PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO SOUTH KOREA [ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW]

Seoul 5 Grand Palaces

Planning a trip to South Korea? Wondering where to start? What to visit?

With its many places to see, delicious food, and unique atmosphere, South Korea is a great country to discover and explore.

We lived in South Korea for 3 years and explored this country restlessly and discovered places not well known to tourists. We wrote over 100 posts about Korea, you can check them all out here.

If you have chosen to go on a trip to South Korea, you must be super excited to discover the country of K-Pop, K-Drama, Kimchi, Soju and so much more!

However, organizing this trip may seem complicated if you’ve never been to South Korea. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you plan a trip to South Korea!

Enjoy your travel to South Korea!

READ: 99 Best things to Visit in South Korea

FULL GUIDE TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR TRIP TO KOREA


Key Takeaways

Best Time to Visit: South Korea experiences four distinct seasons, each offering unique attractions.
Visa Requirements: Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months check if you are eligible for visa-free entry.
Currency and Payments: The South Korean currency is the Won (KRW). While credit cards are widely accepted in cities and tourist areas, it’s advisable to carry some cash.
Getting Around: South Korea has an excellent public transportation system. The Korea Rail Pass (KORAIL) is a cost-effective option for visiting the country.
Language Barrier: While English is taught in schools and widely used in tourist areas, not everyone is fluent.
Connectivity: South Korea is one of the most technologically advanced countries, with high-speed internet and excellent mobile connectivity.



HAEDONG YONGGUNGSA TEMPLE

South Korea is a country that is gaining massive popularity due to the recent development of K-Pop such as the band BTS, and K-drama, it’s known for having some of the best food in Asia, and Seoul and Busan are vibrant cities making a big name for themselves.

However, South Korea’s history and culture have shaped the country and left lots of treasures such as palaces, temples (like Jingwansa), and gorgeous villages such as Jeonju.

You will therefore have a wide choice of things to do in South Korea.

Busan 16

In addition, South Korea is a country with superb natural landscapes. Mountains (such as Bukhansan mountain), beaches (for example in Gangneung), rice fields (in Namhae), Green Tea Plantation (in Boseong), or beautiful islands such as Jeju

Finally, this trip to South Korea is also an opportunity to discover Korean cuisine. Check our Namdaemun Market in Seoul, the biggest market in the country as well as Jaglachi Market the largest fish market in Korea located in Busan.


Garden of the Morning Calm

We hope that you are even more excited about your trip to South Korea now that you read the first part of this post.

You must also wonder when should you go to South Korea. To enjoy your trip to the fullest, we recommend traveling during Spring and Fall. These are the seasons when the temperatures are the most pleasant and when rainfall is at the lowest.

In addition, in spring you can admire the cherry blossoms and in autumn you can observe the change of leaves color to majestic red, orange, and yellow colors. Autumn is indeed our favorite season in South Korea.

It is also possible to visit South Korea in summer and winter. You just have to take into account the rather extreme temperature.

Woljeongri in Jeju_04

The summer is very hot and the humidity is higher than the other seasons. In addition, there is a monsoon period (called Jangma / 장마). This rainy season lasts from late June to mid-July in South Korea. n winter the temperatures drop a lot and it can get very cold.

Here you can check out the best activities during Summer in South Korea and the best 25 beaches if you need some refreshment during your trip.

If you travel there in the Winter and you are a winter sports enthusiast, check out the full guide here with the best ski resorts in South Korea.

For a detailed weather report month by month, you can check out our full guide here. Keep this in mind when planning a trip to South Korea.


https://www.flickr.com/photos/192730404@N08/51166324307/in/dateposted/

When planning your trip to South Korea, it is important to decide how long you will be staying. We recommend staying 10 to 15 days to see most of the main sights in Korea.

Since the flights to Korea can be quite expensive, make the most of your trip buy staying longer. If you only stay a week, you will miss many amazing sights in South Korea and will mostly have to focus on Seoul and perhaps Busan. However, as explained previously in this post, there are so many things to see outside the city.

To check the cheapest options for your flights to Korea, click here.

Here is our 10-day itinerary recommendation:

  • Day 1 – 4: Visit Seoul. Here we listed the main things to do in the capital. (3 nights)
  • Day 4 – 5: Gyeongju, a beautiful ancient city in Seoul full of amazing cultural sights. (2 nights)
  • Day 5 – 8: Busan, the second biggest in South Korea. Here is our full guide for visiting Busan (3 nights)
  • Day 8: Boseong Green Tea Plantation. Here is all you need to know about the tea plantation in Korea. (1 night)
  • Day 9: Jeonju Hanok Village, not to be missed if you are in Korea. Our full guide here (1 night)
  • Day 10: Back to Seoul and fly back home

For a 15-day itinerary, we recommend adding Jeju Island for 3 nights (you can easily fly there from Busan or Seoul) and adding more day trips from Seoul, such as the Garden of the Morning Calm or Nami Island.

Alternatively, you can also go on a day trip from Busan to Geoje a gorgeous island in Korea which is usually combined with a trip to the unique Oedo island.

We hope that this itinerary example will help you in planning a trip to South Korea. There are many other things to see in South Korea, check out all our posts about Korea here, or do not hesitate to ask us for more information in the comments section below.


Namhae 11_South Korea

The cost of living is rather high in South Korea. However, it is possible to travel there even on a small budget.

This is for sure going to be one of the biggest expenses for your trip to South Korea unless you are coming from a neighboring country such as Japan or China.

However, here are some tips for paying a little less for your plan ticket:

  • Buy your tickets a few months in advance. Take the time to compare prices by airline. Do not hesitate to use price comparison sites (such as Skyscanner) for this. If your flight makes one or more stopovers, chances are it will be cheaper.
  • Avoid leaving in July and August, as prices go up during this time.
  • Take your flight in the middle of the week rather than the weekend.

So let’s assume that your round trip ticket will cost roughly: 900 USD

BOOK: to find out about the cheapest rate for your flight, click here.


There are several options in South Korea: Guesthouse, Pension, AirBnB, hotel, temple stay, hanok. There is something for everyone. Also, don’t forget to plan ahead to find and book your accommodation!

To make it convenient during your stay in Seoul, we highly recommend that you choose a place in Jongno. Jongno is the district that represents the historic center of Seoul and the Capital of the Joseon dynasty for more than 600 years, it shelters three of the five royal palaces (Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung) as well as the royal residence Unhyeongung.

planning a trip to South Korea

For a unique experience, we recommend staying Bukchon Bonum 1957 Hanok Hotel for a unique experience in a Hanok (Korean traditional wooden house) with a garden.


Namdeamun
NAMDAEMUN MARKET

As we said earlier, Korean food is delicious and also quite inexpensive. So it won’t be your biggest expense during your trip if you get to local places. There are some very affordable little restaurants. Don’t be deceived by the decoration inside the restaurants, it’s all about the food in Korea!

Also, adventure yourself and try out some street food, Korea is famous for that. Check out the local markets of Namdeamun in Seoul and Jagalchi in Busan which are very affordable.

For a simple lunch count 10 USD and a dinner, such as Korean Barbecue count about 20 to 30 USD. If breakfast is included with your hotel, then you won’t have to spend anything extra, otherwise, there are many cafes and bakeries in Korea for a simple breakfast.


Busan 17
BUSAN TRAIN STATION

In South Korea, taking pubic transport is very easy and rather affordable. To visit other cities, unless you rent a car, take the KTX the fast train. There the cost will be slightly higher, but the trains are very efficient and will take you to Busan 2.5 hours. Count double by car. An internal flight to Jeju will also be quite affordable, you can find round trip for 100 USD (check it out here).

From Seoul airport to the city, you can take a bus or metro which are also relatively affordable.

So for transportation, we recommend planning for a budget of 250 USD and if you also add a trip to Jeju, then add at least 100 USD on top (you will also need to consider renting a car in Jeju).


planning a trip to South Korea
CHANGGYEONGGUNG PALACE

Most activities in Korea are fairly cheap. An entrance to a palace will cost less than 5 USD. Many museums are even free. For 10 days plan roughly 100 USD.

Others: Also remember to include travel insurance in your budget. And if you want, you can also add a budget for the internet. I will come back to these two points a little later.


Remember to include travel insurance in your budget. We always recommend World Nomads, one of the best insurance company out there. Check out your quote here. For 10 days in South Korea count approximately 60 USD per person.

Total Budget for 10 days for 1 person:

  • Flight: 1,000 USD
  • Accommodation: 1,800 to 600 USD
  • Food: 400 USD
  • Transport: 250 USD (excl. trip to Jeju)
  • Activities: 100 USD
  • Travel Insurance: 60 USD
  • Others (buffer): 100 USD

Total: 2,510 to 3,710 (the main difference being which kind of hotels you would like to stay in during your trip)


Jeonju_South Korea
JEONJU

These days it is difficult to travel without our phones and without the internet! Here are a few options for you:

If you didn’t know, South Korea has some of the best and fastest internet connections in the world. They were also one of the first countries to roll out the 5G. There are several internet access points that can be found in public places such as cafes, restaurants, shopping malls, tourist sites, and even sometimes on certain streets! Most accommodations will also provide free internet.

Access to these hotspots is free. The only downside is that you won’t necessarily find wifi hotspots everywhere during your trip. It is not indicated if there are WiFi hotspots nearby, so you may end up a bit lost sometimes…

If you want to go for a simpler solution, I advise you to read on!


This is a portable 4G router that allows you to access the internet at all times. The box can be purchased directly at Incheon Airport and you can also reserve it in advance online for even cheaper. Book it here. Pocket wifi is also very interesting if you are traveling with several people because you can share the connection and therefore divide the costs!


Another option for accessing the Internet is the prepaid SIM card. By taking a SIM card, you will have access to internet and you can also make calls and send text messages locally. There are only limited places to buy SIM cards for foreigners, hence buy it directly at Incheon Airport after landing.

The SIM card also allows you to make calls and send text messages locally. It also gives you the right to a Korean number.


planning a trip to South Korea
SEOUL

Credit Card: You can pay by credit card (with a Visa, MasterCard…) almost anywhere in South Korea. Depending on your bank card options, it is possible that with each payment you will have a commission fee. Also check with your bank before leaving, to ensure that your card allows payment abroad. Sometimes you need to activate it for payment outside of your country.

Cash: You can easily pay cash with won during your trip. I recommend that you always have a minimum amount of cash with you. This may help you in a few situations. For example, when you want to eat street food or in traditional markets.


Withdrawing cash: A first option for obtaining won is simply to withdraw money from ATM. However, just be aware that many foreigners have trouble with their cars when taking money out of an ATM in Korea… You can find ATMs pretty much everywhere. We mostly used KEB HANA Bank which is the most internal bank with English translation when taking cash. Never had any issues with them…

Change currencies: It is also possible to exchange your currency directly for won at banks (open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) or at exchange offices. There aren’t many currency exchange office in Korea, in Seoul there are a few in Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, Insadong or Itaewon. Exchange rates are usually better than the airport.


Best parks in Seoul
NAMSAN PARK

The official language of South Korea is Korean. They use a writing system called “hangeul”. During your trip to South Korea, you will surely find people who speak English, especially among young people, however, expect to be lost in translation many times… Well, it’s part of the fun!


The voltage is 220V and the frequency is 60Hz. If you live in Europe, the power outlets are compatible with South Korea. You won’t need to buy an adapter. For the US, an adaptor will be needed.


Although the transport network is well-developed in South Korea, it is possible during your stay that you will consider renting a car (for example if you are visiting Jeju Island). An international driving license will then be required.


In most places, it is not common to tip in South Korea.


We recommend that you watch the movie “Ode to My Father”, which portrays the modern history of South Korea very well. We also loved the drama Mr. Sunshine, available on Netflix.

And most recently Parasites won many prizes. We love that movie!

READ: 20 MOVIES THAT WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO TRAVEL TO ASIA


Jeju Olle Gil Trail 12
JEJU ISLAND

With these tips for your trip to South Korea, you should be well-prepared with the essentials before you go! If you would like to know more about what to see in Korea, we recommend that you continue reading our travel diary in Korea here.

Finally, if you need more information or have any additional questions about planning a trip to South Korea, feel free to comment on this post! We will be happy to answer.

Enjoy your trip to this great country!


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4 Comments

  1. Hi
    We are a couple from Israel, planning a trip to Korea in April 2023 for around two weeks.
    I wonder if you can assist in planning the full trip for us including accommodation, internal flights and local guides in the different locations.
    Kind Regards,
    Sigal

    1. Hi guys, great that you are planning a trip to Korea soon. We do not offer such services, but you search for travel agencies in Korea. Most would be able to customize a great trip for you! 🙂

  2. Hi Hammer and Guillaume, I am following your 10 days itneritary for my trip in Oct this year. Can I check your recommended trip to Gyeongju, was it only 1 night or 2 nights? cos day 4-5 should be 1 night only. Is 1 night enough to see all major attractions there? What your recommended way to see the major attractions there? By cycling, day tour etc? Thanks!