KoreanWiz's Travel Tips

Copyright 2006  KoreanWiz.org.  All rights reserved.
Planning to visit Korea?  Here are some practical tips to make your trip to Korea more enjoyable.

Get in shape and take walking shoes that are sturdy and comfortable. Warning:  no matter where you go in Korea, you will be doing a LOT OF WALKING.  So while you are still at home, start walking to get in shape.  Also, bring a sturdy and comfortable pair of walking shoes.  Although sidewalks in the big cities are paved, that is not the case in the countryside.  When visiting most filming sites, you will have to walk a distance on unpaved, rocky roads.  The walkways do not have railings.  If you are unstable in walking, it would be wise to bring a cane or walking stick.
Also, while on the subject of shoes, it would be best if your shoes are easy to put on and take off.  Why?  When you go on a wooden floor in a house or restaurant in Korea, you are required to take off your shoes.

Bring your medicines from home. Unlike in the U.S., medicines are not available at convenience stores.  It is best to bring your own medicines from home -- both prescription and over-the-counter medicines.  For example, while I was in Korea, I had a fever but had forgotten to bring my aspirin on the trip.  My roommate went out to get Tylenol for me.  She checked all of the convenience stores near the hotel, but none sold any medicines.  Luckily, another member of our tour group had brought a bottle of Tylenol and shared some with us. 

Besides your prescription medicines, I strongly suggest also bringing along cough medicine, nasal decongestant tablets and multi-symptom cold medicines.  During my Spring 2006 trip to Korea, I got sick and was grateful to have all of these medicines readily available.

Bring an electrical adapter or transformer from home for your electrical appliances. I needed to charge my battery for my digital camera every night but forgot to bring an electrical adapter.  Korea uses 220 volt electrical plugs, not 110 volt plugs as used in the U.S.  A few Korean hotels have an 110 volt outlet available in guest rooms; however, most do not.  Big hotels in Seoul and Jeju have transformers available at no charge for guests, but it is a hassle having to request the front desk or housekeeping to provide your room with the transformer or adapter if you change hotels each night.  In the countryside, hotel staff do not speak English very well and it can be a challenge asking for a transformer in English.  To make things worse, some hotels (such as the Andong Park Hotel) have only 1 transformer for the entire hotel.  You can avoid the stress I went through in finding a transformer each night, by bringing your own adapter or transformer. 

Be willing to use the squat toilet. Western toilets are becoming more and more available in Korea, but beware there may be times when you will have no choice but to use a squat toilet.  For those of you who have never seen a squat toilet, see below. 
If you are wearing long pants, it might help to roll your pants up a little before you go into the toilet stall.  To use the squat toilet, squat over the toilet facing the little hood.  Make sure your clothing is properly tucked away.  After doing your business, flush the toilet by pressing the handle which is usually off to the side of the toilet.  Toilet paper is not provided at all rest stops so it would be wise to carry Kleenix in your pocket at all times.  A trash can is usually provided next to the toilet for you to drop your used toilet paper (instead of dropping it in the toilet).

Take both cash & traveler's checks. After reading in travel guides that you get a better exchange rate with traveler's checks, rather than cash, I took most of my spending money in traveler's checks.  While hotels generally do pay a higher exchange rate when converting traveler's checks, rather than cash, I discovered that money exchangers at the Incheon airport and Itaewon gave better rates for cash.  For example, at the Lotte Hotel, I received 915 won for one U.S. dollar in traveler's checks.  At a money exchanger in Itaewon, I received 960 won for each U.S. dollar in cash (traveler's checks were not accepted).  Boy, did I wish I had brought more cash (instead of traveler's checks) with me.

Have a wonderful time in Korea!