When you think of destinations best suited for solo female travelers, South Korea may not be the place that immediately pops into your mind, and that isn’t for any derogatory reason, but simply because Korea is still considered a relatively new and ‘unconventional’ travel destination and there isn’t a significant amount that is known about the region globally.
Solo female travelers, particularly first timers or relatively inexperienced travelers may opt for places where there is a well-trodden route, where countless solo females have gone before them, and where there are plentiful resources available to help them plan their trips. Unfortunately, not all of this is in place to help a fabulous independent female plan her trip to Korea so perhaps she will wind up dismissing it as an option, and go for a ‘safer’ choice such as Europe or South East Asia instead.
As someone who traveled to Korea twice as a solo female before moving to Seoul, I genuinely haven’t felt safer anywhere else in the world (although maybe I would say that I feel equally comfortable in Japan). Here are just a few of the reasons why I believe that South Korea is a perfect destination for solo female travel.
South Korea is an Incredibly Safe Country
South Korea is an incredibly safe country and I don’t just mean that in terms of the country’s crime rate statistics. There is a genuine sense of community and a respect towards other people and their belongings in Korea which I’ve never seen anywhere else. This may sound like an impossible concept to grasp for those who haven’t visited Korea so let me provide you with a few examples:
For instance, leaving your laptop and purse on the table in Starbucks while you go off to the bathroom and wait in line to order another drink is just asking to be robbed in most places but in Korea I’ve done this multiple times (and then have to remind myself that I need to stop doing it when I’m travelling elsewhere!)
I have also seen shop owners leave their tills unattended while they popped out to get something from the coffee store down the road and then coming back to be met with Korean teenagers patiently waiting at the till with their cash in hand to pay. Would that happen in London? I don’t think so. Because respect is so deeply ingrained in Korean culture, the people apply it to everything that they do.
The People Want to Speak to You
Although not every individual speaks English to a fluent degree, you will find that far more people do have a good grasp of the language than you would expect (far more than in Japan!). Koreans know the value of learning English in order to help them with their careers so many people strive to improve their English ability as much as they can. It’s not uncommon to find people striking up conversations with you, excited to have the opportunity to practice their English with a native speaker, and taking a genuine interest in your background and home country.
You truly do not need to be concerned about the language barrier, since the majority of Koreans speak some level of English, even when you find yourself outside of the main cities of Seoul and Busan
Public Transport is Cheap and Efficient
The subway networks in Seoul and Busan are incredibly efficient and expansive. The Seoul subway extends far past the city limits into the neighboring cities of Suwon, Incheon, and Bucheon and despite the fact that Seoul is an absolute sprawling beast of a city, it is still incredibly affordable to get from one side of the city to another, with “express” trains making many of the long journeys more bearable.
I recommend picking up a T-Money subway card from one of the subway ticket machines (this can be used on subways and city buses all over Korea and is far easier than fumbling around for cash) and downloading the ‘Subway Korea’ app for your phone which will tell you the best route to get from A to B along with providing you with the train times and schedules.
Travelling alone from one city to another may seem daunting in a country which doesn’t even share the same alphabet as what we are used to, but travelling by bus or train in Korea is also very cheap and easy.
Free Wifi is Everywhere
I appreciate that sometimes despite extremely thorough planning, you can still find yourself lost, needing to check some information, or needing to contact somebody. Maybe I actually need to be surgically removed from my phone (we’re joined at the hip you see) and stop checking for wifi in every place that I go but thankfully in Korea there are open, non password protected wifi networks literally everywhere – in the street, in the malls, everywhere so you are pretty much constantly connected to the internet, and never have to worry about finding wifi if you need it.
A Solo Female is a Common Sight
South Korea is filled with expats, particularly those working as English Teachers who will often spend their weekends exploring Korea and visiting various tourist sites alone (I should know, I was one of them!). What I love about travelling around Korea is that people just leave you to get on with it – you won’t be hassled by sales people or bewildered locals, and people won’t stare at you aghast at the fact that you are a woman travelling alone. You will even see many South Korean women sightseeing alone, some going all out to rent hanboks (traditional Korean dress) and setting up tripods for their solo photo shoots so yep, there is definitely no need to feel self conscious about travelling alone in Korea!
There’s a Large International Community
I always recommend that you should hang out with the locals when you travel (plus Koreans are super fun!) but if you find yourself feeling a little homesick, or you’re nervous about travelling in a country with such a vast cultural difference, maybe you will find some comfort in the fact that Korea has such a large expat community. You can find plenty of international events on the likes of couchsurfing or meetup.com so that you can easily connect with people with similar interests. If you want a slice of home, head to Itaewon, Seoul’s “foreigner” district which is home to the US army base and also plentiful western restaurants, bars and businesses.
Find Hotel Deals in Seoul!
As with travelling anywhere else in the world, you should always exert regular common sense (don’t walk alone at night, be cautious of overly friendly strangers, etc) when travelling in Korea, but I really hope that if you are on the fence about going then you’ve found this article useful. If you’re looking for further information on travelling in Korea, or information on the culture, then this website is an absolute goldmine of resources since I’ve written about this country so extensively. For your convenience, I’ve included a handful of useful links below.
25 Wonderful Things to do in Seoul – The best tourist attractions in Korea’s Capital
Where to Find the Best Beauty Treatments in Seoul – The girly girl’s pampering bible
Cultural Etiquette in Korea – What to expect when you arrive
Visiting the Korean Border – An overview of visiting the Korean DMZ
Free Wine Tasting in Korea – An initiative offered by The Sool Gallery
Seoul’s Oldest Food Market – Foods to try at Gwangjang market
A Temple Stay Experience – Stay with Buddhist Monks at a Korean temple