South Korea Travel Guide: Planning a Trip to the Land of the Morning Calm
It’s Easy to Fall in Love with South Korea
In the modern capital of Seoul there are dazzling night markets, quirky dog cafes, unique boutiques and galleries, and darling cafes with impossibly adorable latte art. There always seems to be a festival or event taking place throughout the year.
The locals work hard and play hard. When you stroll down the neon-lined streets in the evenings, you’ll see them taking shots of rice wine and grilling tender meat at Korean barbecue restaurants.
When you want a break from city life, you can take a sleek, fast train out to the countryside and hike through forested mountains, ski down a snowy slope or find a moment of calm in a historic temple.
There’s so much to enjoy when you visit Korea. Keep reading for some important things you need to know before you go.
Do I Need a Visa to Go to South Korea?
Citizens of most countries will not need visas when visiting South Korea and will receive a visa on arrival that lasts between 30 and 90 days. When you enter the country, you will need to have a valid passport with at least one page available for your entry stamp.
Citizens of Canada are allowed entry for 180 days without a visa and citizens of the United States can visit Korea visa-free for 90 days. Citizens of the European Union can also get into Korea for 90 days without a visa.
If you are not from any of these countries, please reference the specific requirements of your country for travel to South Korea.
Where to Fly Into
Where should you book your flight into when you head to Korea? The main airport for Korea is Incheon International Airport in Seoul, so this is where most flights to Korea will enter. Make sure to book your flight as early as possible so you can get the best deal.
(Gimpo Airport is the other airport in Seoul, but it is mainly used for domestic flights and international flights from Japan.)
What’s the Best Time to Go to Korea?
My advice would be to visit Korea in the spring or the autumn. If you visit during the early spring you can enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms, while in the autumn you can see stunning foliage.
I would recommend avoiding Korea in July and August, when the weather can be extremely hot a humid. If you do visit during this time of year, you’ll want to bring lots of sunblock and take plenty of breaks in the lovely cafes to stay hydrated with iced green tea.
Visiting in the winter can be beautiful as well, but quite cold! If you don’t mind bundling up against the chill, you’ll enjoy cheaper rates on hotels and flights.
Important Tips for Your Visit
What other things should you know before traveling to South Korea?
- I’d recommend getting a local SIM card so you can stay connected during your travels. This will allow you to use internet while you are making your way around Korea, which is really handy for Google Maps, Google Translate and a range of different travel-friendly apps. (However, be aware that Google Maps isn’t always accurate due to Google having limited information from Korea to update the maps with.)
- You can use your credit card in most places, but smaller businesses might prefer cash. If you need an ATM, the nearest convenience store will likely have one.
- Speaking of convenience stores, they are a great place to eat when you are traveling on a budget. There are a lot of delicious, affordable take-away meals in the 7/11, including noodles and sushi.
- Don’t be afraid to use the subway system in Seoul! It’s one of the best in the world and it’s really quick and easy to use.
- If you want to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city, there are many fantastic hiking trails you can visit. Many of the popular trails just outside of the major metropolises are reachable by public transport and have clearly marked trails to follow.
- Airbnb is active in Korea and it can be a great way to find an affordable place to stay. Other options are hotels, hostels and local guesthouses. Plan out which attractions in Korea you want to visit beforehand so you can book a place that is close by.
My final tip? Don’t over-plan every moment of your trip and take some time just to walk down the street and observe the little details. From street-side fried eel stalls to billboards advertising plastic surgery, it’s a strange and fascinating place.