It has been a year since my last visit to South Korea. It was a memorable trip – traveling solo, experiencing Chuseok, and seeing North Korea from a distance.
That trip has stirred my interest to travel alone more — AND if I get to have the chance. Traveling solo is truly liberating. I am no pro solo traveler but I try my best to share what I know in the hopes to help and inspire other aspiring solo travelers.
Here are 10 tips which I think would be really helpful once you’ve decided to book your tickets to the Land of the Morning Calm, South Korea:
#1 GET A POCKET WI-FI or BUY A SIM
Renting a pocket WiFi or buying a local sim won’t hurt your budget, trust me.
You can easily borrow a pocket WiFi or purchase a local sim at Incheon International Airport or through other third-party travel apps. Just be sure to read the reviews first and check which one is more favorable and to your liking.
I rented a Pocket Wifi at Incheon airport for only 708.00 PHP (14 USD). They did not ask any deposit fees nor charged my credit card for a security deposit. I was connected my entire trip! What’s even better is that Korea has one of the fastest internet connections in the world.
#2 AREX EXPRESS OR ALL-STOP
Express Train is the premium train that runs nonstop between Incheon Int’l Airport and Seoul Station. It is the fastest and most comfortable option.
Journey Time from Incheon Int’l Airport Terminal 1 to Seoul Station would take approximately 43 minutes. If you’re coming from Terminal 2, it’ll take you 51 minutes to get to Seoul Station. Fare for adults is KRW 9,000 or PHP 392.00 (7.5 USD). Fare for children is KRW 7,000 or PHP 305.00 (5.8 USD).
All-Stop Train is a commuter train connected to Seoul Metro lines, helping you travel to Incheon International Airport, Seoul and other surrounding areas. Journey Time from Incheon Int’l Airport Terminal 1 to Seoul Station is 59 minutes, while if you come from Terminal 2, it’ll take you 66 minutes. This option is also cheaper than the express train. You can easily purchase your tickets at any ticket machine, customer information center, or by using a T-Money Card.
If you are in a hurry, get the AREX Express to get to Seoul. If you’ve got plenty of time and on a budget, take the ALL-STOP train to Seoul.
#3 DOWNLOAD MOBILE APPS
The Google Maps App works in South Korea. But if you’re not comfortable using it and you get confused navigating using Google Maps, try to use Naver Map or KakaoMap.
Also, download the Subway App and Korea Subway Bus App for public transportation reference.
#4 AVAIL FREE BREAKFAST
While I was still planning my trip, I already noticed that if not all, most of the hotels, hostels, even b&b’s offer free breakfast. Some may not be fancy like having a good buffet spread but having an option to grab a quick bite free of charge before heading out, to me, is already a great deal.
#5 ACCOMMODATION: SHARED OR PRIVATE?
This was one of the things I had to make sure I get right. It wasn’t my first time reserving a place for myself. I did it when I traveled solo to Singapore. I tried staying in a capsule/dormitory-type and personally, I did not like the experience. I’m not the outgoing type of traveler. I may strike a conversation with some people but most of the time I just observe and keep quiet. Staying in a shared space wasn’t the problem, I was fine with it. I just struggle with socializing at times.
Choosing your accommodation will really depend on your preference. Based on experience, I prefer a private space. So when I was looking for a place in Korea, I was really careful about picking where to stay. I wasn’t expecting to book a hotel since I was looking at hostels and Airbnb’s for cheaper deals. I just got lucky I found a great deal online. I was able to book a 5-night stay in a hotel for approximately 5,000php. Sweet!
I got the room to myself. I got my own bathroom as well (plus free breakfast buffet) and for a cheaper deal. Most places, hotels, hostels or Airbnbs offer private rooms for solo travelers but bathrooms are mostly shared.
#6 BRING POWER PLUGS
In South Korea, power plugs and sockets are of type C and F. The standard voltage is 220 and the standard frequency is 60 Hz. Bring a power adaptor, extension wire/sockets, trust me you’re going to need it.
#7 RESTAURANTS FOR SOLO TRAVELERS
Traveling solo also means you got no one to share your meals with. And if you’re like me who gets uneasy eating alone, you will probably struggle to adjust…at first.
But girl, you gotta eat!
What I’ve noticed in Korea is that people are so used to being in groups. Unlike Japan, people there are so used to living solo, eating solo, commuting solo, etc… I can only count the times I’ve seen someone eating alone in Korea. I actually found it hard to dine alone as well.
Most of the restaurants cater to groups and some of these restaurants will probably refuse to serve you when you’re dining solo. I tried several restaurants that refused to serve me. There was a restaurant that gave me a separate menu because I was eating alone. Another restaurant charged me as if two people were dining.
Nevertheless, I still enjoyed finding cute cafes and restaurants that can accommodate solo diners. I even took the courage of talking to strangers so I can eat Samgyupsal.
#8 COMMUTING SOLO
Commuting in a foreign country might be a challenge for some people but I really enjoy the experience. Familiarising an unfamiliar territory can be overwhelming at times but once you get the hang of it, everything will just be a breeze.
Korea’s subway map might be overwhelming to look at at first but once you’ve done several rounds, you can say it’s easy to navigate.
When you’re traveling solo, you won’t have anyone to share the confusion with. You really have to do it on your own but what’s exciting is that even when you get lost, the experience will still be great. Just don’t let it get into you and just enjoy the journey!
I find Korea’s subway system very efficient, even their bus systems are great. Their routes are easy to understand. But if you don’t have the patience to learn all these things, you can simply ride a taxi. Taxis are relatively cheaper in Korea. It will not hurt your pocket. So when worst things happen and you get lost, hailing a taxi will not ruin your budget.
#9 AMUSEMENT PARKS: TO GO OR NOT TO GO?
It was a constant battle in my brain but I ended up not going. If you are not the type who likes parks and extreme rides, I suggest skipping these amusement parks and just do something else – like visiting the North Korean Border or go Paragliding.
#10 BE FLEXIBLE
Each person has different interests and priorities when they travel – they may be into food, shopping, culture, adventure, etc. It varies from one person to another. I’d probably choose food, culture, and adventure over anything else. Some might choose shopping over anything else. It really depends…
But all these will change if you are traveling solo. You will really have to let go of a lot of things. You will probably not follow your itinerary or if you do, you will end up changing it last minute. And that’s okay. What’s important is you are having the best time!
Wonder how I take my photos while traveling solo? Read this.
PUBLIC ADVISORY: From the Consular Office of Korea in Cebu, all visa applications will be processed in 10 days. Tentative claiming dates will be scheduled (10) TEN DAYS after submission, effective October 1, 2019.
Plan your trips wisely!
Feel free to leave comments or message via e-mail if you have any questions. If you like this article and want to see or know more about my #goSeoulo trip, or other trips and tips, follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.