Travel guide to South Korea

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» South Korea

Facts

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Local name
Taehan-minguk
Capital
Seoul (12,000,000)
Size
99,268 square kilometres
Principal Languages
Korean
Principal Religion
Mahayana Buddhism
Inhabitants
46,429,817 (1998)
Government
Republic
Geography
South Korea is a peninsular and off-shore there are a countless number of islands of different sizes. A large part of the country consists of hills and mountains, whilst 30 per cent of the country is flat. To the east there are many mountains, interrupted only by torrential rivers cutting through the ranges.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

September to November is a good time to visit South Korea, when the sun is shining and the sky is blue. In winter it is cold, but if you like to go skiing you have great opportunities to do so. April to May is also a good time to travel, but at this time of year it will be crowded with Japanese tourists and it can be very difficult to get a place to stay overnight.

Literature

Korea South Korea

Local conditions

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Currency

Won (W)

Net cafes

In South Korea there are Internet cafés in most places larger than a village - so it is no problem finding an internet connection.

In case of emergency

For emergency calls in South Korea dial: Police (112) Ambulance or fire department (119)

Tipping

People in South Korea don't expect a tip but a lot of hotels and restaurants add a 10 per cent service charge.

Timezone

When it is 12 noon in the UK (summer time), it is 8 pm in South Korea. When it is 12 noon in the UK (winter time), it is 9 pm in South Korea.

Weight and Measures

Weight: kilo Distance: metric system

Photography

There are no specific rules of photography, but do not photograph military personnel and installations.

Drinking water

In expensive hotels you can usually drink the tapwater, but in general it is wise to boil all water before using it.

Electricity

110/220V, 60 Hz

Behaviour

There are no specific rules of conduct, but remember to take off your shoes before entering a Korean home.

Business Hours

Banks are open from 9.30 am to 4.30 (Monday-Friday), and from 9.30 am to 1.30 pm (Saturdays). Shops are open from 10.30 to 7.30 all week (most shops are closed one day per week, just as small shops usually close at 6 pm). Office hours are from 9 am to 6 pm (Monday-Friday) and from 9 am to 1 pm (Saturdays).

Food and drink

South Koreans are famed for their cuisine. One of their specialities is Kimch'i, which is vegetables (usually cabbage) mixed with chilli, garlic and ginger left to ferment. Kimch'i accompanies most dishes. Rice is also an almost obligatory part of the South Korean meal, which is often a main course consisting of flesh marinated in sesame oil, garlic and chili. Otherwise the country offers a wide selection of fascinating and exotic dishes which have existed for centuries. With regard to beverages - a large part of Korean social life revolves around coffee and tearooms - where you can drink some excellent herbal teas.

Disabled travellers

By now facilities for disabled persons have reached a reasonable standard in South Korea, especially in the cities. At many places it is possible to enter with a wheelchair, and if not the staff will usually assist you. It may be a good idea, however, to contact the places you want to visit in order that the staff are ready to assist you on arrival.

Holidays

New Year's Day, 1 January Independence Movement Day, 1 March Childrens Day, 5 May Memorial Day, 6 June Constitution Day, 17 July Liberation Day, 15 August National Foundation Day, 3 October Christmas Day, 25 December

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

Camping is good in South Korea - sites are scattered all over the country and usually their facilities are fine.

Hotels

There are a lot of hotels in South Korea. They range from luxurious international hotel chains to small, inexpensive hotels. The hotels are rated in five different categories: super deluxe, deluxe, first, second and third class.

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

Yogwans are Korean inns, the rates are reasonable and it's usually a good place to stay. You sleep on a mattress on the heated floor, which is the traditional way to sleep in South Korea. You can also rent rooms with ordinary beds. At several places in the country there is also the opportunity to rent small cabins for the night.

Hostels

Hostels are a cheap way to stay overnight in South Korea. At the moment there are about 30 hostels in the major cities in the country.

Local transport

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Planes

Domestic flights service all cities, and as the country is rather small, flying time is rarely more than a few hours.

Bus

South Korea has a well-developed bus transport system. Fast, comfortable express buses run between all cities in the country. Buses get there fast and are on time. Buses also operate between the towns, which makes it possible to reach all parts of the country by bus.

Trains

Trains in South Korea are fast, comfortable and on time. The railway system is wide and reaches all parts of the country. It may be wise to book a few days in advance, especially if you are going to travel during the weekend.

Taxi

Taxi is a popular mode of transport in South Korea and there are plenty of taxis in most cities. The easiest way to get a taxi is to hail one in the street, but you can also order one by phone for an extra charge.

Car rental

You can rent a car in most major towns and cities in the country. Traffic is very heavy in the cities and you have to be careful if you choose to drive yourself. In order to rent a car you have to be over 21 and have an international driving license. There are both local and big international car rental companies in most cities. For further information contact The Korea Car Rental Union (phone: (2) 533 2503).

Boat or Ferry

There is plenty of opportunity to experience South Korea by boat - both along the coast and on the many rivers. Quite a few ferries and steamboats operate regularly, so there are a wide selection to choose from if you want to travel this way.

Find your travel arrangement to South Korea here

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