With the rising popularity of K-pop and K-drama, Seoul becomes an increasingly popular holiday destination. Whether you are looking for a unique travelling experience or simply a short getaway, here are some useful tips for the perfect holiday in Seoul.
1. Bargain at fish markets
The famous Noryangjin fish market is a must-go for seafood lovers. It has been frequently featured on TV programmes, and is known for the freshness of their seafood. Bargaining is commonplace in the fish market, which is good news to those who want to stretch their Korean won. Mandarin-speaking tourists will rejoice as many vendors here are able to speak Mandarin, which makes for easier bargaining.
Take note, however, that the price paid for raw seafood is not inclusive of food preparation charges. This results in two separate bills, to be paid together at the restaurant – one for the seafood and the other for the preparation by the partnering restaurant. The rates for respective types of preparation, such as grilling or steaming, also vary accordingly, and it depends on the restaurant partnering with the vendor from whom you buy the raw seafood.
The infamous live octopus, synonymous with the fish markets in Korea cannot be missed, especially for the more adventurous. At first sight, it may seem intimidating to put moving parts of an octopus into your mouth, but the moment you do, you will be surprised by the tasty and chewy texture of the live octopus. While the octopus may still move a little once inside your mouth, the frequency wanes the more you chew on it.
The Jagalchi Fish Market offers a better deal for live octopus as fixed sets of sweet and spicy sotong are served with live octopus at less than S$55. It is relatively cheaper than the Noryangjin Fish Market, and serves about four people.
2. Go to Sinchon for more authentic and cheaper Korean cuisine
The most authentic Korean cuisine are found in less touristy areas like Sinchon, and are often cheaper than places like Myeongdong. For Korean BBQ, you can get about 100g of thick cuts of pork belly and pork loin at less than S$10, which is quite a bargain. The kimchi soup, enough to serve three people, costs 4,500 won (about S$5). One would be hard-pressed to find this in Singapore, even if you are willing to compromise on the taste of the food. A useful tip is to use the price of the kimchi soup as a gauge to know if the food at the restaurant is overpriced. You should not be paying more than 5,000 won for kimchi soup, unless it is a premium restaurant.
3. Get discounted Everland tickets
Unbeknown to many, tourists are actually entitled to discounted Everland tickets. This is provided that the discount coupon, which can be printed from this website is shown upon purchase of the ticket alongside your passport. It gives you a 20% discount, saving you up to 10,000 won (about S$12), depending on the time you enter the theme park. This discount is valid till 31 December 2015 for tickets to Everland theme park. However, the discount for Caribbean Bay, a water-based theme park in Everland Resort, is valid till 30 April 2016. That applies to a Combi ticket as well, which allows entry to both Everland and Caribbean Bay theme parks.
4. Get unique souvenirs instead of the usual Lotte snacks
Instead of the usual Lotte snacks many of your friends buy back home from Korea, you can try the authentic Jeju green tea from the Osulloc Tea House branch in Insadong. Even if you are not a tea lover, Insadong offers a right mix of cultural landmarks like Bukchon Cultural District and a Ssamziegil Mall, which sells really unique hand-made trinkets. While they may be pricier, the materials used to make them are of premium quality and it takes considerable effort to make the trinkets.
5. Carry addresses in both English and Korean
Last but not least, it is important to carry around addresses in both English and Korean because some taxi drivers are unable to converse in English. This saves a lot of time explaining to the driver where your destination is and allows for a more pleasant journey. It is also advisable to have the contact details of the intended destination, if any, in case the driver wishes to call them for directions.
This list is not exhaustive but it provides a rough idea of what to expect when travelling in Seoul. It is also essential to do your homework before travelling to any country, which makes your journey a lot more smooth-sailing. Happy holidays!