Having technically been at war with North Korea for 60 years, South Korea is in a perpetually sticky geopolitical situation. But while many Westerners may find it hard to think about South Korea without thinking of international tension, there is so much more to this country steeped in tradition and history.
With a history of conquest by both the Chinese and Japanese and a rich vibrant history of its own, South Korea’s unique blend of cultural influences shows up in its food, language, architecture and every other imaginable way. But book a cheap flight to South Korea, see the thriving city’s sprawling, majestic countryside, and you’ll soon understand why South Korea is very much its own entity with a strong national identity.
South Korea has four distinct seasons; spring and fall are ideal for visiting, while a rainy season begins in June and ends in a humid, sweltering summer in August. Winters are extremely cold.
Spring and autumn are marvelous seasons to visit. The rainy season begins in June, and the rest of the summer is unbearably hot and humid. Siberian winds can make the winter numbingly cold, so unless you’re coming for the skiing or hot springs, it’s better to avoid the winters.
Buses specifically routed to many cities throughout Korea leave from directly outside of Incheon International Airport. Visitors can also choose to fly or take the train between cities; Korail is the major train company. Buses are an excellent way to get around and between each major city. Renting cars isn’t preferable, particularly in Seoul, as the traffic is intense and the driving habits of South Koreans aren’t always the safest or most predictable. Taxis are fairly convenient but can also be a bit pricey.
Proper attention should be paid to being gracious and courteous in the Korean way. Koreans bow to show respect upon introduction, take their shoes off when entering the homes of others, and show extreme graciousness to the elderly. You should be prepared to do the same. And it’s probably best to avoid any political conversations or mention of past wars. Koreans have a strong sense of national pride and may take offense to anything they sense might be a slight encroachment on that, so err on the side of caution and stick to sunnier conversation topics. There are lots of other ins and outs regarding etiquette in Korea, so read up before you go.
(prices quoted are from London)