Country: South Korea
Currency: Won (KRW)
Peak Season: January-April
Shoulder Season: January-April
Median Temperature: 11.50 C / 52.7 F
Main Languages: Korean, English
Primary Modes of Transportation: Subway, KTX bullet train, regular bus, tour bus, taxi
Recommended Duration of Stay: 7 days
Recommended Pocket Money: $150.00/day
Tourist Passes: Seoul Travel Card, T-money
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If there were to be one word to sum up the entirety of Seoul, South Korea, it would be no other than “awesome.” And while awesome is subject to arbitration, we can attest that huge proportion of tourists who have been there have enjoyed the experience: friendly locals, quirky-yet-delectable Korean cuisine, a wide range of product varieties, state-of-the-art technology, amazing cultural shows, and just being in the second largest wholly and urbanely modernized city, after Tokyo.

You’ll also come to know that almost all South Koreans sport a welcoming smile to tourists, since a lot of them also emigrate in search of better opportunities abroad; the locals return the hospitality to expatriates and tourists. They’re really all hard-working individuals and are quite the masters of their craft and architecture. More recently, the world has experienced a surge in demand for Korean electronics, cars, and patents. Korean cinema and music have both taken over Asia and the United States by storm with a barrage of soap operas, romantic films, and more recently, K-pop (Korean pop music).

As of 2010, there are roughly 10.2 million people living in Seoul, making it one of the most populated (and conversely, largest) cities in the world. South Korea is home to 25 districts (hyphenated with” –gu”), each having its distinct niche and idiosyncrasies.

Packing List

  • Fashionable-yet-conservative apparel to counter the heat/cold; pack clothes to match sandals and breathable shoes, forget about heels—chic fashion is emphatic on bright colors, far from Italian fashion
  • Plenty of converted currency and credit cards for those surprise expenses; eating out with Seoulites either mean you’re getting treated or worse, paying for the entire bunch, so come prepared
  • Essential medication and toiletries; deodorants, tampons and western medicine are rarities in Seoul, and if even sold, come at high prices—everything else is sold in small convenience stores
  • A decent camera, zoom lenses, film/memory and batteries; gadgets are strongly recommended to get along with the younger population; most areas have free and impressively fast WiFi
  • A map (a subway map to be specific), GPS device, language books and translation devices (if you have any); pen and paper is very useful in directions of landmarks and jotting down unintelligible letters

Things to Do

  • Visiting the harmonious palaces of Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, and Deoksugung—three of South Korea’s most popular royal residences all conveniently located in the north.
  • Watching a sultry presentation of synchronized cooking antics ala musical performed with comedic touches at the Nanta Theater; the presentation lasts for an hour and thirty minutes
  • Hiking on many transcendent spots like Bukhansan, Baekundae, Suraksan, Inwangsan, Gwanaksan and Namhansanseong; the weather isn’t harsh and won’t exhaust even novice hikers
  • Partaking USO Panmunjom tour to a get a clear idea about the tension between North and South Korea; the area is a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)—be it known that US weapons are toys compared to Korean firearms
  • Partying and dining at Hongdae, Cheongdamdong, Gangnam, or Itaewon, each exuding distinct idiosyncrasies from the other; Hongdae is preferred by students while Gangnam attracts businesspeople

DON'T

  • Splurge on anything, although many electronics are released earlier (or exclusively) here; a lot of stuff can be purchased cheaper in neighboring Asian countries (Hong Kong and Bangkok included)
  • Be smug and sophisticated; Seoulites are very humble, embrace company, and like learning new things, the English language being one of their keen interests—you won’t find a hint of sarcasm
  • Miss out on their eclectic meals, but also don’t forget the dining etiquette they strictly inculcate even to tourists; Seoulites relish on spicy dishes and exotic ingredients—live squid is considered a delicacy here
  • Miss out on colorful festivals, including the Hi! Seoul Festival held multiple times annually; unknown to many, South Korea employs splendid fireworks displays—an all-out celebration, if you will
  • Go into Seoul without a brief understanding of the locals; the language barrier is tough here, since a lot of the people speak poor to almost unintelligible English—do your assignment and learn basic Hangeul