- Day 1: Arriving in Korea
- Day 2: Sim Cards & Wifi
- Day 3: The Subway System in Korea
- Day 4: Restrooms & Recycling
- Day 5: Doing Laundry in Korea
- Day 6: Money Exchanges and ATMs
- Day 7: Ordering Food in a Korean Restaurant
Day 1: Arriving in Korea
My name is Cindy Nguyen and this is the start of a series based on the first week of living in Seoul. My experience will be different from many of you that will be traveling to Seoul as I’ll be staying in Seoul for three months. This article is for those that are traveling to Seoul for the very first time. But whether you’re staying for an extended amount of time or just a couple of months, this guide will help cover aspects of transitioning into the Korean lifestyle and the best places to visit in Seoul.
Day 1 consists of flying into Incheon International Airport, one of the largest and busiest airports in the world. It’s known for its fast immigration and baggage claim, and the time from leaving the plane to getting outside the gate terminal took less than 30 minutes. And in an alternate reality where I could afford to pay first class, I would have been out of the airport in less than 10 minutes.
The first thing you should do as you get out of the gate is head to the nearest bank/money exchange center. There are a couple inside the airport, usually marked by currency symbols. It’s safe to exchange around 100,000 won at the airport for transit/emergency payments until you get a little more settled in and find a place with a better exchange rate.
You have three options for getting to Seoul from Incheon Airport:
1. Take the subway
Korea has a great metro system and taking the subway (express) from Incheon International Airport to Seoul Station (Center of Seoul) will take about an hour and a half. It’s the cheapest option (3,000 won), however, if you’re arriving alone and have heavy luggage, it’ll be hard to carry it down to the subway station and through the many escalators and stairs. “Subway Korea” by Malang is a helpful metro map application available for both Android and iOS that will help you figure out where to transfer and where to get off to where you want to go.
2. Take the bus
Right outside the airport, there are buses that take you to Seoul. You can pick between the standard bus (9,000 won) or the deluxe bus (15,000). Tickets need to be purchased at the ticket counter outside or purchase your bus ticket from a bus attendant standing near the bus stops (cash only). Bus attendants will help you load your luggage onto the bus. The bus ride will take 45 minutes. However, on a busy day with traffic, it could take up to an hour and a half.
3. Take a taxi
A standard taxi will cost around 60,000 won. A deluxe taxi (black taxi) will cost 100,000 won. The deluxe taxi will offer better customer service. This option is best when you’re alone and have a lot of luggage since it’ll take you directly to your destination. You can book one at the many transit booths at Incheon Airport or book an international taxi online before your arrival at www.intltaxi.co.kr.
Personally, I took a taxi because I arrived alone and had two large suitcases. I booked an international taxi online before my arrival and checked in at the booth at the airport. Then, my driver came to meet me and helped me with my bags. The cost came out to around 55,000 won (cost depending on how far your destination is from the airport) and you can use a VISA or Mastercard credit card to pay if you don’t have much won on you.
Even if you decide not to take the subway, you’ll need to get a metro card. The Korean metro card is called T-Money and can be bought at charge machines (below) in many subway stations (3,000 won) or at a convenience store (4,000 won). You can then load your card at one of the charge machines. Incheon Airport has a convenience store you can buy and charge the card at, also. Note that the charging machines only take cash.
Guesthouses in Seoul
Before traveling to Seoul you need to think about where you will stay once you land. We did a full article on the things to know before traveling to Korea so make sure to check it out as well. Once you make it to Seoul, it’s time to get to your location whether it’s a guesthouse, hotel, or a place you’ve already booked. I definitely recommend booking a place to stay beforehand even if it’s only for a few days while you go hunting for a more permanent place.
Guesthouses are a good option for short stays and can go as low as 18,000/night and as high as 50,000/per night depending on the room size and accommodations. On the cheaper side, you’ll most likely be sharing the room with 3+ people. Another perk of booking a place before you arrive is that the owners will know you’re coming and can meet you at the station or give you directions. It’s also a good place to socialize with other travelers that visit Korea. A google search for “guesthouse” along with where you hope to stay such as “Hongdae”, “Ewha” or “Sinchon” will give you many options and reviews for great guesthouses.
I live in a goshiwon, which is a small, compact room often used by students and new graduates. Don’t let the photos below fool you, the single rooms are pretty small. It’s a cheap alternative to an apartment if you don’t need a lot of space. The cost runs around 200,000-500,000 won a month. You have options of choosing a room with a bathroom + shower for a more expensive price and a room with a shared bathroom for a cheaper price. Goshipages is a good online source for foreigners to check out different goshiwons and their accommodations but it will be very helpful to have a Korean friend make the reservation for you so nothing gets lost in translation.
A goshiwon usually also provides free rice, ramen, and kimchi along with laundry detergent. There are mostly single rooms but some do have the option to get a two-person room. There is also the option of female-only places. If you’re staying in Seoul for a month or longer and are okay with compact spaces, I’d definitely recommend it.
Airbnb is a good option for staying with locals or finding your own apartment to stay at for any amount of time. If you’re up for socializing and looking for a place to crash for a few days, the Couchsurfing community in Seoul is extremely welcoming.
Hotels/Motels in Seoul
Those that are traveling to Seoul for the first time and can afford it should consider staying at a hotel, which runs anywhere from 80,000 won per night to 400,000+ a night. Motels can run as low as 30,000 won.
Whichever option you decide, you’ll need to get the directions from the closest subway station to where you’ll be staying. The directions should include the exit you’ll need to take and where to go after you get out of the station. Yellow signs in the subway station indicate an exit and they’re numbered 1 to however many exits there are.
Once you get to your room, it’s best to get settled and breathe it all in. When I arrived after my 14-hour flight, I was severely jet-lagged and slept through the afternoon and night. Don’t be afraid to sleep off the jet-lag, it’ll take a few days to wear off but try to adjust your sleep schedule to Seoul time. You’ll need the energy for tomorrow’s adventure.
Day 2: Sim Cards & Wifi
Before you’re ready to take Seoul by storm, there are a couple of essentials we have to talk about. I didn’t realize how many little things I needed to take care of just to get situated. First off, I’m going to talk about getting a sim card or a prepaid Korean number.
If you’re traveling to Seoul for an extended amount of time, you’ll probably want to get a Korean phone number and a good amount of data.
When you buy a prepaid sim card, you’re purchasing a plan with a limited amount of minutes and data. I bought my sim card from EG http://egsimcard.co.kr/ mostly because of the convenience. They have an option of ordering the prepaid sim card online and then picking it up whenever you arrive between the gates at Incheon Airport. If you don’t want to buy online, you can also buy it right at the airport at any of the collection areas. It’s also easy to recharge your minutes or data online or through a mobile app. It also helps that EG Facebook is foreigner-friendly so you can ask questions in English and get a reply within a couple of hours.
You will Need Data When Traveling to Seoul
Will you need data? For me, the answer was yes. If you’re new to Seoul or you’re directionally challenged like me, you’ll get lost. Data will be your lifesaver in those places that don’t provide WiFi (see below). And it’s a safety net for when you’re supposed to be meeting up with a friend and can’t get WiFi. Or when you need to quickly Google Translate something. Trust me, you’ll be happy you signed up for the extra gigs in those emergency situations. But if you’re pretty certain you can find WiFi whenever you need it and your Korean is pretty good, then it may not be worth it!
The basic plan goes for around 30,000 won which includes 1-gig of data and 15,000 won voice call balance (that goes for 264/minute). There is also a 20,000 plan that only includes voice balance and no data.
Another way to do it is to walk into a convenience store or cellular provider shop (SK, KT, etc) and buy a prepaid sim card there. Your best bet would be in a tourist-heavy area (or the airport) to ensure that the shop is foreigner-friendly or to go with a Korean friend. You can just go back to the store to recharge your service or do it online.
WiFi in Seoul
WiFi is a necessity and most of the time, Seoul has got you covered. When you’re out and about, look out for the “Seoul WiFi” network, which is free WiFi set up by the government. In the last couple of years, Korea has been working to get free WiFi all over Seoul. In fact, the government claims that by 2017, there will be free WiFi everywhere in Seoul.
While it has gotten better, as of now, I’ve only been able to get free WiFi 60% of the time. Often, your prepaid sim card will come with free access to Olleh/LG/UPlus WiFi around Seoul, but it still doesn’t cover every area. A lot of my “free” wifi comes from an EG sim card providing me with Olleh WiFi.
Here are some tips on places to get WiFi in Seoul!
- Populated Areas – If you’re in Gangnam, Hongdae, Myeongdong, Sinchon, or any of the other populated
- Coffee Shops – If you’re going to a coffee shop just for the internet, make sure to ask if they have WiFi before you buy anything because unfortunately, not all shops provide WiFi. If the shop has WiFi, the password will either be posted near the cash register or on your receipt.
- PC Bangs – Internet rooms are all over Seoul and can be a lifesaver if you’re in need of WiFi. There is an hourly charge that goes from 400 won to 1500 won depending on the PC Bang. They’re usually filled with gamers.
- Subways – Unlike in other countries where going underground means cutting ties with the rest of the world, the WiFi connection on the Seoul subways are spectacular. Often, you can find free WiFi or Olleh connections on the subway or in the boarding areas. Data works on the subway, too.
- Fast Food Restaurants/Food Chains – Small restaurants will probably not provide WiFi but Lotteria, Dunkin Donuts, Burger King, etc will provide you with free WiFi in their establishments.
- Tourist-Friendly Places/Tourist Attractions – Tourist Attractions are more likely to provide free WiFi, such as museums, shows,
- IPtime – If you check out the available networks on your phone as much as I do, you’ll see that iptime often shows up wherever you go. I use iptime as my primary source of the internet where I live as it’s more stable than my landlord’s wifi! You can connect to iptime and iptime5G where it’s available but in many areas, it’s restricted.
- Olleh – http://first.wifi.olleh.com/en/index_new.html You can sign up for Olleh separately (which is available in a wide variety of areas in Seoul) which goes for around 3,000 won a day.
- If you’re on an android phone, this mobile app provides a map of free hotspots in Seoul. It works offline!
- WiFi Egg / Pocket WiFi – If you need internet wherever you go, then you might need to go for a paid service: Pocket WiFi, WiFi-Korea, or Olleh’s egg. They usually have a deposit and charge you by the day or month.
- That’s it for WiFi and sim cards! Get that settled and you’re well on your way to getting situated in Seoul.
Day 3: The Subway System in Korea
Traveling to Seoul is easy and getting around Seoul is actually a lot easier. The Seoul Metro System is one of the most efficient transit systems in the world. It’s also one of the cleanest. It might look complicated at first, but with a few quick tips and resources, you’ll be transferring like a pro in no time.
First things first, you need a subway card. I’m going to cover three types of cards: the single-journey ticket, T-Money card, and Korean Smart pass.
The Single-Journey Ticket
This card is best if you just need to get from station A to station B. It’ll ensure you only pay the exact charge of getting from A to B. The usual price for one ride is 1,250 but when you buy a single journey ticket, it will charge you an extra 500 won. You’ll scan it at the gate when you get in and then when you get out. Then, when you arrive at your destination, simply slip the card back into a single-journey machine and it’ll return your 500 won. You’ll scan your single-journey card just as you scan your T-Money card (detailed below).
We sort of covered getting a regular T-Money card on Day 1 but to recap, a T-Money card is a rechargeable card that you need to scan every time you pass through the gates. For one ride, you’ll be scanning it twice, to get on from a station and then off to a station.
You can buy a T-Money card for around 3,000 won at one of these nifty machines that can be found at most stations. The machines have an English option.
The first time you scan your card, it’ll charge 1,250 won. The second charge depends on how far you’ve traveled. Usually, the second scan won’t charge you anything but if you’ve made many transfers and gone far enough, you might see an extra 100 or 200 won charge.
After getting a card, you need to load it at one of the charging stations (pictured above). You can charge 1,000 won or 2,000 won or 5,000 won or even 20,000 won or more at a time.
Another way to get one is at most convenience stores for 4,000 won. You can choose your card design if you buy it at a store. The most foreigner-friendly place to get one is the airport, as they’ll most likely speak English.
Note: Your T-Money card can also be used on buses and in convenience stores!
Note: If you see an error when you scan your card, you most likely do not have enough won in your card and will have to recharge.
Korea Smart Card (Commuter Pass)
If you’re like me and you plan on using the Subway a lot (twice or more a day), then the Korean Smart Pass will probably be your best option. This card gives you 60 rides for a total of 55,000 won for a span of 30 days. That breaks down to 2 rides a day if you divide it evenly. You’ll be saving around 20,000 won and if you use up your rides before the 30 days are over, you can just reload the card for an additional 30 days.
To get it, go into an informational center at a station and ask for “Jung-gi Seung-cha-kwon” (정기 승차권). The actual card costs 2,500 won. After getting the card, go to a charging station, just as you would for a T-Money card. Charging a commuter pass is the same as charging a T-Money card except you’ll be charging 55,000 won each time (must be in cash). If you want more information, visit the official website.
Note: The pass only works for the subway system (so no buses or in convenience stores) and if you’ll be leaving Seoul for another city, you can’t use it. But if you’re commuting in Seoul, this will definitely save you some won.
So now that you’ve got your transit card, let’s get to figuring out the system.
Seoul Subway System
It might look intimidating at first glance but give me a second and we’ll have you feeling confident about getting you anywhere you need to be.
The subway system is categorized by lines. For example, the green line is Line 2 and the purple line is Line 5. You’ll often hear/see the lines referenced by their color and their number. On these lines are stations. The first thing you should figure out is what station is closest to where you’re staying and what line it’s on. So every time you go home, you know exactly what line you have to get on.
https://www.seoulmetro.co.kr/station/eng/linemap.action is a good online resource to search stations and view all the lines. It also tells you the distance and fares of your trip.
One of the best things I ever did was download Malang’s Subway Korea app (available for iOS and android). It lets you search stations, pick your starting point, your endpoint, and then tells you what station you have to get off at, where you need to transfer to, how many stations it’ll take, and how long it’ll take. This app is a lifesaver and it’s definitely better than standing around with a poster-sized tourist map, squinting to find your station.
Actually Riding the Subway
Now that you’re on the subway, there are a few things that you might notice. There should be screens that tell you what station the subway is stopping at and what direction the doors will be opening. Pay attention, as there will also be a voice on the intercom repeating what’s on the screens.
There are seats reserved for elders, the disabled, and pregnant mothers toward the ends of the subway carts. These areas are marked by signs. I’ve seen foreigners overlook the sign and take up these seats, which earns them looks from people nearby, especially if there’s an elderly person standing. You don’t want to be that guy.
Like anywhere else in the world, the subway is very crowded at rush hour. In Seoul, that’s around 7 pm when everyone is getting off work. Be prepared to be squished and pushed and forget all about personal space.
That’s it! Now you’re equipped to handle Seoul’s subway system. If you get lost and end up at the wrong station, don’t panic. Just figure out what line you’re on and what station, plug it into the app and you’ll be home in no time.
Note: If you ever have a card problem or some kind of subway problem, there are information centers located in every subway station. You might have to play little charades if they don’t speak English but they’re there to help so don’t hesitate to go in and ask!
Day 4: Restrooms & Recycling
If you’re living in Seoul, you can’t avoid recycling. It’s a part of the Korean lifestyle and the sooner you get adjusted to the system, the less stressful it’s going to be. Today, I’m giving you a crash course on Korean restrooms and recycling, two essential guides to your new Korean lifestyle!
If you can’t read Korean, you might not notice the signs in bathrooms that tell you not to throw the toilet paper in the toilet. Coming from the United States, where it’s common knowledge to throw any toilet paper into the toilet, I was shocked and confused. In Seoul, a lot of buildings have very weak plumbing systems, and flushing the toilet paper would likely cause major clogging and plumbing problems. No one’s denying it’s unsanitary but you definitely don’t want to be the poor sap that clogs the toilet. So, just throw your used toilet paper in the trash can and be on your way.
Toilets vs. Squat Toilets
If you’re not familiar with squat toilets, you’ll be surprised to see so many in Seoul. While normal sit-down toilets still dominate the public restrooms, many have a good ratio of squat toilets. And just as many people use both. If you feel uncomfortable using one, the good news is that there is almost always a toilet available in places where there are squat toilets (from what I’ve seen). But, a sit-down toilet might not always be available in smaller/older buildings.
Soap on a Stick
Something I found strange when I got to Seoul was the soap on a stick. Many times in public restrooms, you’ll see these babies in the place of the usual soap push dispensers. Everyone uses these and even though people say soap can’t get dirty, I was wary of using it at first. But “when in Rome”, right?
Koreans are serious about recycling. Most likely, no matter where you’re throwing trash, you’ll have to separate it. At my goshiwon, we separate into two categories: plastics/recyclables and then waste. But, recycling in Korea can get as complicated as separating your food waste, paper, plastic, glass, cans depending on where you’re staying. If you’re at a cafe or in a restaurant, you’ll usually be separating plastic, food waste (for restaurants), liquid waste (for cafes), and then the rest (most likely paper). There are often English words or illustrations to tell you where to put what. If there aren’t and you can’t read Hangul, just watch someone and do what they do!
If you’re in the subway station, there’s most likely a trashcan nearby but you’ll have to be on the lookout. They usually separate plastics and paper.
When I stayed at an apartment complex on my last trip to Seoul, we had to separate our food waste into bags that are specific to our district as well as separate our paper, plastic, etc. It was a hassle but after a while, you get used to it and you definitely don’t want the locals side-eyeing you for being lazy.
If you’re staying at a guesthouse or goshiwon or somewhere foreigner-friendly, it’ll be less complicated as everything will be probably be explained by the owner/landlord in English.
More permanent living spaces like neighborhoods or apartment buildings are more strict and might have people monitoring the recycling system. For more details on what is considered recyclable and specifics on types of bags to use, visit this website.
What to do with your trash on the street?
Something you’ll quickly notice that there is a huge lack of trash cans on the streets and in subway systems. But if you keep walking, sooner or later you’ll see either huge bags of trash on the ground or a recycling box where you can separate your plastic and waste trash. People usually just drop their finished coffee cups into the random piles/bags and go on their way.
I know it’s strange and confusing at first but you’ll get a hang of it. Recycling in Seoul is tough but it’s important and necessary, so consider it doing your part in the community and separate your plastics!
Day 5: Doing Laundry in Korea
After a week or two in Seoul, you might find yourself looking for clean clothes. While Korean washing machines look complicated, they’re actually pretty easy to get a hang of once you know what the buttons mean. There are many different types of washing machines in Korea but the basic settings are the same.
Here are some photos of the various controls you might see.
The first time I came face to face with a Korean washing machine, it was intimidating. In the US, all the washing machines I’ve used only had three or four knobs let alone several buttons. Korean washing machines often have both. It will be wise to study how washing machines work before traveling to Seoul.
The good news is, if you’re staying at a goshiwon, guesthouse or somewhere with a shared washing machine, most of the settings will already be set where you want them. Some might even have translations taped onto the machine depending on the number of foreigners. It doesn’t hurt to check the options though and you can do so by making sure the light shows up next to the options you want.
Here is a quick run-down of the common options on a Korean washing machine you might come across.
전원 (jeon-won) – on/off
동작 (dong-jak) – start
일시정지 (il-shi-jung-ji) – pause
물높이 (mul-nop-ee) – water level
강/고 (kang/goh) – strong/high
중 (joong)- medium
약/저 (yak/jeo) – low
급수 (geub-su) – water supply
세탁도 (seh-tak-doh) – temperature
온수 (ohn-soo) – hot water
냉수 (naeng-soo) – cold water
울 – wool
불림 – soak
세탁 – wash
헹굼 – rinse
Here are the steps I usually go by, which can be common/different from yours depending on your machine.
1. Pull out the detergent tray.
2. Put in one cap of detergent and close the tray.
3. Load clothes and close the lid of the machine.
4. Click the “on/off” button.
5. Click the ” water level” button until the light lands where you want it, depending on the size of your load.
6. Click the “course” button until it lands on basic or other, depending on your type of load.
7. Click the “start” button.
My washing machine has one tray for detergent and fabric softener would be put in when it comes to that part in the cycle. Many washing machines have more than one tray for fabric softener if you choose to use it.
The majority of Koreans hang their clothes instead of drying them. If you’re living in a shared space, there will be a hanging area. You’ll have to wait to wash your clothes when there’s space to hang your clothes up. If you need to buy a metal clothes rack. If you’re in Seoul in the summer, you shouldn’t have to wait too long for them to dry as it gets pretty hot outside.
In my goshiwon, we have a laundry basket for people to move hanging laundry that is done drying to make room for newly washed clothes.
Day 6: Money Exchanges and ATMs
Whether you’re in Seoul for a job, visit, or extended trip, you’ll need to deal with money. Today’s guide is all about money and where you can exchange, withdraw, or deposit it.
How to Exchange Money in Seoul
The first place you’ll see a money exchange booth or shop is the airport. They’ll always be labeled by money signs for different currencies such as the American $ dollar sign. There should also be a sign that tells you the exchange rate with currency name and how much Korean won they’ll exchange for that currency. These shops are scattered all around Seoul, mostly in tourist areas such as Myeongdong, Hongdae, Ewha, Gangnam, Dongdaemun, etc. Personally, I’ve seen the best rates in Myeongdong.
The rule of thumb is not to exchange at the first shop you see. Go around and check out the different rates because some shops have better rates. Make sure to download an application to check the current exchange rate in your home country.
All you have to do is walk in, hand the store owner the currency you want to exchange for Korean won. He or she will put the bills through a counter and show you how much Korean won they will give you. If you’re good with it, simply nod and they’ll give you the won along with a receipt of your exchange. That’s it!
Note: I noticed that the exchange rate on the signs was only exactly honored when I used $100 bills (for American currency). When I used $50 or $20 dollar bills, even if they added up to 100, the shop usually gave me slightly less for my dollar.
Using an ATM
You can find ATMs at banks, subway stations, and on the street. The busier the area, the more ATMs there will be. If you’re in a major station where many tourists go or at a university with many foreign students, the ATM will have an ENGLISH button you can press.
Many Korean ATMs will be able to do withdraws for foreign cards. The fees for foreign cards will be higher, possibly around 3,000 won and up.
They also give you the option of viewing your balance, withdrawing, transferring, and depositing. If you use an ATM with English options, then just follow the directions to complete the process you want.
If the ATM doesn’t include English options, here are translated vocabulary to help you decipher.
Confirm – 확인 (hwak-in)
Cancel – 취소 (chae-soh)
Close – 닫기 (dad-gi)
Balance Inquiry – 예금조회 (ek-geum-jo-hee)
Transfer – 이체 (ee-chae)
Withdraw – 출금 (chool-geum)
Deposit – 입금 (eeb-geum)
Passbook Update – 통장정리 (tong-jang-jung-li)
Cash – 현금 (hyun-geum)
Check – 표 (pyo)
Passcode / Pin – 비밀번호 (pi-mil-beon-ho)
You must put in your check card before anything.
– Withdrawing will consist of you first putting in your pin, then the amount to withdraw, and then confirming. You’ll receive the amount in 10,000 won bills.
– Depositing can be done by putting in your pin, choosing between a check or cash, putting your money into the slot, and closing it. Your money will then be counted and shown on the machine.
If you’re using a Korean bank account, you’ll want to use an ATM owned by your bank to avoid any fees. If you have to, you can use another ATM but there will be a fee (my last fee was 1,300 won).
Day 7: Ordering Food in a Korean Restaurant
Ordering in a Korean restaurant as a foreigner is understandably overwhelming but there are a few steps that’ll help you ease into the process. Whether you’re ordering at a more traditional Korean restaurant, a barbecue joint, or a western-style restaurant, these tips below will make ordering a breeze.
Going into a Restaurant
When you go into a Korean restaurant, one of two things could happen. They will gesture you towards the seating area and you can just sit down where you want to sit. In most family-owned, traditional Korean restaurants, you can just walk in and sit anywhere. In larger more expensive restaurants in Seoul, the host will seat you.
The second scenario is being greeted by workers who will ask you how many people are in your group which sounds like 몇 분이세요? (Myeot-bun-ee-seyo?). You can answer using your fingers or using the Korean number system.
one person = 한명(han-myung)
two people = 두명 (du-myung)
three people = 세명 (seh-myung)
four people = 네명 (neh-myung)
five people = 다섯명 (da-seot-myung)
six people = 여섯명 (yeo-seot-myung)
seven people = 일곱명 (il-gob-myung)
eight people = 여덟명(yeo-deob-myung)
nine people = 아홉명 (ah-hob-myung)
ten people = 열명 (yeol-myung)
Many restaurant workers can understand English numbers also. In addition, most Korean restaurants will sell Korean beer and Korean soju and not much else in terms of alcohol.
Korean restaurants often have “self-service” where you get up and get your own water, kimchi, etc. Take a look around the restaurant and you’ll see a self-service area or the waiter will let you know.
If your utensils aren’t on the desk, they will often times be on a shelf on the side of the table. In addition, they might be in a wooden box on the table. Moreover, they might also be self-service and you’ll have to get up to get your chopsticks, spoons, and napkins.
General Terms when Traveling to Seoul
These will come in handy when you want to ask for certain foods or ask the waiter for anything.
Seaweed – 김 (kim)
Rice – 밥 (bab)
Meat – 고기(go-gi)
Noodle – 수구 (su-gu)
Water – 물 (mul)
What is this? – 이거 뭐예요? (ee-geo mwo-ye-yo)?
Excuse me! – 저기요! (jeo-gi-yo!)
Delicious/Tasty – 맛있어요 (mas-shi-seo-yo)
Yes – 네 (neh)
No – 아니요 (a-ni-yo)
If there is a menu, you can point at what you want and say 이거 주세요 (ee-geo-ju-seyo) which means “Please give me this?” Just say what you want with the phrase “주세요 (ju-seyo)” which means “Please give me ____.” For example 밥 주세요 (bab ju-seyo) is “Please give me rice.”
To order an amount of something, use the Korean numbering system.
Please give me one ____. = ____ 한개 주세요. (____ han-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me two ____. = ____ 두개 주세요. (____ du-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me three ____. = ____ 세개주세요. (____ seh-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me four ____. = ____ 네개 주세요. (____ neh-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me five ____. = ____ 다섯개 주세요. (____ da-seot-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me six ____. = ____ 여섯개주세요. (____ yeo-seot-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me seven ____. = ____ 일곱개 주세요. (____ il-gob-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me eight ____. = ____ 여덟개 주세요. (____ yeo-deob-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me nine ____. = ____ 아홉개주세요. (____ ah-hob-gae ju-seyo)
Please give me ten ____. = ____ 열개주세요. (____ yeol-gae ju-seyo)
For example, “Please give me five bibimbap orders” is 비빔밥 다섯개 주세요 (bi-bim-bap da-seot-gae ju-seyo).
포장 (po-jang) means take-out.
Do you do take-out? – 포장 돼요? (po-jang dwae-yo?)
Can I get this to-go? – 포장해 주세요! (po-jang-hae-ju-seyo!)
Tips / Taxes
When traveling to Seoul remember that there are no leaving tips in Korea. The taxes are already added so the price you see on the menu will be the price you pay at the end of your meal.
Asking for the Check
“Check please” – 계산서주세요 (gye-san-seo-ju-seyo)
Leaving the Restaurant
As you leave the restaurant, you can say thank you or 감사합니다 (kam-sa-ham-ni-da).
Now that you know the basics of ordering food in a restaurant, go out and enjoy some Korean delicacies. Now you all that you need to know for your first week in Seoul. Hope this was helpful!