Korea Travel Tips…
General travel advice – definitely not totally conclusive but general advice from my time here!
Invest in a T-Money card that can be used on most buses and on subway systems across Korea – you can top it up at every subway station as and when you need. Most subway trips cost 1300-1500 won.
Meetup is a great app when you are in Seoul to find different activities from meditation to life drawing to karate and lots of language cafes or classes too if you just fancy meeting new people!
If you eat out with Koreans it is respectful for the oldest in the party to pay and the youngest to serve. This is of curse not always the case and often bills will be split equally especially amongst friends but if you are the one hosting it is definitely worth considering this!
To try food wise; Bibimbap, gimbap, Korean BBQ, Korean black pudding, intestines, chicken feet, Korean hotdogs, Kimchee soup. For easy and reliable sandwiches or salads, the Paris baguettes everywhere are perfect too.
I stayed in Hongdae at the amazing Kimchee Sinchon Guesthouse which was super social, had lovely staff and a great common room area. It is also super easy to get to and from both Seoul and Gimpo airports as well as Seoul train station.
This area around Hongik university is great for shopping and eating or drinking out. It is particularly worth coming on Saturday for the various flea markets about. Not flea markets in the traditional second hand sense but stalls of crafts often made by students. The War and Womens’ rights museum here is well worth a visit but a little hard to find. Also Seonyudo park can be reached in about 40 mins from Hongik uni but has amazing views and is so worth the mission along highways to get there! Again refresh has lovely salads and free wifi and is right by exit 3 of hongik station. Also try the area by Dongik market for great cafes and central shopping streets for cheese ttyopokki!
Itaewon area has a similar hipster craft beer vintage store vibe and is home to two amazing restaurants; Plant which now has two branches and another delish salad bar possibly called what a salad. Its also the international area of Seoul so great for international cuisines and is home to a foreign supermarket. The war memorial museum is massive and possibly only for war or history buffs but if that’s your thing definitely make a trip as it is free! The Nationl Museum of Korea is beautiful just to wander around but also seems to have a huge range of artefacts and special exhibitions to visit also!
Gangnam is pretty much just fancy shopping streets but I would recommend a visit to watch the sunset and the fountain light show from Some Sevit bridge its a bit of a walk from the subway station but has beautiful views.
Gwanghwamun is sort of the cultural/historical center of Seoul in my eyes. It is home to several palaces of which I visited Gyengbokgung which has a beautiful lake area and Changdeokgung with a secret garden. I think I preferred the former which is also 5000 won cheaper entry but both are veery beautiful. Jogye-sa is the central Buddhist temple and as I was there for the annual lantern festival it was beautifully decorated too. Opposite is the Temple stay office which is well worth a visit to book last minute temple stays and for advice on where to visit. Whilst my booking didn’t actually go according to plan, they were super helpful. Perhaps it is worth sending an email to the temple a few days before your visit yourself just to confirm your stay!
On the note of temple stays, my trip to Woljeongsa was amazing and I would recommend it both for its beautiful woodland location and for the food and facilities there! Bukchon hanok village is also in Seoul center and was one of my favourite spots to wander with tonnes of hidden cafes art galleries and rooftops.
I also spent plenty of time wandering the insa dong area near the Jogye-sa temple for good food and artist’s studios.
Dongdaemun is sort of eastern Seoul and here you can wander along the beautiful Cheong-Gye-Cheon river which is amazing. Also make sure you visit Gwangjang market for food and Kwangjang market which is the upstairs bit and sells TONNES of vintage fashion. The Seoul Folk Flea market is a spectacle to visit and Jungang market also has loads of food too. The Design Plaza here is architecturally so so beautiful and occasionally has pop up food trucks and intriguing exhibitions so check the website for details.
Namsan park and Seoul tower have great view over the city – I would take the cable car up and walk down. For another great view head north to the Iwah Mahal mural village which had artworks painted on staircases, houses, walls and house alarms creating a space exploding with colour. And find a cafe to perch in to watch the sunset or for a higher vantage point stroll through Naksan Park nearby.
From Seoul, DMZ tours can be booked through most hostels and even the most basic one was thoroughly interesting although if you are able I think the JSA tour is meant to be better!
This was one of my Korea highlights so definitely would recommend and flights are suuuuper cheap! The area near the airport is pretty grim but useful for awkward flight times so you don’t have to rely on busses that might be delayed or have stopped running in time to get you to/from the airport. I had to stay there for one night and Hostel Lyndon was lovely and had great staff. The better areas to stay would be south in seogwipo or east near Seongsan iichulborg for an amazing sunrise view. The southern area is great for walks with waterfall views and the whole island is filled with Olle trails which are super well marked walking trails all across the island. Also if you stay in the east you are perfectly placed to grab a ferry out to neighbouring island Udo to follow the 11km trail around its circumference. It has beautiful views, white and black sand beaches and plenty of seafood.
I can totally recommend the work away job with LanCul led by Andy and Brian at their studio cafe in the Pusan University area. Work wise it is great teaching experience and you get loads of help with question and topic starters so even though I was totally new to the language cafe concept it was made super simple. All is required of you is 3x 70 minute sessions a day of chatting with varied levels of English speaker in either afternoon or evening sessions with one full day off on Saturday or Sunday. The accommodation was so homely and amazingly central and you get free rice, onions, potatoes, bread, eggs, ramen and kimchee. Most if not all of the volunteers I met had extended their stay by weeks and months because of how much they had loved it!
In terms of things to do in Busan…
Pusan university area is great for shopping and eating out/going out!
Try Basement or Thursday party here for drinks and the street with Thursday party has countless restaurants too. Nampo and Seomyeon are also great areas for general markets or shopping streets for exploring and for restaurants as well. Grid club in Seomyeon is amazing and absolutely massive!
For beach views go to Yongungsa temple and at night try Gwangali beach with its impressive illuminated bridge. I was dissapointed by the famed Haeundae beach as it was undergoing construction on the promenade and the beach itself.
For city views take the cable car up to Geumgang park and you can hike there too. Also try Gamcheon culture village which is a hillside town transformed with coloured paint and tonnes of murals making the views from the top beautiful.
Local foods to try are dwaeji gukbap which is like a beautiful hot pork and rice soup with all of these sides and dipping sauces and then its sister dish dwaeji gukmyeong which is with soft noodles and possibly even more delicious. Fred chicken is unbelievable here and a popular snack with beer an Paton are amazing pancakes to go with makeolli which is like a milky white spirit. I also tried dog (sorry animal lovers) but have no idea what the place I visited was called- best to get local help on this one! As a beach side city try seafood at jagalchi fish market or at least visit for photographs.