Set Your Compass To South KoreaPosted on: 27 January 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves
Whilst Korea has always been a relatively cheap destination to visit, it is one of the few places around the world where the pound still goes a long way.
If the rising yen has scuppered your plans to visit Japan, set your compass for South Korea instead.
Compared with Japanese and Chinese cities nearby, the lively and pleasant South Korean capital, Seoul, is dirt cheap. Street food costs between £1 and £4, and a room at a good hotel around £60.
You will also see very few tourists outside Seoul, where prices are even lower; take a high-speed train to Busan, in the south, for just £30 - just remember to take your phrase book with you.
South Korea occupies the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, with North Korea to the north, China across the sea to the west and Japan a short ferry ride to the southeast.
For many Westerners, South Korea remains uncharted territory. More welcoming than its neighbour to the North, or indeed China, yet not quite as accessible or appealing as Japan, off the Korean coast.
Actually, Japan isn't a bad point of reference; the cutting-edge cultural and technological developments engineered in Japan tend to be absorbed into everyday Korean life gradually, and at a rate that causes substantially less disorientation than they might when foisted upon the traveller in their place of first origin.
Consider South Korea's currently flourishing national cinema, or its keen interest in sports, boosted by the 1988 Seoul Olympics and evident ever since in the triumphs of the national football team.
Most tourism subsequently heads for Seoul, the best-known destination in a largely unknown land, though the coastal Pusan and second city Taegu offer just as many diversions, and in terms of natural beauty, as typified by the Songnisan National Park, South Korea proves almost the equal of Japan.
When To Go
Why not consider visiting one of Korea’s most visually appealing festivals of the year – The Lotus Lantern Festival. Between the 24th April – 26th April you can immerse yourself in a wave of lotus lanterns of all shapes, sizes and colours.
Groups of entertainers, exhibitions, parades and a Buddhist street festival come together to celebrate this part of Korean culture.
Spring is a great time of year to be in Korea. The temperatures are warm enough and there's not too much rain either. Although, spring is the time of the year when yellow dust blows over from China, making some days quite rough.
Summer starts with a dreary rainy season in June and turns into a steambath in July -August, with extreme humidity and the temperature heading as high as 40°C. the summer season is best avoided unless heading to the beaches.
Starting in September, Autumn is perhaps the best time to be in Korea. Temperatures and humidity become more tolerable, fair days are common and the justly renowned Autumn colours make their appearance.
Winter is a good time to go skiing or hot-spring hopping, and the Korean invention of ondol - floor heating - helps defrost any parts that froze outside.
How To Get There
The main entry point for South Korea is the capital Seoul, which has regular direct flights from London. Note that domestic flights to and from Seoul generally operate from Gimpo Airport, whereas international flights operate through Incheon.
It is possible to avoid having to transfer between these two airports if you are travelling to a major city such as Busan, which also has links from other Asian cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore.
For more information visit LLF.
Have you been to Korea? Did you enjoy the experience?
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