Why visit South Korea, you ask? There are many reasons. Top of the list is the country’s delicious food, lively cities, and 5,000-year-old culture that has been well preserved. Aside from these reasons, South Korea is one of the world’s safest countries especially for women. Although the locals are always very friendly to travelers, it is good practice to familiarize yourself with all aspects of a foreign culture before going on a trip. Here are ten things you should know about South Korea.
South Korean Visa Requirements
Citizens of some Western countries are given a 90-day visa-free stay in the country. Citizens from other countries have 30-day and 60-day visa-free periods depending on their nationality. It is advisable to confirm and fulfill all visa requirements in good time before your trip.
South Korean Travel Customs
Travelers are not required to pay duties or taxes on goods worth $400 and below. Food and agricultural items are prohibited, and all prescription drugs should be accompanied by a doctor’s note or medical passport.
This country has an advanced public transport system. Not only is it cheap but also efficient. If you intend on shuttling across cities using public transport, you should purchase a T-Money card for access to the subway. All you need to do is top it up. Alternatively, you can hail a cab at a reasonable cost.
You will find a few signs that are in English, but the majority of them are written in the Korean language. You might want to travel with someone who can help you out when a translation is needed. A paper writing service would be necessary if you intend to communicate via writing.
South Korean Restaurants
When dining at a typical South Korean restaurant, you should be ready to cook and share your food with whoever you are dining with. You will sit around a big table, with many small side dishes and one big grill in the middle. You will grill and cut up your meat as you eat. Sharing is a huge part of this culture, so it is not uncommon to see someone eat from your bowl.
Korean chopsticks are made of metal and are more slippery than wooden ones. There is also chopstick etiquette to consider. It is rude to pick your chopsticks before the elders do. Digging around your food is considered offensive, and so is wielding them like a spear. It takes some getting used to, and the locals will excuse your manners as you work your way around the chopsticks.
The tipping culture is not accessible in this country. Although tips are not considered offensive, they are not expected either. If you offer advice at a restaurant, it will be accepted.
The Love for Kimchi
If you have never heard of this side dish before, it is good to know that you will probably have it with every single meal. It is a vegetable dish made of fermented cabbage in a paste of chilies, garlic, shrimp sauce, and sugar. There are many variations to this dish but the end product is always a sweet and sour flavor that accompanies every meal.
The country has a high population density. If you decide to visit the country’s capital city, you should not expect any elbow room. With Seoul hosting more than 9 million people, you should be prepared to hustle through the crowds. The streets are often packed with pedestrians, vendors, and food stands. The subway system is also quite crowded. However, if you venture out at the right time, you might enjoy some tranquility.
From songpyeon sweets to haejangguk soup and banchan side dishes, there is plenty to explore when it comes to Korean street food. The people of this country are quite sentimental about their street snacks, and this shows in the effort taken to prepare them. The food is plentiful and varied, so you should try as many different foods as you can.
There are different types of toilets across Korea, most are similar to those in western countries, but you might encounter squat toilets. In some high-end hotels, you might meet remote control toilets. While you think of how to get used to these, remember that toilet paper is often outside the toilet cubicle. Be sure to pick some before you go in.
South Korea is a beautiful country with a rich culture to be enjoyed. The food is delicious and varied, and the sights are breathtaking. Provided you take your time to understand the culture, especially what not to do, you should enjoy your trip.