Any time you travel to another country, you're bound to discover that they do some things very differently than you do them back home. While my culture shock wasn't that intense (probably because of all the K-dramas I've watched over the years), there were a few things that surprised me on my trip to Seoul. Here are 5 things to keep in mind before you go! 

1. Public transportation is top-of-the-line.

Seoul has one of the most modern and well connected underground train systems in the world. It's very clean, orderly, easy to get around, safe and affordable. With some help from Google Maps, you can easily make your way to almost anywhere in the city by train and bus. 

Plus, people on trains are very polite and take giving their seat to the elderly, disabled, and pregnant very seriously.  

The entries leading down to the stations are well marked and you'll find shops and food for sale in the halls.  

Subway maps and stops are written and announced in Romanized characters, so it's easy for foreigners to recognize them and type them into apps for directions. 

2. There is free internet almost everywhere.

Getting stuck without internet service on your phone while traveling can be frustrating and scary, but your mind can be at ease while traveling in South Korea because a free wi-fi hotspot is always nearby. 

 The Korean government recently created an initiative to offer 10,000 free public wifi zones around the country. Just look for “Seoul Wifi.” There are no logins or passwords necessary.  

And if that's not available, many shopping centers, cafes, restaurants, and even the subway offer free wi-fi. 

Plus, you'll be well connected at airports and other transportation hubs. 

3. You must press the button to open automatic doors

In the US, most automatic doors have a censor that opens them as soon as you approach, but if you just stand there and wait for what looks like an automatic door to open for you in South Korea, you will look slightly foolish. In order to conserve energy, most automatic doors actually require you to push a small button to open them. 

4. Things often cost about the same as they do in American cities, but taxes and tip are included.  

The exchange rate varies depending on when you travel, and is currently in the dollar's favor, so things are generally cheaper in South Korea for Americans, but not that much cheaper. Don't expect to go on a huge shopping spree and save tons of money, because you are likely to find that prices are somewhat comparable. Where you do save money, though, is that taxes and tips are included in the price. What you see is what you get! And you can even get the taxes you paid back when you report them at the stations around Seoul and in the airport. 

5. Fancy heated toilets and floors, firm beds, free bottled water, and cable TV with channels in English are standard in hotels. 

The traditional Korean method of heating a room through a system under the floor has carried over into modern buildings, and you'll find that many hotel rooms have warm floors that are a pleasure to step onto first thing in the morning! 

I found that hotel room beds were much more firm than what you typically find in America, perhaps because many Korean still sleep on the floor. 


One pleasant surprise is that many toilets in hotels have heated seats and also function as bidets. So comfy and clean!

You'll also notice that hotel cleaning staff restocks your room with fresh water bottles, tea, and other hotel luxuries not always found in America daily. 



What surprised you the most? Are you planning a trip to South Korea? Visit the Korean Tourism Organization to plan your romantic getaway, and for the perfect personalized trip, contact Ryan at at Good Day Tour at gooddaytourusa@gmail.com.