Known as the land of the Morning Calm, South Korea has transformed its country into a round-the-clock city in motion. Calmness maybe an understatement because the country is now a place bustling with tourists, locals, buzzing night markets, and a busy metropolis.
- Language: Korean
- Currency: South Korean Won (1 KRW = PHP 0.048)
- Payment Options: Cash, Visa, Mastercard and other card brands operating in Korea are accepted as a means of payment.
- Plug: The standard electrical voltage in South Korea is 220 volts AC, 60Hz. Plug types C and F are needed.
What to Know Before Visiting South Korea
- You don't need to give tips to the staff. The gesture is not entirely practiced as part of their culture. Most drivers, or waiters, or bellboys won’t expect it, but they will surely be grateful.
- When you’re dining at a carinderia-type restaurant in South Korea, you can shout to let the staff know that you need something. You can shout “Yogiyo!” which means “I’m here!” Other restaurants, on the other hand, use call buttons to call the servers.
- Bring your own shower shoes. Some foreign countries feel awkward about sharing shower shoes with strangers. But in Korea, it’s commonly practiced. Hotels and budget lounges have shower shoes in their bathrooms which are shared by all guests. But for hygienic purposes, its best to bring your own.
- Pushing and shoving in public places are common, especially if the spot is crowded. If you’re going to a trendy place like Myeong- dong or Hong- dae where there are a lot of people, it’s okay to gently nudge people so they know you’re right behind them and they won’t squish you.
- Korean elders expect you to respect them. Whenever you’re in line for the train and you see an elder behind you, don’t be offended when they cut you when entering the train. They expect the youngsters to make way for them as they’re old. Shake it off and accept it as a part of their culture.
Filipino citizens visiting South Korea must have all the proper visa requirements, which can be valid for 3 months prior to the departure date.
Along with the application form and picture, applicant must submit financial documents and certificate of employment.
Tourism, visiting relatives, conference and religious ceremonies are valid purposes for acquiring travel visas. As long as there’s no document error, anyone can visit South Korea without any trouble.
For more information, you can email the Philippine Embassy with their official address at [email protected]
Best Time to Visit
You can visit South Korea during the peak months of April to May when the weather is cool and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
If you are already in Korea but your money is still in peso, you can exchange currency at banks like KEB Hana Bank Shinhan Bank and Woori Bank.
Connectivity in South Korea
The country has the world’s fastest internet connection speed! It has ranked first at the UN ICT Development Index. The government implemented policies and laws that help to expand the rapid internet usage and the expansion of broadband.
As a result, almost 92% of Koreans use the internet. You can simply rent a pocket wifi online. Or if you’d prefer, approach their pocket rental booths when you arrive at the airport.
How to Go to South Korea
International airports from the Philippines serve flights from Manila and Clark to Seoul. Philippine Airlines, AirAsia and other major airlines offer departures with no connections. The travel time from Manila to Seoul is approximately three hours and 35 minutes.
Arrival at Incheon International Airport
Editorial credit: Mont592 / Shutterstock.com
The largest international airport in South Korea, Incheon International Airport serves as the primary airport operating in the country. Since 2005, this airport has been named the “Cleanest Airport Around The World”.
It was also awarded the “Best International Airport” and is recognized by the Airports Council International.
Getting Around South Korea
- Train Express: The train is the fastest mode of transportation around South Korea. If you’re planning to visit more than one city, the express is the best vehicle to ride as it is fast, easy, and safe. Discount passes for tourists are available.
Fare: starts at 1,250 won (P61)
- Taxi : As much as possible, it’s friendlier to your wallet if you stick with public transportation. After all, a distance of three km would drain 5,300 won (P258) from your pocket money. If you’re travelling in a group of four, though, it’s better to ride a cab.
Fare: flag-down rate starts at 3,000 won (P145)
- Bus: Although buses travel during a limited time period, they offer rides frequently. Bus rides conform to their time schedule strictly – if the sign says it will arrive in 10 minutes, it will, so don’t be shocked if they leave you even if you’re a minute late.
Fare: starts at 1,250 won (P61)
Things to Do in South Korea
- Attend the Jinju Lantern Festival. Every October, the Jinju town celebrates its famous lantern festival where locals and tourists gather to light up thousands of lanterns and let it flow down the Namgan River. This serves as a tribute to all the Koreans who lost their lives fighting the Japanese during the war from the past centuries.
- Attend the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival. Held during spring, the Cherry Blossom festival is held in the area of Jungwon Rotary and downtown Jinhae. Apart from the enjoying the blossoms themselves, guests are also treated to cultural performances, a military performance, and more.
- Go shopping at the “Skincare Capital of the World”. Myeong- dong is a place where several huge cosmetic brands have decided to set up shop. With one store after another offering huge deals, promos and free products with purchases – it's easy to go broke here!
Tourists Spots in South Korea
- Gyeongbokgung Palace. This grand palace was home to many kings during the Joseon Dynasty and was dubbed “a place where the new king can enjoy prosperity of great blessings.”
Nowadays, visitors can stroll through the palace grounds and enjoy the well-maintained buildings each boasting of gorgeous architecture and intricate details.
Guests can also watch the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony, which happens between 9:30 AM to 2 PM.
- Jeju Island. Dubbed Korea's largest tourist destination, Jeju Island welcomes an estimate 8.7 million foreign visitors every year. It is a UNESCO triple crown having been designated a World Natural Heritage, a Global Geopark, a Biosphere Reserve, and is one of the Seven Wonders of Nature.
From nature parks to a naughty themed sculpture park called Love Land, there is so much for guests to explore and discover on Jeju Island.
- Namiseom Island. Originally a hilltop, “Nami Island” is small enough for guests to tour around in half a day and is a must-see for fans of the popular K-drama, “Winter Sonata.”
Instagrammable spots that may seem familiar to you include The Metasequoia Lane and Ginkgo Tree Lane – both of which are frequently featured in Korean dramas and movies.
- Lotte World. Recognized as the world’s largest indoor amusement park, Lotte World has an indoor and outdoor theme park perfect for kids and kids-at-heart! With several rides, activities and attractions, one can easily spend a whole day here.
What to Eat In South Korea
- Mayak Gimbap (마약김밥) “Mayak” means “narcotic” or “drug” because this Korean snack made out of a seaweed rice roll is addictive. With pickled carrot and radish rolled together with rice and dried seaweed, this on-the-go snack is perfect for people who need a quick bite to and fro home.
- Japchae (잡채) Japchae literally means “mixed vegetables”. It is sweet potato starch noodles stir fried with vegetables and meat. It was once a royal dish but now is a must-have at Korean weddings, birthdays and holidays.
- Bibimbap (잡채) This heavy but delicious meal is rice mixed with vegetables, meat, an egg, and chili pepper paste.
- Chicken and Beer More commonly known as “Yangnyeom Tongdak”, pieces of chicken are fried twice and coated in a sweet, sour and spicy sauce. When fried twice, the chicken becomes crispier and is less greasy. This is usually served as an appetizer or alongside a cold bottle of beer.
- Hotteok (호떡) This Korean pancake is usually filled with hot brown sugar or honey. Gooey, chewy and tasty – this is perfect for dessert!
Where to Stay
- The Shilla Seoul – With rooms that either offer gorgeous city views of that of Namsan Mountain, The Shilla Seoul is perfect for guests who enjoy luxe interiors and who have discerning tastes. Not one to skimp on quality, guests can expect only the best in comfort, dining, and facilities when at The Shilla.
- The Westin Chosun Seoul – Located in the heart of Seoul, this luxury hotel is just a stone's throw away from global offices, restaurants, shopping complexes and more – which is why this is perfect for both business and leisure travelers.
- Canvas Hostel, Busan – This 3-star accommodation offers guests a modern and minimalist stay with free wireless internet, a personal safe and clean and comfortable beds. Whether you're staying in a private room or in one of the dorms, guests are ensured a great stay just 15 minutes away from shopping complexes and delicious restaurants.
- Lotte Hotel Busan – Located in the heart of Busan, Lotte Hotel is the largest hotel in the city. With 650 tastefully-appointed rooms, world-class facilities and top of the notch service, it's no wonder guests come back time and time again.
- Seoubong Beach Hotel – This smoke-free hotel is near Hamdeok Beach, Dolharbang Park and Darkmur Rock. It has an indoor and outdoor pool, spa services, a business center and concierge services.