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Traveler's Guide to South Korea


Visa Issued on Arrival
05:00 AM 12.09 Friday Seoul, South Korea

Top 10 things you need to know

Money

The South Korean Won is the official currency. Most ATMs do not service foreign bank cards, but credit cards are widely accepted. Bargaining is expected in market places.

Public Transportation & In country Travel

Air travel is very fast; however, bus service is readily available and more economical. Most urban areas have a subway system, and taxis are common as well. Most major cities are connected by the national train service, Korail.

Language

The national language is Korean which has many regional dialects. Most people have received some English education; however, few speak it fluently or are able to understand.

Best time to travel

The fall is the nicest climate for travel in South Korea. The country operates on a lunar calendar, so holidays always fall on different days. The two largest holidays are the Korean New Year and their Thanksgiving equivalent, both of which cause shops and restaurants to close for three days.

Hospitality

Hotels are plentiful throughout the country, and typically offer both Korean and Western style rooms. You will find that prices are double when you stay in Seoul. Tipping is never expected in South Korea.

Safety

South Korea is extremely safe, and most crimes that are reported have to do with inappropriate behavior due to intoxication. As a pedestrian, you should be very careful when walking, as many drivers ignore stop lights and crosswalks.

Food and Drink

Korean cuisine includes many spicy and fermented ingredients or meals. Most meals are will be low fat, but very high in salt. Most meals include rice and soup with fish and/or meat, and a wide variety of side dishes. Koreans prefer metal chopsticks, and though most meals are served family style, they eat in almost complete silence. Alcohol is very cheap, and Koreans are heavy drinkers.

Diversity

Almost all of the country’s residents identify as Korean, with a very small Chinese population. The culture is heavily influenced by Confucianism. The two largest religious groups are Christians and Buddhists; however, about one third of the population states they do not follow any specific religion at all.

Accessibility

Electrical outlets are usually fit for European appliances, but some newer hotels have outlets to accommodate American and Japanese appliances as well. Mobile and internet coverage is widely available.

Cultural customs

Koreans are fairly reserved, but have a nationalistic view and view criticism of the country as hostile behavior. When picking something up for someone or shaking hands, support one hand with the other. When entering homes or traditional restaurants, you will be expected to take your shoes off.

Things not to do

  1. Do not leave chopsticks sticking up out of a dish; it is meant to honor the deceased.
  2. It is considered rude to lift dishes off the table while eating.
  3. Do not pour your own drink, but pour one for others.
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