South Korea Travel Guide

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Visiting South Korea

The Korean people are among the friendliest, kindest and hardest working in the world and ensure that your visit to South Korea will be a memorable one – for all the right reasons of course.

The Korean Peninsula extends southward from the northeast part of the Asian continent between 33 degrees and 43 degrees North Latitude and 124 degrees and 132 degrees East Longitude. The standard meridian of the peninsula is 135 degrees. Local time is nine hours ahead of GMT. The Amnokgang and Dumangang Rivers border both China and Russia to the north, and Japan is just across the East Sea. Since 1945, as a result of the Cold War tension, the peninsula has been divided at the 38th parallel degrees North Latitude into the Republic of Korea, or South Korea, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, more commonly known as North Korea.

The total area of the peninsula is 222,154 km2, which is similar in size to that of the U.K., New Zealand, or Romania. South Korea possesses 99,373 km2 or 45% of the total land mass, and North Korea 122,762 km2, the remaining 55%. About 70% of the land is mountainous, with the main concentrations to the north and east. Along the southern and western coasts the mountains descend gradually toward broad coastal plains. Most of the rivers have their tributaries on the north and east sides more than 3,000 and flow into the Yellow and South Seas. Clustered for the most part on the southern coast, islands are of various sizes provide scenery unparalleled throughout the world.

Koreans, like many other Asian peoples, are descendants of the Mongolian Tungus stock. They differ from the neighbouring Japanese and Chinese, however, in that Koreans are a homogeneous ethnic group with their own language, culture, and customs. Korean people are characterized by their generosity, warmth, and kindness, and are renowned as some of the hardest working people in the world.

The capital city is Seoul, which is the political, cultural, commercial, financial, and educational centre of Korea. Seoul also offers many of South Korea’s major tourist attractions and has a population of just under ten million. The total population of South Korea is just over forty six million.

Koreans are proud of their diet, quite varied and full of nutrition. It is richly endowed with fermented foods, vegetables and grains, soups, teas, liquors, confectionery and soft drinks. Kimchi and doenjang paste made of soybeans are the best-known examples of Korean fermented foods, and these have recently become highly valued for their disease-prevention effects.

Korea also boasts hundreds of vegetable and wild green dishes. The Korean meal is almost always accompanied by a big bowl of hot soup or stew, and the classic meal contains a variety of vegetables. Korean foods are seldom deep-fried like Chinese food; they are usually boiled or blanched, broiled, stir-fried, steamed, or pan-fried with vegetable oil.

Traditional Korean dishes include the following:

Jeon – Pan-Fried Dishes
Mushrooms, zucchini, fish fillets, oysters, or green peppers with ground meat filling are thinly coated with flour, dipped in a beaten egg, and then pan-fried. There are also pancake-type jeon: mung bean powder, wheat flour or grated potato is used to make a batter, and green onion, kimchi, or chopped pork are stirred in, then pan-fried.

Jjim and Jorim – Simmered Meat or Fish
Jjim and jorim are similar. Meat or fish are simmered over low heat in soy sauce flavored with other seasonings until the ingredients become tender and tasty. Jjim also refers to a steamed dish.

Gui – Broiled or Barbecued Dishes
Bulgogi (thin-sliced marinated beef) and galbi (marinated beef ribs) are well-known examples of gui. Fish are often broiled, too.

Jjigae and Jeongol – Stew and Casseroles
Less watery and containing more substances to chew than soup, these dishes are one of the main parts of a meal. Soybean paste stew is a very popular jjigae. Jeongol is usually cooked in a casserole dish on a fire at the dining table. Noodles, pine mushrooms, octopus, tripe, and vegetables are favored ingredients for jeongol.

Hoe – Raw Fish
Sliced raw fish is becoming popular around the world. Tuna, croaker, flatfish, oysters, skate, sea cucumber, abalone, sea urchin, and squid are popular in Korea (some restaurants even serve raw beef). Sesame leaves or lettuces are common garnishes, and choices of thin-sliced ginger, mustard or red pepper paste sauce provide pungency. Hoe can also be pronounced as “hwey”.

Namul – Vegetable or Wild Green Dishes
The Korean diet includes hundreds of vegetables and wild green dishes called namul, and a visit to a Korean marketplace shows a huge variety of unusual greens. Namul is usually parboiled or stir-fried and seasoned with combinations of salt, soy sauce, sesame seeds, sesame oil, garlic and green onion.

Jeotgal – Seafood Fermented in Salt
Fish, clams, shrimp, oysters, fish roe, or selected fish organs are the main ingredients of jeotgal, which is very salty. A pungent side dish in itself with boiled rice, it is sometimes added to kimchi or used to season other dishes.

Sometimes a delicacy, porridge has been served as a restorative food to recovering patients in Korea for hundreds of years. Pine nuts, red beans, pumpkin, abalone, ginseng, chicken, vegetables to health, mushrooms and bean sprouts are the most popular vegetables.

Guk and Tang – Soup
A Korean table is never complete without a soup. Vegetables, meat, fish and shellfish, seaweed, and even boiled cow bones are used to make guk and tang.

Bap – Boiled Rice
Boiled rice is a staple of the Korean diet. Barley, beans, chestnut, millet, or other grains are often added for better taste and nutritional values.

Getting There
There are five international airports in Korea: Incheon, Gimhae, Cheongju, Daegu and Jeju International Airports. Incheon International Airport is located 52 km west of Seoul, with flights to parts all around the world. The others serve only Asia. Airport tax is 15,000 won for international flights, and 3,000 or 4,000 won for domestic flights.

Incheon International airport completed with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities aimed at offering comfortable and convenient passenger services. Its modern facilities are not only designed for air transport but will also fulfil diverse needs such as business and leisure facilities. Incoming passengers go through passport and immigration formalities on the second floor, then proceed to the ground floor to claim their luggage and report to customs officials before exiting to Welcome Hall. Departing passengers will complete the embarkation process, including seat assignment and baggage check-in, security and passport check, on the third-floor departure lounge in the passenger terminal before boarding their plane.

Domestic flights connect from Incheon to Busan and Jeju. To reach other areas in Korea, take a taxi or non-stop bus to Gimpo Airport. It is necessary first to observe normal immigration procedures and then to go, via the Welcome Hall, to the third floor departure lounge for transit to Gimpo. Luggage must clear international customs and then be checked in again at a domestic flight counter.

KAL limousine buses and airport limousine buses link the Incheon Airport to most of the big cities in Korea at reasonable rates. Tickets are available at hotel counters or airport limousine counters. Travelers with large luggage may use these buses with ease. City coach buses are also available to various parts of Seoul as well as suburban areas such as Suwon, Uijeongbu, Ansan and Yongin. Fares are lower than airport limousine buses. You can purchase tickets at ticket offices at the airport or pay right on the bus.

The Korea City Air Terminal (KCAT), located in the extensive World Trade Centre Seoul (WTCS) Complex, provides check-in service and passport inspection for passengers who are departing from Incheon International Airport and flying Asiana Airline, Korean Air or any of 10 foreign airlines including Northwest, Kufthansa, Singapore, American, Cathay Pacific, etc. A limousine bus service operates between KCAT and Incheon Airport.

Busan (previous spelling “Pusan”) is the country’s largest port and second-largest city. This international seaport is the main gateway to Korea for visitors who arrive by ship, usually from Japan. Another international port is Incheon which features service to China. The Bugwan Ferry (Tel : 02-738-0055), Korea Ferry (Tel : 02-775-2323), and Korea Marine Express (Tel : 02-730-8666) provide regular services between Korea and Japan, while the Weidong Ferry (Tel : 02-3271-6753) and Jinchon Ferry (Tel : 02-517-8671), etc. provide regular service to China. High-speed hydrofoil services have also begun between Busan and Hakata, Fukuoka. Temporary entry is allowed for private cars with proper documentation belonging to all visitors to Korea arriving by ferry.

Getting Around
Fast and reliable highway buses operate on expressways throughout the country, connecting almost all major points. Two express bus terminals serve Seoul. The Seoul Express Bus Terminal is the main bus depot for trips out of Seoul to other major cities, conveniently located on Subway Line 3. Dong Seoul Bus Terminal is near Gangbyeon Subway Station on Line 2. Superior express buses are somewhat more expensive than regular buses, but they are popular for their spacious seats and facilities such as mobile phones and VCR Televisions.

Korea has excellent intercity bus services connecting virtually every city and town. Since no English language schedules are available, it might be advisable for the foreign traveller who wishes to take this kind of bus to get help from a Korean friend. Various tour companies offer bus services to most of the well-known tourist sites for visitors who prefer not to use the intercity buses. For details about these tours, contact the travel agencies scattered throughout the city.

Other alternatives for travel around South Korea are by air or by sea. Boats are one of the most interesting ways to travel around the country. Ferries ply the waterways between Busan and Jeju, Mokpo and Hongdo, Pohang Ulleungdo, etc. Korea also has a well-developed domestic flight network served by Korean Air and Asiana Airlines linking 17 major cities.

Finally, when you arrive in a city you will have two options for travel within most – taxis or city buses. Seoul has an extensive subway system as have Busan, Daegu and Incheon but bus or taxi is the norm.

The city bus systems differ slightly from city to city in Korea, but most cities have local and express buses. They are numbered but since their signs are only in Korean, finding the right bus may be confusing to a first-time visitor. It is advisable to request assistance to find the bus stop and number that you need. The bus fare can be paid with either coins and bills or a bus card available at booths near bus stops.

Local buses are the most common means of transportation in Seoul. They are frequent, reliable, and inexpensive. Seoul’s bus network serves every part of the city. The adult fare is 600 won regardless of distance. City coach buses, called jwaseok bus, more comfortable and they are air-conditioned. They stop less frequently and travel through congested areas faster.

Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive in Korea, clean and safe. There are taxi stands in most busy city areas, and taxis can also be hailed on the streets. As well, certain taxis can be requested by phone but the fare for these special call taxis is somewhat higher than regular taxis. An increasing number of taxi drivers speak some English. The fare system is based on both the distance and the time taken. Fares are 1,600 won for the first 2 km and 100 won for each additional 168 m. If the taxi is going less than 15 km per hour, an additional charge of 100 won per 41 seconds is added to the fare. The fare between Incheon International Airport and downtown Seoul is usually around 47,000 won (including toll) though it could be higher if traffic is congested. Fares increase 20% between midnight and 4 a.m.

Deluxe taxis, called ‘mobeom’ taxi in Korean, are black with a yellow sign on the top and the words “Deluxe Taxi” written on the sides. They offer more passenger space and a high standard of service. Fares are 4,000 won for the first 3 km and 200 won for each additional 205 m or each 50 seconds if the speed drops below 15 km per hour. The usual fare between Incheon Int’l Airport and downtown is about 67,000 won (including toll). Receipts are given. There is no late-night surcharge.

Seoul
With the Hangang River flowing east to west through the city and the mountains stretching from the north, Seoul is definitely one city you don’t want to miss during your stay in South Korea. The centre is mostly flat, but beautiful, spectacular mountains are situated in the suburbs and serve as a refuge for Seoul citizens. Since Seoul is the capital city of Korea, there are plenty of great cultural establishments and government offices, including the first integrated Government Building, the constitutional court, the National Assembly, various courts of law and Cheongwadae (the Presidential residence).

Busan
Located about 450km southeast of Seoul, Busan is bordered with the blue sea of Pacific Ocean to the south and the estuary of Nakdonggang River to the west. The city has a number of exquisite beaches and hot springs along its coastlines, attracting millions of tourists every year. Although Busan is one of the most industrialized modern cities in Korea, the archeological evidence shows that the area has been inhabited since the Old Stone Age, approximately 15,000 years ago. History left many treasures to the city including Geumjeong Fortress, Beomeosa Temple and Chungnyeolsa Shrine. Most of all, however, it is the role Busan takes for Korea’s international trade and commerce that gives Busan the vibrant and dynamic urban culture it enjoys today. Busan is one of the top five port cities in the world.

Gyeongju
Gyeongju is home to some of the most precious treasures from Korea’s 5000-year history. A historic city with a population of 291,000 as of January 2001, Gyeongju is located 370 kilometres southeast of Seoul on an area of 1,323 square kilometres. Gyeongju is known to have been the capital of Silla when Park Hyeokgeose founded the nation in 57 B.C. A birthplace of Silla, it had been the political and cultural centre of the kingdom for 990 years since its establishment. The outstanding cultural assets remaining across the city such as Buddhist temples, gold crowns and sculptures still mesmerize visitors.

Jeju
Located on the southwest seas off the Korean peninsula, Jeju Island is Korea’s largest island, covering 1,845km2 in area. With its unspoiled natural beauty, unique cultural traditions, mild climate and well-developed infrastructure, Jeju Island has become one of Korea’s most cherished tourist destinations. Korean people like to compare Jeju Island with Hawaii. Like Hawaii, Jeju was created by a volcanic eruption and many parts of the island are covered with dark volcanic rocks, sands and soil. On this egg-shaped island offshore waters are of the same aqua-turquoise colour as Hawaii’s. And these colours in turn lap against the same type of black lava shelves, jagged outcroppings and steep cliffs rimming the islands of Hawaii. Simply, Jeju Island has more exotic natural than anywhere in Korea.

Traditional Music

Korea’s traditional music is based on the voice. That voice is always a distinctively Korean voice, a voice that arises from the temperament and disposition of the Korean people. It is related to Korea’s climate and natural environment and also to religion and ideology.

Korean traditional music can be broadly divided into jeongak, (court music), which has an intellectual emphasis, and minsogak, (folk music), which is full of emotional expression. The former is closely related to the culture of the royal family and the upperclass, the latter belonging more to the common people.

The first general characteristic of Korean music to note is its leisurely tempo. Most court music moves at a slow pace, sometimes so slow that a single beat can take up to three seconds. As a result, the mood of this music is static, meditative, and reposeful. The reason for this stately tempo is related to the Korean people’s concept of the importance of the breath. Whereas Western music, based on the heartbeat, can be as lively, energetic, and dynamic as the pounding of the heart, Korean court music, founded on the rhythm of breathing, takes on the attributes of a long breath: tranquility, balance, and contemplation.

The tone quality of Korean music is generally soft and solemn, especially in court music. Because of this soft tone quality, even when one note or line clashes with another, one does not hear a discord. The tone results from the fact that most instruments are made of nonmetallic materials. String instruments have strings of silk thread rather than wire, and almost all wind instruments are made of bamboo.

Korean wind instruments include the cylindrical oboe (piri), the metal-bell woodwind (taepyeongso), the transverse flute (daegeum), the endblown flute (danso), the mouth organ (saenghwang), and the ocarina (hun). String instruments include the twelve-stringed zither (gayageum), the six-stringed zither (geomungo), the seven-stringed bowed zither (ajaeng), and the two-stringed fiddle (haegeum). Percussion instruments include the handheld gong (kkwaenggwari), the hanging gong (jing), the barrel drum (buk), the hourglass drum (janggu), the clapper (bak), teh bell chimes (pyeonjong), the stone chimes (pyeongyeong), teh tiger-shaped scraper (eo), and the wooden box (chuk).

Korean music is rich in improvisation. This spontaneity is more evident in the passionate folk music than it is in the emotionally restrained court music. The instrumental solo music sanjo is a good example, as is the unique vocal art pansori. Another characteristic of Korean music is that it tends to be performed continuously, without a break between movements. Here again, the most appropriate example is pansori. In the Song of Chunhyang the singer performs alone for over eight hours without a break, taking on the roles of all the characters in turn. This would certainly never be seen anywhere else in the world.

The tradition of Korean music is maintained today by samul nori percussion quartets and by such institutions as the National Traditional Music Orchestra and the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts.

Since the age of the tribal states, Koreans have offered songs and dances to heaven and the spirits in communal ceremonies connected with agriculture.According to Goguryeo murals and the History of the Three Kingdoms (Samguk Sagi, 1146), the dancers of the Goguryeo period wore colorful costumes and performed dances to the accompaniment of music. In the early 7th century a man from Baekje named Mimaji performed masked dances at various temples in Japan. The masks are still preserved today in the Todaiji Temple in Nara. Unified Silla inherited the dance traditions of the Three Kingdoms.

The crosscultural exchanges with Tang China spun off diverse dances. Dances with specific choreography began to appear in court pieces such as Muaemu, Cheoyongmu, and Sangyeommu. In the Goryeo were period other dances were imported from Song China and performed at various national ceremonies including banquets in honor of distinguished guests, the Buddhist Festival of Eight Vows (Palgwanhoe), and the Lantern Festival (Yeondeunghoe). As a result, a distinction began to be made between native dances, known as hyangak jeongjae, and those imported from China, dangak jeongjae.

Traditional Dance

Korean traditional dance can be broadly divided into court dance and folk dance. Court dance includes jeongjaemu, dances performed at banquets, and ilmu, the line dances performed in Confucian rituals. Banquet Dances are subdivided into native hyangak jeongjae and Tang-derived dangak jeongjae. Hyangak jeongjae and dangak jeongjae can be distinguished by the manner in which the dancers enter and exit, the calls that mark the beginning and end of a dance, the presence or absence of a spoken greeting, and the lyrics. In the Goryeo period these distinctions were rigidly maintained. Ilmu can be further categorized into civil dance, munmu, and military dance, mumu.

Folk dances can be divided into religious dances led by monks and secular dances performed by the people. Religious dances include the shaman’s ritual dance. The Buddhist dance by monks is performed at temples in major memorial services. Secular dances of the common people include both solo and group dances. In practice the group dances and the entertaining dances are so alike and so closely related that it is difficult to make a strict distinction between them.

Ilmu is performed in lines to the accompaniment of Confucian ritual music (aak). It is categorized according to the number of lines: eight, six, four, or two. The ilmu introduced from Song China in the 11th year (1116) of King Yejong’s reign of the Goryeo Dynasty was a six-line dance performed by 36 dancers, which later evolved into diverse line dances.

In the Goryeo period, baekhui gamu court entertainments hundreds of kinds of including dance and acrobatic performances, were performed mainly at national ceremonies in the court. They included the Buddhist Festival of Eight Vows, or Palgwanhoe, the Lantern Festival, or Yeondeunghoe, and the New Year’s Eve Festival, or Narye. These dances became further diversified in the Joseon period. The Goryeo-inherited dances in Joseon-native court productions, China-derived dances, line dances, and court acrobatic entertainments were all enriched to a higher level. For the accompaniment of native court dances, Botaepyeong and Jeongdaeeop court music productions were newly composed. They were chosen for the royal ancestral service at the Jongmyo Shrine in the 10th year (1464) of King Sejo’s reign, and serve in this role to this day.

Types of baekhui gamu included sandae japgeuk, or stage variety shows by clowns, and goak japhui, or drumming variety shows. Performed at welcoming banquets for foreign emissaries, they included tumbling (geundu), boys dancing on men’s shoulders (mudong), climbing a bamboo pole (jukgwangdae), tight-rope walking (jultagi), lion dances (sajamu), crane dances (hangmu), and puppet plays (kkokdugaksi noreum). Many other traditional dances have also come down to us. Various dances connected with shamanism survive throughout the country, as do folk dances infused with folk games, such as ganggang sullae, or female roundelay, and notdari balkki, or walking across human bridge.

In the 1930s and 1940s this transmitted tradition of dance influenced the original choreography of the internationally renowned Korean dancer Choe Seung-hui, and even today it is reflected in contemporary productions.

Major Korean Festivals

The Korean lunar calendar incorporates seasonal divisions of 24 jeolgi or turning points, each one lasting about 15 days. The seasonal cycle became a timetable in an agrarian society like korea’s. The seasonal festivals and folk games naturally developed on the cycle of the 24 jeolgi customs and festivals are vanishing in the modern Korean lifestyle.

Today’s biggist festivals of the lunar calendar include. New Year’s Day , the first full moon day, the spring festival and harvest festival.On New Year’s day, the biggsest holiday of the year. Koreans offer an ancestral service before a ritual table set with offerings librations of food and drink and they pray for the well-being of their family. After the service , younger family members offer bows of respect to their elders and exchange New-Year greetings with them.

On the 15th day of the first full moon, people prepared hard-shell nuts (walnuts, peanuts, chestnuts, and pine nuts). It was believed that cracking and eating nuts would repel the evil spirits that caused boils and other skin troubles. Diverse folk games were held to wish for communal peace, health, and abundance. For example, a tug-of-war game (juldarigi), by east and west teams promoted communal cooperation. A bridge-crossing game (dari balkki), involved crossing a bridge a number of times equal to one’s age under the first full moon, in the belief that this would ward off leg pain and promote health until the year end.

On spring festival Dano, the 5th lunar day of the 5th month, men celebrated with wrestling, or ssireum. Women washed their hair with iris extract and would swing. The annual Dano festival in Gangneung features diverse traditional events including a ritual service dedicated to the mountain deity and the Gwanno Gamyeongeuk, the masked-dance drama of civil officials and servants.

The harvest festival, Chuseok, held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, is another family-get-together occasion, almost as big a national holiday as New Year’s Day. An ancestral ritual service is offered with fresh harvest crops and fruits. Indispensable to the festival menu is songpyeon, a rice cake stuffed with chestnuts, sesame, or beans and steamed with pine needles to add fragrance. On Chuseok day various games are enjoyed. Today these traditional games are held in palaces to invite participation by visitors.

Currency
The currency used is the South Korean Won. Notes come in denominations of W1000, W5000 and W10000 and the coins in use are W1, W5, W10, W50, W100 and W500. You should note, however, that W1 and W5 coins are extremely rare and are usually only found in banks.

Language
The language spoken is Korean but you should be able to find somebody who speaks English in the major tourist areas as well as the bigger towns and cities because it is the secondary language of South Korea.

Climate
Korea’s climate is a continental one which means that winter is dry and cold and lasts from December to March while summer is hot and humid and lasts from June to September. Changes between seasons are swift too and take place in April and October so if you are travelling at this time of year you really do need to take this into account. The wettest months are between June and September where the country receives 70% of its annual rainfall and the natives can expect at least one typhoon every year. Average temperatures in the capital are between –9 and 0 degrees Celsius in January and between 22 and 31 degrees Celsius in August.

Time Zone
South Korea lies nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Opening Hours
Government offices open between 9.00am and 6.00pm from March to October and between 9.00am and 5.00pm from November to February. They open between 9.00am and 1.00pm on Saturday all year round. Banks are open between 9.30am and 4.30pm from Monday to Friday and between 9.30am and 1.30pm on Saturdays. Both are required by law to close on Sundays and all national holidays. Bigger department stores open between 10.30am and 7.30pm including Sundays but do close for one day during the week depending on the location. Finally, smaller shops open early and close late on a daily basis.

Electricity
Most of the country has now converted to 220 Volts AC, 60Hz but in some older buildings you may still find 110 Volts. To tell the difference check the outlets first – the 110V are flat two pins while the 220V are round two pins.

Tax
Most goods and services in South Korea are subject to a standard value added tax of 10%. This will be included in the price so you don’t have to worry about being charged extra on top of the price quoted.

Visa Requirements
Visitors from most countries will not require a visa to visit South Korea for a period of less than thirty days. You will need to have an outward ticket and a passport which is valid for a period of no less than six months after your arrival date. It is also worth noting that this is all that is required by countries who do need a visa if they have already been issued with a visa by the US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand or Japanese governments.

If you intend to stay for longer than thirty days the best thing to do is contact the embassy in your home country because it can become quite confusing. For example South Korea has an agreement with all West European nationals whereby they will be granted a ninety-day permit with the exception of Italians and Portuguese who can stay for sixty days. Nationals of Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand also qualify for the ninety-day permit. Nationals of all other countries will need a visa if you intend staying for a period in excess of thirty days and you should also note that tourist visas are very rarely extended so if you wish to work or study or stay for a period longer than your visa permits, you should also contact the Korean embassy in your home country.

Tourist Office
The main tourist offices in South Korea are Korean National Tourism Offices (KNTO. They produce excellent information in their booklets, brochures and maps which can be picked up in any branch and you will find the main offices at the three international airports – Seoul, Busan and Jejudo- and in Seoul city centre. As well as this you will find smaller offices in almost every town and city in the country. Most are located in the city or town hall but some of the offices in more remote locations might not have as much information or an English speaker. Where this is the case, however, you can call the free country wide number 080 757 2000 where you are guaranteed to find somebody who can help you with any queries you might have.

Telephones
The country code for South Korea is 82 so if you are calling from abroad you need to dial your international code followed by 82, the local area code without the first 0 and the local number. The same instructions apply when you are making an international call from within the country but you will need to use the relevant outgoing code depending on where you are calling – these are 001, 002, 008 so you should check this out before travelling.

When it comes to public phones, there are four different types in South Korea – grey credit card and coin phones, blue coin phones, grey coin phones and grey card phones. All can be used for local and long distance calls but you will need to find a card phone to make international calls. Local calls cost W50 for three minutes while long distance are considerably more expensive but if you can make these after 9.00pm or on Sunday you will save 30% on your charges.

The blue telephones accept both W10 and W100 coins while grey coin phones accept W10, W50 and W100 and you will not receive change or credit from either. Telephone cards come in denominations of W3000, W5000 and W10000 and can be purchased in shops which are near telephone booths or in banks.

When making international calls you should also try to do so between 9.00pm and 8.00am where you will receive a discount of between 30 and 50%. If you are using the 002 international access code you will receive a further 1% discount and 008 you will receive another 5-6% discount on what you have already received. Finally, for operator assisted and collect calls dial 00797.

Tipping
Up until recently tipping was virtually unheard off but the western custom is becoming more frequent. Nevertheless, it is still quite uncommon and at no time is it essential. In restaurants where a service charge of between 10% and 15% has already been included, you should only tip if you really think it’s necessary. If a service charge has not been added a tip equivalent to a service charge is adequate. You don’t need to tip taxi drivers but many people tell them to keep any small change or will tip about 10% if they receive help with luggage. It is worth noting once again, however, that at no time is tipping compulsory, it is entirely at your own discretion.

Public Holidays
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In South Korea they take place on January 1st, February 4th – 6th, March 1st, April 5th, May 5th and 11th, June 6th, July 17th, August 15th, September 11 – 13th, October 3rd and December 25th. Finally, it is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.

 

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