Open Question Post: Traveling in Korea

One type of questions that the Korean receives frequently is questions about traveling in Korea. The Korean's standard answer is -- go buy a travel book. Most travel books about Korea do a fairly good job about introducing the country and giving the basics of how to get around. And unless you are planning to stay in Korea for several months, there is very little chance that you would exhaust the sights and destinations given in a travel book. And if a travel book does not work for you, there are many, many websites and blogs that are run by people who do this stuff for a living.

But just because the Korean has been receiving so many of these questions, he figured he should have a post about traveling in Korea. The Korean will make this post an "open question post" -- that is, he will accept questions from the comments section below, and update the post with answers. He will also post good answers and recommendations from the comments.

To start off, here are some basic stuff about traveling in Korea.

Where should I stay in Seoul?
Most tourist attractions are clustered around the center of the city, but a hotel room in the central city can get pricey. If you are budget-conscious, feel free to stay toward the outer edges of the city, as Seoul is covered with excellent public transportation. But be mindful that Seoul is a very large city area-wise -- you could easily travel an hour and a half on a subway, and still remain in Seoul.

Are there any dangerous areas in Seoul or Korea?
Korea is safer than the U.S. and Europe in terms of crime, but it is hardly crime-free. In Korea, as are in everywhere else in the world, tourists are an easy target. There are certainly bad areas in Seoul or any Korean city, but if you are an ordinary tourist looking for sights, there is no reason for you to be there either. Use your ordinary precautions.

What is the best way to exchange money?
You can actually get the best rate from ATM machines that accept foreign cards. The easiest one to identify is a Citibank ATM, which is fairly common in large cities.

What happens if I get lost? Do Koreans speak English?
Most Koreans speak decent enough English to give directions. When in doubt, ask professional-looking people or students, who are more likely to speak English.

Where is the Korean's favorite place in Seoul?
Bukchon. It looks like this.

More questions will be answered as they come in, after the jump.

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More Questions

From birdscout: I remember reading in a previous post that whenever you travel to Korea you buy your underwear there (Korea has the best nae-bok/cotton underthings!). Where do you shop?

The "best" place -- as in, a place that is worth visiting as a destination -- is probably Dongdaemun Market, a large outdoor wholesale market in Seoul. But personally for the Korean, he simply picks them up wherever he sees them, because underwear and socks do not have to be in such high quality.

From Urban Reverie:  What's the best street atlas to buy? Will I be able to buy one at a bookshop at Incheon Airport? Is there a street atlas or some other book which details all the bus routes in Seoul? (I can find plenty of subway maps, but there's not much about the Seoul bus system.)

Korea's street address system is a confusing jumble -- even Koreans themselves have a difficult time finding a certain place just with an address. Hence, there will be a massive overhaul of the address system next year. It will help in the long term, but it will only add to the confusion in the short term.

The Korean has found that searching tends to give the most accurate address and public transit information. Of course, the downside of this is that you will need to be able to read and type Korean. In a pinch, the surest place to ask is a nearby real estate agent's office, because they are the people who are most familiar with any given neighborhood.

Also, check out many helpful tips provided in the comment section.