South Korea Solo Travel Tips From My Trip

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South Korea Solo Travel Tips - South Korea Old Building This post is written by Janice, a travel blogger from the Philippines. Check her author bio at the bottom to know more about her.

 

I don’t throw any party on my birthday, especially when I started working, but instead, I travel alone. On my last birthday, I chose to visit Korea since I am a huge fan of Korean dramas. Kdramas has gained popularity in the Philippines, especially to all ladies who are head over heels to the charming “OPPAS“. That said, Korea has been everyone’s dream destination and so do I. 
 
When I was planning my trip, I have tons of things that I wanna try based on the dramas that I have watched; go to a Jjimjilbang (Korean spa) and eat hard boiled egg, eat at a Pojangmacha (street stall), bike around Nami Island, drink soju, and the list goes on. I had so much in mind that I don’t even know if I will be able to squeeze them during my stay. If you are not a fan of solo travel, you may also book a tour with Trazy.com, a top tour company in South Korea.     
 
In this article, I would not be writing my typical “itinerary” or “guide” blog, but instead, I am going to share my experiences in Korea. I will be talking about more of the things that I have enjoyed during my visit, may it be food, activities, places, everything in between. 

SOUTH KOREA SOLO TRAVEL TIPS: LEARNING THE LANGUAGE AND CULTURE OF KOREA

 
 

South Korea Solo Travel Tips - Gyeongbokgung Palace

As someone who watches K-drama, I already have an idea of the Korean culture. However, it still felt different when you are already in the situation. And during this trip, I have learned a lot, even with just my few days of stay in Seoul.
 
It is “Annyeonghaseyo” and not “Ano sa iyo“, let us keep our inside jokes and respect their culture like how we want our visitors to respect ours. Although, it is good to try and greet them in their language, let us make sure that we are saying it right. Aside from Annyeonghaseyo, “Kamsahamnida” is also a good word to know which simply means THANK YOU. It may be a simple word but has a powerful impact.
 
There is also a Korean etiquette especially when you are interacting with older people. When drinking in front of someone who is older than you, it is customary to turn your head away and take a drink. When receiving something from an older person, you also receive with two hands with a bow. Also, when you passing on something, let’s say when you have to pay, you have to extend one arm and rest the other on the extended arm. These are just some of the ways on how to respect according to seniority in Korea. 
 
Aside from respecting the elderly, one of the things that I also love about Korea is that they have preserved their culture in such a way that even other nations could understand. Like how they allow visitors to wear hanbok and get a free entrance on the major palaces in the city. Old house setup is also retained, like those houses that you can see in the Hanok Village. Locals also offer a free stay to travelers for them to feel how is it like living in a traditional Korean house. 
 
 
 

CHIMAEK BY THE HAN RIVER

I also met foreigners who have been living in Seoul to teach English and can even speak and read Hangul now. They were with me almost every day, and whenever they are still at work, they would give a list of things to try and places to visit. They let me experience how it is being a local and how is it like living in Seoul as a foreigner. One of the things that we did together was a picnic at the Han River, which I was so excited about since I have watched a lot of scenes in this location. 
 
We planned to have “CHIMAEK” on that night as it is one of the staples of modern Korean eating. Drinking culture in South Korea is a big part of their life, and it seems like everyone drinks. Chimaek simply means chicken and beer. CHI came from the word “Korean Chicken” and MEK came from “Mekju” which means beer. Drinking alcohol is what most Koreans do to socialize, especially during events like important holidays, celebrations or just even after work on a Friday night. Korea is also on top of the game when it comes to fried chicken. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Philippine’s Jollibee chicken but the fried chicken that I had tried in Seoul was probably the best. Crispy and juicy are too underrated to describe it. The impressive crispiness and lack of grease were the best things about it. 
 
I really enjoyed having chimaek at the Han River. It was a chilly night which was perfect for the beer. The atmosphere of the place is very refreshing. I can’t even remember the last time that I went to a picnic party since there isn’t many venues to do it in the city that I live in.
 
 

EAT LIKE A LOCAL AT TONGIN MARKET

 South Korea Solo Travel Tips - Tongin Market
When I asked my Korean friend for an “underrated” place and food place to recommend, “TONGIN MARKET”, she answered. She immediately googled it and showed me the place which I got excited because of the unique thing that they do on this market when you need to buy food. 
 
There are quite a few of street markets that I have visited in Seoul, but one of my favorites is Tongin Market. The small arcade-style market is packed to the rafters with all kinds of wonderful traditional Korean street foods. The market is a short walk away from Gyeongbukgong Palace, so its the ideal place to stop for lunch after wandering the palace. What is unique about this place? You cannot buy any food with the Korean Won, but instead, you need to exchange your won into old coins. You can exchange 5000 won for a collection of coins and a lunch box for your food.
 
I have tried a lot of foods in the market but my favorite would be the YEONGEUN JORIM. This sweet, savory and crunchy braised lotus fruit is just so delicious and also good for the health since it high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. 
 
 
 

WATCH CHANGING OF GUARDS AT GYEONGBUKGONG PALACE

South Korea Solo Travel Tips - Changing of the guards in Gyeongbokgung Palace

 
This trip would definitely be not complete without visiting the Gyeongbokgung Palace, the largest palace and the main palace of all the Five Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty. It has remained to be the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty until the premises were destroyed during the Imjin War where the Japanese invaded the country. The Gyeongbokgung Palace is filled with lotus ponds, ornate statues, trees. I love how the place is dazzled with intricate patterns of red, blue, and green painted on the eaves.  
 
One of the reasons why I want to visit Gyeongbokgung palace was to see how the guards change. I woke up early to make sure that I would be inside before the guards change. However, I was too early that I even saw how they practice the routine before the actual march. It felt like I was back in the old time. It is so nice to see that a country like Korea ensures that their culture is preserved in such a way that even other nations can see and experience.
 
 
 

TOUR AT THE SECRET GARDEN

I was so intrigued with the “SECRET GARDEN” cos I have never heard of it and was never a part of my itinerary, out of curiosity, I went and pre-booked the tour online. It used to require permission from the King to enter the Secret Garden. Secret Garden is a lush park behind the Changdeokgung Palace. Don’t be confused, there’s a separate tour for it inside the Palace. 
 
Secret Garden has a different atmosphere inside. Who would have thought that there is a forest setup in the middle of a big city like Seoul? It is nothing but nature in a bustling city.  As we enter the garden, I felt like I was visiting the time when permission still needs to be obtained from the king. It was so silent inside, you can’t even hear any vehicular sound. All I heard were the guide and the hum of the birds flying from one tree to the other. It was just so relaxing and peaceful.
 

MUST DO FOR FIRST TIMERS? 

There are tons of them, but here’s a mini bucket list for those who want to experience how is it like being a Korean. 
1. Buy face mask in Myeongdong.
2. Wear hanbok.
3. Drink a Korean beer mixed with soju.
4. Chill in Seoul’s Cafes for your Instagram
5. Stay at a Temple.
6. Hike Bukhansan National Park
7. Eat at a night markets
8. Stay overnight at a Korean traditional bathhouse or jjimjil bang
9. Try Kimchi
10. Bike in Nami Island
11. Befriend a Local
South Korea Travel Tips
Janice - Author

Janice is a travel blogger from the Philippines. She shares her adventures on her blog, Janice in Wanderland. You can also find her on Facebook, and Instagram.

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1 Response

  1. Carly says:

    I love markets and food courts where you have to exchange your money for tokens. I mean, it makes absolutely no sense, and it’s totally inconvenient, but it’s kind of fun!

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