I remember the first time I visited South Korea by myself. I was only 17 years old, fresh outta high school. No one gave me any Korea travel tips.
It was the first time I would be traveling internationally on my own without family. The dreaminess of solo travel was so blinding that I completely skipped out on researching travel tips for Korea 🤦♀️.
Don’t be like me. Use these travel tips and prepare yourself for the unexpected so YOU can explore Korea like a pro!
Your trip will go a whole lot smoother if you just know these 5 South Korea travel tips:
KOREA TRAVEL TIP #1: DON’T CARRY TRASH AROUND
Imagine walking for miles, lost in the streets of Seoul. The sun is beating down your back while the humidity makes you sweat like a pig.
You find a convenience store to buy some water and a snack to cool down.
As you walk down the maze-like streets, you chug the water bottle and enjoy your snack. Then, you quickly realize you haven’t seen a trash can for the past 20 minutes.
Where do you throw your trash away?
Having your hands full of trash and desperately looking for a public waste bin in the exhausting summer heat is NOT the move. You didn’t plan for this in your itinerary.
OK, I admit.
This scenario does seem a bit dramatic and extreme, but it’s definitely a sticky situation that I’ve found myself in many times.
Keep in mind that you will have to carry trash with you while you walk the streets of Seoul. Unlike America, Korea does not have public trash cans around every corner.
Make sure to properly discard your waste before you set out to explore the streets. Although the Korean government recently announced its plan to install 657 new public litter bins, I would still try and keep my waste to a minimum while traveling in Korea.
I also recommend carrying around a large tote bag while you explore so you can be hands-free.
Wise up, don’t litter and don’t carry so much trash!
KOREA TRAVEL TIP #2: CARRY AROUND TISSUES/WET WIPES
When you need to go to the bathroom, you need to go ASAP.
The only thing that’s stopping you… is NO TOILET PAPER.
I had to learn the hard way that some public restrooms have ONE community-use toilet paper roll in the restroom, not in every individual stall.
Before you go into the stall, make sure to grab some toilet paper with you! If it’s your unlucky day, the community roll might be empty.
Instead of relying on the community roll, I ALWAYS carry around my own tissues or wet wipes. Let’s not even think about what would happen if you get stuck with no toilet paper. 🙄
Understanding Korean bathroom culture goes way beyond just toilet paper. It can definitely be a culture shock of an experience the first time you visit Korea.
I recommend reading Korea Travel Post’s blog about Korean bathroom culture to further prepare yourself for any surprises.
KOREA TRAVEL TIP #3: DOWNLOAD A SUBWAY MAP
In North America, we’re used to getting around town driving our own car. In South Korea, the public transportation system is extremely convenient and widely-used that you could honestly live in Korea without a car.
That being said, you will have to adjust to navigating the subway, bus and train systems.
I would recommend downloading the KakaoMap to easily navigate your way through the system because this app offers both Korean and English.
In the meantime, take a look at a Seoul subway map in English to familiarize yourself before your trip.
*Pro-tip*: Buy a T-Money card! I bought a super cute KakaoFriends Ryan-themed T-money card back in 2016, and I still use it every time I visit Korea.
You can use this rechargeable card to ride all public transit (taxis, subway, buses) and even pay at the convenience store.
KOREA TRAVEL TIP #4: USE SLIPPERS IN THE SHOWER
Before you enter the bathroom with your socks on, hear me out.
Korea has a unique bathroom situation and you might end up stepping in a puddle of water if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Unless you’re staying in a westernized hotel, most South Korean bathrooms actually do not have a separate shower/tub that drains the water.
Instead, the whole entire bathroom is open and there is a drain in the middle of the space to drain the water. This means that the floor is always wet.
Make sure to grab a pair of slides from Daiso for 1,000-2,000₩ (KRW). You can thank me later!
KOREA TRAVEL TIP #5: GET A SIM CARD FOR WIFI
The first few times I visited Korea and I needed wifi, I made the mistake of buying a wifi egg from the airport.
The downside of having a wifi egg is that you must charge the wifi egg as well. I found myself in situations where I needed wifi for immediate directions, but the wifi egg was dead.
It was SUCH a hassle to charge both the wifi egg and my phone while I was on the go. On top of that, the wifi egg’s battery did not seem to last that long. Save yourself the time and missed subway stops by getting a SIM card instead!
You have the option to buy a SIM card either from the Incheon airport, Korean mobile service providers (KT, SKT, LG U+), or major convenience stores (GS25, CU, Seven Eleven).
If you’re like me, and you only need unlimited data, I would recommend getting a prepaid SIM card from the airport so you can stay connected the second you land in Korea.
To learn more about prepaid SIM cards, the Trazy Blog has ALL the tea on Korean SIM cards.
South Korea is the motherland of bustling city life, stunning cafes, and all things K-Pop. Who doesn’t want to visit?
Just keep in mind that Korean life is not always like K-dramas; there’s so much more to discover about the Korean lifestyle.
Knowing these few tips about Korea before your trip can really take the anxiety out of planning.
Make it spontaneous but ✨ anxiety-free ✨.
Don’t let all the complicated subway lines scare you away, I promise it’s worth it. Just remember these Korea travel tips to make the most of your time in the motherland of K-dramas!