Seoul Guide. Everything you need to know for the first trip to the city

Journeys | 27.02.2020
Seoul is the treasure trove with numerous concealed solitaires in its fold for travellers. The capital city of South Korea is beautifully steeped in history, brimming in culture, and soaked in the modern lifestyle. Talking about the tourism in Seoul, well, it attracts millions of tourists every year who don't just visit the city to discover long-prevailing Korean culture, but the rich history and heritage, contemporary lifestyle, and yes the well-known Korean cuisine. Such is the compelling charm of this popular travel destination in Asia that one wouldn't feel bored in his/her entire vacation to Seoul. Now, to help you plan an indelible tour to Seoul, South Korea, we have come up with this Seoul guide that will give you an insight into everything important in the city. So, here we go!
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Best time to visit Seoul
Picking the best time to visit Seoul is probably one of the most important decisions you have to make. Obviously, you cannot just plan and go. Ascertaining the weather conditions that are favourable in terms of tourism is very important before planning a trip to not just Seoul, but any other destination in the world as well.
Talking about the weather, well, the city of Seoul witnesses all four seasons. Let's have a look at each.

  • Spring
Months: The spring season in Seoul begins in mid-March and lasts until June. \

What to Expect: The weather during these months in Seoul remain very pleasant to explore the city. Spring is considered the shoulder season. During this, Seoul offers a lot to its tourists. As the month of April begins, the cherry blossoms start to bloom. Hence, you can expect a blanket of pink flowers which sprawls all over the city's parks. The temperature also remains quite pleasant during this time with the lowest temperature drops as down as 2°C.
  • Summer
Months: The summer season in Seoul commences in the month of July and lasts until August.

What to Expect: Summer is one of the busiest seasons in Seoul in terms of tourism. Though the weather during these months remain hot and humid, yet a large number of tourists flock to this place during this season. Not just this, heavy rain is quite common in Seoul in the summer season that rolls with East Asia monsoon. Since the summer season is very popular for tourism, the prices of accommodation also remain high during this time. If you are looking for a budget vacation, I would suggest you visit the city during the spring season. The temperature in Seoul during the months of summer varies between 18°C and 30°C.
  • Autumn
Months: The autumn season in Seoul begins in the month of September and continues until November.

What to Expect: Autumn is an ideal time to visit the city. The weather condition remains warm and mild. The months of Autumn are driest times of the year. The temperature during these months ranges from 4°C to 26°C.
  • Winter
Months: Winters in Seoul starts in the month of December and lasts until mid-March.

What to Expect: Well, it is obvious, winter in Seoul is all about cooler temperatures. If you are not a fan of winter, then surely you won't like the chilly days of Seoul. However, the winter season in Seoul is not like that of New York. But it is also one of the most pleasant times to explore the area. Some people prefer to visit the city during this time. Seeing everything covered under a soft blanket of snow is indeed a view to relish that you could only witness during this time. The temperature in winter season in Seoul ranges from -7°C to 5°C.
Where to stay in Seoul
Lodging options in Seoul have quite a wide-range. There are guesthouses, hotels, Airbnbs, and hostels. These accommodation options fit in every budget range, from budget to deluxe and luxury. Well, there is no doubt, you can find an accommodation options in every nook and corner of the city. However, these are some of the best neighborhoods in Seoul where you can choose to have a stay while on a vacation here.

These are:
  • Insadong: Located in the heart of the city and is close to the major attractions.
  • Hongdae: A university area which is known for its cosy bars and restaurants.
  • Myeongdong: A popular spot depicting modern Korean culture and is close to the N Seoul Tower.
  • Gangnam: the district is one of the highly developed areas in Seoul as it is dotted with towering skyscrapers and high-end hotels.
  • Hanok Homes: Well, it is not a neighborhood area, but the traditional Korean homes which serve as a unique accommodation option in Seoul. Bukchon Hanok Village is the perfect place to enjoy a stay in a hanok.
Transportation facility in Seoul
Like any other developed metropolitan cities in the world, Seoul also has an extensive network of public transportation and taxis. This makes getting around in Seoul so easy and hassle-free. Unless you have the knowledge of how to commute between the best tourist attractions in Seoul, you will find it a challenge in getting around in the city. Hence, to make it easier for you, here I have explained all three main public transportation systems of Seoul.

  • Subway
Seoul Subway is arguably the most used public transport system not just amongst locals but tourists as well. Subway stations in Seoul are located in almost every nook and corner of the city. Whether you want to visit a popular attraction or wish to go to a lesser-known place in Seoul, the extensive Subway network has you covered. It doesn't matter whether or not you speak Korean, you will easily find your way to Seoul in the metro. There are maps of the entire Subway network on each station. Besides, in every metro, announcements are made in both English and Korean. The first train runs at about 5:30 in the morning and the last one runs until midnight. You have to pay around $1.27 for a journey of up to 10 km.

The best way to make your Seoul Subway experience hassle-free is by using T-money Card or Seoul City Pass Plus. It is not only convenient but also saves a little bit of your travelling fare as you have to pay just $1.07 with these cards. Another thing to know if you'll be travelling via Seoul metro is that the metro gets busy during the peak hours that are between 4:30 PM and 8:00 PM.
  • Buses
Travelling on buses in Seoul is also quite convenient as well as safe. If not metro, then Seoul buses are in your rescue. The bus network in Seoul is also cheap and extensive. You would be amazed to know that for some routes, travelling by bus is actually a faster way than the Subway. The only downside is that the buses in Seoul are more difficult to navigate if compared to Subway. But hey, a journey without some struggles isn't really called a journey. There is a range of buses in Seoul, the routes of which are divided as per their color. You just have to remember it.

  1. Blue Buses: Blue buses run within the city and operate the main lines. A single journey on any blue bus in Seoul would cost you around $1.11.
  2. Red Buses: Red buses takes you to the suburbs of Seoul. A single ride on these buses would cost you around $2.06.
  3. Green Buses: These are the branch line buses that operate on short runs between major stations and other major blue routes. A ticket on the green line would cost you around $1.11.
  4. Yellow Buses: Yellow Buses runs through the main areas of Seoul's downtown. The cost of a journey on these buses is around $1.03.
  5. Night Buses: As the name itself suggests, the night buses only operate during the nightlife. Hence, there is no need to differentiate them by their color. They run on regular city routes. The night routes in Seoul are prefixed with an 'N'.

To pay for your ticket for any of these buses, you can choose the same meaning – either T-money card or Seoul City Pass Plus. As usual, it will also reduce your fare.
  • Taxi
T Taxi is yet another most-preferred means of transportation in Seoul. Though it is expensive from the other two means, if compared to other metro cities in the world, then surely taxis in Seoul are a lot cheaper. For short rides, they are probably worth their cost because of convenience. On the roads of Seoul run the two types of taxis:

  1. Ilban Taxis: These are the regular taxis and the most common type in Seoul. Yes, they are cheaper and can be distinguished by their silver, blue, orange, or white color. Also, you can notice the 'Taxi' board on the roof of the car. For the first two km, the fare of these taxis remains between $2.40 and $2.57. Thereafter, for every 144 metres, the fare raises by $0.086. The fares of these taxis after midnight increases up to 20%.
  2. Mobeum Taxi: These are the deluxe taxis that can be distinguished by black color and yellow stripes on that. Prices of Mobeum taxis are slightly higher than of Ilban. You can expect to pay anything between $2.74 and $4.29 for the first three km. and from there it increases by $0.17 for every 144 metres.

It is important to know that most taxi drivers in Seoul do not speak English. Hence, it is advisable to keep the destination address with you in both English and Hangul.
Transportation Cards and Passes

It's always good to use travel passes or cards to commute within any foreign city. To save yourself from the everyday struggle of getting tickets, it is recommended to get one of the transportation passes or cards. It is not only convenient to pay for your rides on buses and subways but also leave you out from the stress of standing in long queues at ticket counters of machines. In particular, there are three types of travelling cards in Seoul.

  1. T-money Card: T-money is one of the most prefered travelling cards by tourists. It can be bought at the base price of $2.58. T-money is a reloadable card which you can use in buses as well as in subways. Not just this, it can also be used in departmental stores, convenience stores, book stores, pay phones, and vending machines. Once all the money in the card is exhausted, you can recharge it again at any station. To use the card, you will just have to touch it on the payment sensor upon entering and exiting any station. Not just this, the card is also refundable. You can return it once you are ready to leave Seoul and you can get the remaining balance up to $17.17.
  2. Seoul City Pass: Seoul City Pass is yet another transportation pass in Seoul for international tourists. The card allows you to travel on the subway or bus up to 20 times a day. This means you can just hop in and hop out at any station whenever you feel like doing it. However, you have to make sure the number of times you do that. Seoul City Pass comes in different variants. The one-day pass costs around $12.88, the two-day pass comes at $21.47, whereas the three-day pass costs around $25.76.
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What to explore in Seoul
The city of Seoul is a treasure trove of pop culture, rich history, heritage, modern skyscrapers, bustling markets, and much more. There is a long list of what to explore in Seoul. Let's have a look at what the city has in its fold for its tourists.

Gyeongbokgung Palace
Gyeongbokgung was one chief royal palace during the reign of the Joseon Dynasty. It is also one of the five main palaces in Seoul. Gyeongbokgung Palace traces its history from the 14th century. Being the largest of its kind, it is one of the most iconic attractions in Seoul. The palace is also known for its stunning architectural design which depicts the astonishing craftsmanship of a bygone era. At present, the palace has a huge complex with a pavilion located on an artificial island in the middle of a pond. Along with that, there are also three bridges that are spread across the palace. Not just this, another thing to see here at Gyeongbokgung Palace is the ceremony of Changing of the Royal Guard which is observed at the main gate of the palace.

Address: 161 Sajik-ro, Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours: Wednesday to Monday from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM
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N Seoul Tower
Another renowned tourist site in Seoul is N Seoul Tower. It is located on the top of Namsan Mountain. The tower is known for its observation deck from where you can relish the sublime view of the city. Along with that, it also includes a restaurant and several shops from where you get some souvenirs to take back home. A dining experience in the restaurant while savouring the sweeping view of Seoul is yet another experience to indulge while exploring the N Seoul Tower. However, that experience can be best relished during the evening time when the city started falling asleep. Since the tower is located atop the mountain (which is situated at an elevation of 262 metres), you have to either indulge in hiking which takes around half an hour to complete or you can just take the cable car to reach the top of the mountain.

Address: 105 Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan 2(i)ga-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 10:00 AM to 11:00 PM
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Lotte World
Lotte World is the largest indoor amusement park in the world, and hence, it is one of the most popular attractions which is ideal for people of all ages. Not just this, the Lotte World complex also includes an outdoor amusement park, called Magical Island. It is basically a man-made island built inside a lake which is linked by shopping malls and monorails. To ensure the maximum comfort of visitors, the complex also includes a luxury hotel. Along with that, here you can also find movie theatres, sports facilities, and Korean folk museum. On the whole, Lotte World is a perfect attraction to visit with your friends and family or with your kids if you are looking to have an amazing fun time.

Location Address: 240 Olympic-ro, Jamsil-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul, South Korea.
Opening Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 9:30 AM to 10:00 PM.

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Korean Furniture Museum
Indeed a unique place in Seoul for all the museum lovers is the famous Korean Furniture Museum. This tourist attraction is perfect for all those who love to learn about the history and culture of the new destinations. The museum houses a rare antique collection of wooden furnishings. On display, there are more than 2500 exhibits of traditional Korean furniture. Unlike any other museum where exhibits are displayed behind the glasses, the collections in Korean Furniture Museum are displayed in 10 hanoks. This depicts how these collections would have actually been used in day to day life in Korean.

Address: 121 Daesagwan-ro, Seongbuk-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM

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Bukchon Hanok Village
For all the cultural buffs, Bukchon Hanok Village is one of the must-visit places in Seoul. For years, this ancient village has preserved the 600-year-old history and heritage of Korean through its quaint settlement. It gives visitors a chance to take an insight into the rich history of the city that once prevailed here during the Joseon dynasty. The village is located north of Cheonggye Stream and is also home to the famous Bukchon Traditional Culture Center. The village is known to house numerous hanok (the traditional Korean houses) and is also known for its beautiful alleys. Visiting Bukchon Hanok Village is indeed one of the best experiences to relish while vacationing in Seoul.

Address: 37, Gyedong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Opening Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

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Jogyesa Temple
One of the most renowned and highly sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Seoul is Jogyesa Temple. This popular temple dates back to the 14th century and was built during the reign of the Joseon Dynasty. However, later after some years, it was burned down to ashes because of a fire. The present architecture of the temple was constructed in the year 1910 and it beautifully depicts the craftsmanship of Korean artists. Here you can spend some time meditating and finding solace. The tranquil ambiance of the temple is worth paying a visit.

Address: 55 Ujeongguk-ro, Gyeonji-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours: Open all throughout the day

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Fish Market
Fish Market is certainly one of the most interesting tourist places in Seoul. It was first opened in 1927. Well, not only you can explore different species of fish here, but also savour the seaside delicacies. The market houses tons of stalls selling seafood. Here you can find more than 700 vendors selling all varieties of fishes, and other seafood. You can come here early and enjoy the fun and excitement of this amazing warehouse. Besides, you can also participate in the bidding of different seafood that begins as the sun rises.

Address: 674 Nodeul-ro, Noryangjin-dong, Dongjak-gu, South Korea
Opening Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 9:30 AM to 10:00 PM

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Bukhansan National Park
Tourism in Seoul is not just restricted to nature, culture, history, and heritage, it also includes wildlife. In total, there are 22 national parks in South Korea, Bukhansan National Park being one of them. The national park is situated in the periphery of the city and is spread over a large area of 80 sq km land. Being one of the most compelling attractions, Bukhansan National Park is flocked by lakhs of tourists every year. Here you can expect to savour the sweeping mountain views along with gushing streams, quaint temples, and maple leaves. Apart from the affluent wildlife, you can also relish a hiking experience that takes you all the way up to ridgetop peak. From the peak, you can gaze upon surreal views of the surrounding.

Address: 262 Bogukmun-ro, Jeongneung-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 4:00 AM to 5:00 PM
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Kyungin Museum of Fine Art
Yet another must-visit attraction for all the art and culture admirers visiting Seoul is Kyungin Museum of Fine Art. Situated in Jongnogu district, the museum houses five exhibition halls – an outdoor garden, an atelier, Eogeomdang, tea house, and a market specializing in swords. Exhibitions at this museum change every weak and the new exhibitions are displayed on every Wednesday. To promote the fine arts, the entry to the museum is free.

Address: 57-1 Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM

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Everland
Another place to have a fun time with friends and family is Everland. It is basically a theme park that has a lot of excitement and fun in its fold to offer to its tourists. For a fact, Everland is South Korea's largest outdoor theme park. It is known to house five unique zones that include various rides and attractions. Out of all the rides, the roller coaster would certainly grab your eyeballs. And taking a ride of it is an experience in itself as it is the world's steepest wooden roller coaster. If you are looking to visit this theme park, then a piece of advice for you is – visit the park in the early hours otherwise there is a chance that you will not be able to cover all the rides. Yes, Everland has a lot of rides to cover in a day. So, pay heed to the advice.

Address: 199 Everland-ro, Pogog-eup, Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
Opening Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM

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Godabang Cafe
Wondering how come a cafe is on the list of tourist attractions in Seoul? Well, after all, this place deserves all the praise and attention because of the fact that it is a themed cafe located in Myeongdong district. Godabang Cafe is a cat themed cafe which is ideal to visit for all the kitty lovers. You must be wondering whether they have any cats or not in the cafe, right? Indeed they have! You can spend time playing with fluffy and mischievous cats. But for that, you have to follow some rules that are made to ensure the safety of these lovely creatures.

The rules just say that you have to wash your hands upon entering. Besides, the other rules say that neither you can touch any cats while they are sleeping, nor you can run after any cat to catch them. However, there will be no need to break these rules as the cats are friendly enough and will easily come to you.

Location: 8 5 Myeongdong 8-gil, Myeongdong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday from 1:00 PM to 10:00 PM, Sunday and Saturday from 12:00 PM to 10:00 PM

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Alive Museum
In the downtown of Seoul, Alive Museum is indeed worth a visit for people of all ages, irrespective of their interest and choice in museums. Alive Museum is the first museum that brought interactive 4D optical illusions. On display, there are more than 100 exhibits that visitors can explore and experience as well. But, that's not it! The museum is known to create personalised artworks using your facial expressions and body. Wondering how they do it? Well, it's simple! They use digital technology. So, are you going to grab the chance when you'll be in Seoul to live out your favourite Disney character or movie? And if you are visiting the museum, then do not forget to take your camera with you and capture the amazing art in your camera lenses. Surely, you will relish them later in your life!

Location: 12 Insadong-gil, Insa-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

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Trick Eye Museum
Talking about museums, Trick Eye Museum is something you can't leave behind when it comes to popular museums in Seoul. Indeed, it is one of the most interesting places to visit, more like Alive Museum.

The museum represents the interesting and intriguing art technique which is used to create an eye illusion of a 3D object. It serves as a recreation space where visitors can interact with the exhibits and enjoy a fun time exploring the museum.
They can interact with the 3D paintings and capture them in their camera lenses. For a fact, Trick Eye Museum is one of those few museums in the world which incorporates the Augmented Reality (AR). This creates a whole new and interesting experience which tourists can savour.

Address: 20 Hongik-ro 3-gil, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours: Sunday to Saturday from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM

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What do do in Seoul
cEven after excluding the above-mentioned attractions, the city of Seoul still has plenty more to offer to you. There are some amazing and worth-indulging experiences that you should look to savour or experience while holidaying in Seoul.

  • Buy Cosmetics at Myeongdong
Myeongdong is a shopping district in Seoul. But, more than anything it is known for selling the best cosmetic items. Thus, if you are looking to buy some Korean cosmetic products, then this is a haven for you. Here you can find all sorts of Korean cosmetic brands ranging from popular to lesser-known. The area is dotted with hundreds of shops and stores selling a wide range of items. In Myeongdong, you can also find some popular clothing stores like H&M, Zara, and American Apparel. Shopping in Myeongdong is indeed a crazy experience for everyone.
  • Go on a Street Food Tour in Hongdae
Hongdae is a paradise when it comes to Korean street food. Many food bloggers or travellers visit Seoul mainly to explore this region. The region is lined with food stalls. Make sure you come here with an empty stomach as there is so much to relish in Hongdae that surely you'll not be able to cover all in just a single visit. Some of the must-try Korean delicacies on a Hongdae food tour are Spicy Korean Ramyun, Pancake, Chimaek, Patbingsoo, and Kimchi. Being a social hub, Hongdae is also known to house cosy cafes, lay back restaurants, and pubs and bars. Along with that, here you can also find a good number of karaoke rooms. Hongdae's nightlife is also quite popular amongst tourists.

  • Korean BBQ
Who doesn't love BBQ? But don't compare Korean BBQ with an ordinary one as it is way more special and interesting. It is an experience in itself that one should relish while vacationing in Seoul. There are a number of BBQ restaurants in Seoul. At any of the BBQ restaurant, you can order thin meat, thick meat, beef, and pork. But the best thing is you can grill in yourself on the tabletop stove. However, the options are endless. Even some of the dishes are free. A BBQ experience in Seoul is best to relished with friends and family, hence, make sure you go with them.
  • Clubbing in Gangnam
Gangnam is indeed one of the most popular social hubs in Seoul. Seoul often touted as one of those cities that never sleeps and Gangnam is one of those neighbourhoods in the city which is perfect to explore the nightlife of Seoul. Gangnam is a famous clubbing district where a party lover can expect to have the best time. The luxurious clubs with world-class DJs and state of the art facilities, Gangnam remains dotted with oodles of party lovers. Some of the popular clubs in Gangnam are Club Octagon, Club Palace, Club Bound, Club Buggati, Club Arena, and Club Mass.

  • Go for Shopping in an Underground Shopping Centre
You would be amazed to know that the city of Seoul is also known for its amazing and extensive underground facilities which are indeed very impressive. Seoul has a massive underground shopping paradise. Express Terminal Underground Centre, Yeongeungpo Underground Mall, and Gangnam Underground Shopping Centre are some of the most popular underground shopping spots in Seoul. All these spots are dotted with oodles of things to buy ranging from clothing to accessories to souvenirs.
  • Buy Souvenirs at Insadong
Shopping in Seoul is perhaps is extensive experience in itself as it is not just restricted to one place. Insadong is yet another popular shopping spots in Seoul where tourists go shopping for amazing souvenirs to take back home. If you are planning to buy some great souvenir stuff for your friends and family, then this is the place to be. There is one street in Insadong region which is dotted with tons of galleries, booths, teahouses, shops, and restaurants. Not just for souvenirs, you can also expect to pick some other stuff from this place as well.

  • Drink Tea at a Teahouse
Do you know that Seoul is also famous to serve some of the best tea? If not, now you know! To relish the taste of tea, head to one of the teahouses in Seoul. Insadong region is lined with a number of teahouses. I would recommend you to visit Chatjip. There, order a cup of homemade Jujube Tea which is delectably good in taste. However, you can also try other variants available there. Though it doesn't sound like a must-try experience in Seoul, but trust me, it is indeed.
  • Try Korean Fire Noodles
Amongst those famous things in Seoul, fire noodles is one. You must have seen Korean fire noodle challenge videos on the internet. Well, I won't recommend performing the challenge, but to taste this noodle. It is one of the spiciest noodles I have had in my life. You can visit any convenience store nearby and grab a cup of spicy noodles and prepare it at your place.

  • Be a Part of K-Pop Performance
If you are an ardent fan of K-Pop, then Seoul indeed has a very special place just for you. SMTOWN at Coex Artium is one of the havens for K-Pop lovers. Here you can enjoy a K-Pop performance by various local and international artists. Besides being a part of a show, you can buy some cool K-Pop merch from this place. Also, there is an SM-related exhibition which is indeed very interesting. The studio is known to offer vocal lessons, music video making sessions, and even photo-shoots.
Tips

  • One of the first tips for you, if you are visiting Seoul, is, you should learn a few phrases of Hangul. If you don't know Hangul is the main language used in Korea.
  • In order to make the most of your Seoul, it would be good if you learn a little bit about Korean history.
  • Won is the Korean currency. You should have an idea that 1USD is roughly 1170 Won (KRW). The country has 1000, 5000, 10000, and 50000 notes along with 500, 100, 50, and 10 coins.
  • Make sure you have travel insurance with you while on a vacation in South Korea. I hope you do not fall in any such condition, but having security is better than nothing.
  • Keep yourself alerted. Well, there is nothing such as a high crime rate in Seoul but being observant is always better in a new country.
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