I am a big supporter of the US military. The men and women in uniform are providing a service which I really appreciate. that being said, there are always a few bad apples that spoil the whole bunch.
For example, the Hongdae area is pretty much a bad place to go if you look western and don't have an ID showing that you are from someplace other than America. in Hongdae, a GI stabbed a local man. I have heard the Korean guy picked the fight and had a weapon too, but there have been contradicting stories. No matter what, you know whose side the locals are on.
To make matters simple, there are a lot of places in Korea where there are signs posted that say no GIs. You will not change minds in Korea, it is best just to go elsewhere and save yourself the hassles you will go through. If you want to try it though, be expected to show ID everywhere you go, get bad service, have people throw looks like they want to hurt you at you and the people you are with, and fully expect the Yankee go Home phrase to be used a lot.
This holds true for areas other than Hongdae too. If you see the sign, do yourself a favor and just go the opposite direction.
One of the first things every new person to Korea notices is that there are roughly 10 million cars in and around the general Seoul area.
Many of the cars are taxis, and they need drivers to drive them.
Most of them are crazy.
Or at least drive like it; traffic rules in Seoul are lax and not really enforced, giving them free reign.
Drivers will run red lights, blast through crowded crosswalks, drive in oncoming lanes, and try to rip you off if they think you're either drunk or just don't know where you're going. And that's in the daytime, when they're sober...
The cause of many accidents, and the bane of motorcyclists and urban bike riders.
Although entertaining if they hit another taxi, as the drivers will physically fight about who's fault the accident was.
Be sure to wear your seatbelt.
Seoul is a pretty dirty city.
There are very few garbage cans along sidewalks, so people just litter.
You will see piles of garbage in the street 3 or 4 or 5 feet high, especially after holidays.
This place is heaven if you are a rat.
They mostly come out at night, but are around in the daytime, too.
Be prepared: you will see rat pancakes quite often, flattened by cars in the street.
Or on the sidewalk, as cars drive there too.
If you go to any of the name hotels, especially those in the Kangnam, Yoksam areas you will pay 2-3 times what you should. Worst among these is the Renaisance Hotel, part of the Mariott chain. We expect some amenities when we pay 200-300 for a room, right? The Seoul Renaisance offers the usual toothbrush, $5.00, a bottle of water $5.00, a candy bar $5.00, a (very) small can of nuts $11.50 and so on through the rest of what a hotel of this caliber should provide for no charge. Then to make matters worse, they have negotiated (probably through bribes, since Korea runs on bribery, graft and corruption) with the officials to put a VAT of 10% on the already outrageous prices. We walked across the street, bought the water for 60 cents, the candy bar (snickers) for .50, the coke, wife drinks pepsi for .60. unfortunately, I could not find the replacement can of nuts so had to fork over $12.10 for the normally 3 buck can of nuts. Be warned, no where else in Korea is there a VAT. At no other hotel in Korea have I experienced such outright theft. Do not even consider the breakfast at $24.50. It is worth 5 at the most. Instead, walk down the street two blocks and there is a sandwich shop specializing in garden sandwiches. Yes, the rooms were clean, neat and orderly, but hardly worth 1/3 the price. Instead you should cross the Hanam bridge or the Banpo bridge where you can find respectable hotels for $30-50 a night that provide free juices, free water, clean beds and don't try to rip you off.
If you are looking to visit a peaceful city, keep looking, and go elsewhere.
With roughly 20 million people in and around Seoul, there is constant noise and bustle around the clock. Everything from traffic, roadwork, drunk asses in the street at 4am, to the constant sound of construction.
The only time there isn't noise in the city is during Chuseok, when almost everyone heads to their family graves in the country. Then the city is so quiet it's eerie...
1330 Korea Travel Phone
When you need English assistance or travel information, just dial 1330, and a bilingual operator will offer you detailed tourism information. For assistance in English or travel information, just dial 1330 and a bilingual operator will attend to your requirements. To find out more details about specific areas, dial the area code before 1330.
Seoul Help Center for foreigners www.shcseoul.go.kr
Korean yellowpages for foreigners www.yellowpagews.co.kr
KNTO website for overseas visitors www.tour2korea.com
Lost & found www.lost114.com
Korean Information Service www.kois.go.kr
KNTO Tourist Information Centre
Visitors can drop by the Korea Tourism Organization office in Seoul to obtain information as well as purchase tour packages and tickets.
10 Da-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul
Subway line 1 Jonggak stn exit 5
Most "Hotels" or "Motels" wont let you check in till a certain time. So if you show up at 8 am youll be charged for the morning and the night. It usually goes by around a 12 hr period, hence the love motels and such. So tabs can add up pretty quick.
Foreigners have increasingly become victims of flash mob attacks by gangs of young adult Korean males. While these attacks can happen and do happen in various parts of Seoul, they're most common in areas with active nightlife such as Hongdae, Cheonho, and Gangnam, as well as in business districts where foreign victims are easier for Korean gangs to find. The criminals will often use broken bottles and other improvised weapons to maximize the amount of injury to the victims. If you report the crime to the police, as a foreigner you risk being arrested and fined for being involved in violence.
Someone has written about Korean GIRL (esp) stalkers for foreign WHITE guys (esp white, by the way, why does it has to be WHITE esp, even as a korean girl myself, never could understand that..) It was written that if the WHITE-FOREIGN GUY is just OK-LOOKING( hah. only ok looking? only that?), they can always easily have a korean stalker and all that. oh.. and somewhere else I even read, a foreign guy (god, white guy again!) telling, because so many girls are staring at them while on the tube, they always have to wear sun glasses! hah!!!!
as a local korean girl, I tell you what.
I wouldn't dare to say there is no such a thing here, because stalkers are everywhere in the world just as roses, dogs, and supermarkets are everywhere. However, I must say that there are some, but very few foreign guys who think too much of themselves, and think they are so much admirable and charming that if they do just little to a girl, the girl would definitely fall in love with them. I 've met one or two already, and that was pretty harsh to feel ok to work with them.
so .. what danger am I talking about?
it's Over-Generalization, it's all up to you whether to believe all those stories about Korean girls, and all that. but then, you will be losing a great chance to really get to know the local people, and learn the culture and etc. This is just like (I'm sorry though) SOME Asian men thinking about ALL white girls something like.. sex-starved, and easy to sleep with..
hmm.. How does it sound to you? sounds very rational???
At a day at Lotte World, the big indoor theme park in Seoul, our two children were pestered constantly during the day – for the first and only time in Korea – a phenomena we thought we had safely left behind in China. I would have hoped that even Korean teenagers might realise that even a saint is going to get irritated after three hours of incessant (and I do genuinely mean incessant – it was several times every minute) pointing, staring and yells of “Hello! Where are you from!”. My two children are fairly used to this kind of attention, but this is the first time we have experienced sour reactions simply because we ignore it. No we are not being rude, it’s just that you are the thousandth person to bellow or squawk at us today.
If you have children that do not look Korean or north Asian, you might want to give the theme parks a miss, especially at the weekends or on public holidays or even on days near public holidays. For what it’s worth, we saw an Indian child getting the same kind of treatment. We didn’t experience this attention anywhere else in Seoul at big events or at parks or museums, but I guess that we were unlucky enough to be at a venue where there were large numbers of groups of teenagers and children all out to impress each other.
Before I get hate-mail saying they were all just being friendly – don’t bother. I am aware that many were being friendly – but it is still wearying for 10 and 12 year old children when you have it constantly for hours on end. And, what’s more, a lot of it wasn’t friendly at all: it was shouted at loud volume, accompanied by shrieks of laughter for the benefit of their friends.
When you plan to visit Seoul during summertime (June to August), be prepared for warm and humid weather, plus some rainy days and gloomy sky. This is not a good season to visit Seoul or South Korea in my opinion, but I had to be here for a scheduled meeting during July 2002. The best time to visit Seoul is during autumn (September to November) when the weather is clear, cool and dry (see photos).
The drive from Seoul to the DMZ is a heavily defended stretch of road and riverfront. As you get out of Seoul, you will begin to see fencing with barbed wire along with Han River. When you approach the Imjin River you begin to see guard towers, spotlights, and trenches. You will also begin to notice giant blocks of concrete suspended over the road, that can be dropped onto the road to block enemy forces in the event of an attack. Within about 10 miles of the border, you hit security checkpoints that restrict access to the areas around the DMZ. From here to the border, there are few civilians other than those on official tours. Most vehicles north of the checkpoint belong to the military, who are patrolling the world's most heavily defended border.
A temporary mobile phone is a handy item for tourist.
032- 743 4011 or 032- 743 4042 (SK)
032- 743 4018 or 032- 743 4078 (KTF)
032- 743 4001 or 032- 743 4019 (LG)
for airport rental service (not necessary to dial ‘032’ when at the airport)
Although I was really curious to see I'taewon, where there are more foreigners than Koreans living (as the book says), at the end I was pretty upset as I found it a dangerous place. Nothing special happened to me there, but it was very uncomfortable. I would not go there after sunset again.
Most Koreans don't speak English and most of the signboards are in Korean, especially outside Seoul. Communication can be a problem, but the Koreans are now more willing to pick up English.
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