Seoul solo travel: a Western woman’s tale in South Korea
This Seoul solo travel guide was written by Madi Monde. She used to work in the fashion industry in the US then decided she wanted to move to Seoul, Korea to teach English abroad! Read on and see Madi’s insider tips about safety in Seoul!
Is solo female travel safe in Seoul, South Korea? To answer that question let me tell you about why I traveled to Seoul and how I ended up relocating to the land of the morning calm.
I arrived in Seoul in January 2019 and it was my first time ever traveling to Asia and my longest flight was too far, 18 hours to be exact with a short layover in Beijing.
I decided to go to Seoul in the first place because I was invited by local Seoulite friends to visit. I become good friends with 3 Korean girls from Seoul while studying abroad in Paris.
While in France they introduced me to Korean culture, food, and bits of the language and encouraged me to visit them sometime. I decided to take them up on their offer because: (A) I had yet visited Asia and always wanted to, (B) I somehow snagged a $500 round-trip flight deal from NYC and (C), I would be able to experience the city like a local with their expert guidance.
However, when I started planning my trip I knew I would be solo during the majority of my time in Seoul as my friends had class and work obligations.
I won’t lie and say I was completely confident as it was my first time ever in Asia and I would be roaming the streets with my barely-there Korean language abilities.
Luckily while in Seoul I discovered I had nothing to be worried about as South Korea as a whole is one of the safest destinations for solo female travelers in the world.
In my 2 weeks spent exploring the metropolis of Seoul, I ended up being so blown away that a year and a half later I am preparing to move there.
Is Seoul safe for solo female travelers?
ABSOLUTELY! I live in Seoul and I feel super safe here. Even before coming to Seoul, I knew that it was the safest city in Asia. While Asian cities are generally safe, Korea is a first-world country so it is very different from SEA countries.
I never doubted I can do Seoul solo travel because this is just a super safe city, especially if you are a female traveling alone! The Koreans are also very friendly and will welcome you with open arms.
Seoul has a big population of young people so you’ll never be out of place.
Is Korea safe for solo female travelers?
Korea has a whopping 85.69 score as the country with the highest overall safety index in the world. It ranked number 1 out of 117 countries in the world safety index list.
Koreans are very warm people. Although there may be language barriers, they will still try their best to help you in every way they can. In general, Asia has a very hospitable culture that draws many Americans to live here and teach English abroad.
Can I go to South Korea alone?
Absolutely! When you are already in South Korea, you will discover how easy it is to make friends and meet people. South Koreans are very social people. They like to go out, especially the young ones!
Don’t worry about coming here and doing things by yourself. The idea of your Seoul solo travel should be meeting people and learning from other cultures.
As a Westerner, I find it very comfortable to learn about a culture that is so far away from mine. There are things that I would have never know about South Korea and Asia in general if I didn’t leave the comforts of my home!
Seoul solo travel guide: safety, things to do, and everything you need to know!
Best things to do in Seoul for solo travelers
Seoul is a massive metropolis and even after 2 weeks of exploring just Seoul, I felt like I hadn’t even scratched the surface. I tried to visit many different neighborhoods and experience lots of activities ranging from touristy to more hidden, local gems.
If you want to cross all of the below experiences off your list I recommend planning at least a 4-5 day trip so you can also pack in some relaxation time.
Visit a Unique Animal Cafe
Seoul has dozens of animal cafes where you can enjoy a coffee while playing with cute animals from bunnies to even meerkats. While I was in Seoul I went to several animal cafes and it was a really fun and cute experience!
Wear a Korean Traditional Dress at the Gyeongbokgung Palace
Gyeongbokgung Palace is a massive palace located right in the center of Seoul and is one of the most popular attractions in the city.
The coolest part is that you can dress up in a Korean traditional dress called Hanbok, there are several rental shops and you can even get your hair & make-up is done. It’s a cool way to experience Korean culture and feel like a queen!
Go back in time in Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village is a Korean traditional village in Seoul with beautiful architecture and many charming alleyways to roam through. Here you can find lots of adorable cafes, boutiques, and restaurants to enjoy.
Eat your way through the Gwangjang Market
The Gwangjang Market is one of the largest and well-known food markets in Seoul where you can try delicious and authentic Korean food, drinks, and sweets. I recommend trying Bindaetteok which is a tasty and crispy mung bean pancake along with a fresh fruit juice.
Stock-up on Korean Skincare
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know how popular Korean skincare is nowadays and you can find a skincare store on almost every corner in Seoul.
I recommend going to Olive Young for the most brand variety and hundreds of cool face masks to choose from.
See also: 32 solo trip ideas for women
My Favorite Sweets: Sulbing’s Bingsu
One of the most famous Korean desserts is Bingsu, which is shaved ice paired with ice cream and a range of toppings from fresh strawberries, chocolate, matcha, and even macaroons.
The best place to try this amazing dessert is Sulbing with several locations throughout Seoul. It is a massive dessert so it’s perfect to share with other solo travelers but it’s also so delicious you can easily enjoy it alone.
My Favorite Drink: Super Coffee’s Strawberry Milk
Super Coffee is a cute coffee shop located in the hip area of Hongdae serving one of the best strawberry milk lattes in Seoul. During my time in Seoul, I became addicted to strawberry milk lattes which are basically just milk mixed with fresh strawberries and are so tasty!
You can find strawberry milk lattes on almost every cafe menu in Seoul. South Korea is known for having some of the best tasting and largest fruit, especially strawberries, mangos, and tangerines so definitely are sure to try lots of fruit snacks, desserts, and drinks.
My Favorite Meal: Mapo Sutbul Galbi’s Korean BBQ
When in Korea you have to try authentic and mouthwateringly delicious Korean BBQ. Here you can find some of the tastiest marinated beef and pork barbeque that is grilled to perfection right in front of you.
Aside from the amazing food, Mapo Sutbul Galbi is also a celebrity hot-spot, you might get lucky and dine with a K-Pop star.
Seoul solo travel safety tips and advice
Google Maps does not work well in Korea and KakaoMap is the best way to get around Seoul. You can easily look up most addresses in English and find real-time subway and bus information all in this app.
Definitely try to take advantage of one of the best and most affordable systems in the world. Uber doesn’t exist in Seoul so KakaoTaxi is a great app to have in case you need to take a car.
Especially if you plan on enjoying the nightlife scene in Seoul as the subway closes at midnight and there are night buses but they are harder to navigate if you don’t speak Korean.
Don’t drink Soju like it’s water
The alcohol of choice in Korea is definitely Soju, it’s extremely cheap less than $2 USD, strong with up to 53% alcohol by volume. You can easily find Soju at any convenience store, bar, and most restaurant.
It’s an easy mistake to think it’s not as strong as it is especially if you are drinking flavored Soju such as strawberry it tastes similar to a fruit punch drink.
Even though Seoul is one of the safest cities for solo female travelers it’s not a smart idea to get heavily intoxicated alone and in a foreign country where you can’t speak the language.
However, I do recommend checking out the amazing and endless nightlife scene but with caution.
Free, fast Wi-fi is everywhere but can be sometimes unreliable
Fun fact: South Korea has the fastest internet speed in the world. Everywhere you go you can usually find free and fast public wi-fi however it’s important to have a backup just in case as it is not always reliable.
You can purchase a pocket wi-fi ahead of time to pick up at the airport for less than $3 USD per day and works with up to 3 devices.
Most places accept foreign credit cards but bring also some cash
Seoul is a very card-friendly city with a majority of shops and restaurants accepting foreign credit cards. However, it’s important to bring some cash for the subway and trying delicious Korean street food and any emergencies.
I recommend exchanging some cash at your bank ahead of time for the best rates and make sure to let them know you are traveling to avoid your card getting blocked while abroad.
Learn a few basic phrases in Korean
Although Seoul is generally very English-friendly especially in the popular areas including Hongdae, Myeong-dong, and Itaewon. It definitely makes traveling to Seoul easier if you know a few basic phrases especially if you want to travel to the more local areas which are the best part of the city.
Definitely download Papago, which is the best translation app for Korean to help you read Hangeul (the Korean alphabet) which is especially useful in transcribing menus and signs.
Accommodations in Seoul for solo travelers
If you are traveling solo and want to easily make friends, save money, or party, Hostels in Seoul are the best option. I never stayed in a Hostel while in Seoul, however, there are tons of options on Hostelworld from as little as $10 USD per night.
Time travelers party hostel: dorms from $8 USD
As I said, you are traveling alone and Koreans love to party! Nightlife in Seoul is one of the most vibrant and what’s the best way to do that than stay in a hostel like Time Travelers!
Guests of this hostel do everything together like hanging out and going out. There’s a lot of room for socialization if you stay in this hostel.
G Guest House Itaewon In Seoul: dorms from $14 USD
Another high-rated hostel in Seoul, G Guest House is right next to the Itaewon station and has easy access to popular spots in the city like Gangnam, Myeongdong, and Hongdae.
This is the best hostel to stay in Seoul if you want everything to be within walking distance. There are also lots of restaurants and bars nearby so you don’t have to go far!
The best way to meet people in Seoul
If you aren’t staying in a hostel it can be tougher to make friends while solo-traveling unless you are bolder and can approach strangers. I personally am more of an introvert and here are some ways I’ve found success in making friends and meeting people while in Seoul.
Try unique Airbnb experiences
While I was in Seoul I tried a really fun perfume-making course offered through Airbnb Experiences. Not only was I able to learn how to make my own custom perfume but I also met several awesome female-solo travelers like me. Airbnb Experiences has tons of affordable options from local cooking classes to photography-related experiences.
Recommended: Scared to travel alone? Here are some great tips!
Download a language exchange app
I am currently learning Korean and use a popular and free language exchange app called HelloTalk.If you want to practice or learn some Korean before going you can download the app and meet native speakers. I’ve actually met some great friends just by using this app and hanging out with locals is always an amazing experience.
Join Facebook Groups
I joined several travel-related Facebook groups and my favorite is called Girls Love Travel. Here you can search Seoul for example and find amazing recommendations from people who have traveled there and live there.
You can also post that you are going and ask if anyone wants to meet up. It’s a fun and easy way to make new friends who also love traveling without having to awkwardly approach strangers.
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