¿Visit South Korea? Is it a good idea considering how things are with the other half of the peninsula? My father says no but I insist yes, and I have friends with airfare in hand!
If you are not intimidated by North Korea or the dangerous nonsense that Trump says, then put South Korea on your route. It is one of the most developed countries in the Asia Pacific region and for some time now competes and even gains positions with respect to Japan. But let's see what we should know before traveling to South Korea.
Corea del Sur, the miracle country
The reality is that behind a "Economic miracle" like the one that this country and others have experienced, Japan, for example, is hand in hand with the United States. In a distant time, when the danger from the Soviet Union was more tangible and the world could turn communist if the kings of the north were barely neglected, countries like South Korea and Japan were injected with large doses of investment.
Of course, Korean skill did the rest. While there are countries that succumb to poverty and underdevelopment, there are others that take seriously the progress of the nation. Nationalist businessmen who work to make their country synonymous with great things. And so we come to today: South Korea has about 52 million and some of its technology brands are at the forefront of the world.
Here you work long, long hours (it is an average of 13 hours a day and there is talk of lowering that average because it causes social problems), and the retirement and pension system or the health system are as bad as the American one. As you can see, the good has been copied but also the bad. On the other hand, the traditional coexists with the most modern and even when Seoul is a brilliant capital, society continues to be patriarchal and macho and a woman in her 30s is almost a lady who is to dress saints.
South Korea, here we go
The peninsula is north of Asia and it measures just over a thousand kilometers long by 175 kilometers at its narrowest. In the extreme south is South Korea and in the part attached to the continent, North Korea. The capitalist republic has about 1000 square kilometers of surface and as I said the population is almost 52 million people.
South Korea has a visa exemption agreement with some countries so you should check if you need or not according to your nationality. Fortunately, there are 105 countries on the list, and Spain is among them. The international airport that is the entrance to the country is the Incheon International Airport, to the surroundings of Seoul, but it is not the only one so it will depend on where in the world you come from.
Now, do you get to Incheon? Then to get closer to Seoul you can use taxis, buses or tren. The train is convenient because it avoids traffic but buses can also be useful and they are not so expensive. There are premium ones, very comfortable. Obviously, the taxi is the most expensive means of transport of the three.
The train is called AREX, Airport Railroad Express, and there are two types: direct and the one who does 12 stops between Incheon Airport and Seoul City. The direct service has departures every 35 minutes and the normal service every 10. The first one costs 14.800 won (although today there is a promotion with no expiration date that reduces it to 8000 won). Regular service costs 4250 won.
The direct train ticket must be purchased at the Customer Service Center (in the basement B1), and if you travel with a Korean or Chinese airline you have a discount. Payment can be made by credit card or in cash. For its part, the normal train sells its tickets at the Airport Transportation Center, in the airport's basement B1 or at the convenience stores or at the tourist information center near gates 5 and 10 on the first floor. Only accept cash.
Do you know Japan? The direct one is like Narita Express and the common one is a comfortable but simple train. Now, if you prefer the bus, you should know well which one to take, according to your destination in Seoul. You can ask at the box office which one suits you and you can choose between the standard or premium buses. Lockers are located at doors 4-9 on floor 1 or at doors 4-13 on the exterior doors.
A taxi can cost about 3 won, but if you arrive at night add 20% for the nightly rate. As you can see, the national currency is the won, so to buy them you can use the services of a bank or an exchange house. Banks operate between 9 am and 4 pm. In the same airport you have some banks.
Best of all, South Korea likes visitors to come so it has a tourist hotline always available: 1330. The available languages are English, Japanese and Chinese and it works 24 hours a day, seven days a week. What's more, is free. It's great that one can use it, isn't it? There is also a Tourism Police, dressed in blue uniforms, always in the most tourist centers of the country. Their job is to assist us, inform us, and take care of us from any abuse.
How do we get around the country and Seoul in particular? First, it must be said that today the most interesting of the country is concentrated in its capital city and moving around here is very easy. There are five metro lines and city buses They travel in their own lane, so everything flows. The blue buses are those with the broadest route and greenThe ones that appear in k-dramas so often are the ones with the shortest run. There are also Red, medium distance, and yellows, that circulate through the most important places in the city.
If you are going to use public transport then it is advisable to get a special card because there are discounts on transfers and it is faster. Purchases in metro stations or stores, minimarkets, and those discounts operate when you go from bus to bus or to the metro. The best known are the Cashbee and Tmoney. The subway costs 1250 won per adult using the cards, while with cash it is slightly more expensive, 1350 won. The same on buses.
The truth is that Koreans are very concerned about opening their country to international tourism and your tourism website is one of the best which I have visited in the last few years. And I'm talking about the Spanish version, which is always one of the poor ones. This has nothing to envy to the version of the site in English so let's take advantage of it. It reveals that they are interested in us as potential visitors so… South Korea, here we go!