Here is one smart student from Malaysia who has worked as intern since last month at 'The WOMEN's NEWS'.(www.womennews.co.kr) Her name is 'Sarah Lee Say Wah'. After some discussions, we agreed on a few articles for her to work on. The first topic is 'Travel Tips for Foreign Women in South Korea'. As you know, many foreigners come to Korea for various purposes, for example, travel or business. We understand that it’s not always easy for people to adjust themselves to the culture and lifestyle in a foreign country. Since we are already familiar with many things in Korea, we would love to offer some help to foreigners. Alright, let’s read. (From the Editor)
First of all, let me introduce myself. I am an international student from Malaysia who’s undergoing an exchange program in Daejeon University, Korea. Currently I’m doing my winter break internship in 'The WOMEN's NEWS' located in Seoul. I plan to write this article to offer women some useful tips while travelling in South Korea. Men could also find these tips helpful for themselves or to take care of women whom they would be travelling with. I will share some experience of mine while staying in Korea as well. There will also be tips from Lex, my Malaysian friend who’s a South Korea travel blogger. Enjoy reading!
South Korea has always been said as one the safest countries to travel in. Crime rates are low in this country but precautions need to be taken by travelers to avoid the occasional pick-pocketing, handbag snatching, assault and burglary. Also, you have to dress properly to avoid unnecessary stares and don’t be alone outside at night to avoid possibly getting stalked by strangers. There are a number of drunken Korean men outside so be careful not to get in their way.
Don’t keep all of your cash in one place whether in the hotel room or outside. My Singaporean friend’s money used to be stolen from her wallet in Daejeon but luckily she didn’t store all her cash in that wallet. Do not carry too much cash with you all the time too. If you use credit card or Korea’s T-Money card (http://eng.t-money.co.kr/), prepare a small amount of cash in hand just in case certain shops accept only cash. All department stores accept cards anyway.
Remember to safeguard your cards and other personal belongings especially in crowded areas. Anyone can use your cards. My friend used a Korean bank debit card for shopping and he drew a pig’s head on the signature device upon payment, but he got through. Another friend topped it up by saying that some cashiers in Seoul didn’t ask forher signature upon payment using credit card.
In case you experience any sexual harassment or violence, you can call the emergency hotline for women, 1577-1366, which is available in various languages. They offer counseling on legal issues involving women and provide support to victims of sexual harassment and violence.
Tips to travel around easily
It would very useful for you to learn a few commonly-used Korean conversation phrases and if possible, Korean alphabets (http://www.learn-korean.net/learn-korean-classes-viewarticle-5.html). Korean language is used everywhere here so some knowledge on it would come in needy especially when emergencies occur. I took only one day to memorize all Korean alphabets and I could start reading Korean after that, though rather slow at the beginning. A lot of Korean words have the same English pronunciation, for instance, “sweater” in Korean is “스웨터” (s-we-to) and “coffee shop” in Korean is “커피숍” (ko-pi-syob). Interesting, right?
Jot down the contacts (address in Korean and telephone number) of your hotel and the places that you intend to go on a piece of paper. You can show them to the bus or taxi drivers for convenience. You may consider renting a phone from SK Telecom or KTF to make domestic calls for low charges. The phone would come in handy during emergency and you can use it to call number 1330 for free translation service. To make international calls, get an international calling card to save cost. You can easily find one in Itaewon.
If you need some travel assistance, don’t hesitate to visit the Tourist Information Center in the Korea Tourism Organization building (http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/GK/GK_EN_2_7_2_1.jsp). I have visited there a few times to collect free travel brochures and magazines, as well as to participate in their free activities such as hanbok trial and traditional folk games.
[Tips from Lex] If you have a smartphone, use it as your GPS while traveling in Korea as you might be confused by the roads and buildings which look similar. Also, carry with you a simple Korean language book for travelers or a phone with translator application to help you communicate with the Koreans.
One of the first things you have to bring is a universal adapter which converts power to 220V. I had a hard time finding one in Daejeon when I first arrived there, which resulted in me not being able to use my laptop for days.
Also, carry some medicine for menstrual pain, headache, stomach ache, cold and so on. Panadol works wonders for me.
If you often drink 3-in-1 coffee, bring a few packets from home as Korean brand coffee might not be strong enough for you. My family sent me packets of Aik Cheong coffee (http://www.aikcheong.com.my/#) from Malaysia and I gave some to my ASEAN and Korean friends. They all loved it very much! Alternatively, you can drink a real good cup of coffee in Korea in coffee shops or cafes such Starbucks, Angel-in-us Coffee (http://www.angelinus.co.kr/) and Coffee Bean.
[Tips from Lex] If you are used to using products of specific brands, bring them here to Korea since they might be very expensive or hard to be found. If you are a Muslim, bring some Halal instant meal in case you don’t have access to Halal food or restaurant in Korea. There are a number of Halal restaurants in Seoul anyway. Check out the Muslim food guide by Korea Tourism Organization. (http://www.visitkorea.or.kr/ena/CU/CU_EN_8_1_6.jsp) Okay next is something new to me. (Thanks Lex!) Bring several photocopies of important documents in case they get lost.
Cosmetics. (Need I say more?) There are many cosmetics shops along the streets in busy towns such as Etude House, Missha, The Face Shop, Innisfree and Skin Food. Tourists who took advantage of their competitive prices bought boxes of them home. You should try out Missha’s Perfect Cover BB Cream, one of the most sought-after BB creams which has received plenty of good reviews by users. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFNIYtFrk5k) Other brands like Clinique, SKII and Lancome can be found in department stores.
If you’re money-savvy, you would need to visit Daiso (http://www.daiso.co.kr/daiso2_en/) where you can find heaps of cheap items there which include household items, stationeries and beauty products. There are Daiso outlets in Malaysia too where all products are sold at a fixed price of RM5 (about 1850won), whereas products sold in Daiso Korea mostly range from 1000 to 3000won.
You can also purchase goods from Korea’s No.1 online shopping site called Gmarket. (http://english.gmarket.co.kr/) Things sold at Gmarket are much cheaper compared to those in department stores, and domestic deliveries are mostly free. Goods would usually arrive in 2-3 days (domestic). Go check it out now, they offer worldwide delivery for many items too.
If you can type Korean, it might be interesting for you to own a Korean keyboard with Hangul alphabet. Alternatively, you can buy Hangul keyboard stickers and paste them on your laptop’s keyboard tiles, which is what I have done.
[Tips from Lex] Korean Ginseng is a must-buy! It’s cheap here and it comes in the form of tea as well, wrapped in beautiful boxes. You can buy so
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