Posts tagged ‘east asia’

South Korea Travel Tips

South Korea is a beautiful country and a hugely popular tourist resort. Over 8 million people each year visit the country, with the majority of travellers arriving from Japan, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. From the ultra-modern, fast-moving lifestyle of capital city Seoul to the ancient grandeur of cities like Gyeongju, South Korea offers something for everyone and the positive, hospitable atmosphere created by South Koreans makes the country an ideal resort for adventurous holiday makers.

However, there are a number of precautions travellers are strongly advised to take before packing their bags and setting for this Asian jewel.

Since the exchange of artillery fire between North and South Korean forces in November 2010, relations between the two countries have been tense. Visitors to South Korea are warned not to travel to the Northern Limit Line Islands and not to attend protests and demonstrations, as the risk of violence flaring up again remains. The tensions between North and South Korea have eased in 2011 and tourists are being actively welcomed to South Korea but all visitors are being encouraged to inform themselves of the political situation with the North and to act with care.

To protect against the risk of trouble flaring in the country, tourists are being encouraged to purchase the very best travel insurance they can find, so as to minimise the risk of financial loss caused by disruptions to travelling plans.

There are a number of vaccinations that travellers to South Korea are advised to take. Visits of less than one month require vaccinations against Diptheria, Hepatitis A, Tetanus and Malaria, while visitors staying for more than a month also require vaccinations against Hepatitis B and Japanese encephalitis, as well as the diseases listed above. Anyone staying for six months or longer should also receive Tuberculosis and Typhoid jabs.

The authorities in South Korea keep the population prepared for emergencies by running civil exercises on the 15th day of the month, eight times a year. If you are in the country on the 15th of the month in any month other than January, February, July or December, expect to hear sirens, see transport stopped and see people taking shelter. Local people and announcements will inform you of what to do during these civil exercises.

Care should be taken in South Korea to respect local laws and customs. The penalties for breaking the law in Korea are strict and a zero tolerance approach is used on the issue of drugs. Jail sentences and deportation have been handed out to tourists in the past, with numerous people banned from returning to the country. Visitors to the country are advised to carry their passport with them at all times as a form of identification.

However, with a reasonable amount of care, a vacation in South Korea will most likely be a wonderful, memorable trip with no problems.

Traveling Seoul

Capital, largest city and one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Korea = Seoul.

Asia fascinates me….the culture, food, the people, the tourist attractions…every country in Asia is unique and that is why you have to travel to a couple of destinations on this continent in order to get a feel for it. Having visited Japan, China and India, my next destination was to be Seoul in South Korea.

I would recommend booking flights to Incheon International Airport, which is the largest hub in South Korea and the main gateway to Seoul. I travelled with Delta Air Lines, but there are many other companies which operate flights to Seoul, such as Korean Air and Asiana Airlines.

So what is there to see? As I mentioned before, I decided to visit Seoul because I had never been to South Korea and where better to start than in the capital city. When I arrived in Seoul, I was taken aback by the number of palaces in the city. There are five and many of them are definitely worth visiting. Gyeongbok-gung is perhaps the most famous and apart from being a personal favourite, this palace has historical importance being the first one used by the Joseon Dynasty. Other important palaces to look out for are Changdeok-gung and Deoksu-gung. Like me, you will probably love wandering around this city because the architecture is so different and you will get to see shrines and temples you just don’t find in the western world.

After exploring the city, you should do what I did and head for the mountains…especially if you like hiking. The mountains in Seoul are accessible and especially designed for tourists as they have trails marked out. Bukhansan is perhaps one of the best mountains to visit and here you can take a tour of Bukhansan National Park. Not only can you enjoy hiking but you can get great pictures of South Korea’s landscape, birds and there are also lovely views of Seoul from the mountain.

I loved sightseeing by day, going on day trips and then by night trying South Korean food in a traditional restaurant. Don’t forget to buy some souvenirs before returning home. I would recommend going to Namdaemun, which is a market located in the centre of Seoul….here you will get lots of presents.


I traveled to Toktoshogu shrineyo in the middle of May so that I’d avoid both the busiest tourist week and the rainy season. While I was there I wanted to see a few of the cultural landmarks that both defined the city and how I’d always thought of it.

The first place I went was Akihabara. It was crowded, noisy and pricey but that’s what I went there to see. Essentially, it’s an area dominated by computers, electronics and anime with tons of shops both big and small. They cater to tourists as well as locals so it never felt like a shopping center meant purely to placate tourists with cheap souvenirs. Instead, there was some fantastic merchandise but since I’m not all that knowledgeable about the latest electronics, anime or computer parts, I didn’t actually buy anything. My trip there was more to enjoy the sites and sounds than to purchase merchandise and I justified it because it was only four or five minutes away (by rail) from Tokyo station. I did however stop in at one of the maid kissaten for a coffee. It was certainly an interesting cultural experience I could only enjoy in Japan.

My time in Akihabara was brief and I spent most of that day in Ueno Park. Regrettably, I missed the cherry blossom season by a few weeks so I didn’t get to see Ueno Park’s 1,000 cherry trees in bloom. However, there was plenty to keep me busy since the park is home to a number of museums, a zoo, a temple and much more. The highlight of my trip to the park was visiting Toshogu Shrine.

The shrine is dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu who founded the last Japanese shogunate. There are apparently more than 100 of these shrines scattered around Japan but I doubt they’re all as intricate as the one I visited in Tokyo. There was a small admissions fee in order to enter the shrine itself but it was worth it. As a nerd who has always been interested in Japanese history, being in a shrine dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu was pretty cool.

The next day being a Sunday, I stopped at Harajuku station. The Harajuku area is home to a number of up-scale fashion boutiques and also functions as a place where young, fashion-conscious Japanese young people hangout. I took a brief walk around the area and while I didn’t want to be rude by staring at individuals, I did find the culture on display to be fascinating. The costumes of the cosplayers were quite elaborate and the odd combination of Victorian and gothic dress was fascinating.

The whole time I felt as though the outfits belonged in a museum but the fact that people actually dress that way made it a totally unique cultural experience. These were just a few of the places I visited while in Tokyo but they made the greatest impression on me. I’d wanted to see them for years before I actually went to Japan in May and I have to say that the wait was worth it.