Below is a small collection of travel tips we have collected over a few trips and our year of living in Korea.
t-money cards will be one of the first things you should buy when you arrive in Korea. You can use it on the metro, buses, taxis, convenience stores and even vending machines. They can be purchased and topped up at convenience stores (which you can find anywhere and everywhere) but note you can only do this with cash. While every major city in Korea has its own card, t-money will work in them all just fine, so you only need to buy one.
Getting to and from the airport. There are a few choices available to get you to and from Incheon Airport. Our favourite was the limousine buses. For us, it was faster to get to and from Yeoncheon and didn’t cost too much more. You can use your t-money cards on these, and if you’ve arrived at the airport there is a kiosk to buy tickets outside arrivals.
Apps to use. We ended up creating a new post as the list kept growing! Find it here.
Accommodation. If you’re on a budget, there are plenty of options to keep costs down. Hostels (also known as guesthouses in Korea) are generally great and can often be booked over a text message on Kakao. Our favourite in Seoul was Mori Guesthouse. This was a female-friendly hostel, however, if you booked the whole room, guys could stay too. They even had a makeup room with hairdryers, straighteners and mirrors. Another one we regularly stayed at was K-Guesthouse Sinchon 1.
If you’re looking to spend a bit more, we found it cheaper to book hotels on the international booking sites over the Korean ones.
When travelling to smaller cities and towns around Korea, we stayed in a lot of love motels. There are love motels everywhere as Koreans often live with their parents until they’re married. They are often clean with nice beds, affordable and usually have large baths too (such a luxury whilst we were in Korea, as its super uncommon to have a bath in your home). It can be tricky to tell if your hotel is a love motel when booking online, so it’s a good idea to check out reviews. While some love motels are a bit more on the sleazy side, generally they are just a low-cost option for families and business travellers.
Another option is the Jjimjilbangs (찜질방), which are Korean bathhouses. If you just need somewhere to lay your head down while you wait for the first train in the morning, Jjimjilbangs are a great, affordable option if you’re okay with just a spot on the floor next to 70 randoms. Something to note is the actual bathing part of the Jjimjilbangs do close for about an hour in the earlier parts of the early morning for cleaning so you can’t sit in the spa for 6 hours. Expect to pay between $10 and $15 for the night.
Cash. The best place to change money over to Korean Won is definitely in Korea. Won doesn’t seem to hold its value outside Korea, and the exchange rates and commissions in Korea are quite low. We would generally go to Myeongdong to one of the currency exchangers there, remember to try a few out to see what the going rates are.
Internet. There is plenty of free wifi around, as most cafes, bars, hotels and restaurants have wifi (sometimes you just need to ask staff for the password). If you need the internet more for getting around, you may want to pick up an internet dongle or sim at the airport but you’ll more than likely be fine without it.