SEOUL

South Korea

Seoul is the capital of South Korea. With a municipal population of over 10.5 million, and a metropolitan population totaling over 20.5 million, Seoul is by far South Korea's largest city and one of East Asia's financial and cultural epicenters.

Info Seoul

introduction

Seoul is the capital of South Korea. With a municipal population of over 10.5 million, and a metropolitan population totaling over 20.5 million, Seoul is by far South Korea's largest city and one of East Asia's financial and cultural epicenters.

Situated on the Han River, Seoul's history stretches back more than two thousand years when it was founded in 18 BCE by Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. It continued as the capital of Korea under the Joseon Dynasty. The Seoul Capital Area contains five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Changdeok Palace, Hwaseong Fortress, Jongmyo Shrine, Namhansanseong and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty.

Today, Seoul is considered a leading and rising global city, resulting from an economic boom called the Miracle on the Han River which transformed it to the world's 4th largest metropolitan economy with a GDP of US$845.9 billion in 2014 after Tokyo, New York City and Los Angeles.

A fascinating blend of ancient traditions and cutting-edge digital technology, home to endless street food vendors and vast nightlife districts, an extraordinarily high-pressure educational system and serene Buddhist temples, a dynamic trend-setting youth culture and often crushing conformism, extraordinary architecture and endless monotonous rows of grey apartment buildings, Seoul is a city filled with stark contrasts, contradictions, and paradoxes.

Seoul hosted the 1986 Asian Games, 1988 Summer Olympics, 2002 FIFA World Cup, the Miss Universe 1980 pageant, and the 2010 G-20 Seoul summit. A UNESCO City of Design, Seoul was named the 2010 World Design Capital.

info
POPULATION : City: 10,117,909 / Metro: 25,620,000
FOUNDED : 
TIME ZONE :
LANGUAGE : Korean, English ( Widely spoken)
RELIGION : Protestantism 22.8%,  Buddhism 16.8%, Catholicism  14.2%, Other or none 46.2%
AREA : 605.21 km2 (233.67 sq mi)
ELEVATION : 38 m (125 ft)
COORDINATES : 37°34′N 126°58′E
SEX RATIO : Male: 49.35%  
 Female: 50.65%
ETHNIC : Korean 98%, Others 2% (Chinese, Japanese etc.)
AREA CODE : 2
POSTAL CODE :
DIALING CODE : +82 2
WEBSITE : Official Website

Tourism

With over 10 million people, a figure that doubles if you include neighboring cities and suburbs, Seoul is the largest city in South Korea and unquestionably the economic, political and cultural hub of the country. By some measures it is the second largest urban agglomeration on the planet, after Greater Tokyo.

In recent years, Seoul has become a favourite with tourists from China, Japan, and Southeast Asia, following the success of Korean pop culture. Travelers will frequently overhear Japanese, Mandarin, or Cantonese; many restaurants and stores, especially in the more touristy areas like Myeongdong, will have signs in Japanese and Chinese as well as Korean and English. However, this travel destination, long popular among Asians, is still relatively unknown in the West and frequently passed over by Westerners for nearby Shanghai, Tokyo, Beijing, and Hong Kong.

However, the traveler who does visit will not be disappointed. This sprawling metropolis is truly vast - though the casual traveler can see most of the main sites in a few days, a dedicated traveler could spend months exploring all the alleyways and far-off neighborhoods. As the capital of a country that has gone through massive development in the past sixty years, Seoul is constantly changing at an incredible pace, matched only by the mainland Chinese cities. This frantic pace of life is reflected everywhere - in Seoul's cutting-edge digital technology, in the millions of commuters rushing to work everyday in the world's third largest subway system, in one of the most vibrant nightlife scenes in the world, and in the thousands of high rises and apartment buildings still under construction.

While Seoul today is mostly known as a super-modern mega-city that is home to skyscrapers, malls, and millions of electronic-mad Koreans, the city contains over 2,000 years of history. The city contains 4 UNESCO sites marking important monuments from its 505 years as the capital of the Joseon Dynasty. Until recently, it was a walled city with 20 ft stone walls and narrow lanes inside. Though many buildings were destroyed or damaged during the violent events of the first half of the 20th century, much of its historic core remains. So, anyone staying in Seoul should visit the many historical treasures the city has to offer, including the many palaces and city gates within the Jongno district.

South Korea is a major shopping destination for Chinese and Japanese these days, with many dedicated duty free shops available in Seoul. Korean Won, Japanese Yen and US dollars are accepted, along with major credit cards. Most shops have staff who can speak Japanese. There are duty-free shops in both the Incheon airport and the major department stores: Lotte, Shilla Hotel. There are other duty-free shops at Walkerhill Hotel, SKM DFS in COEX Mall.

History

Settlement of the Han River area, where present-day Seoul is located, began around 4000 BC.

Seoul is first recorded as Wiryeseong, the capital of Baekje (founded in 18 BC) in the northeastern Seoul area.There are several city walls remaining in the area that date from this time. Pungnaptoseong, an earthen wall just outside Seoul, is widely believed to have been at the main Wiryeseong site.

In the 11th century Goryeo, which succeeded Unified Silla, built a summer palace in Seoul, which was referred to as the "Southern Capital". It was only from this period that Seoul became a larger settlement.When Joseon replaced Goryeo, the capital was moved to Seoul (also known as Hanyang and later as Hanseong), where it remained until the fall of the dynasty. The Gyeongbok Palace, built in the 14th century, served as the royal residence until 1592. The other large palace, Changdeokgung, constructed in 1405, served as the main royal palace from 1611 to 1872.

In the late 19th century, after hundreds of years of isolation, Seoul opened its gates to foreigners and began to modernize. Seoul became the first city in East Asia to introduce electricity in the royal palace, built by the Edison Illuminating Company and a decade later Seoul also implemented electrical street lights.

Much of the development was due to trade with foreign countries like France and United States. For example, the Seoul Electric Company, Seoul Electric Trolley Company, and Seoul Fresh Spring Water Company were all joint Korean–American owned enterprises.

After the annexation treaty in 1910, the Empire of Japan annexed Korea and renamed the city Gyeongseong ("Kyongsong" in Korean and "Keijo" in Japanese). Japanese technology was imported, the city walls were removed, some of the gates demolished. Roads became paved and Western-style buildings were constructed. The city was liberated at the end of World War II.

In 1945, the city was officially named Seoul, and was designated as a special city in 1949.

During the Korean War, Seoul changed hands between the Russian/Chinese-backed North Korean forces and the American-backed South Korean forces several times, leaving the city heavily damaged after the war. The capital was temporarily relocated to Busan.One estimate of the extensive damage states that after the war, at least 191,000 buildings, 55,000 houses, and 1,000 factories lay in ruins. In addition, a flood of refugees had entered Seoul during the war, swelling the population of the city and its metropolitan area to an estimated 1.5 million by 1955.

Following the war, Seoul began to focus on reconstruction and modernization. As Korea's economy started to grow rapidly from the 1960s, urbanization also accelerated and workers began to move to Seoul and other larger cities.From the 1970s, the size of Seoul administrative area greatly expanded as it annexed a number of towns and villages from several surrounding counties.

Seoul was the host city of the 1986 Asian Games and 1988 Summer Olympics as well as one of the venues of the Football World Cup 2002.

Climate

Seoul has a humid continental climate.

November–May is more akin to a continental climate while the warmer months are more like a warmer climate with elements of a tropical wet/dry climate.

Summers are generally hot and humid, with the East Asian monsoon taking place from June until September. August, the warmest month, has an average temperature of 22.4 to 29.6 °C (72 to 85 °F) with higher temperatures possible.

Winters are often cold to freezing with an average January temperature of −5.9 to 1.5 °C (21.4 to 34.7 °F) and are generally much drier than summers, with an average of 28 days of snow annually. Sometimes, temperatures do drop dramatically to below −10.0 °C (14.0 °F), in odd occasions rarely as low as −15.0 °C (5.0 °F) in the mid winter period between January and February.

 ClimateJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
 
Daily highs (°C)1.54.710.417.823.027.128.629.625.819.811.64.3
Nightly lows (°C)-5.9-3.41.67.813.218.221.922.417.210.33.2-3.2
Precipitation (mm)20.825.047.264.5105.9133.2394.7364.2169.351.852.521.5
 

Korea Meteorological Administration

Geography

Seoul is in the northwest of South Korea. Seoul proper comprises 605.25 km2, with a radius of approximately 15 km (9 mi), roughly bisected into northern and southern halves by the Han River. The Han River and its surrounding area played an important role in Korean history. The Three Kingdoms of Korea strove to take control of this land, where the river was used as a trade route to China (via the Yellow Sea).The river is no longer actively used for navigation, because its estuary is located at the borders of the two Koreas, with civilian entry barred.

The city is bordered by eight mountains, as well as the more level lands of the Han River plain and western areas. Due to its geography and to economic development policies, Seoul is a very polycentric city. The area that was the old capital in the Joseon Dynasty, and mostly comprises Jongno District and Jung District, constitutes the historical and political center of the city. However, for example, the city's financial capital is widely considered to be in Yeouido, while its economic capital is Gangnam District.

Economy

Seoul is the business and financial hub of South Korea.

The traditional, labour-intensive manufacturing industries have been continuously replaced by information technology, electronics and assembly-type of industries, however, food and beverage production, as well as printing and publishing remained among the core industries. Major manufacturers are headquartered in the city, including Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Kia and SK. Notable food and beverage companies include Jinro, whose soju is the most sold alcoholic drink in the world, beating out Smirnoff vodka, top selling beer producers Hite (merged with Jinro) and Oriental Brewery. It also hosts food giants like Seoul Dairy Cooperative, Nongshim Group and Lotte.

Seoul hosts large concentration of headquarters of International companies and banks, including 15 companies on fortune 500 list such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai. Most bank headquarters and the Korea Exchange are located in Yeouido (Yeoui island),which is often called "Korea's Wall Street" and has been serving as the financial center of the city since the 1980s.

The largest wholesale and retail market in South Korea, the Dongdaemun Market, is located in Seoul. Myeongdong is a shopping and entertainment area in downtown Seoul with mid- to high-end stores, fashion boutiques and international brand outlets. The nearby Namdaemun Market, named after the Namdaemun Gate, is the oldest continually running market in Seoul.

Insadong is the cultural art market of Seoul, where traditional and modern Korean artworks, such as paintings, sculptures and calligraphy are sold. Hwanghak-dong Flea Market and Janganpyeong Antique Market also offer antique products. Some shops for local designers have opened in Samcheong-dong, where numerous small art galleries are located. Itaewon caters mainly to foreign tourists and American soldiers based in the city. The Gangnam district is one of the most affluent areas in Seoul and is noted for the fashionable and upscale Apgujeong-dong and Cheongdam-dong areas and the COEX Mall. Wholesale markets include Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market and Garak Market. The Yongsan Electronics Market is the largest electronics market in Asia.

Times Square is one of Seoul's largest shopping malls featuring the CGV Starium, the world's largest permanent 35 mm cinema screen.

Subdivisions

Seoul is divided into 25 districts:
Dobong District (도봉구; 道峰區)
Dongdaemun District (동대문구; 東大門區)
Dongjak District (동작구; 銅雀區)
Eunpyeong District (은평구; 恩平區)
Gangbuk District (강북구; 江北區)
Gangdong District (강동구; 江東區)
Gangnam District (강남구; 江南區)
Gangseo District (강서구; 江西區)
Geumcheon District (금천구; 衿川區)
Guro District (구로구; 九老區)
Gwanak District (관악구; 冠岳區)
Gwangjin District (광진구; 廣津區)
Jongno District (종로구; 鍾路區)
Jung District (중구; 中區)
Jungnang District (중랑구; 中浪區)
Mapo District (마포구; 麻浦區)
Nowon District (노원구; 蘆原區)
Seocho District (서초구; 瑞草區)
Seodaemun District (서대문구; 西大門區)
Seongbuk District (성북구; 城北區)
Seongdong District (성동구; 城東區)
Songpa District (송파구; 松坡區)
Yangcheon District (양천구; 陽川區)
Yeongdeungpo District (영등포구; 永登浦區)
Yongsan District (용산구; 龍山區)

Internet, Comunication

Internet cafes known as PC bang (PC 방) (pr: pee-shee-bang) are ubiquitous in Seoul, and usually cost anywhere from ₩800-2,000/hr.

Most have printers at the front desk. These places cater chiefly to gamers, which translates into fairly fast computers, loud sound systems and large screens. Most PC rooms have smoking sections. Typically, the computers run a Korean version of Windows XP and use Internet Explorer.

Console gaming (Xbox 360, PS3) is widely available, and for those with proficiency in Korean language, you might also be able to enjoy a round of online gaming; the fantasy MMORPG Lineage was created in Korea and a slew of MMORPG titles not available anywhere else can be found here.

Post offices are basically everywhere in Seoul, although many are hidden on smaller roads and alleys. If you cannot spot any post office nearby, it is good idea to visit university (every university has its own post office in it). The Korean postal insignia is orange and white. It can be spotted on post office signs.Some post offices are open on Saturdays, Sundays and other holidays (postal service only). Most post offices sell boxes and packing materials. Even the smaller offices typically have at least one English-speaking member of staff.

Prices in Seoul

PRICES LIST - USD

MARKET / SUPERMARKET

Milk1 liter$ 2.10
Tomatoes1 kg$ 3.50
Cheese0.5 kg$ 10.00
Apples1 kg$ 7.00
Oranges1 kg$ 4.80
Beer (domestic)0.5 l$ 1.90
Bottle of Wine1 bottle$ 20.00
Coca-Cola2 liters$ 2.15
Bread1 piece$ 1.80
Water1.5 l$ 1.15

PRICES LIST - USD

RESTAURANTS

Dinner (Low-range)for 2$ 23.00
Dinner (Mid-range)for 2$ 38.00
Dinner (High-range)for 2$ 55.00
Mac Meal or similar1 meal$ 4.80
Water0.33 l$ 0.70
Cappuccino1 cup$ 3.75
Beer (Imported)0.33 l$ 4.15
Beer (domestic)0.5 l$ 2.50
Coca-Cola0.33 l$ 1.20
Coctail drink1 drink$ 8.00

PRICES LIST - USD

ENTERTAINMENT

Cinema2 tickets$ 16.00
Gym1 month$ 65.00
Men’s Haircut1 haircut$ 12.00
Theatar2 tickets$ 50.00
Mobile (prepaid)1 min.$ 0.21
Pack of Marlboro1 pack$ 3.80

PRICES LIST - USD

PERSONAL CARE

Antibiotics1 pack$ 4.60
Tampons32 pieces$ 8.00
Deodorant50 ml.$ 5.50
Shampoo400 ml.$ 6.00
Toilet paper4 rolls$ 2.20
Toothpaste1 tube$ 2.50

PRICES LIST - USD

CLOTHES / SHOES

Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)1$ 70.00
Dress summer (Zara, H&M)1$ 38.00
Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)1$ 90.00
Leather shoes1$ 110.00

PRICES LIST - USD

TRANSPORTATION

Gasoline1 liter$ 1.35
TaxiStart$ 2.50
Taxi1 km$ 1.00
Local Transport1 ticket$ 1.00

Tourist (Backpacker)  

50 $ per day

Estimated cost per 1 day including:

  • meals in cheap restaurant
  • public transport
  • cheap hotel

Tourist (business/regular)  

185 $ per day

Estimated cost per 1 day including:

  • mid-range meals and drinks
  • transportation
  • hotel

Transportation - Get In

Transportation - Get In

By plane


Incheon Airport

Most visitors arrive via Incheon International Airport (IATA:ICN), located on Yeongjong Island in the neighboring city of Incheon.

The A'REX train link connects the airport to Seoul Station (for further connections to KTX high-speed services) and Gimpo Airport (most domestic flights), operating from 5:20 AM until midnight. Two versions exist: express services to the city (every half hour) take 43 minutes and cost ₩8,000 (with WiFi available on board); while commuter services (every 6 minutes) take 53 minutes and cost ₩3,700. The gates to KTX and A'REX at ICN are separate but face each other (large hall currently with an ice rink is in between them.)

If, however, you have a lot of luggage or are heading to southern parts of Seoul (e.g. Gangnam), the airport buses remain your best option.

A taxi direct to Seoul will cost around ₩50,000/70,000 regular/deluxe.


Gimpo Airport

The closer but older Gimpo Airport (김포국제공항, GMP) caters only to the shuttle services to Taipei-Songhan, Tokyo-Haneda, Osaka-Kansai,Beijing Capital International Airport and Shanghai-Hongqiao, as well as domestic flights within South Korea, mostly to Jeju.

Gimpo Airport is easily reached on the A'REX link from Seoul Station or Incheon Airport, as well as subway lines 5 and 9. All lines intersect Line 2 which runs in a large circle through Seoul. Line 9(Gold Line), the first privately run subway line in Seoul, has three express trains per hour. Travelers coming into Seoul should first have detailed directions to their destination from the nearest station then consult the subway map before deciding on which line and route to take. All three lines cost ₩1,000-2,100 (depending on distance), while a taxi to central Seoul will run around ₩30,000. Discounts for subway fare are available with T-Money cards.

Transportation - Get In

By Train

Seoul is the northern terminus of the KTX high-speed line. There are three KTX stations within city limits:

  • Seoul Station (서울역) for trains to Busan, Ulsan, Gyeongju, Daegu,Daejeon Cheonan, and Suwon. Accessible via subway lines 1 & 4.
  • Yongsan Station (용산역), for trains to Mokpo, Gwangju, Daejeon and Cheonan. Also on line 1 & 4 (Sinyongsan Station).
  • The newly added KTX at Youngdeungpo is now running to southern destinations.

Nearly all ordinary (non-KTX) services also use one or both of the above terminals, but services east to Chuncheon or Gangneung and southeast toGyeongju via Danyang use Cheongnyangni Station (청량리역), to the east of the city on line 1.

Transportation - Get In

By Bus

Every weekend approximately 2 million Seoulites leave the city, which goes a long way to explaining why the city has five major intercity bus terminals.

  • Central City Terminal, also known as Honam Terminal, (Metro Lines 3, 7 or 9, Express Bus Terminal stn). Directly adjacent to the Express terminal, serves buses to North and South Jeolla.
  • Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, (동서울버스터미널), Gangbyeon stn (Line 2). Buses to points east of Seoul (Gangwon and some part of North Chungcheong).
  • Seoul Express Bus Terminal, (서울고속버스터미널), (Metro Lines 3, 7, or 9, Express Bus Terminal stn). Also known as Gangnam Terminaland Gyeongbu-Yeongdong Terminal, this is the largest of them all and serves pretty much the entire country, but most services head east (incl. Busan, Daegu, Daejeon). Lines to Jeolla, however, use the Central City/Honam Terminal right next door. For the most part there's no need to buy a ticket days in advance except maybe during holidays. There's even a ticket window labeled "Tickets for Foreigners" where the attendant can speak English. Fare from Seoul-Busan is about ₩20,000 and buses come continuously throughout the day. Small restaurants and snacks are all throughout the station. Journeys longer than 2 hrs. typically will have a short stop at a rest area. Most buses are very comfortable and extremely safe.
  • Nambu Bus Terminal, Nambu Bus Terminal stn (Line 3). Serves places southwest of Seoul (Southern Gyeonggi, South Chungcheong and northern North Jeolla).
  • Sinchon Bus Terminal, Sinchon (Underground) stn (Line 2) or Sinchon stn (Gyeongeui Line). Buses to Ganghwa Island. Note: That's Sinchon station, not Sincheon, which is also on Line 2 but on the wrong side of the city!

Transportation - Get In

By Car

No matter where in Korea you start your journey, there will be tolled expressways (Gosok Doro) and national highways (Gook Do) that lead to Seoul; the most important one is the Gyeongbu Expressway, linking Seoul with Busan. To avoid the daily traffic jam on the Gyeongbu Highway near Seoul, take Jungbu/2nd Jungbu, Seohaean, or Yongin-Seoul Expressway.

Transportation - Get In

By boat

There are ferry services to various points in China from the neighboring port city of Incheon. Currently no services run from Japan to Seoul; many Koreans take the coach or KTX train to Busan, where several ferry and hydrofoil options are available.


Transportation - Get Around

Traffic jams are all too common in Seoul, so be careful on the streets and head underground when possible. Street and subway signage is usually written in English as well as Korean.

Transportation - Get Around

By subway

In Seoul, you can visit most places by using the vast subway network. There are currently nine numbered lines plus a smattering of named suburban lines, all distinguished by different colors. All signs in the subway system are in Korean (both hangeul and if applicable, hanja) and English. The signs leading to the platform for a particular direction of travel on a given subway line typically list the names of a number of stations in that direction. Stations each have a 3 digit number, but locals rarely make use of these numbers, and they're not on most subway maps, so don't rely on them. A subway map can be found here.

Subway fares are based on the distance traveled, but the shortest ride costs ₩1,150 (base charge) plus card deposit ₩500 (refundable if you return the card at designated machines at each station). The base charge roughly covers up to 10 km of the journey and ₩100 is added for every 5 km beyond that. Cards can be purchased from vending machines only. All vending machines accept coins and bills, up to ₩10,000 notes (and some ₩50,000 notes, but cash exchange machines are at each station). Hang onto your card until the end of your trip, as you'll need it to get out. Most of Seoul's automated card machines are equipped with touchscreen and full English support (along with Chinese and Japanese). Since ticket machines may be crowded, buying two cards (one for each way) is recommended.

If planning on using the Metro extensively or staying for more than a few weeks, you should consider purchasing a T-money stored value contactless smart card. You can buy this card at most subway stations and many newspaper kiosks near subway entrances, as well as convenience stores. The card itself costs ₩3000 and cash can be charged onto the card as often as you like. When entering and leaving a subway turnstile, place the card on the reader (leaving it inside your purse or wallet is fine) and it will deduct the appropriate fare from the card. Using this card will allow you to save ₩100 on all transfers (these are common with Seoul's extensive subway system) and you can get all but ₩500 back if you have unused credit.

Typically for most travellers staying less than 2 weeks in Seoul, purchasing this card may not be cheaper but other factors should be considered: it can also be used for taxi fares, buses, storage lockers, pay phones, etc. However, using a transportation card is highly recommended if you wish to use it for buses as well simply for its ability to transfer between them since you will not have to pay for the basic 900 fare twice for a single journey when using two modes of transport. It also saves the hassle from figuring out how much you need to pay or waiting in line to buy a single-use ticket. The subway is not open 24 hours, so you may be stranded late at night.

Transportation - Get Around

By bus

Seoul also has an extensive bus service. There are four different kinds of buses: yellow, green, blue, and red. Yellow buses have a short circuit usually around tourist areas. Green buses travel around neighborhoods and connect with the subway. Blue buses go across town, while red buses are intercity buses. Buses will only stop at designated bus stops and will not wait for indecisive travelers.

Adult fare is as follows:

Cash – ₩1,150

T-Money Card – ₩1,050

Note that by using a T-Money card, you can transfer between the bus and the subway for free up to 30 minutes after your last scan. That is to say, the base charge of ₩1,050 won't be charged twice. If, for example, you travel 10 km by subway, transfer to a bus and travel a further 5 km, ₩1,050 will be deducted once you leave the subway, nothing will be deducted when you enter a bus, but you will be deducted ₩100 for the extra 5 km journey you made on the bus. Note that if you do not tag the machine as you leave the bus, you will be charged the maximum fare possible for the route.

Transportation - Get Around

By Car

Internationally known car rental companies can be found in Seoul; just be prepared for a driving challenge and long rush hours. In addition, parking spaces are hard, if not close to impossible to find, especially during peak hours. Therefore, unless you are planning to head out of the city, it is not advisable to rent a car and you are better off relying on the excellent public transport system instead.

Transportation - Get Around

By taxi

Deluxe taxis are black with a yellow sign and are more expensive than regular taxis but provide better and more comfortable service. Regular taxis are silver. For the most part, regular taxi cabs have leather interiors and the drivers are nice—so, for many people, "regular" in Seoul might be "deluxe" in their hometown. It is easy to hail a taxi any time of the day or night along any relatively major Seoul street.

You can call a deluxe taxi wherever you are by calling 3431-5100. Sometimes, you can find a visitor's guide taxi, a kind of deluxe taxi, the drivers of which know English and Japanese and can guide you around Seoul.

The basic fare for regular taxis is ₩3,000 (₩3,600 at night), with a surcharge of ₩100 applied according to time and distance. (The basic fare is up to 2 km, plus ₩100 per 142 m.) In deluxe taxis, the basic fare is ₩4500 and the additional fare increases in increments of ₩200. (₩4500 basic fare for up to 3 km, plus ₩200 per 164 m). International taxi drivers speak at least one foreign language (generally English) fluently. International taxis use the same basic fare as regular taxis, plus an additional 20%.

If there is more than one passenger, and you are traveling only a short distance (like 1-2 metro stops) it is usually cheaper to catch a taxi than to take a bus or subway.

In general, taxi drivers do not speak English or any other foreign language, so have your destination written in Korean to show to the taxi driver. It is also wise to get your hotel's business card in case you get lost. Some may even reject looking at a map so whenever possible, have the location written in Korean.

All taxis advertise a free interpretation service that can be called if you need help. The phone number for the interpretation is on the window sticker of the back seats. Taxis that have an "On Base Authorized" sticker on the side, or a green sticker on their front bumper, are capable of entering US military bases in Seoul. These drivers are required to speak better English as part of their contract and may thus be easier for any English speaking tourists.

Most taxis accept credit cards and T-money cards and thus have a V-shaped orange card sign on the roof of the taxi by the front passenger seat window. However, drivers generally prefer that you pay cash, especially for short rides.

You can also ask for your receipt ("Yeong-su-jeung" 영수증).

As in any other city, there are some bad apples, and some drivers may take you the long way. Although the drivers often have a GPS device on the dashboard of their car, this is relatively meaningless if you do not know the area or cannot speak sufficient Korean to argue the point.

In general, make sure the driver turns on the meter, get an idea of the cardinal direction of your destination (north, south, east, west), and use the interpretation service if you want to agree to a fare beforehand.

However, keep in mind that there is often road construction or protests around Seoul, so sometimes a long route is necessary. If you suspect you are being ripped off, the most a non-Korean speaker can do is write down or take a picture of the driver's ID (located above the glove box) and report the details to the company.

Transportation - Get Around

By bicycle or on foot

Getting around in Seoul without a local escort (be it friend or cab driver) can be tricky, since this is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. While Seoul occupies less land than New York City, it can be more confusing. The major roads twist and turn, the various rail lines, rivers and mountains are obstacles and the smaller roads turn into a labyrinth of alleys. Most people will try to help you find your way around but often won't know themselves; best to familiarize yourself with some landmarks and the nearest subway stations. Learn the landmarks closest to where you are staying. The better-known landmarks in Seoul (such as the N Seoul Tower located in the center of town) can prove helpful at times. A compass will still work when a GPS fails.

Once you know your immediate surroundings, you'll find that Seoul isn't such a huge place and the pedestrian approach can be an enriching experience.

There's usually a subway stop within a ten-minute walk in any direction.

Whether on bicycle or foot, the best way to escape traffic is to learn the rivers and streams. Most of these waterways empty into the Han River or another tributary to the Han, so look to the direction of water flow at any creek; chances are, it's headed for the Han. The Han runs right through town, generally moving West (sometimes Southwest; sometimes Northwest), so knowing where you are in relation to the Han is helpful.

The Han River as well as most streams are lined with massive parks that feature outdoor gymnasiums, multiple-lane bicycle paths, and 24-hour restrooms. Cars are generally not allowed. Pedestrian bridges on the smaller waterways are common.

Numerous mountains with hiking trails can be found in the city.

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Shopping


Fashion

Fashion shopping in Seoul isn't a mere industry, it's an art form. Trends often begin in University areas like Hongdae. Hongik University boasts Korea's most famous art school, thus fashion in this area is often influenced by the students' artistic sensibilities. The shops in this area feature funky, punky, boho, and vintage style. Ewha Women's University also has a big shopping area in front of its main gate, as do many of the Women's colleges. Many trends also originate here. There are even seamstresses who can help you make your own designs come to life.


Duty free

South Korea is a major shopping destination for Chinese and Japanese these days, with many dedicated duty free shops available in Seoul. Korean Won, Japanese Yen and US dollars are accepted, along with major credit cards. Most shops have staff who can speak Japanese. There are duty-free shops in both the Incheon airport and the major department stores: Lotte, Shilla Hotel. There are other duty-free shops at Walkerhill Hotel, SKM DFS in COEX Mall.

Restaurants

Much of Korean social life revolves around food and the city is packed with restaurants, so it would take a determined man to starve to death in Seoul. This fate may still befall you if you insist on English menus and meals consisting only of easily identifiable, familiar ingredients. An alternative is to just point and eat, your hosts generally will accommodate. If you look in the right places, a good meal (lunch or dinner) including side dishes can cost ₩5,000 or less (try basements of large department stores).

In addition to Korean food, Japanese restaurants in Seoul tend to be excellent, featuring excellent sushi and sashimi. Chinese restaurants exist, but are typically adapted to suit local preferences. There are a few Italian restaurants; these are generally excellent, with chefs trained in Italy, although flavors tend to be more or less Koreanized, with sugar in the garlic bread and meatballs.

Bakeries are found throughout, including some of the common big chains.

Seoul has plenty of budget places to eat. Everything from convenience store junk food and noodles to street stall food and lots of 24 hr Korean fast food restaurants. The 24-hour restaurants are great because they've usually got a wide variety of foods, including: mandu, odeng, dokbokki, naengmyeon, udon and ramyeon. Prices do vary from about ₩2,000-9,000 at these restaurants. Also open late into the night are Korean BBQ restaurants, which are everywhere in Seoul. These can be very cheap and are usually of good quality. Barbecue options usually are limited to pork and beef, and they often come with a smattering of side dishes. Korean BBQ is, in itself, an experience that makes you feel like a Seoulite. The larger department stores in the city have basement food courts that offer excellent food (not recommended if you care about atmosphere).

Sights & Landmarks

While Seoul today is mostly known as a super-modern mega-city that is home to skyscrapers, malls, and millions of electronic-mad Koreans, the city contains over 2,000 years of history. The city contains 4 UNESCO sites marking important monuments from its 505 years as the capital of the Joseon Dynasty. Until recently, it was a walled city with 20 ft stone walls and narrow lanes inside. Though many buildings were destroyed or damaged during the violent events of the first half of the 20th century, much of its historic core remains. So, anyone staying in Seoul should visit the many historical treasures the city has to offer, including the many palaces and city gates within the Jongno district.

  • Hangang Citizen's Park. Located along the Han River through 13 districts - Gwangnaru, Jamsil, Gangdong, Ttukseom, Jamwon, Banpo, Ichon, Yeouido, Yanghwa, Mangwon, Seonyudo, Nanji, and Gangseojigu. You can see many people strolling or jogging along the trail paths, as well as in-line skaters, bicyclists, and soccer fields or basketball courts. Yeouido, Jamsil, and Ttukseom districts are especially popular because of the cruise services on the Han River.
  • Gyeongbokgung Palace. Located in 1-91, Sejongno, Jongno-gu. The Gyeongbokgung, Which means "Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven.", was built in 1395 in Joseon Dynasty. It was the heart of Joseon Dynasty because the government ministry district was focused here. Even if it was razed by Japanese during Hideyoshi invasions of 1592-1598, it was reconstructed in 1876. Until now, Gyeongbokgung is one of the magnificent and historical place in Seoul. It opens everyday except Tuesday. There is also free guide tour for tourists everyday(English : 11:00, 13:30, 15:30). It is also good to get opportunity of night opening, which is held a few days of a year, you have to reserve by online. You can access here by subway(Gyeongbokgung Palace station Exit 5, Subway line 3) or Seoul City Tour Bus.

Religious monuments

There are also religious buildings that take important roles in Korean society and politics. The Wongudan altar was a sacrificial place where Korean rulers held heavenly rituals since the Three Kingdoms period. Since the Joseon Dynasty adopted Confucianism as its national ideology in the 14th century, the state built many Confucian shrines. The descendants of the Joseon royal family still continue to hold ceremonies to commemorate ancestors at Jongmyo. It is the oldest royal Confucian shrine preserved and the ritual ceremonies continue a tradition established in the 14th century. Munmyo and Dongmyo were built during the same period. Although Buddhism was suppressed by the Joseon state, it has continued its existence. Jogyesa is the headquarters of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. Hwagyesa and Bongeunsa are also major Buddhist temples in Seoul.

The Myeongdong Cathedral is a landmark of the Myeongdong, Jung District and the biggest Catholic church established in 1883. It is a symbol of Catholicism in Korea. It was also a focus for political dissent in the 1980s. In this way the Roman Catholic Church has a very strong influence in Korean society.

There are many Protestant churches in Seoul. The most numerous are Presbyterian, but there are also many Methodist, Baptist, and Lutheran churches. Yoido Full Gospel Church is a Pentecostal church affiliated with the Assemblies of God on Yeouido in Seoul. With approximately 830,000 members (2007), it is the largest Pentecostal Christian congregation in the world, which has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records.


Parks

Despite the city's population density, Seoul has a large quantity of parks. One of the most famous parks in Namsan Park, which offers hiking recreation and views of the downtown Seoul skyline. The N Seoul Tower is located at Namsan Park. Seoul Olympic Park, located in Songpa District and built to host the 1988 Summer Olympics is Seoul's largest park. Amongst the other largest parks in the city are Seoul Forest,Dream Forest, Children's Grand Park and Haneul Park. The Wongaksa Pagoda 10 tier pagoda is situated In Tapgol Park, a small public park with an area of 19,599 m2(210,962 sq ft). Areas around streams serve as public places for relaxation and recreation. Tancheon stream and the nearby area serve as a large park with paths for both walkers and cyclists. Cheonggyecheon, a stream that runs nearly 6 km (4 mi) through downtown Seoul, is popular among both Seoul residents and tourists.

There are also many parks along the Han River, such as Ichon Hangang Park, Yeouido Hangang Park, Mangwon Hangang Park, Nanji Hangang Park, Banpo Hangang Park, Ttukseom Hangang Park and Jamsil Hangang Park. The Seoul National Capital Area also contains a green belt aimed at preventing the city from sprawling out into neighboringGyeonggi Province. These areas are frequently sought after by people looking to escape from urban life on weekends and during vacations. There are also various parks under construction or in project, such as the Gyeongui Line Forest Trail, Seoul Station 7017, Seosomun Memorial Park and Yongsan Park.

Seoul is also home to the world's largest indoor amusement park, Lotte World. Other recreation centers include the former Olympic and World Cup stadiums and the City Hall public lawn.


Modern architecture

Various high-rise office buildings and residential buildings, like the Gangnam Finance Center, the Tower Palace, N Seoul Tower and Jongno Tower, dominate the city's skyline. A series of new high rises are under construction, including the Lotte World Tower, scheduled to be completed by 2016. As of July 2016, and excluding the still unopened Lotte World Tower, the tallest building in the city is the 279m high Three International Finance Center.

The World Trade Center Seoul, located in Gangnam District, hosts various expositions and conferences. Also in Gangnam District is the COEX Mall, a large indoor shopping and entertainment complex. Downstream from Gangnam District is Yeouido, an island that is home to the National Assembly, major broadcasting studios, and a number of large office buildings, as well as the Korea Finance Building and the Yoido Full Gospel Church. The Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park, and Lotte World are located in Songpa District, on the south side of the Han River, upstream from Gangnam District. Two new modern landmarks of Seoul are Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park, designed by Zaha Hadid, and the new wave-shaped Seoul City Hall, byYoo Kerl of iArc.

In 2010 Seoul was designated the World Design Capital for the year.


Historical architecture

Seoul has many historical and cultural landmarks. In Amsa-dong Prehistoric Settlement Site, Gangdong District, neolithic remains were excavated and accidentally discovered by a flood in 1925.

Urban and civil planning was a key concept when Seoul was first designed to serve as a capital in the late 14th century. The Joseon Dynasty built the "Five Grand Palaces" in Seoul – Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung,Deoksugung, Gyeongbokgung and Gyeonghuigung – all of which are located in the district of Jongno District and Jung District. Among them, Changdeokgung was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 as an "outstanding example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design". The main palace, Gyeongbokgung, underwent a large-scale restoration project. The palaces are considered exemplary architecture of the Joseon period. Beside the palaces,Unhyeongung is known for being the royal residence of Regent Daewongun, the father of Emperor Gojong at the end of the Joseon Dynasty.

Seoul has been surrounded by walls that were built to regulate visitors from other regions and protect the city in case of an invasion.Pungnap Toseong is a flat earthen wall built at the edge of the Han River which is widely believed to be the site of Wiryeseong.Mongchon Toseong (Hangul: 몽촌토성;hanja: 蒙村土城) is another earthen wall built during the Baekje period which is now located inside the Olympic Park. The Fortress Wallof Seoul was built early in the Joseon Dynasty for protection of the city. After many centuries of destruction and rebuilding, approximately ⅔ of the wall remains, as well as six of the original eight gates. These gates include Sungnyemun and Heunginjimun, commonly known as Namdaemun (South Great Gate) and Dongdaemun (East Great Gate). Namdaemun was the oldest wooden gate until a 2008 arson attack, and was re-opened after complete restoration in 2013. Situated near the gates are the traditional markets and largest shopping center, Namdaemun Market and Dongdaemun Market.

There are also many buildings constructed with international styles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Independence Gate was built in 1897 to inspire an independent spirit. Seoul Station was opened in 1900 as Gyeongseong Station.

Museums & Galleries

Seoul is home to 115 museums, including four national and nine official municipal museums. Amongst the city's national museum, The National Museum of Korea is the most representative of museums in not only Seoul but all of South Korea. Since its establishment in 1945, the museum has built a collection of 220,000 artifacts. In October 2005, the museum moved to a new building in Yongsan Family Park. The National Folk Museum is situated on the grounds of the Gyeongbokgung Palace in the district of Jongno District and uses replicas of historical objects to illustrate the folk history of the Korean people. The National Palace Museum of Korea is also located on the grounds of the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Finally, the Seoul branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, whose main museum is located in Gwacheon, opened in 2013, in Sogyeok-dong.

Bukchon Hanok Village and Namsangol Hanok Village are old residential districts consisting of hanok Korean traditional houses, parks, and museums that allows visitors to experience traditional Korean culture.

The War Memorial, one of nine municipal museums in Seoul, offers visitors an educational and emotional experience of various wars in which Korea was involved, including Korean War themes. The Seodaemun Prison is a former prison built during the Japanese occupation, and is currently used as a historic museum.

The Seoul Museum of Art and Ilmin Museum of Art have preserved the appearance of the old building that is visually unique from the neighboring tall, modern buildings. The former is operated by Seoul City Council and sits adjacent to Gyeonghuigung Palace, a Joseon dynasty royal palace. Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, is widely regarded as one of Seoul's largest private museum. For many Korean film lovers from all over the world, the Korean Film Archive is running the Korean Film Museum and Cinematheque KOFA in its main center located in Digital Media City(DMC), Sangam-dong. The Tteok & Kitchen Utensil Museum and Kimchi Field Museum provide information regarding Korean culinary history.

Things to do

Watch the fashionable Seoulites shop and sip coffee in Gangnam.

Explore the huge fresh fish market in Noryangjin and enjoy fresh sashimi afterwards.

Enjoy the nightlife in Yongsan.

Go hiking in the mountains surrounding the city. They are at most 800 m (3,000 ft), accessible by public transit and the trails range from easy to difficult. Mountains include Bukhan, Gwanak, Samseong and Inwang. (Mostly found in the North of the city).

Festivals and events

In October 2012 KBS Hall in Seoul hosted major international music festivals – First ABU TV and Radio Song Festivals within frameworks of Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union 49th General Assembly.  Hi! Seoul Festival is a seasonal cultural festival held four times a year every spring, summer, autumn, and winter in Seoul, South Korea since 2003. It is based on the "Seoul Citizens' Day" held on every October since 1994 to commemorate the 600 years history of Seoul as the capital of the country. The festival is arranged under the Seoul Metropolitan Government. As of 2012, Seoul has hosted Ultra Music Festival Korea, an annual dance music festival that takes place on the 2nd weekend of June.

Nightlife

Seoul features a mind-bogglingly large array of nightspots catering to every taste and budget. Hongdae and Sinchon in Seodaemun-Mapo are Seoul's most active nightlife districts. Itaewon in Yongsan is Seoul's international district, with a wide variety of Western-styled venues to eat and drink. Since many foreigners congregate there, Itaewon remains somewhat of a niche nightlife area for Koreans interested in a more international scene.

Things to know


Talk

As elsewhere in Korea, a grasp of basic Korean will be helpful. If you plan on an extended visit, consider learning to read the Korean written script, hangeul. It takes very little time to pick up the basics, and it can be endlessly helpful. A quick (free) visit to the Story of King Sejong Exhibition Hall beneath the Statue of King Sejong in Gwanghwamun Square will give you an introduction to the Korean written language and some interactive exhibits to practice. Thirty minutes there will see you recognising and pronouncing some Korean words.

Shops in major tourists areas, including Insadong, Myeongdong, and Itaewon, will probably have staff that speak at least some English, and some may have staff that speak Mandarin, Cantonese and/or Japanese. While all younger Koreans are required to study English in school, due to a lack of practice, proficiency is generally poor, and most residents of Seoul only know a few simple words and phrases. If lost, a useful tip is to write down your question in simple words and show it to someone young. That being said, it is still possible to get by using only English, though it goes without saying that a basic grasp of Korean will make your trip much smoother.


Orientation

Seoul is a relatively well organized city covering over 600 km² with a population of around 10.5 million. It is a new modern city built on an ancient and shining history. The city is located in the north-western portion of South Korea approximately 40 km east of the Yellow Sea and 60 km south of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The city is roughly bisected by the Han River (한강 Hangang), which runs east to west across the city. Seoul blurs seamlessly into its surrounding satellite cities, most of which are also served by the Seoul metro. The largest of these is Incheon (to the west) in which Seoul's main Airport, and the area's main seaport, are located. Other satellite cities include such as Ilsan (to the north) and Anyang (to the south).


Work

There is an immense demand for ESL (English as a Second Language) instruction in Seoul. 

Note that Seoul municipal government has decided to phase out foreign (non-Korean) teachers of English in all public schools. Although it has yet to be seen if this will be successful in practice, it may have an effect on your options in Seoul.


Language issues

South Korea has undergone a major English language boom over the past 20 years. South Korean families are eager for their children to learn English and usually enroll them in private language schools.

Seoul is probably the easiest place to talk to people in English, although bear in mind that most people will find verbal conversation challenging. Often writing down simple questions in English is more effective. Also note that many of the older generation have learned little or no English at all. A few tourist information centers dotted around Seoul are staffed by English speakers, but do not assume an English speaker will be available at most shops, sites and venues.

English signage is visible everywhere in the city, from road signs to subway maps to shop posters. One exception is in buses where the route information is completely in Korean script.

  • The Seoul Global Center3rd Floor of the Seoul Press Center, 25 Taepyeongno 1(il)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul,  +82 2 1688-0120. Provides foreign language assistance with regard to public services, but also beyond including help with awkward coping necessities like purchasing a mobile phone.

Medical

Pharmacies are everywhere in Seoul. While most are labeled only in Korean, the signage and Hangul character is easy to recognize, 약. Most pharmacists speak some English. Pharmacists are not shy about asking about your symptoms and selling you what they think you need.

  • Medical Referral Service,  +82 10 4769-8212. 8 am to 8 pm (with emergency only coverage after hours). Seoul provides an English-language hotline to assist with finding doctors and other medical services.

Medical bills can be expensive, so make sure you have valid travel insurance.

Some people with sensitive stomachs should use caution when dining in Korea as some of the local cuisine is heavily spiced with copious amounts of pepper and garlic.


Air quality

Air quality in Seoul is fine and improving. However, Seoul inhabitants sometimes wear different types of masks outdoors for allergies, smog and yellow dust storms (mostly in March–April). Mongolian yellow dust storms were regarded as dangerous long before industrialisation began in Asia. Now these storms pick up trace amounts of toxins in the Chinese industry belt. Smog in Seoul is becoming less of a problem. In general, air quality has been improving since the early 2000s.

Safety in Seoul

Stay Safe

Seoul is a remarkably safe city given its size, comparable in safety to Hong Kong or Tokyo. Pickpocketing is not very common and violent crime is minimal if almost unheard of.

If you happen to be a non-Korean male walking hand-in-hand with a Korean female, drunk older Korean men might give you a tongue lashing or occasionally worse. Note that this is far less of a problem than it used to be.

If you do end up in a fight, remember that Korean law is possibly different to your home country. Just because someone else started the fight does not provide you with legal protection if the attacker ends up hurt.

U.S. military personnel have a curfew 01:00-05:00 everyday on the Korean Peninsula, although the curfew can be extended at very short notice. If you are a westerner, then the American Military Police have the legal right to request to see your ID and arrest you if you cannot provide. (This is done to catch American military personnel breaking the curfews).

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Safety (Walking alone - night)

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