In recent years, South Korea has been a dream destination for many. The country’s rise to popularity as a tourist destination was primarily attributed to its pop culture, particularly the locally-produced movies, TV shows, and music. Apart from these, South Korea is also known for its cuisine, fashion, and history. With many exciting features and offerings, this East Asian country continues to be a sought-after destination across the globe.
If you’re planning your dream vacation to the Land of the Morning Calm, here’s a quick guide you may find helpful to prepare for a trip to South Korea.
1. Learn travel survival terms and phrases
Knowing basic terms in the Korean language will help you feel more at ease mingling with the locals and navigating different places. While there may be many signages on the streets and in shops with English translations, learning basic greetings and other essential terms and phrases can help you communicate better during your trip. To learn more about the local language, you can consider studying through various methods, such as buying tutorial books and audio tapes, taking virtual language tutorials, or joining a class.
For instance, you can consider enrolling in a language school like Hanakorean. This language institution provides short and long-term classes for students of various levels, and they also offer courses suitable for those who want to prepare for their first time trip to the country. Thus, taking some lessons may help you master some survival terms and phrases that would help you travel more conveniently.
2. Plan your itinerary
A detailed itinerary is significant if you’re planning to visit South Korea. There are various tourist spots to see, off-the-beaten tracks to visit, and activities to explore. Thus, planning your itinerary before your trip is essential to make the most out of your long-awaited vacation.
Here are some of the most popular tourist spots and must-sees in South Korea:
- N Seoul Tower
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
- National Museum of Korea
- Lotte World
- Seoraksan National Park
- Blue House
Another famous South Korean destination is Jeju Island, which would take a little over an hour to get to via plane from Seoul, the country’s capital. Jeju Island is ideal for those who want to include a beach getaway in their itinerary, as it’s a popular summer attraction for locals.
3. Include unique cultural experiences in your travel plans
Besides seeing historical places and tourist spots, it’s also essential to include cultural experiences in your planned South Korean trip to make your experience more rewarding and memorable. Here are some examples of the unique experiences you can have on your journey:
- Rent a Hanbok or traditional Korean clothing and take pictures around historic spots
- Stay at a Buddhist temple
- Visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to learn more about the country’s history
- Join a tourist workshop and learn how to make Korean handicrafts
Apart from these examples, you can also include other activities that would allow you to experience the local life, such as shopping, going to food markets, or visiting dance clubs. The party scene in Gangnam and Itaewon, for instance, can be a great experience if you enjoy the nightlife. Meanwhile, you can try the Korean saunas, or jimjilbang, popularized in many Korean dramas and movies.
4. Allot time for exploring South Korean cuisine
Learning about Korean food is also a fun and rewarding experience for many tourists. Besides sampling their most popular dishes, you can familiarize yourself with South Korean cuisine by watching cooking demonstrations or joining cooking classes for tourists. This way, you’ll have a first-hand experience in Korean food preparation.
Here are some of the most popular dishes of South Korea that you can eat or cook on your visit:
- Kimchi – staple side dish made of fermented Chinese cabbage
- Samgyeopsal – Korean barbecue
- Samgyetang – Chicken Soup with Korean ginseng
- Kimbap – rice rolls
- Tteokbokki – spicy rice cakes
- Jajangmyeon – Noodles in black bean sauce
- Korean market-style fried chicken – a popular takeaway food
If you’re planning to visit several towns during your travels, you may encounter different recipes for these popular dishes and the local cuisine in rural areas. Hence, it’s best to allow time for food trips for each place you visit.
5. Familiarize yourself with local etiquette
Lastly, it’s essential to be familiar with cultural expectations, especially regarding behavior and showing courtesy, before going on a South Korean holiday. Doing so will help you become more aware of social cues and avoid awkward interactions. Here are some examples of etiquette relevant to the South Korean culture:
- Bowing when greeting people, though handshakes are also acceptable for foreigners
- Removing footwear when entering someone’s home
- Pouring drinks for others when drinking with company
- Setting chopsticks in use on the side of the bowl and never leaving them inside when pausing
There are other ways to show courtesy and respect to others besides these examples, and it’s essential to be aware of them to ensure that you’ll have a pleasant interaction with the locals you encounter during your trip.
Visiting South Korea is a dream for many, and it’s undoubtedly an experience you’ll want. Hence, it’s best to plan your trip carefully, include cultural experience, experience local cuisine, and prepare to interact with the locals. Doing these steps will help you have a fun, rewarding, and memorable journey to this dream Asian destination.