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South Korea, Safe For Solo Traveller?

edited February 2009 in Far East Asia
Hi, I am thinking about travelling to South Korea, I am 21 - Would it be safe for me to go on my own? Also where are good places to go there? I am really into the culture side of things but wouldnt mind being close to the city Seoul.....what is the shopping like? Basically any information you could provide me would be appreciated. Thanks :)


  • edited 8:09AM
    Hi! I have travelled alone in Seoul before and I find that it is basically safe to do that, but like in most countries, it's better to avoid dark alleys during the night. Koreans tend to get friendlier with u when they speak Korean to them, so it might help if u learn a few Korean phrases. However, older Koreans, especially women, can be a little hostile towards foreigners.

    Shopping is really great in Seoul, especially areas like Myeongdong and Sinchon, where goods are basically cheaper. I personally love Myeongdong because the shops are really varied and u can experience the Korean youth culture there. Though Dongdaemun is another must-go shopping spot, I find that the goods sold there are relatively more expensive than those in Myeongdong. Itaewon and Insadong are good places for souvenir shopping. It is also at Insadong where u can find find many antiques, so u can have an idea of what ancient Koreans are into.Gyeongbok Palace is another attraction to go.

    Since most of the attractions are accessible via trains, it's good to purchase a railway card and top it up as and when the value runs low. Using a railway card is more economical than paying for tickets each time u take a train.

    Seoul is a wonderful city. I think u will enjoy your trip. Have fun!
  • edited 8:09AM
    WOW! Thanks for all of your info Kitty. I’m so glad as it’s a place I really wanted to visit and I'm happy you felt safe on your own. So how long was long did you need 1, 2, 3 weeks?

    Also do you have any recommendations for hotels that are close to the main city area?
    What time of year is best to go weather wise? And who do you recommend flying with?

    Sorry for all of the questions but you seem quite knowledgeable and I always like to hear from someone who has done it rather than a travel agent who is just trying to get your money!!!

    Thanks again :)
  • edited 8:09AM
    When is the best time to go to WInter Sonata? I would love the feel of winter and I don't have any idea on which days between Nov and Jan is the best time to go there. Also, I am clueless as to whether my tourist VISA would be easily approved, although I plan to get a package through my agency. I am from the Philippines.
  • edited 8:09AM
    I just came across this site, and would like to address the more recent question by Shelly, albeit a month after the fact. I lived and worked in Korea for several years and I loved it. And I agree with Kitty in Seoul being a nice city and about the shopping tips. As far as best times to go weatherwise, I always liked May the best, with September and much of October being a good second choice. The temps are delightful, skies are clear, and the humidity is lower. As for airlines, Asiana is considered the better of the two Korean airlines. If you're traveling from the U.S., then I would recommend either Asiana or Singapore Airlines because of their more pleasant and attentive staff. Korea is a very safe country, with an excellent public transportation system. You should have no reluctance in traveling alone. As for downtown hotels, I used to stay at a couple which were right in the heart of the city and were very reasonable. I can't recall their names right now, but will post them if I do.
  • edited 8:09AM
    I have just happened on this site and would respond to Miles. I am so pleased to hear that you loved living and working in Korea. My son is hoping to work there from September '09 and is very excited about the prospect. Where would you (or anyone else) consider the best areas to live and work. I would really appreciate your reccommendations.
  • edited 8:09AM
    hi...everyone...just wondering when is the best time to visit korea? I heard MAY is the best and i do also agreed but might not be able to do it in August ok? I dont really like winter much but i can bear it if worth to it beautiful? Also, i am looking into living with homestay to get a better knowledge of culture differences and hand-on experiences....anyone have any opinion to that? I would love to learn how to make kimchi and to learn a lillte bit of korean as well. It would be a great experience to live like korean during my stay.
    Where is the safest place that have easy access to transportation to stay and not to far from the seoul city?
    Is yongsan-gu area ok? Or mapo-gu or Itaewon?....i have no term of how far or near to the seoul city....? Help pls..thank you so much....:)
  • edited 8:09AM

    The Fall is a great time to visit Korea, September and October, with September being the better because it is still warm. August is the hottest month. The summer monsoon ends toward the end of July, the sun returns, but then so does the accompanying heat. I would not recommend August to visit, however, not because of the hot, humid weather, but because that is when the majority of Koreans take their vacations. Roads are clogged, transportation is hard top come by, and hotels are booked.
    Wintere isn't bad, for it's in the dry season, and, while it can be cold, it doesn't snow very much.
  • edited 8:09AM

    Your son should love his experience there. As to where to live and work, there are many nice places all over the country. Seoul is the best if he wants a big city experience. Pusan, sometimes spelled Busan, is also pleasant, has a milder climate, and picturesque views of the sea. Taejon (Daejeon) is another great choice, because of it's wide boulevards and central location. Both major train lines go through this city. There are many smaller cities and towns throughout the country which are also good choices if he wants a slower pace. Once your son has narrowed down his options, if you will mention the names of these places, I could comment on them. Can I presume that he will be teaching English, given his flexibility as to location?
  • edited 8:09AM
    Regarding your other questions..... About your interest in learning how to make kimchi, maybe studying the language, there are YMCAs in many cities which offer such services, and these are free. If you want to study Korean on an intensive basis, then you will need to live in a major city, with Seoul being the best choice. The Ys and these language schools should be able to assist in placing you with a family.
    As to where near the city to live, I would avoid Itaewon. I liked Bundang on the other end of the city. It's more pleasant, I think, yet with easy access. There are many choices. I would suggest staying in an inexpensive inn (yogkwan) for a few weeks until you find an area that you find suitable. Transportation is plentiful, but being near a subway stop would be nice.
  • edited 8:09AM
    hi there,
    I am planning to visit korea in the mid of march, i m going to do some survey on Korean Students and Indian Education. My interest area is making India a step stone to U.S., Canada for Korean after having a good hold on english as language, which they usually lack.
    Kindly suggest me, as i m going like without much contacts, i will be giving a newpaper advertisement and meeting people....
    Anybody just guide me few steps to perform better for my task.

    Thanks for the same...

  • edited 8:09AM
    Hey sorry not in march, its May....
  • edited 8:09AM
    Ive never been outside of US. Do I need a VISA to go to Korea or can I just get airplane ticket and my passport? Im just planning things and if I do im planning on staying for 2 weeks. Should I take all cash or use credit card? If I have chase bank, can i take money out from their ATM and is there fee for using it outside of US? As for hotel would I ahve to make reservation? Im asking this because I dont have a plan how long im going to stay in Seoul and travel to jeju island or other parts of Korea.
  • edited 8:09AM
    Hi! I have a friend that will have a 12 hour layover in Seoul at the end of this month (MAy) she wants to do a little sight seeing-but does not have much money to pay for an expensive tour company- any ideas on how or who she can contact to get a 1/2 day tour of key sites with an english speaking inexpensive or free toour guide? I hope you have some ideas!!
  • edited 8:09AM
    Hi anyone

    I planning to go korea nxt yr !!! Any place must go where i can make my mark in korea hehe.... : )

    Which is the best location for hotel ???
  • edited 8:09AM
    hi..i'm plannng to travel korea by this july or maybe september since its a good month to travel the country..can anyone suggest which place is the better place to stay but not too expensive like other hotels...and where is the great place to visit?please help.....thanks
  • edited 8:09AM
    There is an excellent student exchange with Korea and United States with 50 student meeting in S. Korea in the middle of July. The organization is KASC ( Korean-American Student Exchange) this year is their second annual with the first group going around USA from coast to coast visiting dignitaties and POI. Their head quarters is in Washington, DC... My dtr has gone in the first, and is going to S Korea for the second one. There is also a Japanese organization. Hope this helps someone
  • edited 8:09AM
    I am a student and writing about Korea for a project. And reading all these comments are really interesting. One piece of advice I would give as I have personally travelled there , is that if you want a cultural experience travel inland as you can find villages etc, and the opposite for a city life.
  • edited 8:09AM
    Hey charlotte I agree with your statement about good bananas, I found the korean ones the best!
  • edited 8:09AM
    THANKYOU YAZMIN, I agreeeeeeee that the bananas are good just like the ones in Gwen Stefani's song!! And If you ever want to do a project on a country do it on Korea, or Gogoryeo as it is simply fascinating:P
  • AnnAnn
    edited 8:09AM
    Hi everyone..i am planning to travel to Korea.. is it necessary to get a visa?? I'm from the Philippines.
  • edited 8:09AM
    Hi there,
    I am travelling to Seoul on July 15-aug 20th, and my parents are very worried that it is not safe there. Does anyone have any input or more information?
    Is it safe?
  • edited 8:09AM
    I have been living in South Korea for almost a year now...I'm an English teacher from the Toronto area. I am a 25 year old woman and South Korea is one of the safest countries i have ever been in. I never feel scared or worried ..and i walk home from the gym after 10pm sometimes down relatively unlite streets (yes it sounds crazy!!) I live in Daejeon, but i do go to Seoul frequently. Be careful like in any other city...but like i said i have been alone here for almost a year and I'm not looking forward to going home and always looking over my shoulder. The older Korean men will try to talk to you the later the night progresses because they drink alcohol over dinner...but it's not intimidating at all. A lot of people speak enough English in the big cities for you to get by with little to no Korean..although learning a few phrases is helpful. Kimchi is the national dish..i personally hate it..but it's pickled cabbage with red pepper paste (spicy and vinegary)...let me know if you have more can always e-mail me directly at
    [email protected]
  • edited 8:09AM
    Hi, I was wondering if any of you could help me. I am planning a trip to Korea to meet my fiances parents. Problem is I have a minor drug conviction on my record. I have asked the Korean Embassy whether it would be a problem and pretty much go a "I dont think so", but they couldnt guarantee it. Is there any way I can find out for sure? Any place in Korea I could call? Or have any of you traveled there with a similar issue? Its a super old charge (13 years) and it was only a misdemeanor, but I know Korean drug laws are stiff and they may view it as more serious. We are only going for 2 weeks if that matters. I would appreciate any info you could give me as this is very important to my fiance and her family. And I'm pretty sure me spending the whole trip in a holding cell waiting for a flight out would be a bad first impression of epic proportions.
  • edited 8:09AM

    Hello, I am in a similar situation but maybe more serious :( What info did you receive if any? I am going to start doing research myself ie. contact Korean embassy......but I saw the post and thought I'd ask.
  • edited 8:09AM
    i am 19++ and i was planning to go to south korea too on march.. by my own.. good to know it is safe..
    by the way, can i know where is the good place to stay? which hotels?? not too expensive and not to cheap..
  • edited 8:09AM
    I've been to many countries, and I think Korea is the one of the safest countries I've been. Although sometimes I walked round over 1-2AM after drinking. Its a safe country. Besides, You needn't tip at restaurants. I love Korean food. You should try many kinds of food. You'll be addicted. I envy someone is planning to visit Korea.
  • edited 8:09AM
    Hi there

    My wife and me will be heading for Korea from the 11/01/10 to the 18/01/10. We will be covering most of the major tourist attractions like
    1) Everland Theme Park
    2) Phoenix Park Ski Resort
    3) Myeongdong Fashion Street
    4) Gyeongbokgung Palace
    5) Dongdaemum Market
    6) Sinchon Ladies Street

    Am I missing anything ?? Mine is by tour and is a 7D 5 N Winter Sonata Ski Fun tour and was wondering if we can covered so many places in only 5 days as the rest is mostly taken up by travelling. We will leave Singapore close to midnight and the tour start the minute we touch down.

    I would also like to know what is weather up there now.

    Thank very much for help


  • edited 8:09AM
    hi! which city is the safest for a young woman travelling alone? and which city might you compare it to in europe/usa? thanks!
  • edited 8:09AM
    Hello, how's it going everyone?
    I am in charge of overseas sales at small company in Korea.
    Basically, most of Korean treat to foreigners politely. Normally, many young people living in major cities such as Seoul, Busan, Gwangju can talk with you in English.
    However, other minor cities don't have many..If you facing with trouble, many of Korean willing to help you gladly..
    Most of Korean proud of our isolated island which named "Dok-Do" located in East Sea of Korea Peninsula.
    Recently, Japanese government insists "Takeshima (Dok-Do in Japanese)" is their territory even they don't have any persuasive evidences.
    Be careful to mention these kinds of sensitive issues to any Korean!
    Recently, there are many different ethnical people coming to Korea to stay and live in Korea. We don't have any racial discrimination for them basically.
    However, a few Korean doing racial discrimination against south-west asian countries, south asian countries and some black people.
    If you meet racial discrimination situation, you should call to National Human Rights Commission of Korea (Call 1331 - like emergency call) or Police Foreigners Human Rights Protection Center (Call Seoul 02-839-7477, Gyeonggi Province 031-483-6503) in English..
    Enjoy to stay Korea!! Welcome to Korea..
    If you need any kinds of assistance, please send to e-mail [email protected]

  • edited 8:09AM
    Hi everyone,
    I am just concerning everything about south korea, I am planning to go there for tour even I can be alone. I have my friend in there. So that I have to apply for visa. Is it not easy or what? Please feedback here. Thanks.
  • edited 8:09AM
    South Korea is the one of the safest place to visit. I love Korean food. You should try many kinds of food there. I am also going to plan to spend my next vacation in South Korea with all my friends.
  • edited 8:09AM
    Vittoria, read this and find out about South Korea visa requirements Knowledge is power...

    Watch out for kimchi though - let's just say it clear out any blockages you might have.
  • edited 8:09AM
    I want to know weather July is rain seasons then how about min and max weather warm hot or ?????
  • edited 8:09AM
    Hey :D
    I'm 17 and want to visit seoul by myself for a few months between high school and uni, just wondering what renting there is like?
    How expensive is it?
    I want to get a vibe of the culture there too, where are the best places to go?
  • edited 8:09AM
    My daughter is planning to go to Gimpo - can anyone tell me anything she might need to know? Is it safe?
  • edited 8:09AM
    I am amazed at how many of the questions on here is best answered by a simple visit to your government's travel website or Korea's hospitality website- Visa info, crime stats, ethnicity concerns, % of english speaking public etc etc etc!

    Also, look at for traveler's reviews and cost/location of hotels, hostels etc.

    For airlines use a simple travel search like or Then you can judge which airlines fliy there, the relative costs and then go to the airlines site to book or further inquiry.

    As for where to go for popular places look at Korea's hospitality page. Google it people!

    Also for off the beaten path exploring use...again a google search and you'll find plenty of blogs.

    Not trying to be a jerk but 90%+ of these posts are due to laziness. All the aforementioned information is readily available.

    Please use these forum's for specific items that cannot be found and make this a forum of value- e.g. to express your personal experiences and areas to avoid or a hidden gem to visit. Or to create a list of do not go/stay here for "x" reasons but do stay/visit here for "y" reasons.

    I disagee with Seoul (or any place with a partying crowd) being safe at night for s single person- male or female- due to the petty crime rate, and the increasing use of drugging people's drinks- both men and women-to easily be able to take advantage of them and/or rob them. Korea, in general, has a very high petty crime rate.

    Don't dress in brand name western clothes, wear fancy jewelry. watch, shoes or flash a lot of cash. Doing so will make you an easy mark!

    It is key you have the English speaking "911" and tourist information into your phone before going and also learn some of the laws. There are ,many con-artists that work together faking injury to get paid on the spot and if not, be prepared to be banned from the leaving the country until the case is settled- which means more money in hotels, food etc plus a payout to the "victims."

    Lastly, as when traveling to any country that doesn't speak your language, learn enough of that countries language to get by. Most term this "survival speaking." Like greating, how to order food, ask directions, thank you, how much etc. If you try to speak their language you will find them MUCH more respective of you and they will also be more willing to help you and try to speak the international language of English.

    So, all you would be travelers to Korea do your research first before posting redundant and easily found information requests on sites like this. Lastly, be safe and maintain awareness of yourself at all times. Anyplace in the world can be dangerous...even the perfect world of Disney World! And if you go to a bar/club for drinks beware of someone being too friendly wanting to buy you a drink! Be polite and say no thank you unless you know them well enough, are not alone and they drink from the same shared bottle as you! Otherwise buy your own at the bar and watch them make it to ensure no one slips anything in it. This is becoming WAY too common in Korea. I only drink beer there and ask them to bring it to me unopened. And I never leave it alone. Sadly I know too many people that had that happen and have been raped, or woken up with all their valuables striped in some alley. Not to say this would happen to you or that is only happens in Korea- this is a problem the world over- but somebody has to become a statistic and I bet that someone would rather not be you!

    With all this said. Korea can be as great as you make it, just like Germany, Japan, London, New York City etc. Common sense, lot's of research and keep and open eye for anything suspicious or just doesn't look or feel right. You natural instincts will serve you well. Follow that basic advice and you can enjoy Korea- or any other foreign country just as much, if not more, than home!

    Oh, one more lastly, don't even think of going to the DMZ separating North and South Korea. Sure it may seem like a great photo opportunity but it is no joke- especially if you cross, by accident or not, into North Korea. Consider your life as you know it over for a L O N G time. You will be accused of a spy and you will be jailed! A lot more people than you think have tried and as you can read some pay the ultimate price for this seemingly funny adrenaline rush to post of Facebook or whatev.

    Peace out- Worldly Steve
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