Looking for some South Korea Travel Tips? We’re here to tell you all the best things to know before visiting South Korea! We’ll share many recommendations along the way – including sim cards, Korean street food, transportation, and a few things that stand out in South Korea compared to other countries.

Let’s find out what to know before visiting South Korea & the best South Korea travel tips!

25+ Best South Korea Travel Tips: What to Know Before Visiting South Korea
25+ Best South Korea Travel Tips: What to Know Before Visiting South Korea

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South Korea is a unique country in East Asia that’s a little underrated compared to its neighbours! The country has so much to offer, Koreans are so friendly, the nature is incredible and the culture is beautiful! We can’t recommend visiting South Korea enough which is why we’re excited to create these guides!

This guide was created to show you the best South Korea travel tips so you can plan your trip and have a great time. We’ve created itineraries for some amazing destinations in South Korea – check them out!

2 week South Korea Itinerary / 5 Day Seoul Itinerary / The Best Templestay in Korea / 3 day Busan Itinerary / Best Things to do in Gyeongju & Itinerary

25+ Best South Korea Travel Tips

Let’s get straight into it! Here are the best South Korea travel tips and all the best things to know before visiting South Korea! Enjoy!

1. Book Accommodation in Advance

If you want to get the best accommodation for your time and budget then we recommend booking accommodation at least 3 weeks in advance! Although it’s possible to find hostels or hotels last minute, they may not be the best you could have had.

If you’re travelling to South Korea on a budget – hostels do exist but they can get booked up quite fast compared to on-the-go travel! We’ve listed all our recommendations in our 2 week South Korea itinerary – check it out!

2. South Korea has a big cafe culture

It’s impossible to walk around a corner in Seoul without discovering another cafe. The cafe culture is huge in South Korea and you’ll find trendy or themed cafes all around the country. Check out Hongdae in Seoul to experience dog cafes or a Harry Potter themed cafe!

 South Korea Travel Tips: Seoul - Bukchon Observatory
South Korea Travel Tips: Seoul – Bukchon Observatory

3. Download Naver Maps & More(alternative to Google)

One of the most important things to know before visiting South Korea is that Naver will become your Google of South Korea! When trying to get around South Korea, Naver Maps is the way to go! Google Maps doesn’t work too well in South Korea so it’s best to download the Naver and Naver Maps apps before you arrive in the country.

Here are a few other apps to download for travelling in South Korea:

  • Naver (like the Google search engine)
  • Kakao Maps (like Google Maps)
  • Kakao Talk (like Whats App)
  • Subway Korea (subway navigation)
  • Klook (deals on activities)
  • Papago (like Google Translate)
  • Naver Dictionary & Translate (like Google Translate)
  • XE Currency (currency comparison)
  • Kakao Taxi (like Uber)
Things to know before visiting South Korea - Golgulsa Temple
Things to know before visiting South Korea – Golgulsa Temple
Gwangjang Market: South Korea Travel Tips
Gwangjang Market: South Korea Travel Tips

4. Get Data!

Another one of the best things to know before visiting South Korea is that although the wi-fi is good, it isn’t everywhere. This means you’ll struggle with navigation if you’re used to using Google Maps to get around. As almost everything is online these days we recommend getting a sim card or portable wifi for your trip to South Korea! Here are a few options (we used an E-sim!):

E-Sim – The best option if you don’t need a Korean number. They’re really easy to use – purchase the sim online and with instructions you can install the sim on your phone settings. You don’t even have to worry about a physical sim or picking anything up! Here’s a 12 Day E-Sim. (around £9.50 for 12 days)

Prepaid Sim – This may be the best option if you want a Korean number as well as data. Price changes depending on the length you want the sim. Find a sim card on Klook here! (around £15 for 10 days) Pick up at the airport.

Portable Wifi – A great option if you want to connect with multiple devices. These are usually the more expensive option but so handy! Find a portable Wifi on Klook here! (around £20 for 10 days) Pick up at the airport.

We also recommend carrying a portable charger for your phone so you always have enough battery to last a full day! We recommend this one – Anker Power Bank.

5. Try some of the best Korean Skincare

Korean Beauty is popular all over the beauty world – with Korean skincare and Korean makeup designed to give you flawless and glowing skin. Myeongdong in Seoul is definitely the area to hunt for Korean beauty products and even get a makeover done! It’s also more common to get plastic surgery in South Korea as appearance is really important to Koreans.

South Korea Travel Tips - Korean Beauty
South Korea Travel Tips – Korean Beauty
Korean Beauty & Skincare
Korean Beauty & Skincare in Hongdae

6. Best time to visit South Korea

The best time to visit South Korea is Spring (April to June) or Autumn (September to November)! In these months the weather is usually at its best with sunny days and comfortable temperatures.

It’s totally possible to visit South Korea any time of year – the winter is a magical time of year to visit with snow covering the mountains and cities. Summer is rain and typhoon season, so it’s not really the best time of year to visit due to the unpredictable climate.

7. Learn some Korean phrases

Another one of our South Korea travel tips is how handy it will be to learn some Korean phrases before visiting South Korea. Learning basic phrases should be done when travelling to any country around the world. Here are a few we think you should memorize:

  • Hello – ahn-nyong-ha-se-yo
  • Thank you – gahm-sah-hahm-ni-da
  • Yes – neh or deh
  • No – ah-nee-oh
  • Please – jwe-song-ha-ji-mahn
  • Excuse me – sil-le-hahm-ni-da
  • Good-bye – ahn-nyong-hee ga-se-yo

The best way to start learning some Korean phrases is to watch YouTube videos or use apps such as Lingodeer, Duolingo or Memrise. It’s very helpful when travelling in Seoul and around the country.

Learn some Korean phrases - best things to know before visiting South Korea
Learn some Korean phrases – best things to know before visiting South Korea

8. Book trains tickets in advance

If you’re planning on taking any trains or buses on a weekend, then a South Korea travel tip for you is to book your train tickets in advance! Trains in South Korea can often sell out if you leave them till the day. Make your reservations at least 1-2 weeks in advance to secure them on the Korail website!

You can only book buses in advance if you have a Korean phone number – however, you can book them a couple of days in advance when arriving at the station. Get your train tickets here – Korail tickets! and here’s a link to check bus times!

9. Spend the most time in Seoul

We don’t want these South Korea travel tips to be too obvious but – you will fall in love with Seoul! It’s the capital city of South Korea surrounded by beautiful mountains and there’s so much to do in the city including many neighbourhoods to explore! Check out our 5 Day Seoul Itinerary travel guide here!

10. Get a T-Money Card

The best way to get around cities and towns in South Korea is by public transport! One of the first things to do when you arrive in South Korea (which is probably going to be Seoul) is to purchase a T-Money Card.

T-Money Cards are transport cards that you top up with cash-only and you just swipe the card when entering transport. It’s the easiest way to use public transport as you don’t have to worry about buying a ticket every time you want to travel. You can purchase these cards at convenience stores or vending machines at main points of travel (such as the airport).

Get a T-Money Card in South Korea: Travel Tips
Get a T-Money Card in South Korea: Travel Tips
What to know before visiting South Korea
What to know before visiting South Korea

11. Always carry cash (Korean Won ₩)

This leads us to one of the next South Korea travel tips – carry cash everywhere you go in South Korea! To top up your T-Money card you have to use cash even in convenience stores to add to the card. Cash is also used for buying Korean street food and is often preferred in restaurants! We even had two accommodations asking for cash-only which was a panic rush to a cash machine!

12. Get Papago (or use GoogleTranslate)

Papago is an app for translating the Korean language into your own. It also helps with translating your own language to Korean when speaking with any Koreans. Papago was recommended to us by travellers we met in South Korea, however, Google Translate actually worked perfectly for us! We even used it to have conversations with Koreans – which was so fun!

One of our South Korea trips is to use the Google Translate app to scan your food in grocery stores, the app picks up the Hangul characters. There are a few ingredients we don’t eat, so it was very helpful to read the ingredients on food packets just like it was in English!

13. No need to tip

Another one of the things to know before visiting South Korea is that you won’t have to tip! There’s no tipping culture in South Korea as service should be the best at all times. It’s a very useful tip to know when visiting South Korea!

14. Prepare for the season

South Korea has four seasons and it’s definitely good to be prepared for the season at any time of year.

  • Winter(December – February) – Wrap up warm and be prepared for snow!
  • Spring(March – May) – One of the best times to visit, it may still be cold & it’s a busy time of year!
  • Summer(June – August) – Be prepared for hot & humid weather with heavy rains!
  • Fall(September – November) – Another popular time to visit, fall starts to get a little chilly!
25+ South Korea Travel Tips
25+ South Korea Travel Tips

15. South Korea is safe

South Korea is one of the safest countries in the world! We’ve heard that some Koreans leave their phone on the table to keep their spot when buying a coffee – we’re not sure if that’s true, but it’s honestly believable! South Korea has a low crime rate and strong security measures in the country.

It’s important to note – whenever travelling, always be cautious of your surroundings and stay safe.

16. South Korea Travel Costs

From our experience, prices in South Korea are pretty good if you’re travelling on a budget as long as you know it’s not as inexpensive as South East Asian countries. However, South Korea is less expensive than Japan and the UK. We’re in the process of creating a full breakdown of our costs in South Korea, for now here’s what you can expect for 2 weeks of travel in South Korea per person.

Accommodation – £33 / ₩52,000 per night (private room, can be shared between two people)

Food – around £20 / ₩300,00 a day with a mix of restaurant and convince store meals

Transport – around £95 / ₩150,000 for 2 weeks of travel

Activities – around £10 / ₩15,000 a day

How can you save extra money? Choose restaurants that aren’t so expensive, shop at convenience stores more often, stay in private rooms in hostels and take buses instead of trains.

17. Couples culture is a thing

When walking around South Korea you’ll notice that couples often wear matching clothes or shoes and it’s the cutest thing. Korean couples love doing things together and if you visit one of South Korea’s many theme parks you’ll definitely notice a lot of matching outfits (including friend groups!)

Seoul - photo taken using a Joby Tripod
Seoul – photo taken using a Joby Tripod
Seoul - photo taken using a Joby Tripod
Seoul – photo taken using a Joby Tripod

We use a Joby GorillaPod 3K Pro Kit to take photos of us together on our camera, it’s so useful especially when there’s no one around! There’s also a version for a phone – Joby Phone Tripod to get the best photos on your South Korea trip!

18. The tap water is safe to drink

Another one of the things to know before visiting South Korea is that tap water is safe to drink! Most Koreans will often boil the water before drinking it but the water is completely safe. Bring a reusable water bottle to always have water on the go without buying plastic!

Switch to sustainable travel products before visiting South Korea! Here's our  18 Great Eco Friendly Travel Products You Need to Swap guide!

19. Watch a Korean Drama before you visit

K-dramas are a big deal in South Korea and many people outside of the country love them too! Filming locations are very popular sights to see around South Korea! If you’ve never seen a K-drama before, here’s a list of some of the most popular shows:

  • Mr. Queen (2020-2021)
  • The World of the Married (2020)
  • Sky Castle (2018-2019)
  • Reply 1988 (2015-2016)
  • Crash Landing on You (2019-2020)

20. You have to try Korean food

Korean cuisine is amazing! (even for vegetarians!) Hopefully one of the reasons you’re visiting South Korea is to try the food but even if it isn’t – you will love the experience! Korean food is warming, tasty and unique all at the same time. Here’s few dishes to try on your visit to South Korea:

  • Tteokbokki (Rice cakes in a spicy sauce)
  • Kimchi (Spicy fermented cabbage)
  • Gun Goguma (Roasted sweet potatoes)
  • Mandu (Korean dumplings)
  • Bibimbap (Rice bowl with toppings)
  • Gamja-Hotdog (Korean-style corn dog covered with potato)
  • Dakgangjeong (Korean fried chicken with a sweet spicy coating – There’s vegan options too!)
  • Soju (like Korean wine)
Korean Cuisine - Best things to know before visiting South Korea
Korean Cuisine – Best things to know before visiting South Korea
Exploring Seoul - South Korea Travel Tips
Exploring Seoul – South Korea Travel Tips

21. Trains are fast, but buses are amazing!

Another one of our South Korea travel tips is that although trains are fast, they aren’t the only way to get around the country. Express and intercity buses are underrated in South Korea and they’re so comfortable.

Buses are usually half the price of trains and they do take a little longer to get to the destination – but South Korea is a small country so it’s really not too long! Find tickets here – Express & Intercity Kobus tickets!

22. The country has so much to offer

There isn’t enough time you can give yourself on a trip to South Korea. We spent 2 amazing weeks exploring the country and wanted to stay longer! If your first trip is a few days in Seoul – that’s the best introduction to the country and we’re sure you’ll be planning another trip straight away.

Seoul / Jeju Island / Gyeongju / Seoraksan National Park / Gunsan / Golgulsa Temple / Gwangju / Suwon / Hwaseong / Busan / Chuncheon / Andong / Jeonju / Boseong – Check out our Ultimate 2 week South Korea Itinerary: Best Places (2024) to plan your trip!

South Korea travel tips for travelling in South Korea
South Korea travel tips for travelling in South Korea

23. Eat at convenience stores

Convenience stores are everywhere in South Korea with more than 40,000 stores in the country. They’re helpful for everyday items but most importantly they’re great for food. Whether you’re on a budget or not, eating meals from convenience stores has to be done on your trip.

Try a ramyeon or rice snack from CU, 7/11 or GS25!

24. Korea is fashionable

As we’ve mentioned in this South Korea travel tips – Koreans take pride in their appearance! This means South Korea has amazing fashion taste. The country has maintained a unique and individual style of fashion and it’s usually quite contemporary. Unfortunately, our backpacker clothes didn’t really look the part in South Korea and we felt like getting a new wardrobe!

25. Try to learn Hangul (Korea’s Alphabet)

South Korea’s alphabet is surprisingly easy to learn compared to other surrounding countries. Hangul is made up of 24 characters and although it looks difficult to learn at first, it’s actually quite logical and makes sense.

Learning Hangul will be so helpful for menus, shops and transport in South Korea although there are also English signs in cities! Here are a few apps to help you learn: Lingodeer, Duolingo or Memrise.

Travel tips for South Korea - Busan, Haeundae
Travel tips for South Korea – Busan, Haeundae
Busan - Gamcheon Village
Busan – Gamcheon Village

26. Understand Korean Culture

When visiting a country it’s always polite to follow the etiquette being used and to respect the culture. Here are a few things to know before visiting South Korea! (not all of these are used by every Korean!)

  • When accepting or offering money use both hands.
  • Remove your hat when indoors
  • Remove shoes when entering a home or accommodation
  • Respect anyone whose older than yourself
  • Respect anywhere that’s quiet (such as subways or quiet outdoor spaces)

27. Look into going on a hike

South Korea is amazing for nature! The country is made up of beautiful greenery and mountains and it’s even possible to go hiking in the capital city – Seoul! If you’re not into hiking, you do the short walk up to Seoul Tower in Namsan Park.

  • Ulsanbawi Trail (Seoraksan National Park)
  • Biryong Falls (Seoraksan National Park)
  • Bukhansan (Seoul)
  • Jirisan (near Gurye / South part of South Korea)
  • Hallasan (Jeju Island)
Hiking in South Korea - Travel Tips
Hiking in South Korea – Travel Tips
What to know before visiting South Korea
What to know before visiting South Korea

That concludes our 25+ best things to know before visiting South Korea and top South Korea travel tips! We hope that these will help you on your future trip to South Korea! Check out our other South Korea travel guides to plan the most amazing trip.

What to pack for South Korea?

As you know, from this South Korea travel tips guide – there are four seasons in South Korea! Make sure you’re prepared and have the correct type of clothes when visiting the country. Always have a decent pair of footwear with you for lots of walking! Here are a few travel essentials we always carry:

Here’s 10 travel essentials for women travelling in South Korea and anywhere around the world!

25+ Best South Korea Travel Tips: What to Know Before Visiting South Korea
25+ Best South Korea Travel Tips: What to Know Before Visiting South Korea

Quick South Korea travel tips:

Currency – Korean Won (compare to your own currency here)
Language – Korean (한글)
Cuisine – Korean Cuisine (noodles, rice, bbq & kimchi)
Apps – NaverMaps (like GoogleMaps) & Kako Talk (like GoogleTranslate)
Transport Card – T-Money Card (the easiest way to use public transport in South Korea)
Korea Power Voltage – Plugs C & F (220 V)

Best places to stay in South Korea

More South Korea guides:

That’s the end of our 25+ Best South Korea Travel Tips: What to Know Before Visiting South Korea! Have the best trip to South Korea and if you need any more help planning – send us a message on Instagram (@thesunrisedreamers) or leave a comment below!

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