June 6, 2023

Solo travelling in Korea – Be the main character in your own K-drama

Are you obsessed with Korean dramas, K-pop, or watching Korean food mukbangs on YouTube? Perhaps none of the above. But do you want to see an exciting corner of Asia with incredible history, nature, architecture and cuisine? Then solo travel in Korea is calling you!

I moved to Korea alone 18 months ago, and since then I’ve had all kinds of solo experiences that I never could have imagined from my London comfort bubble. This country is so welcoming that I’ve never really felt alone – it’s a great choice for first-time or nervous solo travellers, as I was!

I’m here to tell you everything you need to know about solo travelling in Korea!


What to know before travelling alone to Korea

Korea isn’t the most famous spot in Asia for backpackers – its routes aren’t as well-trodden as those in Thailand or Vietnam. But excellent public transport, high levels of safety and the reliable kindness of Korean people make it easy to navigate the country as a solo traveller. In the bigger cities you can get by without knowing Korean, but in smaller spots, the translation app Papago will be your new best friend. You should also download a Korean maps app such as Naver or Kakao, because non-Korean apps don’t work well.


What time of the year is best for solo travellers visiting Korea?

I wouldn’t recommend solo travellers to visit Korea during the winter months of November-February. For starters, the brutal cold requires more layers than you can fit in your backpack – in Seoul temperatures are around –15 degrees. The social scene is quieter, there are fewer cultural events and less travellers visiting.

When March comes around, it starts to thaw and Korea starts popping. The arrival of cherry blossom season brings everybody out, so it’s the perfect time for solo travellers to meet people – just make sure to book your hostels early, as places sell out way in advance. Throughout spring and summer, you can find a festival to go to almost every weekend, most of which are free. Historic Gyeongju has its own Cherry Blossom Festival in late March to early April, while Daegu has its famous Chimaek Festival in July (‘chimaek’ is the Korean word for fried chicken and beer, need I say more?) In June, Seoul’s Waterbomb festival has huge Korean artists performing at what is essentially a huge water fight in the sweaty peak of summer. And for something totally different, the Boryeong Mud Festival in July is a big party on the beach that involves sliding, swimming and wrestling in mud. Go to any of these festivals solo and you’ll be sure to leave with a new bunch of travel BFFs.


How much does solo travelling in Korea cost?

The simplest way I can answer this question is: way less than western Europe, but more than southeast Asia. Overall, I think solo travel in Korea is pretty affordable – but let’s break it down.

Coming from the U.K, the land of overpriced train tickets and major delays, I’m obsessed with Korea’s public transport. It’s clean, comfortable, reliable and you always pay the same price, no matter when you travel or book. The longest trip most travellers will take is from Seoul in the north to Busan in the south. This costs 50,000 won (about £30) by high-speed train taking 2 hours, or 37,000 won (£23) for a 4-hour bus ride.

Korea has some of the friendliest hostels you’ll find, and they’ll be kind to your wallet too. Around £15 a night is the average for most cities, with cheaper and bougier options available.

Eating at a Korean restaurant is cheap, while western-style places are a bit pricier. Dinner at a Korean BBQ restaurant costs about 15,000 won (£9) per person, and in all Korean restaurants side dishes are free and all you can eat. Groceries are pricy, so I don’t recommend cooking too much at your hostel. Instead, on your most frugal days, ramyeon and gimbap from the convenience store can fill you up for less than £3. For a cheap night out, stick to soju, Korea’s national spirit. It only costs around £2 a bottle, but you might pay for it in other ways the next day…


Is Korea safe for solo travellers?

Having visited many cities in Korea as a solo female, I can confidently say it feels like the safest place I’ve ever travelled. Crime levels are so low that if you lose your wallet, the chances are it’ll be in the same spot the next day with everything intact. If you get lost, you’re never more than a few minutes from a 24-hour convenience store where you can charge your phone and get something to eat at any time of night. Of course, nowhere is perfect and as solo travellers we should stay alert whenever visiting a new place. But safety shouldn’t be a big concern when planning your trip to Korea.

In big cities nobody will bat an eye at you, but do be prepared for some attention if you visit a rural area as a foreigner. Korea is still pretty conservative, so LGBT couples might be stared at for holding hands or kissing in public by older Koreans.


How to travel Korea solo

Okay, we’ve covered the logistical stuff. So where are you gonna go, what are you gonna do, where are you gonna sleep and what are you gonna eat on your big solo adventure? For such a small country

Korea has endless possibilities, so it can feel overwhelming trying to plan a solo itinerary. Try to go with the flow as much as possible, but here are the essential things you can’t miss!


Best places to visit in Korea for solo travellers


Most trips to South Korea will start in its non-stop capital city, where you can experience all sides of Korean culture in 24 hours. Start the day in an ancient palace and end the night in a Gangnam nightclub, with some antique shopping, gallery hopping and K-pop idol spotting in between. Seoul is an ultra-modern city with traditions on every corner. If you’re feeling lonely, head to Itaewon, Korea’s most international neighbourhood. You’ll be sure to find home comforts here no matter where you’re from. The university district Hongdae is also a great place to meet people, with parties 7 nights a week.



Korea’s second city is slightly more chilled, but every bit as fun. It’s also home to iconic Haeundae beach, considered to be the most beautiful in Korea. Busan is my favourite place to visit solo, because I always get major main character syndrome strolling across the white sand, taking the Sky Capsule train alongside the ocean, or heading up into the mountains to explore the eclectic Gamcheon Culture Village. The best neighbourhoods for solo travellers to stay in are Haeundae or Seomyeon, both popular nightlife spots with so much to do.



I may be biased because I live there, but Gyeongju must be the friendliest city in Korea – it just has that small city charm! As an introvert it was pretty much impossible not to make friends as soon as I arrived here, thanks to the kind Koreans who were so eager to show me their culture and the small community of expats who always welcome a new foreigner in town. It’s a cheap, relaxed place to chill out and enjoy some of Korea’s most important historic sites, while its coolest neighbourhood Hwanglidan-gil has plenty to keep a solo traveller entertained.


Best things to do in Korea for solo travellers

Koreans are baseball mad, so even if you’re allergic to anything sporty, the atmosphere at a live baseball game makes for a fun time. It’s perfect for solo travellers, because everybody around you cheering for the same team automatically becomes your new bestie. The game may be slow, but the fast-flowing beer keeps the mood high. Fellow Brits, if you don’t have a clue what’s going on, just stay for the good vibes and fried chicken. Major cities like Seoul, Busan and Daegu have teams in the KBO League. The season runs from April – October and tickets are surprisingly cheap!

For a more relaxing time try a jjimjilbang, traditional Korean bathhouses that are usually open 24 hours a day. A big part of this involves naked communal bathing, which I find significantly less awkward when I don’t know anybody – solo travel win! After taking a soak, change into pyjamas and try out the different saunas to sweat out all the soju you’ve consumed. Every town has jjimjilbangs, but Busan’s SpaLand is the fanciest!

An authentic experience you’ll never forget is a night sleeping in a temple, adopting the lifestyle of a Buddhist monk. Many of Korea’s temples offer overnight stays which are an awesome opportunity to learn about Buddhist history and culture. These usually involve sunrise meditation, communal work, vegan food, 108 prostrations (a Buddhist bowing ritual) and a night in a dorm, where you’ll feel right at home.

If you’re in Busan on a Saturday night, head to Gwangalli beach for one of the coolest shows you’ll ever see. Each week at this time, people gather on the sand to watch a futuristic drone show above the ocean, with themes ranging from Greek mythology to ‘save the polar bears’. The show is spectacular and totally free – just bring a beach mat and a few beers and you’ll be chatting to your neighbours in no time.


Best hostels in Korea for solo travellers

Korea has heaps of hostels that are perfect for solo travellers, so here are just a few of my picks. In Seoul, Time Travelers Party Hostel in cool Hongdae is a contender for the most social. They arrange a meeting every night in their basement for solo travellers to drink and hang out before heading out to the best clubs, hand-picked by their expert staff. If international Itaewon is more your scene, G Guest House holds Korean BBQ nights on its rooftop that overlooks one of Korea’s most buzzing neighbourhoods.

In Busan, Kimchee Guesthouse has spots in both Haeundae and Seomyeon, so whether you’re into beach bars or hardcore clubbing, you’ll be close to the action. Bond with your new dorm-mates over games of beer pong and flip cup before heading out to enjoy Busan’s incredible nightlife.


Best places to eat in Korea for solo travellers

To be honest, the most difficult thing for me when solo travelling in Korea is finding places to eat alone. Korean food culture is all about sharing, and some restaurants won’t accept a party of one. You’ll always be okay in a western style place, but they can be expensive and you didn’t come to Korea to eat pizza and pasta!

My top tip is to visit local markets – here you can sample all kinds of Korean food in smaller portions, without the pitying gaze of restaurant staff watching over you. In my experience, the old Korean women who own the stalls are so excited to feed an international guest that they usually throw in freebies and make a big effort to chat through the language barrier. Seoul has several options, but I recommend starting at Gwangjang Market – it’s easy to navigate and not intimidating. The food street at Namdaemun Market, Korea’s oldest traditional market, is awesome too. Outside of the markets, Seoul also has amazing street food that you can grab on the go. The best spots are in Myeong-dong and Hongdae!

Busan’s street food hotspot is in the BIFF square area of Nampo-dong, where the streets are filled with vendors selling all kinds of delicious food. Haeundae also has a cute street market, with pretty photo spots and an emphasis on seafood.

Even smaller cities tend to have food markets. Gyeongju’s Jungang Market has a super local feel, and it’s normal to bring your own beer or soju to enjoy while you eat. If you can’t find street food, there are some Korean dishes that are suited to solo diners. Bibimbap is the most popular, a healthy combo of rice, beef, lots of veggies, egg and spicy sauce that you should mix together. Also try gimbap (seaweed rice rolls), jeon (Korean pancakes) and naengmyeon (noodles in ice cold soup). If you want to sample the likes of Korean BBQ, you’ll just have to round up some hostel mates!


I hope this guide to solo travelling in Korea has you ready to take the plunge and book that flight! I promise you won’t regret it. Let us know what you discover on your adventure!


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