I will keep this very general as talking about every single attraction and location I went to would end up with a blog post to rival War and Peace.
Let me start by saying Incheon International airport, is really damn far away from actual Seoul (40-50min on the non-stop express train), and getting from your plane out past immigration in itself is a long adventure if you have docked at the satellite terminal so make allowances for a longer than expected time to actually get to Seoul.
- Get your SIM card ASAP! (or a pocket WiFi, but a SIM card is just easier) You will find booths after exiting arrivals. Gone are the days of worrying if phones are compatible or not on different frequencies so long as you have a relatively current smartphone.
- Best Way to get to Seoul is the express train (or the semi-express train), no stuffing around in traffic and the rail network is a technical marvel of efficiency. If you have seen the movie Train to Busan, you know the train is the way to go.
- Get a T-Money Card ASAP once you get off the airport train and into a normal metro station. Get them from a convenience store e.g. 7/11. The T-Money card will also come with coupons and vouchers for tourists for certain attractions.
Now you are ready to go exploring around, now that you have data for maps and a T-Money card for public transport (and taxi), and if you like Kpop, you are going to have a great time in shopping areas….and if you don’t, deal with it.
Seoul is a bustling metropolitan city, which is hard to believe that only a generation ago it was a war-torn ruin. Every night is go out night, not just Friday and Saturday and shops are open fairly late as with most developed Asian nations.
You can pretty much get to anywhere on the train network (Namsam park and the N Seoul tower gets a little bit trickier using public transport) however they do wind up at around 11.30pm (this seems early for such a developed place?) and don’t start again till 5.30am.
As for communicating, I found it much easier than Japan. Basic English is fairly common amongst the younger people and nearly everything is subtitled in English anyway…. plus, if you go to the party district of Itaewon there will be hordes of Americans.
Locals are nice and didn’t have any trouble getting help. They may seem a bit abrupt but that’s just the culture.
Solo traveler difficulty:
- Not very. Very safe and easy to understand what is going on.
Must try foodie areas:
- Meyongdong for the street food (and shopping)
- Gwangjang market for the market food. If you are looking for live squid to eat, this is the place.
- Some will swear by the Naver app for navigation and how it’s better for Korea due to how they do their addresses but I had no issue with Google maps at all.
- Want to save money? Get the Seoul Pass app and pre-book attraction tickets for discounts. Who doesn’t love discounts? Savings yo.
- Take a colored map of the subway network with you, this will make your life much easier especially in your first few days.