Country(ies): South Korea
Tour type: Shoestring
Group size: Min: 4 | Max: 18
Accommodation: Hostels, bath houses & temples
Transport: Local Transport
Highlights: Golgulsa Temple, Namsan Mountain, Gyeongbokgung Palace, the historic Bukchon Hanok Village, Insadong street art, Visit Seoroksan National Park, Sokcho town, cycling tour of Gyeongju, trek along the Jeju Olle Trail.
Explore South Korea’s unique history, natural beauty, rich culture and mouth-watering cuisine with our 12-day adventure tour.
This South-Korean 12-day adventure tour offers travellers a unique opportunity to experience the bustling, neon-lit metropolises to the. rolling countryside hills, its long sandy beaches to ancient temples in the mountains, and more. You'll visit the historic demilitarised zone on the border with North Korea, taste plenty of new and exotic South Korean dishes, and interact with the local population as you travel around the country. Your guide will escort you all the way, and make sure you get off-the-beaten-track to discover what it's like to live like the locals.
Accommodation is set at a budget level, using friendly hostels, bath houses and a temple stay.
Don’t hesitate to contact us of you have any questions or if you would like to make any alterations to this tour.
After arriving at the hostel you will be greeted by your tour guide in the afternoon and will also have the opportunity to get acquainted with your group over a Korean barbeque.
After dinner, you will make your way to the top of Namsan Mountain, where you’ll experience spectacular views of Seoul lit up at night. This is also recognised as the most popular location in Seoul for couples. Here you can wander through the “padlocks of love” locked at the base of Seoul N Tower. Even better views are available from the top of the tower.
Later, we'll hop on public transport back to the Hongdae district where our accommodation lies. Here you can either finish the evening by strolling the streets to explore on your own or get an early night for your first full day of adventure tomorrow.
Bunk Guesthouse or similar, Seoul
Private Twin/Double Room Upgrade
Private Single Room Upgrade
The tour kicks off with a visit to the famous Korean Demilitarized Zone. We start by taking a bus for an hour north of Seoul to Imjingak, where you’ll have the chance to grab some breakfast. We'll then continue on to Dorasan Station - the northernmost train stop in South Korea which was once intended to connect the country with North Korea. While there, we suggest buying a commemorative train ticket.
We'll get a view into North Korea next from the Dora Observatory where you can see the nearest North Korean villages through binoculars. Next, we descend into the 3rd Tunnel created by North Koreans which will take you as close as 170m to North Korea. After, we head back to Seoul while having the chance to speak to a North Korean defector on the bus.
After arriving back in Seoul, we’ll head to Myeongdong for lunch with the group and then you can explore the surrounding area perhaps visiting the Myeongdong Cathedral or a quirky cat café.
The evening is yours free to explore the city. If you’re looking for evening entertainment, we recommend a traditional Nanta Show (a comedy cooking performance), explore Itaewon, best known for its endless restaurant and bar options, or head over to the ritzy Gangnam district.
Bunk Guesthouse or similar, Seoul
We kick the day off bright and early to explore the ancient side of Seoul. We start today’s tour by hopping on the metro to Gyeongbokgung Palace where you’ll have the chance to watch the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony, before entering the palace groups itself.
Later, make your way to Bukchon Hanok Village, breaking the journey at the Blue House on the way (South Korea's 'White House' - the official residence of the South Korean President, Moon Jae-in).
When we get to Bukchon Hanok Village, you can change into hanbok, traditional Korean clothes, and take a stroll through this historical village.
After having a quick bite for lunch we’ll escape from busy city life and take a walk down the Cheonggyecheon stream - an area nown for its tranquillity and relaxation which was recently restored. We'll then head to the inspiring Insadong Art Street with an option to do an optional Kimchi Tasting session at Museum Kimchikan.
The evening will be yours free to explore Seoul a bit more. Perhaps immersing yourself in local life with a group dinner at pojangmacha-soju, walking around Ikseon-dong Hanok Street, or heading oback to Hongdae Street for a pub crawl.
Bunk Guesthouse or similar, Seoul
Today we depart for day-trip to Sokcho, in the north-eastern part of the country. We’ll arrive at the Seoraksan National Park in the late morning and visit the Sinheungsa Temple.
We will also venture on a hike to Ulsanbawi Rock for spectacular views over the national park. However, if you’re looking for a hike that’s less challenging, you can hike the well-signed waterfall trail and board a cable car to another peak.
After lunch we’ll take the bus to Sokcho town. Here, you’ll travel on a gatbae to cross the river to Abai - a small village of North Korean refugees.
Later, the evening, we’ll enjoy a dinner with the rest of the group in and around the local fish markets. While here, we recommend one of the most famous Korean fried chicken restaurants in the area - Manseok, known for its sticky sweet and sour boneless fried chicken.
After dinner, we head back to Seoul and check into your accommodation for the night, a jjimjilbang – a traditional Korean bath and sleeping house.
Siloam Bulgama Sauna (Jjimjilbang), Seoul
We start the day by taking the train to Singyeongju Station near the city of Gyeongju. After checking into your hostel, enjoy lunch at Seongdong Traditional Market or one of the many surrounding restaurants.
The afternoon we’ll start exploring Gyeongju by bike! First up, we explore Cheonmachong Ancient Tombs - part of the Daereungwon Tomb Complex in Tumuli Park. Later, we make our way to Cheomseongdae - the oldest existing astronomical observatory in East Asia. We also head to Gyerim Forest and pay a visit to Hyanggyo Confucius School on the way.
If you’re keen to experience authentic Korean food we suggest having dinner at Dosol Maeul - a local restaurant serving traditional Korean set meals in an equally authentic environment!
Doobaki Hostel or similar, Gyeongju
We start the day early with a visit to Bulguksa Temple - a UNESCO World Cultural Asset - or take the opportunity to have a lie-in.
After lunch we’ll transfer to Golgulsa Temple, where you’ll experience an overnight temple stay. Once we arrival, we’ll check into the temple and start the day’s activities with a meditation class. If you’re up for more physical activities we suggest archery, horse riding, or training classes.
Later, we’ll watch a breath-taking traditional arts performance and Sunmudo demonstration before lending a hand to the temple’s communal work.
We start the day bright and early to participate in the morning chanting service and meditation, followed by starting the day right with a traditional breakfast.
After a relaxing morning, take part in your final Sunmudo training lesson to master your skills. Have a delicious lunch before taking the bus back to the city where we make our way to Gyeongju bus station to head to our next destination - Busan.
Arrive in the late afternoon and head straight to your accommodation.
Check in and make yourself comfortable before heading out for dinner. Grab some amazing food at tables along the beachfront. Want to explore the thriving nightlight of Busan? Hit the town for a night out along the Haeundae beachfront!
Kimchee Guesthouse or similar, Haeundae
Head out for a day exploring Busan. First, we make our way to Jagalchi Market - the biggest seafood market in South Korea. Here, you can wander through the bright and colourful stalls showcasing a huge variety of the day’s fresh catch. This is also the perfect place to choose your own fish for lunch.
Want to step into another dimension? Take part in a cutting-edge Virtual Reality gaming experience! Alternatively, spend the afternoon exploring the real world further. Treat your taste buds to Busan-style hotteok, a fried pancake filled with brown sugar and various seeds from a street food vendor.
Later, we head to Songdo Beach where you’ll hop on the Marine Cable Car and enjoy spectacular aerial views of the city in the distance.
Take the metro to Gwangan Beach and enjoy dinner with your fellow travellers. Try the Korean delicacy, jokbal, or hit up Slice of Life for the best New York-style pizza around.
Kimchee Guesthouse or similar, Haeundae
The morning is yours free to explore Busan.
Venture out on your own or take part in some of our suggested activitie such as a cooking class to learn how to make the Korean dishes you’ve tried throughout your trip. Alternatively, visit Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, a Buddhist temple nestled in the coastline’s cliffs, take a day trip to the colourful Gamcheon Culture Village, or embark on the Igidae Coastal Walk and Oryukdo Skywalk.
Later, the evening we’ll catch an overnight ferry to Jeju Island. Expect great views of the city from the top deck as you pull out of the port. Chill out with your fellow travellers in the lounge areas or head to bed ready for an early start in the morning.
Kimchee Guesthouse or similar, Haeundae
We arrive in Jeju early in the mornin. Today, we head to a section of the coastline to take part in a Haenyeo Divers Experience, where you’ll have an opportunity to go out with the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage women divers of Jeju.
Once back on dry land, we’ll have lunch before taking part in a traditional liquor making experience. Here, you’ll learn how it’s made and get to sample different types.
Later, we’ll hike to the top of Seongsan Ilchulbong, also known as Sunrise Peak - this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a unique formation that was formed by hydrovolcanic eruptions over 5 000 years ago.
You can end the day at your leisure. However, if you’re looking for an epic view this evening, we suggest heading to Seopjikoji Viewpoint at sunset.
Jagoga Guesthouse, Jeju Island
In the morning, depart for a day trip to Jeongbang Waterfall. We then embark on a day-long trek along the Jeju Olle Trail.
Later, we’ll have the chance to take a break to refuel with lunch in Seogwipo city before continuing on the trek to Oedolgae Rock.
After the hike, we’ll return to the hostel early afternoon and enjoy some well-deserved rest time! We suggest some timeout on the beach before your final night’s celebrations.
In the evening, kick back with a barbecue by the beach! Here, we’ll eat delicious food, watch the sun go down and if you’re up for it, party into the night by the seashore.
Make the most of your time with your fellow travellers, as you’ll be saying goodbye in the morning.
Jagoga Guesthouse or similar, Jeju Island
Your adventure ends today. A transfer to the airport is included at 10.30am - you will need to arrange your own transfer if you need to travel to the airport at a different time. This is easy to do through your accommodation and your tour leader can also advise further.
We run regular departures on this tour during the spring and autumn which are the best seasons to explore South Korea.
The hotels and accommodations listed below are the ones we most often on this tour. From time to time we may exchange these for similar properties at the same level. In general, specific hotels cannot be guaranteed on our group tours, but you may select your preferred options if you are booking a tailor-made trip.
Our tours are designed to include all that you need to enjoy a really special time in the destination youre visiting. However, we do also offer some extra options to complement the tour and add some additional sightseeing or activities, or some extra time at either end of the tour.
All accommodation based options (e.g. Single supplements, extra nights, cruise upgrades) should be booked and paid for in advance so that we can make the appropriate arrangements. Other options may either be booked and paid for in advance or while you are on the tour, though we recommend booking in advance to ensure there are no issues with availability.
Many options are priced the same throughout the year, but some may incur single or high season supplements - full details are given on the tour reservation form or on request.
The detailed Tour Notes below have been written to give you some more detailed information about how the tour runs, what to expect, and how to prepare for your holiday. We recommend downloading an up to date copy of these shortly before you travel in case of any changes.
The accommodation used on the tour is a mix of simple stays in hostels, bath houses and temples. Each have their own unique South Korean charm, and at the same time are safe, clean, and hygienic and have either air-conditioning or fans. All have good showers, internet, and most have washing machines. The price is based on same-sex shared rooms in these hostels and accommodations, All bedding is provided - you do not need ot bring a sleeping bag. Luggage is tagged and stored securely while we are out exploring during the day. The majority of other people staying in the hostels will be young people aged 18 to 35 and travelling on a budget. It's easy to make new friends and have fun meeting in the lounge areas. You can also upgrade to a private or twin room subject to availability at the time of booking. This may not extend to all the accommodation throughout the trip. Please contact us if you would like more information.
Typical hostels used are:
Seoul - Bunk Guesthouse – 19-1, Wausan-ro 29ra-gil, Mapo-gu, Mapo-Gu, 04053 Seoul, South Korea (Tel: +82 70-8703-0045)
Seoul - Siloam Bulgama Sauna (Jjimjilbang) – 49, Jungnim-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea (Tel: +82 2-364-3944)
Gyeongju - Doobaki Hostel – 76, Hwarang-ro, 780-060 Gyeongju, South Korea (Tel: +82 10-3095-7677)
Golgulsa - Templestay – 101-5, Girim-ro, Yangbuk-myeon, Gyeongju, South Korea (Tel: +82 54-775-1689)
Busan - Kimchee Guesthouse Haeundae – 16-1 Haeundaehaebyeon-ro, U-dong, Haeundae, Busan, South Korea (Tel: +82 51-747-4406)
Jeju Island - Jagoga Guesthouse – 29 Sinyang-rom,122 beon-gil, Jeju, Jeju Island 63641, South Korea (Tel: +82 10-6683-0567)
WiFi is available in all the accommodation used on the tour. During the temple stay this will only extend to communal areas.
Additional nights are available on request in the hostels used at the start and finish of the tour - please contact us for prices and to book.
We use public transport as much as possible on this tour, to keep costs down and to give a better immersion into the country. The normal journey times we take are shown below...
All the train tickets for the group will be purchased at the same time, so we normally end up sitting together. However, there is a chance may not be the case, and in these situations our tour leaders can normally arrange with other travellers to shuffle things around.
We do not currently offer an airport arrival transfer service in Seoul airport, as the public transportation from the airport to the city centre is much more convenient and is easy to navigate. The 'All Stops' airport transfer trains depart every 5-10 minutes from the Incheon International Airport stop in to Seoul Station. The accommodation we use in Seoul is situated near Hongik University Station, a journey of around 50minutes on the train (costing 4150-4750 KRW).
At the end of the tour we include a group transfer to Jeju International Airport at around 10.30am on the final day of the tour (Day 12). This will connect with a T’way Air flight TW718 at 13:30-14:40 from Jeju to Seoul Gimpo. Note - there are two airports in Seoul and this flight arrives at the domestic airport. If you are looking to connect to an international flight, you may have to transit to the international airport. .
If you need to get to the airport earlier or later than this then you will need to arrange this yourself. Our tour leader will provide information and advice at the end of the trip to help with this if required.
This tour is accompanied by English speaking tour leaders. These all have the knowledge and passion to help make sure you have a great time in all the places visited during the tour. We may sometimes use more than one leader for different sections of the tour but often the same person will accompany you throghout. Where they do not travel with you between locations, they will help you board and see you off, and you'll be met on your arrival at the next destination.
Each tour leader is an expert in all things South Korea. However, they are not licensed tour guides. Often they are students wanting to do some work before heading back to university or before starting a job. This often gives them more passion and enthusiasm than long-term tourist guides.
Specialist tour guides are available at many of the sites we visit along the way if you would like some more in depth information about particular sites.
Discovering the cuisine in South Korea is often a highlight of people's visit. Your tour leader will offer to take you for a group meal each evening, choosing a local restaurant they know is hygienic and has good, cheap and tasty food. There are also lots of options if you want a reminder of Western food during the trip. South Korea also has many delicious street food options to try, including Bibimbap and Theok-bokki, which are a good choice if you want to keep to a tighter budget.
With so many choices, vegetarians and other special dietary needs can generally be well catered for in South Korea. Just discuss your requirements with the tour leader and they'll be happy to help and provide advice and suggestions.
If you would like to book a place on this tour, please complete the online reservation form on our website (via the Dates & Prices tab on the tour page). You may make a deposit or full payment online, or just hold a reservation if you prefer (full payments are due 8 weeks before departure). We will then contact you with more details about how to complete your booking. Payments may be made by debit or credit card (subject to a card processing fee), or by making a bank transfer, or posting us a cheque/bank draft. Full details will be provided in your booking confirmation email. Please contact us if you would like any more information or have any questions before making a booking.
We are a UK registered company and are committed to providing our customers with financial protection to provide peace of mind and to allow you to book with confidence.
We have therefore partnered with Trust My Travel Ltd., which provides financial protection services to over 2000 partners around the world. Funds paid to us by our customers are protected via an Insurance policy held by Trust My Travel. Each traveller and the description of services sold is declared against Trust My Travel’s insurance policy directly against our financial failure. In the event of our insolvency, you will be refunded for any unfulfilled products and/or repatriation to the UK (where applicable). Please see our website or booking conditions for more information.
Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our tours and needs to cover personal accident & liability, medical expenses and repatriation, travel delay & abandonment. We also strongly recommend that you take out cover against cancellation and lost/stolen baggage. Personal medical insurance does not normally provide sufficient cover and is generally not suitable for travel on our tours. You will not be able to join your tour if you have not provided us with details of your insurance or if you arrive without cover in place (no refunds will be due in this event). More information...
You may arrange your own insurance, or you can take advantage of a comprehensive policy that we can arrange for you through Endsleigh Insurance which has been designed to be suitable for our tours. The policy is available to travellers of all nationalities and you do not need to live in the UK to take out the policy. For full details of cover provided, prices and to apply for one of our policies, please complete travel insurance application form.
Note: Any country that borders the Mediterranean is considered as 'Europe' for the purposes of travel insurance (including Turkey, Israel, Egypt and Morocco). If you are doing a tour that visits one country in 'Europe' and one that is 'Worldwide' (for example, an Egypt and Jordan tour), then you need a 'Worldwide' policy. When completing the form you should enter your travel dates including any extra days involved in overnight flights or connecting travel between your home and the tour. Our policies are not able to cover any extra time or activities other than your tour and options booked with us and your travel to & from home.
Note - to comply with insurance sales regulations, our travel insurance policies are only available to customers booking directly with us. If you have booked through a travel agent you will need to arrange your own insurance.
If your tour includes car hire, ior if you plan to arrange a hot air balloon flight locally or do some scuba diving during your tour, you should check the small print in your policy to make sure these are covered (these are covered in our policy). Please also check the maximum altitude that you will be reaching and that full cover including emergency evacuation is provided up to this altitude.
If you are taking expensive camera gear or other electronic equipment with you then please check the coverage and the fine print of your policy to ensure that you have sufficient cover.
IMPORTANT: We must have your travel insurance details (policy number and type of insurance) before you depart or you may not be allowed to join the tour. If you haven't told us already, please let us know the details when you can. You should take a paper copy of your insurance policy with you as you may be asked to show this at the start of the tour.
Before purchasing any travel insurance, please check the coverage provided for situations related to Covid-19, and for the rules about government travel advice. Your normal policy may not be suitable. Details about our own policies cover levels are given on our website.
You can stay in touch with us online by following us on Facebook and Twitter. We post updates on relevant travel news in our destination countries, special offers and discounts and other interesting travel related news and information.
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It is impossible not to have an impact on the local environment, cultures and eco-systems when you travel. However, it is very possible to try and ensure that these impacts are as limited, or positive as possible. We are committed to ensuring that we try to leave our host countries in a better state than we found them and encourage and assist our travellers to help us with this.
The following are a few simple tips that require very little effort on your part but which will help ensure that any effect you have on the locations you visit is positive rather than negative.
All porters are employed and equipped following guidelines set by the International Porter Protection Group (IPPG).
It is important when considering and preparing to travel anywhere in the world that you have a good understanding of the country you are visiting, its laws and customs, and the possible risks and situations that may occur. This includes specific risks related to your itinerary (eg. does it involve water & can you swim, are you fit enough for the activities included), as well as more general risks such as terrorism and natural disasters.
General details and links to more information about health risks, visa requirements, money, and travel insurance are given in these tour notes. We recommend that you re-read all these before your departure as well as the small print of your travel insurance policy so you know exactly what is covered and what is not.
You should take copies of your important travel documents with you and ideally also store them online securely as a backup. Make sure that you have given us your emergency contact details and told that person where and when you are travelling. Ensure you take enough money with you and that you have access to emergency funds.
Finally, you should read through and stay updated with the current official government travel advice for your destination. We are registered partners with the UK Foreign Office's 'Travel Aware' campaign which provides further useful and invaluable information.
You should ensure you are fully covered by your travel insurance for medical emergencies including emergency evacuation and repatriation.
Recommended vaccinations and other health protection measures vary according to the country you are visiting and where you are travelling from. We recommend you contact your GP/medical practitioner or a travel clinic for current information on vaccinations needed for your destination. You should ensure that you are up to date with vaccines and boosters recommended for your normal life at home, including for example, vaccines required for occupational risk of exposure, lifestyle risks and underlying medical conditions.
In addition, additional courses or boosters normally recommended for the countries in this region are:
South Korea: No specific boosters or courses advised, but please read the link for more info. Malaria map. Malaria risk is low throughout the year throughout the country but precautions against mosquito bites should still be taken. Yellow Fever vaccination certificates are not required.
Malaria: Vaccinations are not available against Malaria, which is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes that can be very serious and sometimes fatal. You should avoid mosquito bites by covering up bare skin with clothing such as long sleeves and long trousers and applying insect repellents to exposed skin. When necessary, sleep under a mosquito net. Mosquitoes are most active during and after sunset. You should consult with your GP/medical practitioner/travel clinic about the most appropriate malaria prophylactic medication to take for the regions you are visiting.
Yellow Fever: This disease is spread by infected mosquitoes that bite during the day. A Yellow Fever Certificate of vacinnation may be required as a condition of entry depending on which country you are arriving from, or that you have travelled or transitted through recently (including connecting flights with stopovers of over 12 hours). You can view this US CDC information about where the virus is present and follow the links to further information detailing which countries need you to have a Yellow Fever vaccination as part of their entry requirements. Please ensure you have this certificate with you and to hand if necessary. Please inform us of any pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or asthma and any prescription medicine you may be taking. We also need to know about any food allergies or physical disabilities that you may have.
Passports should be valid for at least six months after your departure from the country. Please do not bring an almost full or almost expired passport; your passport should have at least 1 blank page for every country you are visiting on your trip. Please bring two photocopies of your passport with you in case ou need them, or lose your passport.
South Korea offers visa-free entry for up to 90 days for many nationalities, including British, European, American, Canadian and Australian. However, visa arrangements are the responsibility of the traveller, and requirements are subject to change by the local authorities.
We strongly recommend packing very light for our Shoestring tours in South Korea. You will have access to laundry services at your accommodation throughout the trip, so you won’t need to pack a new outfit for each day. Items can you can mix and match are your best bet, as you’ll be able to bring less clothing and thus, have lighter luggage. Ensure that you research the time of year you are travelling, so your clothing is appropriate for the climate.
For your luggage, a suitcase is OK, but a backpack/hold-all is much more convenient. Whether you’re travelling elsewhere in Asia or just flying to and from South Korea, remember to look into what the checked luggage weight limits are for your flights.
Bring electronic products at your own risk. Some customers choose to travel with iPhone, tablets and laptops, but although theft is extremely rare on our tours, there is petty crime in some areas we visit.
The use of Drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is not allowed while on our tours. If you are in possession of a drone when entering the country it is your responsibility to be informed of and follow all local laws. This may include registering your drone with authorities. If you violate this policy or operate a drone illegally you are subject to removal from the tour as per our terms & conditions.
Tipping is not customary or necessary in South Korea, and you will often find staff poitely refusing tips. So, you will not cause offence by not tipping. You can offer taxi drivers or street vendors to keep the change, but formal tips are not expected.
The same applies to your tour leader(s). You do not need to tip them, but if you wish to, please only do so based on your personal budget and your satisfaction with the service provided.
The currency in South Korea is the South Korean won, abbreviated to KRW (short for Korean Republic won), with the symbol ?. It is subdivited into 100 jeon, but these are no longer used in practice.
You can withdraw money at ATM machines in all the main cities and tourist areas in South Korea. However, not all ATMs will accept foreign bank cards, so we recommend speaking to your tour leader for advice. We also recommend that you advise your bank that you will be travelling before you depart. Finally do make sure to check your bank's charges for foreign transactions and choose a card which is not going to be super expensive on this front.
Taking cash in US Dollars, GB Pounds and Euros and changing it into local currency while you are there is also a good option. However, exchange rates and commissions can vary widely so check carefully before you commit to a conversion.
On our Shoestring tours in South Korea we generally suggest htat budgetting on around GBP 10-15 (USD 13-20) per day for food and drink.