For a small country, South Korea has a lot to offer. Bustling cities, volcanic islands and historical sites—South Korea has it all.
The tourism infrastructure here is great with a good public transit system.
The country is deeply steeped in its history, and the cities retain the old etiquettes. We will mention some local etiquettes that differ drastically from the Occident.
In Korea, the seniority principle is strictly followed. Use polite terminology when speaking with people older than you or to strangers. Avoid calling people by the first names, and use both hands for handshakes. This also applies when you pour drinks for others. Unless they are close to you, you need to pour drinks with both hands.
While you’re preparing your itinerary, make sure you buy
travel insurance or
travel medical insurance
to cover yourself in case of any unexpected accidents, illnesses, or injuries while in South Korea.
Things to Do for Travelers in South Korea
There are certain customs you should familiarize yourself with when visiting South Korea. English is not spoken by most locals. The local dialects differ depending on the region you are visiting. Picking up common phrases in Korean (Hangul) will come handy.
- Jeju-do: The translation of the name is the Island of the Gods. Jeju Island is popular for its beaches, greenery, and lava tubes. This is South Korea's only special autonomous province. There are a lot of places to explore on Jeju Island. Go hiking to Mt. Hallasan, a crater lake; explore Manjanggul cave; or watch the sunrise and sunset at Seongsan Ilchulbong. All of them are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Don't miss the Cheonjiyeon waterfalls or the Jeongbang Falls, which is the only waterfall in Asia to have the ocean as its plunge pool. Jeju Island also offers submarine rides, a great way to observe marine life and underwater ruins.
- Myeong-Dong: This is a popular destination for Korean street food. Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of one of the shopping destinations of Seoul. The Korean street food scene is constantly changing and evolving. With the Korean wave engulfing the globe, you might be aware of some of the street food. Try Tteokbokki, Soondae, and Odeng. Korean BBQ is also a must-try if you are at Myeong-dong. If you have a sweet tooth, do try the Patbingsoo, or shaved ice. The Korean food palette ranges from mildly spicy to fiery. Sample food before deciding to make it a meal to avoid an upset stomach.
- Gyeongju-si: The city is best for exploring its archeological sites and used to be the capital of the Silla Kingdom, during the 7th-9th centuries. Gyeongju-si also has its share of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. A must-visit is one of the oldest astronomical observatories in Asia, the Cheomseongdae Observatory. Also, visit the historical Gyeongju National Park, located on Mount Namsan. There are hiking trails that wind up to the summit. You can also go biking around the city on guided tours.
- Upo Marsh: This natural riverine wetland wrapped in green is home to many endangered species. Upo Marsh is on the tentative list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Four large and smaller marshes make up this swamp, and it was home to dinosaurs in the past. If you plan to hike or walk to this location, make sure you have rainwear on you. If you go camping, don't miss out watching fireflies when the sun goes down, or catch the mystical rain fog visible on still and cloudless days.
- DMZ: The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is one of the most volatile places in the world. The DMZ is accessible from Seoul and needs to be considerably pre-planned. Visiting the JSA - Joint Security Area is as close you can get to North Korea. Take a photograph, and shop for souvenirs at the gift shop. Also check out the Odusan Unification Observatory, Dora Observatory, and the Freedom Bridge. There are some points you must keep in mind when visiting the DMZ. They are discussed later in this article.
Travel Risks for International Travelers in South Korea
There are not many risks in South Korea, but adhering to common travel practices will be helpful to you.
Please update all your routine vaccines, if there are any pending. You need vaccines for hepatitis A and typhoid. Depending on your trip duration, you need vaccination against Japanese Encephalitis. Injections for hepatitis A, malaria, and rabies are also recommended. Food and drink are safe to consume in South Korea, but exercise caution for remote areas.
There are certain risks associated with water activities. Whether they are underwater or at the surface, be careful. Don't stray from common areas in the hope of an adventure. It might land you in trouble or lead to injuries.
The crime rate is negligible in South Korea, but be vigilant in remote areas.
Booking a tour in advance to the DMZ is a must. You need to sign a waiver relinquishing the government's responsibility for any injury, accident, or death. Border tensions can lead to cancellation of the trip. Bring your passport along, and follow the prescribed dress code.
South Korea is mostly a peninsula with severe winter conditions. The best time to visit South Korea is during fall or spring. Summers can be unbearably hot and humid.
South Korea Travel Medical Insurance for International Travelers - FAQs
Accidents, injuries, or mishaps don’t come with advance notice. Prepare for the worst by investing in travel medical insurance. It will buy you peace of mind and make your experience smoother in case the unthinkable happens.
Do I need travel medical insurance for South Korea?
Legally, travel medical insurance is not essential, but it will financially compensate for any health risks.
Why buy travel medical insurance for South Korea?
Your travel medical insurance gives you hospitalization benefits and covers treatment of the local diseases that might make you ill. It will also cover medical evacuation in case you need to go back to your home country. Buy travel medical insurance to ensure your peace of mind.
South Korea Trip Cancellation Insurance for International Travelers - FAQs
An international trip is usually planned well ahead of time. The risk of cancellation is usually beyond control for you. Having trip cancellation insurance will cover most financial losses that are not reversible.
Why buy trip cancellation insurance for South Korea?
It is hard to predict cancellation, much less the reason. Having trip cancellation insurance will help you recover any pre-paid, non-refundable expenses you might have put down, as long as you cancel for a covered reason as listed in the certificate wording of your policy.
What all is covered under travel insurance for South Korea?
A standard South Korea travel insurance plan includes these benefits:
Trip cancellation for a covered reason
Trip interruption for a covered reason
Emergency medical expenses
Emergency medical evacuation and repatriation
This list is tentative and varies with the insurance agency.
It is a wise choice to buy South Korea travel insurance to secure your trip from cancellation losses.
Before You Travel to South Korea...
Practice your Korean. Knowing common words will help you get around the country. Brush up on common Korean etiquette practices to avoid offending the locals.
On the day of departure, ensure you have your passport with a visa and all other necessary documents. Keep them within reach for your convenience.
Buy a suitable travel insurance plan before you land in the country. Browse a wide variety of plans and select the one that best fits the needs of your trip.
We wish you a safe and very fulfilling trip to South Korea.