There are probably hundreds, if not thousands of blogs, lists, articles, and websites full of travelling tips! However, I do want to share some that I found incredibly useful.
I had previously shared a post on where I spent my first few days in Seoul, and some experiences I had while I was in Seoul. But these are things I would keep in mind for future travel, or if I were to go back to Seoul again!
I’ve split them into three small sections:
1) General travel tips
2) Tips for before going to Seoul
3) Tips while in Seoul
So let’s get started!
Section 1: General travel tips
The Common Wallet. If travelling with 2-4 people, use a ‘Common Wallet’. Essentially, everyone pitches in a certain amount of money and one person carries the Common Wallet. The funds are used when the group needs public transit together, or needs to eat; essentially, any group activity that requires money from everyone.
There are two main reasons why I find this tip very helpful. First, the less money you expose, the better, for pretty obvious reasons. Second, not everyone has change all the time; nor do you want to carry a chunk of change all the time. Using a Common Wallet resolves both of these. Everyone grabbing a drink? Use the Common Wallet. Street food, taxi, dinner at a restaurant? Use the Common Wallet.
Common Wallet out of money? Everyone pitches back in; so long as it’s the same amount. But hey, what about the friend who always orders a very expensive dish, or a drink with each meal? No problem, they just pitch in their own extra, or just pool in a little more to the Common Wallet!
The List of Addresses. When travelling to a foreign country where English is not a first language, take note of key places you want to visit. You want to ensure you have a list of these addresses in their native language, especially the address to where you are staying. This is vitally important in case you get stranded and need to call a taxi (like we did), or you can use them to ask for directions from locals if you can’t seem to locate that restaurant you REALLY want to try!
The Almost-Empties. How can this be a beauty blog if we don’t talk about skincare products on the go? A lot of make up products are quite small and portable so you usually hear tips on how to decant your skincare, or travel with the sample packets. But what if you don’t have travel-size containers readily available, or only have sample packets of untested products? The last thing you want is to have a bad reaction or break out when you’re travelling!
When nearing the last quarter of a skincare product, think about whether you might be travelling soon. If you are, you should be able to judge whether the product you have left is enough to last for your trip. Save it for your trip. Of course, this is tough if you are limited on luggage space (note that I said space, not necessarily weight) or if you may not be checking in any baggage at all. For my purposes, I did have the space and weight, and I was checking in a luggage so this works out well for me. Not only am I able to use products that I know work well for me, but as I discard the bottles towards the end of the trip, it meant I didn’t even have to bring the small travel-size containers back! This was especially helpful for my trip to Seoul, since I was buying full sizes of products I wanted to try, and using those along the way too!
Section 2: Before going to Seoul
Get a WiFi Egg. Having access to WiFi means you don’t have to travel blindly; a huge asset for us. Phone cards may work for you instead, especially those with both minutes as well as data. But here in Canada, many of the phones we get from our service providers are ‘locked’ meaning the phone needs to be unlocked in order to use other SIM cards. The WiFi Egg (we used Pocket WiFi) was relatively cheap at just over $5 USD a day. You can connect up to 5 devices to it. The connection was pretty great, and battery power lasted 7-8 hours a day. We also carried a portable power bank so we were easily able to recharge our devices on the go.
You do have to pay a deposit that is refunded to you once you return the portable WiFi device. Book this device in advance and simply pick it up at Incheon Airport. You also drop it off there when you return it, and their hours of operation are pretty accommodating. We actually noticed a number of AirBnb’s provided portable WiFi devices as an amenity, but as we chose to stay at a hotel, we made sure to get a Pocket WiFi device. This allowed us to look up locations, restaurants, subway routes, and of course, stay connected to our families while we were travelling!
Download the English Subway App. When we did our research and planned our itineraries, we took note of the closest subway stops and the exits we needed. This app allows you to key in the station you’re at, and the station you want to go to, and it maps it out for you. Of course, you need either WiFi or data to use this app. This can save you some time if you are not used to navigating a more complex public transit system. To put this into perspective, below is an image of Seoul’s Subway Map. This looks pretty intimidating when compared to the Subway system in my city, which has only 4 lines, two of which have only 5-6 stops!
The Subway App was very valuable, even at the trip-planning stage. Once you’ve identified a list of places to visit, knowing exactly how far one place is to the next, or if you may have a couple locations that are much closer together, you can easily plan an efficient trip. This app even saves your subway station searches, so if you used it during the trip planning stages, don’t worry about spelling foreign station names; simply search your existing list and make a selection!
Make a Shopping List. Okay, Korean Beauty Lovers, this one is for you guys. Make. Your. List. Yes, you will want to buy everything. Yes, you will see sales and deals and self-control will be tough. But don’t forget, online-shopping is a thing! There are many things in Korea that may be less accessible than when you’re back home. Get those. For example, I picked up the Banila Co Miss. Flower & Mr. Honey toner. I don’t regret this; the toner is divine! But this was also available on Testerkorea.com, and the difference in price between buying it in Seoul vs online was only about $5.
This meant I had to weigh my priorities. I wanted to buy products that I wanted, that were possibly less accessible, or could mean a lot of savings for me. I had to weigh this against my luggage weight restrictions, as well as my tax-free quota for my return trip. I was surprised to find that Jolse and Testerkorea are relatively competitive in the pricing of some products. So I made a detailed shopping list, and included pricing per product, and possibly per unit because yes, some things do sell in different quantities and sizes, so knowing your cost per unit is important if you want to make the most of the precious Korean won you exchanged!
BONUS Tip: Download the Lotte Duty Free App. Do this in advance because not only can you shop here and make a wishlist, you can collect points during their events which may be applied to the purchase of some products, allowing you to save a little extra money! You can make your duty purchase here because you save a little extra via the app than even at the Lotte Duty Free itself! You won’t get the product until you’ve checked in for your departing flight, but it also saves you from having to carry your purchases throughout the day. You just need to keep an eye on when your window for purchase is, so you won’t miss it. Many things are still sold in bulk, but there are a number if individual items you can purchase, or sets, at pretty good prices if you’re not finding a local promotion or gift with purchase going on within stores.
Section 3: Tips for Travelling in Seoul
Get a T-Money Card. It is very convenient to travel around Seoul via the Subway (see map above!) A T-Money Card costs about 2,000W ($2 USD) and then you can load it up with money. It acts as a pass of sorts on public transit; simply tap the card to be let into the gate, and tap again when you exit. You save valuable time because you don’t have to buy single trip tickets at every subway stop; just tap and go!
Not only do you get convenience, but you save a little on each trip compared to buying single-trip tickets. On top of that, you can keep the card as a small souvenir (or, for future trips)! You don’t need to top up a lot of money on the card, but rest assured that you can get a refund on the remaining balance at some of the machines, so long as your balance is below 20,000W!
Get it when you see it. As someone with decision-making difficulties, I frequently think about whether or not I REALLY want that ‘thing’ (beauty product, shirt, mask, etc). But travelling means you can’t afford to go back and look for that one item again. The thing with specifically the Road Shop Brands, Watson’s, Olive Young, and LOHBs, is that stock levels and product options can vary so drastically! So don’t hesitate, and tell yourself, ‘oh, I’ll grab those masks later, it’s early in the day and I’m sure there’ll be another Watson’s. Then I don’t have to lug these around all day.’ You may not find it again! If you see something you really want, just get it!
Enjoy the street food. Sitting down between extensive shopping and walking is great for rest, and the easiest way to save time is to sit when you eat (i.e. eat in a restaurant). But, don’t miss out on the street food! I felt like I did 😦 because I don’t usually snack a lot between meals. Street food is a culture in itself, and very enjoyable! There’s a wide variety, so if you find the chance, eat that yummy food!
Don’t just shop. There is so much to see in Korea. Some places are harder to get to, because they can be quite a distance away. But even along the subway lines, there are a TON of places you can visit! Check out the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, a funky building with exhibits that may catch your attention. Or the Bukchon Hanok Village, where you can take some neat pictures and take a look at the traditional housing. Beware, there will be signs that ask you to remain quiet because these are still actual residences. Some are open (for free) for you to enter to look around. Others will charge a small fee for you to enter.
Gyeongbokgung Palance, the National Palace, is also quite surreal, and of course, full of history. There are some tourists and locals who dress up in traditional hanboks when they visit, which is super pretty. Walk the path the emperor’s used to walk, and take a look at the throne, and more! But the reason I say it is quite surreal, is that you look over the wall and see jutting skyscrapers and modern buildings.
Go to a Jjimjilbang, which is a Korean Bath house! Emily (@nourishtheskin) shared a wonderful, informative post about going to one, and I’m really sad that I didn’t make sure I visited one! Don’t worry; if you don’t want to bare it all in front of the friends or family you’re travelling with, you can always skip that particular part of the experience, and move on to the ones where clothing is required!
So make a little bit of time to sight-see and experience Seoul beyond the food and shopping. We chose to do a bit of sight-seeing in the morning, not only so we could take advantage of smaller crowds, but so we could do our shopping afterwards, as many stores don’t open early (instead, they stay open until late at night).
Hopefully, some of these tips were helpful for you if you’re planning a trip to Seoul, or planning a trip in general!
Do you have any tips for travelling, or tips for travelling in Seoul? Please share them in the comments below!