As you are aware by now, I just can't get enough of South Korea. It has become my favorite travel destination. It's not just because I love Kpop and Kdrama and Kcosmetics, but the overall vibe and how the city has welcomed me was just memorable. Of course, just like any other tourist, I didn't come there the first time unarmed. I did an intensive research months prior to our departure. If you are also planning to go here some time soon or in the future, keep in mind the tips I will share below:
- Exchange money in your home country - It is helpful to already have a few wons in you pocket upon your arrival. Airport banks have very low exchange rates and your dollars can only get you so far. If you check out the exchange rate in Myeongdong or Dongdaemun you will realize the airport bank has ripped you off. Make sure you already have about 50,000.00 Won if you don't plan on taking the taxi to get to your hotel. And have the rest of your dollars exchanged in Myeongdog or Dongdaemun - their banks there have the best exchange rates. There is this alley in Myeongdong (near Lotte Department Store) that have the highest rates. Not many people pass by there and I don't remember the name of the alley but I do remember how to go there but a bit difficult to describe (I'm bad at giving directions, sorry).
- Ride the subway - Seoul has one of the most efficient subway system in the world. It can basically take you anywhere you want to go to in Seoul. It is the best form of transportation because there is no road congestion so you arrive at your destination on time. The subways also arrive on time - there is a timetable of arrivals on the posts of the subway station. You can even ride the subway from the airport to your hotel. It only took us about 4,000.00 Won from the nearest station to our hotel to the airport. You can download the subway map of Seoul from Google so you can already map out the directions to the places you want to visit.
- Learn a few Korean phrases - the ahjumma's and ahjussi's are pleased whenever they hear foreigners speak Korean. If you want to go shopping in their markets instead of the malls, these few Korean phrases will help you get a good discount:
- Olmayeyo - how much
- Aniyo - no; if you don't agree with the price and want to haggle.
- Kamsahamnida - if you arrive at an agreement on the price, say thank you.
- Bring a calculator - this is an important tool when haggling. Learning their currency can be a bit confusing for someone who is not interested in learning Korean, so typing in the digits in the calculator is definitely useful. If you want to haggle, just say no and show the seller the amount you are willing to pay.
- Research the directions - from what I heard, not all map apps work in Seoul so it may be difficult for you to use Google maps in finding your way. It is best to research the directions prior to your visit so you don't get lost. Asking Koreans for directions may be difficult as not many of them can speak in English and if they do, their English is very limited. Also, I have observed that Koreans are not very good when it comes to giving directions and reading maps. We asked the information center how to get to a certain place before and she just made things more difficult. We asked her which train to take and she told us "go down the stairs, turn around and ride the train on your right." She could have actually just said "go down the stairs and ride the train on your left." We also asked the receptionist at our hotel how to get to a certain place and she was having difficulty reading the subway map. She was able to give us the directions but I find it too cumbersome - too many train transfers. In the end I had to find a better way - which I was able to - only one train transfer.
- Throw your own trash - restaurants in Seoul are mostly self-service. Unlike where I live, even in fast food chains, we can just leave our dishes on the table and the service crew will clean it up for us. In Seoul, you have to throw your own trash. People will give you strange looks if you don't as that is very disrespectful for them.
- Bring a universal adapter - this is actually necessary when you are traveling to anywhere in the world; worth investing in one.
If you want more tips especially when it comes to money, watch this video from eatyourkimchi. I just love this duo a lot! :)
Top and Clutch: Forever 21 | Skirt: Charlie | Shoes: Asos
Necklace: Accessorize | Watch; Swatch | Lipsticl: MAC Sunny Seoul