After living and working for many years as an English teacher in Korea, these are the top 10 things you have to do to make the most out of your time in South Korea (without breaking the bank).
From the sun rising over the mountaintops spilling its warmth to the cities below, to the cascading colours of the ocean waters washing the shorelines by sunset, Korea is truly a country to marvel. It boasts historical lands, with amazing stories to be heard around every corner. Here are 10 things you have to do in Korea to get the most out your time in Korea.
Allocating your precious time can be hard with so many amazing things to do, but if you follow this list, I can promise you that you will leave you with the most amazing memories that you will cherish long after you have left the Land of the Morning Calm.
10. Ride the KTX
The KTX (Korail) is Korea’s high-speed train system that can reach speeds of 350 km/h. It truly is an amazing experience to sit by the window and watch the beauty of Korea’s landscape whiz by while you sip a Cass beer and munch on some kimbap.
9. Go Hiking
Expats in Korea are often shocked and pleasantly surprised when they realize how lovely and easy Korean hiking trails can be. They are plentiful and well maintained, which means easy access and easy to plan. It’s a great way to form community and see all the beauty Korea has to offer.
8. Try Kimchi
This is a no-brainer. Kimchi is a fermented, spicy cabbage, side dish served with every meal. By the end of your time in Korea you’ll be able to tell the difference between “good” kimchi and “bad” kimchi – a skill that only a true expat of Korea will possess! Becoming Kimchi certified is definitely a key thing all foreigners must do in South Korea.
7. Go to a Norebang
Picture a room with lots of drinks, full service, friendship and karaoke. Sounds amazing, right?! Norebangs are another must to experience in Korea. You have not lived until you sing a song at the top of your lungs in a private karaoke room at 2am! The flashing lights, the service, the songs, the drinks, and the laughter will have you going back time after time. Norebangs will quickly be added to your list of funnest nights in Korea.
6. Visit the Old Capital, Gyeong-ju
It’s a great experience to learn and gain background knowledge regarding South Korean history and culture. What better way to learn than a weekend trip to Gyeong-ju? The city has tour buses and is easy to access from all across the country.
Want another hint? Go during the spring for cherry blossom season for the BEST photos (that will make friends and family back home oh-so jealous)!
5. Check out Seoul Nightlife
Another weekend trip that is a must in South Korea is visiting Seoul, the capital city (and one of the largest cities in the world). Seoul has everything from culture to history, to beautiful parks, to fun nightlife. Check out a DMZ tour during the day (easily booked online in advance), and then head over to checkout Seoul’s nightlife in Hongdae, one of Seoul’s hopping neighbourhoods. There’s tons of expats bars, or you can hang with the locals!
4. Drink Outside a Mart
This one might sound odd if you’ve never traveled to Korea, but trust me it’s a MUST. It’s one of the simple pleasures of living in South Korea. Here’s how it works: you go to a mart (equivalent to a corner store), buy a drink, some food, and sit outside on plastic lawn chairs with your friends, drinking and chatting the night away. It’s simple, cheap and one of the best ways to make memories and lasting friendships! The trend is so popular that K-Pop superstar Psy shot his latest video inside a GS25 Mart!
3. Go to a Jimjilbang
What is a jimjilbang you ask? It’s like a naked bathhouse, but better. It’s a bit of an interesting cultural experience, but it’s also one of those things that you need to try at least once. Yes, you get naked. Yes, everyone can see you (it’s gender segregated; men see men, women see women), but it’s a cultural bonding experience that you’ve got to try. And, once you get comfortable, it’s a truly relaxing experience.
2. Try Street Food
In almost every city and town in South Korea there will be a local street food market of some kind. Busan has nampo-dong, a massive area taking up several blocks dedicated to street food and markets. The food is amazing and it’s a great way to meet local people and immerse yourself in Korean culture.
1. Take a Taekwondo Class (or at least watch a demo!)
Taekwondo is South Korea’s official martial art. Seek out a demonstration – you can often find them during festivals or Korean holidays (such a Chuseok). If you have the opportunity to take a class, do it! It is well worth your time to learn a martial art from a true expert to gain some new impressive skills and get a healthy workout in the process. Sign up for a lesson here!