condition through the Q-Code portal will be scrapped. Source : Korea Times

From July 3rd, 2023, children aged 17 years and younger, as well as adults aged 65 and older, will no longer need to apply for a K-ETA to travel to Korea. Furthermore, the validity period has been increased from 2 years to 3 years to make travelling to Korea easier. Source: K-ETA website .

From June 2023, Korea will end almost all pandemic-related restrictions for tourists and locals. Masks will no longer be necessary except in hospitals and infected people no longer face mandatory self-isolation (although the government still recommends 5 days self-isolation). Q-Code requirements haven’t been mentioned, however. Source : Korea Herald .

From April 2023 until December 2024, travellers from 22 countries won’t have to complete a K-ETA when visiting Korea, saving time and money for citizens of those countries. People from other countries still need a K-ETA. Source : K-ETA

The 22 countries temporarily excluded from the K-ETA requirement are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Macao, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, UK, US (including Guam).

From April 2023, all foreigners under 19 years old (18 and under) can now enter major royal palaces and tombs, including Seoul’s Gyeongbokgung Palace, for free. Previously, all foreigners were made to pay a fee to enter. Source : Korea Herald

From March 2023, a quarter of all buses in Seoul will refuse cash payments and allow only card payments using transportation cards, such as the T-Money card. Seoul’s night buses won’t be included for now, and 262 of Seoul’s 370 bus routes will still accept cash. Expect further increases in cash-free buses in the future. Source : Korea Herald

From February 2023, the base fare for a taxi journey in Korea has increased by 1,000 won to a minimum of 4,800 won. The distance that the base fare applies has also been shortened from 2km to 1.6km, which will make fares more expensive. Source : Korea Times

What Are the Current COVID Restrictions In Korea In 2024?

Korean royal guard outside a palace in Seoul

Korea has been removing COVID-related restrictions in the country throughout 2022 and 2023. It is no longer necessary to show a QR code to enter a building and restrictions involving masks and health checks have mostly gone. The latest COVID-related rules for Korea are as follows .

Masks : From Monday, March 20th, Korea has removed the mandatory mask rule for public transport, one of the final places that masks were required for the general public. The only places that require a face mask (from June 1st) are in medical facilities (hospitals). Masks are not mandatory elsewhere, including in schools, shops, restaurants or anywhere outside. Source : Korea Herald

Self-Quarantine : From June 1st, Korea will no longer impose a mandatory self-isolation period on infected people. The government instead ‘recommends’ a period of self-isolation for 5 days to reduce the chance of transmission to other people. Source : Korea Herald

For further details about the latest COVID requirements for entering or travelling in Korea, check out the second section of this South Korea travel guide, which has a list of all the updated entry requirements, including visas, tests, and other considerations.

Planning to visit Korea? These travel essentials will help you plan your trip, get the best deals, and save you time and money before and during your Korean adventure.

Visas & K-ETA: Some travellers to Korea need a Tourist Visa , but most can travel with a Korean Electronic Travel Authorisation (K-ETA). Currently 22 Countries don’t need either one.

How To Stay Connected : Pre-order a Korean Sim Card or a WiFi Router to collect on-arrival at Incheon Airport (desks open 24-hours). Alternatively, download a Korean eSIM for you travels.

Where To Stay : For Seoul, I recommend Myeongdong (convenient), Hongdae (cool culture) or Gangnam (shopping). For Busan, Haeundae (Beach) or Seomyeon (Downtown).

Incheon Airport To Seoul : Take the Airport Express (AREX) to Seoul Station or a Limo Bus across Seoul. Book an Incheon Airport Private Transfer and relax to or from the airport.

Korean Tour Operators : Tour companies that have a big presence in Korea include Klook , Trazy , Viator , and Get Your Guide . These sites offer discounted entry tickets for top attractions.

Seoul City Passes : Visit Seoul’s top attractions for free with a Discover Seoul Pass or Go City Seoul Pass . These passes are great for families and couples visiting Seoul – you can save lots.

How To Get Around : For public transport, grab a T-Money Card . Save money on Korea’s high speed trains with a Korea Rail Pass . To see more of Korea, there are many rental car options from Klook , EconomyBookings , and RentalCars .

Travel Money : Use money exchanges near Myeongdong and Hongdae subway stations for the best exchange rates. Order a Wise Card or WOWPASS to pay by card across Korea.

Flights To Korea : I use flight comparison sites such as Expedia and Skyscanner to find the best flights to Korea from any country. Air Asia is a good option for budget flights from Asia.

Travel Insurance : It is important to insure your trips to protect yourself against the unexpected. World Nomad is a specialized travel insurance provider with options for different coverage for travellers from around the world. You can also purchase cover when you are already travelling.

How To Learn Korean : The language course from 90 Day Korean or Korean Class 101 both have well-structured lessons and lots of useful resources to help you learn Korean.

Current Requirements To Travel To Korea In 2024

Passport and other documents for travelling to Korea

This part of the South Korea travel guide is for tourists . If you plan to travel for business, employment, or other reasons, check your nearest Korean embassy for the latest travel requirements.

Most of the restrictions and requirements for travelling to Korea have now been scrapped. You can see what entry and travel rules are in place for Korea in the table below:

The following section provides more information and exceptions about these requirements:

COVID-positive travellers should avoid travelling to Korea : To avoid infecting others on the way to Korea, as well as in Korea, the Korean government recommends that you shouldn’t travel to Korea if you exhibit COVID-symptoms or have tested positive. Self-quarantine is mandatory in Korea.

There are no PCR or other testing requirements : It is not necessary to take a PCR or other test before travelling to Korea. However, you will be asked to take a test if you show symptoms of COVID or similar illnesses when travelling to or arriving in Korea.

There is no quarantine on arrival : Travellers to Korea no longer need to quarantine when entering Korea. From June 1st, there is only a ‘recommended’ 5 day self-isolation period for infected travellers, but this is not enforced.

Complete the self-health check before or on arrival : From July 15th, 2023, travellers to Korea no longer need to complete a Q-Code self-health check or declare their health status on arrival.

Apply for a K-ETA or tourist visa before travelling : You need to apply for either a K-ETA or tourist visa for South Korea before flying to the country. Entry will be prohibited without the correct one. From April 1st, 2023 until December 31st, 2024, 22 countries are excluded from the K-ETA.

If you’re not sure which of these you need to apply for, more information is provided in the next section of this South Korea travel guide about the K-ETA and tourist visa for Korea.

K-ETA (Korean Electronic Travel Authorisation)

The K-ETA (Korean Electronic Travel Authorisation) is an online travel authorisation that visa-free foreign visitors aged 18 to 65 must obtain before entering the Korea for tourism, visiting relatives, participating in events or meetings, and for business purposes other than profitable activities.

Tourists from 112 eligible countries need to apply for a K-ETA before travelling to Korea and won’t be allowed to board a flight to Korea without it. The approval process isn’t difficult, but requires accommodation details, travel dates, and personal details such as passport number, etc.

From April 1st, 2023 until December 31st, 2024, the Korean government has decided to suspend the K-ETA requirement for travellers from the following 22 countries:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Macao, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, UK, US (including Guam).

The aim is to reduce the burden of travellers coming to Korea and to encourage more people to visit Korea during the ‘Visit Korea Year’, which runs during 2023 and 2024.

Source : K-ETA website news .

From July 3rd, 2023, the Korean government will no longer ask for travellers who are 17 years and younger, or 65 years and older, to apply for a K-ETA when visiting Korea. These are ages based on the time you travel to Korea, not the age when you apply to travel.

Furthermore, the validity period of the K-ETA is now 3 years, not 2 years. The Korean government has decided to extend the validity period to make it easier for people to travel to Korea.

The K-ETA is based on your nationality , not the country you’re travelling from. That means, if you require a tourist visa from your home country (e.g. the Philippines), but are travelling from a country that requires a K-ETA (e.g. the USA), you can’t use the K-ETA to travel to Korea.

Tourists should apply as far in advance as possible at the official K-ETA website. If you would like to know more about the K-ETA, check out my article explaining what is the K-ETA . The K-ETA costs 10,000 KRW (about $9.00 USD). If you are charged more than this, you’re on the wrong site.

Official K-ETA website

Not sure if you need a K-ETA? Check out this infographic to find out.

Do You Need A K-ETA Poster

Will The K-ETA End In The Future?

The K-ETA will continue for the indefinite future. It is not a pandemic-related travel restriction but a permanent feature that just happened to start in 2021. The Korean government have stated that the K-ETA will be ongoing and other countries and areas, such as the EU, are planning similar ETAs.

Update : In July 2023, the Korean government stopped requiring children 17 years and younger and adults 65 years and older to apply for a K-ETA. The validity period was also increased to 3 years.

Update : In April 2023, the Korean government suspended the K-ETA for travellers from 22 countries (listed previously). This is in an effort to reduce the burden on travellers visiting Korea during the ‘Visit Korea Years’ of 2023 and 2024. This lasts until December 2024, but could possibly go on longer.

Tourist Visas For South Korea

Tourists that aren’t from one of the 112 countries that require a K-ETA to travel to Korea will need to apply for a tourist visa. This includes nationals from countries such India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines. Tourist visas are based on nationality (passport), not country of residence.

The process to apply for a tourist visa differs depending on the country and may be as simple as submitting an application at the Korean embassy in the country you live in. For other countries, it may be necessary to submit extra information like bank statements and a full itinerary.

If you need a tourist visa for South Korea, contact your nearest Korean embassy as soon as you can to start the process. Tourist visas may be rejected, delayed, or take longer than expected. For some countries, such as the Philippines, it is necessary to apply through a specialist visa agency.

Transit Tour Visas For South Korea

Travel advisory about visa-free entry to Korea

Visa-free entry for foreign transit passengers at Incheon Airport will resume from May 2023 after being suspended for 3 years during the pandemic. There are two types of visa-free transit entry methods for travellers to Korea, they differ in length, requirements, and eligibility.

The first type of visa-free entry for transit passengers is open to all travellers to Korea and allows entry for 3 days, as long as they take a transit tour from Incheon Airport. The second type of visa-free entry for transit passengers is available for 30 days, but only from travellers from 36 select countries.

Visa-Free Entry For Transit Passengers (3 Days)

From May 15, 2023, travellers from any country can travel from Incheon Airport to the Seoul Metropolitan area for up to 3 days, as long as they book at least 1 transit tour from Incheon Airport. If Korea is not their final destination, they’re free to explore more of Seoul after the tour.

There are a wide range of transit tours available from Incheon Airport, including cultural, historic, food, shopping, and entertainment tours. See the sights of Seoul’s most popular places in a few hours, or stay for longer and see more. You can find out more about transit tours from the Visit Korea website .

Requirements : To be eligible for a transit tour visa, travellers must:

  • Have an onward flight to their home country or a 3rd country after Korea.
  • Participate in a transit tour program by a designated travel agency.
  • Stay within the Seoul Metropolitan area only.
  • Have more than 2 hours between connecting flights.

Eligible countries : Visa-free entry with a transit tour is open to passengers of all countries, as long as they meet the above requirements.

Tip : If you have a transit tour in Korea, I recommend staying in Hongdae , as there is a direct train from Incheon Airport to Hongdae called the All-Stop Airport Line. Hongdae is also a really fun place where you can see lots of culture, try Korean dishes, and pack your suitcase with Korean souvenirs.

Transit passenger tour information for South Korea

Visa-Free Entry For Transit Passengers (30 Days)

This will allow travellers from 36 countries to enter and stay in Korea for up to 30 days without a Korean visa. Travellers must be travelling to or from one of these 36 countries to be eligible to stay in Korea without a visa. This includes passengers who are not citizens of those countries.

Requirements : To be eligible for a visa-free entry as a transit passenger, travellers must:

  • Hold an onward flight to any of the 36 countries mentioned below.
  • Have no illegal stay records of any kind, nor have been denied entry to Korea.
  • Not have exceeded a maximum of 3 days stay in any other transit airport.

Eligible countries : Travellers from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and 32 EU countries (see picture below) can stay for up to 30 days, as long as the above-mentioned requirements are met.

Transit tour information for South Korea

Why You Should Travel To Korea In 2024

Women in hanbok at Korean palace in Seoul

There’s not enough space in this South Korea travel guide to write down all of the reasons why you should travel to South Korea. Korea is an under-appreciated gem that has so much to discover and experience that’s completely different from what you’ll find in other countries.

Much the way that Japan has a very distinct culture and history, Korea has lots of unique, appealing places to see, people to meet, history to learn about, and natural sights to appreciate. Many people only see a small slice of Korean culture and beauty through modern media, but there’s a lot more.

Here are some of the reasons you should travel to Korea:

  • Delicious foods and tasty seasonal dishes.
  • Four distinct seasons that offer a variety of views.
  • Fascinating history to learn about and explore.
  • Stunning mountains and beaches for outdoor lovers.
  • Unique and unusual festivals throughout the year.
  • Friendly locals and a safe country to travel around.
  • Modern, high-tech cities that are clean and efficient.
  • Welcoming Buddhist temples and temple stays.
  • Cheaper than most other developed countries.
  • A shopper’s paradise with many markets and malls .
  • Korea really wants you to come and visit.

Korea wants you to visit so much that they declared 2023-2024 the Visit Korea Year . This two-year period, confusingly referred to as a single year, is set to feature loads of events and activities to draw tourists to Korea, and includes promotions for discounted flights, accommodation, and food.

Some of the events you can expect to see during the Visit Korea Year(s) include K-Pop concerts, e-sports competitions, food festivals, and cultural celebrations. There’ll be K-Cultural stars involved, too, including your favourite K-Pop and K-Drama stars. Get ready to travel to Korea soon!

Want to know what you can do in Korea that you can’t do in other countries? Check out these amazing unique Korean experiences that should definitely be on your Korean bucket list.

The Best Time To Visit Korea

Beautiful Korean Pagoda At Royal Palace In Seoul In Autumn

The best time to visit Korea is in spring (late-March to May) or autumn (mid-September until mid-November). These seasons have the most comfortable weather, ranging from 10 to 30 degrees Celsius, an average amount of rain, and also have the most festivals and events.

My favourite months to travel in Korea are April and October . Early-April is when cherry blossoms come out and the weather warms up enough to stop wearing a jacket. October in Korea is a beautiful month when autumn foliage sweeps across the country and the weather is warm and calm.

When you travel to Korea, the season you travel in can have a big impact on what you can see, eat, and do. This section of the South Korea travel guide is one of the most important and if you want to travel to Korea in the future, I recommend learning about Korea’s seasons before making plans.

What Can You See In Korea Each Season?

Although spring and autumn are undoubtedly the best time to visit Korea, there are plenty of reasons to visit in other seasons, too. Visitors to Korea who are restricted to travelling during certain times, such as during school or work holidays, needn’t be put off by travelling in summer or winter.

Here’s a summary of what you can see and do in each season in Korea:

Spring In Korea Gyeongbokgung Palace

Spring: Cherry Blossoms, Blooming Nature, Culture Festivals

Spring is an amazing season to travel in Korea as you can see colourful plum blossoms (Mar), cherry blossoms (Mar-Apr), and many other bright sights. The warm weather allows people go out more to enjoy cultural activities and spring festivals , such as the Lotus Lantern Festival and Jindo Sea-Parting Festival, and also trekking, hiking, and cycling. Spring is one of the most popular times to travel in Korea for locals, so expect places to be busy, especially around cherry blossom season.

Check out my cherry blossom guide for the best places to see cherry blossoms in Korea.

Summer In Korea Boseong Green Tea Fields

Summer: Beaches, Korean Desserts, Water Sports, Camping

Summer is a difficult season for travellers due to the high humidity and heat. June and July are rainy season in Korea and it may rain for days on end, causing people to change travel plans to indoor activities. In late July and August it gets very hot, which is good for going to the beach and enjoying water sports or water parks, which Korea has many of. Evening activities like hiking, drinking in rooftop bars, and visiting night markets are great ways to get out in summer when it’s not as hot.

Check out my guide to Korean summer activities for the best places to have fun during summer and rainy day activities in Busan in case the weather isn’t so good.

Autumn In Korea Temple Wall Autumn Foliage

Autumn: Foliage, Festivals, Fresh Foods, Harvest Festivals

Autumn is another incredibly popular time to travel in Korea, especially in October when the autumn foliage is at its best. The foliage really brings everything to life, adding shades of colour to plain palace walls, mountains, and parks. The calm weather is warm with clear skies, making it perfect for going into nature to see the fresh fruits and other harvest goods, as well as join in harvest and cultural festivals. Enjoy local Korean dishes, fresh from the farm to your table.

Check out my guide to autumn foliage in Korea for the best places to see the leaves.

Winter In Korea Snowy Temples

Winter: Snow, Winter Sports, Ice Fishing, Light Festivals

Winter in Korea is often neglected due to the cold weather, but is actually a very nice time to travel with delicious winter foods to try. It’s the driest time of year with blue skies making everything bright and beautiful. When it snows, sights look even more incredible. Jeju Island is a great place to visit during winter as it has fresh citrus and colourful camellia flowers to see. You can enjoy winter sports, festivals and activities, such as ice fishing, ice skating, sledding, and more.

Check out my guide to Korean winter activities for the best places to have fun during winter.

What Is The Weather Like In Korea?

The weather in Korea follows a similar pattern each year, spread over five distinct seasons. As well as spring, summer, autumn, and winter, Korea also has a rainy season, which starts around mid-June and finishes mid-July. It doesn’t constantly rain during rainy season, but may do for several days.

There’s always something to do in Korea, no matter what the season. Even rainy season in Korea is fine for travelling, as long as you plan lots of indoor activities and can be flexible with your schedule. Don’t let the weather in Korea put you off visiting, you’ll find plenty to do in each season.

Here’s a summary of the weather in Korea each season:

The graph below shows you the average temperature each month in Seoul. This is an average temperature, so some days will be much hotter and others much colder. I’ve experienced summer temperatures of over 35 degrees and winter nights of -20, so be prepared for both.

Average monthly temperatures in Seoul Korea

The table below shows the average rainfall for each month in Korea, based on records from climate-data.org . The summer months have the most, while winter in Korea is very dry. The rainfall in the winter months can turn to snow when it’s cold enough, too.

There will be more information about the sights, festivals, and events you can enjoy in Korea in later parts of this South Korea travel guide. Check them out for travel ideas for your trip to Korea.

How To Book Flights To Korea

Person looking at flight times

Flying to Korea in 2024 is getting easier with more airlines offering direct or connecting flights to Korea and budget airlines adding more routes to Korea from other parts of Asia and as far away as the USA. There aren’t as many routes as there were in 2019, but they are returning month by month.

Booking a flight to Korea is one of the first things most people do and finding the right flight can really affect your travels. Choosing the right flight not only affects how much money you need to spend, but also when you’ll arrive, how you’ll get to your hotel, and where you’ll arrive in Korea.

Check out my guide to booking flights to Korea to discover the best ways to book a flight to Korea, including the best time to book (21 to 127 days before travel), where to get cheap flights, the various airlines that offer flights to Korea, and lots more.

Arriving At Incheon Airport

Most flights to Korea arrive at Incheon Airport, which is near Seoul. It takes about an hour to get to the centre of Seoul from Incheon Airport and there are various transportation options including a high-speed train, subway, limo buses, taxis, and private transfers.

The best option for transferring from Incheon Airport to your hotel is usually a limo bus as these run to popular areas of Seoul, such as Myeongdong, Hongdae, Gangnam, and Insadong. There’s also a direct train to Seoul Station and a subway that goes to Seoul Station via Hongdae.

Arriving during the daytime gives you the best options for getting from Incheon Airport into Seoul, while nighttime flights will leave you fewer options. There are a few night buses that run, but late arrivals will either need to stay at the airport or book a private transfer or taxi instead. More details about taking a taxi from Incheon Airport can be found in my guide to taxis in Korea .

If you want to book a private transfer direct to your hotel from Incheon Airport, contact Jerry Heng , a freelance driver. I want to recommend Jerry as he has years of experience organising airport pick-ups and drop-offs, as well as personalised tours around Korea. He’s also a friendly guy.

Recommended Flight Comparison Sites

I suggest checking at least one flight comparison website before booking any flights. You can alter the arrival and departure times, flight duration, choose direct or indirect flights, and sort by price to find the perfect flight for you. Skyscanner is my preferred comparison site, but they’re all useful.

Take time to change the dates and flight times to find the most suitable flights for you. Cheaper flights often have inconvenient arrival times, so you should decide whether it’s worth the hassle to save a bit of money. Sometimes spending more for the right flight is worth it, especially when time is limited.

I try to go for a balance of convenience and savings and avoid flights that arrive late at night or leave too early in the morning. These flights require you to book an extra night at the airport or make you lose time when you could be travelling and doing more interesting things.

Here are 4 of the best flight comparison sites for booking flights to Korea:

Skyscanner Flight Comparison Site

Skyscanner is one of the most popular flight aggregators and offers flights, hotels, and other travel bookings for all major destinations. Skyscanner shows airline environmental ratings and which flights are practical or difficult.

Expedia Flight Comparison Site

Expedia is a large US travel company that offers tours, flights, hotels, and other services around the world. You can book hotel and flights together, to save you time and effort when travelling. A good place to start your flight search.

Kayak Flight Comparison Website

Kayak is great for people looking for cheap flights to Korea. You can see price trends for your flight to Korea to see when the best prices are available. There are also lots of budget travel options on the site that can save you more.

Wayaway Flight Comparison Site

WayAway is a flight comparison site for the modern generation, with Instagram tips & travel advice as well as a good selection of cheap flights. You can get cashback on bookings with their premium service.

Where To Stay In Seoul

Popular neighbourhood to stay in Seoul

Incheon Airport is the main arrival destination for most travellers visiting Korea, with more than 71 million travellers passing through the airport in 2019, making it the world’s 14th busiest airport . It’s close to Seoul and has lots of transportation options to get into Korea’s capital.

Seoul is the first place people visit, not only because it’s close to Incheon Airport, but because it’s undeniably the heart and soul of Korea. The greater Seoul area includes about 50% of Korea’s population (25 million people) and is by far the biggest, most vibrant, and fun city in Korea.

To travel to Korea you need either a K-ETA or tourist visa . One of the requirements to apply for these is the address of the first place you’ll be staying in Korea. Therefore, you should book at least your first hotel in Korea so you can begin those applications. Seoul is an ideal first place to stay.

Best Neighbourhoods To Stay In Seoul

Deciding where to stay in Seoul can be difficult because there are so many unique neighbourhoods, each offering something interesting for travellers to experience. Knowing which has the best sights, entertainment, culture, shopping, transport, markets, restaurants, cafes, etc., is useful.

Seoul’s neighbourhoods typically contain a mixture of several of these elements and will appeal to different types of travellers. Below is a very rough guide for which neighbourhood each type of traveller might enjoy. Of course, there are plenty of other things to do in each area.

As you can see from the list above, both Hongdae and Myeongdong have a lot to offer and I would definitely recommend either of these neighbourhoods for first time travellers to Seoul. Even people who have travelled to Korea before will find lots of reasons to stay there. They’re where I usually stay.

I have detailed guides to hotels in the two best districts for staying in Seoul – Hongdae and Myeongdong. My guide to hotels in Hongdae includes a range of hotels for all types of travellers, while my guide to hotels in Myeongdong highlights Myeongdong’s best budget to mid-range hotels.

Each neighbourhood feels unique and offers something to discover, from traditional markets and eateries, modern Insta-worthy cafe districts, peaceful parks and lakes, world-class skyscrapers, and many fun activities. Wherever you choose to stay, you’re sure to find something you enjoy.

I’ve included the 8 best neighbourhoods in Seoul in this South Korea travel guide, along with a small summary about what you can expect in each area. These are the most popular areas for tourists to stay in, but certainly not the only places to stay. There are also links to hotels in these areas.

Here are the 8 best neighbourhoods in Seoul:

Myeongdong shopping sights and traditional markets

Myeongdong is arguably one of the best places to stay in Seoul for any traveller. It has the best range of budget and mid-range hotels in Seoul and is conveniently located for sights, activities, and public transport. It’s close to popular tourist sites, such as the N Seoul Tower and royal palaces. There are traditional markets and Myeongdong’s famous street food alley to check out. As Myeongdong is popular with tourists, you’ll find more people that can speak English and places to exchange money.

Hongdae youth culture shopping and dining area

Hongdae is one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Seoul and a must-see for any traveller to the city. This area has emerged as a creative hotbed for the latest Korean fashion, art, food, and culture, thanks to innovations from students of nearby universities. Youth culture is on display in Hongdae’s main and side streets, with boutique shops, trendy bars and cafes, inventive restaurants, street art, and live performances. If you want to see a vibrant, colourful side of Seoul, then Hongdae is the place for you.

Gangnam luxury shopping and modern k-culture

Gangnam is an upscale area of Seoul that’s home to some of Korea’s biggest stars. This area was where K-Pop was invented, as can be seen by the golden Gangnam Style statue outside COEX Mall. Gangnam is a lot more than that, and is a powerful business area with Seoul’s best shopping and dining experiences, as well as some of the city’s finest cafes and bars. Gangnam has a host of upmarket hotels that provide outstanding luxury, but also has a selection of budget and mid-range hotels making it accessible for all travellers.

Jongno Neighbourhood in Seoul traditional sights and hanok houses

Jongno is the area north of Myeongdong that includes Insadong, Bukchon Hanok Village, Ikseongdong Hanok Village, Jogyesa Temple, 4 of Seoul’s royal palaces, the presidential Blue House, and lots more. This area is packed full of interesting sights and traditional restaurants and tea houses to explore. You can find a good range of hotels in Insadong, Seoul’s artistic area that is home to artists and tourist-friendly attractions. There are also guesthouses and apartments to rent in the residential areas of Jongno that offer a more homely stay.

Jamsil luxury shopping theme parks and nature

Jamsil is an upmarket residential neigbourhood close to Gangnam that’s home to one of Korea’s largest companies, Lotte. You’ll find the Lotte World Tower, Lotte World Theme Park, and Lotte Aquarium in this area, as well as the beautiful Seokchon Lake and leafy Olympic Park. Jamsil is a great base for people visiting for cherry blossoms in spring as the Seokchon Lake Cherry Blossom Festival is one of Seoul’s best. There are lots of trendy cafes and bars near the lake and it’s a relaxed part of the city to stay in.

Dongdaemun neighbourhood traditional markets and modern culture

Dongdaemun is known for both its traditional markets, where you can buy a range of goods, as well as the futuristic Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). The area is an unusual mix of traditional Seoul, with Gwangjang Market offering some of Seoul’s best Korean street food, and modern culture, displayed by the night markets and art installations at the DDP. There are lots of cheap eats and bargain markets and malls in this area, making it a great place to stay if you plan to do a lot of bargain shopping in Seoul.

Yongsan International culture and Korean history

Yongsan is the area encompassing the N Seoul Tower, the popular international area of Itaewon, the trendy hilltop area of Haebangchon (HBC), Seoul Station, the National Museum of Seoul, and many riverside parks. Yongsan has a busy train station with towering skyscrapers and hotels around it catering to business and luxury travellers, as well as shoppers. This quiet business and residential area has good transport links and fewer crowds than other parts of Seoul, as well as interesting cultural attractions.

Yeoudio riverside parks and business district

Yeouido is a large island that rests in the Han River, overlooking Hongdae and Yongsan. It has some of the best parks in Seoul and is a popular place for locals to walk along the river on weekends and at night. These parks are home to Seoul’s biggest cherry blossom festivals, as well as summer night markets, fireworks performances, live music, and people enjoying life outside of work. Yeouido is the upmarket financial centre of Seoul, making it an ideal base for business, luxury, and family travellers.

Seoul’s neighbourhoods are informal designations, not necessarily the official district name. For example, Hongdae is a neighbourhood in the Mapo-gu district and Myeongdong a neighbourhood in the Jung-gu district. Whereas Jongno is both the neighbourhood and district name (Jongno-gu).

You might see some areas referred to differently. However, the terms I’ve used in this section are the names most commonly used to describe these areas by tourists and expats. Koreans will certainly know which area of Seoul you’re talking about when you use these names.

Learn more : If you want to know more about Seoul’s best districts and figure out where the best place to stay for your trip to Korea, then check out my detailed guide about where to stay in Seoul . It’s packed with useful info about each neighbourhood, hotel recommendations for different budgets, and tips about booking accommodation in Seoul. Also learn more about the Han River Boat Service launching in 2024 to connect Yeoudio, Jamsil and other riverside destinations.

Hotel Recommendations For Seoul

Hotel room in Seoul for travellers

There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of hotels in Seoul to choose from ranging from multi-person dorm rooms to the height of luxury looking down over Seoul from a 5-star hotel room in the Lotte World Tower . Whatever your budget or requirements, there’ll be somewhere to stay in Seoul for you.

To save you time searching for the best places to stay in Seoul, I’ve created a list of the 9 best luxury, mid-range, and budget hotels in Seoul, as well as 6 long-stay serviced apartments. This list has been created based on customer reviews, location, facilities, amenities, reputation, and quality.

I live outside of Seoul, so often book hotels when I’m visiting Seoul for the weekend . I’ve stayed at quite a few of these, so can personally recommend them based on my own experience. I’ve had both good and bad hotel experiences in Seoul and only want to recommend the best to you.

Recommended Luxury Hotels

Seoul has some incredible luxury hotels to enjoy, each with a true 5-star service, excellent amenities, and delectable restaurants. Many of Seoul’s best luxury hotels are located in Gangnam, Seoul’s wealthiest district, where you can find top restaurants and designer brand shopping.

Recommended Mid-Range Hotels

If you want to experience a luxurious stay in Seoul without breaking the bank, then these mid-range hotels will be perfect for you. These unique, 4-star hotels are reasonably priced and provide stylish, comfortable rooms that you’ll sleep easily in after a busy day exploring Seoul.

Recommended Budget Hotels

Seoul has a wide range of excellent budget hotels with prices that might surprise you for a large city. These are some of my favourite places to stay in Seoul when I visit for the weekend and are popular with travellers due to their convenient location, facilities, and comfortable beds.

Recommended Serviced Apartments

If you plan to stay in Seoul for a month or more, these serviced apartments will provide you all the comforts of home with the benefits of staying at a hotel. These excellent serviced apartments come with cleaning services, health facilities, cooking facilities, and are value for money.

Cost To Travel In South Korea In 2024

Korean won Korean money

This part of the South Korea travel guide will help you understand some of your expected costs to travel to Korea. The costs to travel to Korea include flights, accommodation, food, drinks, transportation, activities, sim cards, visas, souvenirs, travel insurance, and lots more.

The costs you will pay when you travel vary massively depending on what type of traveller you are and what style of travel you can afford. If you want 5-star luxury and fine-dining, your budget will be very different from someone eating ramyeon from 7-11 and staying in a budget guesthouse.

Therefore, I will try to provide expected costs for 3 different types of traveller – budget , mid-range , and luxury . These aren’t exact figures, but should give you a rough idea of how much you’ll spend.

Daily Costs To Travel In Korea

There are costs that you will pay each day when travelling in Korea that can be averaged out to give you a daily cost. Knowing these figures will help you plan your budget for Korea and to see where you can afford to spend more for the one-off costs to travel, which will be covered next.

The daily costs are accommodation, food & drinks, transportation, attractions & tours, and miscellaneous expenses that can pop up unexpectedly. These miscellaneous costs might include getting a street food snack, an unexpected entrance fee, or a few extra drinks in the evening.

Transportation will be covered later in this South Korea travel guide and there are some useful tips to reduce your transportation costs. You will also be able to see some of the best attractions, tours, and activities in Korea and you’ll be able to work out how much you’ll spend on those.

Here are the daily costs per person to travel in Korea:

Please note : These are costs per day, per person . Couples and families sharing a room will have lower costs as double rooms aren’t much more expensive than single rooms. Some days will be cheaper, some much more expensive, especially if you take day trips or visit premium attractions.

There are also one-off costs not included in these daily costs. These can be pre-travel costs, such as flights and a K-ETA or tourist visa (already covered), travel insurance, vaccinations, and such like. Pre-travel costs are different for each traveller and depend on your country of residence.

Other one-off costs during travel in Korea may include day tours, souvenirs, shopping, celebrations, medical costs, and expenses that you don’t normally pay each day. Again, these vary for each traveller and are difficult to calculate as people’s budgets are so different.

Is Korea A Cheap Country To Travel In?

cost to travel in Korea

Korea is relatively cheap country to visit, but certainly isn’t always a budget destination. The cost to travel to Korea has risen over the last few years and might be more expensive than you think, even if you’ve previously visited Korea. Flying to Korea is certainly more expensive now.

Food costs rose by 7.5% in 2022 alone and these costs have been passed on to restaurants, which now charge higher prices for meals. Transportation costs rose by about 20% in 2023 for buses and subways, although these are still relatively cheap compared to some countries.

Despite these price increases, travelling in Korea is still cheaper than travelling in most other high-income industrialised countries such as Japan, the USA, and Western Europe. If you’re from countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, or Malaysia, Korea may seem expensive.

City Passes That Save You Money In Seoul

There are a number of city passes that can save you money when visiting Seoul by offering free or discounted entry to some of the best attractions in the city for a single price. The original city pass for Seoul is the Discover Seoul Pass, but now there is also the Go City Pass and Klook Pass Seoul.

Here’s a summary of each of these Seoul city passes:

Discover Seoul Pass : Available in 24 | 48 | 72 hour periods, allows entry to top attractions in Seoul such as Lotte World Adventure, N Seoul Tower, COEX Aquarium, Alive Museum, Zoolung Zoolung, Sealala Sauna, Gyeongbokgung Palace, and more. Prices start at 50,000 KRW .

Go City Seoul Pass : Available as 1 – 5 day passes or a flexible pass for up to 7 attractions. Covers a wider amount of attractions than the DSP, including a DMZ Tour, Nanta Cookin’ Musical, Seoul Land, Seoul Pub Crawl, Seoul Ghost Tour, and more. Prices start at 68,000 KRW .

Klook Pass Seoul : Available for use 2 – 5 attractions, including Everland or Lotte World Adventure theme parks. The Klook Pass Seoul allows free entry to selected attractions within a 30 day period. Attractions include the N Seoul Tower and Lotte World Aquarium. Prices start at 44,000 KRW .

If you’d like to know more about these passes, be sure to check out my article about the Klook Pass Seoul , as well as my suggested Discover Seoul Pass itineraries . I’ll have a review article of the Go City Seoul Pass soon, too.

How To Save Money In Korea

How to save money in Korean won

There are always ways to save money and spend less in Korea. Budget options exist for travellers and you can travel in Korea for less than 150,000 KRW per day, even as little as 50,000 KRW per day. Here are some of the ways you can save money in Korea and travel more for less:

Eat like a local : Visit the traditional markets, food stalls, and traditional Korean restaurants. These are much cheaper than eating foreign foods in Korea. University areas are usually cheap, too.

Spend less on coffee : Coffee in Korea can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. A latte could cost you 5,000 KRW in a chain store, but there are cheap hole-in-the-wall cafes where it’s half that.

Shop in the markets : From designer goods (possibly fake) to souvenirs, the markets of Seoul and other cities usually have the best prices. Don’t be afraid to haggle.

Use public transport : Korea has a fantastic public transport network both in cities and between cities. Don’t waste money on taxis and private transfers when you can use a bus or subway.

Book everything online : You can find discounted entry and tour tickets online that are much cheaper than the regular price. Use Klook , Get Your Guide , and Viator for the best prices.

Stay in guesthouses and hostels : You can find rooms for as little as 10,000 KRW per night in shared dorms and 20,000 KRW in guesthouses. Book ahead to find the best prices.

Take advantage of free things : There are lots of places you can visit for free in Seoul and free services, such as walking tours in Seoul, 30-minute hanbok rentals, and even free entry to the palaces.

Get your tax back : Korea makes it really easy to recover tax you’ve paid when shopping. Stores in Seoul will process tax returns for you or you can claim a refund at the airport when you leave.

You will see tips and links in this South Korea travel guide that are designed to help you save money when you visit Korea. Booking tours, attractions, and sim cards in advance can save you a lot of money, as can using a T-Money card and Wise travel card. Keep reading for more money-saving tips.

Travel Money And Money Exchanges In Korea

Korean won travel money

If you follow the tips in this section of this South Korea travel guide, you can certainly save yourself a lot of money and avoid unnecessary fees when spending in Korea. Learn where and how to exchange money, how to avoid ATM and card fees, and how to get tax back before you leave.

Because this section covers a lot of the common questions people ask about travel money in Korea, it will be broken down into a question and answer format. This should make it easier for you to find the information you’re looking for and discover answers you didn’t know you were looking for.

Can You Use A Foreign Card In Korea?

Almost all foreign credit cards with Visa or Mastercard will be accepted in Korea and it is possible to use these cards to pay across the country. American Express is also accepted in popular tourist areas, but not as widely as Visa or Mastercard and may have problems outside of big cities.

Foreign debit cards should work if they use Visa or Mastercard, but there may be restrictions in place with your bank when using them abroad. It is recommended that you call your bank to check before travelling. For both credit and debit cards, check your bank for any fees you’ll pay overseas.

Can You Withdraw Cash From An ATM In Korea?

Foreign Currency Global ATM in Korea

You can withdraw cash from ATMs in Korea using a debit card, but not all ATMs will accept international cards. Look for a sign saying ‘Global ATM’ or ‘Foreign Currency ATM’ to withdraw cash in Korea with a debit card. You can also withdraw cash using a credit card, but it’s more expensive.

Whether you use a debit or credit card, an ATM is likely to charge a fee to withdraw money using a foreign card. Your bank or credit card company may also charge a fee or give a bad exchange rate. These costs can add up a lot if you withdraw regularly, so try to make fewer withdrawals.

Learn more : Should you use cash or card when you visit Korea? This article about the how to pay in Korea has lots of useful information about payment methods in Korea, including alternatives to the usual mix of cash and a credit card.

How Can You Save Money When Paying By Card In Korea?

Instead of using a foreign debit or credit card in Korea, which might have expensive fees or not work in places, here are two better options. The first is the WOWPASS travel card , which offers tourist-friendly card services in Korea. The other is to apply for a travel card that can be used globally.

Both the WOWPASS and the two other travel cards offer the ability to pay by card in Korea and to withdraw cash in Korean won. They also offer better exchange rates than you’ll find in airport or local money exchanges in Korea. They each have some unique features, which will be illustrated below.

Pay Like A Local With WOWPASS

The WOWPASS is a new way to pay in Korea that combines the essential functions of a T-Money transportation card with the benefits of a local debit card. This is a prepaid card you can top up at more than 90 locations in KRW or your own currency. Just look for the bright orange WOW machines.

WOWPASS Money Exchange Machine In Seoul

The T-Money function in the WOWPASS means it’s more useful than other travel cards as you don’t need to carry two separate cards when you travel. Please note, you still need to charge the T-Money balance of WOWPASS with cash, just like a regular T-Money card.

The WOWPASS travel card allows you to add up to 1,000,000 KRW to your card and can be used to pay for almost anything in Korea without any fees. The card is issued by a Korean company, so you can use it to withdraw cash at any WOWPASS machine located in Seoul & other cities in Korea.

Paying with a WOWPASS card in Korea

Thanks to the user-friendly WOWPASS app, users can freeze or replace their card, check their spending, add funds, and check exchange rates. Because the WOWPASS isn’t tied to your home bank account, it also reduces the damage by card fraud, in case the worst was to happen.

As well as a regular WOWPASS, you can also reserve the All-In-One Airport Package , which includes the WOWPASS, 10,000 KRW T-Money balance, and a discounted Korean sim card. This is really useful for those who want to get connected and travelling as soon as they arrive in Korea. Get the WOWPASS app for Android or Apple .

Tip : Use the invitation code INMYKOR1 to get cashback on WOWPASS top-ups in foreign currency.

Overseas Travel Cards You Can Use In Korea

Overseas travel cards are another option for spending in Korea and I use them myself to spend money from my UK bank account in Korea, as well as when travelling in other countries. They’re really simple to use and are much cheaper than paying with my foreign card or exchanging money.

Two of the leading travel card companies are Wise and Revolut . I use both of these to pay for things in Korea and have written an article about how to use the Wise card in Korea . You can use them to pay for hotels, food, drinks, transportation, taxis, attractions, and lots more. They’re really useful.

Here’s a summary of the main features of these travel cards:

Wise Travel Card for spending in Korea

The Wise travel card allows you to easily transfer and convert money from your home bank account into dozens of other currencies and use this money to pay when you’re travelling. You only need to transfer as much as you plan to spend and can easily transfer back anything you haven’t. The exchange rate will be better than your bank or a money exchange offers, too.

A versatile, easy to use app breaks down what you’ve spent by category so you can track your travel spending. You can withdraw cash from ATMs, pay by QR code, use it for Google Pay, and pay by contactless. Even if you lose your card, you can still spend money. It’s also really safe as you can freeze your card, set spending limits, and limit how much money you transfer.

Revolut Travel Card for spending in Korea

The Revolut travel card can be used in Korea to pay for a wide range of goods and services without expensive fees for spending your home currency overseas. Unlike the Wise travel card, which lets you transfer money into different currencies and then spend in a local currency, such as Korean won, the Revolut travel card lets you pay fee-free with your home currency.

The Revolut travel card comes with an easy to use app that can be used to manage your money both at home and when travelling in Korea. You can check your spending with categories and reports and set budgets for your spending. The Revolut travel card also offers cashback in the US, stock and crypto investments, and the same security features as the Wise travel card.

Can You Use Apple Pay In Korea?

Apple Pay wasn’t previously available in Korea due to a lack of approval by Korea’s financial regulator. However, in February 2023, Apple Pay received approval to begin operating in Korea through the Hyundai Card Co., allowing payments with Apple devices from March 2023 onwards.

The Apple Pay payment system has been available in Korea since March 21st , 2023 and allows Apple Pay members to pay for goods and services at NFC-enabled payment terminals. However, on the launch date of Apple Pay, there were only 70,000 NFC-enabled payment terminals in Korea.

The lack of NFC-enabled payment terminals will be a big issue for Apple Pay users in Korea as there are around 2,900,000 shops in Korea and most won’t accept Apple Pay. Franchises like Starbucks can’t accept Apple Pay and it can’t be used to pay for public transport. You’ll need a T-Money card.

Samsung Pay, which uses MST technology, not NFC, currently dominates the Korean market. NFC-enabled terminals should grow, especially in tourist areas and city-centres from 2023 onwards. This will be good news for Google Pay, which also uses NFC technology and also isn’t in use in Korea yet.

Should You Exchange Money Before Travelling To Korea?

It is not necessary to exchange money into Korean won before travelling to Korea, but it can certainly be useful to have a small amount of money. Exchange rates for Korean won outside Korea may not be as good as within Korea and changing large amounts of cash before you travel isn’t essential.

It might be hard to get Korean won from your local bank or money exchange as it’s not one of the most commonly exchanged currencies. Therefore, you might find exchange rates less favourable and extra fees applied to exchange money. Using travel cards like Wise or Revolut is a better option.

Should You Change Money At Incheon Airport?

Foreign Currency Exchange at Incheon Airport

I’ve travelled around the world and always avoid exchanging money at the airport if I can help it. Airports often have the worst rates for money exchange as they know people need to get local cash, there aren’t many other options, and you need at least a bit of money to travel to your hotel.

Incheon Airport is an exception to this rule and I’ve compared travel exchange rates at several times when flying into and out of the airport. The foreign currency exchange rates at Incheon Airport aren’t that bad and are just slightly higher than what you’d find in Seoul. Not the best, but not bad.

There are also Global ATMs at Incheon Airport, so you can withdraw cash here. If you have a Wise or Revolut travel card, you can withdraw up to $200 fee-free from an ATM in Korea. However, Korean banks will charge a withdrawal fee (about 3,000 KRW), which applies to any foreign card used.

Where Can You Exchange Money In Seoul?

Seoul is the first destination for most travellers to Korea and if you want to save money on exchange rate fees, I recommend exchanging money in the capital. There are two main options for exchanging money easily and quickly in Seoul – WOW money exchange machines and money exchanges.

Here’s a summary about the two main ways to exchange money in Seoul:

WOWPASS Logo

The cheapest and most convenient option for exchanging money in Seoul is through a WOW money exchange machine. This automated machine gives the best exchange rates and can quickly and easily exchange foreign cash for Korean won. It doesn’t accept card payments, only cash. All you need to do is scan your passport and deposit your cash and it will convert it into Korean won immediately. There are dozens of these machines in Seoul, as well as in other cities like Busan and Daejeon.

Money Exchanges In Seoul

The traditional way to exchange foreign currency in Seoul was through a money exchange. You can find these in Myeongdong, where many tourists stay and visit in Seoul. There are also money exchanges inside banks and in other tourist hotspots. These used to be the best place to exchange money, until the WOW money exchanges were introduced and travel cards like Wise and Revolut made it easier to use a card. If you want to use a money exchange in Seoul, Myeongdong is the best place to do it.

Can You Get Tax Back When Shopping In Korea?

Travellers to Korea can claim tax back on eligible purchases during their trip. This can be done immediately after you purchase an item (if the shop offers the service) or at Incheon Airport or other airports in Korea before you depart.

Instant tax refunds are available at certain locations in Seoul and other big cities. These are usually department stores and large chain stores. You are able to claim tax refunds for goods up to a total value of 2,500,000 KRW (incl. tax). There is a tax refund limit of 500,000 KRW per transaction.

2024 Tax Refund Changes : From 2024, the tax refund limits will be doubled, so you will be able to claim up to 5,000,000 KRW of tax back and claim up to 1,000,000 KRW back per transaction. Source: Korea Herald .

To claim a tax refund you need:

  • To show your passport
  • To be a tourist in Korea
  • To spend between 30,000 to 300,000 KRW in one place
  • To be leaving Korea within 3 months

Tax isn’t refundable on all purchases, so be sure to check when shopping. Tax refunds can also be claimed at the airport as long as you have the receipt and the goods you’ve purchased.

Mobile Phones And Internet In Korea

Using a phone while travelling in Korea

Staying connected to the Internet when visiting Korea is becoming more and more essential these days. Keeping your mobile phone, tablet, or computer connected to the web is useful not only to stay in touch with people back home, but also to help you save money and travel Korea more easily.

There are several options to stay connected in Korea when you travel. The main options for travellers are tourist SIM cards, either physical or eSIMs, portable WiFi routers, and relying on free WiFi provided in public places and hotels. All of these are good options, but there are other considerations, too.

This South Korea travel guide will cover the main differences between Korean SIM cards and portable WiFi routers and which will be most suitable for you. There are also details about why you might want a Korean phone number and which apps to use to help you travel in Korea.

Don’t forget, if you bring your phone or other mobile devices to Korea, you’ll need a travel adapter .

Should You Get A Korean SIM Card Or WiFi Router?

Both a Korean SIM card or portable WiFi router will provide access to Korea’s high-speed mobile networks and keep you connected to the Internet. They provide a secure internet connection, but do so in a different way and with different available features. Find out about the best Korean SIM card for tourists in this SK SIM card review .

Here are the main features of Korean SIM cards and WiFi routers:

Costs : SIM cards and WiFi routers are similarly priced when using them for a two week period, but they are charged in different ways. SIM cards are fixed-price and can be bought for set time periods, whereas WiFi routers are charged daily. WiFi routers are cheaper in the short-term.

Ease of use : If you purchase or pre-order a SIM card or portable WiFi router at Incheon Airport, which I highly recommend, the staff will install or setup everything for you. Once they’re activated, it’s very simple to use either one. Cancelling and returning them at the airport is also easy for both.

Here are the reasons you should get a Korean SIM card or portable WiFi router in Korea:

Korean sim cards to make phone calls

You should get a Korean SIM card when visiting Korea to get a Korean phone number. The benefits of having a Korean phone number are mainly to make calls and use Korean apps. SIM cards are also useful if you want a secure connection everywhere you go and plan to make calls or send texts. When you have a SIM card, you can tether your network connection to connect other devices you own. Korean phone coverage is amazing and you’ll get service everywhere. SIM cards don’t require you to carry any extra devices and are cheaper over the long-run than WiFi routers.

portable wifi routers in Korea

You should get a portable WiFi router if you’re travelling in a group or as a family as you can connect multiple devices to one router. This is much cheaper than getting separate SIM cards for all travellers, but also requires people stay close together. WiFi routers are charged per day and if you need additional days, they’ll be automatically added and charged when you return the router. This means you’ll never have to worry about your service suddenly ending. The main downside to using a WiFi router is the lack of Korean phone number, but that might not be an issue if you don’t need one.

Where Can You Get Korean SIM Cards Or WiFi Routers?

Sim card and wifi routers at Incheon Airport Korea

You can get a Korean SIM card or portable WiFi router in several ways. The easiest way, and one that I definitely recommend, is to purchase online through a tour company such as Klook , Viator , or Get Your Guide , and get a SIM card at Incheon Airport or other entry point into Korea when you arrive..

The main reason I recommend this method is that you can guarantee you will get a SIM card or router and it will be waiting for you when you arrive. The collection desks at Incheon Airport are open 24-hours a day and they will help you install everything you need to get started immediately.

You can also get SIM cards and WiFi routers when you arrive at the airport and you should find similar rates. However, you won’t be guaranteed a device and you will need to pay in person. When you book online, you can pay in your home currency and avoid those issues.

I don’t recommend getting a SIM card or WiFi router in Seoul or other cities. It is possible, but you may run into language issues and find less tourist-friendly options. Phone shops outside the airport usually cater to Koreans, not tourists. Airport rentals are the easiest options for visitors to Korea.

What’s The Benefit Of A Korean Phone Number For Tourists?

There are two main benefits of having a Korean phone number for tourists. The first benefit is the ability to call people when you’re in Korea. This can be useful for making reservations, keeping in touch with people, and in case of emergencies.

The second benefit of having a Korean phone number is the ability to use Korean apps . It isn’t mandatory to have a Korean phone number to use Korean apps, but most won’t let you use their services unless you sign up with a phone number. Using Korean apps makes travelling easier.

A phone number is like a form of identity in Korea, which is why you need your passport to register a SIM card. Once you have a phone number, many more services are available, including food delivery, ordering taxis, making reservations (such as for the Busan Sky Capsule ), and online messaging.

What Apps Do I Need For Travelling In Korea?

If you have a Korean phone number, you can use Korean apps. Even without a Korean number, you can still download these apps and use some of their services. Full features typically require a phone number though. There are other, non-Korean apps that will help you when travelling, too.

Here are the most useful apps to use when travelling in Korea:

Papago : This is the essential translation tool for visiting Korea. Papago’s translation services are the best and you can use the app to take pictures and translate Korean signs, menus, and other pictures.

Naver Maps : To find your way around Korea, use Naver Maps or Kakao Maps. Their systems are much more accurate in Korea than Google Maps. Use them to plan travel routes and transport times.

Kakao Taxi : Uber and Grab don’t really exist in Korea, so if you plan to take a taxi, you’ll need to use Kakao Taxi. Simple to use and takes the hassle out of trying to use Korean to give directions.

Kakao Talk : This is Korea’s most popular messaging app and is useful for keeping in touch with Korean friends, contacting businesses in Korea, and even calling abroad.

Seoul Subway : Use this app to travel around Seoul’s underground more easily. Plan your route, see when the next train is due to arrive, check connections, and see how late the trains run.

Korail Talk : This app allows you to book trains on Korea’s high-speed train network and regular train routes. This app has an English setting, so you can check train times and prices easily.

Coupang Eats : This is a food-delivery app that allows you to order almost anything edible and get it sent directly to you. You can even order convenience store goods. Useful for rainy days.

Mango Plate : Find restaurants in Korea with this app and discover the best places to go out and eat. You can also see restaurant details and get directions in Naver Maps and Kakao Maps.

WOWPASS : To use the WOWPASS to pay like a local in Korea and for T-Money functions, you’ll need the WOWPASS app. This will let you check your balances and spending and control your card.

Wise & Revolut : As mentioned in this South Korea travel guide, using a travel card to pay for items in Korea will save you money when you travel. If you use Wise or Revolut, make sure you have the app.

Klook : This company provides some of the best tours in Korea and if you make bookings through their website, you can easily manage them with the Klook app.

Intercity Bus by T-Money : This app is great for booking buses between cities in Korea. There is an English version that allows you to book tickets, check times, and see available seats.

These apps should be available on both Android and Apple. Some of these apps might default to Korean, but you should be able to change them to English in the side menu.

Is There Free WiFi In Korea?

Travellers in Korea have the option to not get a sim card or portable WiFi but still stay connected. This is thanks to the excellent Free Wifi in Korea that is provided in public transport, government buildings, restaurants, cafes, and many other places. This is mostly in the cities, however.

Hotels also provide free WiFi in most cities in Korea. If you plan to rely on free WiFi, I recommend using the hotel’s WiFi to plan routes, check opening times, and research places you want to visit. Take screenshots of these details so you can see them later, even if you don’t have Internet access.

The only warning I would give about relying on free WiFi when travelling in Korea is the increased use of mobile-dependent apps and passes in Korea. Physical tickets and passes are being phased out in favour of digital versions, which often need an active Internet connection to use.

I’ve noticed in recent years that services that impact travellers have moved to digital versions. This includes the T-Money card, Discover Seoul Pass, train and coach tickets, attraction tickets and event tickets. I believe that having a reliable net connection will be a must for most travellers soon.

Using Public Transport In Korea In 2024

Public transport in Korea ITX train

This section of the South Korea travel guide looks at Korea’s public transport system and how to navigate it as a traveller. Korea has arguably one of the best public transport systems in the world. It’s cheap, well-connected, frequent, and runs on time. Other countries could learn a lot from Korea.

The great news for tourists is that Korea’s public transport is very foreigner friendly and information is provided in English in almost all places, as well as Chinese and Japanese in popular areas such as Seoul and Busan. Travelling by public transport in Korea is cheap, easy, and convenient.

How Much Does Public Transport Cost In Korea?

The cost of public transportation in Korea is fixed, no matter what day you purchase tickets on. If you buy one month in advance, or last minute, you will pay the same price for the journey. Journeys within a city are a single price and not dependent on how far you travel, unless you leave the city limits.

All journeys are single fares and you can’t buy return tickets. You will need to buy two singles when you want to travel somewhere and back again. The cost of a single fare depends on how you pay for the ticket – by cash or with a transportation card.

Here are the costs for public transport in Korea by payment method, type and user:

Please note : The cost of subway rides is set to rise to 1,400 / 1,500 KRW in October 2023. These prices will be adjusted when this occurs.

How Do You Pay For Public Transport In Korea?

The cost of public transport in Korea depends on whether you pay with a transportation card, such as T-Money, a Korea Tour Card , or Cashbee, or in cash. This applies to both subways and buses. If you use a transportation card, you should add credit to it, then touch it to the card reader at the subway or bus to pay.

To use cash to buy a subway ticket, you will need to buy a ticket at the station. For buses, you should pay the correct fare to the driver when boarding the bus. However, since 2022, buses across Korea have started to end the use of cash and some will insist on payment by transportation card only.

In the future, bus payments are expected to become simpler with fares deducted via bluetooth-enabled phones that have the relevant app downloaded. This system has already been in place in Gyeonggi Province since March 2022 and is likely to spread to more bus routes in the future.

I highly recommend getting a T-Money card when you travel to Korea. You can use it to pay for public transportation (at a discounted rate), and it will work almost everywhere in Korea. It can also be used to buy goods from shops, cafes, and restaurants. It’s really convenient and a must-have for Korea.

Using T-Money To Pay For Public Transport In Korea

T-Money card machine to pay for public transport in Korea

A T-Money card is the essential transportation card for using public transport in Korea. You can purchase one at Incheon Airport, subway and train stations, and convenience stores across Korea. The card can be used in many places. It never expires, so you can use it on different trips, too.

Here is how to use a T-Money card in Korea:

  • Purchase a T-Money card (2,500 KRW)
  • Add money to the card (cash top-up only)
  • Enter the bus or subway station
  • Tap the T-Money card against the card reader (see pic above)
  • Tap the T-Money card again when you get off (for transfer discount)
  • Recharge when necessary

I recommend adding about 10,000 KRW for each day you plan to travel in Korea. That means about 70,000 KRW for a week. You can add more money later if necessary. You can top up at convenience stores and transport stations. There is also an app version of T-Money, but the card version is better.

How Do You Use Trains In Korea?

Korean high speed trains KTX

The train network in Korea is divided into high-speed trains (KTX) and regular trains (ITX and Mugunghwa). The KTX network connects major cities in Korea and is convenient for travelling around Korea quickly and cheaply. The carriages are comfortable and come with modern facilities.

Unlike other forms of public transport in Korea, transportation cards like T-Money aren’t accepted for trains. You will need to buy a train ticket to travel and all tickets are single tickets. The price to buy a ticket doesn’t change and you can refund a ticket up to the last minute for only a small fee.

You can book tickets within 30 days of travel through the official Korail website or app, or at a train station in Korea. Unfortunately, buying a train ticket online in Korea can be difficult as Korean payment systems often reject cards issued outside of Korea. Buying in person is recommended.

How To Book Korean Rail Tickets Outside Of Korea

If you want to book Korean train tickets outside of Korea, you can do it online with Trip.com , which is Korail’s exclusive overseas distributor. The price is slightly higher (about 5%) than the price you’ll pay in Korea, but it will allow you to book tickets online and secure your seat in advance.

If you plan to travel on the main KTX route between Seoul and Busan, I highly recommend booking tickets in advance. There are three types of tickets available – first class, regular, and standing. The journey takes 2:34 and you don’t want to be standing for all that time. Book ahead for comfort.

Is The Korea Rail Pass Worth The Price?

The Korea Rail Pass is a good option for tourists who plan to travel long distances by train in Korea, such as between Seoul and Busan or Seoul and Jeonju. The pass has two main options – flexible and consecutive. These mean you can use it any time (flexible) or within consecutive days.

The flexible pass is more expensive, but offers more freedom to travel around Korea over a longer period. You can use the pass to only cover big journeys and won’t feel pressured to use it again until you’re ready. The extra cost is more than worth the inconvenience of having to rush travel plans.

Will you save money with the Korea Rail Pass? That depends on your travel plans, how often you’ll be travelling by train, and how many people are travelling. If there are 2 people or more, purchase the group saver pass and save 10,000 KRW each on the pass. Group tours make it better value.

The Korea Rail Pass does not allow you to ride on the subway for free, which would make it better value. It can also be complicated to reserve tickets online using the pass and buying tickets in the regular way is more convenient. Overall, the pass isn’t essential, but might save you money.

How Do You Use Taxis In Korea?

People using a taxi in Korea

Taxis in Korea can be hailed from the street or called directly to you using apps such as Kakao Taxi . Companies like Uber and Grab don’t have a large presence in Korea and operate the same way as Kakao Taxi, by helping you find an official taxi driver. Private taxi services aren’t common.

The big issue facing the Korean taxi industry in 2024 is the lack of taxi drivers. This can make it hard to get a taxi, even when using an app like Kakao Taxi. Late night taxis are particularly difficult to find. Read this guide about how to use Kakao Taxi to help you learn how to call a taxi in Korea.

Taxi prices in Korea are reasonable, especially compared to countries like Japan and the UK. Although base taxi fares rose in 2023 to 4,800 KRW, the price is still low and relatively affordable to travel by taxi if you need to. It’s a good option if there are no direct public transport routes.

Taking a taxi to and from Incheon Airport is a convenient option if you have a lot of bags or you are travelling in a group. For solo travellers or couples, I would recommend using public transport or a limo bus, as it’s significantly cheaper and won’t take much longer than a taxi.

How Do You Use Intercity Buses In Korea?

Intercity buses in Korea operate in a similar way to trains. You can only book tickets within 30 days of travel and can only buy single tickets. Book tickets online through websites such as T-Money Bus or Bustago , through app versions of these sites, or at the bus terminal you will depart from.

You can’t walk onto intercity buses without a ticket, nor can you use transportation cards like T-Money to pay on entry. You will need to pay for and receive your ticket (physical or digital) before you can enter the bus. Ticket machines usually (but not always) have English options for buying tickets.

There are no return bus tickets in Korea and you can only buy tickets from your point of departure, unless you book online or via an app. If you’re travelling from Seoul to Gangneung, for example, you will need to buy a ticket in Seoul and then a ticket in Gangneung. You can’t buy both in Seoul.

How Can You Hire A Car In Korea?

Renting a car is a great way to see parts of Korea that aren’t covered by the train network and gives you the freedom to explore at your leisure. If you plan to travel to Jeju Island, which doesn’t have any trains, hiring a car will be a lot more convenient and is almost a must if you plan to travel inland.

Car rental in Korea isn’t that expensive and you can rent a modern car for as little as 75,000 KRW per day. I recommend booking car rentals through Klook , they will deal with the Korean car rental companies and reserve a car for you. This is easier than trying to do it in Korean.

To hire a car in Korea, you will need:

  • Driver’s license (must have had it for at least 1 or 2 years)
  • International Driving Permit (in some cases)
  • Credit card (in the name of the main driver)
  • Valid photo ID (passport)
  • Printed voucher for rental (if booked online)

Here’s some more information about the International Driving Permit and rules you should follow when driving in Korea, such as the legal requirement to wear seatbelts, booster seats for under 6s, and not using your phone while driving. Be sure to read up on local rules before driving in Korea.

Best Places To Visit In Korea In 2024

Bukchon Hanok Village is one of the best places to visit in Korea

The next few sections of this South Korea travel guide will help you figure out what you want to do and see on your travels. This first section will give you a brief introduction to the best places to visit in Korea, including the major cities, tourist hotspots, and unique areas that you’re sure to love.

Here are the best places to visit in Korea:

Seoul Korea's Capital City

Seoul: Korea’s Capital

Seoul is Korea’s vibrant, bustling capital and truly a must-see for any first-time visitor to Korea. There is so much to see and do in Seoul that you could easily spend a week or more exploring the city and not get bored. You will find yourself falling in love with the city for different reasons. Maybe it’s the friendly people, the deliciously cheap street eats, the way things just work, the hidden murals on old buildings down side streets, the feeling of safety even in a big city, or the historic sights creeping out from modern buildings. Seoul includes everything Korea has to offer, plus a lot more you won’t find elsewhere.

What To See In Seoul

Here are 10 great places to visit in Seoul:

  • Gyeongbokgung Palace
  • Bukchon Hanok Village
  • Myeongdong Street Markets
  • Lotte World Tower & Seokchon Lake
  • Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Markets
  • Yeouido Han River Park & Cruise
  • Secret Garden (Changdeokgung Palace)
  • N Seoul Tower & Namsan Mountain
  • COEX Mall & Bongeunsa Temple
  • Bukhansan National Park

Gamcheon Culture Village In Busan Korea (1)

Busan: Big Coastal City

While Seoul is a showcase of all things Korean, Busan is unashamedly its own city and a celebration of coastal life and local culture. Busan is famous for fresh seafood, traditional markets, great beaches, big festivals, movies, temples, and places to explore the coast. Beaches are popular places to visit in Busan, along with cliff-side walkways with views over the ocean. Central Busan is a lively spot with lots of entertainment and markets to enjoy, including a famous fish market where you can choose your own lunch and then eat it. Busan is spread out and deserves several days to explore it properly.

What To See In Busan

Here are 10 great places to visit in Busan:

  • Haeundae Beach & Beach Train
  • Jagalchi Fish Market
  • Gamcheon Culture Village
  • Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
  • Songdo Beach & Cable Car
  • Huinnyeoul Culture Village
  • BIFF Square & Centum City Mall
  • Oryukdo Skywalk & Coastal Paths
  • Lotte World Busan
  • Busan X The Sky Observatory

Jeju Islands famous attraction Seongsan Ilchulbong

Jeju Island: Natural Wonder

Jeju Island is a gorgeous island created from a volcano rising out of the ocean 2 million years ago. Today it’s one of the New 7 Natural Wonders of Nature and deservedly so. The lush island is packed with pine trees, tangerines, rolling hills and fields, cacti, and jet black volcanic rock tumbled all around. You can relax on a beach, go horse riding, explore ancient lava tubes, scuba dive, climb to the volcano’s peak, chill in a beach-side cafe, explore traditional markets, learn about local culture, and lots more. The island has two main cities, but the attractions are spread out along the coast.

What to See On Jeju Island

Here are 10 great places to visit on Jeju Island:

  • Hallasan Mountain (Volcano)
  • Seongsan Ilchulbong Sunrise Peak
  • Hyeopjae & Hamdeok Beaches
  • Seogwipo Maeil Olle Market
  • Jeju Folk Village
  • Yakcheonsa Coastal Buddhist Temple
  • Jungmun Beach & Jusangjeolli Cliff
  • O’Sulloc Green Tea Museum
  • Cheonjiyeon & Jeongbang Waterfalls

Bulguksa Temple Gyeongju Historic City

Gyeongju: Historic Capital

Gyeongju , the former capital of the Shilla Kingdom in ancient Korea, is a true treasure trove of UNESCO World Heritage sites, as well as local culture, history, and natural beauty. Described as an outdoor museum, you can see many of the big attractions in the Gyeongju Historic Area, including the 1,400 year Cheomseongdae Observatory . There’s so much to see in Gyeongju outside this area though, including the impressive Bulguksa Temple, one of the best Buddhist temples in Korea. There’s also the Bomun Lake Tourist District, a dreamy sight during cherry blossom season.

What To See In Gyeongju

Here are 10 great places to visit in Gyeongju:

  • Bulguksa Temple & Seokguram Shrine
  • Cheomseongdae Observatory
  • Donggung Palace & Wolji Pond
  • Yangdong Folk Village
  • Hwangnidangil Hanok Street
  • Daereungwon Tomb Complex
  • Bomun Lake Tourist Complex
  • Woljeonggyo Bridge
  • Gyeongju National Museum
  • Gyochon Traditional Hanok Village

Jeonju Hanok Village Korea

Jeonju: Traditional Views & Food

Jeonju is the perfect destination for a day trip from Seoul and has most of its main attractions in one area of the city. What can you see in Jeonju? The main attraction is the gigantic Jeonju Hanok Village , featuring more than 700 traditional hanok houses. You can dress up in Korean hanbok, dine on Jeonju’s famous bibimbap in an old restaurant, and see how life in Korea used to be. There are plenty of other sights nearby, including a traditional market, pretty river, and the rather unusual Jaman Mural Village.

What To See In Jeonju

Here are 5 great places to visit in Jeonju:

  • Jeonju Hanok Village
  • Jeongdong Catholic Church
  • Gyeonggijeon Shrine
  • Nambu Traditional Market
  • Jaman Mural Village

Suwon Historic Fortress City

Suwon: Fortress City

Suwon is another city close to Seoul that you can visit in a day and see many interesting and unique sights. The main draw of Suwon is the Hwaseong Fortress and the fortress walls, which are still intact and run for 6km around the city. Inside this fortress you’ll find lots of museums, historic buildings, parks, and activities, such as archery. There are often cultural festivals in this area, too. Surprisingly, Suwon is the best place to get KFC (Korean Fried Chicken). There’s a whole street dedicated to making it.

What to See In Suwon

Here are 5 great places to visit in Suwon:

  • Hwaseong Fortress & Fortress Walls
  • Hwaseong Haenggung & Haengridan Gil
  • Fried Chicken Street
  • Korean Folk Village
  • Gwanggyo Lake Park

Incheon Modern City in Korea

Incheon: Modern City With Islands

Incheon is one of Korea’s largest cities, but is sadly ignored as it’s right next to Seoul and most people think it’s just there for the airport. That’s not true at all and there’s plenty to see and do in Incheon. Described as a futuristic city, Incheon is at the front of Korea’s push to become an ultra-modern country and nowhere shows that more than Songdo Central Park . The traditional side of Incheon is also worth exploring, including the Chinatown, which is home to Korea’s most popular student food – jajangmyeon . If you want to explore a lesser-seen side of Korea, check out the islands near Incheon to see ancient fortresses, temples, and charming sights.

What to See In Incheon

Here are 5 great places to visit in Incheon:

  • Songdo Central Park
  • Incheon Chinatown
  • Wolmido Island
  • Incheon Grand Park
  • Ganghwa Jeondeungsa Temple

Nami Island women in hanbok Korea

Gapyeong County: Tourists Treats

Gapyeong County is a rural part of Korea just outside Seoul that is one of the most popular day trip destinations for visitors and locals alike. Inside Gapyeong County is the lovely Garden of Morning Calm , a beautiful sculpted garden that showcases traditional Korean buildings set amongst thousands of different plants and trees. There’s also Nami Island , an ever-popular attraction that has long tree-lined streets to explore, woodland animals, bike paths, and even a zip line to the island. You can also visit Petite France, a recreation of a French village, Gapyeong Rail Bike Park, and Cheongpyeong Lake, and many other attractions in Gapyeong.

What To See In Gapyeong

Here are 5 great places to visit in Gapyeong:

  • Nami Island
  • Garden of Morning Calm
  • Petite France
  • Gapyeong Rail Bike Park
  • Cheongpyeong Lake

Beach in Gangneung Korea

North-East Coast: Amazing Beaches

The north-east coastal region of Korea, spreading between Sokcho and Gangneung , features some of Korea’s most popular summer seaside resorts and beaches. The wide, sandy beaches are perfect for water sports, working on your tan, and sitting at night listening to local musicians perform BTS covers and their own tunes. Sokcho deserves at least two days to explore, more if you plan to visit nearby Seoraksan National Park , one of Korea’s best places to see autumn foliage. Gangneung is where to see cherry blossoms in spring, sit and relax at a seaside cafe at Gangneung Coffee Street , and enjoy beach life.

What To See On The North-East

Here are 5 great places in north-east Korea:

  • Sokcho Beach
  • Gangneung Beach
  • Seoraksan National Park
  • Yangyang Surfyy Beach
  • Gangneung Coffee Street

Famous bridge in Ulsan Korea

East Coast: Harbour Cities

Ulsan and Pohang are two industrial cities that don’t get enough attention, but are ideal for a weekend visit once you’ve explored other top sights. These coastal cities both have good beaches, coastal walks, and green spots, including a pretty bamboo forest in Ulsan. In Pohang, you can see the dizzying Space Walk , which looks out over the city and ocean. There’s also a former Japanese district with old buildings, and the famous Homigot Sunrise Square where you can watch the first sunrise of the year. Ulsan is famous for whaling and visitors should check out the charming Jangsaengpo Whale Museum and Daewangam Park.

What To See On The East Coast

Here are 5 great places on Korea’s East Coast:

  • Yeongildae Beach & Space Walk
  • Ilsan Beach & Daewangam Park
  • Jangsaengpo Whale Museum
  • Homigot Sunrise Square
  • Taehwagang National Garden

Damyang Bamboo Forest in Southern Korea

South-West: Iconic Rural Destinations

South-west Korea is a long way from most travellers’ typical route, but this area is worth visiting if you have time. Gwangju , one of Korea’s largest cities, is hidden away down here and surrounded by natural beauty, including the Juknokwon Bamboo Forest , Boseong Green Tea Fields, and Suncheon Bay Nature Reserve. If you plan to hire a car , these spots will show you a completely different side to Korea. Gwangju, too, which is a fun city and the birthplace of Korean democracy. Hidden in the far corner of Korea is Mokpo, a lovely coastal city that has a new cable car carrying you over the ocean.

What to See In The South-West

Here are 5 great places in south-west Korea:

  • Damyang Juknokwon Bamboo Forest
  • Boseong Green Tea Fields
  • Gwangju Culture Park & Penguin Village
  • Suncheon Bay Nature Reserve
  • Mokpo Marine Cable Car

Namhae Island in South Korea

South Coast Islands: Summer Getaways

Best explored during the hot summer months and early autumn, the south coast islands in Korea, which span from Busan to Mokpo, are where Koreans spend their summer holidays. The most popular destinations here are Geoje, Tongyeong, Yeosu, Namhae, and Goheung and each offers winding coastal paths, beaches, natural beauty, and fun summer activities. The best way to see these islands is with a rented car or by bike, riding around the coast visiting a few different beaches and attractions. Don’t expect too many cultural sights, instead you’ll find luges, gardens, water sports, and lots of fun.

What to See On The South Coast

Here are 5 great places on Korea’s South Coast:

  • Dolsan Park & Cable Car
  • Namhae Geumsan Boriam Hermitage
  • Hallyeohaesang National Park
  • Oedo-Botania Botanical Garden
  • Skyline Luge Tongyeong

As you can see, there are many great places to visit in Korea. Korea is truly a country of undiscovered wonders that people aren’t aware of. Seoul is an incredible place to visit, but there’s so much more to see. That’s why I try to include lesser-known places in this South Korea travel guide.

The list above covers a lot of the most popular or tour-worthy destinations in Korea, but there are still more places I could recommend, such as Andong (home to the mask dance festival), Gunsan (port town with a retro vibe), Daegu (big city with historic sights), Daejeon , and many more.

Besides cities and towns in Korea, there are also 18 national parks to explore, thousands of mountains, Buddhist temples, beaches, bike routes, campsites, and so much more. I’ll include a few of each of these in the next few sections of this South Korea travel guide.

Best Day Tours From Seoul In 2024

DMZ Peace Village In South Korea

Taking a day tour while you’re staying in Seoul is a great way to see more of Korea’s top attractions without the hassle of moving hotels to somewhere new. The 10 day tours from Seoul below can all be done in a day or less and can even be combined with other activities in the same day.

I don’t want to include every day tour available in this South Korea travel guide as there isn’t enough room to talk about them all. If you want to find more day tours, I recommend looking at the options available through tour providers such as Klook , Viator , and Get Your Guide .

Please note : There are many day tours from Seoul and they come with various prices. I recommend avoiding the very cheapest as these will often waste your time by taking you to some overpriced gift shop area and pressuring you to buy souvenirs or rushing you through too many attractions.

Here are 10 great day tours from Seoul:

DMZ between North and South Korea

Why Visit The DMZ

The DMZ, the demilitarised zone between North & South Korea is a truly unique place to visit when you’re in Korea. There are several different locations to see in this area, each reflecting the bitter struggle between the two Korea’s in the ongoing Korean War. Some of the highlights are the 3rd Tunnel, Dora Observatory, Dorasan Station, Gamaksan Suspension Bridge, and the Imjingak Park. There’s also the Panmunjom Truce Village where you can walk into North Korea, but this is currently closed. Tours are required to travel to certain parts of the DMZ.

Heart statue at Nami Island Korea

Why Visit Gapyeong County

Gapyeong County is home to Nami Island, the Garden of Morning Calm, Petite France, Gapyeong Rail Bike Park, and several other fun attractions. Nami Island and the Garden of Morning Calm are the most popular and can both be visited in a day. You can witness beautiful scenes at these destinations, especially during cherry blossom season (April) and autumn foliage season (October). Tours from Seoul to Gapyeong County are convenient and can take you to multiple places in one day without the hassle of buses and finding your own way.

Hwaseong fortress and walls in Suwon Korea

Why Visit Hwaseong Fortress

Hwaseong Fortress and its fortress walls offer a unique chance to see what life was like in Korea 200 years ago. Not only can you walk the full length of the walls around the city, you can also try archery and other traditional activities in the fortress grounds. There are many museums, fortress buildings, and exhibitions showing how people lived in this period. You can also enjoy the beautiful ponds and streams that run through the palace with traditional Korean restaurants and cafes looking out over these areas.

Korean Folk Village traditional sights and culture

Why Visit Korean Folk Village

Discover traditional Korean life at the Korean Folk Village in Yongin during a day trip from Seoul. Walk through dozens of recreated farm buildings, government offices, academies, shops, smiths, schools, and other traditional buildings from Korea’s past to get a feel for how people lived at this time. Actors dressed in traditional Joseon-era costumes bring the scenes to life. You can try fun activities, such as mask carving, horse riding, and archery. Witness exciting festivals and cultural performances, too.

Jeonju Hanok Village In Korea

Why Visit Jeonju Hanok Village

A day trip to the Jeonju Hanok Village in Jeonju is a great way to experience various traditional Korean cultural activities in a beautiful setting. This sprawling hanok village has over 700 traditional buildings for you to explore, dine in, or even stay in. Make sure you rent hanbok in Jeonju so you look like Korean royalty and make memorable photos during your trip. Whilst you’re in Jeonju Hanok Village, you can try local delights such as Jeonju bibimbap and PNB chocopies. Also check out the traditional Nambu Market and Jeongdong Catholic Church.

Alpaca world attraction in Korea

Why Visit Alpaca World

When you travel to Korea, you may not think about seeing alpacas, which are from an entirely different continent. But Korea’s love of all things cute means that these furry friends have become very popular in Korea and have their own theme park a few hours from Seoul. There are dozens of cuddly alpacas to see, feed, and play with at Alpaca World , as well as hundreds of other cute critters such as ponies, rabbits, deer, goats, fennec foxes, and more. There are 17 separate areas to explore in Alpaca World and it’ll provide hours of fun for the whole family.

Seoraksan National Park with clouds

Why Visit Seoraksan

Seoraksan National Park on Korea’s east coast is a great day trip from Seoul for those who want to see mountain peaks, leafy valleys, stony rivers, and a gigantic Buddha. Even if you’re not a keen hiker, you can explore lots of the park’s valley pathways easily, or reach the top thanks to the convenient cable car. See the sights from the observatory and check out the small temple in the clouds. Make sure you try haemul pajeon (seafood pancake) and makgeolli (rice wine). It’s the traditional meal Koreans enjoy after hiking.

Everland Theme Park in Korea

Why Visit Everland

Everland is Korea’s biggest theme park and is packed with attractions for everyone to enjoy. Thrill seekers will love the rollercoasters, such as T Express (the world’s 4th steepest rollercoaster) and many more exciting rides. Check out the Zootopia section to see wild animals and wild rides, or the Plantopia section for floral beauty, romantic walkways, and seasonal delights. There are plenty of attractions, cultural performances, entertainments, and seasonal events to keep you amused all day long.

Paragliding in Korea

Why Visit Danyang

A great way to see Korea’s countryside is with a day trip to Danyang to enjoy the rush of sailing over valleys and beside mountains while tandem paragliding. Feel the wind in your face and the sensation of riding the air currents as you pass over the many delightful views of Danyang. You can enjoy other activities in this area, such as the Mancheonha Skywalk , a clifftop lookout with incredible views, riding an alpine coaster, and zooming along a zip line. The perfect day tour from Seoul for thrill seekers.

Dae Jang Geum Park In Korea

Why Visit Dae Jang Geum Park

Fans of Korean period dramas and movies will love a day trip to Dae Jang Geum Park in Yongin. This is the largest historical drama filming set in Korea and was used to film MBC productions such as ‘Wind in the Palace’ and ‘The Great Queen Seondeok’, as well as K-Pop videos including Daechwita by Suga from BTS. If you’re lucky, you may see filming going on here. But even if you don’t, it’s a fun place for those who want to learn more about Korea’s history and take some cool pictures in a real movie set.

I’ve linked to tours provided by reliable tour companies in Korea. If you would rather book a tour through a local guide, contact Jerry Heng or Andrew Chung Hanbyul . They’re freelance guides with years of experience offering tours in Korea and both offer amazing service.

These places are accessible by public transport, but may take much longer than a tour would do, wasting your precious time. Check out my guide for getting to Nami Island to help you navigate Gapyeong County. For other destinations, I would recommend a tour – it’s more practical.

Best Sights To See In Korea In 2024

Bongeunsa Temple in Gangnam Seoul Korea

South Korea truly has something for everyone. There’s so much I want to include in this South Korea travel guide, which is why this section is full of different sights to see and explore. However, to keep things short and simple, I’ll just list them, not give full details about each one.

Whether you’re travelling to Korea to learn about Korean culture or history, to see Korea’s impressive landmarks, to enjoy family fun attractions, to hop from cafe to cafe, to immerse yourself in nature, or simply to eat and shop, then you’ll definitely find something for you in this section.

N Seoul Tower is an unmissable landmark in Seoul

Famous Landmarks In Korea

Landmarks and iconic buildings are often top of a traveller’s bucket list for Korea as they provide great photo opportunities, showcase the best of the country, and offer fantastic views. Seoul has many top landmarks, but you can see plenty of other sights outside of the capital, too.

Here are 10 famous landmarks in Korea:

  • Lotte World Tower (Seoul)
  • N Seoul Tower (Seoul)
  • Dongdaemun Design Plaza (Seoul)
  • Cheonggyecheon Stream (Seoul)
  • DMZ Area (near Seoul)
  • Nami Island (Gapyeong County)
  • Gamcheon Culture Village (Busan)
  • Seongsan Ilchulbong (Jeju)
  • Homigot Sunrise Square (Pohang)
  • Banwol Purple Island (West Coast)

Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul Korea

Historic Sights In Korea

Discover life in the Joseon period and before in Korea’s many captivating historic sights, including royal palaces, Buddhist temples, fortresses, and hanok villages. There are so many amazing historic sights to see in Korea, with each city having something to see.

Here are 10 historic sights in Korea:

  • Bukchon Hanok Village (Seoul)
  • Gyeongbokgung Palace (Seoul)
  • The Secret Garden (Seoul)
  • Seoul Fortress Walls (Seoul)
  • Hwaseong Fortress (Suwon)
  • Bulguksa Temple (Gyeongju)
  • Gyeongju Historic Area (Gyeongju)
  • Jeonju Hanok Village (Jeonju)
  • Haedong Yonggungsa Temple (Busan)
  • Andong Hahoe Village (Andong)

K Star Road in Gangnam Seoul

Korean Modern Cultural Sights

Fans of BTS, K-Dramas, Korean movies, and modern Korean culture in general have a lot to see and do in Korea. As well as famous filming locations across the country, these modern cultural sights will entertain, inform, and provide great destinations to visit.

Here are 10 modern cultural sights in Korea:

  • Hallyu K Star Road (Seoul)
  • K-Style Hub (Seoul)
  • Hongik Uni. Station Area (Seoul)
  • COEX Artium (Seoul)
  • Asia Culture Centre (Gwangju)
  • BIFF Square (Busan)
  • Dae Jang Geum Park (Yongin)
  • Sunshine Studio (Nonsan)
  • Kim Gwang-Seok Street (Daegu)

Lotte World Adventure Theme Park In Seoul

Family Fun Attractions In Korea

Families travelling to Korea have plenty of things to see and do and ways to enjoy spending time together. There’s no Disneyworld or Universal Studios in Korea, but there are plenty of great alternatives, as well as places for children to explore, learn, and discover.

Here are 10 family fun attractions in Korea:

  • Lotte World Adventure (Seoul)
  • Everland Theme Park (Yongin)
  • Seoul Grand Park & Zoo (Seoul)
  • Alive Museum & Dynamic Maze (Seoul)
  • Seoul Children’s Museum (Seoul)
  • Zoolung Zoolung (Seoul)
  • Sea Life Busan Aquarium (Busan)
  • Jeju Dinosaur Island (Jeju Island)
  • Alpaca World (Gangwon Province)
  • Skyline Luge & Lotte World (Busan)

Soldier statues at the War Memorial In Korea

Korean Museums & Galleries

Travellers to Korea who want to learn about Korea’s history, culture, and art will love Korea’s impressive museums and galleries. These are great places to visit when the weather is bad and you might be surprised at how much there is to learn about Korea’s past.

Here are 10 museums & galleries in Korea:

  • National Museum of Korea (Seoul)
  • War Memorial of Korea (Seoul)
  • Seoul Museum of Art (Seoul)
  • Seoul Museum of History (Seoul)
  • Seodaemun Prison Museum (Seoul)
  • Museum Kimchikan (Seoul)
  • National Folk Museum of Korea (Seoul)
  • Gyeongju National Museum (Gyeongju)
  • National Maritime Museum (Busan)
  • Daegu Art Museum (Daegu)

Barista making coffee in Ikseongdong Seoul

Cafe Areas In Korea

When you need a break from travelling in Korea, visit one of these cosy cafe areas and take time to relax and recharge. Although Korea was traditionally a tea drinking country, cafes are now everywhere and you’ll find photogenic cafes everywhere these days.

Here are 10 cafe areas to visit in Korea:

  • Ikseondong Hanok Village (Seoul)
  • Gyeongui Line Parks (Seoul)
  • Samcheondong Cafe Street (Seoul)
  • Sinsa-dong / Garosugil Road (Seoul)
  • Jukjeon Cafe Street (Seoul)
  • Jeonpo Cafe Street (Busan)
  • Haeridangil (Busan)
  • Hwangnidangil (Gyeongju)
  • Hwaseong Haenggung Area (Suwon)
  • Gangneung Coffee Street (Gangneung)

Korean woman preparing food at Gwangjang Market Seoul

Korean Markets & Malls

If you want the best selection of street food, souvenirs, and bargain shopping options, be sure to visit Korea’s many traditional markets. It’s a cultural experience itself. Korea also has some of the world’s largest malls with a wide variety of Korean and international goods.

Here are 10 markets & malls in Korea:

  • Gwangjang Market (Seoul)
  • Dongaemun Market (Seoul)
  • Hongdae Shopping Street (Seoul)
  • Starfield COEX Mall (Seoul)
  • Jagalchi Fish Market (Busan)
  • Seomyeon Underground Mall (Busan)
  • Centum City Mall (Busan)
  • Seogwipo Maeil Olle Market (Jeju)
  • Nambu Market (Jeonju)
  • Paju Premium Outlets (Paju)

Bear statue at Seoraksan National Park Korea

Korean Natural Wonders

Korea is a country covered in mountains, waterfalls, valleys, rice terraces, and beautiful natural sights. Make time to visit some of these natural wonders when you visit Korea and you’ll be amazed at the incredible views you can find. The national parks are truly breathtaking.

Here are 10 natural wonders to see in Korea:

  • Hallasan Mountain (Jeju)
  • Jirisan National Park (Southern Korea)
  • Seoraksan National Park (Gyeonggi)
  • Garden of Morning Calm (Gapyeong)
  • Juknokwon Bamboo Forest (Damyang)
  • Boseong Green Tea Fields (Boseong)
  • Udo Island (Jeju Island)
  • Seongsan Ilchulbong Sunrise Peak (Jeju)
  • Hyeopjae Beach (Jeju)
  • Suncheon Bay National Park (Suncheon)

These 100 ideas are just the tip of the iceberg for what you can enjoy when travelling to Korea. There’s so much more to discover and I recommend you add some time to your travel plans to explore without a plan. Sometimes the best travel memories come from unexpected discoveries.

Best Activities To Try In Korea In 2024

Often the most memorable moments when travelling come from the experiences we have, not just the places we visit. Visiting a palace is interesting, but visiting a palace while dressed in traditional Korean hanbok , pretending you’re Joseon-era royalty with your friends or family is much more fun.

This section of the South Korea travel guide offers 10 fun activities you can try when you visit Korea. These will give you a good introduction to Korean culture, food, history, and nature. If you want more ideas, check out my list of 50 unique Korean experiences you can only do in Korea.

People wearing Korean traditional hanbok dresses

One of the top experiences to try in Korea has to be wearing Korean hanbok. It is available for all members of the family (even pets) and you can rent hanbok near most palaces or hanok villages. The hanbok easily fit over your regular clothes and come in a variety of colourful or traditional designs. You can get hair styling, accessories, and even have a hanbok photoshoot . Rentals can be as short as one hour or up to a full day.

Korean Street Food in Seoul

Travellers to Korea can’t say they’ve truly tried Korean cuisine until they’ve eaten Korean street food from a market stall or street vendor. There are many types of Korean street food to sample in Korea, such as savoury snacks like tteokbokki and eomuk , to sweet treats like hotteok and bungeo-ppang . Korean street food is cheap and delicious. It’s usually not that healthy, but always leaves you feeling great. Give it a try.

Hanok House In Seoul

Experience life as a Korean would have in the Joseon-era with a night in a traditional hanok house. A hanok stay is very different from sleeping in a hotel and allows you to try a night on a futon (with underground heating keeping you warm in winter). Slide the doors aside in the morning and walk out onto the wooden decking to enjoy traditional Korean tea at a low table and the sight of the ornately decorated garden. Don’t forget to take your shoes off before you enter.

Korean fortress walls with white plants

Seoul and other cities in Korea still have fortress walls you can walk or hike along that will offer incredible views of cities and mountains. As you walk along the fortress walls, you begin to imagine what life would have been like as a soldier keeping the city safe from invaders. Nowadays, you can enjoy exercise and sightseeing at the same time. Seoul’s fortress walls are a good place to start, but you can find fortress walls in many other places.

Korean Sauna

Visiting a Korean sauna might be a bit shocking for first-time travellers to Korea, but it’s a great way to relax and is especially good in winter. When you enter a Korean sauna, you should take off all your clothes, have a shower, and then enter one of the hot baths. Being naked in front of others can be scary for some, but you soon overcome that fear. Korean saunas sometimes have a communal resting area called a jjimjjilbang . These areas require pyjamas and offer snacks, drinks, and places to rest.

Korean Buddhist Temple Musical Performance

The Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism have set up a templestay program at dozens of temples across Korea where you spend a day or two at the temple and join in various activities. This is truly a unique experience that you should try in Korea as you get to see customs performed by the monks that aren’t normally shown to the public. You also get to stay overnight at the temple and experience a hanok stay at the same time. Guests can also eat healthy vegan temple food, learn a lot, and chat with the monks.

Korean Karaoke Noraebang Sign

A noraebang is the Korean version of a karaoke room, but is more popular in Korea and is commonly visited by locals and tourists alike. This is a great place to visit in the evening after a big Korean bbq meal and a few drinks. Everyone can relax and belt out their favourite Korean or international tunes together (or alone), shake some tambourines in support, or just watch and enjoy the atmosphere with some drinks. You can find these in every town and city in Korea and they provide a cheap night of fun and drinks.

Sky Bridge On Lotte World Tower

Open since 2020, the Sky Bridge at Lotte World Tower offers unbeatable views of Seoul and a nerve-racking trip above the city. Walk between the two towers at the top of the Lotte World Tower and peer down the 541 metre drop to the city streets below. It’s actually very safe and you’re strapped into a harness as you walk from one side to the other, but this definitely isn’t for the faint-hearted. If you’re not sure you can handle the height, check out the Seoul Sky Observatory on the 117th floor instead.

Sheep Cafe in Seoul Korea

Koreans love to drink coffee and also love cute, unusual things, which is probably why theme cafes have become so popular in Korea. Besides the many cat cafes, there are theme cafes where you can stroke sheep, pet dogs, and see other animals. There’s more to Korea’s theme cafes than just drinking coffee with animals, you can also try drinking from a toilet at the Poop Cafe , paint pictures, build lego, go camping, practice being a wizard, and more. Hongdae in Seoul is the best place to find theme cafes.

Boseong Green Tea Fields In Korea

Although cafes are replacing Korean tea houses, Korea still grows and drinks lots of tea, especially green tea. You can visit these tea fields in areas such as Boseong and on Jeju Island, both of which have visitor centres and attractions to teach you about the wonderful world of Korean tea. The Daehan Dawon Tea Plantation in Boseong has lush green fields all year round and has been used as a filming location for several Korean shows. The O’sulloc Tea Museum on Jeju Island also has lovely views.

I recommend trying at least a few of these unique activities, they’ll really make your trip to Korea more memorable and offer insights into Korean culture and life. My advice is to be brave when visiting Korea and try new things, even if they seem a bit unusual at first. The same applies to Korean foods.

Best Korean Festivals To Join In 2024

There are dozens of festivals held in Korea each year celebrating the seasons, local products, traditions, culture, and often just for the sake of having fun. Visiting a festival in Korea will offer you a glimpse of how locals celebrate life, culture, and nature and let you join in the fun.

Whenever you visit Korea, there’ll be festivals going on. However, the biggest festivals occur in spring or autumn. As mentioned previously in this South Korea travel guide, these are the best seasons to visit Korea as the weather is pleasant and people are celebrating the end of summer or winter.

Cherry blossom viewing in Korea

Cherry Blossom Festivals

The cherry blossom festivals in Korea occur in late March and early April and are some of the biggest festivals in Korea. People flock to forests, lakes, and rivers to see the pretty blossoms. The Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival has over 2 million visitors each year, and even more people visit Seokchon Lake and Yeouido Hangang Park in Seoul. There are many festivals and tours to see cherry blossoms in Korea so you should be able to find a quiet place to enjoy the view.

Light Festival In Korea

Winter Light Festivals

During the cold, dark days of winter, attractions such as Nami Island, the Garden of Morning Calm, and Herb Island transform into sparkling winter wonderlands with millions of bright lights illuminating them. There are also winter illumination festivals in Korean cities, such as the Haeundae Lighting Festival in Busan, Cheonggyecheon Stream Winter Lights in Seoul, and the Busan Christmas Tree Cultural Festival. When it snows in Korea, these festivals look even more magical.

Summer Music Festival Concert In Korea

Summer Music Festivals

Summer in Korea is hot, but that doesn’t stop people enjoying day-long music festivals across the country. From chilled jazz festivals like the Seoul Jazz Festival , to action-packed concerts like Psy’s Summer Swag , there are music festivals to suit everyone. This is a popular summer activity in Korea , so be sure to book in advance for ticketed events. If you can’t get tickets, just go to a popular beach in the evening and you’ll usually find musicians performing.

New Year Festivals In Korea

New Year Festivals

There are various festivals in Korea to celebrate the solar new year. New Year’s Eve festivals involve a bell-ringing ceremony where a giant bell is rung at midnight to welcome in the new year. Fireworks festivals are common events in cities across Korea, starting at midnight, too. Koreans celebrate the start of the new year by visiting the East Coast to see the first sunrise of the year at places like Homigot Sunrise Square or Seongsan Ilchulbong on Jeju Island.

Buddhist lanterns for Buddha's Birthday In Korea

Buddha’s Birthday Festivals

Buddha’s Birthday is like Christmas for the Buddhist world, but celebrated very differently. It also falls on changing dates each year as it follows the lunar calendar, just like Korean New Year. Korean Buddhist temples across Korea will celebrate by putting up colourful lanterns and decorations for at least a month before the actual date. The biggest festival celebrating Buddha’s Birthday is the Yeon Deung Hoe Lantern Festival , which features thousands of lanterns and a lantern parade through central Seoul.

Boryeong Mud Festival in Korea

Boryeong Mud Festival

The Boryeong Mud Festival is one of Korea’s largest festivals and attracts visitors from around the world. Running for 2 weeks during rainy season, this is the best way to see a Korean festival even when the weather is bad. There’s a lot to see and do at this festival, including getting dirty in the mud with mud sports, mud wrestling, mud tug-of-war, and other mud-filled events. Boryeong is famous for the high-quality mud found in nearby waters and, by joining this festival, you’re getting a free mud facial.

Jinju Lantern Festival In Korea

Jinju Lantern Festival

The visually stunning Jinju Lantern Festival is held in October each year in Jinju City and runs for several weeks. During the day, watch cultural performances and enjoy exploring the central fortress grounds of Jinju. Once it gets dark, see the city transform as thousands of lanterns, some as big as trees, come to life. There are so many weird and wonderful lanterns to discover at this festival. You can also set your own lanterns to float down the river with your wish inside.

Andong Mask Dance Festival In Korea (1)

Andong Mask Dance Festival

The Andong Mask Dance Festival in Andong, home of the Andong Hahoe Village, is a great opportunity to witness traditional Korean dance and music performances. Not only can you see traditional Korean performances during this 4 day festival, there are also international performers displaying their own culture’s dancing. Get hands-on with traditional Korean culture at this festival. Explore Andong and learn about its contributions to Korea’s cultural development.

Cat statues at Goyang Flower Festival

Goyang Flower Festival

The Goyang International Flower Festival runs twice per year, once in spring and once in autumn. It’s a beautiful celebration of floral beauty mixed with Korean cuteness and creativity. At this flower festival you can stroll through a maze of different displays, with each section focusing on certain flowers and plants. There are indoor displays with vividly coloured roses, nature-based outdoor photo zones, and the lovely Ilsan Lake Park in the background.

Baekje Culture Festival In Gongju

Baekje Culture Festival

The Baekje Culture Festival probably isn’t one that first-time travellers to Korea would know about. Held in Gongju and Buyeo, the two former capitals of the ancient Baekje Kingdom, this 10-day long festival held around Chuseok (Korean mid-autumn harvest festival), is packed with unique events and sights and is set in historic locations in each city. There’s local food to try, musical & cultural performances, fun photo zones, lantern displays, and much more.

Knowing when you plan to visit Korea will help you research what festivals are on and what the weather will be like. There are certainly a lot more than just the ones mentioned above, including some others mentioned previously in the seasons part of this South Korea travel guide.

I recommend using a tour company to see out of the way festivals like the Jinju Lantern Festival and the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival. These are often far from typical tourist destinations and can take hours to get to by public transport. Tours are worth the cost to save you time and avoid hassle.

Recommended Itinerary For Korea In 2024

In this section of this South Korea travel guide is my recommended first-timer itinerary for South Korea. This introduces you to two of Korea’s biggest cities, as well as a couple of day trips to highly rated destinations in Korea. There’s a mix of history, culture, nature, sights, and experiences.

This itinerary starts in Seoul as that’s where most people arrive to Korea after flying into Incheon Airport. If you arrive in Busan, you can change the route to start and end there instead. For travellers to Korea with only 2 or 3 days, I recommend using the first few days of this itinerary instead.

The itinerary lasts for one week, which isn’t enough time to see all of Korea, but enough time to get a feel for the country. If you have more time, use this itinerary and add in or replace extra destinations as you like. Jeju Island is certainly worth visiting if you have an extra 2 or 3 days.

Classic Sights Of Korea Itinerary

N Seoul Tower In Seoul At Night

This itinerary covers a few must-see sights in Korea, including the two largest cities, the history city of Gyeongju, and some popular day trip destinations from Seoul.

Day 1 : Arrive in Seoul and explore Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok Village, Insadong Art Street, Jogyesa Temple, and Cheonggyecheon Stream. Get dinner at the Jonggak Avenue of Youth for authentic Korean food that’s better than the touristy places in Myeongdong.

Day 2 : Learn about Korean history at the War Memorial of Korea or National Museum of Korea, explore Seoul’s traditional Gwangjang market in Dongdaemun, take the cable car to the N Seoul Tower for sunset & night views, then head down to Itaewon or Myeongdong for dinner & drinks.

Day 3 : Take a day trip to Gapyeong and visit Nami Island, the Garden of Morning Calm, and the Gapyeong Rail Bike Park. Return to Seoul for dinner and rooftop drinks in Myeongdong and then walk along the fortress walls from Dongdaemun Station if the weather is good.

Day 4 : Take the KTX to Busan, drop your bags, and take the subway to Nampo-dong for Jagalchi Fish Market, Bosu-dong Book Alley, and traditional sights. Take a taxi to Huinnyeoul Culture Village. End the day in Haeundae for evening dinner & drinks and a walk along the beach at night.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple In Busan

Day 5 : Take the bus to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, then a taxi to Songjeong Beach. Relax in a beachside cafe, then take the Haeundae Beach Train to Cheongsapo, change to the Sky Capsule, and end up in Haeundae. Take a bus to Gamcheon Culture Village and get dinner at Songdo Beach.

Day 6 : Take a day trip from Busan to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Gyeongju. Visit the Gyeongju Historic Area, then Gyeongju Gyochon Traditional Village for traditional food and sights of Woljeonggyo Bridge. See tranquil night views of Wolji Pond before getting dinner at Hwangnidangil.

Day 7 : Head back to Seoul on the KTX for a final day of shopping and sightseeing in Hongdae. Walk along the Gyeongui Line Forest Park or Book Street or visit a theme cafe. Take the subway directly to Incheon Airport from Hongdae or spend a night here and check out the lively night scene.

Gyeongui Line Book Street In Seoul

Please note : I recommend trying not to cram too much into your itinerary. You may want to see as much as possible, but people often end up rushing past sights and not appreciating them. Plan for less and see more if you have time. It gives you a chance to be spontaneous.

To plan a realistic itinerary for South Korea, it is important to factor in transportation, meal breaks, and rest times. Use Naver Maps to plan your route and work out travel times. A short journey on the map might take much longer if there’s no direct route. Also consider breaks if you plan to walk a lot.

Cultural Issues When Visiting Korea

People eating a Korean BBQ meal on the street

The next few sections of this South Korea travel guide will provide answers to some of the most common questions first-time travellers to Korea have in regards to cultural, language, and safety issues. Korea is a culturally unique country with customs and traditions you might not be aware of.

Korea is a society that places a strong emphasis on social image, respect for others, and social harmony. This means Koreans will often try to avoid conflict, especially in public. To show respect for Korean culture and to avoid being rude, try to respect social harmony and always avoid conflict.

If you follow these tips, you’ll find it easier to avoid accidentally upsetting someone in Korea. There’s far too much to cover in this South Korea travel guide, so if you’d like to know more, check out my detailed guide to Korean etiquette and culture , it’s packed with tips and insights to understand Korea.

What is considered rude in Korea? It is considered rude to point with one finger or with chopsticks, give and receive with one hand, cross your legs when sitting, and to walk inside with your shoes on. Things considered rude in other countries such as swearing and spitting are also rude in Korea.

What is considered unlucky in Korea? It is considered unlucky to write someone’s name in red ink and to stand chopsticks upright in rice. Both are used in rituals for deceased people. The number 4 is also unlucky as the word is the same as the word for ‘death’.

Do you need to tip in Korea? It’s not necessary to tip in Korea and most restaurants and cafes won’t expect or allow you to tip. There is no service charge added to bills in Korea, with the exception of some upmarket restaurants, bars, and hotels in touristy areas of Seoul. Tipping guides is okay.

Sign to take off your shoes in Korea

Do you need to take off shoes when going inside? If you enter someone’s house in Korea, you should take off your shoes. This rule also applies to temples, traditional restaurants, and other places in traditional buildings. Most cafes, shops, and restaurants won’t ask you to take off your shoes.

When should you use two hands in Korea? You should use two hands when giving and receiving things in Korea, such as money, a gift, a business card, or food. When you shake hands, use both hands, not just one. The same applies to pouring drinks, both pouring and holding a glass.

Do I have to act like a Korean in Korea? You don’t have to follow Korean customs and traditions when you visit Korea. You are a guest in the country and Koreans won’t expect you to know every rule. However, showing cultural awareness in Korea will help you make friends and impress locals.

The best tip for being culturally sensitive in Korea is to first consider all the things that you’d consider rude in your own country – spitting, swearing, shouting, physical violence, etc. Show the same acts of kindness you’d show at home – help others, give up your seat for those in need, be polite, etc.

Furthermore, remember that social harmony is really important in Korea and try not to cause a scene. Keep your voice down in public, don’t talk or act aggressively, be polite, and don’t force things when people are reluctant. Koreans may feel obliged to do things, even when they don’t want to.

Language Issues When Travelling Korea

Korean and English on a sign in Seoul

Language issues can be a big concern for first-time travellers to Korea as Korean is a very different language from English and has a unique alphabet. Korean is also one of the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers, ranked alongside Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic.

However, as a tourist to Korea, you don’t need to worry about mastering the language. English is used for signs and announcements in most places that you’ll need it, such as on public transport, at the airport, at attractions & tourist sites, on menus, and most other places. It’s common across Korea.

If there is a sign or notice that isn’t in Korean, I recommend using the Papago app to take translate it. Use the image translation function in the app to scan the sign and Papago will translate it into English for you. It’s really convenient and the way I translate things I can’t read in Korean.

Do Korean People Speak English?

Speaking in English to Korean people is different from being able to read and translate signs. English is taught from elementary school until the end of high school. That doesn’t mean everyone will remember it, but there’s a good chance some people will know English, especially younger Koreans.

It is best to ask if someone speaks English before trying to have a conversation. You can do this in Korean by asking “영어 할 수 있어요?” (Yong-oh hal su iss-o-yo?) or just ask it in English. Tour guides and people in the tourism industry will probably be able to speak English, but it’s not guaranteed.

Shyness is an issue in Korea and locals may be reluctant to speak English at first for fear of making a mistake. As an English teacher in Korea, I know that Korean students are usually quite competent in English, but lack confidence to use it. Be patient and encouraging when talking in English.

Although some Koreans may be too shy to use English, other people may be enthusiastic about speaking English to you and want to practice it. I’ve been asked random questions in English by strangers in the street in Korea who want to practice English and find out about my life.

Ticket prices for Lotte World Adventure In Seoul

Should You Learn Korean Before Visiting Korea?

If you do want to learn some Korean before you travel, I recommend you start by learning the Korean alphabet , or at least learning some basic Korean travel phrases . Knowing how to introduce yourself, discuss prices, ask for directions, and ask for help will make your trip to Korea a lot easier.

You can learn Korean online through courses such as 90 Day Korean and Korean Class 101 , or with self-study textbooks like the excellent Talk To Me In Korean series. There are lots of resources on YouTube, too. I particularly like Learn Korean with GO! Korean Billy as he explains things clearly.

Another way to prepare to move to Korea is to read some Korean novels in English . Although these books won’t teach you any Korean, they’ll offer up valuable insights into Korean culture, both traditional and hidden under the surface. Literature is a good way to gain an understanding of a culture.

Nonsensical English sign in Korea

A warning about Konglish : Although Korea uses English in many useful ways, there’s also a lot of Konglish. The sign above is a good example of random English words being used to look cool, but ending up being confusing. There’s a lot of this in Korea and it’s mostly harmless, so don’t worry.

Health And Safety Issues In Korea

Person washing their hands at a temple in Korea

First-time travellers to Korea may be worried about health and hygiene issues, such as if certain foods are available and if they’re safe to eat. Other issues include vaccinations, personal safety, and how easy it is to contact emergency services. These issues are addressed below.

Is Korean Street Food Safe To Eat?

Korean street food is generally safe to eat and won’t give you any health issues unless you have an intolerance to the food. Korean street food can be spicy or contain a lot of salt, be aware of your own personal tolerances and dietary requirements before trying it.

Also be careful when ordering food with meat or seafood and check that it is cooked thoroughly. Korean street food that has been left out for a long time is more likely to cause food poisoning problems, so ask for freshly cooked food if you’re concerned.

Flame cooked Korean street food

Is It Easy To Find Vegan-Friendly Food In Korea?

There are many vegan-friendly Korean dishes , such as gimbap , japchae , pajeon , bibimbap , ramyeon , and tteokbokki . However, some restaurants may use non vegan-friendly ingredients when preparing these foods, so be careful. Kimchi isn’t vegan-friendly due to its seafood ingredients & sauces.

Vegetarianism and veganism aren’t common in Korea with fewer people following these diets than in countries such as the USA or UK. Vegetarians in Korea account for 3% of the population, while vegans in Korea are only 0.2% of the population as of 2022. The UK is 10% and 2% respectively.

However, the number of vegan-friendly restaurants and bakeries is increasing each year in Korea, especially in areas such as Hongdae and Itaewon. Korean Buddhist temple food is vegan-friendly and a good option for vegans who want to enjoy vegan food while learning about local Korean culture.

If you’re concerned about accidentally ordering non vegan-friendly food, or want to know how to tell someone about food allergies or requirements, check out my guide to Korean phrases for ordering food . This has a whole section about special requests when ordering food in Korean.

Is It Safe To Drink Tap Water In Korea?

Korean tap water is potable and safe to drink. Korea ranks 23rd for water hygiene, which is above the USA, Canada, and Australia. However, many Koreans don’t drink tap water , preferring to use water purifiers and bottled water instead, claiming that tap water smells strange or water pipes are bad.

Personally, I don’t like drinking tap water in Korea as it tastes a bit stale, but it’s perfectly fine to drink and doesn’t cause any problems. Bottled water is very cheap in Korea and costs 600 KRW for a 500ml bottle from a convenience store. Buying water from a supermarket is a cheaper option though.

Person giving a vaccination

Do You Need Any Vaccinations To Travel To South Korea?

There are no mandatory vaccinations required to travel to Korea , but it is suggested you should have at least routine vaccinations such as tetanus, MMR, and polio. Hepatitis A & B, typhoid, and Japanese encephalitis vaccinations are also recommended.

Is Korea Friendly To Tourists?

Korea is generally friendly and welcoming to tourists. The Korean government spends a lot of money and effort to promote Korean tourism to the world and there are many incentives to bring people to the country. Korean people are also mostly polite and welcoming, especially in the tourism sector.

Is Korea A Dangerous Country To Travel In?

South Korea is a safe country to travel in and the crime rate in Korea is low, comparable to Norway or the Netherlands. Public crimes, such as theft and assault, are rare. Pickpocketing and purse snatching aren’t common and unattended goods are generally left alone or reported to the police.

How safe is Korea? I regularly see people leave their phone or handbag on a cafe table to reserve it before going up to order a drink. People even leave their laptops open while they pop out for lunch or go to the toilet. Stealing disturbs social harmony and is one of the reasons it’s rare in Korea.

Physical violence is also rare, but still occurs in Korea, as it does in all countries. This is most often found in areas with lots of bars and when people are drunk. However, visiting bars in Korea is a lot safer than I’ve experienced in other countries and trouble is not common, even in busy places.

Seoul Tourist Police in Korea

How Do You Contact Tourist Information Services In Korea?

Call 1330 in Korea to contact the Travel Helpline . The Korean Travel Helpline provides the following services free of charge to tourists in Korea.

  • Tourist Information : Find out about attractions, opening hours, prices, and other information.
  • Tourist Interpretation : Access travel information in several languages.
  • Tourist Complaints : Report rip-offs and problems you encounter when travelling in Korea.
  • Tourist Police : Report minor crimes in English and other languanges.

There are tourist police patrolling the streets of Seoul, dressed in purple uniforms as shown in the picture above. In popular tourist locations like Myeongdong and Bukchon Hanok Village, you’ll also find friendly tourist information staff dressed in red shirts with matching red cowboy hats.

What Should You Do If You Have An Emergency In Korea?

If you need to report a fire or medical emergency in Korea, you should call 119 from any phone. To contact the police in Korea, call 112. You will need to select an option to report an emergency in English or another language. It may take some time to be redirected to an English speaker.

  • 119 – Medical Emergency & Fire Rescue
  • 112 – Police

When you use medical services in Korea, you have to pay the cost of treatment, but there is no fee for the ambulance ride as this is covered by the Korean government. Travel insurance should cover the cost of medical bills, so if you’re worried about a large medical bill, insurance is recommended.

Fortunately, the cost of treatment in Korea is quite reasonable and Korea has advanced medical facilities, which is why it’s a popular medical tourism destination . Many people travel to Korea for minor and major surgery, including laser eye surgery, cosmetic surgery, and internal medicine.

Is Air Pollution A Problem In Korea?

Air pollution is an issue in Korea, especially in spring & summer. Winds blow yellow dust from Central Asia, field burning spreads fumes across Asia, and fossil-fuel burning contributes to higher levels of air pollution. Some days there’ll be very low visibility and health risks for people with lung problems.

My Personal Travel Tips For Korea

Man with ginkgo trees at Nami Island

This South Korea travel guide is a collection of information I’ve researched and learned since moving to Korea in 2015 and blogging about Korean travel since 2019. I hope the provided information and insights are useful and assist you plan your dream first-time, or even tenth-time, trip to Korea.

This section includes my personal tips that didn’t really fit anywhere else and reflections built from travelling all over Korea in all seasons. These are tips I would offer to first-time travellers to Korea and people who might have some worries about visiting the Land of Morning Calm. I hope they help.

The Real Korea Isn’t What You See On TV

Korea is a developed country that went from being a 3rd world country in the mid 20th Century to a high-tech country in a short time. Despite the many high-rises and modern K-Pop stars, there are still shadows of the former Korea seen in both run-down slums and people with ‘traditional’ values.

The image created by selective K-Culture can distort people’s reality when dreaming of a trip to Korea in the same way Korean people can suffer from Paris Syndrome when visiting France. There are many wonderful things about Korea, but don’t travel thinking that everything is as shown on TV.

Be Prepared For Culture Shock

One of the best things about travelling is seeing a country and people that act and behave differently to how you do in your own country. This is known as culture shock and can be both a blessing and a challenge for first-time travellers to Korea. Things you might be used to can be different in Korea.

Some examples of culture shock in Korea include the way age determines hierarchy in Korea and how older people can be rather pushy, especially on the subway. Younger people also typically don’t question the decisions of older people in Korea as it is considered rude and disrespectful.

Less extreme cultural differences that might confuse some first-time visitors to Korea include having to shout to call someone to take your order in a Korean restaurant or not giving a tip. Koreans might similarly look at you strangely if you do something culturally different, such as walking while drinking.

Don’t Overpack When You Travel To Korea

First-time travellers to Korea may be worried about visiting a country like Korea without taking everything they need from home, even the kitchen sink. My advice is to pack as light as possible and leave yourself some space in your suitcase. There are two reasons for this.

  • You can buy most things you need in Korea . This includes sun cream, heat packs, clothes, shoes, cosmetics, travel accessories, etc. They’re also probably cheaper in Korea, too.
  • You will want to take home lots of things . From weird Korean snacks to beautiful hand-crafted pottery and woodwork, there are so many things to buy in Korea.

(1) The only exception is if you might have a problem finding correct-fitting items. Korean shoes and clothes are slightly smaller than what you’d find in Western countries and the sizes are also differently labelled. I’m a medium in the UK but a large (sometimes XL!) in Korea. Be careful when shopping.

(2) It’s hard to fit everything you buy in Korea into an already full suitcase. Fortunately, you can buy extra suitcases at low prices. Check out Namdaemun Market for cheap luggage options, as well as shops like the one pictured below (this is in Busan) in places like Hongdae and Dongdaemun.

Luggage shop in Busan Korea

Electricity In South Korea

Be careful with electric items when travelling to Korea. Korea uses type C and F plugs , which are used in Europe, Russia, and other parts of Asia. The standard voltage is 220V with 60Hz frequency. Anything designed for a standard voltage between 220V and 240V should be fine in Korea.

Laptops, mobile phones, and other portable devices will be fine when you travel in Korea as long as you use a travel adapter with a USB or socket connection. Hairdryers, shavers, curlers, and similar devices might have problems charging in Korea and run out of power very soon. My shaver did.

Go With The Flow And Go Quickly

Korea is a very busy country and you might hear people mutter ‘빨리빨리’ ( ppalli ppalli ) if you walk slowly, especially in the subway. Koreans work long hours and are eager to get home or go out for dinner. Don’t take it personally if people push past you and don’t feel like you have to rush.

Know Where To Throw Away Rubbish

It can be difficult to find a bin to throw away rubbish in Korea, even in urban areas. The best place to dispose of rubbish in Korea is at a convenience store. You can find recycling and trash bins in these shops. If you go hiking or explore the countryside, expect to carry your rubbish home with you.

South Korea Travel Guide FAQs

Finally, here’s a few FAQs about this South Korea travel guide, in case the above information didn’t cover enough for you.

What is the best month to visit South Korea?

The best months to visit South Korea are April and October. April is warm and you can see cherry blossoms in Seoul at the start of the month. October is warm with clear skies. During October you can see autumn foliage across Korea.

How much money is enough for South Korea?

The amount of money you need to travel in South Korea depends on your travel style and desired level of comfort. A rough budget for South Korea is 50-100,000 KRW per day for budget travellers, 100-200,000 KRW per day for mid-range travellers, and 200,000+ KRW per day for luxury travellers.

Is South Korea friendly to tourists?

South Korea is a welcoming country and friendly to tourists. There are many services to welcome tourists to South Korea, including free transit tours from Incheon Airport, cultural performances in tourist destinations, low entry fees to traditional attractions like Gyeongbokgung Palace, and tourist information and signs in multiple languages.

What do I need to know before travelling to South Korea?

It’s important to know about the weather before travelling to South Korea as this can impact your day to day travel and affect what clothes you’ll need. You should also research what festivals are on before you travel, what seasonal events are happening, such as cherry blossom viewing, and also how to use public transport and get connected to the net.

What is the cheapest month to visit South Korea?

January and February are two of the cheapest months to visit South Korea and are considered low season as the weather is cold. Hotel prices and flights to Korea will be lower in these months. Winter is a good time to travel to Korea to see snow and enjoy winter sports and festivals, however, some attractions will be closed during this time of year.

Do I need a South Korea travel guide?

It is good to check a South Korea travel guide to research your trip, especially for first-time travellers to Korea. Korea has a unique culture, language, and customs that might be confusing for new travellers. A South Korea travel guide will help you prepare for these factors and give you ideas to create your perfect trip to Korea.

Can you drink tap water in Korea?

Korean tap water is potable and safe to drink. You can drink water from hotels and apartments in Korea. Restaurants and cafes will provide you with free drinking water, which usually comes from a water cooler. Bottled water is available from convenience stores and is reasonably priced.

Is South Korea safe for first-time travellers?

South Korea is a safe country for first-time travellers to visit. Personal crimes, such as theft, mugging, and physical violence are rare in Korea and it is safe to walk the streets of Seoul, even at night. First-time travellers can prepare for a trip to South Korea by being aware of potential scams, such as taxi drivers over charging them or being ripped off in the traditional markets.

What are the best apps for travelling in South Korea?

The best apps for travelling to South Korea are Papago, Kakao Taxi, Naver Maps, and Seoul Subway. These apps will allow you to translate between Korean and English, hail taxis, and navigate as you travel. All of these apps have English language options and are free to use.

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Joel Marrinan Profile Picture

Hi! My name is Joel, I'm the author of In My Korea and writer of this article. I've lived, worked and travelled in Korea since 2015 and want to share my insights, stories and tips to help you have the best experience during your trip to Korea.

I love learning more about Korean culture, hiking the many mountains, and visiting all the coolest places in Korea, both modern and traditional. If you want to know more about my story, check out the ' about me ' section to learn why I love living in Korea.

4 thoughts on “Complete South Korea Travel Guide 2024: Korean Travel Tips”

This South Korea travel guide is a comprehensive resource for anyone planning a trip to Korea. It covers everything from entry requirements and travel tips to accommodation options and places to visit. Whether you’re a first-time traveler or have been to Korea before, this guide has something for everyone. The inclusion of the latest travel news and COVID-related updates adds to its relevance and usefulness. I appreciate the detailed breakdown of sections and the inclusion of quick links for easy navigation. Overall, this guide is a valuable tool for anyone looking to explore the wonders of South Korea.

Moderator – Nice Article! In My Korea

Thank for the great info! Could you please recommend any tours agency for a few day trips around Korea? I found a few , but they are pretty pricey!

Hi, thanks for reading. Klook and Viator have a good selection of tours in Korea with some of the best prices on the market. I’m not sure which tours you’re looking for, but they usually do day trips for less than $100 per day that cover popular tourist sights.

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16 things to know before heading to South Korea

Charles Usher

Feb 18, 2024 • 10 min read

s korea travel advisory

South Korea’s public-transport choices – including Busan’s Sky Capsule – are the envy of the world. As you plan your trip, count on using the nationwide network © By f11photo / Shutterstock

Has any place been on a run of late like  South Korea ?

The country is on the lips of travelers around the world, thanks to its cutting-edge technology, world-class cuisine, chart-topping pop bands and some of the most exciting movies and TV series being made anywhere. 

Add to all this centuries of tradition and copious natural blessings, all in a country scarcely larger than Ireland, and you’ve got one of the planet’s great travel destinations.

Safe, friendly and possessing superb infrastructure, South Korea is a truly easy – not to mention rewarding – place to explore. Read on for tips to make your visit even easier.

1. Complete your pre-trip registration three days before your flight

Most travelers – including citizens of the US, Australia and the UK – can visit South Korea visa-free for up to 90 days (up to six months for Canadians). You’ll still need to apply for a Korea Electronic Travel Authorization on the K-ETA website , however, at least 72 hours before departure. It’s a simple process, and your K-ETA is valid for two years from the date of approval.

Cherry blossoms in spring at Seoul Forest public park, Seoul, South Korea

2. Time your visit with the trees

We recommend planning your visit to South Korea for spring or fall , when the peninsula gets its most temperate weather. Bonus points if you can time it to coincide with one of the country’s two periods of arboreal magic. Korea’s cherry blossoms start blooming in mid-March on Jeju-do Island , off the south coast, and typically appear in Seoul in early April. In late October and early November, the leaves of Korea’s many ancient ginkgo trees turn into brilliant golden torches, giving Seoul and other cities a particularly regal look for several weeks.

3. Mind these two major holidays

The two periods that can cause travelers real problems are the multi-day Lunar New Year and Chuseok (fall harvest) holidays. On these two occasions every year, Koreans hit the road en masse, making booking a bus or train ticket nearly impossible. The dates change each year, so be sure to check when these are before making travel plans. 

If you can’t avoid a holiday, base yourself in Seoul or Busan for its duration. Plenty of businesses stay open, and the cities can be surprisingly peaceful with everyone out of town.

A conductor stands on a platform in front of a train in a station, Seoul, South Korea

4. Take advantage of Korea’s world-class public transportation

Korea’s subways, trains and buses are clean, convenient and efficient . It can sometimes seem like a new station is added to the Seoul metro every month, and the rail and intercity bus networks will take you to every corner of the country. Public transportation is cheap: bus and subway fares in Seoul start at just ₩1250. In all of South Korea, Jeju-do is the only place where renting a car might make sense, and even there it’s probably not necessary.

With plentiful English information and sensible design, public transportation in Korea makes getting from here to there a breeze. To get moving, start by picking up a T-money transit card at a convenience store or from a vending machine in any subway station. Separate kiosks can be used to load money onto your card. Tap your card both when you board and get off the subway or bus. Fares are calculated by distance, so if you forget to tap when disembarking, you’ll be charged more and won’t be able to transfer for free. You can also use T-money cards in most taxis.

When traveling longer distances, it’s simple enough to just buy intercity bus or train tickets at stations. For the high-speed KTX train and some of the more popular routes and times – departing Seoul on Saturday morning, for example – it’s a good idea to purchase in advance. Bus tickets are typically readily available for purchase from machines and counters in bus stations. Buy train tickets on the website of  KORAIL , the national operator.

5. Stay connected with these essential apps

Wi-fi is so prevalent in Korean cities that you can do without a local SIM card, but if you decide that you want one just in case, or if you plan to head to rural areas, the easiest place to pick one up is at one of the many  telecom roaming centers at Incheon Airport upon arrival. You can also rent a phone if you didn’t bring your own.

Helpful apps to download include Naver Map ( iOS and Android ), which works better than Google Maps in South Korea; MangoPlate ( iOS and Android ) for finding restaurants and cafes; Subway Korea for navigating cities’ metro systems; and Kakao T ( iOS and Android ), which is like Uber but for taxis.

Women separate wheat in a field in rural South Korea

6. Get out of town

There are two Koreas. We don’t mean North and South, but rather Seoul and everything else – or, a bit more broadly, urban Korea and rural Korea. The country has a reputation for being a hyper-paced, highly wired pop-culture dynamo, but its hinterlands present a much different picture, and you’d be missing out big time if you skip them. 

The Korean countryside is beautiful, mountains and rivers make for beautiful vistas, and life is lived differently here than in the cities. The population is older – most people under 40 have decamped to the cities – and the pace is slower. At least once on your trip, get out of the cities and immerse yourself in this more traditional side of Korea.

7. Learn your ga , na , da , ra , ma , bas

Basic English is widely understood in Korea by folks under 50, and signage is almost always in both Korean and English. Yet it’s still a good (and respectful) idea to learn a bit of the language. 

Beyond memorizing a few essential Korean words and phrases, learning hangul, the Korean alphabet, is like gaining access to a secret bonus level of Korean travel. If you can sound out the letters, you’ll find that you already know what things like 카페 모카 ( ka-pe mo-ka ), 비빔밥 (bibimbap) and 사우나 ( sa-oo-na ) are. 

Hangul is easy to learn. King Sejong the Great, who oversaw its creation in the 15th century, declared that a wise man could pick it up before noon and even an idiot could learn it in 10 days.  Let’s Learn Hangul  teaches the Korean alphabet in an interactive, easy-to-follow way.

8. Roll with the nudges

Koreans live life in a hurry, and they do so in a densely populated country, so you shouldn’t expect the same sense of personal space or public courtesies you find in your home country. Koreans won’t hold doors open for you or apologize if they bump into you when walking. When getting on or off the subway, they likely won’t say, “Excuse me” – they’ll just nudge you aside. They’re not being rude, though. 

When you live in a city as crowded as Seoul, it’s just not practical to say sorry every time you knock shoulders with someone – you’d be apologizing constantly. This can be maddening to outsiders, but just accept it and roll with the nudges.

A woman in business attire bows on bridge in Gangnam, Seoul, South Korea

9. Be ready to get personal

The typical greeting here is a quick bow – nothing dramatic, just a head nod deep enough for your gaze to meet the floor – but you’ll sometimes be offered a handshake instead. If you are, expect more of a gentle clasp than the old squeeze-and-pump.

You’ll likely be asked questions more personal than you’re accustomed to by someone you just met. At the top of this list is your age. This data point is essential to Koreans, as it informs how they talk to one another: how formal their verb endings should be and whether to use honorifics. Inquiries about marital status, occupation and your opinion of Korea are also common. Answer politely, and feel free to return the question.

10. Wear what you like, but don’t pack anything too risqué

As a traveler, you can feel free to dress for the weather and comfort. Koreans are pretty relaxed about attire, even if they’re more modest than you might expect. If visiting a temple , while shorts are fine, tank tops and miniskirts are not. Both men and women frequently wear t-shirts at the beach (though it’s best to leave the Speedo or thong at home). Korean women almost never wear low-cut tops, and female travelers could find that doing so brings unwelcome looks. Tattoos are now common among young people, yet even still some bathhouses will deny entry if you show any ink.

A diner with chopsticks reaches for meat on the grill at a barbecue restaurant, Seoul, South Korea

11. Eat with others and don’t be afraid to shout for service

Eating is a communal activity in Korea, and many restaurants, especially barbecue joints, don’t offer single servings. So if you’re traveling solo, you might either have to drag someone from your hostel along with you (not a tough sell) or loosen your belt and order pork belly for two (poor thing).

At restaurants, servers won’t come check up on you, and most places have call buttons on each table. Give it a push, and someone will be right over. Otherwise, to grab the waitstaff’s attention, raise your hand and shout, “ Yogiyo !” (“Over here!”) Water is usually self-service, and occasionally side dishes are, too. If your server doesn’t set a bottle of water on your table, look around for a water dispenser and stacks of metal cups. At the end of your meal, take the check to the front counter to pay. There’s no tipping.

12. Is North Korea a concern?

Despite international headlines, South Koreans don’t worry about an attack from  North Korea  – and neither should you. Military clashes are very rare, and danger to civilians is rarer still. A guided tour to the  DMZ can be a fascinating and truly find-it-nowhere-else experience. From afar, North Korea can seem almost comical in its eccentricities, but when you’re looking at South Korean soldiers looking at North Korean soldiers looking at you, the geopolitical stakes hit different. Plus, many tours offer what may be your only chance to actually step foot in the world’s most secretive country.

13. Monitor the air quality

Even in post-pandemic times, it’s a good idea to always carry a mask, as air quality can occasionally drop to pretty nasty levels. This is especially true in spring, when dust blown off the deserts of Mongolia and northern China combines with local pollution to create unhealthy air. Download an app like IQAir Air Visual (for iOS or Android ) to keep track of current conditions and the upcoming forecast across the country.

Woman vendor preparing a snack at a stall at Gwangjang Market, Seoul, South Korea

14. You might have to be flexible about your diet

If you have food allergies or a specific diet, you may have a hard time finding places to eat or getting clear information about ingredients. Vegetarianism and veganism are slowly gaining popularity in Korea, but not many restaurants cater to these diets. Even dishes that you might think are vegetarian are often made with anchovy broth or fermented shrimp.  

15. Recognize that LGBTQI+ acceptance still has a long way to go 

While attitudes are slowly changing, Korea remains a conservative society in many respects, and anti-LGBTQI+ prejudice is common. Even so, LGBTQI+ travelers are more likely to be on the receiving end of curious – if misinformed – questions than any sort of open hostility. Public displays of affection are generally frowned upon (though this goes for straight couples, too).

Seoul has small gay districts in Itaweon and Jongno-3-ga, while the Hongdae-Sinchon-Ewha university corridor is another place where LGBTQI+ Koreans feel comfortable being themselves. 

16. Use common sense and keep these numbers handy, just in case

Theft and violent crime are rare in South Korea. Scams and pickpockets targeting travelers are virtually nonexistent, and Koreans typically go out of their way to be hospitable to visitors. Nonetheless – as anyone should anywhere – do exercise basic caution and common sense. South Korea has strict drug laws, and don’t even think about trying to sneak past them. Nightlife often revolves around heavy drinking, so know your limit to avoid putting yourself in a sketchy situation.

If you do have an emergency, call 112 to reach the police, 119 for emergency services or 1330 to reach the Korea Travel Hotline, where an operator will connect you to the appropriate service and serve as an interpreter. That number can also be used to reach the Korea Tourist Police .

This article was first published Jul 16, 2022 and updated Feb 18, 2024.

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Call 112 or go to the nearest police station.

Advice levels

  • South Korea and North Korea are technically still at war, and tensions on the Peninsula can increase with little warning. North Korea regularly conducts missile launches and other provocations. Monitor developments. Consider downloading the South Korean Government's 'Emergency Ready' app.
  • Civil emergency drills are held a few times a year for fire, earthquakes, other disasters and civil defence training. Nationwide exercises take place at least twice a year. Regional drills may also be run a few times a year. 
  • Large-scale public gatherings and protests are common, particularly in Seoul. Protests are generally peaceful and policed but can sometimes turn violent. 
  • Avoid large public gatherings if possible, and exercise caution in crowded areas. South Korea remains safe for most travellers, with a relatively low crime rate. However, petty crimes happen, especially in major cities such as Seoul and Busan. Watch your belongings.
  • Sexual assault and harassment, drink spiking and other violent crimes occur, particularly around bars and nightlife areas, such as Itaewon and Hongdae. Don't accept food, drink, gum or cigarettes from strangers. Remain vigilant, take care when walking at night, and travel in groups if possible.
  • The rainy season is from late June to late August. Typhoons can happen in August and September. Heavy rainfall during summer can cause flooding, landslides, and damage to housing and infrastructure. Identify your local shelter (identified by the word 대피소). Follow the advice of local officials.
  • Tsunamis caused by earthquakes in the surrounding region are a risk. Know the tsunami warning signs and move to high ground straight away. Don't wait for official alerts, warnings or sirens.

Full travel advice:  Safety

  • There are high levels of pollution, particularly between March to May. During this time, strong winds from Mongolia and China also carry yellow dust to the Korean Peninsula. This can cause eye, nose, mouth, and throat irritations. Get medical advice if you have heart or breathing problems.
  • The standard of medical facilities in South Korea is usually good, but few staff speak English. You'll probably have to pay up-front. Ensure your travel insurance covers all medical costs.
  • South Korea is popular for medical tourism. If you're travelling for a procedure, research and choose your medical service providers carefully. Don’t use discount or uncertified providers. Ensure your travel insurance covers complications from surgery.

Full travel advice:  Health

  • You're required to wear a mask  in hospitals. Fines of KRW100,000 apply. Exceptions for mask-wearing are made for minors under 14 years of age, people with disabilities, or those who have difficulty wearing a face mask for medical reasons.
  • Using shared electric kickboards (electric scooters) in South Korea is increasing. A driver's licence is required, and you must wear a helmet while riding. Make sure you have adequate health and liability insurance before riding. 
  • It's illegal to work or volunteer in South Korea if it's not specified in your visa. If you plan to work, arrange a work visa through a  South Korean embassy or consulate  before you travel.
  • Disputes over working and living conditions for Australians teaching English in South Korea are common. Research your employer and employment agency. Get legal advice before you sign a contract.
  • Be careful when taking photos and videos. It's illegal to photograph military zones, assets, personnel, and official buildings.
  • South Korea recognises dual nationality only in certain circumstances. If you're a male Australian-South Korean dual national, you may have to do military service before you're permitted to depart. This could happen even if you travel to South Korea on your Australian passport. Get advice through a  South Korean embassy or consulate  before travelling.

Full travel advice:  Local laws

Australian passport holders can visit South Korea as tourists for stays of up to 90 days without applying for a K-ETA (or visa waiver). Previously approved K-ETA applications will remain valid up to the granted expiry date. Visit the official  K-ETA website  for more information.

  • You may be required to register on the  Korean Q-code system  prior to arrival or to complete a health questionnaire on arrival. Further information on 'Quarantine Inspection Required Areas' is available on the ' Notices ' page. Check with the South Korean embassy or consulate for the latest requirements for Australians. 
  • Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. You should contact the nearest South Korean embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Full travel advice:  Travel

Local contacts

  • The  Consular Services Charter  details what we can and can't do to help you overseas.
  • For consular help, contact the  Australian Embassy in Seoul .
  • To stay up to date with local information, follow the Embassy’s social media accounts.

Full travel advice:  Local contacts

Full advice

Regional threats.

South Korea and North Korea are technically still at war, and peace is maintained under a truce agreed at the practical end of the Korean War in 1953. Tensions have on the Korean Peninsula can increase with little warning.

The Korean Peninsula is divided by a demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating:

  • North Korea or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  • South Korea or the Republic of Korea

North Korea regularly takes provocative actions, including conducting ballistic missile launches and underground nuclear tests. Low-level military clashes have occurred. 

In the event of such threats in the region:

  • monitor developments
  • take official warnings seriously
  • follow the instructions of local authorities

The South Korean Government has also released a free smartphone ' Emergency Ready ' app. The app has information on local emergency services, including:

  • shelter locations

The app is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Authorities control access to Yeonpyeong Island and other islands near the Northern Limit Line. This is due to their proximity to a sea boundary disputed by North Korea.

More information:

  • Planning for emergencies

Public Safety

Parts of Seoul, particularly Itaewon and Hongdae, and on public transport, can become extremely crowded. In October 2022, more than 150 people were killed in a crowd crush during Halloween festivities in Itaewon. Exercise caution in crowded areas. 

Civil Emergency Drills

Nationwide civil emergency drills are held regularly throughout the year, with regional or local drills also undertaken. 

Depending on the drill, sirens may sound, transport may stop, and authorities may ask people to take shelter in subway stations or basements. 

Follow the advice of local authorities. The South Korean Government has released a free smartphone 'Emergency Ready' app. The app has information on civil defence drills, including shelters and safety guides.

  • Civil Defence Drills

Civil unrest and political tension

Public protests and events that draw large groups of people are common and can sometimes turn violent. Avoid large public gatherings, if possible, and exercise caution in crowded areas.

To protect yourself:

  • avoid protests and demonstrations
  • monitor the media for information

Be prepared to change your travel plans in case of disruptions.

  • Demonstrations and civil unrest

For most travellers, South Korea is safe and has a relatively low crime rate. However, petty crime happens, especially in major cities such as Seoul and Busan.

Sexual assault, drink spiking, and other violent crimes occur, particularly around bars and nightlife areas, such as Itaewon and Hongdae. 

To protect yourself from crime:

  • keep your belongings close
  • don't accept drinks, food, gum or cigarettes from strangers
  • don't leave food or drinks unattended
  • remain vigilant and take care when walking at night
  • travel in groups if possible

Local authorities may not always respond adequately or consistently to reports of sexual violence and harassment. If you're sexually assaulted, you should report it immediately to the local authorities and the Australian Embassy in Seoul. 

In general, sex-related crimes are not punished as harshly in South Korea as in Australia, and the prosecution process can be challenging for victims. 

You can report crimes, including sexual assault, to the police by calling 112. This is a 24/7 service with English interpreters available. 

  • Partying safely

Cyber security 

You may be at risk of cyber-based threats during overseas travel to any country. Digital identity theft is a growing concern. Your devices and personal data can be compromised, especially if you’re connecting to Wi-Fi, using or connecting to shared or public computers or to Bluetooth.

Social media can also be risky in destinations where there are social or political tensions, or laws that may seem unreasonable by Australian standards. Travellers have been arrested for things they have said on social media. Don't comment on local or political events on your social media.

More information: 

Cyber security when travelling overseas

Terrorism is a threat worldwide. Although there is no recent history of terrorism in South Korea, attacks can't be ruled out. 

You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public areas, including those visited by foreigners.  

  • Terrorist threats

Climate and natural disasters

South Korea experiences  natural disasters  and  severe weather , including:

  • flooding and landslides
  • earthquakes

Get familiar with the advice of local authorities on preparing for a natural disaster or other emergency.

If there's a natural disaster:

  • know your accommodation's evacuation plans
  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • closely monitor the media
  • keep in touch with friends and family

Register with the  Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System  to receive alerts on major disasters.

Typhoons and severe weather

The monsoon season is usually from late June to late August.

Excessive rainfall during summer can cause severe flooding and landslides and damage to housing and infrastructure. Flash flooding can occur.

The typhoon season is usually during the period August to September. 

If there's a typhoon approaching, stay inside. The direction and strength of typhoons can change with little warning.

Identify your closest local shelter if required and follow the directions of local authorities. 

Severe weather may also affect:

  • access to ports
  • road travel and transport
  • essential services, such as water and power

If there's a typhoon or severe storm:

  • exercise caution
  • stay away from affected areas
  • you may get stuck in the area
  • flights could be delayed or suspended

Monitor weather forecasts and follow instructions of local authorities.

Check with tour operators before travelling to affected areas.

Contact your airline for the latest flight information.

  • Korean Meteorological Administration
  • Severe Weather Information Centre
  • Special weather report – KMA
  • Real-time disaster alert – National Disaster and Safety Portal

Earthquakes and tsunamis

Earthquake activity happens on the Korean Peninsula, though less than in Japan and other countries in the region.

Tsunamis are also a risk.

Large earthquakes, which predominantly tend to occur in neighbouring countries, can cause destructive tsunamis that may affect the Korean Peninsula. If you are in a coastal region after a major earthquake, move to higher ground immediately.

  • Pacific Warning Center
  • Korea Meteorological Administration

Travel insurance

Get comprehensive  travel insurance  before you leave.

Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won't pay for these costs.

If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.

If you're not insured, you may have to pay many thousands of dollars up-front for medical care.

  • what activities and care your policy covers
  • that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition. Treatment for mental health is not widely available in South Korea and is not comparable to services in Australia. There are very few hospitals that have mental health or psychiatric wards attached, and of those available, many will not accept foreigners. 

Admission to a mental health or psychiatric ward usually requires proof of a prior mental health diagnosis. Many facilities are reluctant to admit foreigners. For involuntary admissions, 2 family members present in Korea will be required to sign consent. 

See your doctor or travel clinic to:

  • have a basic health check-up
  • ask if your travel plans may affect your health
  • plan any vaccinations you need

Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.

If you have immediate concerns for your welfare, or the welfare of another Australian, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or contact your  nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate  to discuss counselling hotlines and services available in your location.

  • General health advice
  • Healthy holiday tips  (Healthdirect Australia)

Medications

If you plan to travel with medication, check if it's legal in  South Korea . Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in Korean pharmacies. Some medications may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance in South Korea, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor. 

Before you travel:

  • contact the South Korean  Ministry of Food and Drug Safety  or email  [email protected]  to check whether your medication is a controlled or illegal substance in South Korea
  • Check with the  Korea Customs Service  for information on restricted or prohibited items that may not be brought into the country
  • ask your doctor about alternative medicines

You may need to apply for a 'bring in' permit. When applying, provide the generic name of the medication, as the brand name in South Korea may be different in Australia.

It may take authorities more than 2 weeks to process your application.

Take enough medications for your trip.

Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:

  • what the medication is
  • your required dosage
  • that it's for personal use

Health risks

Insect-borne diseases.

Malaria  is a risk in:

  • the demilitarised zone at the border between South and North Korea
  • rural areas in the northern parts of Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces

Japanese encephalitis  also occurs throughout the Korean countryside.

To protect yourself from disease:

  • make sure your accommodation is insect-proof
  • use insect repellent
  • wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis before you travel
  • consider taking medicine to prevent malaria

Other health risks

Waterborne, foodborne, and other  infectious diseases  occur, including:

  • tuberculosis
  • COVID-19  

If you test positive for COVID-19 while in South Korea, you may need to follow local isolation guidelines.

Use normal hygiene precautions, including:

  • careful and frequent hand washing
  • boil tap water before drinking or cooking
  • avoid uncooked and undercooked food
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea

Hand, foot and mouth disease

Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD)  is common.

Serious outbreaks sometimes occur.

Outbreaks usually start in March and peak in May but can continue until October each year.

The disease mostly affects children aged under 10 years. Adult cases, especially in young adults, are not unusual.

When outside major cities:

  • drink boiled water, filtered water or bottled water with sealed lids
  • avoid ice cubes
  • avoid uncooked and undercooked food, such as salads

Get medical advice if you have a fever or diarrhoea.

Yellow dust

Yellow dust is carried to the Korean Peninsula by strong winds from Mongolia and China from March to May. High levels of airborne pollution occur during this time.

The dust can:

  • cause eye, nose, mouth and throat irritations
  • make breathing and heart problems worse

If you're concerned about the effects of dust, speak to your doctor before leaving Australia. 

Get medical advice if you have allergies or respiratory difficulties.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities in South Korea is usually good, but few staff speak English.

Medical services can be expensive. Hospitals usually require an up-front deposit or confirmation of insurance before they'll treat you.

You can request ambulance and emergency medical assistance by calling 119. This is a 24/7 service with English interpreters available.

  • Medical tourism

South Korea is a popular destination for medical tourism.

  • research and choose your medical service providers carefully
  • avoid discounted or uncertified medical service providers

Check whether your travel insurance covers you if things go wrong with your surgery. Most insurers don't.

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.

You're required to wear a mask  in hospitals. Fines of KRW100,000 apply. Exceptions for mask-wearing are made for minors under 14 years of age, people with disabilities, or those who may have difficulty wearing a face mask for medical reasons.

The use of electric kickboard (electric scooter) rentals in South Korea is increasing. You must be 16 years or older to ride an electric scooter. Riders must have a driver's licence, wear a helmet, and use bicycle paths or, if there are no bicycle paths, car lanes while adhering to road traffic rules. Fines can apply for riding while inebriated, failing to wear helmets, or exceeding passenger limits. 

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our  Consular Services Charter . But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Don't carry or consume illegal drugs.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs include:

  • long jail sentences
  • heavy fines
  • deportation
  • Carrying or using drugs

It's illegal to work in South Korea if it's not specified in your visa. This includes paid and unpaid work.

Authorities have fined, detained and deported Australians for breaching their visa conditions.

It's difficult to change your visa type once you're in South Korea.

If you plan to work, arrange a work visa through a South Korean embassy or consulate before you travel.

Disputes over expected working and living conditions for Australians teaching English in South Korea are common.

Some Australians planning to teach English have faced penalties after they or their employment agent gave false documents to Korean immigration authorities.

If you're employed without the right visa, your options will be limited under Korean law.

If you're considering teaching English in South Korea:

  • research your employer and employment agent
  • consider getting legal advice before you sign a contract
  • make sure your visa application is truthful and accurate

Serious crimes, such as murder, may attract the death penalty.

It's illegal to take photos of and around:

  • military zones, assets or personnel
  • official buildings

South Korea has strict anti-corruption laws for public officials. Public officials and their spouses can't accept meals, gifts or other benefits above set limits.

'Public officials' include:

  • journalists
  • employees of government-owned or funded companies

Get legal advice to make sure you don't breach these laws.

If you're involved in a commercial or legal dispute, authorities can stop you from leaving until the dispute is resolved.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you're overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.

  • Staying within the law

Dual citizenship

South Korea  recognises dual nationality only in certain circumstances.

It's possible that by applying for Australian Citizenship by Descent or by Conferral, you may lose your Korean citizenship.

There are some differences between the Australian and Korean citizenship requirements. This has caused some difficulties, particularly for children born in South Korea to South Korean and Australian parents. Expectant parents should make themselves aware of these differences and contact the Australian and South Korean immigration authorities in advance of giving birth.

If you've been arrested or detained and have Korean citizenship, we may only be able to provide limited consular help.

If you were born in South Korea or have Korean citizenship, you will continue to be a Korean citizen unless you:

  • formally renounce it; and
  • remove your name from the Korean family register

Military service is compulsory for male citizens of South Korea, including dual nationals.

The South Korean Government may require you to undertake military service if you:

  • are male; and
  • are listed on the Korean family register

This is the case even if you have travelled to South Korea on your Australian passport.

The Government may not allow you to renounce your Korean nationality or leave the country until you either:

  • complete your military service, or
  • receive a special exemption from serving

If you're an Australian-South Korean dual national, get advice from a  South Korean embassy or consulate  before you travel.

Contact the Korean Immigration Service for information on Korea’s law on dual citizenship.

  • Dual nationals

Visas and border measures

Every country or territory decides who can enter or leave through its borders. For specific information about the evidence you'll need to enter a foreign destination, check with the nearest embassy, consulate or immigration department of the destination you're entering. 

Long-term visa holders residing in South Korea must apply for a re-entry permit before leaving South Korea. If you leave South Korea without a re-entry permit, your Alien Registration Card may be cancelled and you'll need to apply for a new long-term visa to enter. If you hold an A1, A2, A3 or F4 visa, you're exempt from requiring a re-entry permit.

To apply for a re-entry permit, visit a local immigration office, including at an airport or seaport. If you intend to apply at an airport immigration office on your way out of South Korea, ensure you allow sufficient time to complete the required formalities.

Further information about re-entry permits and medical examination requirements is available from the Korean Ministry of Justice .

Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. Contact the nearest  South Korean embassy or consulate  for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.

Border measures

If you're travelling to South Korea, you may be required to register your information on the  Korean Q-code registration system  to receive a generated QR code for your arrival or complete a health questionnaire on arrival if you haven't registered online. 

You should also check the  Korean Q-code registration system  prior to travelling to South Korea, as countries listed as 'Quarantine Inspection Required Areas' may change without notice. Further information on 'Quarantine Inspection Required Areas' is available on the ' Notices ' page.

Arriving passengers could be screened for high body temperature and as necessary might be subject to further health questions.

Contact the  South Korean embassy or consulate  in Australia for more information when planning your travel and to confirm requirements.  

Other formalities

You'll be fingerprinted when you arrive.

Passengers arriving at South Korean airports from particular countries could be screened for infectious diseases, including:

  • Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

Extra quarantine checks are in place for flights from high-risk areas.

Korean Government Agencies

  • Korea Disease Control & Prevention Agency (KDCA)
  • Ministry of Health and Welfare
  • Ministry of Employment and Labor
  • Ministry of Education
  • Ministry of Gender Equality and Family
  • Ministry of the Interior and Safety
  • Ministry of Economy and Finance

Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you're just transiting or stopping over.

Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.

You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.

The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport's expiry date before you travel. If you're not sure it'll be valid for long enough, consider getting  a new passport .

Lost or stolen passport

Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.

Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.

If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:

  • In Australia, contact the  Australian Passport Information Service .
  • If you're overseas, contact the nearest  Australian embassy or consulate.

Passport with ‘X’ gender identifier 

Although Australian passports comply with international standards for sex and gender, we can’t guarantee that a passport showing 'X' in the sex field will be accepted for entry or transit by another country. Contact the nearest  embassy, high commission or consulate of your destination  before you arrive at the border to confirm if authorities will accept passports with 'X' gender markers.

  • LGBTQIA+ travellers

The local currency is the Korean Won (KRW).

You can change Australian dollars for KRW at local banks and money changers.

On arrival, declare all means of  international payment , including KRW notes, cashier's checks, or foreign currency over $US10,000 or equivalent. 

ATMs are available in cities and larger towns, but these might not accept some foreign debit cards.

Credit cards are usually accepted in hotels, restaurants, shops, and taxis, particularly in cities and larger towns.

Be aware of card skimming. See  Safety

Local travel

Driving permit.

To drive, you'll need either:

  • a valid local licence, or
  • an International Driver's Permit (IDP) and a valid Australian driver's licence

Get your IDP before your leave Australia.

You need a Korean driver's licence to drive if you intend to stay in South Korea for 90 days or more.

You will need a certified copy of your Australian licence to apply for a Korean driver's licence. 

When issuing you with a Korean driver's licence, the local authorities will normally keep your Australian driver's licence. They will return your Australian licence to you in exchange for your Korean driver's licence before you depart Korea.  

  • Safe Driving - KOROAD

Road travel

South Korea has a high rate of traffic deaths, especially for pedestrians. While the South Korean police have been more strictly reinforcing traffic rules, in recent years, speeding, running red lights, and other risky behaviour are still common, especially by buses, taxis, and motorcyclists.

If you're involved in an accident, whether or not you're at fault, you could face criminal charges. You may need to pay compensation to the injured person.

The blood alcohol limit for drivers is 0.03%. Heavy penalties apply for exceeding the limit. Don't drink and drive.

If you're walking:

  • look out for motorcyclists, even on footpaths and pedestrian crossings
  • don't expect traffic to stop at pedestrian crossings
  • check carefully before stepping onto the road

Before travelling by road, learn local road rules and practices. 

  • Driving or riding

Motorcycles

Check if your travel insurance policy covers you when riding a motorbike. Most policies won't cover you if you don't follow local laws or wear a helmet.

Always wear a helmet.

There are restrictions on riding motorcycles on highways and other major roads.

Use only authorised taxis, preferably those arranged through your hotel.

Always insist the driver uses the meter. Most taxis accept credit cards.

Rideshare apps are also available in South Korea. 

International taxi services are available and may have English-speaking drivers.

Public transport

Public transportation (including buses and metropolitan subway networks) in and between major urban areas is good.

Most major transportation systems have signs and make announcements in English.

  • Visit Korea
  • Transport and getting around safely

Rail travel

South Korea has a large high-speed rail network (KTX).

Stations are usually located in major urban areas. They have signs in English.

They're often linked to local taxi or public transport networks.

Ferry services operate between most large coastal cities and other domestic and international ports.

Busan, Incheon, and Jeju Island are regular stopover locations for cruise ships.

  • Going on a cruise
  • Travelling by boat

Some airlines and travel providers don't allow you to pay for flights online within South Korea with a foreign credit card.

DFAT doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.

Check  South Korea's air safety profile  with the Aviation Safety Network.

Emergencies

Depending on what you need, contact your:

  • family and friends
  • travel agent
  • insurance provider

To report a crime, call 112 or go to the nearest police station. This is a 24/7 service with English interpreters available. 

Always get a police report when you report a crime.

If you have lost any property, visit the  Lost112 website  for more information. 

  • Korea Disease Control & Prevention (KDCA)

Consular contacts

Read the  Consular Services Charter  for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

For consular help, contact the Australian Embassy in Seoul.

Australian Embassy, Seoul

19th Floor, Kyobo Building 1, Jong-ro Jongno-gu Seoul 03154, Republic of Korea Phone: (+82 2) 2003 0100 Fax: (+82 2) 2003 0196 Website:  southkorea.embassy.gov.au Facebook:  Australia in the Republic of Korea Instagram:  @AusEmbKor

Check the Embassy website for details about opening hours and any temporary closures. 

24-hour Consular Emergency Centre

In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:

  • +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas
  • 1300 555 135 in Australia

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  • Passports, travel and living abroad
  • Travel abroad
  • Foreign travel advice

South Korea

Safety and security.

There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad .

Terrorism in South Korea

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in South Korea, attacks cannot be ruled out.

Political situation

The level of tension and the security situation on the Korean Peninsula can change with little notice. Tensions can rise after missile tests by North Korea and during the regular South Korean-US military exercises, which take place throughout the year. You should follow the advice of local authorities and keep up to date with developments, which will be reported on news broadcasts.

The demilitarised zone ( DMZ ) separates North Korea and South Korea. Peace has been maintained under an armistice agreement, but no formal peace treaty has ever been signed. If you’re in the area of the DMZ , you should exercise caution and follow the advice of the local authorities.

National service

If you are a British male of Korean origin whose name appears on the Korean family register, you may be liable for military service even if you are travelling on your British passport.

Demonstrations

Public demonstrations in South Korea are common. These gatherings are mostly peaceful and well-policed. Be aware that under Korean law, it is illegal for foreign nationals to take part in political activities when in the country.

Civil emergency exercises and advice

South Korean authorities sometimes hold civil emergency exercises. You’ll hear sirens to mark the start the exercise. All vehicles must stop and sometimes people will have to descend into designated metro stations or basements. You do not need to participate but do follow any instructions from officials during these exercises.

Contingency planning

The government’s Emergency Ready App, available on iOS and Android , explains the possible civil emergency alerts which would be pushed to your mobile in an emergency.

As part of your own contingency planning, make sure you have easy access to your passport and other important documents such as nationality documents and birth and marriage certificates, as well as any essential medication. Consider saving the contact details for the embassy so that you can access them quickly if needed. Make sure to share your contact details with your family and friends.

Crime against foreigners is rare but there are occasional thefts. Take extra care of passports, credit cards and money in crowded areas and in areas visited by foreigners, such as Itaewon.

While most reported crimes are thefts, there have been cases of assault, including sexual assault, particularly around bars and nightlife areas. Take care when travelling alone at night and only use legitimate taxis or public transport.

Laws and cultural differences

Personal id.

Carry some form of identification at all times and make sure you’ve written the emergency contact details in the back of your passport.

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

If you’re convicted of possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs you can face a long jail sentence and heavy fines. This applies even to personal use of small amounts of marijuana. British nationals have been detained solely on the basis of drug tests.

Transport risks

Road travel.

If you are planning to drive in South Korea, see information on driving abroad and read the Korea Tourism Organization’s driving in Korea guidance . The guide lists driving regulations and other legal requirements you need to be aware of.

You’ll need to have both the 1949 international driving permit ( IDP )  and your UK driving licence with you in the car when you drive in South Korea. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.

The police take the position that car and motorbike drivers are at fault in accidents involving cyclists or pedestrians. If you injure someone in an accident, you are likely to face criminal charges and heavy penalties, even if guilt is not proved.

The legal limit for alcohol in South Korea is less than half the limit in England, and penalties for drink-driving include prison and fines.

Taxi drivers tend to speak little or no English. It is helpful to have your destination written in Korean – if possible with a map.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

If there is a natural disaster, or the threat of one, the South Korean government will publish updates in Korean and English to the Natural Disaster Safety Portal .

The government’s Emergency Ready App, available on iOS and Android , explains the possible alerts which would be pushed to your mobile.

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards .

The typhoon season normally runs from June to November. You should monitor the progress of approaching storms with the Korea Meteorological Administration or call 131 in Korea to get an accurate weather forecast in English. Always follow any advice given by the local authorities.   

Flooding and landslides

South Korea has heavy rainfall across the country during the summer rainy season, usually in June and July. Torrential rain may cause flooding near rivers and creeks, including in built-up areas. Flash floods are common in areas downstream from large reservoirs or rivers, even after relatively short periods of intense rainfall. Landslides are possible in hilly and mountainous areas.

You should monitor forecasts for heavy rainfall with the Korea Meteorological Administration and follow any advice given by the local authorities.

Earthquakes

Strong earthquakes are unusual in South Korea but do happen. Most earthquakes in South Korea are relatively weak. The Korea Meteorological Administration publishes information on earthquakes.

Read up on the any guidance from local authorities on safety procedures in an earthquake and check the safety tips from the Seoul Metropolitan Government .

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S. Korea to lift overall special travel advisory over COVID-19

Kim Eun-jung, 김은정

SEOUL, April 13 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean government on Wednesday said it has decided to lift a special travel advisory affecting all overseas travel as a measure against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The across-the-board special advisory, introduced in March 2020 and extended on a monthly basis, will be lifted, effective Thursday, in consideration of the country's new virus control strategy and COVID-19 situations abroad, according to the foreign ministry.

But it plans to maintain a special travel advisory in place for China, Russia and two dozen other nations, as well as a traditional four-tier travel alert system for designated foreign areas.

[email protected] (END)

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Putin expected to visit N. Korea in a few days: Seoul official

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South Korea

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  • Reviewed: 22 August 2023, 14:09 NZST
  • Still current at: 13 June 2024
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If you are planning international travel at this time, please read our COVID-19 related travel advice here , alongside our destination specific travel advice below.

Exercise normal safety and security precautions

Exercise normal safety and security precautions  in South Korea (level 1 of 4).

Political tensions Relations between South and North Korea can be tense. North Korea has conducted several nuclear tests (the most recent in 2017) and regular ballistic missile tests, leading to further tensions. Future tests cannot be ruled out. In the past, heightened tensions haven’t affected daily life.

There have been occasional exchanges of live fire (warning shots) between North and South Korean border forces. These incidents occurred in areas along the Demilitarised Zone and the north-western islands (including Yeonpyeong-do, Daecheong-do and Baengnyeong-do) and surrounding waters. The most recent incident was in October 2022 when the two Koreas exchanged warning shots off the western coast, accusing each other of breaching their maritime border. In November 2010, the North Korean military shelled the north-western island of Yeonpyeong-do, resulting in loss of life. Tensions in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) have de-escalated since the Panmunjom Declaration was signed in April 2017. However, further provocations or reactions cannot be ruled out. On 18 July, a US serviceman willfully crossed the border into North Korea without authorisation and is currently in North Korean custody. As a result, all tours to the DMZ have been postponed indefinitely.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula could escalate with little warning and New Zealanders are advised to monitor the media to stay informed of any developments and follow any instructions issued by the local authorities. Remain vigilant and take official warnings seriously.

Civil unrest Public protests and demonstrations take place regularly, particularly in central Seoul and can cause disruptions to traffic and public transport. While the protests and demonstrations are generally peaceful, we advise New Zealanders in South Korea to avoid them, as there have been sporadic instances of escalation where protesters and police clash. We recommend you monitor the media to keep up to date with local events and follow instructions issued by the local authorities. You should also be aware that under Korean law, foreign nationals are prohibited from engaging in political activities in South Korea.

Crime Generally speaking Korea has a very low crime rate, and foreigners are rarely targeted.  However, petty crime is always possible and we advise New Zealanders to be alert to their surroundings at all times and to take steps to keep themselves safe and to secure their personal belongings. There have been sporadic instances of sexual harassment and sexual violence against foreigners.

For emergency assistance, or to report a crime, call 112 for police (a 24 hour interpretation service is available) and 119 for ambulance and fire.

General travel advice The South Korean government has developed a smartphone application with civil emergency advice, including shelter locations, different types of alarms, medical facilities and emergency services. Search for ‘emergency ready app’ on Android or Apple app stores.

South Korean authorities hold national civil emergency exercises from time to time. These may include sirens and requests for people to take shelter in metro stations or basements. While visitor participation is not necessary, we recommend that you familiarise yourself with the procedures and keep an eye on local media.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe and can include lengthy imprisonment or fines.

The blood alcohol concentration limit for drivers is 0.03%. Heavy penalties apply for exceeding the limit.

South Korea has one of the highest traffic fatality rates for a developed country. Speeding, running red lights and other risky behaviour is common, particularly by buses, taxis and motorcyclists. Automobile drivers are presumed to be at fault in accidents involving bicycles or pedestrians, although most vehicles have blackbox cameras installed and the recordings are used by police and insurance companies to determine actual fault. If you are involved in an accident or a physical altercation following an accident, whether you are at fault or not, you could face criminal charges and heavy penalties, especially if it results in injury. Watch out for motorcyclists travelling on footpaths.

Air pollution, including yellow dust pollution, is common throughout the year and especially during spring months. Yellow dust is carried to the Korean peninsula by strong winds from Mongolia and China. It can cause eye, nose, mouth, and throat irritations as well as make breathing and heart problems worse. When the concentration levels are high, residents and visitors are advised to stay indoors as much as possible and drink plenty of water, Follow local media reporting and the Korean Meteorological Service website for the latest advice.

The monsoon season is from late June to late August, and flash floods causing a number of drowning deaths have occurred in the last two years. Typhoons can occur in August and September. You should monitor approaching storms on the Korean Meterological Administration website, identify your nearest shelter if required and follow any advice given by local authorities. If you decide to travel to South Korea during the rainy or typhoon seasons, be aware of the risks to your safety and be prepared to change or cancel your travel plans at short notice.

New Zealanders travelling or living in South Korea should have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place.  All foreigners living in South Korea for six months or longer must subscribe to South Korea’s state health insurance scheme.

New Zealanders in South Korea are encouraged to  register their details  with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Travel tips

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The New Zealand Embassy Seoul, South Korea

Street Address Jeong-Dong Building, Level 8 (West Tower), 15-5 Jeong-Dong, Jung-Gu, Seoul 110-784, Republic of Korea Postal Address KPO Box 2258, Seoul, 110-110, Republic of Korea Telephone +82 2 3701 7700 Fax +82 2 3701 7701 Email [email protected] Web Site http://www.mfat.govt.nz/korea Hours Mon - Fri 0900 - 1230, 1330 - 1730 hrs

See our regional advice for North Asia

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Travel Health Notices

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CDC uses Travel Health Notices (THNs) to inform travelers about global health risks during outbreaks, special events or gatherings, and natural disasters, and to provide advice about protective actions travelers can take to prevent infection or adverse health effects.

A THN can be posted for: 1) a disease outbreak (higher number of expected cases) in a country or region, 2) sporadic cases of a disease in an unusual or new geographic location, 3) natural and human-made disasters with severe environmental health risks, or infrastructure damage that would limit healthcare services availability and 4) mass gathering events that can lead to disease outbreaks. See types of travel notices .

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Level 1 - Practice Usual Precautions

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  • Dengue is a risk in many parts of Africa and the Middle East. Some countries are reporting increased numbers of cases of the disease. Travelers to Africa and the Middle East can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. Country List : Sudan, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ethiopia, MauritiusDengue in Africa and the Middle East428 Dengue in Africa and the Middle East May 16, 2024 Dengue is a risk in many parts of Africa and the Middle East. Some countries are reporting increased numbers of cases of the disease. Travelers to Africa and the Middle East can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. Destination List: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritius, Sudan Read More >>
  • Dengue is a risk in many parts of Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Some countries are reporting increased numbers of cases of the disease. Travelers to the Americas can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. Country List : Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Guadeloupe, Martinique (France), Costa Rica, French Guiana (France), Mexico, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, including the Galápagos Islands, Uruguay, Curaçao, Guyana, HondurasDengue in the Americas427 Dengue in the Americas May 16, 2024 Dengue is a risk in many parts of Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Some countries are reporting increased numbers of cases of the disease. Travelers to the Americas can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites. Destination List: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Curaçao, Ecuador, including the Galápagos Islands, French Guiana (France), Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Martinique (France), Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay Read More >>
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COVID-19: travel health notice for all travellers

The Government of Canada’s official source of travel information and advice, the Travel Advice and Advisories help you to make informed decisions and travel safely while you are outside Canada. Check the page for your destination often, because safety and security conditions may change. See Travel Advice and Advisories – FAQ for more information.

Where are you going?

Take normal security precautions

Exercise a high degree of caution

Avoid non-essential travel

Avoid all travel

Travel advice from other countries

Travel advice is also provided by the governments of Australia , New Zealand , the United Kingdom and the United States .

Risk Levels

  take normal security precautions.

Take similar precautions to those you would take in Canada.

  Exercise a high degree of caution

There are certain safety and security concerns or the situation could change quickly. Be very cautious at all times, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities.

IMPORTANT: The two levels below are official Government of Canada Travel Advisories and are issued when the safety and security of Canadians travelling or living in the country or region may be at risk.

  Avoid non-essential travel

Your safety and security could be at risk. You should think about your need to travel to this country, territory or region based on family or business requirements, knowledge of or familiarity with the region, and other factors. If you are already there, think about whether you really need to be there. If you do not need to be there, you should think about leaving.

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Southeast Asia Travel Guide

Last Updated: November 27, 2023

A lone person standing on lush, green rice terraces in Southeast Asia on a bright sunny day

Backpackers have been traveling through Southeast Asia since the late 1960s and early 1970s, leaving a well-worn trail around the region.

Starting in beautiful Thailand, the trail makes its way to up-and-coming Laos, through Vietnam, and to the temples of Angkor Wat. It then winds back into Thailand, where people head south to party in the Thai islands before moving down to Malaysia and Singapore.

There are a few variations to the trail, but this is what it mostly covers.

I’ve been visiting this region since 2004 and spent years living in Thailand . I love backpacking Southeast Asia and have written extensively about it as I know it like the back of my hand.

It’s an especially great region for new travelers because it’s easy to travel around, it’s safe, and there are lots of other travelers you can meet. But it’s also perfect for veteran travelers too as there are tons of off-the-beaten-path destinations that the standard backpacker trail doesn’t cover.

In short, Southeast Asia has something for every traveler — and every budget.

This Southeast Asia travel guide will help you travel the region like a pro, ensuring you save money and make the most of your time in this fun, gorgeous, and lively corner of the world.

Table of Contents

  • Things to See and Do
  • Typical Costs
  • Suggested Budget
  • Money-Saving Tips
  • Where to Stay
  • How to Get Around
  • How to Stay Safe
  • Best Places to Book Your Trip
  • Related Blogs on Southeast Asia

Click Here for Country Guides

Top 5 things to see and do in southeast asia.

A lone person standing on lush, green rice terraces in Southeast Asia on a bright sunny day

1. Admire Angkor Wat

One of the greatest human creations in history, the Angkor Wat temple complex is best explored over the course of a few days. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site created by the Khmer Empire and absolutely enormous. Temples to visit include Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple which has 216 gigantic stone face carvings, and Ta Prohm. I spent three days here and that simply wasn’t enough. A one-day pass is $37 USD, while a 1-week pass is $72 USD. If you’re here for multiple days, be sure to hire a driver and see some of the more out of the way ruins away from the main temple complex (and the crowds).

2. Explore Bangkok

Bangkok is the hub of travel activity in Southeast Asia. You can get anywhere you want from here. Though I hated it at first, the more I’ve spent time here the more I love it. Bangkok is like an onion whose many layers need to be peeled back. Some things not to miss include the spectacular Bangkok Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Chatuchak Market and Asiatique, and a canal trip on the Chao Phraya River. This is a city for foodies and wild nightlife.

3. Relax on some tropical islands

No visit to Southeast Asia would be complete without a visit to at least one of the thousands of tropical islands in the region. My top five include the Perhentian Islands (Malaysia), Rabbit Island (Cambodia), Ko Lanta (Thailand), and Boracay (Philippines). Lombok Island (Indonesia) has a chill vibe with unspoiled, perfect “desert island” beaches. There’s so many islands to visit. Be sure to add at least one to your trip. The country guides will have more information for you.

4. See Ha Long Bay

Sailing trips to this island-filled bay with stunning emerald waters, limestone formations, and marine life give you an appreciation for the natural beauty in Vietnam. Tours from Hanoi start at around $110 USD for two-day trips and increase from there. I love the colorful grottoes, hanging stalactites, and stalagmites of Surprise Cave (Sung Sot), Fairy Cave (Tien Ong), and Heaven Palace (Thien Cung). Make sure you go with a reputable company though as some of the cheaper boats are less than ideal. If you’d rather just visit for one day, day trips from Hanoi cost $55 USD.

5. Wander Kuala Lumpur

Other things to see and do in southeast asia, 1. go jungle trekking.

This region of the world is covered in amazing jungles with diverse wildlife, plentiful camping opportunities, and cool waterfalls. The best jungle treks are found in northern Thailand, Western Laos, and Malaysian Borneo (the latter are also the hardest and most intense). Some of my favorites include Danum Valley (Borneo) for its incredible wildlife; Ratanakiri (Cambodia) for its pristine wilderness and thousand-year-old trees; and Pu Luong Nature Reserve (Vietnam). Costs vary but jungle trekking generally costs $30-50 USD per day.

2. Attend the Full Moon Party

The biggest one-night party in the world welcomes up to 30,000 people with a party that stretches until dawn. Cover yourself in glow paint, grab a bucket of booze, and dance the night away with new friends on the island of Ko Phangan in Thailand. As the name would suggest, the party is on the night of the full moon. If you miss it, there’s always the half-moon party, quarter-moon party, and black-moon party. Really, every night is a party on Ko Phangan . Just avoid the flaming jump rope that occurs — I’ve seen people get burned badly!

3. Learn to dive

There are many great dive sites around the region for those interested in underwater exploration. You can learn to dive here at a fraction of what it would cost back home too. Some of the best places are Ko Tao (Thailand), Sipadan (Malaysia), as well as Gili Islands (Indonesia) and Coron, Palawan (The Philippines). A typical diving course is completed in three days. A PADI course typically runs $275 USD in Thailand, including three nights’ accommodation, though at smaller schools you can often negotiate down to $250 USD. Day trips for certified divers start at $165 USD. For information on Ko Tao, check out this blog post .

4. Eat street food in Singapore

Singapore is a foodie’s heaven. Try the hawker stalls of Singapore as well as Little India and Chinatown for some of the best and cheapest food in Asia. If you’re looking for a nice place to sit down and eat, eat at Singapore’s famed restaurants during lunch when restaurants offer discounts, making them a great deal. You’ll also find the most affordable Michelin-starred restaurants here (Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice and Hawker Chan), offering world-class meals for just a couple of bucks!

5. Overload on temples

You can’t turn a corner without seeing a Buddhist temple in this part of the world. You’ll get temple overload at some point but visit as many as you can as each is unique to the country and region of the temple. There are so many places with high concentrations of ornate and beautiful temples. Check out Chiang Mai’s Wat Doi Suthep Temple and hike up the 300 steps to the golden Chedi that’s 600 years old!; Bagan’s Shwesandaw Pagoda from the 11th century with its stunning golden dome; Angkor Wat’s Ta Prohm is covered in iconic vines and enveloped in ancient jungle roots; Hue’s colorful Thien Mu Pagoda is perched atop a lush green embankment; Hoi An’s Quan Cong Temple with incredible Chinese architecture with hand-carved beauty and skill, and Luang Prabang’s Vat Xieng Thong with its golden, canopied roof. Most are free to enter, however, dress codes are enforced (you need to have your shoulders and legs covered).

6. Dive Sipadan

Located off Malaysian Borneo, Sipadan is one of the best dive sites in the world. If you have your dive certificate, make sure you venture out here. I absolutely love this area because it’s teeming with live turtles, diverse cave systems, sharks, dolphins, colorful coral, bright fish, and everything in between. Not a lot of people make it to this part of Malaysia, but it’s worth it to go the extra mile and make your way off the tourist trail a bit. Don’t miss Barracuda Point and The Drop-Off. Keep in mind that only 176 permits to dive at the island are issued each day, costing 140 MYR per person. The resorts on the neighboring islands each get a specific number of permits per day and require divers to stay with them for a few days. So you’ll need to stay at those resorts and dive into the surrounding areas before they can get you a Sipadan permit.

7. Fall in love with Bali

Bali is the most popular destination in Indonesia, and its famous Kuta beach is known for its wild parties and surfing ( though I think it’s overrated ). However, there is much more to Bali than just wild nights and sun-soaked days. If you’re a thrill seeker, hike up to the top of Mount Batur, an active volcano, for a breathtaking sunrise. Paragliding and white water rafting are also super popular here, as is surfing (it’s an affordable place to learn if you’ve never done it). There are also lots of hot springs to enjoy, the Ubud Monkey Forest (a popular temple and nature reserve home to hundreds of monkeys), and numerous places to scuba dive, including the Liberty wreck and Manta Point.

8. Take in Ho Chi Minh City

Frantic, chaotic, and crazy, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam is the embodiment of the controlled chaos that rules Southeast Asia. You can’t quite figure out how this teeming mass of people and cars work together, but it does. Highlights here include touring the tunnels used by the Viet Cong in the 1960s, taking in the view from the Saigon Skydeck, eating your way through the street food scene, and seeing the city’s numerous temples.

9. Admire the sunrise over an Indonesian Volcano

One of the most popular tourist attractions on Java is Mount Bromo and its National Park. Don’t miss out on getting a photo of the smoldering Bromo volcano as it lies surrounded by the almost lunar landscape of the Sea of Sand. Get up early to catch one of the most memorable sunrises of your life. If you’re there in mid-August, you’ll be just in time to see Upacara Kasada, the traditional Hindu ritual of the Tenggerese, a Javanese tribe of the region.

10. Hike in Khao Sok National Park

Located in southern Thailand, Khao Sok National Park is constantly rated as one of the best parks in Thailand, with incredible trekking, camping, limestone karsts, cooling rivers, and a glistening lake. Visit for semi-challenging hikes, tons of wildlife, walking paths, and breathtaking sunsets. Park entrance costs around $6 USD while full-day guided tours are $95 USD. I highly recommend spending at least one night here to get the full experience.

11. Visit Kampot

Most people come to Kampot to enjoy the scenic riverside views, as well as the rolling hills that surround the city. Since you can explore easily enough on foot or by bicycle, Kampot is a great place to slow down and relax. There’s not much to do here but have lazy days by the river, chill, and eat (don’t miss the famous Rusty Keyhole for BBQ!). Don’t miss the pepper farms, as this region of Cambodia is filled with pepper farms where you can learn about the history of the spice, see how it is grown, and pick up what is considered some of the finest pepper in the world. Tours are usually free.

12. Take a cooking class

Food from this region is as varied as the countries themselves and learning how to cook a few dishes is a great souvenir of your time here. Even if you don’t plan to cook back home, you can still spend a day making and eating scrumptious food. Most big cities have cooking schools offering classes of 2-6 hours, often including a trip to the local market beforehand to select ingredients. I absolutely love cooking classes and urge you to take one at least once. They are a fun experience!

13. Take a food tour

If you’d rather eat instead of cook, taking a food tour is a fun way to gain insight into the region’s amazing noodle dishes, fresh seafood, sweets, and street food while learning about the history and culture behind the cuisine. Most major cities in Southeast Asia offer food tours. These include tours around local markets, street stalls, and tours to locally-owned restaurants and cafes where you can sample the local cuisine and connect with a local chef. If you’re nervous about street food, this is a great way to try some in a controlled setting. Tours usually last 2-4 hours and include multiple stops and several different dishes, with prices costing $40-75 USD per person.

14. Visit an elephant sanctuary

While riding an elephant is on many a Southeast Asia bucket list, once you know how much the animals suffer from abuse in order to provide these rides, you might think twice about taking one. An even better way to interact with elephants is to volunteer at or visit the Elephant Nature Park near Chiang Mai in Thailand. It’s a phenomenal place, allowing you to give back to the community and these magnificent animals all at once. After coming here, you will understand why you should NEVER ride an elephant. A one-day visit costs $70 USD.

15. See The Killing Fields

A visit to Choeung Ek, also known as the Killing Fields, may not be the most cheerful way to spend an afternoon, but it makes for an educational and memorable experience. Over 3 million people were killed by Pol Pot’s regime, including countless women and children. I recommend getting a guide so you can really understand what you’re seeing as you explore the area. Also, this horrific tragedy took place less than 50 years ago and is still very present so please be respectful as a visitor.  The site is located 10 miles from Phnom Penh. Half-day guided tours start at $66 USD.

16. Swim with Whale Sharks in Donsol

If you’re in the Philippines, check out the Donsol Whale Shark Interactive Ecosystem Project because there are not many experiences quite as adrenaline-inducing as swimming with a whale shark for the first time in crystal waters. These incredible creatures are around 45 feet (14 meters) long and yet incredibly gentle and curious. I loved floating at the surface being able to look below and see them slowly swim below me. Get some people together and rent a boat for a half day, explore the area, and go ‘shark-seeing’ for a good cause.  

  For a ton more information, visit my country specific travel guides for more detailed information on each place:

  • Cambodia Travel Guide
  • Indonesia Travel Guide
  • Laos Travel Guide
  • Malaysia Travel Guide
  • Singapore Travel Guide
  • Thailand Travel Guide
  • Vietnam Travel Guide

Southeast Asia Travel Costs

A lone person standing on lush, green rice terraces in Southeast Asia on a bright sunny day

Accommodation – Accommodation in Southeast Asia is really cheap, making it the perfect place to travel if you are on a budget. Hostels are plentiful, as are budget guesthouses and hotels. It’s also very cheap to splash out here if you’re in need of some luxury.

Generally, you can find hostel dorm rooms for as little as $6-8 USD in Cambodia and $3-6 USD in Laos. In Thailand, 4-6-bed dorm rooms are $8-12 USD, while in Vietnam you can expect to pay $5-7 USD. In Indonesia, prices range between $5-10 USD for a 4-6-bed dorm room. Expect to pay at least $15-20 per night for a private room with air conditioning. Free Wi-Fi is standard in most hostels, free breakfast is common, and many hostels even have pools. In more remote areas, hot water isn’t common so make sure to check in advance if that’s an issue for you.

Simple guesthouses or bungalows throughout Southeast Asia generally cost $12-20 USD per night for a basic room with a fan (sometimes air conditioning) and hot water. If you want something nicer that includes a more comfortable bed and a TV, expect to pay $25-35 USD per night.

For backpackers, budgeting around $10 USD per night for accommodation is pretty safe no matter where you go in Southeast Asia. If you’re looking for a higher-end hotel room with more amenities, expect to pay $20-50 USD per night for a room. Anything over that is luxury territory.

Camping is available in certain areas, usually for just a few dollars per night for a basic tent plot without electricity. However, this is about the same price as hostels so it’s not really any cheaper.

Food – While each country’s cuisine varies, overall, Southeast Asian food is aromatic, spicy, and flavorful. Typical spices and herbs include garlic, basil, galangal, cilantro, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chilies, and fish sauce. No matter what region you’re in, you can expect to find a variety of curries, salads, soups, noodle dishes, and stir-fries.

Rice and noodles are central to Southeast Asian food, while the meat is usually pork, chicken, fish, or seafood, which is everywhere on the islands and coastal areas.

While traveling Southeast Asia, street food is the most popular food and cheapest option. On average, these meals cost $1-5 USD. You find these stalls throughout this region lining most streets and every market. They are ubiquitous in the region. In Singapore, street food (from “hawker stands” as they’re known there) costs around $4-5 USD for a meal. Even if you go into small local restaurants, the price doesn’t increase that much.

Food that costs $2 USD at a street stall generally only costs $4-6 USD at a local restaurant. If you went into a restaurant in Thailand, you’d pay around $3-4 USD for a pad Thai that would have cost $1-2 USD on the street.

In Cambodia, street food is around $1-2 USD, while restaurants charge around $3-5 USD for a dish like amok (a coconut milk dish) or luc lac (pepper gravy beef).

Western meals, including burgers, pizza, and sandwiches usually cost around $7-10 USD. But these generally aren’t that great. If you want something that actually tastes as it does back home, expect to spend at least $10-12 USD for your meal.

While cheap, alcohol can take a bite out of your budget if you’re not careful. Those $1-2 USD beers add up! Wine and cocktails are more expensive, generally around $3-5 USD. A cappuccino is typically around $2 USD. Bottled water is plentiful and costs less than $1 USD.

There’s a growing cutting-edge foodie scene in the region and, if you want to splurge, you can do so on some really good meals. Big cities like Bangkok, KL, and Singapore, all have world-class Michelin star restaurants as well some incredible fusion restaurants.

Since dining out is so cheap in the region, there’s no point in grocery shopping unless you’re looking to get some pre-made salads or fruits. Additionally, a general lack of kitchens in most hostels and hotels makes it difficult to cook even if you wanted to. If you do purchase your own groceries, expect to spend around $25 USD per week for basic groceries like local produce, rice, and some meat (while avoiding expensive imported items like cheese and wine).

Backpacking Southeast Asia Suggested Budgets

On a backpacker budget of $45 USD per day, you can stay in hostel dorms, eat out at local markets and street stalls, limit your drinking, do mostly free activities, minimize paid activities, and use public transportation to get around. You’re not going to be able to splash out but you’ll be able to live the typical backpacker experience without really stressing over expenses.

On a mid-range budget of $85 USD per day, you can stay in budget hotels or private hostel rooms, eat more restaurant meals, do more paid activities like cooking classes, take some taxis, and enjoy a few more drinks. You won’t live large, but you won’t be missing out either.

On an upscale budget of $150 USD or more per day, you can stay in nicer hotels with more amenities, eat out as much as you want, do more paid tours including private tours, hire a driver, fly between destinations, and basically do whatever you want. The sky is the limit with this kind of budget!

You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages — some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.

Southeast Asia Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips

Backpacking Southeast Asia is cheap. There’s little opportunity to spend a lot of money since everything is already so inexpensive unless you intentionally are trying to splash out on fancy meals and high end hotels. The two reasons why most travelers end up overspending is that they eat a lot of Western food and drink way too much. If you want to save money while traveling in this part of the world, cut down on your drinking and skip the Western food. While country guides have more specific ways to save money, here are some general ways to save money in Southeast Asia:

  • Stay with a local – Accommodation is cheap in Southeast Asia but nothing’s cheaper than free! Use Couchsurfing to stay with locals who have extra beds and couches for free. You’ll also meet great people who can show you around and share their insider tips and advice.
  • Book tours and day trips as a group – You have more negotiation power when you’re with a group of people buying multiple spots or tickets. Traveling alone? Meet a friend at a hostel and see if they want to join the same tour as you. I’ve met some great friends over the years doing this and highly recommend it.
  • Don’t book in advance – Don’t book any tours or activities before you get to your destination. They’ll be much cheaper when you arrive as you’ll be able to negotiate a lower price as you’ll find companies are often offering the same tour and competing. Anything you see online is more expensive than you need to pay!
  • Eat on the street – The street food is the best food. The food is the best and cheapest you’ll find. It’s a great way to try new foods and get to chat with locals as well. This is where locals eat so if you want insight into local culture, good food, and savings, eat the street food. Look for where locals are eating to ensure that it’s safe to eat.
  • Bargain hard – Nothing is ever at face value here. Bargain with sellers as most of the time, the price they’ve quoted is way higher. There’s a haggling culture in the region so play the game and save some money. It’s important not to convert it in your head to your own currency because it will usually sound cheap even though you might still be getting ripped off. You’ll never get the local price, but you might come close!
  • Minimize your drinking – Drinks really add up. Even with cheap drinks, if you’re not aware, you’ll end up spending more money on beer than on food and accommodation. If you want to drink, head to the supermarkets, drink at the hostel, or check out the local happy hours.
  • Pack a water bottle – A water bottle with a purifier comes particularly in handy in Southeast Asia since you can’t usually drink the tap water. Save money and thousands of plastic bottles and get a bottle that can purify the tap water for you. My preferred bottle is LifeStraw as it has a built-in filter that ensures your water is always safe and clean.

Where to Stay in Southeast Asia

I’ve been traveling Southeast Asia since 2005 and have stayed in hundreds of places. Here are some of my favorite places to stay in Southeast Asia:

  • The Siem Reap Pub Hostel (Siem Reap)
  • Onederz Siem Reap (Siem Reap)
  • Mad Monkey Siem Reap (Siem Reap)
  • Onederz Sihanoukville (Sihanoukville)
  • Monkey Republic (Sihanoukville)
  • Onederz Phnom Penh (Phnom Penh)
  • Sla Boutique Hostel (Phnom Penh)
  • The Magic Sponge (Kampot)
  • Indigo House Hotel (Luang Prabang)
  • Sa Sa Lao (Luang Prabang)
  • Sanga Hostel (Pakse)
  • Nana Backpackers Hostel (Vang Vieng)
  • Dream Home Hostel (Vientiane)
  • Traveller Bunker Hostel (Cameron Highlands)
  • De’Native Guest House (Cameron Highlands)
  • Kitez Hotel & Bunks (Kuala Lumpur)
  • Sunshine Bedz Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur)
  • Ryokan Muntri Boutique Hostel (Penang)
  • Mad Monkey Hostel (Bangkok)
  • D&D Inn (Bangkok)
  • Kodchasri B&B (Chiang Mai)
  • The Royal Guest House (Chiang Mai)
  • Green Leaf (Khao Yai)
  • Lonely Beach Resort (Ko Chang)
  • The Sanctuary (Koh Phangan)
  • Na-Tub Hostel (Koh Phangan)
  • Pineapple Guesthouse (Phuket)
  • Dream Lodge
  • The Pod Capsule Hostel
  • The Scarlet
  • Under the Coconut Tree Guesthouse (Hoi An)
  • Fuse Beachside (Hoi An)
  • Pretty Backpackers House (Da Lat)
  • Hanoi Old Quarter Hostel (Hanoi)
  • Luxury Backpackers Hostel (Hanoi)
  • The Hideout (HCMC)
  • City Backpackers Hostel (HCMC)

How to Get Around Southeast Asia

A lone person standing on lush, green rice terraces in Southeast Asia on a bright sunny day

Public transportation – Public transportation costs from a few pennies to a few dollars, with Singapore and Malaysia offering the most comprehensive public transportation systems. In Thailand, local buses cost around $0.25 USD per trip, while the Metro and Skytrain in Bangkok cost $0.50-1.50 USD per trip. In Cambodia, a bus ticket in Phnom Penh costs just $0.40 USD per ride.

Major cities generally have subway systems but mostly you’ll be using the bus or shared taxis to get around.

Tuk-tuks (small, shared taxis with no meter) are available around much of the region and require a bit of haggling. They usually have 3-6 seats and generally cost more than public transportation but are faster. To find a reputable driver, ask your accommodation as they usually know someone. Tuk-tuk drivers can often be hired for the day for a discounted rate (this is what a lot of people do to visit the Killing Fields and Angkor Wat in Cambodia, for example).

Taxi – Taxis in the region are generally safe, though it’s not uncommon to have to haggle. Scams to rip you off aren’t uncommon either, so always ask your accommodation to call you a taxi whenever possible so you know you’ll get a reputable company.

In Singapore and Indonesia, taxi drivers do put on the meter. In Bangkok, you can get taxi drivers to use the meter, but if you’re hailing one in a tourist area, he might try to avoid using it. In Vietnam, the meter is sometimes rigged, but if you can get a reputable company like Mai Linh, you won’t have any problems.

Ridesharing – Grab, DiDi, and Gojek are Asia’s answer to Uber. They work the same way: you hire a driver to take you somewhere via the app, and you can pay via the app or in cash. It’s often more affordable than a regular taxi, though drivers are a bit unreliable as the practice is not as widespread here as in other parts of the world.

Just keep in mind that some drivers are driving motorcycles so be sure to double check what kind of vehicle is picking you up if you don’t want to ride on the back of one.

Bus – The easiest and cheapest way to travel around Southeast Asia is by bus. The backpacker trail is so worn that there is a very well-established tourist bus system to take you anywhere. Buses costs vary between $5-25 USD for a 5-6 hour journey. Overnight buses cost $20-35 USD depending on distance (they often have reclining seats so you can get a decent sleep).

You can check ticket prices and book tickets for all the different bus companies across Southeast Asia at 12go.asia.

Train – Train service is limited in the region and not something to really consider when you travel Southeast Asia. You can take a train up and down the coast of Vietnam and there’s some limited scenic rails in Malaysia. Thailand is the only country that has an extensive train system that lets you travel all its regions (and onward to Singapore) from Bangkok.

The train prices in Southeast Asia are determined by distance and class. Night trains with sleeper cars are more expensive than day trains. The night train to Chiang Mai from Bangkok takes twelve hours and costs $27 USD for a sleeper seat. However, that same train during the day is $8-9 USD. In Vietnam, trains run up and down the coast and cost $60 USD from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.

Flying – The cost of flying around Southeast Asia has come down in recent years due to the rise of low-cost airlines. Scoot, Jetstar, and AirAsia are the biggest. Nok Air has a lot of flights within Thailand , and VietJet Air is popular in Vietnam . Lion Air serves Indonesia , but its safety record is really spotty and I personally would not fly them. If you book early, you can save on fares, as most of the airlines offer deeply discounted fare sales all the time, especially Air Asia.

Just make sure that the airport these budget airlines fly into isn’t too far out of your way (transportation from the secondary airport sometimes negates the savings from using the budget airline itself).

Also, keep in mind that you usually must pay to check your baggage on these cheap flights. If you wait to pay for your luggage at the gate, you end up paying almost double. Travel carry-on only to avoid this added cost.

All in all, I only recommend flying if you are pressed for time or find a super cheap deal. Otherwise, stick to the bus.

Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking in Southeast Asia is safe, though popularity of the practice varies by country (it’s more common in Malaysia, but not so much in Cambodia). Dress respectably, smile while making eye contact with drivers, and use a cardboard sign to tell people where you’re headed. Be prepared for long bouts of no pick-ups, especially if you’re traveling through more rural areas. Pack plenty of water and food. Also, make sure the people picking you up understand you’re hitchhiking and not flagging down a taxi.

Hitchwiki is a great resource for hitchhiking tips.

Car rental I don’t recommend renting a car in Southeast Asia. Rental cars are expensive ($40 USD per day or more) and the roads here are in poor shape. I would never drive around the region.

When to Go to Southeast Asia

The best time of year to visit Southeast Asia is from November to April when temperatures are milder (though temperatures vary drastically by region). It may be mild in Thailand in January and hot in Malaysia but in Northern Vietnam, it’s cold! Also, one of the biggest mistakes people make is not taking into account the rainy season. In some cases it won’t make a big difference but definitely does if it’s a beach trip.

In Indonesia, the best time to visit is April to October. Temperatures average 24-30ºC (75-86ºF), and the weather is mostly dry. July to September is the peak holiday season and when you can expect to pay the highest rates. December to February is the rainy season.

In Malaysia, January-March and June-September are the best time to visit, as these months have the lowest average rainfall. It is still hot and humid during this time though. The rainy season is from October to December. Singapore’s climate/weather is much like Malaysia’s.

In Vietnam, the weather varies by region. In Central Vietnam (including Hoi An and Nha Trang), January-May is the best time to visit because it is dry and the temperatures average 21-30°C (70-86°F). June to August is also a decent time to visit. If you want to stick around Hanoi, March to April is great, or October to December (for mildest temperatures). The rainy season is May-September.

Thailand has three seasons: hot, hotter, and hottest. It’s always warm, though the weather is nicest between November and February (which is also peak tourist season). Bangkok is “coolest” and driest during this time (but still averaging a hot 29°C/85°F each day). April and May are the hottest months, and the rainy season is June-October. The gulf islands get pretty rainy from August to December.

The dry season in Cambodia is from November-May and the cool season is from November-February (and when most people visit). Temperatures during this time are still high, but humidity is lower. Laos has the same cool season as Cambodia, with the dry season running from November-April.

In the Philippines, it’s mostly warm all year long with an average daily high of 26°C (80°F). There are rainy and dry seasons and temperatures are hot and dry from March-May and cooler December-February. The best time to visit is between January-April when it’s less humid. Monsoon Season is July-October.

For more information on when to go to places, visit the specific country guides.

How to Stay Safe in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is an incredibly safe place to backpack and travel — even if you’re traveling solo and even as a solo female traveler. Violent crime is super, duper rare. Petty theft (including bag snatching) is the most common type of crime in Southeast Asia, especially around popular tourist landmarks. Always keep your valuables out of reach on public transportation and in crowds just to be safe. Never leave your valuables unattended while at the beach and always keep a hold of your purse/bag when out and about as bag snatching is common.

That said, outside touristy areas, theft is really rare. Heck, it’s pretty rare in touristy areas too! But a little vigilance goes a long way and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

There are some common scams around that you’ll want to be aware of, such as the motorbike scam. This involves a bike rental company trying to charge you for damage to the bike that you didn’t cause. To avoid this, always take photos of your rental before you leave so you can protect yourself from baseless claims.

Another common scam involves a tuk-tuk driver taking you somewhere you didn’t want to go in hopes you’ll buy something from the shop/restaurant he dropped you off at (he gets a commission if you do). Simply refuse to buy anything and demand to go back to where you were — or find another driver.

For other common travel scams, read this post about major travel scams to avoid in the region .

Solo female travelers should feel safe here, though it’s generally a good idea to avoid walking around alone at night just to be safe. It’s always a good idea to carry some extra cash to get home in a taxi if you need to. Additionally, always keep an eye on your drink at the bar and never accept drinks from strangers. Be sensible when it comes to dating while traveling and meeting people in public places. As I’m not a woman, please check out some solo female travel blogs to get the best insight.

Overall, the people who get in trouble here tend to be involved with drugs or sex tourism. Avoid those two things and you should be fine. Keep in mind that it’s not always obvious how old someone is or if they’re a sex worker so be mindful when getting involved in romantic interactions. Also, penalties for drug use in this region are stiff so even if you’re here to party, skip the drugs.

Always trust your gut instinct. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID. Forward your itinerary along to loved ones so they’ll know where you are.

For more in-depth coverage of how to stay safe in Southeast Asia, check out this post that answers some frequently asked questions and concerns.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:

Southeast Asia Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources

These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.

  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • Agoda – Other than Hostelworld, Agoda is the best hotel accommodation site for Asia.
  • Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
  • Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
  • SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
  • LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
  • Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.

Get the In-Depth Budget Guide to Thailand!

Get the In-Depth Budget Guide to Thailand!

My detailed 350+ page guidebook is made for budget travelers like you! It cuts out the fluff found in other guidebooks and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel around Thailand. You’ll find suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, on and off-the-beaten-path things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, bars, safety tips, and much more! Click here to learn more and get your copy today.

Southeast Asia Travel Guide: Related Articles

Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Southeast Asia travel and continue planning your trip:

The 4 Best Hostels in Singapore

The 4 Best Hostels in Singapore

The 6 Best Hostels in Bali

The 6 Best Hostels in Bali

The 22 Best Things to Do in Bangkok

The 22 Best Things to Do in Bangkok

5 LGBTQ Travel Tips for Asia

5 LGBTQ Travel Tips for Asia

Is Southeast Asia Safe for Travelers?

Is Southeast Asia Safe for Travelers?

Backpacking Cambodia: 3 Suggested Itineraries for Your Trip

Backpacking Cambodia: 3 Suggested Itineraries for Your Trip

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How to Survive

How to Survive

Worst Things to do in North Korea #shorts

Posted: June 11, 2024 | Last updated: June 11, 2024

In 2016, student Otto Warmbier took a guided tour. He was the only American in the group. As the tourists were about to board a plane, Otto was stopped by the military. Questions or concerns? Contact us at <a href="https://underknown.com/contact/Interested">https://underknown.com/contact/Interested</a> in sponsoring our episodes or collaborating? Email us: [email protected] by the makers of What If. Check out our other channels:What If - <a href="https://bit.ly/youtube-What-IfAperture:">https://bit.ly/youtube-What-IfAperture:</a> <a href="https://bit.ly/aperture-showCrazy">https://bit.ly/aperture-showCrazy</a> Creatures: <a href="https://bit.ly/crazy-creatures-showYour">https://bit.ly/crazy-creatures-showYour</a> Body On: <a href="https://bit.ly/your-body-on-showOrigins">https://bit.ly/your-body-on-showOrigins</a> of Food: <a href="https://bit.ly/origins-of-foodVersus:">https://bit.ly/origins-of-foodVersus:</a> <a href="https://bit.ly/versus-showWTF">https://bit.ly/versus-showWTF</a> Did I Just Watch: <a href="https://bit.ly/wtf-did-i-just-watchWhether">https://bit.ly/wtf-did-i-just-watchWhether</a> it’s an earthquake, mudslide or shark attack, survive whatever awaits you. How To Survive shows how to endure life-threatening moments with science and survivor stories.Note: This video is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have seen on this channel. If you think you may have an emergency, call your doctor, the ambulance or the police immediately. Underknown does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned in this video. Reliance on any information provided by Underknown is solely at your own risk.An Underknown show: <a href="https://underknown.comContact">https://underknown.comContact</a> us at <a href="https://underknown.com/contact/#howtosurvive">https://underknown.com/contact/#howtosurvive</a> #northkorea #survivalskills

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IMAGES

  1. [SOUTH KOREA TRAVEL ADVISORY] Korea Government Advisory (General

    s korea travel advisory

  2. Travel advisory world maps: U.S. vs. China

    s korea travel advisory

  3. South Korea to Lift Special Travel Advisory against Overseas Travel

    s korea travel advisory

  4. [SOUTH KOREA TRAVEL ADVISORY] Important Notification of Foreign

    s korea travel advisory

  5. S. Korea to lift overall special travel advisory over Covid

    s korea travel advisory

  6. South Korea Travel Advisory 2021

    s korea travel advisory

VIDEO

  1. First time to travel to Korea as a family

  2. 한국기행

  3. 한국기행

  4. 한국기행

  5. Moving to Korea 🇰🇷 packing, flying to Seoul, enrolling at Sogang University, loft apartment tour

  6. Luna for World Travel Safety Episode 3: North Korea (DPRK) #shorts #NorthKorea #DPRK #travel #safety

COMMENTS

  1. South Korea Travel Advisory

    Travel Advisory. July 24, 2023. South Korea - Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions. Reissued with obsolete COVID-19 page links removed. Exercise normal precautions in South Korea. Read the country information page for additional information on travel to South Korea. If you decide to travel to South Korea: Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment ...

  2. South Korea International Travel Information

    Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday ...

  3. Travel Advisories

    North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) Travel Advisory: Level 4: Do Not Travel: July 24, 2023: South Korea Travel Advisory: Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions: July 24, 2023: Kosovo Travel Advisory: Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution: July 26, 2023: Kuwait Travel Advisory: Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions: July 13, 2023

  4. South Korea

    Monitor travel advisories and alerts and read travel tips from the US Department of State. Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). ... Use the Healthy Travel Packing List for South Korea for a list of health-related items to consider packing for your trip. Talk to your doctor about which items are most important for you.

  5. South Korea Travel Advisory: Level 3: Reconsider Travel (August 6, 2020)

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for South Korea due to COVID-19. South Korea has resumed most transportation options, (including airport operations and re-opening of borders) and business operations (including day cares and schools). Other improved conditions have been reported ...

  6. Health Alert: Increase in Travel Advisory to Level 4 (Do Not Travel)

    February 15, 2022. Location: Republic of Korea. Event: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Department of State have raised their travel advisories to Level 4 for the Republic of Korea due to COVID-19. For Level 4 destinations, the CDC recommends that travelers avoid travel to the destination. The State Department now recommends that you do not travel to the Republic of Korea.

  7. S. Korea extends overseas travel advisory through Jan. 13

    SEOUL, Dec. 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has extended its special advisory against overseas travel for another month due to the global spread of the new omicron variant of COVID-19, the foreign ministry said Tuesday.

  8. South Korea travel advice

    Travelling to South Korea. FCDO travel advice for South Korea. Includes safety and security, insurance, entry requirements and legal differences.

  9. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore

    Travellers intending to travel to the Republic of Korea should refer to the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Singapore's website for the latest entry requirements. ... General Travel Advice Overseas Travel - Be Informed & Be Safe [Updated on 5 February 2024] Singaporeans planning overseas travel are reminded to take the necessary ...

  10. S. Korea eases travel advisories for 24 nations to lowest level

    SEOUL, Nov. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has eased travel advisories for 24 countries, including the United States, Britain and Germany, to the lowest level in line with the government's latest COVID-19 guidelines, Seoul's foreign ministry said Tuesday. The level 2 alert, which was placed on the countries, also including France, Italy and ...

  11. Travel advice and advisories for South Korea

    Avoid walking alone, especially after dark. Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times. You can report crimes, including a sexual assault, to the Korean National Police Agency by dialling 112. This is a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week service.

  12. Complete South Korea Travel Guide 2024: Korean Travel Tips

    Cost To Travel In South Korea In 2024. This part of the South Korea travel guide will help you understand some of your expected costs to travel to Korea. The costs to travel to Korea include flights, accommodation, food, drinks, transportation, activities, sim cards, visas, souvenirs, travel insurance, and lots more.

  13. Entry requirements

    FCDO travel advice for South Korea. Includes safety and security, insurance, entry requirements and legal differences.

  14. 16 things to know before going to South Korea

    4. Take advantage of Korea's world-class public transportation. Korea's subways, trains and buses are clean, convenient and efficient. It can sometimes seem like a new station is added to the Seoul metro every month, and the rail and intercity bus networks will take you to every corner of the country.

  15. US lowers travel advisory on South Korea to Level 1 from Level 4

    The Department of State had maintained a Level 4 travel advisory on South Korea since Feb. 15. Korea reports 118,504 new COVID-19 cases as Omicron recedes. 2022-04-19 10:17 ...

  16. South Korea Travel Advice & Safety

    South Korea recognises dual nationality only in certain circumstances. If you're a male Australian-South Korean dual national, you may have to do military service before you're permitted to depart. This could happen even if you travel to South Korea on your Australian passport. Get advice through a South Korean embassy or consulate before ...

  17. Safety and security

    FCDO travel advice for South Korea. Includes safety and security, insurance, entry requirements and legal differences.

  18. S. Korea to lift overall special travel advisory over COVID-19

    SEOUL, April 13 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean government on Wednesday said it has decided to lift a special travel advisory affecting all overseas travel as a measure against the COVID-19 pandemic. The across-the-board special advisory, introduced in March 2020 and extended on a monthly basis, will be lifted, effective Thursday, in consideration ...

  19. Travel Advisory Updates

    Office of the Spokesperson. April 19, 2021. State Department Travel Advisory Updates. In order to provide U.S. travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions, the Department of State regularly assesses and updates our Travel Advisories, based primarily on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ...

  20. South Korea

    South Korea. Political tensions Relations between South and North Korea can be tense. North Korea has conducted several nuclear tests (the most recent in 2017) and regular ballistic missile tests, leading to further tensions. ... General travel advice The South Korean government has developed a smartphone application with civil emergency advice ...

  21. Travel Health Notices

    Travel Health Notices. CDC uses Travel Health Notices (THNs) to inform travelers about global health risks during outbreaks, special events or gatherings, and natural disasters, and to provide advice about protective actions travelers can take to prevent infection or adverse health effects. A THN can be posted for: 1) a disease outbreak (higher ...

  22. Travel advice and advisories

    Travel advice and advisories by destination. The Government of Canada's official source of travel information and advice, the Travel Advice and Advisories help you to make informed decisions and travel safely while you are outside Canada. Check the page for your destination often, because safety and security conditions may change.

  23. Special Offers & Travel Deals

    1 night Thu, Jun 06 - Fri, Jun 07. Find Offers. Get exclusive rates and offers. Join now.

  24. South Korea residents on border with North fear spike in tensions

    When North Korea sent hundreds of balloons carrying trash over the border to South Korea last week, the move sparked emergency alerts and round-the-clock media coverage in its neighbour.

  25. South Korea fired warning shots after North's troops ...

    South Korean forces fired warning shots on Sunday after North Korean troops accidentally crossed their shared border, Seoul's military said, as tensions simmer on the Korean Peninsula following ...

  26. New Travel Requirement FAQs (March 28, 2022)

    Starting from April 1, 2022, vaccinated travelers who have completed vaccination overseas AND register their vaccination history through the Quarantine COVID19 Defence (Q-Code) system BEFORE traveling to Korea will be eligible for quarantine exemption. Vaccination is considered to be complete 14 days after the 2nd shot for a two-dose vaccine ...

  27. Southeast Asia Budget Travel Guide (Updated 2024)

    A one-day pass is $37 USD, while a 1-week pass is $72 USD. If you're here for multiple days, be sure to hire a driver and see some of the more out of the way ruins away from the main temple complex (and the crowds). 2. Explore Bangkok. Bangkok is the hub of travel activity in Southeast Asia.

  28. Health and Travel Alert

    Visit our Embassy webpage on COVID-19 for information on conditions in Korea. Visit the Department of Homeland Security's website on the latest travel restrictions to the United States. Assistance: U.S. Embassy Seoul 188 Sejong Daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul +82-2-397-4114 [email protected]

  29. Worst Things to do in North Korea #shorts

    Here's the Context. Buyers Battle Over Sean Hannity's Long Island Home, Which Sells for Roughly $12.7 Million Cash. Kelce Brothers Joining NFL Legends at Celebrity Golf Tournament. Toyota Loses ...

  30. Creativity—see today's best new work in advertising and design

    Welcome to Ad Age's Creativity blog Thank you for visiting our Creativity blog, featuring creative coverage from across the Ad Age site, all in one place—as well as more ads and campaigns we ...