Solo Travel Destination: Seoul, South Korea

We are pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Criszette, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Criszette is from the Philippines and submitted the following report about Seoul. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!

Solo travel rating: 1.5 (1 is easiest, 4 is most difficult. Please see chart below)

Languages spoken: Korean, English

photo, image, palace, seoul

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Reasons to go:  Seoul has been on the top of my list ever since I was a kid, so when I was given an opportunity to visit, I literally grabbed it. It was just 4-5 hours away by plane from my home in Manila, and mostly on red-eye flights, so I have every reason to go to Seoul.

I went during the summer even though I had read in several blogs that it is not the recommended season to visit because of the very hot weather. As I’m stubborn, I went anyway and spent 2 weeks in Hongdae (the nightlife neighborhood of Seoul). I can recommend the Birdsnest Hostel, which is about a 10 minute walk away from Exit 3 of the Subway and AREX (Airport Line). The owner, Mr. Lee, is very, very friendly and you will love his dog.

Tips

  • I brought 3 phones on this trip, and only my iPhone would work in Korea. A better bet is to rent one at the airport – there are booths just outside of the arrival hall where you can rent a phone for your trip.
  • Buy a T-Money Card – it will save you so much money. It can be used as a transportation card on subways, buses or even taxis, as well as in convenience stores like G25, 7-11 and Family Mart, and will get you discounts in other stores. You can find it in any subway station or at airports. The cards are sold from big blue machines for ₩3,000 and ₩5,000 – that’s around $3.00 and $5.00. Insert the card in the machine to load it with money credits, and you’re good to go! You can reload it if it runs out, or get a refund at any convenience store.

My list of  must-dos in Seoul

Shopping

Myeondong (of course!), Dongdaemun Market, Namdaemun Market, Itaewon and Insadong. Malls: Time Square Mall in Yeongdeungpo, Galleria Department Store in Apgujeong (Gangnam), COEX in Samseong (Gangnam), Lotte Duty Free in Myeondong.

Attractions

  • The 5 Grand Palaces of the Joseon Dynasty & Jongmyo Shrine. I suggest you buy the Integrated Palace ticket for ₩10,000. It will save you around ₩4,000 or more and you won’t need to queue up anymore. This can be bought at any of the palaces.
  • Namsan Tower and Teddy Bear Museum
  • Cheonggyecheon Stream
  • Cheong Wa Dae or The Blue House, home of the South Korean President.
  • National Museum of Korea
  • War Memorial Museum of Korea
  • Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain
  • Bukchon Hanok Village
  • Seoul World Cup Stadium

Food

I don’t have any personal favorites because every place that I tried was so delicious! Of course, you should not miss eating Korean food, especially Kimchi and Samgyeopsal (grilled beef).

Other

  • For animal lovers the must-tries are the Cat Cafes in Myeondong and Hongdae and the Dog Cafes,  especially the Bau House in Hapjeong.
  • Hello Kitty Cafe in Hongdae
  • Night life in Hongdae
  • Meeting Korean people
  • Seoul City Tour Bus which runs all over the city, day and night.
  • If you are into independent art, don’t miss Sangsangmadang Gallery in Hongdae.

I loved everything about Seoul!

photo, image, t money card

The T-Money Card

 

photo, image, Cheonggyecheon Stream

Cheonggyecheon Stream

photo, image, locks, namsan tower

Locks of everlasting love at Namsan Tower.

Solo Travel Destination Rating System

Safety – 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)

Language – 2 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)

Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)

Culture – 2 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)

Average Rating – 1.5 (1 is easiest, 4 is most difficult)

Singapore Airlines

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Most of them accept cards but best you keep cash with you all the time just to be safe :-)

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    All hostels mostly in Mapo-gu area (Hongdae/Hongik University) are good. One thing that is great, you always have the option to choose in an all female room or go with the flow and stay in a mix room. :-)

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    If you’re a fan of walking, you can do that as well – it is a great way to see the bits and pieces of Seoul but if you wanna get there right away, Subway/bus will def work. Gangnam/Apgujeong is a cool area too, that would depend on what is your taste – more of a hippie, high street etc. :-)

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Yes Viator is a good source of tour guides or search walking tours in Seoul :-)

  • Siew Woon

    Hi, do you have any recommendation on hostel for a female travelling alone in Seoul? I am open to making new friends! Did some research, but am still feeling a little confuse. Will appreciate if you can provide any! :)

  • mark

    thanks for the reply, sense the last question I’ve done more studying it looks like the airport limousine stops right in front of my hotel (marigold) I’m pretty sure its a bus not a limo lol.
    either way can I pay cash or do I need to get one of those cards?

  • mark

    thanks for the reply, sense the last question ive done more studying it looks like the airport limosene stops right infront of my hotel (marigold) I’m pretty sure its a bus not a limo lol.
    eather way can I pay cash or do I need to get one of those cards?

  • Syafira Permata

    Hey Criszette, Im Fira from Indonesia. your review about Seoul is very helpful since Im gonna travel alone to Seoul this September. My hotel is located near Seoul Plaza, and from what i saw on google map Myeondong is not really far from Seoul Plaza. Do I need subway/bus or just take a walk to Myeondong? and by the way do you know any cool places near Seoul Plaza beside Myeondong? Thank you, Im looking forward for ur kind reply xx

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Hi Pearl,

    I’m not sure if Criszette will be able to answer your question in time so I’m going to suggest that you book a local tour guide through Viator. Here’s a link: http://tourguides.viator.com. Good luck!

  • Pearl

    Hi… I’m Pearl, I’m travelling to Seoul in 2 weeks time. It’s going to be my first time travelling alone. I haven’t do much of planning yet. May I know where can I get any tour guide within such a short period of time? Serious help in need. Thank you.

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    During my visit, it only rain at night except for one day that it was raining all day but the rest were very sunny. Since I don’t like the heat and all that, it felt like hell. Haha I actually got dark so don’t forget to bring an umbrella or shades when you visit :)

  • Tina Casey

    Hi Criszette, I’ve read that your visit in Seoul was July, I booked a flight (and my visa papers are now on process) this coming July (that’s next month!). I would like to know if it really rains there during summer?
    Since you’re also from Manila, how do you gauge the summer temperature in Seoul (how does it actually feel?) Thank you and God bless :)

  • Kim Hanoi

    Hi Criszette, thank you for replying to my question … Regarding evening cruise at HanYang river? Any recommendation would be greatly appreciated!

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Thank you so much :-)

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Hello! The best time to see Seoul for Autumn leaves is sometime between late October to Early November. I mean you can include Busan to your trip if you really have a certain taste in places you wanna see but if you wanna experience everything Seoul has to offer, a week maybe is slightly short. Since both of the cities has its own beauty that is very worth exploring

  • Kim Hanoi

    oh, by the way, I really enjoy your blog… a good read :)

  • Kim Hanoi

    hi Criszette, I’m planning a trip this Fall to see the Autumn leaves… could you please give me a hint as to the best time to be in Seoul and I’m going to be a week there … thinking of staying at the InterCont Coex in GangNam… I love the Kdrama Faith – hence like to be around there!!! Thanks
    Ah, also some sightseeing for a middle aged female – cruise etc… Also would it worth while to go to Busan too? Or a week is too short for more city than Seoul???

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Cabs are tap in for roughly KRW 50,000-60,000 ($50-60) or so though usually that is already fixed that includes everything like toll fees, taxi fare and tips. Quite a price hike so I only recommend to people who has a lot of baggage or in groups but if you can afford it then go. Haha! Ofcrouse it’s always Incheon because Gimpo Airport is more on domestic flights.

  • mark

    hi my name is mark. Im a seasoned solo traveler so Im pretty good with the ins and outs of traveling alone, but Im not big on subways how are the cabs? are they expensive? If I fly into Incheon and want a cab to Hongdae, how much would it be? wich is a better airport to arrive in Seoul or Incheon?

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Getting lost is fun. Haha! I hope you have fun!!!

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Yes. Most of the historical sites and what not in Korea are located in Downtown Seoul (Gwanghwamun and Jongno area) – there’s one however worth the trip but a little further from them is the Hwaseong Fortress but it is accessible to subway so it’s all good. Everything is well-connected in Seoul, you just have to plan accordingly. And bear in mind, Japan is different with Korea both countries has their own uniqueness – you just have to discover it by yourself :-)

  • Jeff

    I will be traveling to Korea tomorrow! gonna be there for two weeks! I am so excited. I only have 3 things booked to do, which equals to about 2 days hahaha. I’m looking forward to getting lost haha.

  • Nathan

    Hello. One of my favorite things about Japan were all the historical sites, such as temples, shrines, and castles. Are there lots of historical sites such as these in SK that are easily accessible?

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Have fun in Korea!

  • Kpop Fever love

    Thank you so much for the reply and all the information. I will be traveling to Seoul tomorrow.. :)
    GOD bless you. :)

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Right – there’s a million things to do in Seoul haha. I will definitely. Have fun in Korea!

  • shammy

    Oh I see :) Yeah I guess you can never really have one specially if you’re in Korea 😀 Well I’ll make sure to visit the ones on your list. Thanks again and hope you share more of your travels :)

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    I don’t follow a strict itinerary – I just write down places I wanna see then if they are close to each other I do visit them all in one day because there’s always some last minute suggestions or discoveries, you know so I won’t end up confused. Haha. Most of the places I indicated here are the must-see places, try to narrow it down to your preference/interest :-)

  • shammy

    Thank you! I will keep those two places in mind :) Oh by the way do you have any iterinary Suggestions? I would probably stay for 3-5 days

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Yes it is relatively super safe in Seoul, I always go home late at night and I walk from Subway station to my hostel with no problems but ofcourse you always have to be vigilant at all time.

    Ofcourse, subway is your way to go but be wary that you have to write down the subway station and proper exit of your main destination to avoid confusions. I can say maybe around $400-450 out of $1100? :-)

    Yes bank statement/certificates :-)

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    The most economical locations to stay in Seoul is definitely in Hongdae. You can practically reach any location from there as it is near Line 2 on the main subway/airport line but if you prefer something near shopping I suggest somewhere in Myeongdong :-)

  • shammy

    Hi! I’m planning to visit Seoul this September and I’m just wondering if you have any suggestions of cheap places to stay and that are located at the center of the city. Thanks!

  • Kpop Fever love

    Hello, is it safe to go Seoul alone for female? I am 30 years old and i never travel alone since child. I am afraid to go alone there (also no friends) but I do really want to see cherry blossoming time there. I have been shifted my time to go there since there is no friend to go? Is it easy to use transportation system there like from airport to hostel, traveling around Seoul? . May I know how much do we need to spend if not include shopping? Thank you so much.

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Have fun! :-)

  • Ina

    Thanks so much for the response! I so look forward to my trip :)

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Hello. Not at all especially if you have provided them with everything they have asked for Be positive! Goodluck to you :-)

  • Ina

    Hi Criszette… I am going to Korea alone in May as well. Haven’t applied for the visa. But would the embassy not find it weird if i don’t have any accompanying family? Really worried might be denied. Already have a plane ticket :( hope to hear from you!

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Hi, I am alone traveling to Korea but since I stayed in hostel (in mixed bedroom) I have met few solo travellers as well who are staying in the hostel and no I didn’t join group tour, I made my own itinerary base on my place of interest :-)

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Hello Zarina. How long are you planning to stay? Food and entrance fees to tourist attraction are actually cheaper especially if you buy the integrated tickets like the one for the palaces or you have coupons but other factors need to be in consideration like what I said the longevity of your stay :-)

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Hello Jessie! It will all depend how long are you planning to stay :-) $600 is roughly PHP 26-27k depending on forex. What passport are you holding because if you happened to be Taiwanese I am aware that you don’t need visa there :-)

  • Lawrence John Santiago Payson

    Hello! When in Seoul, were you able to meet other solo travellers or were you totally alone touring? Did you join group tours? Thanks.

  • Zarina

    Hello there. Im Zarina from Manila and plans to visit Seoul alone this October. My plan is to visit historical places and food trips. can you please suggest the amount of pocket money I can bring? thanks so much

  • jae hyang lee

    Hi..I’m jessie and I’m here in TaiwanI plan to have a vacation in korea nxt yr sometime in april..is 600 u.s dollar enough for my stay in korea..how much is $600 dollar in peso..?and what is the requirments upon applying for a vacation..?

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Yes I know, it was a typo actually haha but thank you anyways :)

  • Destiny

    So happy you liked Korea. Just a lil correction–Samgyeopsal is not beef, it’s actually bacon. :)

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Hello Maii! I have but I’m in the process of restoring my blog because blogger deleted everything in a whim but I’m trying my best to put up everything the soonest. My blog is http://lola-daisydukes.com :-) If you want a detailed itinerary and expenses you can email me at criszette@lola-daisydukes.com.

    Yes, ofcourse. I ate practically alone the whole time except for three occasion that I met up with my friends over the weekend. I dined in lunch time, there’s no one around haha

    No haven’t been there. The two place I tried is the one near Line 2 exit 2 of Hongik University (close to my place) and the one near Hongdae area Line 2 exit 9 (my friends brought me there and it’s buffet type bbq place)

    Walking is good experience actually. Hahaha! I did walk from Subway Line 2 Hongik Station down to Hapjeong just to find Bauhaus Cafe. Haha! Just make sure you have the specific address, nearest station and exit you’ll get by. To be honest, I am more of a subway person instead of bus but sometimes you can’t help but walk. Haha!

  • Maii Valeroso

    Hi Criszette! Thanks for your reply. Do you have a blog? I want to read your itinerary and your reviews. ^^

    You can eat alone even during dinner time? I’m thinking the place would be too crowded. When you dined in a samgyeopsal place is that dinner time?

    Also, have you gone to Haha’s Palchamakjang? Alone? How was it?

    Would a map work if I’m planning to walk from one place to another? I’m planning to walk from Edae to Sinchon to Hongdae, is it possible with a map? I haven’t seen any instructions online about walking. Always with the use of the subway or bus.

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Ofcourse it is always okay to dine alone. Foreigners can always get away with anything hihi but yea, I remember when I dined alone in a samgyeopsal place in Mapo-gu the ajummas were kinda surprised i am alone but nevertheless they took care of me very well. Hehe. Maybe a few stares when I dined in Tony Roma’s in Gwanghwamun but i suggest, don’t mind them. :-)

    I heavily relied on Subway Line 2 which is for me the crowded line ever but still bearable because I can already sit after 1-2 stops, but I experienced the most crowded subway in Line 5 when I visited the Olympic Park but maybe because people are already going home from work, that was around 5-6pm like that. Yes, I was able to roam very well in Seoul – 2 weeks was non stop for me.

    I didn’t used Naver or Daum because before I arrived to Seoul, I already researched everything I wanna visit, where will I eat and what not. All I needed is a map and subway guide to help me where will exit properly :)

  • Maii Valeroso

    Hi there. I will be visiting Seoul alone and I am kind of worried about dining alone at Cafes and restaurants. Is it okay to dine alone? I think I read somewhere that it’s not advisable to dine in cafes and restaurants at peak hours since there are a lot of people and almost all of the seats are for at least 2 people, so you will stared at for taking a table for 2 people? I can’t remember where I read it.

    Another question, what is the peak hours in their subway? Is it always crowded?

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Yes I know. It was just a typo. :-)

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Not really because I’m used to travelling alone. :-) All you need is to test the water if it travelling alone is really meant for you :-)

  • Michelle

    This is my first time travelling by myself to a different country for two weeks. Would you say it gets lonely?

  • Annabell Lee

    Samgyeopsal is not beef but it is pork belly and one of bbqs of Korea.

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    The cheapest place to be is in Hongdae :-) Actually, all the hostel accommodations has a dorm/shared options and the private options. Most of the private options is a little bit pricier since you are paying for the the total allowed occupancy x the nights of your stay.

    Like mine, I originally paid for 8-bed mixed for 12 days for less than $82 but at my 5th day, a private room for 4 people is available even though I’m alone, I took it and paid another $110 for the rest of my stay :-)

    Actually, I was skeptical too at first but nonetheless I enjoyed the experience nothing too shady. But if you are still skeptical with hostels, try http://airbnb.com :-) but I say go with hostels, so you can meet people plus they are relatively safe since all guest are the only one with access with the gate, main door and your room itself. :-)

  • Pujita

    Hi, it might be too late but please do reply when you see this. I’m planning to go to Seoul next May-June. I was wondering if you could suggest a few safe but not too costly places to rent/live while in Seoul. I’m travelling alone so I’m a bit skeptical to stay at dorms by myself. Thanks!!!

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    If you’re coming to Korea around July, don’t forget to bring sunscreen and umbrella because it is very hot. Drink plenty of water! :-)

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Hello! I just saw this one. It will be my honor to share my experience in Korea but I hope this offer still stands. Have great day! :-)

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    Hello! I read a lot whenever before I travel since I travelling solo and I absolutely hate tour packages so it helps and I also stayed longer than the usual in Korea so I kinda feel homey already. Hehe! So sorry about the Samgyeopsal, I was kinda confused if it’s beef or pork but look beef to me.

    About the Min-Sok-Chon, I haven’t been there but I make sure when I go back I will let you know about it! :-) You are welcome!

  • http://lola-daisydukes.com/ Criszette Santiago

    I am excited for you too!!! Enjoy Korea!!! :-)

  • loladaisydukes

    I am very glad that I helped you! :-) Have fun in Korea!

  • loladaisydukes

    Hello, so sorry for the late reply! I spent around $600+ for the accommodation and airfare (Cathay Pacific) as well as the other expenses, I blew up my money with shopping since it is relatively cheap in Seoul compared to other countries. I brought $1100 with me, I am left with $300 in my two week stay, if you are not into so much shopping you’ll be fine. :-)

  • Garette

    How about the budget? How much did you spend for you trip? I am a Filipino as well and planning to go there sometime in July. Thanks! :)

  • converseed

    Hello. We are a company ‘Converseed’ located in South Korea.
    We have saw your blog during web surfing and would like to
    invite you to an website for tour guide about South Korea.
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    Also hope that you join us by sharing more precious experiences related to Korea.
    You need to create an account.
    It takes about 12 hours(Max). After first authentication, you can use the site freely.
    We will also appreciate for your joining the survey about touring Korea.
    If you don’t want to join the site, let us know whether we could share your posting at the site with marking the source and the author, please.
    The vision of ‘Converseed’ is ‘sharing bright information on touring Korea’ and the purposes are ‘community activation, providing convenience on touring Korea via smartphone’.
    We are still developing the services and expect to open the web site by March, also app service via smartphone by May, too.

    Thank you.

  • http://solotravelerblog.com Janice Waugh

    Hi Diane,

    I’m glad the article was helpful. Perhaps when you return you can add to our Solo Travel Destination section with a recommendation of another place in Korea.

  • Diane Lucille

    I am planning a solo trip to Korea in late April and this article was super informative and made me that much more excited!!!!! Thank you!

  • eunjoo

    Thanks for posting this… It’s really nice to read about my country. Wow, everything is in detail, neat and explains well even much better than me who is a Korean. FYI, a tiny misunderstanding was Samgyeopsal, it’s grilled pork not beef. Beside, I’d like to suggest you one more destination, Min-Sok-Chon in YongIn. It’s a village where you can see the Korean traditional rural living. How to get there? Unfortunately I can’t leave the recent information for using public transportation without help from my friend now, since I have been out from Korea for 16 years. Thanks again..

  • JoGuru

    One of the best article. . . . Best thing is that, you have given all information about Seoul such as accommodation, food, tourist attractions and many other. This article will of course helps me to plan my trip.

  • loladaisydukes

    Sorry for the late response! Correct me if I’m wrong for what I understood, you’ll be in Seoul for 10 hours? Is it for transit or what? :) If its transit or lay-over, you can avail the familiarization trip at Incheon Airport I think. You can just inquire at any concierge about it. :)

  • melanie

    I will be in Seoul for 10 hours late December. 2 adults and 2 kids 8 and 10 and would like some suggests for what we could do to explore a little.. Thanks

  • loladaisydukes

    Hope you enjoy as much as I did. You are welcome! :)

  • http://www.waterhabitatretreat.org/ Partha Mandal

    Nice post south korea is a nice country to visit this weekend tx for this share.