Here are some important things to know before traveling to Korea, the homeland of our True Parents. While these tips are directly relevant to the 50 couples that will be traveling to Korea to attend the Holy Marriage Blessing Ceremony on March 3rd, they are also useful for anyone planning to visit Korea in the future.
1. Bowing is the standard form of greeting in Korea. It is appropriate to shake hands in Korea, but usually the one who is older will initiate the handshake.
2. You may find yourself the center of attention around Koreans (or even stared at) because you look a little different. Learn not to take offense. Many times it’s just a friendly portrayal of their interet in you.
3. It is expected to be respectful toward people older than yourself, even if by one year. If you’re eating with someone significantly older, wait for him/her to take the first bite before you start to eat.
International travel is always interesting and unexpected. Such is the nature of venturing the unknown. If you make a conscious decision before you go to enjoy every moment, your experience will be just that: enjoyable.
The Blessing Ceremony
Since the Blessing event is organized in Korea and by Koreans, it’s expected that the ceremony will contain bits of Korean culture. For instance, it is normal for there to be lots of entertainment. The ceremony is being broadcast to over 150 nations, so they try to make it worth the watch! That’s also why there are so many cameras. It can sometimes be overwhelming to see cameras all around you. But it’s expected. If you focus on your own experience and take in the moment, you won’t even notice the cameras.
So try not to fall asleep.
Renting a Cellphone
At Incheon Airport, there are multiple phone rental places. You can rent cell phones or SIM cards there. The SK Telecom carrier is recommended because they have good signal in Cheong Pyeong and Hanwha Resort. Prices range from around $30 and up for one week.
If you’re wondering how to get the best rates of currency exchange, here are some quick tips for you.
1. It’s best to withdraw cash from an ATM while in Korea. The reason is the exchange rate is a raw rate at ATMs. Your bank may charge an international withdrawal fee, but it’s usually much less than the exchange fee at the airport. Check your bank’s international withdrawal fees. ATMs are everywhere in Korea (including Cheong Pyeong and Hanwha Resort).
2. If you feel more comfortable exchanging money at Incheon Airport, that is also fine. Just go to one of the multiple exchange windows in the airport. There are multiple exchange places located near Gate F-14. They all speak English.
3. Don’t forget to inform your bank that you will be abroad and may withdraw money overseas. Your bank needs to know this so that they do not freeze your account because they think someone is hacking your account overseas.
4. As with all international travel, keep your cash with you at all times. Korean snacks and stuff are really cheap, so carrying cash and coins is a good option.
If you’re staying overnight in Seoul, here are your best options.
Cheap, fun, adventurous. Staying overnight at a sauna will allow you to have a cultural experience for a good price. Korean saunas are common in Seoul and other parts of Korea. Just ask around for a ‘Jjim-jil-bang’ (찜질방)
Prices range from $5 to $20 for an all-night stay.
Staying at a hostel is another option. Search for hostels online here.
Finding a nice, clean hotel in Korea can sometimes be tricky. If you do decide to stay at a hotel, look for one that is familiar with foreign visitors.
The official language of Korea is, you guessed it, Korean. English is not a second official language, as it is in many other Asian countries, so it’s safe to assume no one speaks English (except for at the airport and major tourist spots in Seoul).
Write down or save these common phrases somewhere in your phone:
Goodbye (when leaving)
an-young-hi-gye-se-yo (안녕히 계세요)
Please give me + [object]
[object] + ju-se-yo (주세요)
Where is + [location]
[location] + odi-iso-yo?
If you’re in need of a quick, cheap Korean meal, check out the restaurant chain called Kimbap Cheongug (김밥천국)
Cautions & Pitfalls
1. At the airport customs in Korea, avoid saying that you will be attending a wedding/Blessing ceremony, unless specially asked. Saying this may raise suspicion as to what your intentions are in Korea. You should say that you are in Korea for the purpose of tourism ONLY.
2. As with all international travel, keep your cash with you at all times.