Travel Tips for Korea and Busan

Travel Tips for Korea and Busan

Now that your trip to Busan is getting closer, here are a few general tips for your travel and stay.  If you would like any more detailed information please email us atanthony@bleistein.com  We wish you a comfortable trip and look forward to see you soon!

Visas

UK Passport Holders do not need a visa to enter Korea, however please be aware that immigration queues can be quite long depending what time of day you arrive.  My own experiences over the years have been mixed to say the least!

What is the duty free allowance for Korea?

Travelers over the age of 19 are permitted to bring in the following:

  • 200 cigarettes
  • One bottle of alcohol up to 1 litre
  • 60ml of perfume
  • Other goods to the value of USD $400

The following are banned from being imported: weapons (makes sense!), food (small quantities allowed, but you must declare it), counterfeit goods and money, publications infringing upon the constitution and public peace, narcotics and endangered species.  Travelers must not export counterfeit goods as this is taken very seriously and those caught can be subject to a prison sentence.

What is train travel in Korea like?

Train travel in Korea is easy and efficient but prices can vary wildly depending on which type of train you choose. The fastest of all the trains is the KTX, which is an express train and will get you from A to B very quickly but requires you to pay a premium fare. Other trains, known as slow trains, include Saemaeul and Mugunghwa trains which are much slower but are much more budget-friendly.  Virtually the entire country is connected by train, making it an excellent option for transferring between cities.  Foreigners have the option of purchasing a Korea Rail Pass (KR Pass), which permits unlimited rail travel across all trains, including KTX trains, for however many days it has been purchased for (1, 3, 5, 7 or 10 days). Unfortunately passengers travelling with this pass are not allocated seats so may be required to stand for the duration of the journey.

What is the currency in Korea?

The currency of Korea is the Korean Won (KRW). Check out OANDA for the latest exchange rates.  Pound Sterling, US Dollars, Euro and other major currencies can be converted into KRW locally, or you can purchase currency in advance. Foreign currency can be converted at foreign exchange banks and other authorized money changers.  Most major credit cards can be used in more upmarket restaurants and hotels and ATMs are common throughout larger cities.  Taxis should also accept credit card payment, although be careful to check before you start your ride.  Traveler’s Cheques are not recommended as they’re often difficult to exchange and incur high fees.

What sort of plugs do I need for South Korea and what is the voltage?

The voltage in South Korea is 220v and plugs are of the European variety with two round prongs. We recommend that you pack a universal adaptor. You will also need a voltage converter in order to use U.S appliances.  The Park Hyatt Hotel does have UK friendly plug sockets available in the rooms.

Is WiFi widely available in Korea?

Yes, restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels and even taxis provide free WiFi and there are also hundreds of public spots scattered throughout Busan and its parks and plazas.

Which time zone is Korea on?

Phone Signal and Coverage

Please be very careful to check roaming charges with your service provider before you set off.  Vodafone Business Traveller users in particular beware that Korea is not part of the roaming contract and you risk incurring some high charges.  Special thanks to Mr P Lipski for this info and warning!

What is the food like in Korea?

Largely based on rice, noodles, tofu, vegetables and meat, Korean cuisine is delicious and healthy.  Traditionally a quantity of side dishes are served with main meals which are known as banchan, the most popular of these being kimchi.  Kimchi is a traditional fermented dish made with vegetables, typically cabbage, radish, onions or cucumbers and flavoured with salt, garlic, ginger, and gochujang – a fermented chilli paste, it can have a very salty and spicy flavour.  A speciality is the Korean barbecue which usually involves beef, pork or chicken.  The dishes are typically cooked at the diner’s table on a gas or charcoal grill built into the centre.  One of the most popular dishes served is galbi, beef short ribs, often marinated in spices before grilling. In specialist restaurants the diner can cook their own food to their liking at the table, with a waiter on hand to offer help.  Further dishes worth trying include bulgogi, marinated beef served with slices of onion and pepper and garlic.  Seolleongtang (ox bone soup) is also incredibly popular and is served with slices of beef, green onions and rice or noodles.  For dessert, there are few things more satisfying than hoeddeok, South Korea’s response to the western pancake.  Soft and doughy on the inside but crunchy on the outside and filled with cinnamon, honey, sugar and peanuts, these are a real treat for the tastebuds.

Tipping

Korea is essentially a no-tip culture, however service charge is often included in restaurants.  Please be aware that in most restaurants, the customer is expected to pay at the cashier desk rather than the server bringing the bill over.  Although the gesture of leaving money as a thank you is seen as polite to foreigners, please be aware that it can at times be considered inappropriate to some Koreans.  However as long as you are gracious in your approach, it is up to your own indiscretion and generosity.

Safe eating while travelling in Korea

Korea is a well-developed country and eating out is generally very safe, with little risk of illness or food poisoning.  Restaurants are fine to eat in but be wary of any that look run down or unhygienic.  Street vendors are normally fine but if the food doesn’t look right or seems a bit old, avoid it.

Is it safe to drink tap water in Korea?

Although tap water in Korea is said to be safe to drink, bottled water is readily available across the country so there is no need to drink tap water if you don’t want to. Tap water should be fine for brushing your teeth.

Etiquette when visiting temples in Korea

Visitors to temples in Korea must remove shoes and headwear before entering and should refrain from taking photos inside unless explicitly given permission.  If there is a service going on, be sure to be respectful by remaining silent.  It is also recommended and respectful to bow to Buddha when walking in and out of the temple and exit the temple by backing out so as not to turn your back.  Conservative dress is usually required for those who wish to enter the temple.  When leaving, it is considered good practice to place a small donation in one of the collection tubs that will inevitably be present (but not compulsory).

Anthony & Kyoung Hwa

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