Downtown skyline of Seoul, South Korea
travel tips

Seoul, South Korea: travel tips from a local resident

Ingrid Zudor

Contributing writer

No matter if you are planning to spend a few days in Seoul, South Korea or even a longer vacation exploring the country, there are certain things worth knowing before you visit.

Seoul is a vibrant metropolis, with a population of over 25 million people, where you will find something for any type of traveler. Foodies will be in heaven with a wide range of delicious traditional dishes, tea ceremonies, and rice sweets; history lovers could spend hours exploring the many palaces and museums in and around Seoul; nature lovers can choose from the tens of hike trails in the Bukhansan Mountains; and city lovers will find it hard to explore all the cool neighborhoods Seoul had on display.

To make your trip easier, here are a few things worth knowing before visiting Seoul – from an expat’s perspective

Gyeongbokgung palace with cherry blossom tree in spring time in seoul city of korea, south korea.

1. Spring is the best time to visit Seoul

South Korea is a country with 4 seasons: a hot and humid summer, a very cold winter, and lovely spring and fall.

If you want to make the best out of your vacation, plan your trip during spring and see the city transform itself with millions of flowers in bloom, or during autumn for the foliage.

Old city gate at sunset in Seoul, South Korea

2. Forget about Google Maps while you're in Seoul

If there’s one thing worth knowing, is that Koreans have their own version of Google Maps and it’s called Naver Maps (or the alternative of Kakao Maps). And don’t just think “good for them, I’ll stick to Google maps” because that’s not possible, since your beloved travel companion won’t function here in South Korea. Just be sure to download the app so you can access the English version.

Naver Maps is easy to use and you can find most tourist attractions by searching for them in English (try not to add spaces in between words as well). However, if you choose to go off the beaten track, you might find it easier to use a translation app and input the address or location with Korean characters.

Another thing worth knowing about the app is that it tends to show mostly bus connections. When you want to use the subway to get from one point to the other, using the Subway app will prove to be much more helpful.

Seoul, South Korea

3. Seoul is not a cheap destination

Seoul, and South Korea in general, is not a cheap destination, no matter if you choose to live here or just to visit.

After two years of living in Hong Kong I was expecting Seoul to be much cheaper, but to my surprise, that wasn’t the case.

Expect to spend at least 25 USD for a coffee and a cake at one of the thousands of cafes around town, and around 50 USD for a Korean barbeque.

Seoul, South Korea

4. You’ll need Papago

Papago is another locally developed app that will help you translate anything from Korean to English, and the other way around. You will definitely need it to read menus in restaurants, other signs around town, or even to talk to people if you ask for directions.

Seoul City, South Korea

5. Public transportation is good and easy to use

Public transportation is very good and will get you easily almost anywhere, you can expect to pay around 1.1 USD for a trip.

Buses are always on time and very frequent, the subway system is wide and fast, and there are trains passing through town that you can use for day trips as well.

Get the T-Money card from any convenience store in town, add money, and validate it every time you get on or off a bus, or enter and exit the subway.

A bicycle next to a mural of a rose in Seoul, South Korea

6. Seoul is heaven for cosmetics lovers

South Korea has built a worldwide brand for itself in recent years for offering high quality cosmetics at affordable prices. And you can easily spend hours exploring the cosmetics shops in Myeong-dong or Hongdae.

The country is also a leader when it comes to plastic surgery and many people come from all over the world to get their much more affordable surgeries at the Gangnam clinics.

Planning a trip to Seoul? Read our article on travel costs in South Korea.

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Ingrid Zudor

Author - Ingrid Zudor

Ingrid is a travel blogger and book lover on the constant search of places and experiences that bring joy to life. She is originally from Romania, currently living the expat life in Seoul, South Korea, after spending two years in Hong Kong. You can follow her stories on IngridZenMoments.

Last Updated 5 May 2022

Gyeongbokgung palace with cherry blossom tree in spring time in seoul city of korea, south korea.

South Korea

Known for its K-Pop, fashion, cosmetics, Buddhist temples, South Korea is a beautiful country with a hilly and mountainous landscape, dotted with cherry trees.
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