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Visiting South Korea | A Brief Guide

South Korea is a blend of contemporary and traditional values. Regardless of this mix, there are some shared cultural expectations to be aware of while visiting. For the most enjoyable and stress-free trip, here is everything you need to keep in mind while visiting South Korea.

The Do’s while Traveling in South Korea

  • Do take your shoes off before going inside someone’s home. This rule applies to some restaurants and establishments.
  • Do give up your seat for the elderly. There is a great deal of Confucian influence in South Korea, so respect for the elderly is important. On subways and public transportation, seats are labeled as “priority,” indicating they are reserved for the elderly.
  • Do recycle. Recycling is an expected part society. Toss your waste in the correct bins when you are in public.
  • Do note that some public toilets are unisex.
  • Do take advantage of the WIFI; there are no data limits.
  • Do receive and offer a gift using both hands.
  • Do slurp your noodles as a sign of appreciation.
  • Do avoid being loud in public. Koreans place importance on “saving face” or keeping a civil reputation by avoiding confrontation.
  • Do slightly bow to be polite when meeting someone.
  • Do keep in mind that tipping is seen as an act of arrogance.
  • Do wear pants instead of shorts. Both sexes are expected to dress modestly.
  • Do take off your shoes in establishments, sacred sites, and homes.
  • Do be loud in restaurants. Yelling is common, especially to get a server’s attention.
  • Do use Korean chopsticks or a spoon. Forks are seen as a violent way to eat.
  • Do feel free to bargain. Sellers like to upcharge, so barter until you reach a price that feels acceptable.

What Not to Do while in South Korea

  • Do not blow your nose in public.
  • Do not open a gift in front of the person who gave it to you.
  • Do not start eating a family meal before the oldest person has sat down.
  • Do not serve yourself alcohol. Let a server or guest help you.
  • Do not ask for help in English. Koreans feel that asking for help in English is rude.
  • Do not drink alcohol or to eat on the subway.
  • Do not wear any tops or shirts that expose your shoulders or back.
  • Do not kiss or show public displays of affection.

Languages Spoken in South Korea

The official language of South Korea is Seoul, which contains five dialects. Other languages spoken in the country are English, Chinese, Russian, and Japanese. English is the most popular second language spoken by over 80% of the people.

The Currency of South Korea

The Korean won (KRW) is the official currency of South Korea. 1 Korean won is equal to 0.00086 USD.

Hotels and Travel Times

The best time to travel is between March and May, and from September to November. The weather stays within the mid-70s during these periods, and it is cheaper to travel. The high season is between January and December. You can find the cheapest flights out of the year in April. The average hotel price for a couple in Seoul is $102. You can even find double rooms in Seoul for as low as $10 per night. The average cost for a double room, however, is around $100. 

The Weather in South Korea

South Korea’s weather is impacted by the Asian monsoon seasons. Warm and moist air cover the region in the summer, and cold air masses flow into the atmosphere during the winter. The dry season is in the winter, and the rainiest season is the summer. Typhoons may also occur in the summer and the start of fall. Spring and fall offer the mildest, most temperate weather conditions. Winter is frigid because of the winds that come in from Siberia.

The Elevation of South Korea

The highest peak rests at 6,398 feet above sea level, near the now extinct, Mount Halla, volcano. The average elevation in South Korea is 925 feet.

Transportation and Traffic in South Korea

Public transportation is efficient in South Korea with an extensive system of railways, buses, railways, and air routes that cross the nation. South Korea also utilizes a commercial maglev train, which is only used in two other countries. There are a total of nine subway lines in Seoul and trains come in every five minutes. Bikes are another way to beat the hectic weekday traffic. Choose only licensed taxis for transportations. The best way to travel in South Korea is by train, so purchase a train pass so you can get from place to place.

Illegal Acts in South Korea

  • The making, selling, and consumption of pornography.
  • Getting a tattoo
  • Smoking in public
  • Government lobbying
  • See-through tops
  • Street vending
  • Teaching night classes
  • Adultery

Things to Take with You

If you are a US citizen, you do not need a visa if you plan on staying in South Korea for less than 90 days. However, the K-ETA will be needed for entry. You do, however, need a valid passport to enter. You should also bring a dust mask with you as South Korea periodically endures high dust levels.

Areas to Avoid

The area located between the South and North Korean border is extremely dangerous and should always be avoided. Most murders occur in Gangseo District and Yeongdeungpo District, so stay out of these areas as well.

Korean Culture Basics

Confucian principles influence Korean culture. Group harmony, elderly respect, and the value of family are essential elements. The food in South Korean cuisine relies on staples like rice, seafood, and vegetables for most of their meals. Some popular dishes include Bulgogi, Korean stew, and Korean fried chicken. The national dish of South Korea is kimchi, which is a fermented vegetable product that aids in digestive health. Kimchi is available at almost every meal.

From wild cherry trees to a reverse-Mediterranean climate, South Korea is an intriguing destination for travelers looking for a unique place to explore. Follow the tips in this article to plan your trip and enjoy your visit!

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