The lure of kimchi, ancient yet ultra-modern cities and unspoiled mountains have beckoned me to South Korea. This country has a vast history, which has not only shaped its culture but also left scars. Make it a priority to plan your own journey in South Korea before this relatively undiscovered gem takes its rightful place at the top of travellers’ must-visit lists. here is what you need to know before you go.
PACK: Korea has four distinct seasons. With ice cold winters and sweaty summers, the sweet spot is considered to be spring and autumn (Try Uniqlo’s heattech range in winter). Parts of Korea are still rather conservative so be sure to bring along more modest clothing that covers your shoulders for visits to temples and other historical sites. Feel free to leave your heels at home as Korea is best seen out of the city, and trainers are bang on trend.
SLEEP: Korea has plenty of accommodation options, from hostels to hotels, it also has more traditional guest houses called pensions, and if in doubt there is always the jimjilbang (traditional Korean bathhouse). Expect clean and comfortable accommodation in all price ranges and exceptional hospitality.
EAT: Korean food is delightful, just be prepared to see a few peculiar culinary specialities. First and foremost as Korea’s national dish, it is an imperative, not an option that you try the kimchi. The colourful Bibimbap is also a must try, especially for those who are more vegetable inclined.
I also recommend getting your hands on some street food, to try the Pajeon (Korean Savory Pancake), Eomuk (Fish cakes), Mando (Dumpling usually filled with pork) and my absolute favourite Hotteok (A sweet pancake usually filled with cinnamon, brown sugar and a few seeds).
EXPLORE: I truly believe there is something for everyone in South Korea. Whether you’re hoping to get lost in the cosmopolitan metropolis of Seoul, want to climb the ancient and enigmatic mountains, enjoy the summer heat at Haeundae beach, or even indulge in some island hopping, with a choice of over 3000 Korean Islands. Korea is an eclectic mix of old and new, with an extensive array of activities particularly for the nature lovers.
SHOP: Everything is cute in Korea. Splash out on famed K-beauty products, or slip into an underground station to enjoy the humorous slogan t-shirts. For souvenirs, perhaps the distinct Korean red pepper spice, or signature metal chopsticks.
TRANSPORT: The public transport in Korea is great. Getting from city to city, and rural areas are incredibly easy, with many options for trains and buses. The KTX is the go-to option if you’re in a hurry, but there are also slower and more cost effective trains, for those who want to take their sweet time. Buses are also a convenient way to get around and are usually very cheap. Check out KoRail and Kobus and start planning and booking your journeys. Also, don’t forget to pick up a T-Money card for the bus and Underground, you can buy these from most convenience stores and also top them up.