Asia is so big and diverse there are so many options when it comes to which are the best. There are so many factors that play into what are the best countries to visit. Do we categorize by cultural experiences? Safety? Cost? Friendliness? Ease of access? Pollution? As there are many different factors there can be no definite answer. If I were to choose my top 5 based on these criteria I would probably rank them:
So you've decided to travel to South Korea, great! Maybe you know about the country and wanted to experience it first hand or you're on track to become a teacher over there. Maybe you're even trying to decide whether or not you want to visit South Korea. With such a beautiful country available to almost all travelers, who wouldn't want to visit.
Taxis are Zoned
Growing up in an area where Taxis operate throughout an entire city without adhering to zoning, the first time I tried to take a taxi in Seoul I ran into some issues. Because of how large Seoul is (a smidge smaller than NYC) the taxi drivers are split between different districts and can only pick you up in their home district, meaning if the taxi is coming from Itaewon and you’re in Hongdae you will not be able to take the taxi because of the zoning for each.
Seoul does not allow companies like Uber or Lyft to operate in the city as the taxi drivers petitioned against their use. However, the cost of taxis are quite low so this isn’t as much of an issue as you would expect. The pricing for a 7.8km (4.56mi) taxi ride was under 10 USD.
As a traveler, I would suggest downloading the KakaoTaxi app which operates in the same way as Uber or Lyft. The text is in Korean, but follow the steps on this article to set up your account. I never had to use the app as I was with a friend but it was nice knowing that I could use it if needed.
Couple Culture is Real
Seoul is definitely a friend and couple based society, with many activities geared towards two or more people. Food for example is often served family style or requires a second person to help out (Korean barbecue is so hard to eat by yourself). Also, since most cafes in Seoul are Instagram havens it’s always better to have a second person there to document the process.
In the same vein there are several activities that are better with two people, including the Ihwa Mural Village and the Trick Eye Museum. While you can do these things by yourself, it’s more fun and easier with a friend to take pictures.
This is a big pet peeve of mine. As such a large city system you would think that metro cards would be rechargeable using whatever currency method you have (cash, credit or debit). However, as it stands Seoul is still a largely cashed based city and South Korea a cash based society. As such, t-money cards and the like must still be recharged using cash. They can be charged in convenience stores but they are still requiring cash to be used when completing the transaction. I have been in a bind before with cash since not all ATMs work (as I shared in “Seoul Must Haves”) and having to find an ATM that worked for me just to take a bus or a train can be stressful. If you think your card is getting low you can always check the balance and plan for getting cash, but if it catches you by surprise, I hope you can find cash easily.
Prepared Drinks are Expensive
I’ve mentioned this before in my post about Cafes in Seoul, but things like coffee and tea are much more expensive in Seoul than I expected. Even things like aides were up there in price. While not exuberant the prices are more expensive than their cousins in America at almost a 71% increase for a latte (from $3.50 USD to 6500 KRW). This is in part due to many cafes needing to keep up with cost of product, living, and touting creative drinks. Places like CaFace have higher price points due to their product, a face printed on coffee foam, while Korean chains like Angelinus can afford selling items at a lower cost because they’re a chain.
Cults are Huge
This is probably the most extreme thing I discovered in my time in Seoul, the cult. In Korea, cults are usually faith based churches that recruit members through shady means, specifically coersion. They offer to take you to a cultural event and will flank you on either side so that you can’t get away. The cults are usually the Unification Church or the Church of God. They target foreign women specifically and have a track record for making women go to events that are less than savory. I’ll be covering these more in a post later this month on my experience with the Unification Church.
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” – Saint Augustine