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South Korea vacation travel guide

Why choose South Korea?

If you’re thinking about your next travel destination, South Korea should definitely be on your list.

 

Foodies will love the endless variety of delicious Korean dishes, and nature lovers the beauty of places like the Jeju Island and the Seoraksan National Park. If you’re into history, the stunning palaces in Seoul, like Gyeongbokgung, will take you back in time. And if you’re a fan of pop culture, the K-pop scene and the urban life in cities like Seoul and Busan are super exciting.

 

South Korea’s mix of traditional and modern, its welcoming locals, and well-organized public transport make it an easy and enjoyable place to explore. So, whether you’re looking for adventure, culture, food, or just a new experience, South Korea should definitely be on your travel list!

south korea vacation

Planning your South Korea vacation

• Visa: Visa requirements for South Korea depend on your nationality. Many countries benefit from visa-free entry for short visits (usually up to 90 days). Check if you need a visa or an electronic travel authorization (K-ETA) before your trip.

• Vaccinations: No specific vaccinations are required for South Korea, but it’s recommended to be up-to-date with routine vaccines like influenza, MMR, and tetanus.

• Flight Booking: Check out our flight booking tips to make sure you get the best value for your money.

• Currency: South Korea’s official currency is the South Korean Won (KRW). It’s a good idea to have some local currency on hand for small purchases and places that may not accept credit cards. Major cities and tourist areas will have ATMs where you can withdraw cash.

south korea vacation

Famous festivals in South Korea

• Seoul Lantern Festival: Held annually in November along the Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul, this festival features thousands of colorful lanterns.

• Boryeong Mud Festival: Taking place in July at Daecheon Beach, this festival is famous for its mud baths, mudslides, and mud prison, attracting a fun-loving, international crowd.

• Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival: Celebrated in early April in Jinhae, this is one of the largest cherry blossom festivals, where streets are lined with beautiful cherry trees in full bloom.

• Chuseok: A major traditional holiday in Korea, akin to Thanksgiving, celebrated in September or October. It’s a time for families to gather, share food, and pay respects to ancestors.

• Gwangju Kimchi Festival: Celebrating Korea’s most famous dish, this festival held in Gwangju in October offers kimchi-making sessions, cooking competitions, and cultural performances.

south korea vacation

Can't-miss South Korea attractions

• Everland and Lotte World: South Korea’s largest theme parks, offering many rides, attractions, and entertainment for all ages.

• Gyeongju’s Historical Sites: Often referred to as “the museum without walls”, Gyeongju is home to ancient Silla kingdom relics, Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram Grotto, and the Royal Tumuli Park.

• Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul: This traditional Korean village is nestled in the heart of Seoul, offering a peek into the city’s history with well-preserved Hanok (traditional Korean houses).

• N Seoul Tower: Offering panoramic views of Seoul, this tower is a landmark and a popular spot for both locals and tourists.

• Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul: The largest of the Five Grand Palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty, known for its beautiful architecture and the Changing of the Guard ceremony.

south korea vacation

Our favorite food in South Korea

• Samgyetang: This is a nourishing soup made with chicken and ginseng, perfect for cold winters.

• Japchae: A popular dish of stir-fried glass noodles made from sweet potatoes, mixed with vegetables, mushrooms, and beef.

• Seolleongtang: A traditional beef soup made by simmering ox bones for several hours, resulting in a milky-white, rich broth, usually enjoyed with rice and side dishes like kimchi.

• Gimbap: Similar to sushi rolls but with distinct Korean flavors, these seaweed-wrapped rolls are filled with ingredients like rice, vegetables, and sometimes meat or fish. They’re perfect for a light meal or snack.

• Bibimbap: A mixed rice bowl with vegetables, a spicy chili paste, and typically topped with a fried egg.

south korea food

Cultural experiences in South Korea

• Hanbok Wearing Experience: Wearing a Hanbok, the traditional Korean dress, often available for rental near major palaces and cultural sites. It’s a popular activity for visitors, and wearing a hanbok often grants free entry to palaces.

• Attending Cultural Performances: Watching traditional performances such as Pansori (Korean opera), Samul nori (percussion music), or a performance at the National Theater of Korea.

• Visiting a Jjimjilbang (Korean Spa): Experiencing a Jjimjilbang, a Korean spa, where you can relax in saunas, steam rooms, and communal baths.

• Witnessing the DMZ: The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea offers a unique experience, reflecting the country’s divided history and hopes for reunification.

• Visiting Traditional Korean Villages: Places like Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul or Jeonju Hanok Village provide insights into traditional Korean life and architecture.

south-korea-vacation

South Korea customs and etiquette

• Mealtime Etiquette: Avoid sticking your chopsticks upright in your rice, as it’s reminiscent of a traditional ceremony. Slurping noodles is common and indicates enjoyment. Sharing dishes is a norm, so prepare to partake.

• Quiet Public Spaces: Koreans generally maintain a quiet demeanor in public spaces like subways or buses. Keep conversations at a low volume and avoid loud phone calls.

• Transportation Rules: Don’t bring hot drinks onto buses as it’s considered a safety hazard.

• Respect for Elders and Authority: Showing respect to elders and people in authority is deeply ingrained in Korean culture. It’s reflected in language, behavior, and everyday interactions.

• Punctuality: Being on time is important in Korean culture. Whether it’s a business meeting or a social gathering, try to be punctual to show respect for others’ time.

south korea customs

How do I avoid South Korea roaming charges?

Before international travel, you should always make a plan for how you’ll use your phone.

South Korea roaming charges can add up quickly, and you don’t want to get stuck with a huge phone bill after an amazing vacation.

Carrier travel data packages are often expensive, with limited data and a lot of restrictions.

A budget-friendly way to avoid Thailand roaming charges is to download a South Korea eSIM that comes with a prepaid South Korea data package.

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Need data for your South Korea vacation?

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Travel tips for your South Korea vacation

south korea vacation

Experience K-Pop in South Korea

• K-Pop Concerts and Events: Some TV shows like M Countdown (Mnet), Inkigayo (SBS), Music Bank (KBS), Simply K-Pop (Arirang) have live audiences – try to secure a spot for a unique experience.

• K-Pop dance classes: Many dance studios in Seoul offer classes for popular K-Pop dances.

• Explore Gangnam: Visit the COEX Mall in Gangnam, famous for the SMTOWN COEX Artium where you can see K-Pop memorabilia and sometimes spot idols. Walk along the K-Star Road to see sculptures representing famous K-Pop groups.

• Souvenirs and Merchandise: Look for K-Pop merchandise in stores around Myeongdong and Hongdae. Official goods can be found in dedicated stores like the LINE Friends Store in Itaewon.

• K-Pop Themed Cafes and Restaurants: In major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, you can find cafes and restaurants that are themed around popular K-Pop groups.

south korea vacation

South Korea phrases that will come in handy

Try to learn a few basic phrases, as this is appreciated by locals and can enhance your travel experience.

Hello: “안녕하세요” (An-nyeong-ha-se-yo)

• Thank you: “감사합니다” (Gam-sa-ham-ni-da)

• Yes: “네” (Ne); No: “아니요” (A-ni-yo)

• Please: “제발” (Jebal)

• Excuse me/I’m sorry: “죄송합니다” (Jwe-song-ham-ni-da)

• I don’t understand: “이해하지 못해요” (I-hae-ha-ji mot-hae-yo)

• Do you speak English?: “영어 할 수 있어요?” (Yeong-eo hal su iss-eo-yo?)

• How much is this?: “이거 얼마예요?” (I-geo eol-ma-ye-yo?)

• Where is the bathroom?: “화장실 어디예요?” (Hwa-jang-sil eo-di-ye-yo?)

• Goodbye: “안녕히 가세요” (When someone is leaving) / “안녕히 계세요” (When you are leaving) (An-nyeong-hi ga-se-yo / An-nyeong-hi gye-se-yo)

south korea vacation

Top cities to visit in South Korea

• Seoul: Visit the Bukchon Hanok Village for traditional Korean houses. Check out the districts of Gangnam, Hongdae, and Itaewon for shopping, dining, and nightlife.

• Busan: Visit the Gamcheon Culture Village. Explore the Jagalchi Fish Market for fresh seafood and local treats.

• Gyeongju: Explore the Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram Grotto, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Visit the Tumuli Park to see the royal tombs and the remains of the ancient Silla Kingdom.

• Incheon: Explore Incheon’s Chinatown and the nearby Fairytale Village. Take a ferry to nearby islands such as Muuido for a quick beach getaway.

• Daegu: Explore the modern shopping districts and busy markets like Seomun Market. Visit Palgongsan Mountain for hiking and the beautiful Donghwasa Temple.

south korea vacation

Go on a South Korea shopping spree!

• Look for Unique Korean Products: Such as traditional Hanbok clothing, Korean tea, K-beauty products, local crafts, and Korean snacks which make great souvenirs.

• Know Where to Shop: For trendy fashion and beauty products, head to districts like Myeongdong, Hongdae, and Gangnam in Seoul. Dongdaemun is famous for its night-time shopping and wholesale fashion markets.

• Look for Vintage and Second-Hand Stores: Areas like Hongdae and Itaewon have stores selling vintage and second-hand clothing and accessories, offering a chance to find unique, retro, and sometimes designer items at lower prices.

• Check Store Timings: Some markets and shopping areas like Dongdaemun are open late into the night, offering a unique night shopping experience.

• Shop at Themed Cafes: South Korea is famous for its unique themed cafes (like cat, dog, or even sheep cafes). Many of these cafes have small shops where you can buy themed merchandise or local artisan products.

Plan the perfect South Korea vacation

  • South Korea in January

    January in South Korea is cold and dry, often below freezing. Snow is common, especially in the northern regions. Average temperatures range from -6 to 3°C (21-37°F).

  • South Korea in February

    February is still quite cold with temperatures often below freezing, but with less snow than January. The weather starts to get slightly milder towards the end of the month. Averages from -4 to 5°C (25-41°F).

  • South Korea in March

    March marks the beginning of spring. Temperatures start to rise, but there can still be some cold days. Cherry blossoms start to bloom towards the end of the month.

  • South Korea in April

    April is perfect for outdoor activities. Cherry blossoms are in full bloom early in the month. Average temperatures are between 7 to 18°C (45-64°F).

  • South Korea in May

    May is warm and sunny, with occasional rain. The weather is generally comfortable, making it a great time to explore. Temperatures range from 11 to 22°C (52-72°F).

  • South Korea in June

    June marks the start of the monsoon season, bringing humid weather and frequent rain. Temperatures are warm but can feel hotter due to the humidity.

  • South Korea in July

    July is the peak of the monsoon season. Expect hot, humid, and rainy conditions. It’s the wettest month of the year.

  • South Korea in August

    Similar to July, with high humidity and temperatures. The rain starts to lessen towards the end of the month. Temperatures vary from 20 to 30°C (68-86°F).

  • South Korea in September

    September sees the end of the monsoon season. The weather begins to cool down, and there’s less rain, with average temperatures ranging from 15 to 26°C (59-79°F). It’s a pleasant time to visit, with comfortable weather for sightseeing and enjoying the last bits of summer.

  • South Korea in October

    October is cool and dry with clear skies, marking the start of fall. The fall foliage is at its peak, offering stunning views. Average temperatures are between 8 to 19°C (46-66°F). It’s a great month for hiking and outdoor activities.

  • South Korea in November

    With the approach of winter, November brings colder temperatures, typically ranging from 2 to 13°C (36-55°F). It’s generally dry, but it starts to get quite chilly, especially towards the end of the month.

  • South Korea in December

    December is cold and dry, with temperatures often below freezing. Averages range from -3 to 4°C (27-39°F). Snowfall is common, especially towards the end of the month.

How do I use my phone in South Korea?

Affordable eSIM data

Choose a data package

Start by deciding how much data you’ll need. Then choose a prepaid data package for your South Korea vacation. If you need more, it’s easy to buy more South Korea data.

Convenient eSIM data

Install your eSIM

An eSIM is a downloadable SIM card, so you’ll install your eSIM on your phone or tablet. It takes less than two minutes, and then you will have a South Korea eSIM on your phone.

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Activate your package

When you’re ready to start using your South Korea eSIM you’ll activate your data package and make sure your device knows to use your South Korea eSIM for all mobile data.

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