Tourist help number 1330
The turist number 24/7 is an unbelievable service which you can call to to get detailed informations about traveling in South Korea or for translation services when you are standing on the street. Next time I will even skype call them from home when planning my trip. (link below!)
Traveling email account
I have created a traveling email account and during my trip all the mails from my ordinary accounts are forwarded to this account. This keeps me calm when I need to check my mails on less secure computers.
I was happy about this when the disastrous login happened! The hostel had a totally new, nice computer with Windows 8 - all in korean and I did not managed to change the language in a hurry. I did as I used to at home and checked the mails but when wanted to log out I could not! After clicking around I understood that I had installed my mail account as the main account on this computer - with other words my mails were the first thing the visitors met when logging in to this PC. Not a good thing!
The guys in charge did not know what to do (I thought all younger guys in Korea were hackers - Disappointing!) I did not want to open an other account for a new disaster but a few days later I changed the PW - to my surprice it took nearly 2 hours to run through.
Credit cards: Visa most reliable
I had problems with my card and the ATM messages were erroneous telling me: Your card has been closed down. or Your card is invalid. I was travelling alone and when getting these messages when I had 3 weeks to go - you can easily imagine that I felt quite stressed.
At similar situation you may try a different machine and look for a new, shiny machine a one with visible credit card icons. Some machines also spell - International card - All these machines provided me money - but they took an extra fee for the service.
I bought this card for several years ago for the underground trips in Seoul and surprisingly it was still working now! I used it as mentioned below but I know that it is working in taxis too and far more occasions.
Underground: Seoul, Daejeon as well as in Busan
Cash card: In several convenience stores
Reload: I reloaded it at convenience stores /underground stations.
Long distance busses and train
I never made an reservation and still the departures were within 15 minutes after the purchase but I did not have strict schedule so I could take the risk. Trains work as home. Busses made a stop after driving about one hour - I took a photo with the licence plate and the buss stop number on the ground visible in case I went to the bathroom or shops. It is lovely to continue the trip on the same buss your things are on. This worked for sight seeing busses too
Directions: There is different buss terminals for directions - north going or east going bussies may have separate terminals.
Type of buss: Intercity or express buss terminals may have different locations.
You always fix your own luggage: open the side of the buss, place your luggage and close.
Underground and local buses
The underground is the easiest way to get around - the maps are available and to follow the trip advancing is easy. I found it very helpful to take photo of the exit signs. Here is an example from Busan where you can see the information options!
Station name in Korean;
Station number and name in 3 additional language.
Timetable information - see below the zoomed photo
Information about the first and last train in both directions
I used local busses only a very few times but the camera was very helpful here too. I showed my goal on the map (paper or saved in my camera or phone) and they discussed lively untill they gave me a suggestion pointing the right buss number. The start /end stops are shown in the photo and I could follow the stops passing by on the buss' electronic sign board.
Accomodation and food
There was risk to put long hours on surfing among the different options for night and dinner. I decided to stick to my guide book and choose an option at suitable price level. I had a goal for average price for one night so sometimes it was higher and sometimes lower to end up at acceptable average level.
I think I know 2/3 of the alphabet and it was enough to read the most of the signs. I learned to copy the city names to show when buying the tickets - My nightmare was to end up at a totally different city because of my bad pronunciation - never happened though!
Usually the browser translation service was not working at all. When needed I copied the most important text to google translation which to my surprice worked as usuall!!
Tourist help number and site