Experience South Korea: Globe’s Handy Travel Guide
Good news: South Korea is accepting tourists again!
If you’ve spent your quarantine cooped up and binging K-Dramas to escape, you’ll be excited to learn that South Korea is now accepting visa-free entry to Jeju Island and Yangyang. As of June 1 this year, the South Korean government has begun to accept tourists again, making this the perfect time to tick this destination off your bucket list.
But before packing your bags, there are key checklist items you need to cover. See them ahead!
Before Exploring South Korea
Prepare Travel Requirements
A negative COVID-19 test result
A QR code from the Q-Code system
Use the Q-Code system from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) to generate your health QR code and reduce quarantine inspection time.
Valid vaccine records
While your QR from the Q-Code system should already include your vaccine records, it is still advisable that tourists have their VaxCertPH at the ready.
Your Philippine passport and visa details
It’s good to note that so far, Jeju Island and Yangyang are the only tourist destinations that permit visa-free entry. Yangyang visitors can stay up to 15 days and travel only to the cities and places in Gangwon Province and Seoul Metropolitan Area.
For Filipino tourists in Jeju, however, it is prohibited to travel to other regions outside the island. For a smooth, fuss-free trip around South Korea, ensure that your visa and Philippine passport are ready and aren’t expired when traveling.
Entry information and other documents
The IDs, permits, and forms to present will depend on your specific travel purposes, so be sure to get to know the specifics ahead of time. You may also need to provide documents proving your purpose for traveling to South Korea: whether for business, journalism, or academics. In any case, it is best to prepare a letter of explanation, when applicable.
Do Your Research
₱1 is roughly equivalent to ₩24 (South Korean won or KRW). To make sure you have your finances in order ahead of time, you may want to advise your bank that you’ll be traveling. Here, you can make arrangements to withdraw KRW from Korean ATMs using your Philippine ATM card.
Climate and weather
From April to August, temperatures can range from 15 to 30°C and can get rainy mid-year. Meanwhile, the period of September to November has temperatures of 19 to 21°C, which is considered average for locals but almost air-conditioning-like for Filipinos. Lastly, temperatures can reach below 20°C in certain areas within the country from December to March.
When commuting around Seoul, consider securing a Tmoney and Cashbee card. You can use these value smart cards for buses, trains, and subways or pay at their affiliated stores.
Wi-Fi and data
Google Translate and Naver Maps can make things easier for you in foreign territory, but these travel essential apps need a stable data connection. Globe Roaming provides you with a reliable internet connection that you need to share your South Korean experience anytime, anywhere. Globe also offers 5G roaming if you want an even faster connection during your travels.
Special offers and discounts
Instead of paying for every attraction you visit, a Discover Seoul Pass can get you free admission to several tourist sites and discounts at shops and restaurants around the capital.
Know the Dos and Don'ts
Learn basic Korean
Basic Korean phrases can help you get by, from cities to the countryside. Here are a few to keep in mind:
- “Hello” or “Goodbye” – An-nyeong-ha-se-yo
- “Thank you” – Kam-sa-ham-ni-da
- “Yes” – Ne
- “No” – A-ni-yo
- “I can’t speak Korean well” – Han-guk-mal jal mot-hae-yo
- “How much is it?” – Ol-ma-ye-yo
South Korea is one of the many countries leading the charge toward reducing plastic consumption. Use recyclable materials if possible, or bring your tumbler or utensils with you to avoid buying disposable ones.
Take off your shoes when indoors
Here’s a common practice in Asian cultures: take off your shoes before stepping into someone’s home. This applies in South Korea. This may also be common practice in some establishments, so be mindful.
Observe proper manners and etiquette
When offering anything to another person, it’s considered a sign of respect in South Korea to use both hands. Another way to be polite is to respect all elders (very similar to the way Filipinos conduct themselves when engaging with their seniors).
Tipping isn’t necessary
Unlike the best practices when eating out believed by Filipinos, tipping is not a social norm in South Korea; it can even be considered rude.
6 Must-Visit Destinations in South Korea
A trip to South Korea wouldn’t be complete without visiting Seoul. The sprawling metropolitan city comprises ancient kingdoms, modern skyscrapers, shopping centers, food spots, and places to experience unique Korean nightlife.
In addition, it wouldn’t be a complete trip to Seoul without visiting these spots:
Lotte World Tower
N Seoul Tower
A train to Busan (take the action-packed zombie film out of the picture for a second) is an enjoyable experience that tourists should make time for. Of course, they also have the option to travel by bus or plane. Expect things, however, to get fishy—in a good way! Busan is a port city with fish markets, mouth-watering seafood, and amazing beaches.
Don't know where to start? Here are a few Busan attractions you can put on your list:
Jagalchi Fish Market
Gukje Market Street Food
Itaewon is the most popular place to visit among foreigners when the sun goes down. Here, you’ll find exciting places to have dinner with your friends, then grab drinks at the bustling clubs to make new ones. But you can still enjoy Itaewon during the day, with its many cafés, restaurants, and other attractions worth visiting.
Take to the streets of Itaewon and drop by these spots:
Itaewon Land Spa & Guesthouse
Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art
Itaewon Antique Street
Namsan Botanical Garden
If you’ve seen Our Blues or Boys Over Flowers, you’ll instantly recognize this beautiful island. At Jeju, you can enjoy some of South Korea’s most scenic views and refreshing coastlines. Expect a lot of walking, which is a perfect way to burn off all the delicious food you're guaranteed to have at this popular tourist destination.
Don’t forget to add these locations when planning your Jeju Island itinerary:
Dong Mun Traditional Market
Dobu-Dong Rainbow Coastal Road
If you want to take a memorable trip to the past, visit Gyeongju. Also called the “Museum without Walls,” this had been known as the vibrant capital of the Silla Kingdom from 57BC to 935AD. The historic city, complete with palaces and temples, is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well, making it a popular tourist destination.
Check out these places while you’re there:
Gyeongju National Park
Some South Korean travel guides will recommend visiting the usual touristy spots, but if you truly want to see an underrated destination, consider Suncheon. A trip to this agricultural city can give you a glimpse of authentic local color in South Jeolla Province. Since often overlooked, you can expect your journey to Suncheon to be calming, leisurely, and comfortable.
Make the most out of your trip to Suncheon when you visit these places:
Suncheon Drama Film Set
Nageupseong Folk Village