Whether or not you’re bitten by the Hallyu Bug, Seoul remains as one of the cities that travellers have on their travel destination list. A city with endless things to do – sightseeing at palaces, being cultured at museums, café-hopping along Myeongdong or even professing your one-sided love to Kpop idols – and the most ideal destination for autumn and winter, here is a list of top travelling tips you need to know before visiting Seoul.
Wifi connection anywhere, anytime
Pocket sized rechargeable wifi device
Photo credit: daegukorea
As a 21st century traveller, I find it almost impossible to disconnect myself completely from social media, and one of our necessities is Wifi or Internet connection. I often hear people exclaiming, “Wait, let me post this on Instagram while I still have Wifi!” when on the road. I am guilty of that too! Wifi is an indispensable necessity to many; tracking your next destination or sourcing for unearthed places to visit.
Undoubtedly, there are Wifi spots all around Seoul. Unfortunately, these Wifi spots would require registration. The easier way to stay connected while keeping up with your itinerary is to rent a rechargeable pocket Wifi device at Incheon International Airport for approximately KRW7000/day (S$8.50). Alternatively, you can find cheaper ones at other telecom services for about S$3.95/day, with free delivery to your accommodation. It’s also known as Egg Wifi. More information here.
Just connect to this device and make sure you’re within 10 meters, you can be using your social media accounts around Seoul at all times!
Getting around Seoul
a) Seoul Metropolitan Subway, one of the most extensive subway systems in the world, though plastered with English translations and signboards, can still be rather confusing and intense for first timers; especially during peak hours where you get pushed around by the rushing crowd.
b) If you’re going to be hopping infinitely on and off public transports during your stay in Seoul, you should get the T Money card. Single journey tickets would work, but the T Money card can spare you the hassle and time, while saving some money too. Tap your T Money card when you alight to get free transfer from one transportation to another. Additionally, the T Money card offers discounts to some theaters, museums, and restaurants too.
The T Money card can be purchased from any convenience store or subway stations at KRW 2000 (S$2.20). More information here.
c) If you’re travelling in a bigger group of 3 or 4, taking a taxi might be a cheaper alternative compared to public transports. Basic fare for the T Money card within 10 kilometers is KRW 1050 (S$1.25), regardless of the number of stations. Standard cab fare for short distances would cost about KRW 3000 – 3500 (S$3.60 – 4.20), compared to KRW 4200 (S$5.05) by subway.
Remember to look out for Orange Taxi if you want an English speaking driver.
Strategically located accommodation near Subway Line 1
(Photo Credit: Hotel Ibis Myeongdong)
One of the worst sins you could commit when travelling on a budget would be picking an accommodation so off central, you spend half your holiday itinerary on the public transports. Line 1 (blue) is the main subway station that is connected to almost every other subway lines. The best location would be in the City Hall – Euljiro 1 (IL)-Ga – Myeongdong area.
Some recommended accommodations:
Free Multi Lingual Personal Assistant
My greatest worry when travelling to non-English speaking countries would be the failure of my hand signals for communication. However, the Korea Tourism Organisation aims to provide worry-free travel experiences for all tourists and thus offers a a free phone concierge service.
Anyone visiting Seoul should know about this multi-lingual (English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean) concierge service that operates 24/7. Simply dial 1330 from any phone and call operators will look anything up for you; ranging from restaurant recommendations, to bus schedules, to places selling your favourite Kpop merchandises. For example, one user politely asked, “Where is the closest dog cafe around Hongdae Station?” in English and got her answer within minutes.
Free shuttle buses to historical Korea
Temple at Jeonju
For city dwellers who have gotten their fill of Seoul’s binging-shopping-parting frenzy and want an immersion in Korean culture, the Visit-Korea committee offers free shuttle buses from Seoul to Jeonju daily.
Jeonju is the mecca for tradition and culture with history dating back to Baekje Kingdom times. Wandering around Seoul, I’ve never seen those traditional Korean villages you see on your favourite drama serials. In fact, they are quietly preserved in Jeonju. Places you should visit in Jeonju: Yangasjae, Jeonju Hanok Village, and Pungnammun Gate.
But all free and good stuff are always in hot demand, hence, reservation of 10 days in advance is required. Make your reservation here!
More Korean culture immersion at zero cost
Cheong Wa Dae
Photo credit: koreaittimes
Seoul is a relatively expensive destination compared to neighbours China and Taiwan, but it doesn’t mean you’ll burn a hole in your pocket if you do it right. Certain attractions in the city are free, such as National Museum of Korea, Gwangjang Market, The War Memorial of Korea, and the Blue House (Cheong Wa Dae), just to name a few.
To let foreigners better understand Korea beyond the highly raved about SNSD, Running Man and Gangnam Style, Korean college students provide a number of free tour services alongside official free walking tours. Fret not about the language barriers, these tours will be held in English, Chinese, Japanese, or of course Korean.