Cost & Essential Information – South Korea

This tiny little speck of land which is still technically at war has so much to offer, it’s a beautiful country rich with history and culture.

Costs:

South Korea has the potential to be a very expensive place to travel, though by using up some of our hotels.com points and eating mainly from supermarkets we managed to stick to our budget and spent £68 per day. (800₩ for a hot ramen in Family Mart!)

Visa:

UK passport holders can currently enter South Korea without a visa for up to 90 days free of charge.

Vacations:

At the time of writing you don’t need any vacations or malaria medication for South Korea.

Language:

I was surprised just how many Koreans speak almost perfect English, you won’t have any issues at all with a language barrier in South Korea.

Getting Around:

South Korea is a tiny country, pair this with its high speed rail network and you can be anywhere on the mainland within no time. We didn’t bother booking tickets online, if the train is fully booked when you get to the station you can buy a ‘standing’ ticket instead.

There is a ferry network to get to the islands but it was actually cheaper to fly to Jeju.

Money:

South Korea is the fist place I’ve had trouble using my MasterCard, I tried 5 different ATM brands and only the Woori Bank worked, I’ve put a photo of the banks logo below. The currency is referred to as Won and exchange rates in June 2018 are below:

£1 (GBP) = 1,428₩

$1 (USD) = 1,071₩

€1 (EUR) = 1,250₩

Itinerary:

We spent a total of 17 nights in South Korea, our first 5 nights in The capital city Seoul, then 1 night at the historical town of Andong on our way to South Korea’s second biggest city (and our favourite) Busan for 5 nights. Then we flew to the paradise island of Jeju for 5 before returning to Busan for 1 more night.

Hope this was all useful.

Thanks

Ashleigh

Seoul – South Korea

I wasn’t as blown away with Seoul as I was with other areas of South Korea, I thought it was a nice enough city but it certainly won’t be on my top 10 list anytime soon. I think I was underwhelmed because it receives so much hype online from other backpackers, maybe My expectations were to high. But I’m just a grumpy old lady so what do I know?!

South Korea is one of the more expensive places we’ve visited but Seoul has a huge selection of free walking tours, see their website HERE.

Things To Do:

Seoul is located close to the border between North and South Korea, also known as the DMZ (demilitarised zone). It’s difficult to get there on your own so we booked into a tour through seoulcitytours.net, I’m glad we went to learn about the current problems facing Korea as a nation, though I thought that the way it was presented was insensitive to the situation. It’s a true tragedy of the modern world and the tour kind of glamourised things. A half day tour includes lunch and hotel pick up and costs 55,000₩ per person.

I really loved the Myeondong area of town, it’s world famous for beauty products and apparently has over 1,000 cosmetic shops (I didn’t count), staff try to entice you inside with free samples. I walked up and down the street for 15 minutes and got enough high end products to last me the rest of the trip, a luxury I certainly haven’t indulged in since becoming a budget backpacker!

The area of Ganguam is popular with locals as well as tourists, the Hallyu K-Star Road is apparently where you will spot the worshiped K-Pop stars, though I wouldn’t recognise one even if they stopped to say hi! If you loved the popular song from a few years ago then you should stop by the Gangnam Style Landmark, it’s just outside the COEX complex.

Bongeunsa Temple is also in the Gangnam area, it’s a beautiful place and is free to enter, there are overnight temple experiences available, check their website for dates and prices.

Seolleung Jeongneung Park, is a peaceful place to enjoy an hour or two in downtown Seoul, the main draw is the twin royal tombs. Entrance costs 1,000₩.

The Gyengbokgung Palace (3,000₩) is located at the end of Gwanghwamun Square (free). The original palace was built in 1395 during the Joseph Dynasty, though it has burned down and been rebuilt several times.

The Seoullo Walkway is a fairly new addition to Seoul, it’s an elevated green space that gives a temporary retreat from city life. Perfect during summer months.

The area on both sides of the Cheonggyecheon stream has been turned into a public park that’s lit up beautifully at night, its part of a major effort by the Seoul council to introduce more greenery into the city.

Where To Eat:

Hi Food – Cheap and cheerful eatery that serve pretty good Ramen and have an English menu. (Next to our hotel.)

Nipong Naepong – a Korean/Italian fusion restaurant. Must try the risotto (COEX food court).

Getting There and Around:

The Gimpo international airport is connected to subway line number 5 and number 9. There are lots of low cost, budget airlines that fly to Seoul. The main train station is Seoul-Station, it has direct access to the Seoul subway.

The subway in Seoul is extensive and covers every single corner of the city, you’ll never be far from a station. The stations are really big and have multiple exits, the exit numbers are marked on Google maps, it’s a good idea to know which exit you need before you take your journey. Tickets cost 1,850₩ but a deposit of 500₩ is returned when you put your ticket back into the machine after your trip.

Where To Stay:

The Maui Hotel was right next to a subway station, and had lots of restaurants close by. The rooms were clean and modern, the wifi was fast and the had free laundry services (even a dryer). We booked through hotels.com during a sale and received 56% off, we paid £24 per night including breakfast.

Jeju Island – South Korea

Jeju Island is a popular holiday destination for Koreans as well as foreigners, it’s host to some of the best beaches, greenest country side and most dramatic landscapes. The island is a paradise for outdoor lovers.

Things To Do:

Hamdeok Beach is the Maldives of Korea, the sand is white and soft and the sea is the most amazing shade of blue. You can get there on the 101 bus which comes every 30 minuets.

Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak is on the east coast of the island, it’s an old cone shape volcano right on he coast line, visitors can hike to the top for 2,000₩ each and it takes roughly 30 minuets to walk. The base of the volcano is also the perfect place to spot the famous diving ladies of Jeju. You can take the 101, 110-1 or 110-2 bus to the Seongsan entrance then walk about 20 minuets. You’ll know your going the right way because you can see it.

Seogwipo has two incredible waterfalls within walking distance to each other. Chenjiyeon falls runs into a fresh water river and is surrounded by beautiful greenery, entrance is 2,000w each. Jeongbang falls runs directly into the ocean and is surrounded by dramatic cliffs, entrance is also 2,000₩. To get to both falls take the 181 or 101 bus to Seogwipo registration office.

Mt Hallasan is the highest peak on Jeju and can be seen from almost anywhere on the island, to get to the top there are various trails with the Seongpanak trail being the most popular, it’s around an 8 hour round trip and fairly slippery in the rain. There are strict rules about hiking after dark and the last section of the trail is closed from 1pm onwards. We got there at 13:10 and didn’t get to finish the trail, though I wasn’t too disappointed, it was so foggy that we probably wouldn’t have had a great view anyway, plus my legs were killing me by then.

Where To Eat:

We only had 1 proper meal in Jeju, the rest of the time we ate out of convenience stores (800₩ for a hot ramen, you can’t go wrong!) and bought food from the supermarket.

If your in Hamdeok Beach then 307 burger is a must, it’s chicken and Tabasco burger is to die for and they do a really nice shrimp and wasabi one too.

Getting Around:

From Jeju International airport there are regular buses to anywhere on the island. Red busses are express routes and cost 3,000₩ per person, they are the only ones with luggage storage and they have really good free WiFi. The blue buses stop at every stop but only cost 1,200₩ per person.

Where To Stay:

We stayed at Hamdeok Beach, it’s a small town with a few good restaurants and a supermarket, the area is very popular with tourists and there are loads of hotels to chose from. Our hotel was called the Beachstory and was about 1 minute walk to the beach, we had an amazing sea view from our room.

The rooms were big and cleaned daily, breakfast was toast and coffee (standard for Korea) and the WiFi was great. We paid £28 per night on hotels.com.

If your not a beach bum like us then the town of Seogwipo is perfectly located for getting around but it doesn’t have a beach.

Busan – South Korea

Beautiful Busan is one of our favourite places on earth, it’s blend of old and new, city live mixed with beach life, gives you everything you could ever wish for in a city. Busan truly won our hearts unlike any other city so far.

We stayed 5 nights and barely scratched the surface. What’s best is that you don’t need a huge budget to visit Busan, here’s a list of the best things to do for free while in Busan:

Free Things To Do:

1 & 2 – Beaches: Busan has a few beaches, they are all amazing. The most popular beach is Haeundae beach, though it gets really busy, I read online that it receives up to 1,000,000 visitors each day during busy months. There was an amazing sandcastle building competition during our visit. For a more peaceful beach experience visit Songdo beach, you’ll probably have the beach to yourself even during summer months, make sure you check out the Songdo cloud walkway too. All the beaches have good toilet facilities and even have wifi.

3 – Get a view: There are a few places advertised in Busan as being the ‘best’ view, but they aren’t cheap. For a free alternative (and we think it’s just as good as any paid for option) visit the Lotte Mall next to the Nampo station. Go straight to the 13th floor and  spend as long as you like there, we went day and night.

4 & 5 – Enjoy the scenery: Busan is a coastal city, it has a dramatic landscape and enough amazing costal walkways to keep you busy for weeks. Our favourites were the Dongbaek Park and Jeoryeong costal walkway. The Jeoryeong walkway is longer and less crowded, there are a few different observation decks for a rest along the way.

6 – Get your art fix: The Busan Museum of modern art has 3 floors of constantly changing exhibits, if your into art then you could easily spend a full morning here, take subway line 2 to Bexco station.

7 & 8 – Finally, a bit of modern history and politics: The APEC house held the 2005 world summit, it’s based on traditional Korean architecture and is free to enter, you only really need 30 minutes to see where the world leaders sat during the important annual meeting. The Yeongdodaegye bridge is lifted once per day and has symbolic meaning for the locals as it was closed of for years during the war.

9 – Eat till you can’t move: (Not a free one but by far the cheapest place to eat in Busan.) The world famous Jangalchi fish market (Nampo station exit number 2) is an absolute must for visitors, even if you don’t eat fish it’s still great to walk around and take in the sights.

Getting There:

Busan has two main railway stations, Busan station receives the high speed trains and Bujeon station takes the slower local trains. Both stations are on the red subway station (line number 1).

The airport has a monorail station, it will cost you 1,400₩ to get to Sasang station where you can connect to the rest of the subway system (line 2, green line). Busan has a fairly good subway system and a ticket to anywhere in the city costs 1,600₩.

Where To Stay:

We stayed at the K-Guesthouse hotel in the Nampo area, we absolutely loved this hotel, our best in South Korea by far, the hotel is on the 10th floor and has a wonderful view over the bay. Breakfast is a simple continental and there is free laundry facility’s.

As everywhere in Korea the wifi was fantastic and rooms were spotless. The hotel is right next to the Nampo subway station (exit number 1). We paid £31 per night through hotels.com.

We also spent one highly at the O’Happy hotel for £24 in between our flight from Jeju to Osaka, hotel was great for the price and good location for the airport but I wouldn’t recommend it for seeing Busan, it’s a bit far from everything else.

Andong – South Korea

Andong has been put into the tourism map due to its proximity to the UNESCO Hahoe Cultural Village (the best and most authentic heritage village in all of South Korea). But Andong itself is a cute little town worth spending a day exploring.

We had a tight schedule and didn’t get to spend as long as I would have liked there but be sure to check out the tourist information centre next to the train station for a free map and list of attractions in the area.

Hahoe Village:

The village is open every day for visitors to explore, though not every building is accessible to the public as people still live in the village. Entrance costs 5,000₩ per person.

Be sure to stop at the visitor information booth next to the ticket office for a map of the village and a timetable for buses returning to Andong.

With your ticket you are also granted free entry to the traditional mask museum (next to the bus stop), it’s an interesting look at masks from all over the world.

There is a performance in the village amphitheater every day from 2pm, currently a mask dance show though the show changes now and then.

A boat ride over the river costs and extra 4,000₩ per person, from there you can climb the hill and be rewarded with an aerial view over the village.

Getting There (Hahoe Village):

The number 246 bus from Andong takes just under an hour and leaves from opposite the train station, a 1 way ticket costs 1,300₩.

If you can’t find the bus stop, go to the tourist information centre right next to the train station and they will point you in the right direction.

Getting There (Andong):

From Seoul Station we took a high speed train to Dongdagu (1hr 40min) then transferred to a normal train to get to Andong (1hr 50min), we booked tickets at the station the day before and paid 42,500₩ each.

There are 3 direct trains from Andong to Busan each day, it takes 3hr 30min and cost us 30,000₩ each when booked at the station the day before.

Also, the train station has free lockers for the public to use, easily big enough to fit in both our backpacks.

Where To Eat:

We weren’t cultured at all in Andong and ordered a pizza from the Home Plus supermarket, it wasn’t very good either. After dinner we went for a walk

Where To Stay:

The Queen Motel is absolutely perfect, we only booked because it was one of the cheapest hotels in the area but we loved it. The rooms were big and clean, showers were hot and powerful. The wifi was great and there is 24 hour snacks available, all free of charge.

The hotel is about 5 minutes walk to the train station and about 3 minutes walk to the bus stop for the Hahoe Cultural Village. The motel costs £23 per night on Hotels.com.