South Korea Spotlight
Know Before You Go
For an epic trip with zero stress and infinite holy s#!t moments, get familiar with the information below. Seeing the world should be fun, not stressful, which is why we’ve written this guide for you and are available 24/7 so all you have to do is travel. Now, it’s time to do a happy dance and make this trip ULTIMATE.
For the most up to date entry requirements for this tour, please visit this page.
Complete Your Checklist
Before heading to the airport, complete the tasks below and check them off in your Online Account Checklist. If you have any questions, give us a call at 617-619-1411. We’re available 24/7 to make sure you have the Best. Trip. Ever.
- Passport: Your passport must be valid for 6 months after the tour return date.
- Entry Requirements: Travelers are responsible for monitoring and complying with all entry requirements based on their tour itinerary (including countries in transit). You can view the most up to date entry requirements for this tour here.
- Travel Insurance: While travel insurance is not required, we strongly encourage all travelers to obtain coverage before departure. Check out cost-effective Travel Protection, designed to meet the needs of EF travelers, here.
- Health Insurance: You will need to carry your primary insurance card with you while overseas. This is a critical item in the event of a medical emergency.
- Talk with your doctor: It is highly recommended that you talk with your doctor about your travel plans. If you are taking any medications, be certain to bring enough to last throughout your trip.
- Traveling with allergies? Let your Trip Consultant and Tour Director know of any dietary restrictions/allergies and we will do what we can to accommodate for any included meals.
- Request a roommate: Double-check with us and your Tour Director that they have your rooming status on file. We will assign a roommate for you if you do not submit a specific request.
- Get an international data plan: We recommend getting an international data plan for your mobile device so you can stay connected while on the road. Please talk with your phone provider for your best options.
- Wi-Fi will be in some hotels, restaurants, and bars, though charges may apply and it may be slower than in the U.S.
- Wi-Fi is not available on the bus.
- Get the EF Ultimate Break app: Your trip's group will be able to connect on the app before you meet IRL. Don't miss out! Meet other travelers, get updates from your Tour Director, see flights and accommodations, and more. If you're having trouble, give us a call at 617-619-1411.
Check your online account 30 days prior to departure for your flight itinerary and confirmation number. You can check in to your flight 24 hours prior to departure. If you prefer to check in at the airport, plan to arrive 2.5 – 3 hours before departure.
- If your flight is canceled or delayed: Don’t worry! We design the first day of tour as an arrival day in case of flight delays or cancelations. Work with the airline to get rebooked on the next available flight, then let your Tour Director know your new arrival time
- If you slept in and missed your flight: You should still talk to the airline and see if they can get you on the next available option. Tears may help in this case.
- Travel from the U.S. to Asia is a lengthy process (20 – 30+ hours travel time total), so prepare for your long flight. Download movies ahead of time, bring that book you’ve been meaning to read, and get some sleep! When flying, we suggest occasionally getting up to stretch, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated!
Arriving in Seoul
Welcome to South Korea! Your Tour Director will communicate through the EF Ultimate Break app, WhatsApp, or email about where to meet them at the airport. This is an important reason to make sure you have the EF Ultimate Break app!
If you have booked your own flight arrangements or have extended your travels before the tour dates, you will need to make your own way to the first hotel. Accommodation details will be available in your online account 30 days prior to departure.
Getting from A to B
Transfers between cities and countries are via private bus, or high speed train, and these transfers can take anywhere between 2-6 hours. Prepare to walk between 4-8 miles per day, especially when sightseeing.
You booked an Ultimate Plus tour which means you are guaranteed twin-based accommodations. For this tour, there's one exception to that in Gyeongju, where you will be spending one night in a temple. You may have to share a room with up to 3 other people, but experience is one you will never forget!
Towels will not be provided at the temple, so you may wish to pack your own. We recommend microfiber towels; they pack small and dry fast!
Even if you plan to be kicking it in sandals for most of your time in South Korea, we also suggest packing a pair of socks for walking around the temple.
Fact: Travel is exhilarating. And FOMO is real. So, we understand why you don’t want to miss a second of the action. But there’s a difference between maximizing your time and spreading yourself too thin. Here are some tips to stay healthy and happy on tour:
- Sleep: Flying across the globe, changing time zones, and being constantly on the move can take a toll on your body. Make sure you get the rest your body needs. If that means missing a night out for some well-earned rest, or having a little afternoon nap, so be it. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Stay hydrated: It’s important to drink plenty of water throughout the day, we recommend bringing a refillable water bottle!
- Be prepared: We recommend bringing a small first aid kit including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication, motion sickness medication, and any prescription medications in your carry-on bag.
- Take time for yourself: Group travel is an amazing experience, and there’s nothing quite like exploring a foreign country with a group of like-minded people. That said, it’s okay to take time for yourself to relax and reflect on your experience. Here are a few mindfulness apps you can take with you on the road:
- MindShift: Focused on anxiety management, this app has an array of cognitive behavior therapy features including journaling, goal-setting, calming audio, and a community forum.
- Ten Percent Happier: Filled with videos and guided meditations intended to help with everything ranging from sleep to stress reduction.
With a global presence of more than 46,000 people in over 115 countries and regions, we’re fully committed to your safety. From your first flight all the way through to your farewell dinner, don’t hesitate to reach out to your Tour Director or your Trip Consultant if you need a helping hand. Keep these extra tips in mind so you can #travelsmart:
- Keep your bag/purse in front of you and your phone zipped inside when you’re not using it. Leave your laptop at home, store valuables at the hotel in locked luggage or the safe deposit box. Refrain from carrying large sums of money or wearing valuable jewelry.
- Use the buddy system. Stay in groups and watch out for each other, especially at night—no one gets left behind!
- Be smart about alcohol consumption. Watch your drinks and don’t accept drinks from people you don’t know. Don’t leave the bar alone with someone you just met.
- Before you go out, grab a business card at your hotel so that you always have the address handy for getting back later.
- At the end of a night out, use trusted transportation like a licensed taxi and always have cash on hand.
- Save our 24/7 number in your phone: +1–617–619–1411
For weight and size restrictions please refer to your airline’s website. Flight information will be available 30 days prior to departure in your online account. Below you'll find some critical packing information and suggestions.
- The most important piece of advice we can give you: Pack light! Your international airline ticket does include a checked bag, but years of customer feedback tells us a carry-on is the way to go. You may need to carry your suitcase where buses and elevators cannot, so make sure you are comfortable carrying everything you bring yourself.
- You've probably heard the hacks about rolling clothes and using packing cubes a million times, but there's a reason for that! It really does help.
- If you choose to pack all of your toiletries, don't bring your regular-sized bottles from home. Offload some of that into travel-sized containers.
- Choose your luggage wisely. We recommend a roller carry-on bag and a backpack as your personal item.
- Choose shoes carefully as well. They're some of the bulkiest items you can pack, so we recommend a good pair of walking shoes and a pair of climate-appropriate shoes (boots or sandals depending on the destination and time of year). We also recommend a pair of closed-toe water shoes if your itinerary has any water activities.
- Make a packing list of must-haves and stick to it. If you have a little extra space in your bags once all your must-haves are packed, then consider adding in a few nice extras.
- Unfortunately, luggage can get lost. It’s a painful situation no matter what, but here are tips to ease some of the hassle:
- DO NOT put important medications in a checked bag. If your luggage is lost, this could become a dangerous issue.
- Even if you put most of your clothes in a checked bag, put a couple outfits in your carry-on along with your toiletries.
- If you are forced to check you carry-on at the gate, be sure to remove essentials and valuables before handing it over.
- Carefully review TSA restrictions when packing. There are a number of items not allowed in your carry-on and liquids have certain restrictions.
- Check out the local weather; we haven't figured out how to control the weather yet so best to be prepared and plan accordingly.
- Don't forget: Outlets overseas can differ from the US, so be sure to pack the right power adapters/converters!
- Towels will not be provided at the temple, so you may wish to pack your own. We recommend microfiber towels; they pack small and dry fast!
- Even if you plan to be kicking it in sandals for most of your time in South Korea, we also suggest packing a pair of socks for walking around the temple.
We at EF will help facilitate any testing requirements while on tour, however it is the travelers responsibility to pay for these tests and it is our recommendation that you budget roughly 150 USD total. Please note that non-boosted travelers may be required to do additional testing to enter places such as restaurants, and/or major attractions.
Budget around $60-$80 per day for meals, drinks, souvenirs, and tips or extra activities.
Remember that you know your spending habits best and not everyone’s spending habits are the same. These recommendations are based on a traveler who says yes to any and all activities while on tour.
The local currency in South Korea is the won. Read on for more must-knows about money and tipping on your trip!
- When exchanging money before the trip, better rates are usually found overseas, but it’s worth ordering some currency from your local bank to use when you first arrive.
- Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted, but cash is still very helpful to have on hand.
- Check if you have a card without international fees and stick to using that one to save money.
- You can use most debit/credit cards at ATMs, but be wary of fees.
- Cash dispenser machines may be more convenient or accepting of international cards, but they yield higher fees.
- We recommend tipping your Tour Director $48 - $72 at the end of the trip.
- For local guides, you should tip $1-$2 at the end of each experience.
- Bus Driver: $24-$36 given at the end of the trip.
- Tipping at restaurants or for taxis is not customary, and in some cases can even be considered rude.
- For taxi drivers, tipping is not expected, but it's common to let them keep the change.
The official language of South Korea is Korean. While it may feel awkward at first, attempting the local language goes a long way when navigating a city and interacting with people. Practice these basic phrases to get started:
- Hello: An-nyeong-ha-se-yo
- Goodbye: An-nyeon-ghi ga-se-yo
- Thank you: Go-map-seum-ni-da
- Excuse me: Sill-ye-ham-ni-da
- Yes: Ne
- No: A-ni-yo
- Cheers: Geonbae
Download Duolingo or some language-learning podcasts to practice your skills, and use Google Translate to help you while on the road!
As you prepare to spend time in a new culture, here are some expert tips to help you get the lay of the land and feel like a true local.
- Short bows with eyes closed are a common form of greeting.
- Age is considered very important, and may be one of the first things locals ask about upon meeting you.
- Chopsticks are a staple of the cuisine and culture. Attempting to use chopsticks instead of western cutlery will earn you some respect with the locals, but be wary of using chopsticks to point at someone, poke at food, or play them like musical instruments - these are all signs of disrespect.
- If you need to put down your chopsticks while eating, put them on the table or lie them horizontally across the rim of your bowl. Avoid sticking them upright into the bowl.
- Korean food is spicy, but resist the urge to blow your nose at the table. Excuse yourself to the restroom if you need to do so.
- There is a distinct lack of public trash cans throughout the cities in South Korea. Most locals carry their trash in a bag with them until they come across one.
- Pushing and shoving isn't considered rude. Cities are incredibly crowded, and bumping into people constantly is so inevitable, that you won't be hearing any sort of "excuse me".
- Avoid comparing South Korea to other Asian countries, particularly Japan. Koreans are very proud people that value the country's individualism, and they have a rocky history with Japan.
South Korea's food scene is one of its most beloved aspects bursting with flavor and variety. These are just a few signature offerings to get you started off:
- Kimchi: Get ready for a lot of kimchi. Many Koreans don't consider a meal complete without these fermented vegetables.
- Bulgogi: Grilled marinated beef, often flavored with garlic and onions.
- Bibimbap: This rice-based dish is loaded up with toppings that can vary wildly but often included beef, eggs, and vegetables.
- Japchae: A typical stir fry differentiated by the use of glass noodles made from sweet potato starch.
- Fried chicken: There's a reason Korean fried chicken places have become popular elsewhere in the world. The crispy texture and sweet-and-sauces make it dangerously craveable.
- Hotteok: These sweet, syrup-filled pancakes with notes of cinnamon and peanuts are a popular street food.
- Samgyetang: A ginseng chicken soup for the soul with garlic, scallion, rice, and spices.
- Makgeolli: A light, sweet rice wine that is easy to drink but can pack a punch.
- Soju: This "Korean vodka" typically made from rice comes in a wide variety of flavors and is typically sipped neat and chilled.
If you did not purchase EF Ultimate Break Optional Excursions before the trip began, you can log into your Online Account and do so on tour. You can also talk to your Tour Director on tour and they can help you get enrolled. If you’d like to plan something else during your free time, connect with your Tour Director before doing so; they sometimes arrange extra activities for the group during free time.
Prices for these optional excursions will increase on tour, so please check your online account for available add-ons.
We’re so glad you chose to travel with us and are now part of the EF Ultimate Break family! We'll look for your post-card in the mail, and your #thisisultimate tags on Instagram. Cheers to the Best. Trip. Ever.