Gay Travel Asia
Gay Travel Asia Gay Travel Asia

서울한국

Seoul

South Korea

Intro Sleep Eat Drink Play Shop Map
Seoul Gay Guide

Introduction

2PM, Samsung, kimchi, Laneige… South Korea has given us so many good things lately. Aren’t you curious to find out where it all comes from? Nobody was talking about Korea 20 years ago. Today, K-POP has fans through much of Asia. And with “Gangnam Style” the whole thing has gone global. And at the center of it all is Seoul, South Korea’s capital with a population of 26 million. A modern metropolis with ancient temples as well as high-tech architecture. You can expect great shopping, exquisite temples and super tasty Korean food. Gay nightlife? Yes, but with a somewhat limited choice.

Two days of sightseeing, one day of shopping and then maybe one day to get out of town. So 4 days are probably enough for a first trip. Add one more day if you are really a shopaholic because the choices are really endless, particularly for fashion. Just head to Meyoung-Dong on a weekend and you know what we are talking about. But it’s not all superficial commercial fun. Head two hours north of Seoul and get a glimpse into North Korea, one of the hottest topic in global affairs.

Getting there

Korea doesn’t have a low-cost airline but local carriers Asiana Airlines as well as Korean Air offer great fares from many cities in Asia. Seoul is also a destination where package tours might be a good deal so check with your local travel agent.

Most flights arrive at Incheon International Airport (ICN) which is located on an island 48km west of Seoul. It is one of the most efficient and user-friendly airports in the region. Get your passport stamped, collect your pink suitcase and then decide how to continue your journey into the city.

A convenient choice is the Airport Limousine buses that take you directly to many areas of Seoul and usually often stop right in front of major hotels. If you are heading to Meyong Dong, take bus number 6015 for ₩10,000. Buy the ticket in cash directly from the driver. For other destinations, check the airport website’s useful transportation section before you arrive.

A'REX is the name of the train that links the airport with Seoul Station. The express services to the city take about 43 minutes and cost ₩8,000 (with WiFi available on board) while the commuter services takes 53 minutes and costs ₩3,700. From Seoul Station you can take a taxi or one of the many subway lines.

Taxis are available and a trip to downtown Seoul will cost you around ₩50,000 in a regular taxi and ₩70,000 for a deluxe taxi. You will also have to pay the highway toll. Make sure you have the destination written down in Korean as not all cabbies speak/read English.

If you are flying from Tokyo, Osaka or Shanghai your flight may arrive at Gimpo Airport (GMP) which is just 15km west of Seoul. You can also take the A'REX train service to Seoul Station or directly take subway lines 5 or 9 from the airport. A Taxi to the city center will cost you around ₩30,000.

Getting around

Seoul’s subway system is pretty good. The 17 lines will take you almost anywhere you want to go. And it’s pretty easy to use with signs and ticketing machines in English. The fare depends on the distance travelled. Short rides start from ₩1,150 and for all tickets you purchase you need to add ₩500 deposit that you will get back when you return the ticket after your journey. If buying and refunding tickets sounds like too much hassle, just get a T-Money card. It is a prepaid card that automatically deducts the correct fare. And fares are cheaper than fares for cash tickets. You can also use T-Money to pay for taxis as well as other services. Trains run from about 05:30 to 24:00.

Taxis are also a good option, although traffic jams are quite common. If you can either choose a regular taxi (orange/silver) or a deluxe taxi (black). Regular taxis start from ₩2,400 and deluxe taxis from ₩4,500. The regular taxis are very comfortable so there is really no need to go for a deluxe taxi unless you want to impress your date. Having your destination written down in Korean helps but most taxis also have a free translation service. You can pay for your fare with cash, T-Money and aslo with your credit card. Taxis are slightly more expensive at night.

When to go

Seoul is up north so winters get really cold. Expect freezing temperatures from November to March. Unless, you want to go skiing in Korea maybe you want to avoid this season. Summers on the other hand can get very hot and humid from June to August. In July it really rains every day and not just a little drizzle. So that leaves you with spring (March/April) as well as autumn (September/October) with good travel weather.

If you come in spring, you may get the additional benefit of witnessing the cherry blossoms. Both spring and fall also see many festivals and events throughout Korea. Because shopping for fashion may be on your “to do” list, note that the local fashion also follows the changing seasons. If you go in winter, you can buy a lot of winter clothes which may not be very useful if you live in Bangkok or Singapore.

What to see

Gyeongbokgung

Large and elegant palace from the Joseon dynasty

Meyoung Dong

Shopping mecca for young and trendy fashion addicts

Itaewon

Unique multicultural district with a lively nightlife scene

Insadong

Traditional antique shops, art galleries and souvenir shops

DMZ

Visit the demilitarized zone for a glimpse into North Korea

Stay connected

Seoul is probably the most connected city in the world. Nearly everyone has a smart phone. Well, this is the country of Samsung after all. You can buy a local SIM card when you arrive at the airport. Just head to K-Books or Family Mart. Buying a SIM card in the city directly from a mobile network provider is more complicated. Most hotels and also coffee shops, restaurant and bars offer WiFi, often free. Grindr and Jack’d are quite popular. However, while the rest of Asia uses LINE or WeChat to chat, Koreas uses Kaokao Talk. Download it before you go if you want to make friends with some Seoul sisters.

Gay life

Some people might think that Korea looks like a pretty gay country, looking at all the boys in the many K-POP bands. However, that’s just show business. Korean society remains fairly conservative and anti-gay sentiments are widespread. In 2008 openly gay actor/model Kim Ji-Hoo committed suicide because he felt rejected by the Korean people due to his sexuality.

Military service is mandatory for all Korean men. And when they enlist, recruits are specifically asked about their sexual preference. Most gays will lie about their sexuality as declaring homosexuality often results in being dishonorably discharged. And because military service profiles have to be submitted when applying for a job, the employer will be aware of it.

Homosexuality is still remains very much a taboo in Korean society. So most gays in Korea maintain the very low profile. Also the few gay bars in Seoul are fairly low key. Things are changing but very slowly. However, gay sex is legal both for men and women.

 



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