At a Glance
When to Go
Incheon International Airport is located in the city of Incheon, about 50 miles from downtown Seoul. The fastest way to Seoul is via the Airport Railroad Express train: It's a bargain, at under $10, and you’ll be in the heart of Seoul in precisely 43 minutes. Buses (also $10) and taxis (at least $70) are available as well, if you are prepared to battle Seoul’s legendary traffic.
The Seoul subway is vast, yet easy to navigate. You pay by distance, and most rides cost between $1 and $2. Aboveground buses roll to every corner of the city for prices that range between $.75 and $2, depending on the route. It's easy to find taxis waiting on every corner. Tip: When hailing a taxi on the street, it's more polite to flag it with your hand facing down, not up. Seoul is well connected to the rest of South Korea with excellent transportation options including high-speed trains.
Food and Drink
Seoul offers classic beauty in the form of countless palaces, courtyards, and other royal property that has survived the city's modernization process. The city's energetic art, fashion, design, and architecture scenes earned it a World Design Capital designation in 2010, and you'll encounter contemporary culture in galleries, boutiques, and public art installations.
Korea is a country that celebrates tradition, and the numerous local festivals are a testament to the people’s immense national pride. The Fireworks Festival lights up the sky over the Han River in October and the Lantern Festival brings a gorgeous glow to the banks of Cheonggyecheon Stream in November, but no matter when you go, your visit will likely coincide with some sort of celebration.
What the Locals Know
Leslie Patrick is a freelance writer who splits her time between South Korea and a nomadic life of slow traveling around the globe. Leslie writes about travel, culture and lifestyle, and her work has been published in Salon, Marie Claire (UK and Australia editions), Islands, Travel + Leisure, Monocle, United Airlines' Hemispheres Magazine and various English language publications in Korea. Tales of Leslie's Korean life and travels can be found on her blog, The Chic Adventurer.