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11 Important Travel Tips For First-Time Solo Travel To Seoul! You’ll find the last bits of everything that you need to know about Seoul right here. Especially if you’re traveling to South Korea for the first time, these tips will help you plan your solo travel to South Korea perfectly!
Don’t forget to check out “The Ultimate Female Solo Travel Guide To Seoul,” too.
Let’s jump into the tips and tricks for South Korea!
Public Transport in Seoul
Public transport is fantastic in Seoul! Even if you’re not a budget traveler, getting around by subway and bus is the easiest. Most areas are very well connected, and using the bus or subway speaks for itself. It’s not any different than any other city.
The Airport Express Train Seoul to the city
The easiest way to travel to Seoul from Incheon Airport is by Airport Express Train called Arex. It was super easy and smooth. There are two different trains. One is the express train, which doesn’t stop on the way and goes straight to Seoul Station in about 50 minutes.
Then there’s another ‘all-stop train’ that takes longer and stops at different stations. If your hotel is near these stations, it might be better to take the ‘all-stop train’ from the airport.
When arriving at the arrival hall at the airport, follow the signs for the ‘airport express train.’ You can make a reservation online for a seat, but a ticket can just as easily be bought at one of the vending machines at the airport.
You can choose a departure time at the vending machines and pay with a credit card.
The express train leaves at certain times and is less frequent than the all-stop train. You can check the schedule on their website.
After you’ve paid, the machine will generate a ticket with a designated seat. I thought the Arex was a great way to travel to Seoul Station. It is clean, the seats are comfortable, traveling is very convenient, and there is plenty of space for your luggage.
Important! Do you want a hassle-free journey from the airport to Seoul? >> Book your Airport Express Train!
A ticket for the express train from Terminal 2 to Seoul Station was around €7. When arriving at Seoul Station, you can use the subway or bus to get to your hotel. Don’t forget to get some cash to buy a subway ticket!
If you’re traveling to Seoul and planning on public transport, a T-money card is a must! You need a T-money card to survive in Seoul. It will make your life a lot easier. Not only can you use it for public transport, but you can use it in convenience stores or taxis.
So, where do you buy the T-money card? Everywhere where the T-money card logo is displayed, but mainly in convenience stores like 7-Eleven or GS25. Lucky for us, there are convenience stores on every street corner.
Before my trip, the information online told me I could also purchase a T-money Card at every subway station in one of the vending machines. But when I arrived in Seoul, every vending machine on every subway was empty.
I don’t know if it’s temporary, but keep that in mind.
The price depends on the type of T-money Card. There are ones with cute pictures or even pictures from your favorite K-pop artist like BTS. You can also buy these holders for your T-money card to attach to your phone.
The card itself can be paid by card. However, to top up, you need to pay cash (don’t ask me why). This also goes for the top-up machines at the subway stations. To top up, you need to have some money on you.
How much should you charge your T-money card? I stayed for ten days and topped it up with 20k WON. For daily use, that should last you at least a week!
If you’re interested in the T-money card and a SIM card, check out this Traveler SIM & T-money bundle with unlimited data!
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Must-haves to get around in Seoul
For tourists, there is the Seoul Discovery Card that gets you discounts on various things.
If you’ve been to New York, you’ll probably know the New York City Pass. It’s just like that. You can buy it for a certain amount of days. You’ll get discounts on attractions, restaurants, shops, and more within those days!
It’s handy to have if you’re planning on visiting many places because you’ll pay less than when buying entrance tickets separately.
Naver Maps to navigate
Naver Maps is a must to navigate. For some reason, South Korea needs to have its own Korean apps for everything! So, for tourists, it means downloading many apps to get around in South Korea.
Before, Google Maps didn’t work in South Korea. You can see the map but can’t zoom in to see the streets. So, basically, it was useless.
I don’t know when, but now Google Maps does work in South Korea. You can zoom in, see streets, and look up streets in English. The only thing that doesn’t work is foot or car directions.
Naver Map still works best, especially when using public transport. A must-know in these 11 important travel tips for first-time solo travel to Seoul!
The app is available in English, although only 30% is written in English. It’s still enough to understand how to navigate the streets or to find all your public transport options.
The details in Naver Map when using the subway are super detailed! You’ll see which side the doors will open, which subway exit you should take (there are always many exits to different streets), or which car is the easiest to take for a smooth transfer.
Kakao T for taxi rides
Ok. I’m sharing a little secret trick in these 11 important travel tips for first-time solo travel to Seoul! Just like Naver Maps, South Korea has its own taxi service app. Neither Uber nor Grab won’t work, so don’t bother trying. Kakao T is the app you’ll need and works precisely the same as Uber.
At first, it looks like you can’t use Kakao T without a Korean mobile number! But there is an option that says ‘pay to driver’, which allows you to order a taxi and pay directly to the driver without a local number.
The good thing about taxis in Korea is that they all accept credit cards, so no cash is needed for your ride.
Public Bike System in Seoul
Seoul has a public bike system for when you get tired of public transportation. How convenient and accessible public transport might be, sometimes it gets too crowded. It’s always busy, especially during rush hour.
As a foreigner, you can buy passes and rent a bike. The app is not very foreigner-friendly because even though it says English, there’s still a lot of Korean.
The map will tell you the bike dock locations and the number of bikes docked. The cheapest option is to buy a day pass for a few euros, and you can use the bike the whole day.
While some areas do have bike lanes, they are not everywhere. I’ve also seen people ride their bikes on the sidewalks when there aren’t bike lanes and the road is too busy.
You can find more information in English here!
Visiting a restaurant in Seoul was a new but excellent experience for me when I traveled to Seoul for the first time. To save you some time figuring things out, I’ll tell you!
Lots of restaurants don’t accept reservations. You show up, and if it’s full, you sign up on the waiting list and wait.
Are you looking for cutlery? It’s probably hidden in a drawer in the table! How cool is that? Most of the time, there’s also a little bin and complimentary water to grab yourself.
Are there scissors on the table? You use those to cut your food! I thought it was brilliant!
In South Korea, waiving the waiter is normal if you need something, unlike in Europe or the US, where the waiter checks in with you occasionally. You need to call them in Seoul; in some places, there’s even a call bell to summon your waiter!
Ready for the check? Most places have a register where you pay. They won’t bring a check to your table; you’ll get up and pay at the register.
It’s 2022, and we can’t live without data anymore, even when traveling. It makes me think how helpless travelers were before the internet!
One of the best things about Seoul is that there’s Wi-Fi almost everywhere. Some spots connected to the free Seoul Wifi are at the airport, restaurants, stores, on the bus, and even walking around the city.
Seoul was one of those places where I wondered if I needed to buy a local SIM card. But in my experience, most free public Wi-Fi doesn’t always work that well.
A SIM card is still convenient, especially when navigating, looking up public transport, or ordering a taxi.
If you’re a frequent traveler, I highly recommend checking out Airalo. I’ve been using Airalo for all my travels and used it in South Korea too. You install an e-sim on your phone and buy data packages.
This is a great backup plan if the free public Wi-Fi is unreliable. You can even use the same e-sim and data for your next destination! It’s best to organize this a few weeks before your travel date!
If you need to connect multiple devices, a portable Wi-Fi is also an option.
Cards are widely accepted in Seoul, but having some cash on you is always handy. I highly recommend getting some local currency at the airport. You’ll need it to top up your TMoney card and to buy a subway ticket.
I completely forgot, so when I arrived at Seoul Station, I couldn’t use the subway because I had no cash. The vending machines for the subway are cash only!
If you’re traveling within Seoul, it’s sometimes much easier not to have your heavy luggage constantly with you.
Every subway station I saw had several luggage lockers to store your luggage. Okay, big suitcases won’t fit, but carry-on luggage or big backpacks will.
Popular subway stations or train stations, like Seoul Station, have more lockers but will be busier. It might be difficult to find an empty one, so keep that in mind.
However, these lockers are very convenient, and they are also very reasonably priced!
I hope these 11 important travel tips for the first-time solo traveler to Seoul will come in handy for you! If I had known them before coming to Seoul, it would have saved me some confusion or hassle! Let me know in the comments below if they worked out for you!
If you’re looking for a great deal on flights, check out Kiwi.com! They have an amazingly flexible search engine tool for flights. Or check out Skyscanner. Skyscanner is also a flight search engine. I usually check both to compare flights!
Stop struggling with SIM cards when travelling! Use an ESIM that can be easily set up on your phone! Airalo has been great for data during my travels!
For accommodation, I highly recommend the one and only Booking.com. To make your plans flexible, consider accommodation with a free cancellation policy. Their prices are unbeatable, and the higher your Genius Level, the bigger the discount!
For tours, I recommend Get Your Guide. You can check reviews for their tours, and they come with an excellent cancellation policy, transfers, and the possibility to skip the queues.