Korea

Re-appearing on the world's travel radars, South Korea has emerged from history as a dynamic destination full of spirit and surprises. Enchanting travellers with temples full of mystique, markets brimming with divine handicrafts and some of the most underrated cuisine in the world - isn't it about time you surrendered to South Korea's charms?

Korea Tours & Travel

About Korea

At a glance

Trips Available: 0
Capital city: Seoul
Population: 48.6 million
Language: Korean
Currency: KRW
Time zone: (GMT+09:00) Seoul
Electricity: Type C (European 2-pin) Type E (French 2-pin, female earth) Type F (German 2-pin, side clip earth)
Dialing code: +82

Best time to visit Korea

Autumn and spring are considered the optimal times to visit South Korea, as the extreme temperatures that are present during summer and winter can make travel uncomfortable at times. During autumn and spring expect moderate temperatures, a mild climate and less rain and humidity than at other times.

korea weather map chart

Geography and environment

Snowy mountains in Korea
South Korea is located at the south end of the Korean Peninsula, between the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea. Separated from Japan by the Korea Strait and demarcated from the state of North Korea by Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), South Korea's terrain is a mix of flat lowlands and forested mountains. The coasts of South Korea are rocky and jagged, with thousands of islands (mostly inhabitable) scattered off the coastline.

Top Picks

Korean Bibimpap

Top Five Culinary Delicacies of Korea

1. Bibimbap

As one of Korea's standout dishes, bibimbap is a tasty concoction of meat, vegetables, egg and rice. Soy sauce, chilli paste, garlic and sesame oil all add flavour to this amazingly colourful dish found everywhere in Korea.

2. Kimchi

Kimchi is hailed as a nutritional powerhouse - packing a healthy punch of nutrients, vitamins and beneficial bacteria that makes it one of the world's healthiest superfoods. But most people don't eat these fermented vegetables for health reasons - it's the uniquely, tasty flavour and versatility that makes kimchi so popular in Korean cooking.

3. Jeon

These delicious, savoury pancakes are a standard of Korean cuisine. With hundreds of different varieties, jeon can be served with red meat, chicken, seafood, vegetables, tofu and even edible flowers.

4. Gimbap

Similar to sushi, these highly popular rice-based morsels feature fish, beef or crab, wrapped in seaweed with pickled or fresh vegetables. Available all over Korea, they are the perfect snack on the run or quick, cheap lunch to enjoy between sightseeing.

5. Mandu

Arriving in Korea by the way of Mongolia, mandu are essentially boiled, steamed or pan fried dumplings. A cheap, street food favourite, mandu can be filled with everything from pheasant to tofu, cucumber, beef and beyond.

FAQs on Korea

Tipping in some establishments (particularly more traditional ones) is considered impolite, and is sometimes indicated with a 'no tipping' sign! Western-style, tourist-orientated places, however, usually welcome and receive tips. Use your discretion.
With one of the most developed internet infrastructures in the world, accessing the internet is easy is South Korea. Wi-Fi hot spots and cyber cafes are easily found in the cities, although when travelling in remote areas please be aware that internet access may be harder to find.
Travellers should be able to use their mobile phones in South Korea's cities and urban areas, as coverage is good. As in other countries, rural and mountainous areas may have less mobile phone receptivity. Ensure global roaming is activated with your service provider before leaving home.
South Korea has a combination of squat toilets and western-style flushable toilets. It's a good idea to carry your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer or soap as these are rarely provided in public toilets.
Can of soft drink = 2,000 Won
Bottle of local beer = 3,000 Won
Street food meal = 2000-4000 Won
Basic restaurant meal (soup, noodles etc.) = 6000-10,000 Won
Bottle of mid-range wine = 15,000 Won
Sit-down dinner at a nice restaurant = 20,000-40,000 Won
Tap water is considered safe to drink in many parts of South Korea unless otherwise marked. Ask your leader for guidance if you are unsure whether to drink tap water in the area you are travelling in.
Credit cards are usually accepted by hotels and large retailers. Smaller shops and restaurants may not accept credit cards, so always carry enough money to cover purchases, as paying with a credit card may not always be an option in South Korea.
ATMs are plentiful in large cities and urban centres, although not all ATMs accept foreign cards. Look for Global or Citbank ATMs, which usually accept cards from other countries.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of your trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Jan 1 New Year's Day
Jan 23 Sollal (Lunar New Year)
Mar 1 Independence Movement Day
May 1 Labour Day
May 5 Buddha's Birthday
May 5 Children's Day
Jun 6 Memorial Day
Aug 15 Liberation Day
Sep 30 Chuseok (Harvest Moon Festival)
Oct 3 National Foundation Day
Dec 25 Christmas Day

Please note these dates are for 2012. For a current list of Public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/south-korea/public-holidays
SOUTH KOREA
Australia: No - not required
Belgium: No - not required
Canada: No - not required
Germany: No - not required
Ireland: No - not required
Netherlands: No - not required
New Zealand: No - not required
South Africa: No - not required
Switzerland: No - not required
United Kingdom: No - not required
USA: No - not required

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into South Korea. . Most travellers do not need visas for Korea for stays of up to 30 days. You must also have an onward or return ticket.

If you are a male of Korean origin whose name appears on the Korean family register, you may be liable for military service even if you are travelling on your foreign passport.

Health and Safety

Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:

From Australia?

Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

From New Zealand?

Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

From Canada?

Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/

From US?

Go to: http://travel.state.gov/

From UK?

Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

The World Health Organisation

also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/

Responsible Travel

Korea Travel Tips

Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.

Top responsible travel tips for Korea

1. Be considerate of South Korea’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.

2. Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered, especially when entering places of worship.

3. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water.

4. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.

5. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!

6. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.

7. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.

8. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.

9. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.

10. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.

Further reading

Recommended reading

Title Author
The Calligrapher's DaughterEugenia Kim
Everlasting EmpireYi In-hwa
Peace Under HeavenChae Man-Sik
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North KoreaBarbara Demick
To the Last RoundAndrew Salmon