Just like walking for the first time when you were little, going to Korea is like taking your baby steps to dreamland. For years you were just hearing about places in Korea, imagining what would it feel like to be there and now, you’re flight’s just 24 hours away.
Asides from not forgetting your passport, booking your hotel and bringing enough allowance- better add up that “extra” cash, here are my 5 tips for your first travel in Seoul.
- RECALL YOUR KOREAN
You probably have been studying Korean for years and now here’s your chance to shine. Going to Korea will require you to speak their language for a number of reasons. First is that most of them still have a hard time speaking in English; second is that even when you try to speak to them in English they’ll answer you back in Korean and lastly, it’s probably the reason why you studied Korean after all- to be able to converse in Korean.
My advice, review what you studied days before your trip. It not only helps you remember words you might have forgotten but, it can also give you the confidence you need in speaking in Korean-knowing you recalled them. If you feel your Korean is still lacking the basics, you might want to read on this: “10 Korean Phrases-ASAP!.”
- READ UP AND DOWNLOAD APPs
Before traveling to Korea, or in general, it’s best to read up on their current events, weather report and the like. It’s best to know this for your safety and it’s good to be knowledgeable about the place your visiting in beforehand.
Not only that, you should also get information regarding the fun stuff: special promos, perks and coupons that are available for some tourist attractions.
When we arrived in Korea, my mom did not hesitate to ask the information center (where you can get a number of brochures) if they had a theme park discount. Fortunately, Lotte world has as well as Everland. Lotte World is actually cheaper by some hundreds when you come in at around 4 PM. I even heard that some places give tourist discounts when you show them your passport! Speaking of brochures, do get a number of them. You’ll never know when you’ll need “10 Best Dining places in Gangnam” or the map of Seoul!
Don’t forget to also read up on the opening and closing time, holidays and special events of that particular place. It will save your money, your time and your energy. Imagine paying your bus ride, walking thirty minutes just to go to the train station and when you go to that place, they’re closed- we don’t want this happening.
Do download some helpful applications as well like: Seoul Subway; Visit Korea and Google Maps. You can also consider getting a Korean dictionary app!
- BRING A SMALL CAMERA
Bringing a DSLR, 18-55mm- kit lens as they say, may seem to be “cool”. But, when you walked all day while carrying your heavy backpack full of the things you’ve bought and you’re super drained, you want nothing more than to throw that camera away. No offense, camera.
Don’t take this in a wrong way. I’m not discouraging you, I’m just saying that you need an alternative camera to bring on those days you know you’re going to walk a lot.
If I know I’m going to Namdaemun or Myeong-dong, where all the shopping happens, I’ll bring my small camera or iPad. When I know I’m going to Namsan for sightseeing, checking out the love lockets and viewing the whole beauty of Seoul, I’ll bring my DSLR. Strategy my friend! I learned this the hard way because I usually bring both and I end up hurting my back and even my knees. In turn, I had to go to physical therapy! I’m sure you don’t want that do you. It’s going to be though having both! So, let one go.
- BRING A BIG LUGGAGE AND A FOLDABLE.
Going to Korea for the first time, I’m sure you’re going to do a lot of impulse buy! With your favorite K-POP idols faces everywhere, affordable make-up cushions and super adorable socks, you’re going to go cray for shopping! ‘Cause that’s what happened to me. I love stationery and overall things that count as “cute”- asides from Park Bo Gum of course. So, to comfort myself in buying things, would often think that if I don’t buy this now, when will I come back to Korea again? So I end up taking home a lot.
If you’re like me, do bring a big luggage.
I’m sure asides from K-Pop CDs, which are actually cheaper when you buy them in train stations- still original though, you’re going to purchase a whole lot more than what you planned!
If you don’t want a big luggage, you can always sneak in a foldable bag.
I have a 15-20 kg luggage and I brought a folding bag, the one with wheels! (Don’t bring a fordable bag without wheels, okay?) True enough, it helped me. If you don’t have this kind of bag, Myeong-dong has -a lot for about 30,000W. It’s the black bag which can extend to up to three layers!
- EXPLORE LIKE DORA
Lastly, asides from Namsam, Dongdaemun, Myeong-dong and the like, go to places in Korea you probably might have not heard of yet. For us, we went to Byeongbangchi Skywalk, which was a four hour ride going and another four hour ride back to Seoul. I’ll be honest with you, the skywalk was a bit disappointing – because it was short but, the view was priceless! It’s another side of Korea, I never thought I’d be able to go. We also took the zip wire, which became the highlight of our eight hour ride.
Overall, going to Korea for the first time would be a blast for a Korean lover! I hope my advice can help you prepare for dreamland. May you create wonderful memories and be filled with happiness as you travel to Seoul.
Written by Krew Member Max Chua