““Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta”
One of the best thing about traveling is learning how another country is different from yours. Although such difference can be beautiful, there are cases when differences can be alittle bit of a hassle when traveling. So here’s 14 things you must know before heading to Korea, things that we wished someone told us before we went there.
Mistakes and things our Singapore Travel Blog team learnt the hard way so you wouldn’t’ have to.
1) Most of the food revolves around spice
Kimchi, Spicy Rice Cake, Ramen, Spicy Pork/Chicken/Beef, just to name a few of Korea’s popular dishes. And if you haven’t notice the similarity in the aforementioned dishes, they are all spicy! That is going to be the trend as well when you head to Korea; that most food dishes are of Spice based.
2) It’s not in their culture to tip
Not all Asian countries openly accept tips, Korea is one of them. It is generally not in their culture to take tips. So the next time you go for a good massage in Korea, you are better off just verbally praising the masseuse than you are offering them money for it.
3) Most Koreans are bilingual, they speak both Korean and Chinese, come from china
She look Korean, speaks Korean, but you swore she had a Chinese accent when she spoke mandarin. Well that’s cause a lot of the “Korean” shop owners/assistants are in fact Chinese that came over to Korea to work. They help serve the increasing amount of Chinese tourist but has also over the years learnt how to speak Korean. This also means our Mandarin speaking friends from Singapore don’t have to worry about being unable to communicate when in Korea.
4) Expect a lot of climbing
Korea’s natural terrain isn’t exactly pedestrian-friendly, they have a lot of natural hills and slopes that you might have to conquer when you are just shopping by the streets. And although it has seen drastic improvements over the past few years, such as adding of lifts etc, a lot of their train stations today still require quite a bit of stairs climbing. Just another reason why you should travel before you are 30
5) Korea is left hand drive
Depending on where you come from, Korea’s left hand drive may be unusual and may take a bit of getting used to, especially if you plan to drive out on your own in Korea or out at Jeju.
6) Malls close relatively early
In comparison to Singapore, where we come from, things in Korea end relatively early. Most malls close around 745~8pm (less the night markets which would operate to about 11pm) and buses can end as early as 7~8pm as well. So do keep this in mind when you are planning for Korea and our travel blog would recommend trying to start your day earlier. You would have to also take note of this if you have a night flight, as buses to n from the city may not be operating.
7) Tax refund
Korea has one of the most complex Tax Refund system out of all the countries we have been to thus far. You MUST read this article on how to get your Tax Refund in Korea.
8) Airport queue, extra early
International Airport regulations require passengers to check in 2 hours before departure, but admit it, most of us take that for granted and arrive only 1.5 hrs before thinking how we’ll just do less shopping after immigration. Do that in Korea, and you just might miss your flight. It could be just that we are bad luck joe, but for some reason, only limited security gates were open for all the times we were there. It was a long queue just trying to get pass immigration and you would also have to take into account the tax refund processes and the queues for that as well. It is especially bad if you flight happens to be at a far gate that would require you to take an airport train over. In summary, just be really early for your check in in Korea.
9) Kimchi, cannot bring on board more than 300g
Korea is almost synonymous with Kimchi. Preserved vegetables that taste so good as a standalone appetizers or mixed with well, anything. Most people who have tried it can’t get enough of it and would get like a packet or two to bring back home. Do be warned thou, you are not allowed to bring more than 300g of Kimchi on board the plane. We know cause we had first had experience of having to throw an entire packet away. If you are getting kimchi, either check them in or get less than 300gs.
10) Hand carrying Facial Masks on board
If Kimchi is not your thing, the land of cosmetics would have you raving about their facial mask etc. But again, for travelers who did not get check in baggage do note that you are not allowed to bring on board more than 10 pcs of mask in your hand carry.
11) Most palaces close on Monday
One of our personal favorites when visiting Korea is it’s palaces. “Traditionally Majestic “ is how I would often describe it. If like us, you plan your own itinerary and do not follow tour groups, do note that most palaces close on Monday.
12) Roadside stalls aren’t necessarily cheaper than restaurants
We remember one of the first few nights we were in Korea, we decided to try one of their roadside stalls instead of the restaurant right opposite, thinking that it would be much cheaper considering it’s just a stall by the road. We were quickly proven wrong when the bill came and we realize that it cost almost the same, if not more than what we would have paid for if we had dined in a proper restaurant. But don’t get me wrong, it’s still a good experience; just don’t expect it to be extremely cheap.
13) Control station, rarely attended.
For most of the countries we’ve been to, you know you can always rely on a stationmaster for directions once you get to your station. This may not always be the case as the train stations in Korea are rarely attended and at times may even be served by a Korean only speaking stationmaster. We would recommend knowing your way around such as *cough reading a certain Travel Blog *cough to find your way around.
14) Jams in the city can be quite bad during rush hours.
An express bus trip from city hall to the airport during peak hour would take up to 2 hours.
Depending on your flight time, you might have to take into account the traffic conditions in Korea, as during peak hours, even an express airport bus can take up to 2 hours to get to the airport.
- Top 9 things to do in Seoul
- One day Nami Island and Petite France tour
- Eating live Octopus in Korea’s Noryangjin Fish Market
- 8 steps to get your tax refund in Korea