{{ message }}

South Korea

South Korea (Korean: ??, ?? Hanguk), officially the Republic of Korea (????, ???? Daehan Minguk) is a country in East Asia. South Korea occupies the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, with North Korea to the north, China across the sea to the west and Japan a short ferry ride to the southeast.

Regions

South Korea is administratively divided into 9 provinces as listed below. The largest cities are separate entities from these provinces, but we include them in the most relevant province.

Cities

  • Seoul (Korean: ??) — the dynamic 600-year-old capital of South Korea, a fusion of the ancient and modern
  • Busan (Korean: ??, ??) — the second largest city and a major port city of Korea
  • Chuncheon (Korean: ??, ??) — capital city of Gangwon province, surrounded by lakes and mountains and known for local dishes, dakgalbi and makguksu
  • Daegu (Korean: ??, ??) — a cosmopolitan city, rich with ancient traditions and sights
  • Daejeon (Korean: ??, ??) — a large and dynamic metropolis located in Chungnam province
  • Gwangju (Korean: ??, ??) — the administrative and economic centre of the area, the largest city in the province
  • Gyeongju (Korean: ??, ??) — the ancient capital of the Silla Kingdom
  • Incheon (Korean: ??, ??) — second busiest port in the country, location of the country's largest international airport
  • Jeonju (Korean: ??, ??) — once the spiritual capital of the Joseon Dynasty, now a leading center of the arts filled with museums, ancient buddhist temples, and historical monuments

Other destinations

  • 1 Seoraksan National Park (Korean: ???????) — spread out over four cities and counties, the country's most renowned national park and mountain range
  • Andong (Korean: ???) — historically rich in Confucious traditions and home of living folk village
  • Ansan (Korean: ???) — a city in Gyeonggi province on the coast of the Yellow Sea
  • 4 Guinsa (Korean: ???) — spectacular mountain headquarters of the Buddhist Cheondae sect
  • 5 Panmunjeom (Korean: ???) — the only tourist site in the world where the Cold War is still reality
  • Boseong (Korean: ???) — rolling hills blanketed with green tea leaves where you can stroll along a wooded path and stop at a nearby spa to drink the home grown tea and take a seawater bath.
  • Yeosu (Korean: ???) — one of the country's most picturesque port cities especially at night. Famous for its seafood and beaches, you can visit some of the islands in Hallyeo Ocean Park with cruise or watch sunset from its fabulous Dolsan Bridge or romantic cafes near marinas.
  • 8 Jindo (Korean: ??) — commonly associated with the dog native to that area, the Jindo, every year people flock to the area to witness the parting of the sea and participate with the accompanying festivities
  • 9 Ulleungdo (Korean: ???) — scenic remote island off the east coast of peninsula
  • 10 Pyeongchang (Korean: ???) — the host city of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Understand

Known as the "Land of the Morning Calm", Korea has for a long time served as a cultural bridge between its neighbors, China and Japan. South Korea has emerged from the shadows of its turbulent past and cemented its place as one of the world's major economic powers. Since the turn of the 21st century, South Korean culture has become enormously popular all over East Asia, and this has made South Korea a very popular tourist destination.

History

Early history and founding of a nation

See also: Pre-modern Korea

Archeological finds of prehistoric toolmaking on the Korean Peninsula date back to 70,000 BC, and the first pottery is found around 8000 BC. Comb-pattern pottery culture peaked around 3500-2000 BC.

Legend has it that Korea began with the founding of Gojoseon (also called Ancient Chosun) (???, ???) by the legendary Dangun in 2333 BC. Archeological and contemporaneous written records of Gojoseon as a kingdom date back to around 7th-4th century BC. Gojoseon was eventually defeated by the Chinese Han Dynasty and its territories were governed as four commanderies. The political chaos following the fall of the Han Dynasty in China allowed native tribes to regain control of Korea and led to the emergence of the Three Kingdoms of Korea (????, ????), namely Goguryeo (???, ???), Silla (??, ??) and Baekje (??, ??). Despite repeated attempts by China, namely the Sui Dynasty and later the Tang Dynasty, to conquer the Korean Peninsula, northern-based Goguryeo managed to repel them. Eventually, Goguryeo fell to a Silla-Tang alliance, which had earlier defeated Baekje, and unified Korea under the Silla Dynasty. A subsequent later invasion by Tang was repelled by Silla forces, thus maintaining Korea's independence. The remnants of Goguryeo would go on on to found another kingdom known as Balhae (??, ??) in what is now Northeast China, which would last until AD 926 when it was conquered by the Khitans.

Unified Silla was replaced by the Goryeo Dynasty (also called Koryo) (??, ??), from which the modern name "Korea" derives. One highlight of the Goryeo dynasty was that in 1234 the world's first metal movable type was invented by a Korean named Choe Yun-ui (200 years before Gutenberg's printing press). Goryeo was replaced by the Joseon Dynasty (also called Chosun) (??, ??), after a coup by one of its generals. The Joseon dynasty ruled Korea from 1392 to 1910, being one of the longest actively ruling dynasties in world history. It was during the early part of the Joseon dynasty that Korean technological inventions such as the world's first water clock, ironclad ship, and other innovations took place. During the rule of King Sejong the Great, the world's first rain gauge was invented and the Korean alphabet known as hangul was created.

Japanese occupation and division

Korea was invaded by the Japanese led by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the late 16th century, who was eventually defeated by an alliance between the Joseon dynasty and China's Ming dynasty. This defeat and the untimely death of Hideyoshi forced the Japanese to pull out of Korea.

Later, Korea's status as an independent kingdom under the Chinese sphere of cultural influence (??) ended in 1895 after China's defeat in the Sino-Japanese War and the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki. Under the terms of the treaty, China was to recognize the severing of the several centuries-old, nominal elder-younger brother relationship between China and Korea, bringing Japan the window of opportunity to force Korea into its own growing sphere of influence. Although the elder-younger brother relationship between China and Joseon was a voluntary diplomatic formality assumed by Joseon's rulers in order to receive the benefits of advanced Chinese culture and trade, it was a symbolic victory for Japan to achieve the breakage of this link. It put Japan in position to take possession of Korea without fear of Chinese intervention. In 1910, Imperial Japan annexed Korea, thus beginning a 35-year occupation of the country. Despite numerous armed rebellions, assassinations and intellectual and cultural resistance, suppression and a cultural assimilation policy that included forcing Koreans to take Japanese names and forbidding them to speak the Korean language allowed Japan to maintain control of the peninsula.

After Imperial Japan's defeat in World War II, Soviet forces occupied the northern half of Korea while U.S. forces occupied the southern half. North and South Korea each declared independence as separate states in 1948. Kim Il-Sung established a communist regime with the support of Soviet Union in the north, and Syngman Rhee established a capitalist regime with the support of the United States in the south. After antagonism from both sides, North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, starting the Korean War which destroyed much of the country. U.S. and other U.N. forces intervened on South Korea's side, while the Soviet Union and China supported the North. An armistice was signed in 1953 splitting the peninsula along a demilitarized zone, after the war had reached a stalemate with no significant territorial gains made by either side. However, as no peace treaty has ever been signed, the two Koreas technically remain at war with each other to this day.

Republic of Korea

Despite initially being economically outperformed by its northern rival, South Korea eventually emerged from the ashes of the Korean war and achieved rapid economic growth starting in the 1960s under the iron-fisted rule of President Park Chung Hee (???). As one of the East Asian Tigers, the South Korean economy's industrialization and modernization efforts gained traction in the 1980s and 1990s, and per capita income rose to 20 times that of North Korea. In 1996, South Korea joined the OECD. Today, South Korea is an industrialized and developed economy with some of the world's leading high technology corporations such as Samsung and LG.

Demands for greater freedom of press and human rights led to nationwide demonstrations that led to democratic elections in 1987, just prior to the South Korean capital of Seoul hosting the 1988 Summer Olympic Games.

South Korea is now a liberal democracy and an economic powerhouse. In June 2000, a historic first summit took place between the South's President Kim Dae-jung and the North's late leader Kim Jong-il (Kim Dae-jung to be awarded the first Nobel Peace Prize for South Korea), however the peace process has since moved at a glacial pace. The country elected its first female president, Park Geun-hye, in 2012.

A phenomenon known as the "Korean Wave" (or Hallyu) has swept most of Asia and many other parts of the world as South Korean film, television, music, food and other culture aspects hahave become popular.

People

South Korea is a very homogeneous country, with nearly all native residents identifying themselves as ethnically Korean and speaking the Korean language. However the demographics are changing, with immigrants having passed the one million mark for the first time in South Korean history. The largest resident minority are the Chinese, numbering around 440,000, although this number includes a large number of Chinese citizens of Korean ethnicity. There are also workers from Mongolia, Bangladesh, Southeast Asia and other parts of world. A community of 20,000 English teachers from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa are spread out throughout the towns and cities. About 30,000 American military personnel are stationed throughout the country, although they are gradually being stationed away from the DMZ. South Korea's large and growing economy has attracted people from all over the world and Seoul's status as a leading financial center has brought many financial workers from North America, Europe and Japan.

It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, but also has one of the world's lowest birthrates (1.21 children per woman). Dealing with this very low birthrate will be one of the major problems for this country in the 21st century. Confucian attitudes about the importance of a male heir have led to a strongly skewed sex ratio, with about 112 men for every 100 women encouraging many Korean men in rural areas to seek wives from other countries such as China, Vietnam and the Philippines. About 85% of South Koreans live in urban areas.

Though East Asian tourists have been visiting Korea in droves since the turn of the millennium due to the Korean Wave, it has been largely off the radar of Western tourists. As such, having locals stare or listen to your conversations is still somewhat a common experience among Westerners visiting South Korea. Children in particular may approach you or shout a "Hi!" in passing. Much of this is done out of curiosity and eagerness to hear English spoken by native speakers. Tourists will normally find Koreans to be quite friendly and helpful when trying to find their way around.

Government and politics

South Korea is a full and relatively stable democracy, with executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government. Democracy began in 1948 but suffered frequent periods of military coups. The country has been a stable democracy since 1987 when the sixth republic was declared.

The president is the head of state, and is elected for a one fixed five-year term. The current president is Park Geun-hye, daughter of a former president and first female head of state in modern times. There are 4 political parties represented in the current national assembly, representing conservative, liberal and progressive platforms. Party composition and naming can change frequently in South Korean politics. The current ruling party, Saenuri, is conservative in outlook.

Although the military remain a powerful force in Korean politics (not surprising given that the country is surrounded by Japan, China and North Korea), it is widely considered that the possibility of another military coup is relatively remote.

Culture

Having been in the cultural sphere of China for much of its history, substantial Chinese influences are evident in traditional Korean culture. Nevertheless, many fundamental differences remain and Korea has managed to retain a distinct cultural identity from its larger neighbor. Koreans are fiercely proud of their heritage and their resistance to outside domination.

During the Joseon dynasty, Korea's dominant philosophy was a strict form of Confucianism, perhaps even more strict than the Chinese original. People were separated into a rigid hierarchy, with the king at the apex, an elite of officials and warriors and a small group of nobility below him, a middle class of petty civil servants below them, and then a vast population of commoners at the bottom. The educated were superior to the uneducated, women served men, and everybody stuck to a defined role or faced severe consequences. Korea adopted its own version of the imperial examination system invented by and used in China to select officials, creating somewhat of a premodern meritocracy for government like its Chinese counterpart, though unlike the Chinese version, the Korean version was largely restricted to the yangban (aristocrat) and chungin (bureaucrat) classes. Buddhism was suppressed largely due to the widespread corruption and greed of monks and temples during the waning stages of the Goryeo dynasty. While the Joseon dynasty ceased to exist in 1910, its legacy lives on in Korean culture: education and hard work are valued above all else, and women still struggle for equal treatment.

Koreans believe that the things that set them the most apart from other Asian cultures are their cuisine, their language and their Hangul script. Outsiders will note their extreme modernity, tempered by a well-developed artistic and architectural joyfulness. Nothing goes undecorated if it can be helped, and they have a knack for stylish interior design. South Korea also has a vibrant film and TV industry, and the country is one of only a few countries in the world in which local films have a greater market share than Hollywood films.

South Koreans strongly hold on to many ancient traditions which go back thousands of years, yet paradoxically they are often also obsessed with the latest technology. Consumer devices with amazing advanced technology are developed and produced by themselves and are often several years ahead of the rest of the world.

South Korea has a significant number of Christians (18% Protestants, 11% Roman Catholic) and Buddhists (23% practicing, 47% non practicing), and churches can be found in the towns and temples and monasteries on hills. Over a third of the country professes to follow no particular organized religion, although most people (including Christians) are still strongly influenced by traditional Korean Buddhist and Confucian philosophies that have been seeped into the Korean cultural background. Islam and local religions also have a small number of followers in parts of the country.

Sports

Baseball was brought to Korea by American missionaries in 1905 and is the most popular sport in the country. Most cities have a team and the biggest are sponsored by the largest South Korean companies, and many South Korean players have become famous MLB players in the United States. The South Korean national baseball team is also regarded as one of the strongest in the world, finishing second at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Football (soccer) is becoming more important to South Korea over time, and is a sport shared by North and South. South Korea is one of the strongest teams in Asia and many of their players work for the top European clubs. The sport gained an incredible amount of short term popularity when the South Korean national team reached the World Cup semi-finals in 2002, and even today the country stops for world cup matches. Unfortunately the enthusiasm for domestic and friendly international games is extremely low, and stadiums are usually mostly empty.

Other popular sports include golf and basketball. Badminton, table tennis and bowling are also popular and facilities for the public are widely available in cities. Korean martial arts such as taekwondo [???] are also popular. Golf particularly has a strong following, with membership fees for Korea's top golf clubs being more expensive than those in neighboring Japan or the United States. Many of the world's top female golfers are from Korea or of Korean descent.

As for winter sports, speed skating (especially short track) and figure skating are extremely popular due to the repeated success of South Korea in the Winter Olympics.

The South Korean city of Pyeongchang has been chosen for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Books

A long and complicated relationship between the Western world and the Korean nation have led to a plethora of books.

History

  • Battle for Korea: The Associated Press History of the Korean Conflict by Robert J. Dvorchak (1993) - great journalistic photography accompanied by short descriptive narratives
  • Korea Old and New: A History by Carter Eckert and Lee Ki-Baik (1991) - simply stated writing, good overview of Korea's history
  • Korea Witness: 135 Years of War, Crisis and New in the Land of the Morning Calm by Donald Kirk and Choe Sang Hun (2006) - compilation of articles from foreign correspondents starting from 1871, notably from Jack London, a war correspondent from 1903-4
  • True Stories of the Korean Comfort Women by Keith Howard (1996) - unflinching look at the atrocities committed during the Imperial Japanese occupation period

Culture

  • The Koreans: Who They Are, What They Want, Where Their Future Lies by Michael Breen (1999) - anectodal accounts and insights of a British journalist on the country he spends half the year in, informative and entertaining
  • Social Change in Korea published by Jimoondang (2008) - compilation of articles written by academic experts on Korea
  • The Discovery of Korea: History-Nature-Cultural Heritages-Art-Tradition-Cities by Yoo Myeong-jong (2005) - amazing scenic views on Korea

Films

South Korea has a substantial film industry considering the size of the country. There are many films that can give you a good background to the country, and almost all DVD's will have good English subtitles. The list below could include hundreds of films, however the selection below will give you a good taste.

  • Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War (??? ????) is a story of two brothers serving as soldiers during the Korean War.
  • Joint Security Area (??????) A rather haunting movie about soldiers on opposite sides of the Demilitarized Zone who strike up a tenuous friendship.
  • May 18 (??? ??) As recently as 1980, South Korea was effectively a military dictatorship. This film is a historical drama around the events of the infamous Gwangju massacre, when the president ordered the shooting of protestors in that city.
  • Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring is a film set completely at an isolated lake in the mountains, and shows each year season of Korea as a stages in the lives of a Buddhist monk and his adopted boy.
  • Secret Sunshine (??) is a contemporary film about the nature of forgiveness set in the Korean country town of Miryang.
  • My Sassy Girl (???? ??) Romantic comedy that is often seen as a quintessential Korean movie experience, and especially well regarded by people from other Asian countries.
  • The Host (??) Monster horror film around the lives of a family in Seoul. A lot of footage of the Han river that flows through the middle of the city.

Holidays

Korea's traditional holidays mostly follow the lunar calendar and therefore fall on different days each year. The two biggest, Seollal and Chuseok, are family holidays and involve everybody returning to their hometowns en masse, meaning that all forms of transport are absolutely packed. It is worth planning your itinerary around these dates, as well as noting that your best eating options may be noodle packets from a 7-Eleven! On the other holidays you will not notice too much difference, however all banks and government offices will be closed.

  • Shinjeong (??), means New Year's Day: on the 1st day, January. Shin (?) is a Korean word that means 'new'. January 1st is named 'Shinjeong' because after Korea adopted the Gregorian calendar it became the new way to mark the New Year.
  • Seollal (??), Lunar New Year, also known as "Korean New Year", or "Gujeong." Families gather together, eat traditional foods-especially Ddugguk (??) and perform an ancestral service. The public holiday lasts for 3 days, which includes the eve and second day. Many shops and restaurants close for the 3 days, so this might not be an ideal time to visit.
  • Sameeljjeol (???, 3.1?): 1st March, in commemoration of the March 1st resistance movement against the invading Japanese Imperial Army in 1919.
  • Orininal (????): is children's day on the 5th May
  • Buchonnim osinnal or sawolchopa-il: means Buddha's birthday, 8th day of the 4th month in the lunar calendar.
  • Hyeonchung-il (???): means memorial day, 6th June. In commemoration of the people who gave their lives to the nation.
  • Gwangbokjjeol (???): is Korea's independence day on the 15th of August. This day is actually the end of the second world war with the official Japanese surrender to the allied forces, which also meant Korea gaining her independence after many decades of Japanese colonialism.
  • Chuseok (??), often translated as "Korean Thanksgiving", this holiday is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of the year (usually September-October). Koreans celebrate by eating traditional foods, notably a rice cake called songpyeon (??) and playing folk games. The public holiday lasts for 3 days and much like Lunar New Year, everything shuts down which makes visiting rather boring.
  • Hangeulnal (???) : 'Hangeul Proclamation Day' anniversary for the Korean alphabet system on October 9th.
  • Gaecheonjeol (???): 3rd October. In commemoration of the first formation of the nation of ancient Korea.
  • Christmas (?????/???) is a significant holiday in South Korea, although it is mostly celebrated by young couples spending a romantic day together. Since a significant proportion (approximately 30%) of the country is Christian, there are no shortages of celebration in the thousands of churches whilst everyone else takes a well deserved rest at home.

Climate

  • Spring is a great time of year to be in Korea. The temperatures are warm, but not hot and there's not too much rain either. However, spring is also the time when yellow dust storms blow over from China making the air horrible to breathe.
  • Summer starts with a dreary rainy season (???,jangma-cheol) in June and turns into a steambath in July-August, with extreme humidity and the temperature heading as high as 35°C. Best avoided unless heading to the beaches.
  • Autumn, starting in September, is perhaps the best time to be in Korea. Temperatures and humidity become more tolerable, fair days are common and the justly renowned fall colors make their appearance.
  • Winter is a good time to go skiing or hot-spring hopping, and the Korean invention of ondol (floor heating) helps defrost any parts that froze outside. However, January and February can be bone-biting cold due to Siberian winds from the north. The south of the country (including Busan and Jeju) are relatively mild compared to the north (Seoul) during this season.

Electricity

South Korean households and hotels use the same dual round sockets for their electrical outlets as are found in most of Continental Europe. Some hotels may provide an adapter for you to use which you can query from reception.

South Korean electrical outlets accept appliances with a voltage rating of 220V at 60Hz. If your appliance has this rating that includes 220V (Such as 100-240V that most laptop chargers now accept), you will be able to use the appliance with only a plug adapter. If it falls below or above this rating, you will need to purchase a transformer or a voltage adapter before leaving your country.

Some very old buildings and very new hotels and apartments are dual wired and also have 110V outlets (identifiable by the smaller dual flat sockets) in addition to the regular South Korean variety, built specifically to accommodate the Japanese and Americans.

Get in

  • Citizens of Canada are allowed visa free entry for up to 180 days.
  • Citizens from Lesotho, Portugal, and Russia can visit visa free for up to 60 days.

Hence, the citizens of most countries will receive a visa on arrival valid between 30 to 90 days. The official 'Hi Korea' site has the latest details.

Jeju island is an autonomous province with more relaxed entry conditions than the South Korean 'mainland', allowing in everybody except citizens of 11 countries. Citizens from Afghanistan, Cuba, Ghana, Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Macedonia, Nigeria, Palestine, Sudan, and Syria can visit the Autonomous province of Jeju visa free for up to 30 days. Subsequently leaving Jeju for the mainland will automatically require you to have a visa for the rest of South Korea.

South Korea is really good at keeping electronic track of everyone coming and going, so do not overstay your visa. Violations will at best likely result in you being banned from re-entering, and prosecution is a possibility.

Military personnel travelling under the U.S.–South Korea Status of Forces Agreement are not required to possess a passport for entry, provided they hold a copy of their travel orders and a military ID. On the other hand their dependents must hold a passport and A-3 visa for entry.

Most foreigners staying longer than 90 days must register with the authorities within 90 days of entry and obtain an Alien Registration Card. Contact your local authorities for further information.

By plane

South Korea has many international airports; however, only a few have scheduled services. South Korea has experienced an airport building frenzy over the last decade. Many large towns have dedicated functioning airports that handle only a handful of flights a week.

  • Incheon International Airport, about 1 hour west of Seoul, is the country's largest airport and is served by many international airlines. There are many options for flying there from locations throughout Asia, Europe and North America, and even routes to South America and Africa. This is also frequently rated as the best run and best designed airport in the world. There are direct inter-city buses that travel from just outside the international arrival hall to many locations throughout South Korea. The airport has a metro line (express AREX 43 min and all-stop subway 56 min) that goes directly to both Seoul Gimpo airport and Seoul Station. (There is an airline check-in facility in Seoul station.) Also, the KTX high-speed train service connects all over the country within 3 hours.
  • Jeju has flights from many South Korean cities and international flights to major Taiwanese, Japanese and Chinese cities. The (Seoul) Gimpo-Jeju line is the busiest flight corridor in the world and the island is well served from other Korean airports.
  • Seoul Gimpo airport offers domestic flights to most South Korean cities, and the international "city shuttle" services from Tokyo-Haneda, Beijing, Shanghai-Hongqiao and Taipei-Songshan are quite convenient. It is more centrally located to Seoul than Incheon. You can connect from Incheon airport either by train or by limousine bus.
  • Yangyang Airport is a very quiet airport in the remote northeast of the country. Korea Express Air operates domestic flights between Busan Gimhae International Airport, Seoul Gimpo Airport, and Gwangju Airport. There are charter flights to Chinese cities as well. This airport is also the closest airport to the Seoraksan National Park and parts of Northeast Gangwon-do. Korean Air and Asiana are the principal carriers to and from South Korea. Budget airlines including Air Busan and Jeju Air fly domestic and international routes.

Korean Air (????) and Asiana (???? ??) are the principal full service carriers to and from South Korea that fly around the world. Low cost airlines Air Busan, Jin Air, Jeju Air, Eastar Jet and T'Way Airlines offer domestic flights to Jeju and international flights across Asia.

By train

Japan Rail and Korean Rail have an agreement where train trips between the countries can be completed via a ferry journey in the middle. Train travellers coming from or continuing on to Japan can purchase special through tickets giving discounts of 30% on KTX services and 9-30% on Busan - Fukuoka ferries as well as Japanese trains.

Travel to North Korea by train is not an option. There is a train track connecting the Korean Rail network with North Korea and even an active Korean Rail station (albeit with no scheduled trains) on the border. However there is no traffic and it will likely remain more of a political statement than a potential travel option for some time to come.

By boat

The services listed here may change frequently, and English language websites may not be updated with the current information. Verify before travelling.

Busan Port International Passenger Terminal is the largest seaport in the country and offers ferry rides mostly to and from Japan. The JR's Beetle hydrofoil service from Busan to Fukuoka manages the trip in just under three hours with up to five connections a day. It also offers service to near by Tsushima. All other links are slower overnight ferries, such as Pukwan Ferry Company's services to Shimonoseki. A Busan-Osaka ferry is operated by Panstar Line Co., Ltd..

Incheon's International Ferry Terminal 1 (Yeonan Budu, ????) has services to several cities in China, such as Weihai, Dandong, Qingdao and Tianjin. The largest operator is Jinchon, but Incheon Port has full listings on their website. The Chinese ports of Rizhao, Rongcheng and Lianyungang, all in Shandong province, can also be accessed by ferry from Pyeongtaek.

There are also weekly departures from Sokcho (Gangwon-do) to Vladivostok from USD270 operated by Dong Chun Ferry, and from Donghae (Gangwon-do) to Vladivostok from USD205 operated by DBS Cruise Ferry Co.

By land

Due the political and military situation with North Korea, entering South Korea overland is not possible. The border between North and South Korea is considered the most heavily fortified border in the world, and while some unauthorized crossings have occurred at the truce village of Panmunjeom they have usually resulted in gunfire.

A group of South Korean businessmen used to cross the border daily by bus to work in the joint industrial park in the North Korean city of Kaesong. However, as of 2016, the industrial park is closed, a casualty of inter-Korean tensions.

Get around

South Korea is fairly compact and you can get anywhere very fast if you fly, and reasonably fast even if you don't. Subways are available in most of the cities including metropolitan Seoul. Larger cities have service or are developing subways. Travel by bus or taxi is easily available, although bus services are more economical.

By plane

South Korea is a relatively small country with a fast and efficient train service (see the KTX fast train below) and therefore flying around is not necessary unless you are going to the island of Jeju.

Nevertheless, plenty of airlines fly between the main cities at a cost comparable to the KTX train. Most flights are with Korean Air or Asiana; however, many new options exist with budget airlines such as T-way, Air Busan, Jin Air and Jeju Air (which despite the name also serves the busy Seoul Gimpo to Busan route). The service doesn't vary significantly between full service and low cost airlines on domestic services, in fact low cost airlines offer complimentary soft drinks and 15kg of hold luggage.

By train

National train operator Korail connects major cities in South Korea. A large amount of money has been plowed into the network and trains are now competitive with buses and planes on speed and price, with high safety standards and a good deal of comfort.

South Korea's flagship service is the high speed Korea Train eXpress (KTX) services between Seoul and BusanSeoul and YeosuSeoul and Mokpo and Seoul and Masan (with new services opening all the time) which use a combination of French TGV technology and Korean technology to travel at speeds in excess of 300 km/h. The fastest non-stop trains travel between Busan and Seoul in just over two hours. There are drink vending machines on board and an attendant that comes by with a snack cart which includes reasonably priced beer, soda, cookies, candy, sausages, hard-boiled eggs, and kimbap (rice rolls).

Non-KTX trains are poetically ranked as Saemaeul (???, "New Village"), Mugunghwa (???, "Rose of Sharon") and Tonggeun (??), corresponding roughly to express, semi-express and local services. All Saemaeul/Mugunghwa trains can speed up to 150km/h. Saemaeul trains are a little pricier than buses, while Mugunghwa are about 30% cheaper. However Saemaeul trains are extremely comfortable, having seats that are comparable to business class seats on airplanes. Though with the introduction of the KTX, there are much fewer Saemaeul and Mugunghwa services, they are worth trying them out. Tonggeun, formerly Tonggil, are cheapest of all, but long-distance, non-aircon services have been phased out and they're now limited to short regional commuter services. Most longer-distance trains have a cafeteria car with a small cafe/bar, computers with internet access (?500 for 15 minutes) and a few trains have private compartments with coin-operated karaoke machines!

Saemaeul and some Mugunghwa trains are equipped with power plugs on laptop seats.

Smoking is not permitted on any Korean trains or stations (including open platforms).

Seoul also has an extensive commuter train network that smoothly interoperates with the massive subway system, and BusanDaejeonDaeguGwangju and Incheon also have subway services.

Tickets are much cheaper than in Japan but more expensive than other Asian countries - although the damage can be lowered by travelling on local trains rather than KTX. Buying tickets is fairly easy - self-service terminals accepting cash and credit cards are in multiple languages and are very simple to use. Station staff can usually speak basic English. Most stations are clean, modern and have good signposting in Korean and English, and compared to China or Japan, Korea's rail system is very user-friendly.

Pre-booking any train tickets a day prior (be they KTX or mugunghwa) is recommended for weekend trips, as all trains can be booked out for hours on end. On Sunday in particular, all but local trains have begun to completely book out regularly. Failure to reserve tickets in advance when departing busy hubs such as Seoul or Busan may see your options reduced to "unallocated seating" on the slowest local trains (sitting on the floor in the unairconditioned space between carriages, or standing in the toilet for much of the trip. You are, however, free to sit on any seat that seems free until someone with the ticket to that seat shows up. If you are confident in your Korean, you can ask to reserve seats on sections that are available and travel standing up the rest of the way.).

Korail Pass

The Korail Pass is a special rail pass only for non-resident foreigners staying less than 6 months in Korea, allowing unlimited travel for a set period on any Korail train (including KTX) and including free seat reservation. The pass is not valid for first class or sleeping cars, but you can upgrade for half the price if you wish. The pass must be purchased at least five days before travel (preferably before arrival in Korea). It’s not cheap as it needs a substantial amount of travel (e.g. Seoul–Busan round trip) to pay off and severe limitations on usage apply during Korean holidays and peak traveling periods including Lunar New Year in February and Chuseok in September. Passes as of May 2015 cost around ?66,900/?93,100/?139,700/?168,400/?194,400 for 1/3/5/7/10 days, with discounts for youth (age 13–25), students and groups.

Joint KR/JR Passes between Korea and Japan also exist, however, considering how much of a discount the JR Pass offers, and how strikingly little the KR Pass does by comparison, such a combination in all practicality deducts value from the JR Pass.

Rail Cruises

Korail Tourism Development provides a rail cruise called 'Haerang', which enables the customers to travel to all the major sightseeing destinations in Korea with just one luxury train ride.

By bus

Buses (?? beoseu) remain the main mode of national transport, connecting all cities and towns. They're frequent, punctual and fast, sometimes dangerously so, so fasten the belts you'll often find in the seats.

There is a somewhat pointless division of long-distance buses into express buses (???? gosok beoseu) and inter-city buses (???? si-oe beoseu), which often use separate terminals to boot. In addition, local inner-city bus (???? si-nae beoseu) networks often connect directly neighbouring cities. The express vs. intercity bus differentiation comes down to whether the nation's toll expressways (?? gosok) are traversed. In practical terms, express buses are marginally faster on long runs, but inter-city buses go to more places. For additional comfort, look for Udeung buses (?? ??) which have just three seats across instead of the usual four; these cost about 50% extra. However, Some inter-city buses use Udeung buses without extra fares on highly competitive lines such as Seoul-Andong routes. A fourth layer of bus exists, which is the airport limousine bus, a separate network of express buses that ferry people directly to and from Incheon International Airport. The airport limousines typically run from separate pickup points again to the intercity or express bus terminal.

No Korean buses have toilets, and rest stops are not standard on trips of less than 2 hours duration, so consider thinking twice about that bottle of tea at the terminal.

Unlike trains, the bus terminal staffs and drivers are less likely to speak or understand English.

The Korean Express Bus Lines Association have timetables and fares of the Express bus routes in South Korea on their website.

By boat

Ferry boats surround the peninsula and shuttle out to Korea's many islands. The main ports include IncheonMokpoPohang, and Busan. The most popular destinations are Jeju-do and Ulleungdo.

There is daily service from Busan to Jeju island (April 2013). There are mostly undiscovered and scenic islands near Incheon that can seem almost deserted.

By car

An International Driving Permit (IDP) may be used to drive around South Korea. In general, road conditions are good in South Korea and directional signs are in both Korean and English. Car rental rates start from ?54,400 a day for the smallest car for about a week. Traffic moves on the right in South Korea.

If you are traveling in the big cities, especially Seoul or Busan, driving is not recommended as the roads often experience heavy traffic jams and with parking expensive and difficult to find. Many drivers tend to get reckless under such conditions, weaving in and out of traffic. Drivers often try to speed past traffic lights when they are about to turn red, and several cars (including fully-loaded public transit buses) will typically run through the lights after they have turned red, whether pedestrians are in the crosswalk or not.

Koreans consider driving rules as guidelines only, and don't expect to be punished for parking illegally or cutting through a red light. This means that if you want to drive you will need to do so assertively by pushing yourself into an intersection and forcing other cars to yield.

A GPS is highly recommended while navigating Seoul or Busan. Lanes end or turn into bus lanes with little to no warning and it may not always be obvious of the closest place where U-turns are allowed. A good rule of thumb is to stay in the middle lane as cars will often illegally park in the right lane while the left lane will end without warning. Because of stringent national security laws that mandate navigation processing be done on local servers, Google Maps does not give driving directions in South Korea. Free alternatives are Waze and Kimgisa (now KakaoNavi).

By taxi

Taxis are a convenient, if somewhat pricey way of getting around the cities, and are sometimes the only practical way of reaching a place. Even in the major cities, you are extremely unlikely to get an English-speaking taxi driver, so it will be necessary to have the name of your destination written in Korean to show your taxi driver. Likewise, get your hotel's business card to show the taxi driver in case you get lost.

Although doing so is illegal, cab drivers, particularly the lower-flagfall white cabs on busy Friday or Saturday nights, may deny service to short-distance fares. A very handy technique to counter this is to have your destination (hotel name or just gu and dong, in Korean of course) written in thick black ink on a large A4 sheet of paper and hold it to the traffic. Passing cab drivers responding to long distance call outs, or with space in their cab in addition to an existing fare in that direction will often pick you up en route.

When hailing a cab in particular, ensure you follow the local custom and wave it over with your hand extended but all your fingers extended downwards and beckoning as opposed to upwards in the Western fashion (this style is reserved for animals).

Talk

See also: Korean phrasebook

South Koreans speak Korean, and knowing a few words of this will come in very handy. The language is rather drastically different from any Western language in its grammar, and pronunciation is rather difficult for the English speaker to get right (though not tonal). Depending on which part of the country you go to, various different dialects are spoken, though standard Korean, which is based on the Seoul dialect, is understood and spoken by almost everyone. Most notably among the dialects, the Gyeongsang dialect spoken around Busan and Daegu is considered to be rather rough and aggressive compared to standard Korean, and the Jeju dialect spoken on Jeju island is known for being almost incomprehensible to speakers of standard Korean.

The Korean writing system is deceptively simple. Although it looks at first glance to be as complex as Chinese or Japanese, it is a unique and simple phonetic writing system called hangul (?? hangeul) where sounds are stacked up into blocks that represent syllables. It was designed by a committee and looks like, at first glance, all right angles and little circles, but it is remarkably consistent and logical and quite fast to pick up.

Learning to read hangul before you arrive in Korea will make traveling much easier, as many signs and menus are written in hangul only. Further, the Korean words for many common products — coffee, juice, computer — are often the same as the English words, but will be written in hangul. If you can read hangul, you'll find surviving in Korea surprisingly easy.

Many Korean words can also be written with much more complex traditional Chinese characters, known as hanja (??, ??) in Korean, and these are still occasionally mixed into text but are increasingly few and far between. Nowadays, hanja are mainly used for disambiguation if the meaning is ambiguous when written in hangul. In such instances, the hanja is usually written in parentheses next to the hangul. Hanja are also used to mark janggi (??, ??) or Korean chess pieces, newspaper headlines, as well as personal names on official documents.

The spelling of Korean words in Roman letters can be quite inconsistent, so don't be too surprised to see adjacent signs for Gwangalli and Kwanganri — it's the same place. In 2000, the government officially standardized on the Revised Romanization system also used in Wikivoyage, but you will frequently encounter older McCune-Reischauer spellings and just plain weird spellings. Notably, words beginning with g, d, b, j may be spelled with k, t, p, ch instead, and the vowels eo and eu may be spelled o and u. The letters l, r and n also get swapped often, and the vowels i and u are sometimes written as ee and oo respectively. In foreign words imported into Korean, f turns into p, so don't be too surprised by a cup of keopi (coffee) or a round of golpeu (golf).

Most South Koreans have taken English lessons as part of their education, and the English level of the country is being improved by government policy and investments. However, due to lack of practice (as well as fear of mispronunciation), most Koreans have little more than a very basic grasp of English phrases in actual conversation. If you're in a pinch and need someone who speaks English, your best bet would generally be the high school or university students. Reading and writing comes much easier however, and often people will be able to read and understand a considerable amount of English even without any practice with real conversation. Many employees at airlines, hotels and stores catering to international tourists are likely to speak at least basic English. Consequently, travelers can get by in major cities with English only, but it goes without saying that learning basic Korean phrases will make your travel experience more convenient and enjoyable.

A typical experience for western travelers in South Korea is to be approached by children interested in practicing their English skills. They will often take a picture of you for their school class as proof that they really talked to you.

Older folks may also still speak some Japanese. The city of Busan, being a short trip from Fukuoka in Japan has a larger number of Japanese speakers per capita, and the dialect itself is more similar to Japanese in the same way that the Japanese dialect in Fukuoka also has a large Korean influence. However, many Koreans (especially older ones) still resent the Japanese for the atrocities committed during the occupation, so try not to address a Korean in Japanese unless you have no other choice. Thanks to the "Korean wave" (hallyu) of Korean pop music and soap operas throughout East Asia, many shopkeepers in touristy areas speak some Japanese, Mandarin or Cantonese.

See

Asian tourists have long discovered South Korea as a prime shopping, culinary and sightseeing destination. For the western world, it is a relatively new travel destination, but it has gained popularity fast. And for good reason, as South Korea offers a most pleasant combination of ancient Asian features and all the amenities you would expect from a modern, high-tech nation. Despite its compact size it boasts a broad range of fine attractions and an excellent infrastructure makes getting around easy.

  • Seoul Most journeys begin in the nation's capital that never sleeps. This ancient place has seen centuries and wars come and go but seems to have come out stronger than ever. Popularly called the "Miracle on the Han River", it's one of the largest metropolitan economies in the world. It's the country's industrial epicentre, the birthplace of K-pop, a hotspot for South-Korean nightlife and fine dining and home to countless museums. The fabulous history and art collection of the National Museum of Korea (???????) reigns supreme and a visit there is a day well spent. The city has been rediscovering its historic treasures and improving city parks, adding to its charm. Downtown Seoul, where the old Joseon Dynasty city was, is where you'll find most of the palaces, Gyeongbokgung (???), Changdeokgung (???) and Gwanghwamun (???). It is surrounded by a Fortress Wall, with the famous Namdaemun, one of the eight gates, being perhaps the main attraction. The Banpo bridge (????) turns into beautiful colours at night, and the Yeouido Island (???), apart from the famous 63 Building has splendid parks for rollerblading/biking. Other sights are the Secret Garden (??), Seodaemun (???), or the Seoul Tower (????) accompanied by the famous Teddy Bear Museum. To get away from the buzz, follow the locals to Cheonggyecheon (???), one of the urban renewal projects and a popular public recreation space, or enjoy an afternoon tea in a traditional teahouse in Insadong.
  • Busan is the country's second city and most significant port. Called the nation's summer capital, Koreans flock to this city's fine beaches, seafood restaurants and festivals. Haeundae beach (???) in Busan is the most famous in the country, with an atmosphere is comparable to southern France or California in the summer.
  • Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) On July 27th 1953, The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) was established as a cease-fire agreement with a boundary area of 2km between North and South Koreas. Panmunjeom aka Joint Security Area (JSA) is the ‘truce village’ of the DMZ where tourists can view North and South Korea without much hostility. Here you can also enter one of the buildings that are located on the border aka Military Demarcation Line (MDL), which means you can actually cross into the North when entering those buildings. The border is indicated by a line where North and South Korean soldiers face each other coldly. The tour includes the nearby bridge of no return that used to be the main controlled crossing point between the countries. Also, the Third Tunnel of Aggression, created by North Korea (1.7 km long, 2 m high and about 73m below ground), was discovered in 1978. This tunnel is not more than an hour or 44km away from Seoul.
  • Bukhansan is just a stone's throw north of Seoul and one of the most visited national parks in the world. Some 836 meters high, Mount Bukhansan is a major landmark visible from large parts of the city and the park is home to the beautiful Bukhansanseong Fortress. The popular hike to get up there is well worth it, as you'll be rewarded with great views of the metropolis. Seoraksan National Park and Suncheon Bay Ecological Park are good picks too. In total, the country has 20 national parks, mostly mountainous, but some also focus on marine and coastal nature. The lush green tea fields of Boseong offer quite another, but equally nice and peaceful get-a-way.
  • Jeju Island If you don't mind the crowds, this volcanic and semi-tropical island offers a spectacular scenery and numerous natural sights, a relaxing and warm (especially in winter) atmosphere and plenty of activities. Don't miss the Lava tubes, Seongsan Ilchubong, Loveland, and South Korea's highest mountain Hallasan (1,950 m).
  • Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites is a World Heritage and home to a significant part of all the dolmen in the world. Apart from the impressive megalithic stones, it has brought forward a highly important collection of archaeological finds.
  • Gyeongju Once the nation's capital, it boasts numerous royal burial and World Heritage cultural sites, as well as relaxing resorts.
  • Folk villages If you'd like to see a bit of Korean folklore, Hahoe Folk Village near Andong, Yangdong, the living museum-like Korean Folk Village in Yongin or Hanok Village in Jeonju are among the best.
  • Festivals Korea is a country of festivals'. No matter where you go, there's likely something happening close by. Watching or even joining in the bustling celebrations is often a fabulous and colourful experience. The Boryeong Mud Festival (??????) is a popular pick, when participants drench themselves in mud and take part in everything from mud wrestling to body painting. The nearby beach becomes something of a party apocalypse.

Do

For a definite list of activities refer to individual cities. However, some of the best ones are:

  • Hiking With the country being covered in mountains, Korea is a fantastic destination with numerous hiking opportunities. Try Jirisan (???), Seoraksan (???) or go to South Korea's highest peak, the extinct volcano Hallasan on Jeju island. They offer great views, 1-3 day tracks, English sign posts/maps, huts (most of them heated), and can be organized easily. In autumn the leaves turn into beautiful colours, so the best seasons to go there are autumn and spring.
  • Jjimjilbang Koreans love saunas! If you can get past everyone being naked, then this is an excellent way to feel refreshed after a hard day sightseeing - a decent sauna, bath house and place to rest for many (night) hours. Even small towns will have one. This is especially convenient if you missed to make a reservation for an accommodation, everything is full or you are looking for a cheap way to stay overnight. Weekends are extremely busy with families.
  • Hot springs In common with their Japanese and Taiwanese neighbors, Koreans love their hot springs (??, ?? oncheon), and resorts can be found throughout the country. Etiquette usually require bathers to be nude. Many places also have saunas connected.
  • Snowboarding/Skiing The Gangwon province offers ski decent opportunities in Winter, which is very beautiful when it snowed. See the Seoul guide for close to the city destinations, which you can reach by free public (ski) bus within 90 minutes.
  • Eat Perhaps you have had Korean BBQ in your home country. The reality of Korean food is so much more diverse and tasty. Try something new delicious every each day! (Seafood, meat or vegetarian)
  • Winter surfing Owing to local tidal conditions, the best surf is in the winter! Pohang and Busan are two places you can try this
  • Karaoke/Singing Rooms Noraebang (???) is the same as Japanese Karaoke palors, popular and hard to miss wherever you go in metropolitan cities.
  • Martial Arts Learn martial arts such as the famous Taekwondo (???), Hapkido (???), and the dance-like martial art Taekkyeon (??). You can also go and watch a competition or performance — for instance cultural festivals may feature traditional martial arts.
  • Temple Stay Spend a few days meditating and learning about Buddhism at a Korean monastery.
  • Water amusement parks are plentiful in the Gyeonggi & Gangwon provinces, such as Caribbean Bay in Yongin, Ocean World in Hongcheon, with a more Ancient Egyptian setting, and Ocean 700 in Pyeongchang. Tourists and locals usually go there in the summer.

Buy

Money

The currency of South Korea is the South Korean Won, denoted by "?" (ISO code: KRW), written ? in Hangul.

Bills come in denominations of ?1,000 (blue), ?5,000 (red), ?10,000 (green) and ? 50,000 (yellow). The ?50,000 is very practical if you need to carry around a reasonable amount of cash, however it can be hard to use on goods or services with a value of less than ?10,000. The ?50,000 can be hard to find and often only provided by ATM's that display a picture of the yellow note on the outside.

?100,000 "checks" are frequently used, and some of the checks go up to ?10,000,000 in value. These checks are privately issued by banks and can be used instead of cash for larger purchases, such as hotel rooms.

Coins mainly come in denominations of ?10, ?50, ?100 and ?500. Very rare ?1 and ?5 coins do exist. Generally speaking it is rare to buy anything valued less than ?100.

Banking and payment

  • Credit card acceptance at shops, hotels and other businesses on the other hand is very good, and all but the very cheapest restaurants and motels will accept Visa and MasterCard. Even small purchases such as ?4,000 for a coffee are OK. This works well since credit cards have good exchange rates, however if you are using a foreign card then you should ensure with your bank that there isn't a fee for this foreign transaction.
  • ATMs are ubiquitous, although using a foreign card with them is rather hit and miss, except for foreign bank ATMs like Citibank. There are however many special Global ATMs around which accept foreign cards. They can generally be found at Shinhan/Jeju Bank, airports, in areas frequented by foreigners, in major cities, some subway stations, and in many Family Mart convenience stores - most of the time indicated by the "Foreign Cards" button on the screen. Nevertheless, be sure to have a second source of money like cash before heading to the countryside where foreign cards are less likely to be accepted. Some banks, such as Citibank, have a fee of ?3,500 for foreign cards.
  • T-Money card are an alternative source of payment accepted widely, especially for transport. In Seoul you can buy this card at most subway stations and many newspaper kiosks near subway entrances, as well as convenience stores (7/11, CU, GS25). The card itself costs ?3,000 and cash can be loaded with credit as often as you like. You can get back your credit in cash afterward, less a ?500 a return fee. When entering and leaving the bus/subway in Seoul, place the card on the reader. Be aware that on buses especially in the countryside only placing it once when entering is sufficient, otherwise you will get charged twice - just observe what the local people are doing. Using this card will save you ?100 per journey on Seoul's transport system, and it does account for changes between subway, (airport) train and bus for up to 30 min, i.e. instead of paying each single trip, a smaller amount or 0 is deducted the second and third time and so on, depending on the distance. Typically for most travelers staying less than 2 weeks in Korea or Seoul, purchasing this card may not be cheaper but consider: it can be used countrywide for taxi fares, buses, storage lockers, pay phones, (convenience) stores, restaurants and most transport systems. There also exist other cards, especially outside of Seoul and topping up T-Money can be a problem there, but at Shinhan/Jeju Bank (remember the logo) it should always be possible. You may need to ask the local cashier for help due to the Korean-only menus/buttons.
  • Bank account If you plan on staying in South Korea for a longer time, you'll probably want to set up a local account at a Korean bank such as Woori Bank, which can then be used at the bank's ATMs throughout the country. (Even some non local accounts can do this, e.g. Woori Bank accounts setup in China come with an ATM card that can be used with all its ATMs in South Korea.) Many banks will even allow you to open an account on a tourist visa, though the services you will be able to access will often be very limited. Some of the larger banks may have English-speaking staff on hand at their major branches.

Costs

South Korea is fairly expensive compared to most Asian countries, but is a little cheaper compared to other modern developed countries such as Japan and most Western countries. A frugal backpacker who enjoys eating, living and travelling Korean-style can easily squeeze by on under ?60,000 per day, but if you want top-class hotels and Western food even ?200,000/day will not suffice. Seoul is more expensive than the rest of the country, and has become particularly expensive competing in many ways with Tokyo, but this has eased since the financial crisis.

Tipping

Tipping is not expected anywhere in South Korea and is not practiced by Koreans. It could be considered an insult between Koreans as it is regarded as giving someone charity, although people generally know of American tipping culture and would be understanding of a foreigner doing this.

Many hotels and a few tourist restaurants add 10% service charge on their bills. Bellhops, hotel maids, taxi drivers and bars frequented by Westerners will not reject any tips that you care to hand out.

Restaurants sometimes provide complimentary food or drinks to customers as a sign of generosity or to reward customer loyalty. Colloquially, this is known as "service".

Shopping

At certain retail outlets with a "Tax Free Shopping" or a "Tax Refund Shopping" sign, you can obtain a voucher and get a large percentage of your taxes refunded. When you leave South Korea, go to customs and have it stamped then go to the "Global Refund Korea" or "Korea Tax Refund" counters near the duty-free shops. However to get a refund you must leave within 3 months of purchase.

Bargaining is common at outdoor markets and applies to everything they may have to offer. However stating a monetary amount would be a mistake. Normally what you would say is ssage juseyo (?? ???). That means "cheaper, please." Doing this once or twice would suffice. The drawback is you will rarely be discounted more than a few dollars.

  • Ginseng: Korea is the ginseng (?? insam) capital of the world. Widely considered to have medicinal properties, it can be found in special mountain areas throughout Korea. A thick black paste made from ginseng is popular, as is ginseng tea and various other products. There are many grades of ginseng, with the best grades potentially fetching millions of US dollars at auctions. A good place to check out the different types of ginseng would be Gyeongdong Herbal Medicine Market in Seoul.
  • Traditional items: Visitors looking for things to bring home can find a wide variety of choices. You can find a blue-jade celadon from the Goryeo Dynasty, handmade traditional costumes, paper kites and ceramic pieces that depict human emotions in their designs at the numerous markets and souvenir shops. Insadong in Seoul would be the first place to shop around. After a while one store might start to look like every other store but chances are you'll find what you need.
  • Fashion: Keeping up with the latest trends, shoppers and boutique owners alike flock the streets and markets every weekend. Centered largely in Seoul with popular places such as Dongdaemun, Mok dong Rodeo Street and Myeong dong, fashion centers can be divided into two large categories; markets and department stores. Markets are affordable and each shop will have trendy similar type clothing that appeal to the masses. Also, be aware that you cannot try on most tops. So better to know your size before shopping there. Though department stores will have areas or floors that have discounted items, they are considered overpriced and catering mostly to an older, wealthier crowd.
  • Antiques: For all things considered antique, such as furniture, calligraphic works, ceramics and books, you can go to Jangangpyeong Antique Market in Seoul. Be careful, as items over 50 years old cannot leave the country. Check with the Art and Antique Assessment Office at +82-32-740-2921.
  • Electronics: They are widely available, especially in larger cities like Seoul and Busan. South Korea has most of the latest gadgets available in most Western countries, and much more. In fact, when it comes to consumer technology, South Korea is probably second only to Japan. However, you would probably have to contend with having the instruction booklets and functions being written in Korean.
  • K-Pop: South Korea launched the hallyu ("Korean wave") phenomenon that took East Asia by storm at the beginning of the 21st century, so you might want to buy the latest Korean music CD's by popular K-pop singers and groups - and discover some of the less known. Most music is now consumed as digital downloads, but there are still some music shops selling CD's to be found. And if you want to see them live, there is of course no better place for that than South Korea.
  • K-Drama: Korean drama is massively popular in Asia and a boxed DVD set of a drama will certainly last you many rainy afternoons. Do check that the DVD set has subtitles in your language. Outside of Korea you could likely buy the same Korean drama dubbed in another Asian language such as Cantonese or Mandarin. However, drama serials and movies sold in South Korea are for the Korean market and usually do not have subtitles. In addition, South Korea is in DVD region 3 so the discs bought here would work well in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, but may not be playable by players bought in North America, Europe, mainland China, Japan or Australia. If you wish to buy, ensure that your DVD player can support it. CDs and DVDs are not particularly popular anymore in South Korea, the younger generation having moved onto digital downloads some time ago.

Eat

Korean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular outside of Korea, especially in other parts of East Asia and the U.S. It can be an acquired taste, with lots of spicy and fermented dishes, but it's addictive once you get used to it and Korean food is definitely in a class of its own, mixing spicy chillies and copious amounts of garlic with delicate ingredients like raw fish. Although Korean food is quite low in fat, a fact attested to by the observation that very few South Koreans are overweight, those with sodium-limited diets should beware, as Korean cuisine can be heavy in salt.

A Korean meal is centered around rice and soup and likely a fish or meat dish, invariably served with a vast assortment of side dishes known as banchan (??). The humblest meal comes with three types while a royal banquet may well feature twenty types of banchan. In addition to kimchi (see below), typical side dishes include bean sprouts (??? kongnamul), spinach (??? shigeumchi), small dried fish, and much more.

The ubiquitous kimchi (?? gimchi), made from fermented cabbage and chili, accompanies nearly every meal and ranges from mild to roaringly spicy. In addition to the common cabbage type, kimchi can also be made from white radish (??? ggakdugi), cucumbers (?? ??? oi-sobagi), chives (?? ?? buchu gimchi) or pretty much any vegetable that can be pickled. Many different dishes are made using kimchi for flavoring, and kimchi is served as a side dish as well. It is not uncommon to find Korean tourists carrying a stash of tightly packed kimchi when travelling abroad.

Two more condiments found in almost every dish are doenjang (??), a fermented soybean paste akin to Japanese miso, and gochujang (???), a spicy chilli paste.

While many of these dishes can be found throughout Korea, every city also has its own regional specialities, such as dakgalbi (???) in the city of Chuncheon. See the various city articles for more details.

A common perception amongst Koreans is that foreigners simply don't like spicy food, so you might have to spend some time convincing people otherwise if you really want to eat something hot. Also, while Korean food undoubtedly has the neighboring bland-dieted Japanese and northern Chinese breathing fire, if you're accustomed to (say) Thai or Mexican food you may wonder what the fuss is about.

Foreign food restaurants are also popular, albeit usually with a Korean twist. Fried Chicken has been adopted and many believe it better than the American original. Pizzas are also ubiquitous although you may wonder quite where the inspirations behind the toppings came from. Vietnamese and Mexican food appeals to Koreans as well. Japanese style restaurants of all varieties are very common. Strangely enough Chinese food is somewhat hard to come by, and Koreans often think of Jajangmyeon (??? - noodles in thick soy based sauce and distant Chinese origins) with sweet and sour pork as Chinese dining.

Etiquette

Koreans use chopsticks with a twist: alone among the peoples of Asia, they prefer chopsticks of metal. Restaurants typically provide stainless steel chopsticks, which unfortunately for the chopstick learner, are very difficult to use! These thin and slippery sticks are not as easy as the wooden or plastic chopsticks but you'll still manage with some fumbling.

When eating as a group, communal dishes will be placed in the center and everybody can chopstick what they want, but you'll still get individual portions of rice and soup. Unless you are eating royal cuisine, most dishes are served family style.

In many traditional households, children were taught that it was impolite to speak during meals. Don't be surprised if there's complete silence while eating. People, particularly men, will use mealtimes to quickly eat up and move on to other things. This can be attributed to the short mealtimes during military service that most young Korean men must perform.

Some etiquette pointers:

  • Do not leave chopsticks sticking upright in a dish, especially rice. This is only done when honoring the deceased. Similarly, a spoon sticking upright into a bowl of rice is also not a good sign.
  • Do not start eating unless the eldest at the table has begun to eat.
  • Do not lift any plates or bowls off the table while eating, as Koreans consider this to be rude.
  • You can use your spoon to eat your rice and soup. Koreans will normally use a spoon to eat their rice and use chopsticks to eat the other dishes.
  • Don't be self-conscious of whether you're doing something right or wrong. Just use your common sense of politeness and good manners, and everything will be fine.

Not all food requires chopsticks, with the common Tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) restaurants providing knives and forks instead. Many Korean restaurants may also offer western cutlery to a westerner.

Restaurants

Going hungry in South Korea would be difficult. Everywhere you turn, there is always somewhere to eat. Korean restaurants can be divided into a few categories:

  • Bunsik (??) are snack eateries that have cheap, tasty food prepared quickly.
  • Kogijip (???), literally meaning "meat house", are where you'll find grilled meat dishes and fixings.
  • Hoejip (??), "raw fish house", serve slices of fresh fish akin to Japanese sashimi, known as hwe in Korean, and complementary side dishes. You'll normally find these restaurants cluttering the shores of any waterway.
  • Hansik (??). The full course Korean meal, short for hanjeongsik (???), this Korean haute cuisine originated with banquets given at the royal palace. The course starts with a cold appetizer and porridge juk (?). The main dish includes seasoned meat and vegetable dishes that can be either steamed, boiled, fried or grilled. After the meal, you are served traditional drinks such as sikhye or sujeonggwa.
  • Department Stores have two types of food areas: a food hall in the basement and full service restaurants on the top levels. The food hall areas have take-away as well as eat-in areas. The full service restaurants are more expensive, but typically have the advantage of picture menus and good ambience.

Coffee Shops

Koreans love coffee and thus coffee shops can be seen virtually everywhere in the country (even in small countryside villages). There are a large number of Korean chain coffee shops as well as independent ones. Foreign owned coffee shops such as Starbucks tend to be much less common than their Korean counterparts. Aside from coffee, these cafes will usually sell food such as sandwiches, toasties, paninis and quesadillas as well as sweet options such as bingsu (Korean shaved ice), Korean style toast, pastries and a wide variety of cakes, some even vegan.

Barbecues

"Korean barbecue" is probably the most popular Korean dish for Westerners, split in Korea itself into bulgogi (???), which uses cuts of marinated meat, and galbi (??), which uses ribs, usually unmarinated. In both, a charcoal brazier is placed in the middle of the table and patrons cook their choice of meats, adding garlic to the brazier for spice. The cooked meat from both of these is placed on a lettuce or perilla leaf along with shredded green onion salad (??? pa-muchim), raw (or cooked) garlic, shredded pickled radish (?? muchae) and some chili-soya paste (?? ssamjang) and then devoured. All are optional, so be creative.

The cost of a barbecue meal depends largely on the meat chosen. In most Korean restaurants that serve meat, it is sold in units (usually 100 grams). Pork is by far the most common meat ordered. It's much cheaper than beef and according to diners tastier. You'll rarely see filet mignon; instead, common cuts of meat include ribs, unsalted pork bacon (??? samgyeopsal) and chicken stir-fried with veggies and spicy sauce (??? dakgalbi). Unmarinated meats tend to be higher quality, but in cheaper joints it's best to stick with the marinated stuff.

Rice dishes

Bibimbap (???) literally means "mixed rice", which is a pretty good description. It consists of a bowl of rice with all sorts of condiments on top (vegetables, shreds of meat, and an egg), which you mash up with your spoon, stirring in your preferred quantity of gochujang (??? chili sauce), and then devour. Particularly tasty is dolsot bibimbap (?????), served in a piping hot stone bowl (watch your fingers!) that cooks the rice to a crisp on the bottom and edges.

Another healthy and tasty option is gimbap (??), sometimes dubbed "Korean sushi". Gimbap contains rice, sesame seed, a Korean variety of spinach, pickled radish, and an optional meat, such as minced beef or tuna, all neatly wrapped in dried seaweed, topped with sesame oil and sliced. A single roll makes a good snack or meal depending on one's appetite, and they travel well. Basically what differentiates Korean gimbap and Japanese sushi is how they prepare rice: Korean style gimbap usually use salt and sesame oil to flavor the rice, while Japanese style uses sugar and vinegar.

More of a snack than a meal is tteokbokki (???), which resembles a pile of steaming intestines at first sight, but is actually rice cakes (tteok, ?) in a sweet chili sauce that's much milder than it looks.

Soups and stews

Soups are known as guk (?) or tang (?), while jjigae (??) covers a wide variety of stews. The line is fuzzy, and a few dishes can be referred to with both (e.g. the fish soup-stew dongtae jjigae/dongtaetang), but in general, jjigae are spicier while tang/guk are milder. Both are always eaten with plenty of white rice on the side.

Common versions of jjigae include doenjang jjigae (????), made with doenjang (Korean miso), vegetables and shellfish, and gimchi jjigae (????), made with — you guessed it — kimchi. Sundubu jjigae (?????) uses soft tofu as the main ingredient, usually with minced pork added, but there's also a seafood version called haemul sundubu jjigae(?? ?????) where the meat is replaced by shrimp, squid and the like.

Budae jjigae (????) is an interesting type of Korean fusion food from the city of Uijeongbu, where a US military base was located. Locals experimenting with American canned food like Spam, sausages, and pork and beans tried adding them into jjigae, and while recipes vary, most of them involve large quantities of fiery kimchi. Most places will bring you a big pan of stew and put it on a gas stove in the middle of the table. Many like to put ramyeon noodle (?? ??) in the stew, which is optional.

Popular tang soups include seolleongtang (???), a milky white broth from ox bones and meat, gamjatang (???), a stew of potatoes with pork spine and chillies and doganitang (????), made from cow knees. One soup worth a special mention is samgyetang (???, pron. saam-gae-taang), which is a whole spring chicken stuffed with ginseng and rice. Thanks to the ginseng, it's often a little expensive, but the taste is quite mild. It's commonly eaten right before the hottest part of summer in warm broth in a sort of "eat the heat to beat the heat" tradition.

Guk are mostly side dishes like the seaweed soup miyeokguk (???) and the dumpling soup manduguk (???), but a few like the scary-looking pork spine and ox blood soup haejangguk (???), a popular hangover remedy, are substantial enough to be a meal.

Noodles

Koreans love noodles, and the terms kuksu (??) and myeon (?) span a vast variety of types available. Often sold in fast-food noodle shops for as little as ?3000. Wheat-based noodles are a staple of Korea.

Naengmyeon (??) are a Korean speciality, originally from the north, being thin, chewy buckwheat noodles served in ice cold beef broth, and hence a popular summer dish — although it's traditionally winter food! They're also a classic way to end a heavy, meaty barbeque meal. The key to the dish is the broth (?? yuksu) and the recipes of well known restaurants are usually closely guarded secrets. Generally comes in two distinct styles; Pyongyang naengmyeon and Hamhung naengmyeon.

Japchae (??) is made from yam noodles, which are fried along with some vegetables (commonly cabbage, carrots, onions) and sometimes beef or odeng (fishcake). Mandu (??) dumplings are also very popular and are served up in steamed or fried as an accompaniment to other foods, or boiled in soup to make a whole meal.

Ramyeon (??) is Korea's variant of ramen, often served with kimchi (what else?). Korean ramyeon is well known for its overall spiciness, at least when compared to Japanese ones. Try shin ramyeon (???) for example.

Jajangmyeon (???) is considered to be Chinese food by Koreans, being somewhat related to northern Chinese zhajiangmian, a wheat noodle dish served with a black sauce that usually includes minced pork, onions, cucumber, and garlic, and typically served at (what are liberally described as) Chinese restaurants. Its sauce contains some caramel and therefore makes the overall dish sweet. A popular combination with 'Chinese' sweet and sour pork and chicken.

Finally, u-dong (??) are thick wheat noodles which are effectively the same as Japanese udon.

Seafood

Since Korea is a peninsula, you can find every type of seafood (?? haemul), eaten both cooked and raw. Restaurants where you pick your own fish — or bring it from the fish market next door — are popular, but can be very expensive depending on what you order.

Hoe (?), pronounced roughly "hweh", is raw fish Korean-style (similar to sashimi), meaning it's served with spicy cho-gochujang (Korean hot pepper sauce with vinegar) sauce. Chobap (??) is raw fish with vinegared rice, similar to Japanese sushi. If ordering fish as hoe/chobap, the bony parts not served raw are often made into a tasty but spicy soup called meuntang (???).

Another cooked specialty is haemultang (???), a spicy red hotpot stew filled crab, shrimp, fish, squid, vegetables and noodles.

Whale meat is available in a few restaurants in the cities and at festivals in smaller coastal towns, but is not easy to find and unlike Japan is not considered part of national culture. The city of Pohang has a long history of whaling, and its seafood market still openly offers whale. South Korea has outlawed whaling following the International Whaling Commission international moratorium in 1986, although makes an exception for whales caught by 'accident' during regular fishing. Whale meat sourced from Japan has been sold in some restaurants, which is illegal (although the law is usually ignored). Whale restaurants are easy to identify, with pictures of whales on the outside leaving you in no doubt. If you choose to eat whale then you should understand that the species in question could be endangered and therefore a decision left to your own moral compass.

Other

Jeon (?), jijimi (???), jijim (??), bindaetteok (???) and buchimgae (???) are all general terms for Korean-style pan-fried pancakes, which can be made of virtually anything. Pajeon (??) is a Korean-style pan-fried pancake laden with spring onions (? pa). Haemul pajeon (????), which has seafood added, is particularly popular. Saengseonjeon (???) is made of small fillets of fish covered with egg and flour and then pan fried, and nokdu bindaetteok (?????) is made from ground mung bean and various vegetables and meat combined.

If barbequed meat is not to your taste, then try Korean-style beef tartar, known as yukhoe (??). Raw beef is finely shredded and then some sesame oil, sesame, pine nuts and egg yolk are added, plus soy and sometimes gochujang to taste. It's also occasionally prepared with raw tuna or even chicken instead.

Sundae (??, pron. "soon-deh") are Korean sausages made from a wide variety of ingredients, often including barley, potato noodles and pig blood. A (very) distant cousin of Black Pudding, sundae is very tasty in spicy sauce or soup.

A squirmy delicacy is raw octopus (??? sannakji) — it's sliced to order, but keeps wiggling for another half hour as you try to remove its suction cups from your plate with your chopsticks. Sea squirts (meongge) are at least usually killed before eating, but you might be hard-pressed to tell the difference as the taste been memorably described as "rubber dipped in ammonia".

Dietary restrictions

Vegetarians will have a hard time in Korea. As in most of East Asia, meat is understood to be the flesh of land animals, so seafood is not considered meat. Spam can also be confused as not being meat, so be specific in explaining what you do not eat. If you ask for "no gogi" (??) they will probably just cook as usual and pick out the big chunks of meat. One good phrase is to say you are chaesikjuwija (?????), a person who only eats vegetables. This may prompt questions from the server, so be prepared! It is probably best to have a very explicit list of foods you do and do not eat in Korean on a card or piece of paper to show restaurant servers and cooks; take a look at the Korean phrasebook section on eating: Korean phrases for eating.

Most stews will not use beef stock, but fish stock, especially myeol-chi (??, anchovy). This will be your bane, and outside of reputable vegetarian restaurants, you should ask if you are ordering any stews/hotpots or casseroles.

Spicy (red) kimchi will almost certainly have seafood, such as salted tiny shrimp, as an ingredient. Since it disappears into the brine, you will not be able to visually identify it. Another type of kimchi, called mulgimchi (???, "water kimchi") is vegan, as it is simply salted in a clear, white broth with many different vegetables. If you are willing to eat something flavored with brine shrimp then Kimchi will certainly take you a long way in Korea.

As per Korea's Buddhist tradition, vegans and vegetarians are perfectly safe at Korean monastery cuisine restaurants, which uses no dairy, egg, or animal products, except perhaps honey. This cuisine has been in vogue, but it can be rather expensive.

There is an increasing number of vegetarian restaurants in Korea - most are in the larger or medium-sized places. Some of these are run by Seventh-Day Adventists or Hindus.

When out and about, the following vegetarian and vegan food is relativity easy to find and safe to order:

  • Side dishes - available in most Korean style restaurants, these are many dishes often served with vegetables as an accompaniment to the main meal. Kimchi usually doesn't qualify as vegetarian
  • Bibimbap (???) is a great vegan option of mixed rice and vegetables and found pretty much everywhere! Still be careful because it is occasionally it is offered with ground beef, and often with a fried egg
  • Somandu (???) are Korean dumplings with vegetable and glass noodle filling (stay clear of almost any other kind of dumpling)
  • Japchae (??) are cold noodles in a vegetable broth, often with ice. Delicious in summer
  • Gimbap (??) are Korean sushi rolls with rice and pickled vegetables, and can be found everywhere. There are many varieties, but you should look for the ones without spam or fishcake in the middle

Drink

Drinkers rejoice — booze is cheap and Koreans are among the heaviest drinkers in the world. Due to the strict social norms in effect at the workplace, the drinking hall tends to be the only place where inhibitions can be released and personal relationships expressed. Significant business deals are closed not in the boardroom, but in the bar. Promotions, grants, and other business advancements are secured over drinks at singing rooms, late night raw fish restaurants, and restaurant-bars. Many Korean men are what would be considered heavy drinkers in the west, and as alcoholism is being recognized as an ailment, public moves have begun to attempt to curb alcohol intake. Don't be surprised to see businessmen in suits lying around sleeping it off, and be careful not to step in the puddles of vomit common on the sidewalks in the mornings. The drinking age in South Korea is 19.

Nightlife

Compared to Western drinking habits, Koreans have adopted slightly different ways to enjoy their night out. Sure, you can find Western style bars easily, but going to a Korean style bar can be an interesting experience. Hofs (originally German, but ?? hopeu in Korean) are just normal beer places, which serve beer and side dishes. Customers are supposed to order some side dish to go along their drinks at most drinking establishments in Korea. Due to growing competition, many hofs have started to install various gadgets for entertainment.

Booking clubs are the Korean version of night clubs. What makes them interesting is the "booking" part of the name. It's basically a way to meet new people of the opposite sex by introduction of the waiters (who usually bring women to visit tables of men, but increasingly vice-versa). Booking clubs are slightly more expensive than normal bars and hofs, but can be extremely fun. These can be different from American-style clubs, in that in addition to a cover charge, you are pretty much expected to order booze and side dishes (which can be quite pricey in ?200,000-?500,000 range and up). But other than that, the dancing and atmosphere is about the same.

One of the customary things to do at a booking club is to "dress-up" your table or booth by purchasing expensive liquors and fruit plates, which signals your 'status' to the other patrons of the club (especially your gender of interest). Scotch whisky is especially marked up a great deal in Korea, so don't be surprised to pay very high prices for that innocuous bottle of Johnnie Walker. On the other hand, it is a better value overall to buy a bottle of liquor or a "liquor set" than to purchase drinks individually.

On the other end of the spectrum, many locals go out to drink and eat with their friends at the many Korean grillhouses found throughout the city. It is not uncommon for people to consume several bottles of soju (see below) each, and mixing beer and hard liquor is encouraged. Group bonding over liquor and food is a cultural feature across South Korea.

For those who love singing as well as drinking, karaoke is popular and therefore widely available in South Korea, where it's called noraebang (???). In addition to Korean songs, larger establishments may include some Chinese, Japanese and English songs.

Etiquette

There are a few etiquette rules to observe when drinking with Koreans. You're not supposed to fill your own glass; instead, keep an eye on others' glasses, fill them up when they become empty (but not before), and they'll return the favor. It's considered polite to use both hands when pouring for somebody and when receiving a drink, and to turn your head away from seniors when drinking.

Younger people often have a difficult time refusing a drink from an older person, so be aware when asking someone younger than you if they want to drink more as they will often feel unable to say no to you. Of course, this works both ways. Oftentimes, if an older person feels you are not keeping up with the party, he may offer you his glass, which he will then fill and expect you to drink. It is considered polite to promptly return the empty glass and refill it.

Soju

The national drink of South Korea is soju (??), a vodka-like alcoholic beverage (usually around 20% alcohol by volume). It's cheaper than any other drink — a 350ml bottle can cost slightly over ?3,000 at bars (as little as ?1,100 at convenience stores!) — and also strong. Usually this is made by fermenting starch from rice, barley, corn, potato, sweet potato, etc., to produce pure alcohol which is then diluted with water and other flavors. The manufacturing process leaves in a lot of extraneous chemicals, so be prepared for a four-alarm hangover in the morning, even after drinking a comparatively small amount.

Traditionally, soju was made by distilling rice wine and aging it, which created a smooth spirit of about 40%. This type of traditional soju can still be found, for example Andong Soju (?? ??) — named after the town of Andong — and munbaeju (???). These can be expensive, but prices (and quality) vary considerably.

History tells that there were numerous brewers throughout the country in the past until late Chosun dynasty and before Japanese colonization. However, by the Japanese colonization and the oppressive and economy-obsessed government in the 60-70s, using rice for making wine or spirits was strictly prohibited. This eliminated most of the traditional brewers in the country and Korea was left with a few large distilleries (Jinro ??, Gyeongwol ??, Bohae ??, Bobae ??, Sunyang ??, etc.), that basically made 'chemical soju'. Brewery distribution and markets were regionalized, and until the 1990s it was difficult to find a Jinro soju anywhere else than Seoul (you would have to pay premium even if you found one), Gyeongwol soju outside Gangwon, or Sunyang outside Chungcheong.

Also, there are soju cocktails such as "socol" (soju + coke), ppyong-gari (soju + pocari sweat - ion drink), 'so-maek (soju + beer) and such, all aimed at getting you drunk quicker and cheaper.

Rice wine

Traditional unfiltered rice wines in Korea are known as takju (??), literally "cloudy alcoholic beverage". In the most basic and traditional form, these are made by fermenting rice with nuruk (??), a mix of fungi and yeast that breaks down starch in rice into sugar, for a short while (3-5 days usually). Then this is strained, usually diluted to 4-6% and imbibed. However, as with the case of traditional soju, unless explicitly stated on the bottle most takju are made from wheat flour and other cheaper grains. Makgeolli (???) is the simplest takju, fermented once and then strained, while in dongdongju (???) more rice is added once or more during the fermentation to boost the alcohol content and the flavor. Typically you can find a couple of rice grains floating in dongdongju as a result.

Yakju (??) or cheongju (??) is filtered rice wine, similar to the Japanese rice wine sake. The fermentation of rice is sustained for about 2 weeks or longer, strained, and then is kept still to have the suspended particles precipitate. The end result is the clear wine on top, with about 12-15% alcohol. Various recipes exist, which involves a variety of ingredients and when and how to add them accordingly. Popular brands include Baekseju (???) and 'Dugyeonju (???).

Those with an interest in the wine production process and its history will want to visit the Traditional Korean Wine Museum in Jeonju.

Ginseng wine

One expensive but tasty type of alcohol you can find in Korea is Korean ginseng wine (??? insamju), which is believed to have medicinal properties and is particularly popular among the elderly. It is made by fermenting Korean ginseng, just as the name implies.

Beer

Western-style lagers are also quite popular in Korea, with the three big brands being Cass, Hite and OB, all of which are rather light and watery and cost around ?1,500 per bottle at a supermarket. Korea's version of the beer pub is the hof (?? hopeu), which serve pints of beer in the ?2,000-5,000 range, although imported beers can be much more expensive. You are expected to order food as well, and may even get served grilled squid or similar Korean pub grub without ordering, for a charge of ?10,000 or so.

Tea and coffee

Like their neighbors, Koreans drink a lot of tea (? cha), most of it green (?? nokcha). However, the label cha is applied to a number of other tealike drinks as well:

  • boricha (???), roasted barley tea, often served cold in summer, water substitute for many household
  • insamcha (???), ginseng tea
  • oksusucha (????), roasted corn tea
  • yulmucha (???), a thick white drink made from a barley-like plant called Job's tears

Like Chinese and Japanese teas, Korean teas are always drunk neat, without the addition of milk or sugar. However, Western-style milk tea is available at Western restaurants and the usual American fast-food chains.

Coffee (?? keopi) has become widely available, especially from streetside vending machines that will pour you a cupful for as little as ?300, usually sweet and milky, but there is often a plain option.

Latte snobs will also be glad to know that quality western coffee shops are available in all cities costing around ?4,000 from a good chain or independent coffee shop. Local chains such as 'Cafe Bene' and 'Angel in Us' serve good coffee, and there are plenty of Starbucks shops selling coffee just like in the rest of the world.

It is worth to hunt out independent coffee shops that take great pride in their coffee. Many Koreans dream of having their own coffee shop, some of them actually do.

If you find yourself in a smaller town then the ubiquitous bread shop 'Paris Baguette' will give you a decent latte for around ?2,000.

Other drinks

Some other traditional drinks worth keeping an eye out for:

  • sikhye (??), a very sweet, grainy rice drink served cold
  • sujeonggwa (???), a sweet, cinnamon-y drink made from persimmons served cold

Smoke

Whilst smoking in Korea is not quite as popular as in Japan or China, many Korean men and an increasing number of Korean women smoke, and it's fairly cheap compared to much of Europe and America. A pack of twenty costs around ?5,000 and cigarettes can be bought from all convenience stores. Koreans favor mild cigarettes (around 6mg tar) so Korean-made cigarettes may taste bland and flavorless compared to those from America or Europe, and even the Korean-produced Western cigarettes are much lighter than the originals (e.g. Full-strength Marlboro Reds in Korea have only 8mg tar, the same as Marlboro Lights in the US). If you prefer stronger cigarettes it's wise to bring some duty-free cigarettes with you.

Smoking is forbidden in public buildings, public transport and restaurants. Various establishments will tacitly allow smoking despite the ban, although they will never explicitly tell you that you can smoke, for fear of legal repercussions. Smoking in public is also banned, but this is largely unenforced and designated smoking areas are sparse.

In Korean culture, smoking is not regarded as a feminine activity and that women who do may give a negative impression to some people. This is obviously sexist, but it is an aspect of Korean society to be aware of if you are a female smoker.

Sleep

There's plenty of accommodation in all price brackets in South Korea. Prices in Seoul are typically about twice that of anywhere else in the country.

Some higher-end hotels offer a choice of Western-style and Korean-style rooms. The main feature of Korean rooms is an elaborate Korean-invented floor-heating system known as ondol (??), where hot steam (or, these days, water or electricity) heats stone slabs under a layer of clay and oiled paper. There are no beds; instead, mattresses are laid directly on the floor. Other furniture is typically limited to some low tables (you're also expected to sit on the floor) and maybe a TV.

Motels

Some of the cheapest accommodation in South Korea are in what are locally termed motels (??) or yeogwan (??), but these are rather different from motels in the West and closer to Japan's "love hotels". Motels in South Korea are generally very cheap hotels targeted at young couples aiming to spend 'time' together away from their elders, complete with plastic beds, occasionally vibrating, with strategically placed mirrors on the ceiling, as well as a VCR and a variety of appropriate videos. However for the budget traveller, they can simply be inexpensive lodging, with rates as low as ?25,000/night.

The easiest way to find a motel is to just look for the symbol "?" and gaudy architecture, particularly near stations or highway exits. They're harder to find online, as they rarely if ever show up in English-language booking sites, but Hotel365 (Korean only) has comprehensive listings for the entire country.

In some motels picking your room is very easy, as there will be room numbers, lit pictures and prices on the wall. The lower price is for a "rest" (?? hyusik) of two to four hours, while the higher price is the overnight rate. Press the button for the one you like, which will go dark, and proceed to check-in. You'll usually be expected to pay in advance, often to just a pair of hands behind a frosted glass window. English is rarely spoken, but the only word you need to know is sukbak (??, "staying"). You may or may not receive a key, but even if you don't, the staff can usually let you in and out on request — just don't lose your receipt!

Hotels

Full-service hotels can be found in all larger towns in Korea. Cheaper hotels blend into motels with rooms from ?40,000, while three and four star hotels are ?100,000-200,000 and five-star luxury hotels can easily top ?300,000. Outside peak season you can often get steep discounts from the rack rates, so be sure to ask when reserving.

Hanok

Hanok (??) is the name for houses built in traditional Korean architectural styles. Once considered to be old fashioned and an impediment to modernisation, many of these houses dating back to the Joseon dynasty are being renovated and opened to paying guests, and serve as Korea's equivalent of Japan's ryokan and minshuku. Amenities range from very basic backpacker-style to over the top luxury, with prices to match. Higher-end establishments typically provide the option of having a traditional Korean dinner, as well as a choice of either Western or traditional Korean style breakfast. Similar to their Japanese counterparts, guests would usually sleep on mattresses on the floor. Hanok accommodations can typically be found old towns such as Bukchon in Seoul, as well as historical towns and cities such as Hahoe and Gyeongju.

Hostels/Guesthouses

While not as common in South Korea as in other parts of Asia or the world, hostels and guesthouses can be found. Major cities, such as Seoul, will have a few dozen, while smaller cities may have a handful. Prices can vary widely, even within one hostel. In Seoul, mixed dorms average ?15,000-25,000 per person; private rooms with a shared toilet and shower average ?20,000-30,000 per person; and private ensuite rooms average ?25,000-40,000 per person. Many hostels will have a common room with free TV, games, computers, and internet; some will have a public full kitchen and other amenities.

Minbak

In rural areas in and near national parks, you can find a minbak (??). Most of these are just a room or two in someone's home - others are quite fancy and may be similar to yeogwans (motels) or hotels. Generally, they have ondol rooms with maybe a TV and that's about it. You don't usually get your own bathroom in your room, although some of the fancier ones do have an en suite. Minbaks usually run around ?20,000 off-season though the price may go up quite a bit during high season.

Homestay

Very similar in concept to a Minbak, these aren't limited to just rural areas or near national parks. Since the World Cup in 2002, many families around the country have opened their doors and hearts to foreigners looking for a good place to sleep and a breakfast included in the price. These can run between ?30,000 and ?35,000 per night.

Pension

A fancier and costly version of rural Minbak. Most of them are european-style detached bungalows, equipped with private shower/bath, TV, air conditioner, private kitchen and camping grills. Pensions usually run around ?60,000-150,000 off-season and over ?200,000 peak season depending on the size of the house. Pensions near Seoul (Gyeonggi, Incheon) usually costs twice or more the price.

Jjimjilbang

For the budget traveller public bath houses known as jjimjilbang (???) can offer a great way to sleep, besides a relaxing bath and sauna. Entrance costs around ?5,000-12,000 to get in, and includes a robe or t-shirts/shorts (for mixed facilities and sleeping hall) to wear. The facilities can be expansive, including showers, public baths, restaurants, computer/video game rooms, a room with DVD movies, and a warm hall to sleep, mostly with mattresses and sometimes soft head rests available. These places are generally used by families or couples during the weekend, as well as Korean working men from the countryside on weekdays (night), but travellers are welcome. Usually two lockers are provided, one for the shoes (at the entrance) and one for your clothes and everything else (near the bath entrance). A very large backpack may not fit, although you can usually leave it at reception. A Jjimjilbang is no more awkward than any western public bath - so go ahead. Some Korean Spas don't offer overnight stay, like the "Spa Land Centum City" in Busan, and some can be limited in time, like the "Dragon Hill Spa" in Seoul, but they are exceptions. When you leave, you have to take everything with you and pay to get back in.

Temples

South Korea offers many 'Temple Stays' in all parts of the country. The basic idea is that you stay for one or more days living with the monks and participating in some of their rituals.

Jogye (???), Korea's largest Buddhist sect, runs a popular Temple Stay program where visitors get to spend 24 hours living at a Buddhist temple. Speaking Korean helps but is not necessary at some temples, but you will be expected to work at the temple and get up at 3 or 4AM to participate in morning prayer. In exchange for three meals and a basic bed for the night, a "donation" of ?50,000-80,000 is expected. Reservations are necessary and can be made at the Temple Stay site or via Korea Travel Phone (+82-2-1330).

Learn

Education is taken very seriously in South Korea, and the country is home to several world class universities, many of which have exchange agreements with various foreign universities, and are a good way for foreigners to experience life in the country. The most prestigious comprehensive universities are Seoul National University, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Yonsei University and Korea University.

Others

  • Taekwondo (???, ???, literally "the way of kicking and punching") The quintessential Korean martial art that is also an Olympic sport, and you can study at any of the numerous schools all over the country.
  • Cooking Most major cities will offer Korean cooking classes to foreigners.
  • Chang (?) or Pansori (???) — If you like music, this will be good for you. It's a unique traditional Korean form of singing. If you want to learn about Pansori through film, "Seo Pyen Je" would be an excellent choice.
  • Korean — Seoul National University, Korea University, Sogang University, and Yonsei University (in Seoul) provide Korean language programs. You can meet people from all over the world while studying Korean.
  • Korean Traditional Dance — You can go to a dance studio and learn Korean traditional dance. You will wear "Han Bok" - Korean traditional clothes.
  • Baduk (??) — Korean name for the ancient Chinese board game called Go in English and Japanese. Many Koreans play the game, and among them are some of the world's finest players. There are even schools that specialize in Baduk.
  • Janggi (??) — Also known as Korean chess, a board game similar to Chinese chess, with which it shares its origins, though the rules have diverged significantly from Chinese chess.
  • Kimchi (??) — Many tourist packages nowadays include learning how to make a Korean staple dish, Kimchi.

Work

Working in Korea can be a great way to experience the country. For English teachers the hours and pay are reasonable, however for other professions do bear in mind that South Korea has some of the longest working hours globally, and frequent obligatory after work evening drinking can be demanding. In addition, Korea isn't yet really set up to make entering the job market easy for foreigners. Reading and speaking Korean will definitely open up many more opportunities for you.

Foreigners must obtain an Employment Visa in order to legally work in South Korea, and will usually require a company based in South Korea to sponsor your application. For prospective teachers (see below) the school will almost always arrange this on your behalf. Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Japan may apply for a one year Working Holiday Visa which allows for short term employment whilst on holiday in Korea.

After you have been living in South Korea continuously for 5 years, you may apply for permanent residency, which if granted, allows you to live and work in South Korea indefinitely with no restrictions. Alternative routes to permanent residency are by investing a large amount of money in a local business, by marrying a South Korean citizen, or by obtaining a PhD degree in certain scientific fields. The application process is still complex even if you meet one of these criteria.

Teaching

Work as an English teacher is the most common type of work available to foreigners from English speaking countries, with the requirements of being able to speak English and a minimum level of education being a Bachelor's degree. Schools prefer native English speakers and many prefer North American accents. In most instances, native English speakers from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, and the UK are the only applicants that are usually considered.

The main employer of native English speaking teachers are private academies called (hagwon). Many parents enrol their children in order to catchup or overtake their peers, and therefore scheduled classes are often in the evenings and Saturdays. People interested in these teaching positions often find them via professional recruiters. There are pros and cons to teaching ESL in the hagwon system. On the plus side the money can be quite good. As of 2016, the average monthly salary is approximately two million South Korean Won (KRW) and basic housing is usually provided. It's often possible to live comfortably on half of one's salary and to save the rest.

On the negative side, Hagwons are privately run and strictly for profit, and may only operate for a few years. As such it is important to research and evaluate each prospective employer before accepting an offer, since there are plenty of horror stories of unscrupulous academy owners and incompetent directors. Although you will have full employment rights in South Korea, there is practically very little you can do when an issue or dispute arises. The majority of English teachers have a good experience through the Hagwon system.

University employment is also possible. Those who have a graduate-level degree, preferably in TESOL (Teaching English as a Second or Other Language) may find professional opportunities at the post secondary level preferable to teaching in private academies.

Some of the best positions are in the public sector, although recent politically motivated changes in Seoul and Busan have are phasing out foreign English teachers and replacing with English-speaking South Koreans instead. Still year-long public school positions are available though the government-funded EPIK Program in most provinces and the rapidly contracting GEPIK Program in Gyeonggi, with a small number also handled by recruiter companies. Alternately, the TALK Program runs 6-month rural public school positions for non-graduates.

For more information about teaching English in Korea through the private-sector, visit Eslcafe, Worknplay, Eslstarter and Englishspectrum. For the public-sector, see the aforementioned EPIK program. Daejeon full-time public elementary school positions stand apart from most in the country in that they consist of multiple part-time support positions at different schools. Most public school and university positions start at the beginning of March or September, however these are the more desirable jobs and must be applied for months before the start date.

Keep in mind that South Korean Immigration is constantly changing the visa regulations for E-2 visa holders, so keep abreast of updates.

IT

South Korea is often promoted as the world's most wired country, and as such has a massive IT infrastructure. There is plenty of IT work if you can speak Korean, although local rates are much lower than in western countries.

Engineering

South Korea has a lot of opportunities for engineers, and often doesn't have a requirement for Korean language. Port cities such as BusanUlsan and Geoje have a demand for marine engineers.

Stay safe

Crime

South Korea is a very safe country, with reported crime rates much lower than in the U.S. and comparable to most European Union countries. Crime rates are comparable to other safe places such as Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong and it is safe to walk around at night even in the major cities. Violent crime is rare toward locals and tourists alike. For the most part, the only foreigners who encounter trouble in South Korea are drunken ones that provoke fights at bars or clubs.

If you do happen to encounter any trouble, police stations are located in every district, usually in walking distance from subway entrances and bus stops. While most policemen won't understand English, they do have interpreters on-call that can assist you.

Racism

South Korea is a very ethnically homogeneous country, and for many South Koreans this is a point of pride. Discrimination against non-Koreans is systematic and there is no anti-discrimination legislation whatsoever. Nevertheless South Korea is changing. 3.5% of residents today were born overseas, a number expected to rise to 10% by 2020. Negative perceptions of foreigners is reducing all the time. As recently as 2000 it was not advisable for a foreign man to hold hands in public with a South Korean woman and today it is almost no issue at all. Any horror stories you hear should be taken in context of the positive changes that are happening.

The unfortunate reality is that being Caucasian will mostly give you a free pass from experiencing much if any racial abuse. When applying for work in South Korea, especially in teaching positions, many employers prefer Caucasians over other ethnicities (this may be one of the reasons they ask for a picture on your application). Darker skinned people do experience more problems, including being barred from saunas and bars.

Most visitors to South Korea are extremely unlikely to encounter any problems at all. If you do experience racial abuse then you can call on the police to help, although realistically if no other offence has been committed then they will at most just try and reason with the abuser.

People from North Korea also experience discrimination in society, partly out of suspicion (North Korea has sent assassins and spies disguised as refugees) and partly out of the difficulty to integrate themselves into a vastly different society. Ethnic Koreans from China are also often regarded poorly due to being associated with low economic status and crime. People from South East Asia are also discriminated against since most immigrant workers in low paid work come from that region.

Traffic

With one of the highest rates of traffic deaths, South Korean motorists will speed through pedestrian crossings, jump red lights and come within a hair-width distance to pedestrians and other cars alike. Even when the light turns red, drivers will not stop. So, beware. Motorcyclists are particularly reckless weaving in and out on crowded sidewalks. It is up to you to avoid them.

There is a lot of discussion about the reason for this, although it basically comes down to Koreans regarding traffic laws as guidelines that are nice ideas rather than rules to be obeyed.

Pedestrian crosswalks stay green for a very short period of time. When the walk signal is flashing and you are still at the curb, do not cross. Instead, you should wait and be ready for the light to turn green. The moment it turns green, wait for about 3 to 5 seconds and see if other pedestrians start to cross, and if all the traffic has indeed stopped, then walk briskly to cross safely. It is safer to take underground passageways at busy intersections. Most mopeds prefer to weave through pedestrians rather than wait with the rest of the traffic.

South Korea also follows the American practice of allowing cars to turn right at red lights as long as they (in theory) yield to pedestrians. In contrast, left turns on green lights are illegal unless there is a blue sign pointing left saying ??? or a green left arrow.

Stay in the middle lane on a three-lane street. The left lane will likely turn into a left-turn-only lane without warning (look for straight arrows painted on the road with X in them!) and the right lane is often blocked by illegally parked cars.

There are plenty of zebra (black and white pedestrian) crossings in Korea, and they are essentially ignored by all drivers. As a foreigner you can use them by stepping onto the crossing and directly staring down any approaching cars and they will usually yield. It is important for you to stay alert while crossing the roads. Taxis, buses, freight trucks, and delivery scooters are more likely to ignore traffic rules, since many of them are pressured to ignore rules by harsh timetables or their customers.

Illegal taxis

Illegal taxis are a problem and run even from the airport. Each Korean city has a different taxi scheme with a specific car color, so check out your destination city's taxi scheme before you arrive. At the airport, ignore anyone asking if you want a taxi at arrivals and head out to the official taxi rank.

Civil unrest

In the heart of the political center of Seoul, near Gwanghamun and City Hall, you may witness political activists of one sort or another in the city center and demonstrations can grow to tens of thousands. You'll have to use discretion as violence during political demonstrations can happen, often with water cannons and tear gas, and also large crowds may pose safety issues. Fighting is always between the demonstrators and police, and foreigners are not targeted.

Local laws

Ignorance of the law here is no excuse for breaking it and can even be seen as a reason for harsher punishment. They include heavy fines, lengthy jail sentences and immediate deportation.

  • Penalties concerning drug offenses may seem particularly harsh to westerners.
  • Submitting fraudulent documentation for obtaining visas
  • Giving somebody an English lesson without possessing the correct visa
  • Causing injury during a fight, even if you were not the one who instigated it

South Korea has a draconian National Security Act (?????) with regards to North Korea that restricts any unauthorized contact with that country or its citizens. Although it rarely applies to foreign visitors you should still be careful since being associated with any "anti-State group" (?????) is a criminal offense. With this in mind, you should under no circumstances display any symbols that represent North Korea or be seen to praise (??) North Korean figures, in particular Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, and Kim Jong-un, in public, websites or social media. Doing this as a joke is not in anyway an excuse, and criminal convictions can incur a penalty of up to seven years in prison.

Websites in North Korea or from North Korean-affiliated organizations are blocked from South Korea. In any case you should not attempt to access them since it could be regarded as a "communication" (??) with an anti-State group.

Gambling

Gambling is illegal for South Korean citizens, although a limited number of casinos are available for foreigners only in SeoulBusan and Jeju island. You will need to bring your passport to enter these establishments.

Wildlife

The Asian giant hornet (called ???? or the "commander bee") it is about 2 in (5 cm) long and can sting repeatedly and be extremely painfull. A hornet defending its nest or feeding spot will make a clicking sound to warn away intruders; if you encounter one, retreat. If you are stung, receive prompt medical attention, as prolonged exposure to the venom could cause permanent damage or even death. They are usually seen around summer time.

There are very few other animals that can be dangerous in Korea. The Siberian Tiger is sadly no longer found on the Korean Peninsula. Large wild boars can sometimes be found in forested areas and can be very dangerous if they attack. If you see a boar with piglets then keep well away since the mother will not hesitate to protect them.

Large sharks including the Great White and Hammerhead are being sighted more frequently off the coast of South Korea. To date there has never been a recorded attack on swimmers although a few abalone divers have been killed in the past 20 years. The most popular beaches are closely monitored, and this is unlikely to be a real risk to you.

Natural hazards

South Korea is considerably less prone to natural disasters than its neighbors. Earthquakes are rare occurrences, though minor ones occasionally occur in the southwest of the country. Tsunamis are a recognized hazard in coastal areas, although Japan's strategic position prevents most Tsunamis from ever reaching Korea. While typhoons do not occur as often as in Japan, Taiwan or the Philippines, they are nevertheless an almost yearly occurrence, and are occasionally known to be deadly and cause major property damage.

Conflict with North Korea

An understandable concern about traveling to South Korea is the possibility of war. However, while war has remained a distinct possibility ever since the end of the Korean war over 60 years ago, the North Koreans appear to have become very skilled at sabre-rattling and limited provocations that are never allowed to escalate into out-and-out warfare. This is not to say that miscalculations could not spiral out of control, but simply that the odd missile launch or loudly publicized border closure does not mean war is nigh.

If a full scale war did break out between the North and South then it would almost certainly result in many casualties, military and civilian alike. If this were to happen when you are visiting Seoul then it would definitely be life-threatening. There was a great deal of brinksmanship following the appointment of Kim Jong Un as North Korea's leader, and open conflict seemed to become more likely. However, no big conflagration has broken out, and it is safe to say that the possibility of all-out war is very low, though it would be reasonable to weigh the risks when planning to visit South Korea.

There isn't really much you can do to mitigate the risk of military action. Find out the contact details of your embassy, and be aware of the current situation when traveling. Most embassies will have an evacuation strategy for their nationals in the case of war. Also be aware that Seoul's Incheon International Airport is relatively close to the North Korean border, so therefore it may not be advisable to run there looking for a flight out.

Emergency numbers

  • Police: 112 from a phone and region code-112 from a cellular phone
  • Fire and ambulance services: 119 and region code-119 from a cellular.

Emergency-service English interpreters are available 24 hours a day.

Stay healthy

South Korean healthcare is known for its excellence in both research and clinical medicine, and most towns will be able to offer a high quality of healthcare. The sheer number of hospitals and specialized clinics in the country will also offer you a greater amount of choice. South Korea also promotes 'Health Tourism' where quality operations can be had for a fraction of the price of many other developed countries.

  • Most South Korean doctors can communicate well in English, being the most highly educated in the country. Indeed many have achieved their medical qualifications in the United States. However, you may find them a little difficult to understand due to their Korean accent, so do ask them to slow down and go through things with you clearly. On the other hand, nurses will very rarely speak much, if any, English.
  • Health care in South Korea is usually of high quality and low cost. It is subsidized by the government and is relatively cheap compared to most western countries. Expatriate workers who have the required medical insurance card will experience further discounts. Many foreigners come to South Korea to undergo medical operations much cheaper and with higher quality than in their home country.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (along with Traditional Korean Medicine) is highly regarded in South Korea and involves many traditional methods including acupuncture, heating and herbal medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine has deep roots and practitioners must undergo strict government certification in order to practice. Typically Koreans use oriental medicine for chronic ailments such as back pain and western medicine for sudden injuries. Due to the holistic nature of oriental medicine (i.e. treating the whole body rather than a specific ailment) it is very hard to measure its effectiveness, however it is a widely trusted part of the Korean medical system. You should bear in mind that Western medicine does not generally recognize the effectiveness of the procedures in Oriental medicine.
  • Pharmacies are available everywhere, and are indicated by one very large word ? (pronounced 'yak' in English) As hospitals in South Korea are not allowed to dispense take-home prescriptions there will almost always be a separate pharmacy available there. Prescriptions are dispensed in small paper packages.
  • Although there are no official vaccinations that are required or recommended for visitors, Hepatitis A is known throughout the country and attacks the liver after ingesting contaminated food and water. Once infected then time is the only cure. The Center for Disease Controldesignates the prevalence of infection in South Korea to be intermediate.
  • Drinking Water. Tap water in South Korea is perfectly safe to drink, although you may want to follow the local habits of boiling and filtering if only to get rid of the chlorine smell. Koreans are especially fond of drinking mountain spring water when hiking through mountains or at monasteries, and you should be aware that this water is completely untreated. Some places in Korea have communal wells set up that supply fresh water, and in theory the local government will test from time to time in order to certify the safety.

Respect

Coming from a land of strict Confucian hierarchy and etiquette, the Korean people are regarded as reserved and well mannered. As a visitor, you will not be expected to know every nuance, but making an effort will certainly be appreciated. The further you are away from metropolitan areas the more conservative the people are.

For the most part, Koreans are understanding of foreigners not knowing all the traditional Korean customs. Nevertheless following these rules will impress them:

  • Koreans bow to each other to show their respect when they meet. They may also shake hands. However, with people you know well, quick nod of the head and a simple annyeong haseyo (?????), meaning "hello" (the direct translation is "do you have peace") should suffice.
  • It is very important to remove your shoes when entering many places in Korea. It is always expected that you take off your shoes in someone's home. It is also required in many good restaurants (especially family run ones), smaller hospitals, medical clinics and dentists. Convention is usually to leave your shoes by the front door, and indoor slippers may be provided to use inside.
  • When meeting for the first time, older Koreans will tend to ask about your age, your parents' jobs, your job, and your education level. If you feel uncomfortable about the questions, just provide short answers and discreetly try to change the topic if possible.
  • Never discuss or joke about your criminal history, or even that of someone to whom you are related. Even if the crime is regarded as very minor in your home country, Koreans will still likely regard you in a very negative way.
  • When picking something up or taking something from somebody older, always use two hands. If you have to use one hand, you can simply support your right arm with your left hand. Likewise, when shaking hands with somebody older support your right arm with your left hand.
  • Similar to neighbouring countries, always use both hands when giving and receiving business cards.
  • Koreans in general have very strong nationalistic views and would view any criticism of their country with varying degrees of hostility. To avoid getting into the bad books of your hosts, it is advisable to praise the country or, at least, to avoid bringing up anything negative about it.
  • Avoid bringing up the Japanese occupation, Dokdo island, the Korean war of the early 1950s and US foreign policy, or engage in other political discussions (unless mentioned to you) as these are delicate topics. Should your hosts bring it up, it is best to stay neutral and avoid any debates.
  • Do not attempt to compliment North Korea in any way, even in jest. On the other hand, be careful not to go out of your way to be critical of North Korea since they are still regarded as 'brother Koreans' and you are a foreigner.
  • South Korean households often have strict rules about recycling: for example, one bin may be for paper only and another in the kitchen may be for food/drink containers. Also be aware that each district in Korea has its own unique recycling scheme! The garbage bags must be purchased from a supermarket and MUST be of the type designated for your local district.
  • Never pour your own drink when dining with Koreans, but always take the initiative to pour for others. When dining with Koreans, the oldest should always eat first.
  • It is common to hear people talking loudly in restaurants, as a sign of being happy and enjoying the food. But always remember to act polite in front of older people especially at the table. Koreans think making a loud sound in front of older people is rude.
  • Much like their Chinese and Japanese neighbours, Koreans place a very strong emphasis on "saving face". Unless you are in a position of seniority, you are advised not to point out the mistakes of others in order to avoid causing major embarrassment.
  • Although you may notice similarities between Korean culture and that of neighboring China and Japan, be aware that Koreans are fiercely proud of their unique culture and that you shouldn't go overboard making national comparisons.

National issues

Given the long history of unwanted intervention in Korea by foreign nations, Koreans are understandably rather sensitive about certain topics. You should avoid discussing the following topics since they are never going to achieve anything but getting you onto someone's bad side. Playing devil's advocate is really not appreciated in Korea.

  • Japan's annexation and brutal colonization of Korea until 1945
  • Japan's lack of recognition and apology over the sexual enslavement of Korean 'comfort women' during World War 2
  • Japan's territorial claims over the South Korean island of Dokdo
  • The Korean war and anything to do with North Korea
  • Bad behavior of individual members of the United States military stationed in South Korea
  • Any deference of the South Korean military towards the United States military
  • Any international sporting controversies where South Korean athletes are involved
  • Referring to the sea to the east of South Korea as the (otherwise internationally accepted) 'Sea of Japan'. You should always refer to it as the 'East Sea'.
  • The MV Sewol ferry disaster of April 2014. It is no exaggeration to say that the country was deeply traumatized by this incident, and many entertainment programs were cancelled over the following months. There is a lot of introspection going on around this, although as a foreigner your contributions may not be appreciated. Solidarity is shown with yellow ribbons so make sure you don't make jokes about the many ribbons when you see them.

Religion

Religion in South Korea has changed a great deal over time, with today's main religions of Buddhism and Christianity both having been oppressed over the past centuries. Today just under half of Koreans state that they have no religious affiliation. There are practically no tensions at all between the different groups, with religion being usually regarded as a personal choice.

Buddhism was historically the main religion in Korea (albeit often suppressed in favor of Chinese Confucianism), and Buddhist temples are major tourist attractions throughout the country. As in many Asian countries there are Buddhist Swastikas on display at religious buildings. You will notice they are actually drawn in reverse to the one used in Nazi Germany and in no way represent antisemitism. When visiting Buddhist temples you should be respectful by not making too much noise, eating or drinking.

Uniquely in East Asia and thanks to the American occupation during the Korean War, South Korea has a very high proportion of Christians (of mostly Protestants (18%) and Roman Catholics (11%) ) and dozens of churches can be found in absolutely every major city. Christians in South Korea tend to be strongly conservative and frequently highly evangelical, sending large number of evangelical Protestant missionaries abroad (rivalling the United States in this regard). It is common for both strangers and acquaintances to ask you to come to their church, although offence will not usually be taken if you decline.

Korean Shamanism, also known as Muism, is the indigenous religion of the Korean people since ancient times. Although it is followed by less than 1% of South Koreans today, its practices and beliefs are known to most and to some extent still practiced by many people, having been incorporated into both Christian and Buddhist rituals.

Confucianism was often promoted as the state religion during Korea's history, and although there are few adherents today the majority of Koreans will be familiar with its teachings and practices, and even Government officials are still required to sit Confucian examinations.

Homosexuality

Although same-sex relationships are not recognized by the government, there are no laws against homosexuality in South Korea. Gay clubs and bars exist in the larger cities, though openly displaying your sexual orientation in public is still likely to be met with disapproval. South Korea has a large number of evangelical Christians who generally strongly disapprove of homosexuality. Nevertheless, verbal and physical attacks against gay people are rare.

Conversely, platonic displays of physical affection between same-sex friends are very common, particularly when alcohol has been consumed, and holding hands with a same-sex romantic partner may be viewed in this light.

Connect

By phone

International dialing prefixes in South Korea vary by operator, and there is no standard prefix. Check with your operator for the respective prefixes. For calls to South Korea, the country code is 82.

Mobile phones

South Korea uses the CDMA standard exclusively and does not have a GSM network, so most 2G (GSM) mobile phones from elsewhere will not work. Even quad-band GSM phones are useless. However, if you have a 3G phone with a 3G SIM card, you can probably roam onto the UMTS/W-CDMA 2100 networks of KT or SK Telecom; check with your home operator before you leave to be sure. 4G LTE has been made available in Korea; again, check with your provider.

The country has three service providers: KT, SK Telecom and LG U+. They offer prepaid mobile phone services (pre-paid service, PPS) in South Korea. Incoming calls are free. Phones and prepaid services can be acquired at any retail location found on any street (for Koreans). Second-hand phones are also available at selected stores in Seoul.

Mobile phone coverage is generally excellent, with the exception of some remote mountainous areas. SK Telecom has the best coverage, followed by olleh (KT) and LG U+.

As a foreigner without Korean residency your choices are:

  1. Buy a prepaid SIM card from a olleh expat store (available 3 days after arriving in South Korea)
  2. Rent a phone from an airport (expensive - best for short visits)
  3. Using roaming on your phone if available by your home provider
  4. Borrow a phone from a Korean resident
  5. Have a Korean resident acquire another SIM card and lend it to you
  6. Use Skype (or other VOIP app) over the many Wifi spots available

If you want to buy a prepaid SIM card, you should be able to get a prepaid SIM card at one of the olleh expat locations. However, you must have been in Korea for at least 3 days, and you must bring your passport. The fee for a prepaid SIM card is ?5,500, and you have to charge at least ?10,000 at the spot. You must also have a compatible phone. All modern iPhones (3GS and later) should work. Contact olleh expat at @olleh_expats on Twitter for any questions.

All the carriers offer mobile phone rental services, and some handsets also support GSM SIM roaming. They have outlets at the international airports in IncheonSeoul (Gimpo) and Busan (Gimhae). You can find service centers for KT SHOW and SK Telecom at Jeju airport as well. Charges start from ?2000/day if you reserve in advance via the visitkorea website for a discount and guaranteed availability.

You can rent a 4G WiBro device between ?5,000 ~ ?10,000 a day for unlimited access, although coverage is not always available outside larger cities and in enclosed areas.

Prepaid SIM Card with 4G LTE Unlimited data plan

NeoKOSIM is a start-up company that has launched a partnership with KT to offer a 4G LTE unlimited data plan prepaid SIM card for travellers coming to Korea. 

NeoKoSIM.com

Data-only pass 

You can order online on their website and will receive a PDF voucher via your e-mail after payment. SIMs can be picked up at Incheon airport, at the Olleh KT roaming center (gate 6) inside in the arrival hall 1F. These SIMs are for purchase and not to be returned. >>> korea sim card for data

Voice & data pass

You can order online on their website and will receive a PDF voucher via your e-mail and will pay when you pick up the SIM. They can be picked up at Incheon airport, at the Olleh KT roaming center (gate 6) inside in the arrival hall 1F.

These SIMs are for rental and are to be returned: Voice and text consumptions will be billed extra. >>> Korea SIM Card for Data and Voice

Does your smart phone work with Korea SIM Card in South Korea? 

Before enjoying Prepaid Korea SIM Card, you should first make sure that your smartphone will work in South Korea. K-SIM based on Korea Telecom (KT) Network uses the 4G LTE frequency of 2100 MHz/ 1800 MHz/ 900 MHz and the 3G UMTS/HSDPA frequency of 2100 MHz.

Make sure your phone supports this frequency in order to have full 4G LTE speed.

Remind that you should have an unlocked smartphone to use K-SIM, Korea SIM Card in South Korea.

* "Does your phone work in Korea with Korea SIM Card?"

The 1330 Korea Travel Phone service is a very useful service provided by the Korea Tourism organization. It is a 24 hour service and offered in four different languages (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese). The operator will answer questions on bus schedules, accommodation, museum hours, etc.

Internet

South Korea is the world's most wired country and Internet cafes, known as PC bang (PC ?, pron. BAH-ng), are ubiquitous through the country. Most customers are there for gaming but you're free to sit and type e-mails as well, typical charges are about ?1,000 to ?2,000/hour, although more "luxurious" places may charge more. Snacks and drinks are available for purchase in most PC bangs. Smoking is banned in PC bangs but many stores will give tacit consent to smoking, despite stating otherwise if asked explicitly (for legal reasons). Most PC bangs tend to be cash only.

There is also a lot of free wifi available throughout South Korea. Just check for an unencrypted signal, although using open wifi hotspots is a potential security risk anywhere in the world so be careful what you use it for.

Most households in South Korea do have broadband connections with wifi, and most are encrypted by default.

ollehWiFi is one of the most common WiFi hotspots available and requires payment. The service is fast (30Mbps+) and prices are affordable at ?1,100 per hour or ?3,300 per day. You can buy the service on your device by credit card, or by cash or card in most convenience stores. ollehWiFi is available at most convenient stores, coffee shops, some marts, restaurants, intercity buses, and on all subways and subway stations in the Seoul Metropolitan Area.

The Starbucks Coffee chain also offers wifi, however you will require a South Korean resident card to use it. Many other coffee shops offer free wifi with no registration required. ollehWiFi should also be available in all Starbucks stores.

South Korean websites frequently require Windows and Microsoft Internet Explorer, especially those involving online payment. As elsewhere in Asia, a lot of services are becoming available primarily for Mobile Phones, with Kakao Talk being the most popular.

By mail

Korea Post is fast, reliable and reasonably priced. Postage for a postcard anywhere in the world is ?660, while letters and packages start from ?480. If you want actual traditional stamps, be sure to ask for them, or else you will just get a printed label. On request, fancy "tourist" cancellations (Gwangwang Tongsin Ilbuin) for your stamps are available at selected post offices without additional charge. Korea Post accepts Visa and MasterCard for purchases over ?1,000.

Most post offices are open weekdays only from 09:00 to 18:00. Larger post offices also open Saturday mornings, and central offices in the main cities stay open late and are open on Sundays as well.

Media

South Korea has several English language media sources for daily news and other information, such as the Yonhap News Agency

Daily Newspapers in English include the Hankyoreh, The Korea Times, The Korea Herald and The Chosun Ilbo.

For television, there is an English language channel called Arirang TV that is available throughout the world on some cable subscriptions. AFN Korea is available to US military community or via cable.

There are some English language radio stations in South Korea such as TBS e-FM (101.3 FM) and AFN channel (1530 AM and 102.7 FM in Seoul).

The Amateur Traveler talks to Rachel about Seoul, South Korea. Rachel is a college student from Hong Kong who studied in Seoul for the Summer. She talks about historic palaces, museums, customs and shopping in this city that she describes as a "kaleidoscope."

Day 20: January 27, 2014

Today I left Sydney on Korean Air for Inchon, South Korea, the second leg of my trip. The flight was about 10 hours. We were treated very well, two meals, snacks, real silver ware and wine with our dinner. There was plenty of electronic entertainment and opportunities to charge notebooks, e-readers, etc.

The airport at Inchon is like a combination of Rodeo Drive, Michigan Avenue and Fifth Avenue. They had a small string ensemble playing, and fun things to learn and do at the Korean cultural store. The only thing I didn’t see was a movie theater.

I spent the night in a hotel in Inchon. It was a more traditional South Korean establishment with slippers inside a vestibule leading to another door into the bedroom. Shopping around the hotel was not like the airport. I would have liked to explore Inchon and Soul but didn’t have the time. But what I saw was intriguing.

Picture of piano at Inchon airportMusic at Inchon AirportPicture of stores at Inchon airportInchon AirportPicture of slipers in hotel roomSky Hotel RoomPicture of street in InchonShopping in Inchon Advertisements

Share this:

Like this:

LikeLoading...

Related

Hear about travel to northern South Korea as the Amateur Traveler talks to Katie of aroundtheworldinktdays.com about the area of South Korea where she is living.

Kate in Senggigi

What does budget travel mean to you?

For some of my friends, it means downgrading to a three-star hotel instead of a luxury property. For others, it’s giving up their private rooms for hostel dorms.

Budget travel is unique to everyone. The broadest definition of budget travel is being financially conscious during your travels.

I asked my Facebook fans a question: how low-budget would you go? Hostel dorms? Couchsurfing? Never eating in a restaurant, ever? They had a lot of great answers and I’ve included them throughout this post.

Leon Nicaragua

Extreme Budget Travel

I define extreme budget travel — or what I like to call traveling “on the hobo” — as traveling while spending the least amount of money possible.

“I had some Couchsurfers come stay with me that are doing a long term trip with a $0 budget for accommodation. If they can’t find CS hosts they camp. One was sleeping in temples in Myanmar. He said his average is $5/day but oftentimes only spends $3. They also only hitchhike everywhere.” –Nathan

Accommodation? Free only. Couchsurfing or camping in their own tent or van. Possibly sleeping in churches, temples or mosques. Free lodging via working gigs. Hostel dorms if there’s no other option.

Transportation? Free or very cheap only. Hitchhiking or traveling in their own vehicle. If anything, an occasional bus ride or public transit.

Food? Cheap only. Supermarket fare or cheap street food. No restaurants, ever. Maybe an occasional takeaway kebab.

Attractions? Free only. In cities, walking around and taking photos, enjoying free museums and attractions. In the countryside, hiking and exploring. Forget about paying for a ticket.

How to get by? Working from time to time. WWOOFing, Workaway gigs, working in hostels or bars, busking, random gigs along the way.

And while there are occasional exceptions, the above is largely how extreme budget travelers spend their time on the road.

Here are some examples:

We Visited Over 50 Countries In Our Van Spending Just $8 Per Day

This is How a Guy Traveled Through Southeast Asia On Just $10 Per Day

I just came back from a 5-months travel. I’ve done hitch-hiked over 15 000km, and have been living as a homeless for pretty much 4 months.

Amman Skyline

The Pros of Extreme Budget Travel

Travel longer. See more. The less you spend, the more time you have to see everything the world has to offer. The price you would pay for a midrange two-week trip could grow into a multi-month extravaganza when traveling on the hobo.

Enjoying the same sights at a fraction of the price. Nobody charges you to walk through the piazzas of Florence, nor do you pay anything to enjoy the white sand beaches of Boracay. It feels awesome to look around and know that you paid far less than everyone else!

Expensive destinations aren’t off-limits. One thing I noticed was that extreme budget travelers don’t shy away from expensive countries. You find just as many extreme budget travelers in Norway and Australia as you do in Laos and India.

“Curiously enough it’s easier to spend less in expensive countries. It’s easier to say no to a $25 hotel room and camp, than to say no to a $5 hotel room and camp. In Europe I’d go camping and couchsurfing all the time out of necessity, but here in Asia I’d happily pay for accommodation, because it’s cheaper. But of course that adds up and in the end I pay more. I remember spending 6 months in the US and Canada and I spend $0 on accommodation. :D” –Meph248 on Reddit

Having more local experience. You’ll get to know locals more intimately, whether it means couchsurfing in locals’ homes, working with locals, hitchhiking with locals, or shopping at the local markets. Plenty of travelers will pass through the same town without having a conversation with someone who wasn’t a waiter or hostel employee.

The time of your life — on very little cash. You’ll have great stories to tell your kids someday!

“I did $5 a day while touring the Balkans for a month. I managed! -Free lodging and food by volunteering at a hostel (even had my own room at the top floor) -Free private beach access through a guy I was seeing -Free drinks every night at the bar across the street because the owner swore I was Serena Williams

That about covers all bases! Lol” –Gloria, The Blog Abroad

The possibility of extending your trip indefinitely. If you pick up enough paid gigs in between, you can keep on traveling forever. This especially works well if you pick up gigs, either officially or under the table, in high-paying countries like Australia.

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

The Pitfalls of Extreme Budget Travel

Reduced safety. If you don’t have funds allocated for accommodation or private transportation, what happens when none of the Couchsurfing hosts in town appeal to you? What happens if your bus is delayed, you show up in Tegucigalpa late at night, and you can’t afford a cab to your accommodation?

Not having money for instances like these sacrifices your safety.

“I would never want to absolutely rely on couchsurfing for the whole of my trip. I couchsurf where I can but when I can’t find a decent host I book a hostel. I think when you get too desperate to couchsurf you end up pushing the safety limit a bit and staying with dubious people.” –Britt, Adventure Lies in Front

Just how bad can the result be? Read this heartbreaking post by Trish on Free Candie.

Missing cool activities and social events. You meet a cool group of fellow travelers and they’re all going whitewater rafting. They want you to join — but you can’t do that. And sure, you can walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge if the $300 Bridgeclimb is out of your price range, but would you go to Leon, Nicaragua, and skip $30 volcano boarding? What about a $5 wine tasting in a Tuscan town? And even if it’s just a $4 hostel shuttle to the beach, which all your friends from the hostel are taking, you’re stuck on the much longer 25-cent local bus.

Less exposure to local cuisine. Yes, there’s fresh produce and markets and supermarkets can be their own adventure, but if you’re making pasta in the hostel every night, you’re missing out on one of the best parts of traveling — the food.

“As a student in EU having a long-term schengen visa on a third-world passport, I think I have hit the bottom after sleeping at airports, night buses, railway stations, common areas of hostels. taking pictures of food in local markets and then coming back to cook pasta in hostel kitchen :-(” –Anshul

No backup savings. In the event of an emergency — say, you need to fly home for the funeral of a dear friend — you don’t have the cash to do so. Most of the time, travel insurance will only reimburse you if it’s a member of your immediate family.

Isolation and discomfort. If you’re not comfortable in your accommodation, you have fewer options and may be far from the city center or tourist zone. If you’re limited with money, you can’t just pick up and leave — you might need to stick it out for at least a night.

“Ive couchsurfed once and they tried to convert me to their religion so i just left.” –Christipede

No alone time. If you’re a natural extrovert, this probably won’t be an issue, but traveling on the hobo requires you to socialize with lots of people on a daily basis, especially if you’re couchsurfing. If you’re an introvert, you’ll have difficulties carving out alone time to relax your mind. (Camping solo is one way around this, however.)

Mooching off others. Conversely, depending on others day after day can wear away at you. Sure, you can help cook and clean, or play music, and you know you’ll pay it back to other travelers someday, but you might get uncomfortable having strangers host and feed you for free on a regular basis.

“It’s funny. I’m open to going extremely low budget. As long as I can be self-reliant about it. Meaning I’d rather sleep (legally or semi-legally) on an abandoned beach or in a corner of a park than ask for someone’s couch. This is strange, I know, since the spirit of travel is tied so intrinsically into the good will of others. I guess I’d rather rely on others for their company (and their rum!) and then slip off to my tent for the night.” –Bring Limes

Resentment. Is this the trip you had in mind? Is this even the kind of trip you’d want? Wouldn’t you rather be in a nice hotel room, eating in restaurants, doing cool activities, and not having to work every now and then? After weeks of depriving yourself, over and over, you could end up feeling resentful. It might not be worth the savings.

“I feel like [extreme budget travel] would detract from the travel experience itself. If I was wrapped up in my head worrying about money and a budget the whole time it would take away from experiences. I certainly don’t travel luxuriously, but I choose to travel within my means without missing out on things.” –Megan, Forks and Footprints

Blue Night Shadows

A Lot of People Think They Can Do This

I’m an avid Redditor but don’t comment often. What makes me comments are posts like these:

“Me and my cousin are going on a trip in 2015 for 16 months around SE Asia. we plan on visiting 19 countries in that time: Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri lanka, Tawain, Thailand, Vietnam, Bhutan

We dont really know what months to go to the different countries and theres not much info online about it, so im asking you we kind of want summer all the time around. Also what places should we see in different countries? Im thinking that 12k USD will be enough for this trip? no including air fare, is that close to accurate?”

Oh God.

First of all, no, $12K will not be nearly enough. I really hope he meant $12K each, because even $24k for two would not be enough for a trip like that, especially with countries like Bhutan and Japan on the list. The only way it would be possible would be through extreme budget travel, and just the idea of traveling that way for 16 months makes me want to curl into a ball and hide.

I get emails all the time from travelers who want to travel as long and as much as possible, so they squish their budget down to the bare minimum. They tell me that yeah, they really want to see as much as possible, so they’re going to couchsurf and camp and they’ll be able to stretch their trip to as long as possible. I give them advice, wish them luck, tell them to buy travel insurance.

Some of them end up traveling this way — and have a fabulous, life-changing trip. Others end up miserable and return home much sooner than planned.

My worry about these travelers is that they won’t end up enjoying themselves on what should be the trip of a lifetime. I believe that far more people think they can handle long-term extreme budget travel than can actually handle this style of travel on a long-term basis.

It doesn’t help that traveling on the hobo is romanticized in popular culture, complete with scenes of waking up on a farm in Provence, harvesting olives all day, then having huge dinners with wine every night before hopping on a train to the next idyllic destination.

In short, it’s fun to travel on the hobo if you’re doing it for fun. It’s not so fun if you’re doing it because you can’t afford anything else.

Bike Lady in Ferrara

Special Concerns for Women Travelers

I feel like there needs to be an asterisk when talking about extreme budget travel as a woman. Just like there needs to be an asterisk with almost every kind of travel.

If you haven’t read Why Travel Safety Is Different For Women, please read it now.

In that piece, I talk about how women are attuned to the risk of sexual assault every minute of every day. It never leaves our minds, and each day we make dozens of micro-decisions for the sake of self-protection. For that reason, we need to be extra careful when it comes to extreme budget travel.

“extreme budget travel is a luxury that men can have I think. as a woman, I always need to have a little extra to get myself out of a bad guesthouse or take taxis rather than walk. I’m sure some women have managed it, but i wouldn’t feel safe on a low low budget. I usually budget $50/day with an extra $500/month of travel, although I rarely use it all. it gives me enough cushion to get a single room rather than share a dorm with just one man, etc.” –Lily

Camping alone or sleeping outside leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Staying in a sketchy guesthouse with a badly locking door leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Hitchhiking with strangers leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Taking public transportation in a rough city at night leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Accepting food and drinks prepared by Couchsurfing hosts leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

That doesn’t mean that women can’t do extreme budget travel — I know women who do it and love it. I know that some take extra precautions, like carrying pepper spray and a knife. And even then, many of them have done so safely; most of them have only had a few scary but ultimately non-dangerous incidents, like I have.

But it doesn’t mean that the risk isn’t there. You need to evaluate that risk closely.

Kyoto Apartment

It’s Not For Everyone

If you want to try out extreme budget travel and you think you would enjoy it, go for it! I’m happy for people to travel in any way they’d like, as long as it’s not harmful to others.

There are plenty of people for whom extreme budget travel is a great choice. And they’re a surprisingly diverse group of people.

My issue with it is that I think a lot of people underestimate how difficult it is to live this way on a long-term basis. In short, it’s not for as many people who think it’s for them. So many people attempt it, burn out, and leave their trip with regrets.

Costa Brava Mountains

Short-Term Extreme Budget Travel

What if you only did the extreme budget travel thing for a shorter time? Say, for a two-week trip or just for a month or two out of a yearlong RTW trip? What if you just did it when you traveled in Australia and went back to spending more money in Southeast Asia?

I think that’s actually a very smart idea. This way, you get to try it out, reduce costs in the most expensive destinations, and see if you are interested in doing it long-term.

“I don’t mind dorms for cheap travel, although a few weeks is the max I could do that without at least a few nights in a private. I’m planning to couch surf and WWOOFing a lot in Japan, since I want to go for a while without spending thousands and thousands. I can’t live on that low though- it’s boring to only have enough to eat and stay in the hostel!” –Alexandria

Marigolds in Pienza

How to Maintain Your Sanity While Traveling on the Hobo

Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Walking a mile out of the way for loaves of bread that cost 20 cents less is the definition of insanity. Instead, reduce your big expenses like accommodation and transportation, or stick to cheap countries.

Travel slower. Spending more time in fewer destinations will majorly cut down your costs. When you spend longer in a destination, you’ll get to know the cheaper places, you’ll spend less time sightseeing, and your transportation costs will be lower.

Stick to cheaper regions — not just cheaper countries. Most people consider Thailand a cheap country but don’t take into account that the beach resorts in the south are MUCH more expensive than the rest of the country. Stick to rural, less-visited areas for lower costs. In Thailand, you’ll find the cheapest prices in the north.

Set up a separate bank account for splurges. Use it for special activities like seeing Angkor Wat, getting scuba certified, or having a restaurant meal in a fabulous food region.

Plan on getting private accommodation every few weeks or so. Just a few days in a room to yourself will make you feel so much better, especially if you’re an introvert.

Have a re-entry fund saved up and don’t touch it. This is money to cushion your return home. How much do you need? Depends on your situation. Some people like to have enough to secure a new apartment and pay for a few months of frugal expenses; others just need a thousand dollars or so. The choice is yours.

Don’t scrimp on travel insurance. Even if you’re committed to spending as little as possible, you don’t want to put yourself in a position where you weigh your health against saving money. Not to mention that it will save your ass financially in the event that you get severely injured and need an air ambulance to another country. I use and recommend World Nomads.

Leaving the Generalife

One Last Tip: Check Your Privilege

When you’ve been traveling on the hobo for awhile, there will be dark days. You’ll be down to your last few dollars and unable to eat anything but rice and pasta. You’ll be tired. You’ll be lonely. You’ll be treading water and you won’t know when you’ll earn enough to leave town.

This happens to all travelers. We all go through tough times, but extreme budget travelers are additionally vulnerable because of their lack of money.

Even when you’re at your lowest, it’s important to remember that you hold enormous privilege. You’re living this lifestyle by choice, and you’ve experienced far more than the vast majority of the world will ever be able to.

Don’t refer to yourself as poor. Don’t take food donations meant for the needy. And for the love of God, don’t compare yourself to the homeless.

Instead, practice gratitude each day. Be kind. Use what you’ve learned to create a better life for everyone you meet, both on the road and at home.

And if you choose to settle down for some time — whether it’s just for a few weeks or something more permanent — open up your home to vagabonds like yourself. Feed them, give them a place to sleep, show them your favorite spots in town. It’s time to repay the kindness that you’ve been gifted on your journey.

Have you ever tried extreme budget travel? Did you enjoy it?The truth about extreme budget travel

Boston Fourth of July

When Donald Trump announced he was running for president, we joked that he’d be done within a few months. Comedians had a field day. He couldn’t gain any serious support, could he?

Until he started leading all the polls…and winning primaries.

Holy shit. This could actually happen.

“If Trump gets elected, I’m leaving the country!”

I know. Everyone says it. But there’s no way to actually do that, is there?

OF COURSE THERE IS! You could leave the country in SO many different ways — ways that are 100% legal and ethical.

Kate on the Sydney Bridgeclimb

1) Get a working holiday visa in Australia or New Zealand.

If you’re 30 or under, you qualify to spend a year living and working in Australia or New Zealand! These are the only traditional working visas currently available to Americans.

In both countries, you can apply for the visa if you’re as old as 30; you can enter the country within one year of receiving your visa, which means you could start your year at age 31. Australia also offers the option of taking a second year if you spend three months working in “regional Australia” (rural areas and outside the most popular tourist destinations). Edit: I’ve since learned the second year is not available to Americans, sadly. Brits and Canadians can take advantage of this option, however.

You could spend your year bartending in Cairns or Queenstown, working on a winery in the Barossa Valley or Marlborough, working at a corporate job in Melbourne or Wellington, or taking on a hospitality job just about anywhere. And those are just a few of the possibilities.

For more, check out the Australia working holiday visa site and the New Zealand working holiday site.

Hongdae

2) Get a job teaching English abroad.

Teaching English abroad is one of the easiest ways U.S. citizens can get a job working abroad. Most countries only require a university degree in any field; others also require a TEFL certificate.

The most opportunity for Americans is in Asia. South Korea tends to offer the best packages: a competitive salary plus free housing and free flights to and from your home country. Many teachers in South Korea are able to comfortably save more than $10,000 per year and pay down debt or go traveling afterward.

Japan, China, and Taiwan also have great environments for teaching English with decent benefits. Entry-level teaching jobs in Southeast Asia and Latin America tend to pay only enough to get by.

While many Americans dream of teaching English in Europe, it’s extremely difficult to work in the EU without EU citizenship and the jobs are thus few. Eastern Europe and Turkey are a better bet.

Options in the Middle East tend to pay the most but have the most stringent requirements, often a teaching certification and experience in your home country and/or an advanced degree.

This is just the most basic of overviews — head to ESL Cafe to learn anything and everything about teaching English abroad.

El Tunco, El Salvador

3) Join the U.S. Foreign Service.

Dreamed of working as a diplomat around the world? The U.S. Foreign Service is your way in. If you’re able to pass the notoriously difficult Foreign Service Exam, you’ll be eligible to work two-year contracts in countries around the world.

The goal of the U.S. Foreign Service is “to promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad.” Basically, you represent the United States while abroad.

There are several different tracks: Administration, Construction Engineering, Facility Management, Information Technology, International Information and English Language Programs, Medical and Health, Office Management, and Law Enforcement and Security.

You don’t get to choose your destination — you could be headed to any of 270 embassies around the world — but if you work in a hardship destination, you’ll often get preferential treatment regarding your next assignment. Like two of my lovely readers whom I met in Mexico last year — after working as diplomats in Pakistan, they got stationed in Cuba next.

Check out all the details on the U.S. Foreign Service’s website.

Bitola

4) Join the Peace Corps.

The Peace Corps is perhaps the most famous volunteer program in America, starting in 1961 under President Kennedy. Volunteers are sent around the world in primarily two-year contracts working in the fields of Education, Health, Community Development, Environment, Youth in Development, Agriculture, and Peace Corps Response.

You don’t get to choose where you go — you’re sent where your skills are needed the most. That means if you speak Spanish, there’s a good chance you’ll be sent to Latin America; if you speak French, there’s a good chance you’ll be sent to Africa.

Most people I’ve known to serve in the Peace Corps describe it as life-changing. It’s a fantastic way to serve your country and make lasting contributions toward building a better planet.

For more, visit the PeaceCorps.gov.

Koolbaai

5) Find a job abroad.

I know it sounds daunting to find a job abroad when you don’t know anything about it, but Americans do it successfully every day!

The U.S. State Department has put together a comprehensive list of resources for finding work abroad, no matter what field you’re in.

Ljubljana

6) Study abroad or get another degree.

Are you still in college? Studying abroad will be one of the most valuable (and fun!) things you do in your college career. Here are the lessons I learned from my semester in Florence in 2004.

Already have a degree? This could be a great opportunity to get your master’s abroad! Several countries offer you the option of getting your master’s in just one year, unlike the standard two years in the United States.

You probably know that several countries offer free university education to their citizens. Well, several countries offer free university education to international students as well, including Americans! Don’t speak the local language? They offer degrees given in English as well.

It was big news when Germany began offering free education to international students in 2014. Other countries include Brazil, Finland, France, Norway, Slovenia, and Sweden.

Many of these countries also offer stipends, making getting your degree infinitely more affordable than in the U.S.

London Millennium Bridge

7) If your job has an international office, see if you can transfer.

This isn’t an option if you work for a small, independent, local business. But it could work if you work for a larger company.

I used to work for a company with offices in Boston and London, and plenty of people migrated across the Atlantic in each direction. The company took care of the sponsorship and all the red tape.

Another option: if your company has an international parent company, see if you can find a job abroad in one of your parent company’s other companies.

Playa Samara

8) See if you can start working remotely.

If your job is mostly doable online, you may have the ability to start working remotely and set up shop anywhere in the world.

Note that this is something best done little by little. Start by doing exceptionally outstanding work for awhile, then ask your boss if you can work remotely one day per week. Make that your most productive day of the week. If it goes well and your company is pleased, keep negotiating for more time working remotely.

If you’re able to transition to working 100% remotely, keep in mind that you may need to stay within the same time zone or in a destination where you have excellent internet. Still, that’s a small price to pay for working from, say, a beach town in Costa Rica!

Berlin

9) Look into the German Artist Visa.

Entering the EU long-term is a major challenge for most Americans, but one of the easiest ways in (aside from getting a student visa) is to get the German “artist visa.”

“Artist” is a relative term here. In this case, it means freelancer. If you’re able to prove multiple contracts paying you enough to get by, that may be enough for you to secure this visa and live in Germany.

Most people with this visa choose to live in Berlin due to its art scene, expat scene, and relatively low cost of living (albeit one that continues to rise). Increasingly popular alternatives are hip Hamburg and artsy Leipzig.

Check out Travels of Adam’s guide to getting the German artist visa or, alternatively, a student visa.

Paris Marais

10) Become an au pair in Europe.

If you love kids, don’t mind living with a family, and want to live like a local, becoming an au pair could be an excellent option for you. Many Americans become au pairs by finding a job and family online, then registering for a student visa to give you a year in the country.

The student visa could be for as little as a few hours of language study each week; some countries, like France, are notoriously lax about whether you actually attend class and many au pairs decide to ditch the classes entirely.

Being an au pair could be the time of your life — or a complete disaster. The best thing is to know exactly what kind of experience you want — how many kids and how old? Living with the family or in your own apartment? Urban, suburban, or rural environment? Would you be expected to cook or not? — and finding a family that fits your needs well.

Ashley Abroad has a great resource for getting started as an au pair.

Christmas at JJ's

11) Save up, quit your job, and backpack the world for awhile.

Yes. You can absolutely do this. Plenty of people around the world travel for months at a time — it’s very common for people from other western countries, but far less popular for Americans.

If you want your money to go the furthest, stick to a cheaper region. Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Central America, and Eastern Europe are all great options. You can live in parts of these regions on less than $1000 per month if you want to (but that amount doesn’t include start-up expenses like flights, gear and insurance).

Here’s how I saved $13,000 in just seven months. That was almost enough to sustain me for six months in Southeast Asia from 2010-2011, but keep in mind prices have increased a bit since then.

Santa Cruz Atitlan Guatemala

12) Move somewhere cheap for awhile.

Not in the mood to be traveling all the time? You could just move somewhere. Many countries have visa policies that allow you to live long-term by leaving the country every few months and coming right back. (Be sure to check on your country’s latest visa regulations, as they can change at any time.)

I still think that Chiang Mai, Thailand, offers the maximum value for a great price. As a solo adult, you can comfortably get by in Chiang Mai for less than $800 per month, or even less if you’re part of a couple, and there are plenty of amenities for the many expats who live and work there.

Other popular options for expats? Oaxaca, Mexico. Ubud, Bali. Bangkok, Thailand. Medellin, Colombia. Lake Atitlan, Guatemala (particularly Panajachel and San Pedro). If you have the ability to live in the EU, consider Berlin, Germany; Lisbon, Portugal; Budapest, Hungary; Prague, Czech Republic; or any town you can imagine in Spain: Madrid, Sevilla, Granada, Barcelona.

Ragusa, Sicily

13) Get a second citizenship based on your ancestry.

Several European countries offer the option of getting a passport based on your ancestry. I’ve known Americans who have gained Irish, British, Italian, and German citizenship due to their parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents being born in those countries.

The best part? Gaining EU citizenship means you can move around freely within the EU, not just the country where you hold the ancestry! I have an American friend with new German citizenship who’s thinking about moving to London. That’s totally fine on a German passport.

Do research this first — every country is different and has its own conditions. Some don’t offer ancestry-based citizenship at all. (While my great-grandfather immigrated from Italy, I don’t qualify for Italian citizenship because he naturalized before my grandmother was born.) Here’s a guide to obtaining citizenship in European countries.

Israel also offers citizenship based on the Law of Return. You must either be Jewish by birth (meaning your mother or grandmother is Jewish) or a convert to Judaism.

Keep in mind that this could potentially take years, depending on the country. It took three years for my friend Mike to get his Italian citizenship. (Then again, as someone who lived in Italy and visits often, they are not the most organized of nations when it comes to this kind of stuff. Or anything else, frankly.)

Skellig Michael

14) Fall in love with someone from a different country, get married, and move to their country.

I know a lot of people, particularly women, dream of this — meeting a handsome fisherman on a Greek island, or a brawny Australian at a beach bar in Thailand, and falling in love and it being destiny and your friends being so jealous.

Well…as someone who has lived in another country for two different boyfriends, let me tell you that the reality can often be quite difficult, even if you have a good relationship. Living in a different country is like fighting through hundreds of cultural differences every day, and there can be a chasm in your relationship if you’re struggling while your partner is surrounded by everything he knows and loves. It’s much harder if you don’t speak the local language or you’re living in a small town.

Whatever you do, make sure you have a strong support system on the ground. Make sure you have interests, activities, and a social circle outside your partner. Most importantly, make sure your partner understands how challenging it is for you to be there, even if you’re happy most of the time. Make sure he makes an effort to travel to America, too.

You’re the one who is sacrificing here. Even if you were excited to move there. Even if he supports you financially. Even if you work online and have the freedom to live anywhere.

quebec-ice-slide-gallery

15) Just move to Canada!

Everyone says they’re moving to Canada if a candidate they hate is elected. Well, this guy actually moved to Canada when George W. Bush was elected. That link gives you an overview of ways for Americans to move to Canada today.

Pink House New Orleans

But in all seriousness…

I know this is a tongue-in-cheek list, but I seriously hope you’re not voting for Donald Trump. (I know I’m preaching to the choir here. The kind of person interested enough in other countries to read a travel blog is not the kind of person who would support a xenophobic presidential candidate.) Please do everything you can to keep him from being elected.

But there’s something else I want to say.

In the past six years, I’ve met many American travel bloggers who have said something along the lines of, “I just don’t like it in America. I don’t want to live where I could be killed in a random shooting or where I could be bankrupted if I’m hospitalized. I don’t like it here anymore, so I’m leaving.”

I get it. I was like that. Parts of me still feel that way. But not anymore.

I recently moved back to the U.S. after more than five years of travel. There were many reasons. One is because I am sick of doing nothing. I want to be here and fight to make my country better. And I’m getting started.

All of us can run away. Believe me — there’s stuff about America that keeps me up at night. Frequent school shootings and a Congress that refuses to pass any kind of reasonable legislation like closing the gun show loophole. Black Americans, including children, being killed by the police for no reason at all. The racism, both overt and subtle, that our president receives on a daily basis. Out-of-control elections and candidates supported by corporations. The possibility of a religious ideologue being appointed to the Supreme Court.

So why do I even bother? Because when you choose to be inactive, you’re giving power to the opposition.

If you choose to travel, or to live abroad, that’s wonderful! But don’t use it as an excuse to check out of America completely. Donate money to causes that will make America better. Donate your time to causes and see if you can help online. Get absentee ballots, familiarize yourself with candidates in every race, and vote in every election. These things really can make a difference.

Would you leave the country if Trump was elected?15 legal, ethical ways to leave the country if Donald Trump gets elected.

amazingly_beautiful_fountains_around_the_world

There’s nothing very like seeing a perfect, streaming wellspring. The spouting water can be sufficient to blow your mind.

The Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States

Las Vegas might be known for betting and gambling clubs, yet there’s another motivation to visit the popular Vegas Strip. The Fountains of Bellagio give an amazing show four times a hour for anybody cruising by. Best of all, the water execution is free. That can come in very convenient in the event that you’ve had some misfortune at the blackjack table.

The Dubai Fountain in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

On the off chance that you like the Fountains of Bellagio, you’re certain to love the magnificent Dubai Fountain. The same creators built up the arrangements for every one. It cost about $220 million to build, yet the splendid exhibit of lights and moving water make it worth each penny. There’s even music to set the state of mind and add to the happiness.

The Moonlight Rainbow Fountain in Seoul, South Korea

If you’re looking for a vibrant and colorful fountain, look no further than the Moonlight Rainbow Fountain in Seoul. It’s located on the Banpo bridge and is currently the longest bridge fountain in the world. Thousands of stunning LED nozzles give the fountain its striking colors.

1293

The Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

They say when you’re in Rome, you ought to do as the Romans do. Most local people will instruct you to visit the astounding Trevi Fountain. The mix of lavish figures and falling water will spellbind you. It’s unquestionably a stop you ought to make in case you’re on an Italian occasion.

The La Joute Fountain in Montreal, Canada

The La Joute Fountain puts on an awesome exhibition. It’s a phenomenal spot to spend a mid year evening. Look as tender streams swing to gigantic streams that shoot up into searing rings. Every execution keeps going more than 30 minutes so you’ll have a lot of time to value this excellence made of bronze.

The Floating Fountains in Osaka, Japan

Isamu Noguchi was the originator and driving force behind this interesting wellspring. It contains a few structures that give off an impression of being coasting in mid-air at stunning statures. The configuration may look like enchantment, however the main mystical thing is the lovely consequence of streaming water.

1

The post Amazingly Beautiful Fountains around the World appeared first on Geeky Traveller.

amazingly_beautiful_fountains_around_the_world

There’s nothing very like seeing a perfect, streaming wellspring. The spouting water can be sufficient to blow your mind.

The Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States

Las Vegas might be known for betting and gambling clubs, yet there’s another motivation to visit the popular Vegas Strip. The Fountains of Bellagio give an amazing show four times a hour for anybody cruising by. Best of all, the water execution is free. That can come in very convenient in the event that you’ve had some misfortune at the blackjack table.

The Dubai Fountain in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

On the off chance that you like the Fountains of Bellagio, you’re certain to love the magnificent Dubai Fountain. The same creators built up the arrangements for every one. It cost about $220 million to build, yet the splendid exhibit of lights and moving water make it worth each penny. There’s even music to set the state of mind and add to the happiness.

The Moonlight Rainbow Fountain in Seoul, South Korea

If you’re looking for a vibrant and colorful fountain, look no further than the Moonlight Rainbow Fountain in Seoul. It’s located on the Banpo bridge and is currently the longest bridge fountain in the world. Thousands of stunning LED nozzles give the fountain its striking colors.

1293

The Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

They say when you’re in Rome, you ought to do as the Romans do. Most local people will instruct you to visit the astounding Trevi Fountain. The mix of lavish figures and falling water will spellbind you. It’s unquestionably a stop you ought to make in case you’re on an Italian occasion.

The La Joute Fountain in Montreal, Canada

The La Joute Fountain puts on an awesome exhibition. It’s a phenomenal spot to spend a mid year evening. Look as tender streams swing to gigantic streams that shoot up into searing rings. Every execution keeps going more than 30 minutes so you’ll have a lot of time to value this excellence made of bronze.

The Floating Fountains in Osaka, Japan

Isamu Noguchi was the originator and driving force behind this interesting wellspring. It contains a few structures that give off an impression of being coasting in mid-air at stunning statures. The configuration may look like enchantment, however the main mystical thing is the lovely consequence of streaming water.

1

The post Amazingly Beautiful Fountains around the World appeared first on Geeky Traveller.

chile protester

Photo: Davidlohr Bueso

I was raised in a progressive, politically-aware family, but we weren’t particularly active. When I’ve asked my mother about how her politics developed, she’s told me that they couldn’t until my sister and I were out of the house. She knew how she felt, but when we were young, it seemed like a full-time hobby for her to stay current. I’m sure many working families in this country, with or without children, feel the same way.

Still, I remember my mother’s small shows of activism throughout my childhood. When my sister and I told her that a youth group meeting had been devoted to lecturing us on the ‘evils of abortion,’ she pulled us out of it. When a man with a critical handicap attempted to cross in front of our car, my mother held up traffic so she could help him. When she noticed a family walking home every day from church in the winter, she began showing up at their home every Sunday morning to offer a ride.

That was my mom. Those were her politics, and they’ve shaped my own. Today, my mother’s activism has only become more fine-tune. She’s left a church that she grew up attending because she couldn’t bear to listen to another anti-LGBTQ or anti-choice homily. She sets money aside every year to donate to Planned Parenthood instead. She will not pass up any opportunity to engage with someone on climate change, marriage equality, reproductive justice. And on Jan. 21st, her and my father will attend the Women’s March on our state capitol of Augusta.

On that same weekend, I’ll take a bus from Mount Desert Island, Maine to Washington D.C. to attend the same march. I’ll join what is expected to be more than 200,000 other people, of all backgrounds, to prove to the incoming administration that we exist.

Like my mom, I’ve committed my short life to small actions. In college, I threw myself into feminism. I started a newspaper that still exists on campus today. I went to Student Women’s Association meetings every week. On Wednesday mornings I stood with several others in silence, holding pro-choice signs, across from a geology professor who held his own morbid and irrelevant images.

Each time I’ve participated in these small acts, I’ve come away with a feeling of accomplishment. So in preparation for the Women’s March on Washington, I reached out to the Matador community for protest stories. I wanted to see if others came away with a similar sense of power, no matter how small their action. Here’s what I’ve gathered.

Oakland, California

Photo by Miguel Gongora

Photo by Miguel Gongora

It was the end of Dec. 2009 in Oakland, California and people were getting ready for the new year. It seemed like an ordinary New Year’s Eve, until the next day when video footage of Oscar Grant’s murder was released. Oscar was shot at the Fruitvale BART station, my neighborhood at the time. A cop had shot him down, point blank on the ground. The atmosphere in Oakland turned heavy after that, people were angry all over — in the streets, in the restaurants, in the schools, everywhere.

How could you not be upset at what this video showed?

In the following days, that anger finally burst. And even though I wasn’t from Oakland, and I was not born in the U.S., I felt like I needed to join the protests with these people demanding justice. I thought it was righteous to fight for this justice. I felt that it was the right thing to do. Oscar Grant could have been me or someone I knew. For the first time in almost eight years since coming to the U.S., I was afraid. I finally understood that for people of color, encounters with police could turn fatal in a matter of seconds. I still remember what people were chanting in the streets: “The whole damn system is guilty.” It was an indictment of the entire system, not just one rogue cop.

Looking back at what happened then, I realized that I had witnessed the struggle of two very powerful forces. I had a glimpse of what could decide the fate of humanity in the future: the American people vs. the state apparatus. — Miguel Angel Gongora

Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, North Dakota

Photo by author

Photo by Matt Koller

“It feels like not too long ’til we could see Indians hanging from trees,” said our waitress, half native, half white, in a Casino 80 miles south of Standing Rock.

“Have you been at camp?” S asked.

There were seven of us traveling, each of us searching for our own reasons. S was a former veteran and a seasoned activist, itching to participate in a fight. There was a college professor, taking everything in with stunned eyes, and our driver, a no-nonsense wonder-mechanic who had organized this expedition because he was “tired of sitting around on his hands.” I was going because I thought the future of movements in America could be decided by what happened here.

“No. Some of us gotta pay bills,” she replied. “They’re doing a good thing but it’s hard on everybody. Bismarck’s the one place we can buy Christmas gifts, and they won’t sell to us now.”

In the morning we rumbled north.

We were there less than 24 hours. It was December 7th. The camps had just metabolized 2,000 veterans, the easement denial (a fragile victory), and the first true blizzard of the great plains winter. So we whirled through a whirlwind, dropped off our supplies, made spaghetti for the camp, and picked up a handful of water protectors needing to return west. And then we were back on the bus. S read a post about a hate crime in Bismarck from that morning. Like me, he had wanted to stay, but because of default-world obligations he didn’t. I knew what he was thinking: “If we couldn’t stay, why did we come?” A somber silence churned at the question.

And then, as if coming out of an otherworldly trance, our new passengers began to share their Standing Rock stories. We huddled around them at the back of the bus. “Why did we go…?” We went to listen. — Nikita Nelin

Flagstaff, Arizona

Photo by Mary Sojourner

Photo by Mary Sojourner

I first spoke out against injustice 60 years ago. A clique of kids from wealthy families ran my high school. They were always prom queen and king, and officers on the student council. None of them ever showed up for the hard work of planning and pulling together the proms or for serving on the audience. I ran for secretary of the Student Council. At the election rally, I tore up my approved speech and said to the packed auditorium, “We who do the work in this school, know who we are. If I am elected secretary, I promise all of us that we will have the power.”

Fifty years later, I fought for twelve years to stop snow-making with dirty water on the sacred mountain that rises north of Flagstaff, Arizona. Again, a few hard-working people showed up for every demo, witness, hearings and civil disobedience. I learned to have nothing but contempt for the “nice” earnest people who stopped me in the street and said, “Thank you and your friends for the work you do. I’m completely with you, but protesting is just not my thing.” At first, I’d smile and thank them. After a while, I’d say, “You know the band R.E.M.’s song, Stand in the Place Where You Live? Check this out:

Stand in the place where you live Now face north Think about direction Wonder why you haven’t before.” — Mary Sojourner

Washington D.C.

Photo by Hazel Stark

Photo by Hazel Stark

Our sign said, “Mr. President, if we are the future, why are you killing us?” Bonded by teenage friendship, excitement, and adrenaline due to our shared journey to make a statement in our nation’s capital, we took a bus full of like-minded activists from Bangor, Maine to Washington D.C to attend the September 2005 March on Washington to protest the Iraq war. When we arrived, we were quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of people present. All shreds of excitement quickly morphed into a powerful feeling of solidarity matched with deep anger that this war had ever begun.

We marched, sang, and chanted with an estimated 300,000 people. Protests occurred all over the world on that day, showing that people, in fact, were paying attention to the effects of the US war on Iraq. But the subsequent lack of media coverage left me feeling that we, the people, were not being paid equal attention.

They say “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When the march ended, I was left wondering how such a powerful event fit into that equation. That March on Washington did not end the war on Iraq, but it did leave at least one 16-year-old girl with the profound understanding that while a protest is an important type of cure, it is our daily preventative actions that will always be more impactful. I stopped asking, “how can we stop wars?” and began to consider, “how can we prevent them?” — Hazel Stark

New York City, New York

Photo by Meg Cale

Photo by Meg Cale

As a professional LGBT advocate, I’ve been involved in many demonstrations. The one that sticks out in my mind was during the time of Occupy Wall Street. It was one of the first marches to Union Square of New York City. The cops had started using plastic orange fencing to “kettle” the protesters — it’s a technique where they form a maze with the plastic to reduce access in and out of the encampment. The police were screaming at the demonstrators to move off the sidewalk, as I was running to get out of the way I looked behind me into the crowd and saw a black teenage girl get swept off her feet by the fence. She landed on her face and blood immediately started pouring from her nose and mouth. The cops completely ignored her and kept dragging the plastic fencing over her body as her friends screamed for help. I was 21 years old. It was the first time I realized that cops don’t protect everyone.

Another time:

I was working for a nonprofit that supported LGBT young people, also in New York City. One of our volunteers was an older man with multiple physical disabilities. We were demonstrating for marriage equality that day. The goal was to block traffic with a banner until the protesters were arrested. I was part of the team who’d act as witnesses for social media. The volunteer was there to sit in the street to block traffic with several other demonstrators. When the police showed up, they asked them to move several times before slowly starting to drag each person off the street and arrest them one by one. The volunteer was the last person left in the street. Cameras were flashing as the police approached him and gave him the opportunity to leave the road on his own. He refused and demanded to be arrested with the other activists. I will never forget the look of smug satisfaction on his face as he lay limply in the officers’ arms as they carried him to the curb and handcuffed him. — Meg Cale

Seoul, South Korea

Photo by Alexis Stratton

Photo by Alexis Stratton

As I rode the escalator out of the City Hall subway stop in Seoul, music filled my ears. But as celebratory as the music sounded, I realized that it was coming from anti-LGBTQ protesters gathered outside of the station singing songs about Jesus. More people across the street yelled with words I didn’t know but a message I could understand.

I pushed past people crying and praying and crossed lines of police in neon yellow vests to enter City Hall Plaza, where I was surrounded by rainbows and smiles and signs that said things like Love Conquers Hate. And as the audience pressed up against the stage, bouncing in time to the beat of the music, a feeling of closeness wrapped around me.

I didn’t think I would see this in South Korea — I hadn’t known this when I’d lived there ten years before when I wasn’t even out to myself. But here I was, surrounded by people who were willing to say not only “we exist” but also that we’re proud and beautiful and loved.

Thousands marched through Seoul that hot June afternoon, protesters shouting from all directions as police in riot gear jogged alongside us. But as we moved deeper into the city, the number of protesters thinned, and instead, people waved and said “Happy Pride!” and marchers belted out anthems that were blasting from floats—“We Are Family” and “I Will Survive.”

I sang along, knowing we would do so much more than survive. — Alexis Stratton

Boston, Massachusetts

It was one of those early Spring days in Boston when you find yourself stripping off a layer as you walked in the sun and putting it back on as you walked in the shade. I walked with a group of 50 or so women and a few sympathetic men from the imposing, angular gray Boston City Hall building to the gold-domed, colonial brick Massachusetts State House. We walked for the Boston Walk for Choice. Our journey was in protest to Congress’s plan to defund Title X, and therefore, Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood is the only option for many poor and middle-class women to receive affordable women’s health care. I myself have been able to afford sexual healthcare because of this organization. As we marched and chanted along the historic cobblestone streets with names like Congress Street, State Street, and Court Street, the Budget Control Act of 2011 and its spending caps on federal programs loomed threateningly.

Protesters held up signs that said: “Because of Planned Parenthood, I’ve never needed an abortion”. And: “Family Planning is Fiscally Responsible”. These messages were meant to raise awareness, to combat the moral panic that anti-choicers are still trying to create. We wanted to enforce the fact that no, Planned Parenthood isn’t an abortion factory.

“They want to cut $330 million,” said organizer and speaker Liz Waters as she occupied the steps in front of the State House. “These measures are anti-women and anti-family.”

There’s a nationwide attack on women’s rights and the rights of all people to sexual and reproductive health,” said another organizer Elizabeth Gentry, who went on to condemn the national effort to restrict women’s rights to abortion, as well as the coordinated effort of the Republican Party to rile up the base for the next election.

I stood with these women, pained that we still had to fight for our rights, but ready, with fists clenched at my sides and throat raw from chanting, to keep the fight going. — Rebecca Bellan

Orlando, Florida

Even though I’m not LGBT, I’m an ally and I marched in my first pride parade this past November. I marched because I was raised in Orlando, Florida and I’m of Hispanic descent. The attack on Pulse Orlando had shaken me and I wanted to help — more than half of those killed at Pulse were Latinx. And when the Westboro Baptist protestors started disrupting the funerals of the Pulse victims, my sadness for those lost and hurt turned into action. Enter: Angel Action Wings for Orlando. These seven-foot angel wings made of PVC and white fabric have brought much comfort to our community — gay or straight — and I am proud to be a small part of their legacy.

My first Come Out With Pride experience was extraordinarily welcoming and warm. Pride 2016 fell on the 5-month anniversary of Pulse and emotions were still high. People were still clearly hurting but they were also in desperate need to just celebrate and have fun. I witnessed my adopted hometown of Orlando — its citizens, visitors, government, law enforcement, schools, sports teams, and businesses — unite in solidarity, in beautiful ways that I had never seen before June 12. If there was any sort of silver lining to this tragic story, it’s the fact that we’ve STAYED united these seven-plus months later. Our Angel Action Wings group of volunteers, locally founded by Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, marched that weekend with all of Central Florida Macy’s employees. When our group of 49 angels rounded the corner, a hush fell over the tens of thousands of loud and proud parade spectators. Many of my fellow angels formed hearts with our hands as we marched. We blew kisses to young and old. Many of us received hugs from spectators as we walked past them; a thank you for volunteering. The overwhelming hush that fell over the crowd was quickly followed by loving applause, loud cheers, verbal declarations of love and tears. I will never forget that feeling. — Jen Vargas

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The first time I ever protested I was sixteen. I did not make signs or camp out with other protestors. I did not need to gain energy from similar actions around the country, although there were plenty. I had enough energy in my own anger and I protested alone, passing by BP stations and demanding that my friends do the same if I was in the car.

My friends in unaffected Pittsburgh mostly rolled their eyes, but they appeased me. They knew I had moved from Pensacola, Florida not too long ago. I had walked on those beaches. I became sick to my stomach seeing the oil-slick seaside on the news — and it’s this feeling that I remember years later: the feeling of powerlessness and personal hurt. I was still boycotting long after the well-publicized clean-up efforts and the real threat of fines and litigation were doing much more harm to BP than my tiny boycott ever could. I wrote a college admissions essay on the topic of the hypocrisy I felt driving a car and about how personal experience informs political philosophy (albeit, my lucidity on the former topic far exceeded my ability to argue the latter).

I’ll still make the argument, today, though. I’ve seen it again and again as I participate in more traditional protest movements. I’ve picketed and marched, once participated in a flash dance — but the roots of every form of protest seem to me to be the same individual sickness and sense of powerlessness. The beauty of an effective protest movement is that it can give our individual hurts an external reality. Only then it becomes clear we can also make real our ideals. — Alexandra Marx

Kootenays Region, British Columbia

For nearly 25 years, the locals in the Kootenays region of BC, including the First Nations community, have been fighting against the development of a massive ski resort in the Jumbo Valley. If built, this resort would scar a pristine wilderness and effectively close a natural wildlife corridor, most notable for its grizzly bear population. Even with a very vocal opposition, that has extended across Canada, the BC government approved the ski resort project.

I live in Nelson and have been to street protests, I’ve signed numerous petitions, and I’ve noticed a solidarity that has developed within our surrounding communities — a great number of vehicles in the Kootenays sport “I

Photo: Ikowh Babayev

It is absolutely true to say that had my life continued “normally” I may not have visited the places that I have recently, nor written my book “Revolutions”. That is not to say I had not dreamt of visiting the Taj Mahal or the Kremlin or Mount Fuji or any of the places I have been to. I can remember far too many years ago plotting out a coast to coast road trip across America when procrastinating instead of revising for my A-levels.

I have always been addicted to travel. I was inspired (and still am) by Michael Palin, Michael Crichton and Neil Peart, as well as Paul Theroux, Bill Bryson and Liz Gilbert to name a few more, but, in the back of my mind, big adventures were done by other people. By writers, by rich people, by journalists, by bohemians, by weirdos; not normal people, not working class lads from Liverpool, not people like us.

I had also dreamt of writing a book. And, yes, I couldn’t do that either. This was done by other people too. By … writers.

Maybe then I should be thankful for the big kick in the nuts life gave me. Whilst getter a gentler shove may have been easier to take, maybe a shake-up is what we all need. (Everyone should read the “Joy of Burnout” by Dina Glouberman).

Yet whether in normal life or whether shaken to the core, it seems to me, it is fear that stops us doing anything. In Berlin over two years ago, I was so fragile. I was beaten and battered. Everything I had worked for was gone. I was scared of what I would do next. Yet when I think back to my life before this, it was also full of fear. I was always worried about upsetting my wife or my boss (usually both), of losing my job, of not being as smart as others and so having to work harder than anyone else. I was always worried about missing out and I never took a chance. We are fed fear constantly by parents, friends, bosses and the world as a whole: the fear of screwing up, of unknown food, of unknown places and of other people; the fear of the economy collapsing, the fear of not having enough savings or a healthy enough pension; the fear of any kind of change – to stick with what you know. Even sportsman seemed to be full of fear; Tim Henman wilting with the weight of his country at Wimbledon. Even international tennis champions, Nastase, McEnroe and Lendl seemed full of fear, anger and bitterness. My own sporting hero, the footballer Alan Hansen, always said that the fear of losing outweighed the joy of winning. Those with no fear were the strange ones … Sir Richard Branson in his balloon, Boris Becker on the tennis court before he grew up.

It cost me less to travel around the world than I had thought.

So how can we enjoy ourselves in this thick mist of fear? Even my own healing road has been a stop start affair; an emotional moment at the Great Wall of China and a week later I was standing in a divorce court; an evening light show at Chichen Itza and a week later I was having a knee operation.

So what has changed for me? Absolutely nothing. All my fears from before are still there – of not having enough money, of not being loved, of being away from home too much, of not pleasing everybody, of disconnecting from corporate life for too long, of not being busy all the time, of being robbed, of being unsafe, of being too cold, of being too hot and definitely of mosquito bites.

In fact, I have added some more to my list. I have now released my first book and putting this article out there. I am bearing my soul in public. I am opening up to the world. (Although I do take solace from Neil Gaiman’s wonderful quote, “The moment that you feel that just possibly you are walking down the street naked, that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”)

As with most people, money worries are top of my list. Money matters. Yet, in my experience, it has a way of coming in and of going out all by itself. Despite the law of attraction, despite manifestation and despite the masses of blogs on how to make money from our passions, I still haven’t mastered this and I personally don’t know anyone who has.

Yet, I have found I need less money than I ever imagined. It cost me less to travel around the world than I had thought. On returning from my circumnavigation of the world, I went for a beer with an ex-work colleague. He told me of all the reasons why he couldn’t do a crazy trip like mine and then went on to tell me of another colleague who had recently bought a new car for £60,000. (Yes, £60,000!). I certainly did not scrimp or save on my trip of a lifetime, but I could have done an additional three revolutions of the earth for this amount of money.

This is the crux. I added experience to counter balance my fears. I have given credence to my dreams.

I experienced sharing a tiny compartment with a Russian policeman on the Trans Siberia Railway. I walked across frozen Lake Baikal. I watched from the outer deck as the ferry cracked the thick ice leaving the bay of Vladivostok toward the Sea of Japan. I wore a silk kimono in a honkon near Fuji and again in a shukubo temple in Koya and I was in awe of the spiritual atmosphere at Miyajima. I eyed my journey as it was on laid out on a huge map in deserted Dorasan station at the DMZ on the border of South and North Korea. I crossed the international dateline as the only passenger on a container ship, standing elatedly at the very front of the vessel in the middle of the mighty Pacific Ocean. I had time enough to read Tolstoy, Frankl, Hesse, Verne, Theroux and Crichton, as well as Bandler, McKenna and Ferriss. Even my bad experiences, such as a car crash in South Korea, of witnessing the sad commuters in Chicago and Tokyo, the soullessness of Seoul and being more alone than ever with the over fed and nearly dead on a cruise ship across the Atlantic Ocean, are more valuable to me than being in job that didn’t serve my soul or than having a new car. (But each to his own).

Dreams are not for others. Dreams are for each and every one of us. This is not an exclusive club. Change can be painful but nothing is a painful as staying in a rut and watching our dreams die. More like this: How to quit your job and travel the world

South Korea is a skiing afterthought no more. The 2018 Winter Olympics is a coming-out party for the country as a winter sports destination.

Lonely Planet Seoul (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Seoul is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Walk along the long-buried Cheong-gye-cheon stream, wander the labyrinthine streets of Bukchon Hanok Village, or try some Korean cuisine at Gwangjang Market; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Seoul and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Seoul Travel Guide:

Full-colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - including customs, history, religion, art, literature, cinema, music, dance, architecture, politics, and cuisine Free, convenient pull-out Seoul map (included in print version), plus over 28 colour maps Covers Myeong-dong, Gangnam, Apgujeong, Dongdaemum, Itaewon, Insa-dong, Yongsan-gu, Jung-gu, Hongdae, Sinchon, Edae, Yeouido, Namsan, Gwanghwamun, Jongno-gu, Jamsil, Daehangno, Seongbuk-dong, and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Seoul, our most comprehensive guide to Seoul, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out our Lonely Planet Korea Guide for a comprehensive look at all the country has to offer.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

Insight Guides: South Korea

Insight Guides

One of the world's most exciting and cutting-edge countries, South Korea is a fascinating East Asian powerhouse, where ancient temples rub up alongside dazzling technology. Be inspired to visit by the new edition of Insight Guide South Korea, a comprehensive full-colour guide to all that's weird and wonderful about the country.

Inside Insight Guide South Korea:A new edition by expert authors.Stunning photography that brings this fascinating country and its people to life. Highlights of the country's top attractions, including captivating former capital Gyeongju, the Unesco World Heritage Site of Haein-sa Temple and the still-relevant DMZ in our Best of South Korea.Descriptive region-by-region accounts cover the whole country, from pulsating Seoul to the remote islands of the Jeolla Provinces.Detailed, high-quality maps throughout will help you get around and travel tips give you all the essential information for planning a memorable trip.

About Insight Guides: Insight Guides has over 40 years' experience of publishing high-quality, visual travel guides. We produce around 400 full-colour print guide books and maps as well as picture-packed eBooks to meet different travellers' needs. Insight Guides' unique combination of beautiful travel photography and focus on history and culture together create a unique visual reference and planning tool to inspire your next adventure.

'Insight Guides has spawned many imitators but is still the best of its type.' - Wanderlust Magazine

Lonely Planet Korea (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Korea is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Walk along Cheong-gye-cheon's long-buried stream, hike around Jeju-do's volcanic landscape, or jump into a vat of mud during the Boryeong Mud Festival; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Korea and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Korea Travel Guide:

Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - including customs, history, art, literature, cinema, music, dance, architecture, politics, and wildlife Free, convenient pull-out Seoul map (included in print version), plus over 97 local maps Covers SeoulIncheon, Jeju-do, Gyeonggi-do, Gangwon-do, Cheongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do, SokchoSamcheokChungjuDaejeonGongjuDaegu, North Korea, Pyongyang, Panmunjom, the DMZ, and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Korea, our most comprehensive guide to Korea, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

Looking for a guide focused on Seoul? Check out our Lonely Planet  Seoul guide for a comprehensive look at all the city has to offer.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

A Geek in Korea: Discovering Asian's New Kingdom of Cool

Daniel Tudor

For every fan of K-Pop music, Korean Wave dramas and Kimchi—or anyone intrigued by Korea and Korean culture—A Geek in Korea is a hip, new guide to the land of the Samsung smartphone and Gangnam Style.Author Dan Tudor first arrived in Korea on the eve of the 2002 World Cup when South Korea played Italy in the finals. What he saw inspired him to return and work in Korea. He served as The Economist magazine's Korea correspondent for three years, and he writes regular columns for the national daily Joongang Ilbo newspaper. Along the way, he has developed a great love and admiration for Korean culture and the Korean people.A Geek in Korea reinvents the culture guide for the Internet age. Packed with articles and photographs, it covers all the touchstones of Korean culture—from Buddhism and Confucianism to chapters on the traditional arts and disciplines like Taekwondo. There are chapters on cultural code words and norms; personal relationships; business and technology; and symbols and practices that are peculiarly Korean. A number of chapters are devoted to Korean pop culture, with attention to the stars, idols, and urban subcultures associated with them. For visitors to Korea, the author includes a mini-guide to his favorite neighborhoods in Seoul and other places of outstanding interest.Spotlighting the originality and creativity of the Koreans, debunking myths about them, and answering nagging questions like why they're so obsessed with education and success—Tudor has created the perfect book for the growing ranks of Koreaphiles in this inspired, insightful, and highly informative guide.

South Korea (Insight Guides)

Ray Bartlett

Insight Guide South Korea is an indispensable travel guide to a land of haunting natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, full of stunning travel photography. Be inspired by our Best of South Korea section highlighting unmissable sights and experiences and lavish Photo Features on festivals, street food, hiking and national parks, and mountain temples.With a longer and more in-depth history and culture section than its competitors, this travel guide provides an essential introduction to South Korea’s early kingdoms and dynasties, its recovery from the devastation of the Korean War, and contemporary politics and business culture. The informative text, written by regional experts, is a pleasure to read.A detailed Places section, with full-color maps, guides you around the regions that make up this beautiful yet off-the-beaten-track country, from the megalopolis of Seoul to the forested mountains of Seoraksan, and the Ten Thousand Islands off the southwest coast.A comprehensive Travel Tips section gives you all the travel advice you need to plan your trip. The selective listings for hotels and restaurants are the personal recommendations of a regional specialist.

Korea & Seoul Travel Map (Periplus Travel Maps)

Periplus Editors

The Korea & Seoul Travel Map from Periplus is designed as a convenient, easy-to-use tool for travelers. Created using durable coated paper, this map is made to open and fold multiple times, whether it's the entire map that you want to view or one panel at a time.Following highways and byways, this map will show you how to maneuver your way to banks, gardens, hotels, golf courses, museums, monuments, restaurants, churches and temples, movie theaters, shopping centers and more!This 2nd edition includes maps and plans that are scaled to: Area Maps: South Korea 1:1,000,000 Jeju Island 1:600,000City Plans: Seoul 1:30,000 Central Seoul 1:10,000Periplus Travel Maps cover most of the major cities and travel destinations in the Asia-Pacific region. The series includes an amazing variety of fascinating destinations, from the multifaceted subcontinent of India to the bustling city-state of Singapore and the 'western style' metropolis of Sydney to the Asian charms of Bali. All titles are continuously updated, ensuring they keep up with the considerable changes in this fast-developing part of the world. This extensive geographical reach and attention to detail mean that Periplus Travel Maps are the natural first choice for anyone traveling in the region.

Korea: A Walk Through the Land of Miracles

Simon Winchester

In the late 1980s, New York Times bestselling author Simon Winchester set out on foot to discover the Republic of Korea -- from its southern tip to the North Korean border -- in order to set the record straight about this enigmatic and elusive land.

Fascinating for its vivid presentation of historical and geographic detail, Korea is that rare book that actually defines a nation and its people. Winchester's gift for capturing engaging characters in true, compelling stories provides us with a treasury of enchanting and informed insight on the culture, language, history, and politics of this little-known corner of Asia.

With a new introduction by the author, Korea is a beautiful journey through a mysterious country and a memorable addition to the many adventures of Simon Winchester.

Dear Mr. Nice Guard Man: Love Letters to the People of South Korea

Ruth M. Youn

COMPELLED BY THE GLOBAL RECESSION that began in 2007, Ruth M. Youn and her husband left behind their country and culture in the United States to live in South Korea, working as elementary school English teachers from 2009 to 2014. Through a series of letters written to the people who shaped her experience in Seoul—among them, a neighborhood yogurt vendor, owners of a favorite restaurant, the elderly man guarding her apartment building, and many more—she draws us into a story that reveals the challenges of cultural adjustment, her struggle with depression and becoming a mother for the first time. Sharing the delights—and sometimes deep disappointments—of life as a foreigner, she invites us to discover the common yearning of the human experience—a desire for meaningful connection, no matter where we live.

Exercise normal security precautions

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Tensions between South Korea and North Korea

Tensions have increased on the Korean peninsula as a result of North Korea's ongoing nuclear weapons development program and provocative statements. In April and December 2012, North Korea attempted to launch two missiles into orbit, and on February 12, 2013, performed a nuclear weapon test. Additional tests cannot be ruled out.

On March 11, 2013, North Korea issued a statement declaring that the Korean Armistice Agreement is invalid. While past threats made by the North to nullify this agreement have gone unfulfilled, further provocative action could occur.

Despite recent statements issued by the North Korean government, we continue to advise that there is no immediate threat to Canadians in South Korea. However, as tensions could escalate with little warning, be vigilant, monitor developments and follow the advice of local authorities.

Crime

Crime against foreigners is generally low. Remain aware of your surroundings and avoid walking alone after dark. The use of public transport after dark may be safer than using taxis when travelling alone. However, when subway and bus services end for the night, use officially marked taxis only and, if possible, do not travel alone. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.

The Korean National Police operates a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week Central Interpretation Centre where foreigners can report crimes (in Seoul, telephone 313-0842; elsewhere, 02-313-0842).

Women’s safety

Sexual assaults against foreigners have occurred. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information specifically aimed at Canadian women.

Demonstrations

Political, labour and student demonstrations and marches can become confrontational or violent. Exercise caution, avoid areas where demonstrations are being held and avoid confrontations with protestors.

Transportation

The rate of fatal road accidents is very high. Automobile drivers are presumed to be at fault in accidents involving motorcycles or pedestrians. Criminal charges and heavy penalties are common when accidents result in injury.

Taxi drivers may speak some English. Have your destination written in Korean.

A high-speed train (KTX) links Seoul and major southern cities such as Busan, Kwangju and Mokpo.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Emergency services

Dial 112 to reach police and 119 for ambulance and firefighters. An English interpretation service is available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Japanese encephalitis

Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is low for most travellers. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to mosquito bites (e.g., spending time outdoors in rural areas) while travelling in regions with risk of Japanese encephalitis.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Tick-borne encephalitis

Tick-borne encephalitis is a viral disease that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread to humans by the bite of an infected tick. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to tick bites (e.g., those spending time outdoors in wooded areas) while travelling in regions with risk of tick-borne encephalitis.

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in East Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, leptospirosis, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in East Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!


Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Eastern Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, leishmaniasis, Lyme disease, malaria, and tick-borne encephalitis.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.


Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a limited risk of malaria in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in Eastern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

The medical facilities in Korea are generally very good. There are international clinics in general hospitals in major cities such as SeoulBusan and Daegu. Canadian consular officials can provide a list of hospitals upon request.

Korean medical institutions insist that fees be paid in full before the patient is discharged. They will not charge insurance companies directly.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and detention page and our Overview of the criminal law system in South Korea for more information.

Laws

Male dual citizens whose names appear on the Korean Family Relation Certificate may be subject to compulsory military service, even when entering the Republic of Korea on a Canadian passport. Before travelling to Korea, Canadian males of Korean origin may need to renounce their Korean citizenship or have their names removed from the Korean Family Relation Certificate to gain exemption from this requirement. Contact the nearest Korean embassy or consulate for more information.

The number of Canadians arrested and detained for drug-related charges has increased significantly. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines and deportation. Minor violations, including smoking minute quantities of an illegal drug, such as marijuana, in a private home, can lead to detention even before the trial has begun.

Tourists are required to make a declaration to customs officers if they are entering or leaving the country with more than the equivalent of US$10,000, including local currency.

Penalties for drinking and driving are strict. Convicted offenders can expect heavy fines and jail sentences.

Photography of military installations or government buildings is illegal.

An International Driving Permit is required.

Teaching English

Contracts to teach English (arranged by recruiters in Canada) should be carefully reviewed before being signed. There have been reports that some contracts have been modified after the fact. Ensure all terms and conditions of employment are clearly stated before accepting an offer and ensure that you meet all the necessary requirements. The Korean government investigates the use of fraudulent documents, university degrees and ESL certificates. Penalties for using fraudulent documents include arrest, deportation and restrictions on re-entry. Be aware that written contracts are not binding documents. Verbal agreements often take precedence over written agreements. Consult our publication entitled Teaching English in Korea for more information.

Money

The currency is the won (KRW). Traveller's cheques are accepted at all chartered banks (Eunhaeng in Korean). U.S. dollar traveller's cheques are recommended for the best exchange rate. Some major banks have automated banking machines (ABMs) that accept international debit or credit cards. The amount allowed per withdrawal may be quite low, rendering the service charge disproportionately high. Most ABMs that can be used to draw money from Canadian bank accounts offer English instructions. Major foreign credit cards (Visa, MasterCard and American Express) are widely accepted by hotels and other tourist facilities and are generally regarded as safe to use.

When transferring funds from Korea to Canada, a local bank will place a stamp in your passport stating how much was transferred, in keeping with Korea's Foreign Currency Control Act. If you are working in Korea and paying Korean income tax, you can transfer your entire income based on your tax payment certificate.

Climate

The rainy (monsoon) season extends from the end of June until August. July is usually the wettest month. Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and landslides. Typhoons occur in August and September. These storms can result in significant loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure, and can hamper the provision of essential services. Keep informed of regional weather forecasts, avoid disaster areas and follow the advice of local authorities. Consult our Typhoons and monsoons page for more information.

Pollution levels peak in March, April and May (due to yellow dust).