Planning a solo trip to Seoul, Korea? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- Officially known as Seoul Special City, with a population of around 10 million people.
- Part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network due to cutting edge design.
- Located on the banks of the Han River, with a history going back 2,000 years.
- A global financial and technological powerhouse, with the world’s fourth largest metro economy by total GDP (after Tokyo, NYC, and LA).
- Has a very high quality of life, and the world’s fastest internet connections (up to 1 Gbps).
- Nickname: Soul of Asia.
- Currency: Won (KRW).
- Spoken languages: Korean, although most locals have a basic grasp of English.
- Best time to visit: from October to March. Pack a sweater and an umbrella, as the weather can be unpredictable.
- Arriving via airport: Incheon Airport (ICN) connects with most areas of the city via Limousine buses and Express Train with fares calculated based on distance.
- Taxi stands are located at the arrival level and cost ₩40,000 to ₩65,000 (depending on distance).
WHERE TO STAY
- Best Seoul hostel for solo travelers: Jin’s Paradise. Just a 10 minute walk from the subway station, this is a clean, cozy, and social establishment with a friendly and helpful owner (Jin). Perfect as a base for exploring the city, or for meeting others – it’s so small that you’ll end up meeting everyone by default.
- Jongno and Sinchon offer guesthouses, hostels, backpacker bars, and cafés close to the main sights, while Itaewon boasts a great variety of shopping options.
- Garosugil and Sinsa are fashionable and quiet, while Apgujeong takes the honours for trendy cool.
- T-Money is a transaction and transportation card that can be used to pay for subway and bus fares, giving you a ₩100 discount on tickets plus free transfers across the network.
- The Seoul Subway is the world’s largest (by length), and known for its efficiency and cleanliness. Lines are distinguished by color codes. Fares start at ₩1,150 and are distance dependent.
- Bus routes are also color-coded, and cover defined routes within the city with tickets based on a starting fare plus an additional ₩100 for each km thereafter.
- Group taxis are either Call Vans or Jumbo Taxis, the first being used for passengers transporting freight and cargo goods, and the latter for regular passengers. Call Vans have negotiable fares and license plates that start with the number 8; Jumbo Taxis use the meter with fares starting at ₩4,500 for the first 3 kilometers and ₩200 for each additional 164 meters. Standard (regular) taxis charge ₩2,400 for the first 2 kilometers and ₩100 for each successive 144 meters, and can be booked on 02-1330.
- Instead of a taxi, consider calling a ride via Kakao T (the most popular ride sharing service in Korea).
- Drinking age is 19, and last call is at 5 AM.
- Hongdae has a multitude of bars, cafés and street performances that go deep into the Korean sub culture.
- Sinchon and Gangnam Station are the watering hole of Korean university students looking for cheap drinks and casual bars that stay open late.
- Samcheong-dong is where the fashionable and trendy congregate.
- Great foreigner-friendly clubs: Cakeshop Seoul and Faust (both in Itaewon).
- Great bars for solo travelers: Zen and La Bamba (both in Hongdae).
- Bars and clubs always check IDs, so make sure you have one with you (government issued, with your date of birth).
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Gyeongbok-gung is Korea’s most famous palace, once belonging to the Joseon Dynasty.
- Seoul Tower is a communication and observation tower – the highest point in the city.
- Heunginjimun is one of the Eight Gates of Seoul in the Fortress Wall of Seoul, also designated as a National Treasure.
- The National Museum of Korea is dedicated to Korean art and history, and boasts the largest collection of relics and antiquities in the country.
- Cheongwadae is the presidential residence, also referred to as the Blue House. Visits need to be booked a week in advance.
- Sangam Stadium was built for the FIFA World Cup 2012 and is a distinct structure, shaped like a traditional Korean kite.
- Lotte World is the world’s largest indoor theme park, complete with luxury hotel, top rides, excellent shopping options and the Korean Folk Museum.
- Namsan Park is perched atop its namesake mountain in the centre of Seoul, accessible by cable car.
- Insadong is a one-stop shop for everything Korean including tea houses, galleries and quaint shops selling antiques.
- Namdaemun Market is perfect for souvenir shopping over some healthy haggling.
- Bukchon Hanok Village is a beautiful area of the city bearing traditional Korean housing.
- Koreans place family values above individual needs. Protocols and etiquettes are strictly enforced and respected.
- Pungmullori is a traditional Korean art form combining music, dance and acrobatics. Performances can be caught at the Korean Folk Village or at Chongdong Theater.
- Great restaurants to try: Myeongdong Kyoja (multiple locations), Buchon Yukhoe (beef tartare), Xesc Menzl (German cold cuts and sandwiches), Villa Guerrero (tacos), Star Samarkand (Uzbek food), Niuroumianguan (Taiwanese), Petra (Jordanian), Savage Garden (vegetarian), Balwoogongyang ($$$ – with vegan options).
- Looking for great Gamjatang? Head to Taejo Gamjaguk Sungshin Women’s Univ.. Craving fried chicken? Hyodo Chicken.
- Where to find good cheap eats: Sindang and Ojang for quick and cheap meals eaten standing up, Majang meat market for barbecue and Dobong for the city’s best tofu.
- Dangerous areas: Seoul is generally very safe. Exercise caution at night, especially when walking alone (just as in any major city).
Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days