Seoul at a glance

Hello!

Today, I’ll talk about where I stayed in Seoul, how to get around, and provide you with some language tips. I hope you find this helpful!

  • Lodging options in Seoul 

We were in South Korea for approximately 3 weeks. We spent five days in Busan with a friend, and the rest of the time was in Seoul. We rented a total of three Airbnbs in different neighborhoods and spent the last week in a hotel.

The first Airbnb, no photos, was located across the street from Seoul Station. It was in a really convenient location because Seoul Station is really central and you can connect to most lines very easily through this station. It was also a great first location because the AREX, airport railroad express, provides nonstop services to Seoul Station from the airport (there is a separate fee to use AREX; you can take the regular metro lines for a cheaper fare). It is also one of the primary terminus for KTX, the train to Busan and other cities, which was another reason this location worked great for our itinerary because we planned to spend the first week in Busan. Click here to view and book.

The second Airbnb we rented after returning from Busan was located in Hongdae and was by far the best one we rented. It was right around the corner from Hongdae station and a short walk away from Hongik University and all the attractions and nightlife there.

The apartment was very spacious. It has two bedrooms, a separate dining area, a very spacious bathroom, and a living room. Other places we stayed in didn’t have a living room because it was often used as the second bedroom, and the bathrooms were much smaller. Although this was located so closed to the metro station, it was very quiet. I also loved the high windows and how much natural lighting the room gets. This was my favorite location and I highly, highly recommend staying here. Click here to book.

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The third Airbnb was located near Jongak Station and right along Cheonggye stream. There are tons of great restaurants and food options right around the corner as well as the avenue of youth nearby. The host also has a bike available to use to ride along the river. The room is clean, has lots of natural lighting, and I really liked the plants. My only reservation is that the bathroom is very small. If that’s not an issue for you, then this room would be a great option. Click here to book.

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The last place we stayed in was Shilla Stay hotel in Guro near Guro Digital Complex Station. It was a typical hotel with typical hotel amenities. It was really far away from everything that we had on our itinerary so the location wasn’t great. I wouldn’t recommend staying here if you’re visiting Seoul for the first time. The hotel itself was fine, but the location is rather far from popular tourist activities.

  • Transportation

South Korea has a very comprehensive subway system and you could get to most places by using public transportation. Before the trip, we decided that our primary mode of transportation would be the subway and walking. So the very first thing we did was we purchased a T-money card from a convenience store in the airport and loaded it with money (I didn’t need to purchase one since I kept mine from my first visit). The T-money card could be used for the subway, buses, or used to purchase items from convenience stores. If you plan on using the AREX to get to the city from the airport or to use the KORAIL services, you’ll have to purchase tickets; you cannot use your T-money card to pay for them.

I also recommend downloading a Seoul subway app to help plan your trips. I tried a couple of apps and my favorite one was Seoul Subway – Metro map and route planner. It is so easy to use, straight forward, and had just the right kind of information that I needed. Subway Korea is also a good one to try.

  • Attractions

Although not a comprehensive list by any means, I’ve covered some of the highlights in Seoul, including:

I also loved hanging out in Myeongdong, checking out Gangnam, exploring Hongdae, shopping at Ewha Womans University, enjoying the traditional arts and crafts in Insadong, eating all the street foods, and walking the streets of Seoul.

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Myeongdong at 7:00 am
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Seoul
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A performance in Insadong
  • Language

I speak very little Korean. I taught myself the Korean alphabet and then studied it for a year in school to learn grammar and vocabulary. With my very limited Korean, I was able to get around, order food, pay for the food, and say, “Sorry, I don’t speak Korean,” which, I found, was enough to get by.

If you don’t speak a word of Korean, I wouldn’t let that stop me from going. Many Koreans know some English to communicate with you. The signage are also English-speaker friendly and the subway also includes romanized Korean that will make it easy to use public transportation. Don’t let the fear of language barrier stop you from visiting such an amazing city.

Here are the top 10 words I think you should know (in no specific order):

1) Thank you – 감사합니다 (gam-sa-hab-ni-da)

2) Hello – 안녕하세요 (an-nyeong-ha-se-yo)

3) Sorry –  미안해요 (mi-an-hae-yo)

4) Please give me – ___주세요 (___ju-se-yo)
Example sentence: Please give me this: 이거 주세요 (i-geo ju-se-yo) [eo is the long a sound, like the a in awesome]
OR Please give me one gimbap: 김밥 하나 주세요 (gim-bap ha-na ju-se-yo)

5) I cannot speak Korean – 한국 말 못해요 (han-gug mal mo-tae-yo)

6) Goodbye – 안녕히 계세요 (an-nyeong-he gye-se-yo)
Note: You only use this when you are the one leaving. There is another word to use when you say goodbye to someone else who is leaving and you’re staying, which is 안녕히 가세요 (an-nyeong-he ga-se-yo)
Example: You would say 안녕히 계세요 (an-nyeong-he gye-se-yo) when leaving a restaurant

7) How much is it? – 얼마에요 (eol-ma-e-yo)

8) Bathroom – 화장실 (hwa-jang-sil)

9) Where is it? – 어디에요 (eo-di-e-yo)

10) Subway – 지하철 (ji-ha-cheol)

I hope that this was a helpful quick and brief guide on where to stay, how to get around, and a few language tips. The language bit can be a bit tricky without actually hearing it but there are wonderful resources on Youtube. I especially like Talk To Me In Korean. They are a super helpful resource so definitely check them out if you want to pickup Korean.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns, please leave them in the comment section.

Thanks for reading!
-Thao

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