Backpacking South Korea

Hello to all seasoned and aspiring backpackers!

Not in the mood for Thailand, Vietnam and other mainstream backpacker destinations? Then how about South Korea instead of Southeast Asia! Some of you may be thinking “Korea? Is that even possible given how the media always has some news about that country?”. That's the usual reaction when someone suggests backpacking in South Korea. Of course, Korea is not the perfect destination, given the political situation. The Korean peninsula also has a very eventful history. After the Japanese occupation and the Korean War, the country had to be rebuilt from scratch and is still divided into North and South Korea due to political differences. However, North Korea is only affected by that division, which makes backpacking in the South possible. So, if you want to get to know and travel to an entirely new country in Asia, South Korea would be an exciting choice. But it is also an excellent choice as it is not really established as a backpacking destination yet, even though it has so much to offer. There is an impressive variety of landscapes to discover in the 'Land of the Morning Calm'. Hiking enthusiasts, explorers, and sports enthusiasts alike will get their money's worth here. But the country is also a real gem for those interested in culture.

The majority of the northern part is mostly cut off from the outside world and inaccessible to travellers. But the southern part of the peninsula offers everything a backpacker's heart desires. South Korea is one of the four tiger states and has experienced a rapid high-tech boom in recent years. Old and new coexist in harmony here and make the country a fascinating mixture of thousand-year-old traditions and modernity. Although the prices are higher than in Southeast Asia, travelling in Korea is much cheaper than in most parts of Europe, Oceania and North America.

When you decide to travel to South Korea, it means one thing above all: getting immersed in the fascinating history of the country. There are so many ways to make your stay as informative and exciting as possible, and the historical sites are a must-see when backpacking in South Korea. But not only that, as the culture in South Korea alone is an experience in itself. South Korea is not only the right place for those who like modern cities and modern technology, but also for backpackers interested in history and traditions. You will also find plenty of activities to do outside the country's

centres. Backpacking in South Korea means unforgettable experiences in nature such as long hikes through some of the country national parks. There really is something for everybody!

South Korea is also considered to be one of the safest countries to travel to, has very developed infrastructure and excellent medical care. Culturally, the country is very diverse with Chinese and Japanese influences. The South Koreans are open-minded, friendly people and the Korean cuisine has many culinary surprises to offer.

All in all, South Korea is a real hidden gem for globetrotters looking for a different kind of backpack adventure.

See below for the perfect South Korea itinerary for an unforgettable journey:


Important Basics

Official Language ( Korean )
EnglishKorean
Helloann-yeong-hasse-yo
Goodbyeann-yeong
Thanksgamsa-habni-da
Yesye
Noani
Capital City

Seoul

Form of Government

Semi-presidential Republic

Phone Country Code

+82

Currency

South Korean won

Climate

Highest temperature by day: 22 to 26 degrees Celsius

Highest temperature at night: – 5 to 3 degreen Celsius

Fun Fact

South Korea’s capital, Seoul, has 23 million inhabitants! It is the third largest city in the world.

Cities

Seoul

The capital of Korea offers a fascinating mix of tradition and modernity. One of the most famous sights is the N Seoul Tower with a viewing platform offering a magnificent 360-degree view of the city.

Visit the National Museum at Gyeongbokgung Palace, the royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty, or Insa-dong Palace and learn about traditional Korean culture. The Bongeunsa Buddhist temple, the Hanok village of Namsangol, and the Tongin market are some of the most famous sights of Seoul.

The demilitarised zone (DMZ) is a unique but still very interesting attraction.

Explore the area that separates North and South Korea on a half-day tour and learn more about the Korean War. Visit the 'Bridge of Freedom', the Third Attack Tunnel and the railway station that connects North and South. You can also get a glimpse of isolated North Korea from the Dora Observatory. Including return transfer, entrance fee and tour guide, this excursion costs only 35 euros per person.

You will stay at the Hongdae Lazy Fox Hostel in Seoul for 15 euros per night in a six-bed dorm.

Danyang

We continue our journey and go to Danyang. Here, you pay about 10 euros for a train ticket from Seoul. The mountain village spreads a unique atmosphere and offers a wide range of cultural activities. Danyang is also the starting point for excursions to Guinsa Temple. The vast temple complex is located in the middle of the Sobaek Mountains and is one of the most impressive sights of South Korea.

The exhausting ascent is rewarded with a breathtaking view over the valley and the surrounding mountain peaks. Explore the narrow alleys, stairways, and detailed facades of the Buddhist building, and even book a Guinsa retreat or temple stay to get to know the Korean culture. You can stay at the Danyang Dodam Hostel in a 6-bed dorm for 19 euros In Danyang.

Daegu

You’ll travel by train and bus to Daegue for about 15 euros. You can take the Palgongsan cable car from Daegu to the top of the neighbouring mountain and admire the beauty of the surrounding landscape.

At 820 metres above sea level, there are numerous viewing platforms, walking paths and photo spots to discover. The 1,500-year-old Donghwasa Temple, which houses the most giant stone Buddha statue in the world, is also close to the Palgongsan cable car. The landmark of the city is the E-World 83 Tower. Visit one of the restaurants and cafés in the 83-storey building or enjoy the panoramic view from the observatory on the 77th floor.

Explore the Haeinsa temple complex, visit the Woobang Tower Land amusement park as well as the traditional Seomun market. At Empathy Dongseongro Guesthouse, an overnight stay in an eight-bed dorm costs 17 euros.

Namwon

You go by bus from Daegue to Namwon for about 10 euros. The city on the Yocheon River offers numerous cultural hotspots such as the Manbok-Saji temple complex, built around 1059 AD, the Chunhyang Shrine, and the traditional Gwanghallu Garden. You also have access to the Jiri-San National Park.

This was the first national park in South Korea and is named after the second-highest mountain in South Korea, which is therefore considered to be one of the holy mountains. Samseonggung Shrine on the slopes of Jirisan was created in honour of the three mystical founders of the first kingdom on the Korean Peninsula.

In addition to almost 5,000 animal and plant species, Korea's only bear population can be found here. The Asian black bear was already considered extinct until 2001 when a group of 20 black bears was discovered in Jirisin National Park. At Maum Hotels and Backpackers, an overnight stay in Namwon costs 15 euros (double room).

Busan

A bus will take you from Namwon to Busan for 14 euros. In the second largest city of South Korea is the largest shopping centre in the world, the Shinsegae department store Centum City. You will also find many cosy cafés, hip bars and a lively nightlife on Dalmaji-gil street.

Try Busan's famous beef ribs "Haeundae galbi" and many other Korean dishes in the many traditional restaurants. Visit the Chalgalchi market near the port, famous for its vast selection of fresh fish, and experience the early morning fish trade.

Enjoy the sun and relax on one of the many city beaches or explore the islands of Oryukdo and Dongbaekseom. You pay 20 euros per night for an overnight stay in a six-bed dorm at Travelight Hostel Busan.

Gyeongju

Next stop is Gyeongju. You can reach the old capital of the thousand-year-old Silla dynasty by bus for about 5 euros. Gyeongju is also called the 'Museum without a Roof' because of its countless cultural treasures and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besides the magnificent palaces of Silla, you should also visit the temple Bulguksa, which is considered to be the most representative temple of the Silla period.

The Seokguram Grotto, the tomb complex Cheonmachong with 23 impressive royal tombs and the temple Golgulsa are also worth seeing.

This temple is primarily known for the Buddha statue Maaeyeoraejwasang, which is over 4 meters high, and for a temple stay program, where you can learn the meditative martial art Seonmudo. A night in a six-bed dorm costs 16 euros at the Blue boat Hostel Gyeongju.

Ulleungdo Inseln

You can reach the Ulleungdo Islands by bus and ferry for about 55 euros. The archipelago was formed by volcanic eruptions and is known for its impressive natural landscape of rocks and cliffs. The centre of Ulleungdo is the peak of Seonginbong, from which you have one of the most remarkable views of the whole island.

Visit the small fishing villages in the bays of the island, make a round trip and hike to impressive field formations like the Elephant or Lion Rock. You can also take a ferry to the neighbouring island of Jukdo and visit the sunrise observatory Naesujeon. A hike to the three-level Bongnae waterfall is also recommended. On Ulleungdo, you should book an Airbnb apartment (from 20 euros per night).


Seoul

Seoul

The capital of Korea offers a fascinating mix of tradition and modernity. One of the most famous sights is the N Seoul Tower with a viewing platform offering a magnificent 360-degree view of the city.

Visit the National Museum at Gyeongbokgung Palace, the royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty, or Insa-dong Palace and learn about traditional Korean culture. The Bongeunsa Buddhist temple, the Hanok village of Namsangol, and the Tongin market are some of the most famous sights of Seoul.

The demilitarised zone (DMZ) is a unique but still very interesting attraction.

Explore the area that separates North and South Korea on a half-day tour and learn more about the Korean War. Visit the 'Bridge of Freedom', the Third Attack Tunnel and the railway station that connects North and South. You can also get a glimpse of isolated North Korea from the Dora Observatory. Including return transfer, entrance fee and tour guide, this excursion costs only 35 euros per person.

You will stay at the Hongdae Lazy Fox Hostel in Seoul for 15 euros per night in a six-bed dorm.

Danyang

Danyang

We continue our journey and go to Danyang. Here, you pay about 10 euros for a train ticket from Seoul. The mountain village spreads a unique atmosphere and offers a wide range of cultural activities. Danyang is also the starting point for excursions to Guinsa Temple. The vast temple complex is located in the middle of the Sobaek Mountains and is one of the most impressive sights of South Korea.

The exhausting ascent is rewarded with a breathtaking view over the valley and the surrounding mountain peaks. Explore the narrow alleys, stairways, and detailed facades of the Buddhist building, and even book a Guinsa retreat or temple stay to get to know the Korean culture. You can stay at the Danyang Dodam Hostel in a 6-bed dorm for 19 euros In Danyang.

Daegu

Daegu

You’ll travel by train and bus to Daegue for about 15 euros. You can take the Palgongsan cable car from Daegu to the top of the neighbouring mountain and admire the beauty of the surrounding landscape.

At 820 metres above sea level, there are numerous viewing platforms, walking paths and photo spots to discover. The 1,500-year-old Donghwasa Temple, which houses the most giant stone Buddha statue in the world, is also close to the Palgongsan cable car. The landmark of the city is the E-World 83 Tower. Visit one of the restaurants and cafés in the 83-storey building or enjoy the panoramic view from the observatory on the 77th floor.

Explore the Haeinsa temple complex, visit the Woobang Tower Land amusement park as well as the traditional Seomun market. At Empathy Dongseongro Guesthouse, an overnight stay in an eight-bed dorm costs 17 euros.

Namwon

Namwon

You go by bus from Daegue to Namwon for about 10 euros. The city on the Yocheon River offers numerous cultural hotspots such as the Manbok-Saji temple complex, built around 1059 AD, the Chunhyang Shrine, and the traditional Gwanghallu Garden. You also have access to the Jiri-San National Park.

This was the first national park in South Korea and is named after the second-highest mountain in South Korea, which is therefore considered to be one of the holy mountains. Samseonggung Shrine on the slopes of Jirisan was created in honour of the three mystical founders of the first kingdom on the Korean Peninsula.

In addition to almost 5,000 animal and plant species, Korea's only bear population can be found here. The Asian black bear was already considered extinct until 2001 when a group of 20 black bears was discovered in Jirisin National Park. At Maum Hotels and Backpackers, an overnight stay in Namwon costs 15 euros (double room).

Busan

Busan

A bus will take you from Namwon to Busan for 14 euros. In the second largest city of South Korea is the largest shopping centre in the world, the Shinsegae department store Centum City. You will also find many cosy cafés, hip bars and a lively nightlife on Dalmaji-gil street.

Try Busan's famous beef ribs "Haeundae galbi" and many other Korean dishes in the many traditional restaurants. Visit the Chalgalchi market near the port, famous for its vast selection of fresh fish, and experience the early morning fish trade.

Enjoy the sun and relax on one of the many city beaches or explore the islands of Oryukdo and Dongbaekseom. You pay 20 euros per night for an overnight stay in a six-bed dorm at Travelight Hostel Busan.

Gyeongju

Gyeongju

Next stop is Gyeongju. You can reach the old capital of the thousand-year-old Silla dynasty by bus for about 5 euros. Gyeongju is also called the 'Museum without a Roof' because of its countless cultural treasures and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besides the magnificent palaces of Silla, you should also visit the temple Bulguksa, which is considered to be the most representative temple of the Silla period.

The Seokguram Grotto, the tomb complex Cheonmachong with 23 impressive royal tombs and the temple Golgulsa are also worth seeing.

This temple is primarily known for the Buddha statue Maaeyeoraejwasang, which is over 4 meters high, and for a temple stay program, where you can learn the meditative martial art Seonmudo. A night in a six-bed dorm costs 16 euros at the Blue boat Hostel Gyeongju.

Ulleungdo Inseln

Ulleungdo Inseln

You can reach the Ulleungdo Islands by bus and ferry for about 55 euros. The archipelago was formed by volcanic eruptions and is known for its impressive natural landscape of rocks and cliffs. The centre of Ulleungdo is the peak of Seonginbong, from which you have one of the most remarkable views of the whole island.

Visit the small fishing villages in the bays of the island, make a round trip and hike to impressive field formations like the Elephant or Lion Rock. You can also take a ferry to the neighbouring island of Jukdo and visit the sunrise observatory Naesujeon. A hike to the three-level Bongnae waterfall is also recommended. On Ulleungdo, you should book an Airbnb apartment (from 20 euros per night).

South Korea Route Map

Itinerary and Stops.

Tag
Route/Station
Transport
Unterkunft
1. Home - Seoul
Home - Seoul
Flight
250
six-bed dorm
15
2. Seoul
Seoul
-
six-bed dorm
15
3. Seoul
Seoul
-
six-bed dorm
15
4. Seoul - Danyang
Seoul - Danyang
Train
10
six-bed dorm
19
5. Danyang
Danyang
-
six-bed dorm
19
6. Danyang
Danyang
-
six-bed dorm
19
7. Danyang - Daegu
Danyang - Daegu
train+bus
15
Eight-bed dorm
17
8. Daegu
Daegu
-
Eight-bed dorm
17
9. Daegu - Namwon
Daegu - Namwon
Bus
10
double room
15
10. Namwon
Namwon
-
double room
15
11. Namwon
Namwon
-
double room
15
12. Namwon - Busan
Namwon - Busan
Bus
14
six-bed dorm
20
13. Busan
Busan
-
six-bed dorm
20
14. Busan - Gyeongju
Busan - Gyeongju
Bus
5
six-bed dorm
16
15. Gyeongju- Ulleungdo Islands
Gyeongju- Ulleungdo Islands
Bus+ferry
55
Private room
20
16. Ulleungdo Islands
Ulleungdo Islands
-
Private room
20
17. Ulleungdo Islands
Ulleungdo Islands
-
Private room
20
18. Ulleungdo Islands
Ulleungdo Islands
-
Private room
20
19. Ulleungdo Islands- Seoul
Ulleungdo Islands- Seoul
ferry+train
60
six-bed dorm
15
20. Seoul
Seoul
-
six-bed dorm
15
21. Seoul- Home
Seoul- Home
Flight
250

Total price.

Flights 500,00
Transportation 169,00
Tours 37,00
Accommodation 347,00
Total1053,00

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Dos and Donts, Food & Drinks, Costs.

Breakfast

Bapguagup: Locals eat this mix of rice and soup for breakfast every day. The soup is often hot for the ideal start into the day.

Soups

Sundubu Jjigae Tofu Soup: vegetable broth with traditional spices usually served with rice which you can dip into the soup.

Main Courses

Banchan: also known as Korean Tapas, it is served with rice and various side dishes, just like tapas. Cabbage, vegetables and onions are the main ingredients.

Bibimbap: a rice dish (mostly) served with raw vegetables in a bowl as well as with chilli paste and a fried egg.

Kimchi stew: the stew consists of beef or pork and is cooked in a hot soup. Plenty of chillies, some potatoes and tofu are added together to make this grand mixture.

Kimchi: Kimchi is also called the essence of South Korea. The cabbage can be used in many ways. In this dish, cabbage is solely prepared with sauce.

Haemul pajeon: This is a pancake with seafood and spring onions. These ingredients together may sound strange at first, but it is a popular Korean dish.

Drinks & Snacks

Bingsu: the dessert is made from jelly, a scoop of ice cream, and many different fruits. There are different flavours, so there is undoubtedly the right one for you!

Yakgwa: this honey cake is typical for South Korea and is often baked with lots of ginger. An excellent dessert!

Soju: this rice drink is mainly served with meals and is very popular, backpackers also love it.

South Korea

The exchange rate for 1000 South Korean won (KRW) is around €0.79 (as of February 2020). You can see the prices for certain products as well as the cost of living

Lebenshaltungs-kosten

Food

Free Time

Personal Hygiene

Dos

Take your shoes off at the entrance of a restaurant. In many Korean restaurants, you have to sit on the floor because of culture. You should, therefore, take off your shoes at the entrance and put them on the shoe rack provided

Take advantage of the festivals in South Korea as numerous events are more than worth visiting. There are many different types, from cultural to religious to pure music festivals. There is certainly one you will like.

Bowing is very common here. Even if this may seem a bit strange to you, it is common to bow when greeting people. It's best to copy from the locals by watching them. It will be normal for you after a while.

Don'ts

Never use the colour red when writing a name, no matter whether it's your own name or someone else's. If you write in red, it means that the person is sick, or you consider him inferior. Write in black or blue just to be on the safe side and write.

Don’t pour your own glass. In South Korea, this is seen as disrespectful towards yourself. Therefore, it is common practice to pour a glass to each other, but never to yourself.

Ignore the western world in Korea! Even though it is often considered safer to eat in restaurant chains offering food from the west, try to avoid those in Korea. You would miss too much of local food and thus not even notice the highlights of the country.

Hitting someone lightly on the back in a friendly way. Even if you have made some friends in Korea, you should not do this. This is considered as a way of disrespecting their personality. Shaking hands would be better.

Visa, Visa, Passport & Vaccinations

Passport

Yes

Temporary passport

Yes

National ID

No

Temporary national ID

No

Child’s pass

Yes

Visa

(Not necessary)

Vaccine

Robert-Koch-Instituts

Additional Remarks.

Travel documents must be valid for at least three months at the time of entry. The requirements of individual airlines for the documents to be carried by their passengers sometimes deviate from the state regulations. Please also inform yourself about the current entry regulations regarding the corona virus. You can find up-to-date information at the Foreign Office

The team at Backpacker Trail wishes you lots of fun and an unforgettable trip!

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