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Traveller standing in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace, South Korea

South Korea Travel Guide

A captivating destination in East Asia, South Korea offers a unique travel experience that combines rich history, vibrant culture, and breathtaking landscapes. Explore the bustling streets of Seoul, where ancient palaces and modern skyscrapers coexist. Indulge in Korean street food and trendy shopping in vibrant markets. Immerse yourself in the traditional charm of Bukchon Hanok Village or venture to Jeju Island for stunning natural beauty. South Korea's efficient transportation and warm hospitality make it a culturally immersive and visually captivating travel destination.

One of the highlights of travelling in South Korea is experiencing its fascinating cultural traditions. Enjoy traditional tea ceremonies and explore the world of K-pop in Seoul. Learn to make kimchi or try on traditional hanbok clothing. Hike in Seoraksan National Park or soak in natural hot springs. South Korea's festivals, like the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival, add vibrant colours to the year. Whether exploring historical sites, immersing in traditional culture, or enjoying the country's natural beauty, South Korea offers an unforgettable travel experience that blends rich heritage with modern charm.

Key Facts

Time Zone

GMT+9

Money

South Korean Won (KRW)

Dialing Code

+82

  • South Korea is a high-tech, industrialised country offering all the comforts of modern life alongside traditional Asian culture
  • South Korea has amazing opportunities to earn money as a paid English teacher and enjoy the Asian lifestyle
  • Lively cities lie alongside beautiful countryside, stunning mountains and idyllic islands
  • This compact country can be explored with ease and provides all the mod-cons you could ask for
  • You can easily hop across to other Asian countries for a whole gap year of fun!

The capital city of South Korea is Seoul, which is a vibrant, modern city bursting with galleries, palaces, museums, restaurants, bars and nightlife.

  • See the sights of the lively capital city, Seoul, such as the amazing palaces of Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung, or admire the Royal Tombs and pay a visit to Seodaemun Prison.
  • Visit the astonishing site of Seokbulsa Temple, carved out of the mountain, a hermitage famous for its unique Buddhist images.
  • Hang out in the cool city of Busan, then explore the rice paddies, mountains and National Parks of gorgeous South Gyeongsang Province.
  • Head to the city of Daegu and visit the bustling traditional medicine market and enjoy the nightlife.
  • Relax on the stunning tropical island of Jeju-do, South Korea’s top holiday destination and one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. Be awed by the volcanic landscape, mountains, white sand beaches, scuba diving sites and swaying palm trees of this slice of paradise.
  • South Korea is famous for its year-round festivals, with a full itinerary of fun on offer every month. Festivals are held to celebrate everything under the sun, including such varied pursuits as; Sand, green tea, bamboo, fireworks, fire, ice, flowers, music, culture and martial arts – among many others!

Staple foods in South Korea are similar to other Asian countries and include rice, vegetables, meat (such as beef chicken & pork), seafood and noodles. Soups or broths are also popular South Korean dishes. Ingredients in Korean cookery include chilli, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, soybeans and sesame oil.

A popular method of cooking, often served in restaurants, is to grill meat or seafood on a central griddle set in the middle of a table, then wrap it in lettuce leaves and serve it with a range of side dishes. Side dishes are known as ‘Banchan’ and South Korea’s most famous side dish by far is ‘Kimchi’ – a fermented vegetable dish usually made with cabbage, Korean radish or cucumber marinated in ginger, garlic, spring onions and chilli.  Koreans eat Kimchi by the bucketload but it can be an acquired taste for Western palettes!

The Korean people enjoy drinking beer and you can also sample the strong local drink Soju, which really packs a punch!

The climate in Korea has four distinct seasons:

Spring is from March to May, and temperatures are mild, with occasional wet weather. This is the best time to visit if you want to see the cherry blossoms and other fabulous flora in bloom.

Summer runs from June to August, and the Monsoon season brings heavy rainfall from late June to mid-July. In August the temperatures can soar to high, sticky heat and humidity.

Autumn is during the months of September to November, and this is a wonderful time to visit South Korea, with sun, warmth and clear skies.

Winter is from December to mid-March, with winters in the north being colder than the south. The weather can become very cold and temperatures can fall below zero, but it’s the ideal time for skiing or snowboarding!

Visa

Visas may be required in order to enter or transit through certain countries depending on your passport nationality, your reason for travel and how long you intend to stay.

Visa, passport and entry rules are subject to change and you should check the most up-to-date information from the relevant embassy or visa specialist.

To make things easier we have teamed up with The Travel Visa Company who are one of the UK’s leading travel visa specialists. You can use their website, alongside embassy websites,  to find out the specific entry requirements for the countries you intend to travel to.

For a fee, their dedicated team of experts can also apply for visas on your behalf, taking away the hassle and streamlining the process for you if you wish. For more details on the services they provide please click here – The Travel Visa Company

Passport

Passports must be kept in good condition. Travellers with damaged passports may be refused entry at immigration. It is the responsibility of the traveller to ensure that all travel documents are in good condition before they travel. Most countries will also require at least 6 months of validity on your passport from the time you finish your trip.

Further Entry Requirements

Some countries will require proof of certain vaccines, such as yellow fever or covid, in order to gain entry. Please check with the relevant embassy or a visa specialist before travelling.

The official language in South Korea is Korean. 

Electrical sockets in South Korea are the same as the European two-pin plug, so travellers from the UK will need to bring a universal adaptor.

In South Korea, the concept of ‘Kibun’ is very important – ‘Kibun’ is about price, dignity and keeping face and is of great significance in Korean culture. The family is also central to Korean life.

A traditional mode of greeting is to bow, with those of lower status bowing to those of higher status. A handshake often follows.

If you visit a Korean home, you should bring a gift, such as chocolate or flowers. Gifts in multiples of 4 are considered unlucky, but multiples of 7 are lucky. It is usual to arrive up to 30 minutes late, and you should remove your shoes when entering a Korean home.

When using chopsticks there are several do’s and don’ts – never point your chopsticks, do not pierce food with them, and after every few bites, you should return your chopsticks to the table. Chopsticks should not be crossed or placed across your rice bowl. It is polite to clear your plate, and when you have finished, you should place your chopsticks together on the rest or on the table.

Health

You should visit your GP about 8 weeks before travel to get advice about any necessary vaccinations or health precautions. There have been some reported incidents of tickborne disease in 2013 in grassy areas – wearing long-sleeved tops and trousers in grassy areas is advised.

Safety

The crime rate in South Korea is low, although petty theft and pickpocketing can occur, especially in major towns and cities. Take care when travelling alone at night and only use legitimate taxis or public transport.

Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the Korean peninsula has been divided by a de-militarised zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea. Although a peace agreement is in place, tensions can rise at short notice.

Drug possession or use is illegal in South Korea and penalties are severe.

You should carry a form of identification with you at all times and make sure your next-of-kin details have been entered into the back of your passport.

We do not recommend hiring motorbikes, scooters, ATV vehicles, quad bikes or other types of motorised vehicles whilst abroad. Safety and quality of vehicles vary considerably and the traffic conditions can be much more dangerous than what UK travellers are used to. Should you wish to go against this advice, you should ensure you are hiring from a reputable company and that your travel insurance covers you for such activities.

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