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Top South Korea Hotels


South Korea Although it may feel quite complete to the visitor, South Korea is only one half of a nation. Geographically the Korean peninsula was never well placed - sandwiched between China and Japan, it spent centuries being invaded from one side or the other. Things did not get much easier when Russia expanded into the frame and colonial powers came knocking. Looking at the map, Korea sticks out like North Asia's sore thumb. Too tempting to ignore, it has endured a long history of invasions and occupations, and it is of little surprise that Korea became introverted and insular, shunning the outside world. A century ago t he West referred to Korea as "The Hermit Kingdom" but Koreans have learned that the world just will not have it that way. In the 20th century Korean streets echoed to a variety of military boots - including Japanese, Chinese and American. The Korean War tore through the nation after the surrender of the Japanese at the end of World War II and came to symbolise the world's political struggle of the age. Other nations leapt into the ideological battleground, the devastating war ended in stalemate and the nation broke in two following armistice in 1953. For the past 50 years Korea has been split between North and South. Today the communist North remains very much the international hermit and is jammed in a political time warp. Strident Stalinist statues boldly salute the continuing cold war. As the world's most heavily fortified and sensitive border, the demilitarised zone (DMZ) separates the two Koreas. Thousands of armed forces are poised either side of the buffer that is roughly four kilometres wide. South Korea is a total contrast to its northern neighbour, and has diverged into a modern industrialised powerhouse. South of the demarcation line the peninsula liberally sprouts manufacturing plants and heavy industry, yet untouched countryside remains in many parts. South Korea enjoys a temperate climate with four seasons, the best times to go being the autumn and the spring. In autumn the countryside breaks into vivid reds and golds, and spring is popular for the gentle tree blossoms. Sticky summer sees the country pummelled by typhoons and winter is for the most part extremely cold. The country is by no means overrun by mass tourism. A high proportion of visitors are on short breaks from Japan and China, although the strong US influence sees quite a few Americans shuttling through mainly on business. There is less to see and do when compared with some other countries in Asia, a legacy perhaps of war, pillage and economic boom. The modern capital Seoul is a sprawling - but not unpleasant - metropolis rather bereft of authentic cultural attractions. It offers some temples and palaces, though mostly reconstructed rather than restored. But one unforgettable highlight for foreigners is the surreal tour to the DMZ. Weird but engaging attractions here include exploring invasion tunnels and peering at mysterious North Korea through the observation point's telescopes. Seoul's shopping is also extensive with comparatively low prices attracting waves of Japanese shoppers. Restaurants cater mainly for the Asian palate. A visit to Korea is certainly not complete without munching on some kimchi - salted and spicy cabbage. It does not look exciting but one of the first questions Koreans will ask you is if you have tried it. In the south, a short way from the port city of Pusan lies the unusual ancient site of Gyeongju, a delightful historic area spanning across the plains and hills. Gyeongju is dotted with tombs and cultural artefacts and was luckily spared destruction during all of the invasions of the past 1,000 years. South Korea also has come beautiful natural scenery - wonderful sweeping mountains for hikers, good golf courses plus several acceptable ski resorts and to the south the tourist beaches of Cheju Island. Visitors tend to find hotels to be big and glitzy but well maintained. Some of the newer ones are as good as any in Asia. Koreans are wonderful hosts, being welcoming and friendly, and the vast majority of hotels convey this although English can be a problem away from the top ones. Unfortunately, since Seoul is home to a quarter of the population, property prices have shot up higher than a North Korean missile and hotels are stiffly priced, and this seems to have set the benchmark for the rest of the country. More...

Visas

Visitors to South Korea must possess a passport valid for 6 months, an ongoing ticket and proof of sufficient funds for the duration of their stay. Citizens of many countries are permitted a visa free stay which is issued for a set length of time (depending on nationality) upon arrival. Other visas can be applied for from a Korean Embassy or Consulate abroad, where current information regarding visas should be confirmed as details can change.

Customs

Luxury items such as jewellery, cameras, electronic goods and cash in excess of US$10,000 must be declared on arrival. Certain luxury goods, such as jewellery and electronic goods that are purchased in the country may be liable to a duty tax.

Visitors may take the following into Korea duty free:

  • Alcoholic beverages - 1 litre of alcohol
  • Tobacco - 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco

Obscene/Pornographic material contained in any medium is prohibited and will be confiscated.

There are restrictions on items that may be exported from the country such as ginseng, antiques and items of cultural value. If planning to buy any of these goods, check with customs on arrival.

The penalties for carrying or trafficking illegal drugs can be severe, ranging from long prison sentences to the death penalty.

Time

Korean time: GMT +9

Currency

  • Won (W) - Check current exchange rates.
  • Notes issued: W10,000, W5,000, W1,000 & W500
  • Coins issued: W500, W100, W50, W10, W5, W1

Language

Korean is the official language. Japanese is spoken amongst the older generation and Chinese within the resident Chinese community. English is used to a very limited extent and usually only amongst young professionals and students.

Tipping

Tipping is not customary in South Korea, although many restaurants and hotels do add a service charge to the bill. As a polite form of behaviour, people give a slight bow and say thank you for services provided. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped unless they assist with carrying luggage.

Banking Hours

Monday to Friday 9.30 am to 4.30 pm

Telephone

The international dialling code for Korea is 82
When making international telephone calls from South Korea first dial 001 + country code + area code + telephone number.

Local Telephone Codes

Cheju 431
Kwangju 62
Pusan 51
Seoul 2
Taegu 53
Ulsan 522

Electricity

Most of Korea is 110V, although some rural areas are 220V. Visitors should check the voltage before plugging anything in. Many different types of plugs are used and a universal adapter is an important travel item.

Water

Water is considered unsafe for use directly from the tap and ice cubes should be avoided. Bottled water is widely available.

Health

Medical professionals in Korea are highly trained and facilities are good, however health insurance that also covers evacuation is still recommended. Consider inoculations against typhoid, polio, hepatitis A, Japanese encephalitis and take advice regarding anti-malarials. It is always best to check the current situation and any vaccination requirements with your doctor when planning your trip.

International Airports

  • Cheju-do - Cheju
  • Pusan - Kimhae
  • Seoul - Incheon

International Departure Tax

W9,000

Domestic Airports

  • Cheju
  • Chinju
  • Kangnung
  • Kunsan
  • Kimpo
  • Kwangju
  • Mokp'o
  • O'ohang
  • Pasan
  • Seoul
  • Sokch'o
  • Taegu
  • Ulsan
  • Yech'n
  • Ysu

Domestic Departure Tax

W3,000

Etiquette/Dress Code

Casual clothes are acceptable everywhere, although smarter clothes gain more respect. A level of politeness should be maintained in public and whenever possible, any offer of hospitality should be accepted, since turning down an invitation may cause offence. Always remove shoes before entering a Korean home and use the right hand for giving and receiving.

As with many Asian countries, situations should be avoided which would cause a loss of "face". Try to steer clear of confrontation as it is not appreciated and will only worsen rather than resolve any situation.

Pay close attention to signs stating that photography is not allowed at places such as airports, harbours and military facilities, as these laws are strictly enforced.

Diplomatic Missions

Many countries have representative offices and consulates in Korea.

Useful Sources of Information

Further information onKorean culture and tourist attractions:

  • Korea National Tourism Organization

Weather

The South

Season Average temperature Average rainfall
Spring (March - May) 8 - 13°C 114mm
Summer (June - August) 21 - 28°C 209mm
Autumn (September - November) 12 - 21°C 96mm
Winter (December - February) -1 - 7°C 37mm

The North

Season Average temperature Average rainfall
Spring (March - May) 5 - 16°C 65mm
Summer (June - August) 20 - 29°C 285mm
Autumn (September - November) 7 - 19°C 68mm
Winter (December - February) -7 - 2°C 25mm

Korea enjoys a temperate climate which can be divided into four seasons - spring, summer, autumn and winter.

The temperatures vary slightly across the landmass but it is only when altitude exceeds 1,700m that real changes are felt - especially in winter when snowfall is common and skiing is possible.

  • Spring - warmer, milder weather edges its way from the south and slowly spreads across the rest of the country. Lightweight clothing is required, although some warmer layers are recommended as the wind can be cool and temperatures do fall away at night.
  • Summer - is fairly hot, humid and wet. Lightweight clothes are a necessity and an umbrella is useful for those frequent downpours.
  • Autumn - skies tend to be clear. Again, lightweight clothing is required along with a few layers for those cooler days and for the night-time.
  • Winter - snow blows down from Siberia in December and winter can be bleak and harsh away from the coastal areas. The south coast and islands rarely see snow and even if they do, it tends to be only slight. At higher altitudes, along the northeast coast and the central mountainous region, snowfall can be high and South Korea becomes a popular ski destination.

Best time to visit: Mid-spring and early autumn are pleasantly mild with light rains. Winter months bring snow to higher ground and are the time to visit for skiing.

Carry a lightweight jumper as it can be chillingly cold inside air-conditioned buildings during summer.

Featured South Korea Hotels

5 stars
From
$164
per night (USD)
Grand Ambassador Seoul Associated Pullman Hotel

Grand Ambassador Seoul Associated Pullman Hotel

Joong Gu, South Korea

Location The Incheon International Airport is within 70 km of the Grand Ambassador.... More...

 
3 stars
From
$190
per night (USD)
Hamilton Hotel Seoul

Hamilton Hotel Seoul

Itaewon, South Korea

Location The Hamilton Hotel Seoul is situated right in the centre of the Itaewon... More...

 
5 stars
From
$108
per night (USD)
Novotel Ambassador Gangnam Seoul

Novotel Ambassador Gangnam Seoul

Gangnam, South Korea

Location The Ambassador Gangnam Hotel is about an hour from Incheon International... More...

 
3 stars
From
$376
per night (USD)
Uljiro CO-OP Residence Seoul

Uljiro CO-OP Residence Seoul

Dongdaemun, South Korea

Location The Uljiro CO OP is within 60 km of the Incheon International Airport.... More...

 
5 stars
From
$104
per night (USD)
Renaissance Hotel Seoul

Renaissance Hotel Seoul

Gangnam, South Korea

Location The Incheon International Airport is 64 km from the Renaissance Seoul. It is... More...

 
4 stars
From
$150
per night (USD)
Hotel Novotel Ambassador Doksan Seoul

Hotel Novotel Ambassador Doksan Seoul

City, South Korea

Location Located in Guro Geumcheon Valley Park, Novotel Ambassador Doksan is less... More...

 
4 stars
From
$128
per night (USD)
President Hotel Seoul

President Hotel Seoul

City, South Korea

Location The President Hotel is located in the heart of Seoul, outside the Seoul... More...

 
3 stars
From
$120
per night (USD)
Best Western New Seoul Hotel

Best Western New Seoul Hotel

City, South Korea

Location Best Western Hotel is ideally situated in the heart of Seoul, within close... More...

 
3 stars
From
$101
per night (USD)
Prince Hotel Seoul

Prince Hotel Seoul

City, South Korea

Location Located in the heart of Seoul, this property is close to the Myung Dong... More...

 
2 stars
From
$128
per night (USD)
Hotel Incheon Airport

Hotel Incheon Airport

Airport : Incheon Int'l (ICN), South Korea

Location Incheon Airport Hotel is located in Airport Town Square known as the... More...

 

South Korea Travellers Tales

Anonymous
8/29/2005

There are many historical sites in Incheon and Seoul. It is far more of a tourist destination than it advertises itself as. The windmill restaurant in Incheon (very close to the hotel) offers excellent service and very good food at good prices. The Galbi restaurants in Seoul are really worth a visit and the The Korean War museum had us returning 3 times!


michael todd
7/8/2005

We were in Seoul for four days during the week and were surprised at how easy it was to get around by local taxi. There were many around, easily hailed and quite cheap. The dreaded traffic jams were not obvious or they were good at avoiding them. We never did get to go on the subway.


su shing low
7/4/2005
Stayed at:

The subway is relatively close by (7mins walk) and the hotel is right on Insadong''s heart. It''s nice to walk around the area except when it rains. Then getting to nearby tourist destinations is tricky. Taxis won''t take you because its too close and there''s no shade walking there so you get soaked. The Korail is much more affordable than the taxis though. Most Koreans in the shops speak basic english but if you need to find out a place, bring a map and show it to them, they pointed out to me all three times that I asked. Lots of korean restaurants in Insadong but if you are looking for more international fare at decent rates, go to Myeung dong.


paul burns
6/22/2005

Korea House is well worth a visit. We ordered the best menu, got a private room for two, SUPERB food and then the show in the theatre. 120 quid for two - not bad.


Anonymous
6/19/2005

Gyeong-ju is a fantastic area! We rented bicycles and spent two days exploring the historic Shilla and Buddhist sites in the region, often using the bike paths that circulate for miles and miles along the highways. The endless rice fields were another beautiful riding area. We also hiked a lot, ate well (but not in our hotel!) and had a lot of fun in the city in the evenings. Staying near the lake was nice - quieter at night, and right on the bus route into town.


hui choo, pearl tan
6/9/2005
Stayed at:

We only took one tour and that is the submarine tour. There are 3 of them but we just took the one that the hotel recommended which is good, fun, interesting and value for money. Commentary is all in Korean so do be prepared to feel left out in that aspect. The rest of the sights and attractions we did on our own, some by taxi or on foot which are close to the Hyatt Hotel. We rented a large cab for all 4 of us from 9am to 5pm and mapped out the places we wanted to visit and the driver did the rest. We managed to cover only all that was interesting to us, instead of a tour which would have cost much more and visiting alot of places that we did not want to go. For those who are willing to fork out some money this would probably be the best way to see alot within a day. Foodwise, where we are staying we are subjected to eateries within Hyatt or the other nearby hotels and a few restaurants around the area, which are all either very expensive or not value for money as the cuisine isn''t that good. You''d have to be adventurous and take a taxi to some better known restaurants about 20 minutes away to have really great bulgogi and black pork meat (the speciality: the pigs are black not the meat) - prices are then much more reasonable and the food good.


amanda foo
5/28/2005

Destination to hotel was quite straightforward, abt 80 minutes from the Incheon International Airport, we took the subway to Lotte World and Everland although the latter was a bit of a hassle, having have to take a bus there, wasted abt 1-1/2 hrs. Italian Restaurant at Galleria Shopping Centre was excellent, Hyundai Department Store is a must go. Hard Rock Cafe is a little bit too far away from where we stay so we took the cab there. Most of the time, we got around the city using the subway, very convenient. The system was excellent.


quek muily (mrs low kee haw) and mr low kee haw
5/12/2005
Stayed at:

Places we visited include the waterfalls, submarine ride and Halim park which offers gardens, caves, restaurants and a bird park. You can catch a buffet cum fountain show at the Lotte Hotel. Taxis are easily available and the people are generally very friendly.


mirjana kulpinski
5/9/2005

For the transportation we used airport shuttle buses, taxis, metros and Seoul City Tour buses. We had railway passes - 3 day saver pass (great value for money) for trip to the south and we spent 2 days in Gyeongju. There we rented a car for sightseeing trip to Gulguksa, Tongdosa and Bulgkusa temples, Seokgulam Grotto and Underwater tomb of king Munmu. Next day we rented bikes to see sights in Gyeongju. We spent 2 nights in the Hyundai hotel on the lake near Gyeongju. That hotel was great - real 5 star hotel and we paid only 120 Canadian dollars (less than for 2 star hotel in Seoul). On the way back we slept in the New Airport hotel near new Seoul airport. The room was great. It had all gadgets you can imagine, from big flat screen TV, computer, Jacuzzi tub, Jacuzzi shower, fax machine, water purifier, and ultra violet device for disinfection. Koreans were very friendly and we haven''t had any problems. We really enjoyed being in Korea.


hideyuki mizutani
5/4/2005

We visited Insadong which is good for souvenirs. Itaewon where a lot of foreigners hang out and Meyondong which had loads of street food stalls and stalls selling all kinds of different things. Many selling poor knock offs of brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes and so on. Jewellery, socks, bags, belts, wallets, cell phone trinkets, pyjamas, shoes etc etc. Of course there are a lot of regular stores there too. The best bargain we came across was glasses. They were very resonably priced. We walked there from the hotel but you can catch the subway too. It costs about $1 and was 3 stops away. Taxis are cheap too.


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