Planning a family vacation in Seoul, or are you a group traveling in Seoul, and you want to make sure your trip doesn’t become a logistical mess?
Here are some tips to ensure a smooth stay in Seoul:
1. Transportation Tickets and Cards
Simplifying Transportation from the Airport to your Destination
Those new to Seoul and unaccustomed to navigating the subway system in Seoul may find it overwhelming initially. While the subway system will become far easier over time, if traveling with a group it may be most convenient to travel by airport bus.
Rome2Rio is a site you can use to search for your destination from the airport to your destination, and will show you the specific bus number to take from the airport. Bus tickets can cost between 9,000-16,000 KRW (~USD $8-$15).
If you’d like to search your destination on a map, click here.
BnBHero has also posted a helpful guide on where to buy your tickets and locate the buses at the airport. View the guide here.
Simplifying Riding the Subways and Buses: T-Money cards
If you’re planning to ride the subways or buses to get around (you most likely will; Uber is still not big here), you will want to use a T-Money card. This is essentially your money card that you can use to quickly board buses and subways.
You will not want to purchase a ticket from a vending machine for you or your family, every time you get on the subway.
Additionally, paying in cash is more expensive on buses, and again, far less convenient than just having a T-Money card.
Any convenience store carries them, including the ones at the airport. You will buy the card, and then ask to add a specified amount of money onto it. You can always recharge it at any convenience store. Just note that you can only charge these cards with cash, so make sure to load up enough in advance if you think recharging will become an issue. I usually charge mine 20,000 KRW at a time, but for visitors, you may want to add 30,000-50,000 KRW.
Once finished, if you have any remaining cash on the card under 20,000 KRW, you can return the card and receive a refund in cash (note: I have returned several cards, but I have not returned a card with money on it before).
Seoulistic explains more on T-money cards along with the refund machines, here.
2. SIM Cards: Calling and Data
Korea has become a land of cafes, and therefore, a land of almost free wifi. So while a SIM card isn’t absolutely necessary, you will likely be thankful you had one when you’re stuck in a cab and trying to type in translation or pull up a Google Maps address.
The most convenient option is to purchase SIM cards at the airport. This will also likely be the most expensive option, but if you’re traveling with a large group and staying for a relatively short period of time, the convenience may be worth it.
Your alternatives are that you either purchase a SIM card at a convenience store (equally as expensive as the airport), or a phone store.
The cheapest option: phone stores within your neighborhood.
Unfortunately, finding a SIM card in your neighborhood can be somewhat difficult, first, because the employees likely do not speak English, and second, because you will likely need phone data to find the store.
If you’re near Itaewon, here’s a Google Map pin showing one such local phone store.
3. Apps for Traveling
In a previous post, I wrote about the apps that actually make life in Seoul more convenient. If you haven’t seen this article on apps to download before coming to Seoul, here’s that link.
Of the apps in the list, perhaps the most helpful app will be the Seoul Subway App, which you can use to more easily figure out how to get from subway point A to subway point B.
To download the app, type in “Seoul Subway” in your App store, and you should see an image of an app similar to the image above
Housing for families and groups can be tricky depending on the number of people you’ll be traveling with, and the duration that you’ll be staying.
Additionally, there are a wide range of costs, and some locations serve different age groups and interests better than others. For now, I’ll list the housing options according to price, and the suitability for groups.
Here are the options:
You can book a hotel room
The benefit towards booking a hotel are primarily that they offer a standard of quality (or at least you know more of what to expect), and they come furnished with the basics.
Depending on how many people you’re traveling with, however, booking a hotel room might require you to cram. Or if you’re not traveling with a large group, the hotel room can become very expensive per person.
It’s not meant to offer a living experience while in Seoul. There is no kitchen. They want to provide rooms service.
You can look on Airbnb or another booking site.
Booking on Airbnb or another booking site isn’t a terrible option, given some of the other options. It allows for flexibility of rent, ease of searching, and usually you can find reliable reviews.
The cons, however, exist in the fact that there isn’t full quality control for these rooms. Most Airbnb hosts, unless they are a full-time Airbnb host or represent a company, are not professionals in accommodation.
Given the low barrier to entry for these housing sites (anyone can post), and you’ll certainly notice the difference in quality of accommodation if you’ve lived in enough Airbnbs (working previously as a traveling professional, I have lived in more than I can count at this point).
Furthermore, the rooms themselves can be inaccurate. Sometimes pictures simply do not accurately represent the space. I personally do not rent from Airbnb or any other booking site unless there are a certain number of reviews.
Additionally, if you’re looking for an economic option, you may be renting a room at the host’s house, as opposed to the entire apartment or house. For a family or large group of people, this may simply not be an option.
You can scour Craigslist
Oh, Craigslist. Bless your heart for what you are. What began as a website that that looked like any other during its time, with its lack of design and attention to user experience, now looks like a site that resembles what would exist on the dark web.
The pro of Craigslist is that you can still find apartments to rent, and sometimes for less expensive prices.
The cons, however, are what I described with Airbnb, times 10. There isn’t any real need for quality control, especially as sellers do not receive reviews as they do on Airbnb. It’s really difficult to tell what you’re getting unless you visit the location. While a majority of craigslist ad posters I’ve met are well intentioned, I’ve definitely visited an apartment or two before moving in, only to realize that I wouldn’t stay in certain rooms, even if they were being given away for free.
Furthermore, the rooms are typically meant for longer term renters, and commonly require a large security deposit.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend craigslist for your family or large group trip. The alternatives are far more preferable.
You can rent a Simple Spaces house
This list, of course wouldn’t be complete without recommending our own houses. Flexible accommodation for foreigners is, after all, why Simple Spaces exists.
Our houses are 3 or 4-bedroom houses, located primarily in central Seoul, in the Haebangchon and Kyunglidan neighborhoods, next to Itaewon.
The Summer and Winter windows are each open for about 6 weeks, being ideal for interns and visitors, as groups can book for a shorter period of time than during the Fall and Spring.
The Fall and Spring season is ideal for students, interns, entrepreneurs, and mid to long term employees or families. The minimum period of time to rent during these seasons are at least 4 months.
For inquiries about booking a room, feel free to contact us here: https://www.simplespaceskorea.com/contact/
Or for more information, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org