K4A Press presents
The Seoul Survival Guide, Spring 2016 Edition
by Aaron Namba
It's like getting a whole extra day in Seoul!
Planning a trip to Seoul, Korea?
Most visitors to Seoul have a wonderful time, but nearly all experience a common problem: Seoul travel books are full of serious errors!
It's not the authors' fault. Seoul is over 600 years old, but life moves quickly! Fashion, social norms, laws and even buildings and subway lines are changing constantly. The Seoul Survival Guide is published twice a year, and each new edition contains dozens of updates. Typical travel books go years between editions, and can develop serious errors very quickly, sometimes even before they hit shelves.
Avoid the frustration of wasted time and money by supplementing your travel book with a copy of my Seoul Survival Guide. With less stress, plus the time and money you'll save, it's like getting a whole extra day in Seoul! Spend your time enjoying the food and culture, not on the mundane details of getting cash and navigating public transportation.
Save Time and Money
The Seoul Survival Guide has been mercilessly edited to just 40 pages of useful, relevant information. It's easily read in an airport terminal, and compact enough to carry with you throughout your trip.
Follow this book's money-saving tips and the book will pay for itself within your first 12 hours in Seoul.
Learn what you should do before leaving the airport; where and when to exchange money; which mode of transportation is best; where to eat and shop; how to get online. Each section includes useful words and phrases, both romanized (so you can say them yourself) and written in Korean (so that you can point to them). If you have a spare hour or two, you can even learn to read Hangul, the Korean alphabet.
What do typical travel books get wrong?
Typical travel books not only accumulate errors, but are also forced to omit many topics that are essential, but simply can't be covered because they are rapidly evolving.
By way of example, the best Seoul guide book available today, Seoul Selection Guides: SEOUL (which I own and recommend), was last updated in June 2011.
What's changed since then? Oh, just a few things:
- Haggling is on its way out at the traditional markets at Namdaemun. Many vendors now display fixed prices, in contradiction of practically every tour book ever written about Seoul. You can still try to bargain, especially if you're buying multiple items, just don't be surprised if you're turned away.
- Seatbelts are now required for everyone on the road, even in taxis and airport buses.
- Tough, new smoking laws are now in effect and more are coming soon. Public drinking laws are changing as well.
- Seoul bus and subway fares have increased by 150 won, the first fare hike in five years. (Still cheap though: 1050 won, less than $1!)
- Taxi fares have increased as well, but are also still relatively cheap (base fare: 3000 won), and taxis are plentiful compared to other world cities.
- The new, speedy (and driverless!) Shin (New) Bundang Line (aka DX line) opened in October 2011 (and was extended south into Suwon in 2016), and as a result, the subway exits at Gangnam Station (one of the most popular in the city) and at Yangjae Station have been renumbered. Subway exits are major landmarks, so all directions involving those stations must now be updated.
- The Lotte Mall at Gimpo Airport has opened, as well as the new IFC Mall at Yeouido Station and the Lotte World Mall in Jamsil.
- Korea's mobile carriers have discontinued 2G CDMA service as part of their 4G LTE rollout. This has implications for international roaming and prepaid phones. For example, travelers who use CDMA networks at home (e.g. Sprint and Verizon in the U.S.) wishing to roam in Korea now need phones that support UMTS Band I (2100MHz).
- Seoul is transitioning to U.S.-style street addresses and postal codes. (Old-style addresses include borough, neighborhood, building group name/number, building number, unit number, and old-style 6-digit postal codes are being replaced by 5-digit versions.)
- The (Old) Bundang Line has been extended south to Suwon and north to Wangshimni in Northern Seoul.
- The Suin Line (Suwon-Incheon) has opened and has been extended, now providing service from Oido (Ansan/Siheung, at end of Line 4) to Incheon.
- Line 7 has been extended to Bupyeong in Incheon, an area made somewhat famous by the popular 2001 romantic comedy, My Sassy Girl (엽기적인 그녀).
- As always, numerous shops, restaurants, etc. have closed and new ones have opened in their place, and buildings have been constructed and torn down. This can also mean changes to directions.
Since this book and others like it must remain relevant for several years, they cannot fully cover:
- Limited-time and seasonal promotions, like Visit Korea Year, the Korea Grand Sale, and the Hallyu Express train tour.
- Restoration work on Sungnyemun, a.k.a. Namdaemun (the ancient Great South Gate of Seoul, constructed in 1398 but destroyed by arson in 2008), completed in 2013.
- Other new rail lines and line extensions scheduled to open in the near future. (Side note: I have no idea why Seoul tour books attempt to include subway maps. Just get on any subway train and gaze in wonder at the sheer number of stickers applied to the subway map and you'll understand how often it changes. Just download a subway app!)
- Pop culture and trends.
To bridge this gap, I created the Seoul Survival Guide. It will always include the very latest information, updated at least twice a year. However, my book does not contain detailed information on where to go and what to do.
Thus, I recommend buying both books (and so does Amazon, if you look under "Frequently Bought Together").
- Before You Go
- General Tips
- Safety & Emergencies
- Pronunciation Tips
- Useful Words & Phrases
- Arrival / Customs
- Internet Access
- T-Money Prepaid Payment Cards
- Food & Dining
- Shopping Tips
- Sightseeing Tips
- Appendix A: Hangul, the Korean Writing System
- Appendix B: Essential Mobile Apps
- Appendix C: Useful Phone Numbers & Links
- Questions & Feedback