[Seoul-Busan Trip November 2013] Tips Before You Go

See here for Seoul-Busan 11 Days Itinerary.

1. Research and read

Do your homework and get to know the country/city/places that you are going to visit. There is a wealth of information available both offline and online.

Korea Tourism Organization

A great place to start is the Korea Tourism Organization. You can visit the Korean Tourism Organization office in your country to get free brochures or flyers (KTO in Indonesia is located at Wisma GKBI in Sudirman, Jakarta), or if you are too lazy to visit (like me), you can always do your research online by visiting KTO website or liking KTO Facebook page.

KTO website: http://www.visitkorea.or.kr/intro.html

KTO Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Koreatourismorganizationindonesiaoffice

Professional and amateur travel blogs and websites

Another way to get first-hand information is to read travel stories written by those who have been to the country/city/places that you will visit. I admit, a lot of the blogs I read are not very informative nor interesting to read, but from reading so many blogs I could collect bits and pieces of information which I later found to be useful. It is also a way to crosscheck how accurate the information provided by a blogger is.
Some of the blogs/websites that I found to be very useful are:

Kampong Boy City Gal http://kampungboycitygal.com

Seoul Searching http://www.myseoulsearching.com/

Eat Your Kimchi http://www.eatyourkimchi.com/

Seoulistic http://seoulistic.com/

If you plan to shop for skin care and cosmetics in Korea, it is also a good thing to read reviews at various beauty blogs and make a list of the complete names of each item under each brands, because they have unbelievably long (and ridiculous) names e.g. Etude House Sweet Recipe Baby Choux Base or Nature Republic Super Aqua Max Combination Watery Emulsion etc etc , so you can just show your list to the sales assistants and they will get them for your convenience.

2. Discount vouchers

There are a lot of discount vouchers available for many things, from airport limousine bus fare to cosmetic shops to coffee shops to amusement parks. I got a whole bunch of coupons from Visit Korea website and for the airport limousine bus from Kampong Boy City Gal website

Visit Korea http://english.visitkoreayear.com/english/benefit/benefit_06_01_01.asp

3. Free brochures, maps, flyers & Hanbok Experience at M Plaza Myeongdong

This is the place to go to try on hanboks and take photographs in a mini ‘studio’ for free (you get to take your own pictures using your own camera, but the staff are usually more than willing to help you). This office also provides information and brochures about transportation, accommodation, shopping, places of interests, and various performances. The staff are conversant in English, Chinese, and Japanese; and the brochures are also provided in those languages. M Plaza is located behind Zara in Myeongdong and the center is on the 5th floor. Side note: on the same floor is Mad For Garlic restaurant (but we did not eat here).

4. Invest in a good pair of walking shoes

You will do a lot, and I mean, A LOT of walking in Korea. Seoul and Busan have an extensive subway system, and to reach many places of interests, you need to walk (sometimes hilly roads) after you get out of the subway station. Some subway stations also do not have escalators and to change lines you need to go up and down some stairs, walk the alleyways, then go up and down some more stairs before you reach your designated platform. People walk quite fast (definitely faster than in Indonesia, but not necessarily faster than in Singapore or most cities in Europe) and the general consensus is walk on the left and stand on the right (when on an escalator). People bump each other a lot and they just breezed past without even uttering an apology, so do not be surprised. The escalator, however, is really slow.

If you are a girl and do not want to be caught dead in a pair of Crocs or running shoes in your travel photos (like me), invest in a really good pair of flats or boots, but to be honest, this will only take you so far. The best cushion for your feet to survive 4-6 hours of walking (and climbing) every day for a week or more, is provided by those engineered walking shoes. I brought my Rockport Adiprene flats but after a few days my feet screamed for help. I braved myself the risk of feet injury and endured painful steps for the second half of my trip. Anyone has a suggestion for a travel footwear that is middle ground between comfort (support) and style?

5. Learn a few useful Korean phrases

Very few Koreans that you will meet during your trip will understand English; even fewer will be conversant enough to provide legible and useful information about, say, directions to get to a place. Most of the cosmetic shopkeepers/sales assistants are fluent in Mandarin and Japanese, but not so much in English. I do not speak (or read) Mandarin nor Japanese, I cannot read Hangul, and my Korean vocabulary is limited to what I hear in Korean dramas and variety shows. These are the phrases that I used the most (I suggest you go to Google Translate to hear how it should be pronounced), apologies for any wrong spelling ^^

Annyeonghaseyo (excuse me)

Kamsahamnida / gomapseumnida (thank you)

Annyeonghigyeseyo (I’m leaving –> used when leaving a shop or restaurant)

Ige eolmaeyo? (how much is this? –> then I got baffled when they answer back in Korean, so I gave them a confused look and show my fingers and usually it resulted in them answering in broken English or showing their fingers to indicate the price or simply show the numbers using a calculator)

Juseyo (please)

Choesonghamnida, hanguk saram anieyo (I’m sorry, I’m not Korean –> because locals often thought I was Korean and start talking to me in Korean)

6. Bring stomach problems medications

You will eat a lot of spicy and acidic food in Korea and if you are not used to it, chances are you will have stomach problems, such as gastric acid or loose bowel movement. For Indonesians, I suggest you bring these medicines (all available at pharmacies without needing doctor’s prescription):

Lanzoprazole/Omeprazole (capsules) (PPI/proton-pump inhibitor), which inhibits stomach’s production of gastric acids, taken before meals

Polycrol Forte (chewing tablets), (antacid), which neutralizes stomach acid, taken before meals

Entrostop/Imodium (tablets), for if you suffer uncontrollable bowel movements or diarrhea

7. Print detailed itinerary. Type names and address of places in English AND Hangul

Not everyone is Korea is able to read latin alphabets, so having the names and address of places in Hangul will help a lot when asking for directions. Also, a detailed itinerary with addresses and directions to each place (subway line X, stop at Y station, exit at Exit Z, walk xxx meters, turn left at first intersection, etc etc) will be very useful, especially when combined with the city’s subway map.

-ciciA

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