The remarkable rise to international stardom of KPOP and K-Dramas have undeniably elevated the prestige and fascination the world already previously had for South Korea. Whether you are flying over the Pacific or across the whole of Europe, planning a trip to South Korea can be Herculean, with or without the barrage of questions about the country’s language barriers, safety, and transportation.
If you are stuck in a black hole of K-culture tabs and unverifiable information, fear not, as GoWithGuide has done the research for you. If you plan on doing some Seoul-searching, hoping to catch a train to Busan, or hungry to see some history right at the DMZ, our South Korea tour guides can help you devise the perfect South Korea itinerary for you. Before you start packing your bags, read up on all you need to know about South Korea.
South Korea’s Top 10 Tourism Statistics
Surrounded by the Yellow Sea to the west and the Sea of Japan to the east, South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea, finds itself nestled in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. Together with its adjacent islands, the country is home to over 51.7 million residents with over 81% living in urban areas (think Seoul, Incheon, Busan, and Daegu). With 3,358 islands and 99,720 sq. km ready to be discovered, the country overflows with unforgettable experiences.
1. 17,503,000 people - Over 17.5 million visitors arrived in South Korea in 2019, which is 14% higher than the previous year’s numbers.
2. 4.16% - Travel and tourism contributed 4.16% to the overall GDP of the country in 2019.
3. $21,500,000,000- A record amount of 21.5 billion USD was documented in 2019 for tourist travel expenses in South Korea, averaging an expenditure of $1,230 per visitor.
4. 7.5 days - The average length of stay of visitors in 2017 was 7.5 days.
5. 47% - In 2021, 47% of tourists chose to visit South Korea to indulge in food tours.
6. 1.86 million tons - It’s not surprising that in 2019, 1,860,000 tons of kimchi was consumed in the country.
7. 13.38 million people - South Korea’s four major royal palaces were visited by a record high 13,380,000 people in 2019. Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul attracted the biggest crowds at 5.34 million visitors.
8. 501.5% - In December 2022, South Korea saw a jump at 501.5% increase in visitor arrivals, a great change compared to its previous month at 391%.
9. -25.5°- The coldest day of the 2023 winter season arrived on January 24, reaching lows of -25.5° in Cheorwon, a northern county in South Korea.
10. Number 1 - BTS holds the number 1 spot in Spotify’s Top K-Pop Groups of 2022 playlist with the hit song “Permission to Dance.”
Who Else Loves South Korea?
Throughout the years, East Asian and Southeast Asian countries have topped thelist of visitorsto South Korea. The United States also sits highly on the list, with other European and South American countries being inaugurated into the list in the past couple of years.
1. China- China tops the list of highest inbound tourists by country in 2019 with 6 million visitors.
2. Japan- South Korea’s neighbor comes in second with 3.3 million visitors in 2019.
3. Taiwan- The land of industry and heritage brought over 1.3 million visitors in 2019.
4. United States - The Korean waves washed in 1 million US visitors in 2019.
5. Hong Kong- Last but never least, Hong Kong brought in 700,000 visitors in 2019.
South Korea's Fascinating Faves
Okay, so we know who loves South Korea, but what do visitor's do once they land? Here are the Top 5 most visited attractions in South Korea.
- Everland - South Korea’s largest theme park & resort saw a whopping 5.7 million visitors from all over the world in 2022.
- KINTEX - The massive Korean International Exhibition Center drew 5.31 million visitors in 2022 thanks to it being a popular venue for meetings, conferences and of course, exhibitions.
- Lotte World- From indoor delights to outdoor thrills, Lotte World adventure has brought joy to the 4.52 million that spend their day in the massive theme park in 2022.
- National Museum Of Korea- The home of Korean history, culture and art welcomed 3.4 million visitors in 2022.
- Gyeongbokgung Palace- Rounding out the top 5 is the grandest of South Korea’s 5 palaces dating back to the Joseon Dynasty. In 2022 this intricate palace welcomed 3.39 million visitors.
Life in South Korea
Depending on where exactly you find yourself, South Korea can be a whole lot of different things. This is why for first timers, we suggest passing by one of these amazing regions.
Top Must See South Korean Regions
1. Seoul- The country’s capital is a metropolis fusing modern skyscrapers and pop culture with centuries-old temples and savory-smelling street markets. For first timers in South Korea, Seoul should definitely be on your itinerary. The capital has a little bit of everything, so you are in for a taste of what it is like to live like a resident.
For the foodies, Seoul will appease your appetite with the best kimchi, bibimbap, and tteokbokki in the world. Ask our local guides for more information on the best foods to try in South Korea.
2. Jeju Island - With a volcano towering Jeju Island, it is no wonder the region attracts adventurous travelers ready for hikes, days on the beach, and being in tune with nature. The island is a wonderful place to visit all year round, but if you want to get the peak experience, the spring and summer months will find you wanting to stay for longer.
3. Busan - The port city of Busan is a city with surprisingly a vast expanse of greenery with a sea backdrop. Take a pick from its healing forests, South Korea’s biggest Buddha, or Lotte World.
4. The DMZ - Korea is divided into two governments, and being on the same block of island, needed a 250 km (160 mi) long and 4 km (2.5 mi) wide Demilitarized Zone. Visit the area to learn more about the Korean Peninsula’s history with a professional tour guide to assure your safety in the area.
Best Time to Visit South Korea
Private guided tours around the country are available year round, but if you want to get the most from your trip, there are certain seasons that prove unrivaled.
- Spring Months - April to June
By far the best time to visit the country is during the spring months, when the temperature is pleasing, the air is neither too dry nor too humid, and the atmosphere is awash with cherry blossoms.
- Fall Months - September to November
Our local guides also suggest visiting in the fall months if you are unable to book for the spring. The fall months are also better for those with hay fever, according to the Korean Calendar for Allergenic Pollens.
- Summer Months - July and August
Summer is the hottest and wettest time in the country, albeit only two months long. For those in search of some beach and ocean action, then this is the best time to dive in.
- Winter Months - December to March
The freezing cold of South Korea can be pretty extreme, but this dry and beautiful season is the perfect time to go skiing, sightseeing, and shopping.
How to Get Around South Korea
By train - the whole country is connected by rail, making trains an easy and affordable option for sightseeing. Our South Korea tour guides can also take you on the high speed KOrail and let you know the best passes to use on your customized tour experience.
By Bus - Intercity transport is also convenient if you choose buses as your main mode of transportation.
By Ferry - To get to the islands, our local guides recommend hopping on a ferry. It is fun, does not hurt the budget, and is a once in a lifetime experience.
Insider Tip: Make sure to buy a transportation card, TMoney or Cashbee, before embarking on a train or bus ride. This will save you time, money, and from avoidable stress!
Safety in South Korea
South Korea is an extremely safe country. The country finds itself sitting way up the 2022 safety index at 21, just behind Monaco and Austria and in front of Singapore and Finland. CNN has also ranked Seoul as one of the safest cities for 2019. Of course watching out for tourist traps and pickpockets is a must, just like in any country, but in general, the country is safe for travelers from anywhere in the world.
Strolling with a South Korea tour guide who speaks the language will give you the upper hand when finding the most coveted restaurants, the best deals, and the grandest views. Whilst on a private tour with a professional guide, issues related to miscommunication and language barriers are zero to none. That is one huge weight lifted off of your shoulders.
Searching for accurate, factual, and up-to-date information on South Korea does not have to be as difficult as learning a full out BTS or Blackpink dance routine. In fact, it should be as trouble-free and uncomplicated as enjoying the beautiful landscape of the Land of the Morning Calm.
Ready to take your trip planning to the next level? Get in touch with a South Korea tour guide and get your itinerary party started!
South Korea will only continue to enchant the world, so be the first to share this all-in-one guide to friends and family.