South Korea Travel Tips

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South Korea Travel Tips

Post  Princess_Louis on Tue Apr 19, 2011 2:34 pm

Social Conventions
Observance of social convention is important if you wish to show respect or make an impression. Shoes should be removed before entering a Korean home. Entertainment is usually lavish and Koreans may sometimes be offended if their hospitality is refused. Small gifts are customary and traditional etiquette requires the use of the right hand for giving and receiving.

A slight bow upon meeting is appreciated; you never know people's status. Koreans can be very reserved, shy and resistant of body contact until they get to know you. However, do not expect any sense of personal space to be respected in Seoul, it is just too crowded. Centuries of Confucianism have lead to a legacy that family and society are paramount and seniority should always be respected. For this reason, Koreans often ask your age and marital status to quickly gauge societal seniority. Don't eat before the oldest person at the table has started either. Ancestors are highly venerated; many Koreans visit their ancestors' tombs every year during Chuseok, the harvest festival.

Never leave chopsticks in your rice, and never beckon anyone with palm up using one finger, as this is the way Koreans call their dogs. Writing someone's name in red is bad as this symbolises death. The number four is considered unlucky so don't give gifts in multiples of four; giving seven of an item however is considered lucky. Traditional costume, or hanbok, is mainly worn on holidays and special occasions. For men it consists of a short jacket and loose trousers, called baji, that are tied at the ankles. Women's hanboks comprise a wrap-around skirt and a bolero-style jacket and is often called a chima-jeogori.

International Travel:

Getting There by Air
The national airlines are Asiana Airlines (OZ) (website: www.asiana.co.kr/english) and Korean Air (KE) (website: www.koreanair.com).

Departure Tax
None. There may be a KRW4,000-17,000 passenger service charge to pay if this has not been included in the cost of the ticket.

Main Airports
Seoul (SEL) Incheon International Airport (ICN) (website: www.airport.or.kr/eng/airport) is 40km (25 miles) west of Seoul on Yongion. To/from the airport: Limousine buses, taxis and coaches operate regular routes between the main urban areas (journey time - 1 hour 30 minutes). A ferry service operates a daily service between the airport ferry pier and Wolmido/Yuldo on the coast of Incheon city (journey time - 15 to 20 minutes). Facilities: Left luggage, banks/bureaux de change, chemist, duty-free shops, business center/post office, mobile phone rental, games room, Internet, golf course, hotel, restaurants, stopover shower and relaxation area, transit tours and tourist information.

Busan (PUS) (Kimhae) is 27km (17 miles) from Busan (in the far south). The airport receives flights from Fukuoka, Osaka and Tokyo. To/from the airport: There are bus, subway, coach and taxi services to the town. Facilities: Currency exchange, post office, duty-free shop, snack bar, gift shop, restaurant, travel information service and car hire.

Jeju (CJU) (Jeju), located on the island of Jeju, is 4km (2.5 miles) from the town center. To/from the airport: Buses and coaches are available to the town. Limousine buses and taxis are also available from the airport terminal. Facilities: Currency exchange, post office, duty-free shop, snack bar, gift shop and travel information service.

Note: Seoul (SEL) Gimpo (GMP) airport is the main domestic airport, although a few international flights (mainly to Hong Kong) do still depart from there (see Getting Around).

As of 2009, metro line 9 connects Gimpo Airport with the city center.

Getting There by Water
Main ports
: Busan (in the far south) (website: www.busanferry.co.kr), Jeju (website: www.jejucvb.or.kr) and Incheon (due west of Seoul) (website: http://english.incheon.go.kr).

Passenger lines: Sailings to Japan from Busan include Korea Ferry (website: www.koreaferry.co.kr), Mirejet (website: www.mirejet.com) offers the speedy 3-hour service to Fukuoa, and Pukwan. There are many options to sail to China from Incehon: the fastest is Hwadong Haeun's (website: www.huadong.co.kr) service to Shi Dao, which takes 12 hours. Others include Weidong Ferry (website: www.weidong.com/english) from Incheon to Qingdao. See the tourist board's site for useful details of Korea-China crossings (see General Info).

Getting There by Rail
Test trains crossed the border to the Republic of Korea in May 2007 for the first time in over 50 years. However, there are no passenger services at present. North Korea can only accessed by train from China, with services between Beijing and Pyongyang. For details of China-North Korea tours, try Koryo Tours, run by Westerners based in China (website: www.koryogroup.com).

Rail Passes
Korea-China Through-ticket and Korea-Japan Through-ticket provide discounts on travel between the countries, including transport by ferry and train. For more information, contact the tourist board (see General Info).

Overview
The following goods may be imported into the Republic of Korea - without incurring customs duty:

• 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of other tobacco products (by persons aged 19 and over).
• One bottle (not exceeding 1l) of alcoholic beverage (by persons aged 20 and over).
• 60ml of perfume.
• Gifts up to the value of US$400.

Restricted items: Guns, firearms, knives and explosives; drugs (narcotics and psychotropic substances); quarantine-required goods (food, animal material, plant material etc); articles controlled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Prohibited Imports
Books, publications, drawings and paintings, films, pornographic materials, video work and other items of similar nature considered to be harmful to public security or traditional custom; goods which may reveal confidential information about the government or which may be used for intelligence activities; coins, currency, bank notes, debenture and/or other negotiable instrument counterfeited, forged or imitated.

Internal Travel:

Getting Around By Air
National airlines Asiana Air (OZ) (website: http://flyasiana.com) and Korean Air (KE) (website: www.koreanair.com) run frequent services around the country.

Incheon, Cheongju, Gwangju, Jeju, Gimhae, Daegu are the international airports; Gimpo, Wonju, Gunsan, Phang, Ulsan, Sacheon, Mokpo and Yeosu are domestic airports.

The main domestic airport is Seoul Gimpo (GMP), located 17km (10 miles) from the city. To/from the airport: There are several bus options to many points in the city - it depends on the area you’re headed to, the fee you want to pay and level of service. KAL Limousine Buses are the most comfortable (cost appropriate to this), are very frequent and run services to all the major upscale hotels. A subway line runs to the city center (journey time - 40 minutes). Taxis to the city are also available. The first phase of AREX, a railway link between Incheon Airport and Gimpo Airport (41km/26 miles, journey time - 30 minutes) was opened in March 2007. In 2010, the second phase of the project, a 20.5km (12.5-mile) stretch between Gimpo and Seoul, will be completed giving both commuter services and a high-speed (journey time - 45 minutes) Incheon-Gimpo-Seoul connection. Facilities: currency exchange, pharmacy, post office, gift shop, duty-free shop, car hire, local products’ shop, restaurant and travel information desk.

Note: It is not possible for British nationals to travel directly to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) from the Republic of Korea unless as part of a guided tour group (some international companies now offer these).

Getting Around by Water
There are ferry terminals at: Incheon, Gyeokpo, Mokpo, Yeosu, Jeju, Gunsan, Wando, Tongyeong, Geoje, Donghae and Boryeong, connecting port to port and out to some of the smaller islands. Ferries connect Busan with Jeju Island. Car ferries also operate this route. Han River Ferry Cruise operates a cruise service on the Han River in Seoul, which runs through the center of the capital from Yeoido.

Getting Around by Rail
Korean National Railroads (website: www.korail.go.kr) connects major destinations. There are three classes of trains: Korea Train Express (KTX, the country’s new high-speed, two-class service); Saemaeul trains (express, first class-grade service); and Mugunghwa trains (local, more of a ‘second class’ service). KTX has east (Gyeongbu line, ending in Busan) and west (the Honam line ending in Mokpo) routings (website: http://ktx.korail.go.kr/eng). Station signs in English are common and English translations of timetables are usually available.

Rail Passes
Korea Rail Pass: allows visitors travel with reserved seats on any KR train (except subways) within a three-, five-, seven- or 10-day period. Saver passes are available for groups of between two and five people, and Youth passes for people aged between 13 and 25 years old. A Korea Rail Pass voucher can be purchased at certain offices and travel agencies abroad and exchanged for the actual pass at Korean railway stations.

Korea Rail Pack: includes accommodation and sightseeing services as well as the actual rail journey. Packs are available for two, three or five days and include a free pick-up/drop-off service for major hotels in downtown Seoul, hotel accommodation with breakfast and an English-speaking guide throughout. Routes covered include: Seoul-Gyeongju, Seoul-Busan, Seoul-Gyeongju-Busan, Seoul-Gyeongju-Busan-Jeju and Seoul-Gyeongju-Andong. (website: www.korail.go.kr).

Getting Around by Road
Traffic drives on the right. Excellent motorways link all major cities, but minor roads are often badly maintained. Road signs are usually written in Korean and English.

Bus: Local and express buses are inexpensive, though local buses within cities are often crowded and make no allowances for English speakers. Hotel staff can assist in choosing the correct bus and stop. Air-conditioned city-express buses (chwasok) are much more comfortable than local buses, and operate in competition with trains for connections to major cities. Towns and villages are linked by local bus services.

Taxi: Generally cheap, and there are also deluxe taxis (mobom taxis), black with a yellow sign on top, which offer a higher level of service. Taxi drivers tend to speak little or no English. Have the destination written in Korean and a map of private addresses, although some offer a free phone interpretation service.

Car hire: Numerous car hire companies operating, including the major international ones. However, complex road systems and density of traffic may mean this is an option only for more confident drivers, or you can hire a driver to go with you on the road.

Regulations: Seat belts are mandatory. Speed limits are 100-110kph (62-68mph) on motorways; 60-80kph (37-50mph) for A-roads.

Documentation: International Driving Permit required. Drivers must have more than one year’s driving experience, be in possession of a valid passport and be over 21 years of age.

Emergency breakdown service: Contact Korea Rent-a-car Association (tel: (2) 2525 4962) or check with your car hire company. International SOS Korea provides English-speaking advice on all kinds of emergencies (tel: (2) 3140 1700; website: www.internationalsos.com). Or call 1330 when in Korea. This is not an emergency number itself, but is a tourist information helpline.

Getting Around Towns and Cities
Seoul has underground and suburban railways and well-developed bus services, all of which are very crowded during the rush hour. Underground station names, ticket counters and transfer signs are clearly marked in English as well as Korean. Underground lines are color-coded, and all trains have multilingual announcements. Taxis are widely available. Good bus services also operate in other cities.

Journey Times
The following chart gives approximate journey times (in hours and minutes) from Seoul to other major cities/towns in the Republic of Korea.

Air Road Rail
Kwangju 0.50 3.55 4.20
Chonju 1.10 3.00 3.20
Kyongju - 4.40 3.30
Ulsan 0.50 4.40 4.00

Additional times: From Busan to Jeju by sea is 11 hours (3 hours 30 minutes via the super-express ferry). From Mokpo to Jeju by sea is 5 hours 30 minutes. From Busan to Kyongju is 1 hour by road and 40 minutes by rail.
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