South Korea
May 2024
1 week

Seoul

A seductively stylish & spicy destination to work from.

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{Temperature}
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The capital of South Korea has a rich history dating back over 2,000 years.

The modern-day city is a distinctive blend of historic preservation and rapid urban development, with modern architecture contrasting with ancient palaces and serene natural spaces.

Verdict:
Highly recommended

The higher flight costs coming from Europe are well worth it for a month's stay or as part of a longer trip. I wouldn't hesitate to book another visit in the near future.

🌎
Verdict:
Highly recommended

The higher flight costs coming from Europe are well worth it for a month's stay or as part of a longer trip. I wouldn't hesitate to book another visit in the near future.

Verdict:
Highly recommended

The higher flight costs coming from Europe are well worth it for a month's stay or as part of a longer trip. I wouldn't hesitate to book another visit in the near future.

👎
Verdict:
Highly recommended

The higher flight costs coming from Europe are well worth it for a month's stay or as part of a longer trip. I wouldn't hesitate to book another visit in the near future.

🛫
South Korean Won (KRW)
9.7 Million
🏝️ Great for a holiday
🥇 Top rated
🧳 Would like to return

Summary

After the novelty of sweating through three T-shirts a day had worn off in Southeast Asia, I was eager to get to savour some of the cooler weather of late spring.

South Korea and Japan had always been high up on my list of places to visit, which due to the distance, I'd always put off.

With a fixed date to return to the UK, a six-week window presented itself to see as much of the region as possible, with Seoul as the starting point.

Accommodation
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

Booking within 6 weeks of arriving, I found Seoul a really difficult place to find quality accommodation. Knowing how efficient the local transport system is, if I were to return and stay for a longer duration, I'd consider being slightly away from any of the immediate core areas where you're more likely to get a better deal.

Compared to countries in SE Asia, there's definitely no surplus of supply on Airbnb, so it's worth checking conventional hotel websites if you're planning a shorter trip.

Having subsequently checked availability for 6 months in advance, book as much in advance as possible, be somewhat flexible on your location, and it is feasible to find a decent deal.

info
New legislation
Recent changes introduced by the Turkish government has made short-term rentals for under 100 days more restricted. Keep an eye on Reddit threads for up-to-date assessments of how the new legislation is impacting short-term rentals in practice.
Places to work
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

You won't have to look very hard to find somewhere to work from in Seoul. WeWork has numerous spaces across all districts of the city with a number of smaller operators and national chains like The Executive Centre and Bizsquare offering spaces across the city.

Seoul is blessed with an inordinate number of coffee shops, generally open late into the evening, with excellent WiFi, making them also viable spaces to set up from.

Value
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

Whilst noticeably more expensive than cities in Southeast Asia, Seoul still represents solid value for money if coming from Europe or North America. Good quality meals from informal restaurants can be found from around 8,500 won (£4.50), with prices for both coffee and alcohol lower than what you would expect at home.

A single ticket on the metro costs 1,500 won (£0.85) making getting around the city affordable. Tickets to local tourist attractions are very affordably priced, with tickets to palaces coming in around 3,000 won.

Accommodation is the one area where you may want to over-budget for, with limited availability on Airbnb.

info
The yen is currently at a 34-year low
While this is undoubtedly a negative for the Japanese, it makes for an exceptionally good time to visit Japan from abroad. Although this trend is unlikely to reverse significantly in the short term, it's still worth checking before visiting.
Read more
View the cost of living
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Working hours
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

Korean Standard Time is +9 hours ahead of GMT, making it 7 hours ahead of CET during the summer months. In relative terms to other destinations in Asia, this is +2 hours on Bangkok and +1 on Kuala Lumpur.

I had already been working in the region for the three months previous, so it wasn't a huge change in working hours, but it's right at the edge of where you would class an acceptable working time whilst not impacting your daily schedule.

View from the 11th floor of the Euljiro WeWork location looking towards the Myeong-dong Cathedral with the Seoul Tower in the background.
View from the 11th floor of the Euljiro WeWork location looking towards the Myeong-dong Cathedral with the Seoul Tower in the background.
The area surrounding Myeong-dong Street comes alive in the evenings with various street food vendors lining the streets from end to end.
The area surrounding Myeong-dong Street comes alive in the evenings with various street food vendors lining the streets from end to end.
The Han River bike path on the south side of the river makes for an ideal uninterrupted route for running or cycling. The riverside parks that line the river banks make for popular picnic spots for locals.
The Han River bike path on the south side of the river makes for an ideal uninterrupted route for running or cycling. The riverside parks that line the river banks make for popular picnic spots for locals.

Where to stay

Having explored exhaustively on foot for each of the days I was in the city, these were the neighbourhoods that stood out to me.

If visiting the city again, I'd happily stay within close proximity to any of these locations.

Given how effective the metro is, I would even consider staying further out than I normally would, if it widens the net of accommodation options.

Would avoid
Recommended
Myeong-dong
I stayed here off the recommendation of a friend as it was a great base to explore the rest of the city from. Within walking distance of the royal palaces, Cheonggyecheon Stream, Namsan Park, and a commercial hub in itself.
Would avoid
Recommended
Hongdae
Popular student area with Hongik University nearby. Fun atmosphere with plenty of vintage clothing shops, bars, and eateries. Good WeWork location near the underground station also.
Would avoid
Recommended
Apgujeong-dong
I spent an afternoon wandering around here whilst at a neighbouring WeWork location, and it was my favourite part of Gangnam. A labyrinth of small independent shops and restaurants, within close proximity to the Han River.
Would avoid
Recommended
Itaewon
An area well known for it's night life, particularly popular with international visitors and residents. Wouldn't prioritise unless looking to make heavy use of the night life.
Would avoid
Recommended
Yongsan Haebangchon Village
What felt like the most hipster of neighbourhoods I walked through. Lots of small artisanal cafes and bars situated at the south western edge of Namsan Park.

Where to work

WeWork - Designers Club
Top Choice
☕️ Good Coffee
📍 Top Location
🥗 On Site Cafe
🧍Community Focused
⭐️ Quality Fit Out
🌳 Outdoor Space

After doing a tour of several WeWork locations within Seoul, this was my preferred one. 5 mins walk from Apgujeong station in Gangnam, the main room for All Access Members was airy, calm, and professional. Easy access in and out of the building with lots of options nearby for lunch or dinner.

All the locations across the city are accessible 24 hours a day with a desk booking, have surprisingly good quality coffee, and the best selection of beer taps I've seen in any location, including local IPAs.

Euljiro - Split over 5 floors and within a 2-minute walk from the station. Convenient and with a plush interior, but bizarrely loud music played on every floor with little AC. Power sockets on All Access Desks difficult to use if you've got a Mac MagSafe charger. Convenient location.

Hongdae - The most professional out of the ones visited, with a dedicated large area for coworking. Only downside is the lift system for the building is dreadful, making it cumbersome to get in and out throughout the day.

Gwanghwamun - Good interior but with a relatively limited seating area for All Access passes and a playlist seemingly fixated on Katy Perry's 2011 back catalogue.

Remote work visa

No remote work visa
Remote work visa available
Remote work visa coming soon
If staying for a prolonged period, you may want to consider a dedicated visa for this destination.
This country is actively working on a visa support for remote workers.
Check your government website for details of how to obtain a tourist visa.

The F-1-D visa would allow individuals to stay in Korea for one year with the opportunity to extend for another year. Extension of stay would be handled by the local immigration office in South Korea.

To be eligible, you must be a remote worker employed by a foreign company, earning at least double South Korea's gross national income per capita from the previous year, which was around $64,000 for 2023.

Additionally, you must have worked in your current industry for at least one year, provide proof of health insurance, and have a clean criminal record. Accepted applicants can be accompanied by their spouse and children under 18 without additional visas.

View full details
To the best of my knowledge this information was correct as of 27th April 2024. If you notice something has changed drop me a message and I'll update it!

Citizen Remote is a great source of up to date knowledge for everything to do with remote work visas.

Safety

  • A super safe city.Seoul frequently makes the top ten charts of the world's safest cities. Having walked exhaustively for an entire week, I didn't encounter any areas that felt like somewhere you should steer away from.

Off-work

Hike in Bukhansan National Park

Easily reachable from the center of Seoul, the three mountain peaks of Bukhansan are visible from across the city. There are numerous well-marked hiking routes, with several of them following the 5.9-mile defensive wall of the Bukhansan-seong Fortress.

Most of the paths are shaded by dense forest, mitigating the impact of any hot daytime temperatures. It's worth noting that one of the peaks was inaccessible during my visit due to falling rocks, so it's advisable to plan your route in advance, considering any known closures.

There are numerous ways to ascend it, I could recommend an East to West route starting from either 북한산보국문 or Solsaem stations with the finish at the main entrance.

Learn more
Walk through Namsan Mountain Park

Where as you ideally want to dedicate a full day to Bukhansan, Namsam is an ideal place to head to either before or after work, easily accessible from anywhere in the city center. There's impressive panoramic views from the top as well as the Seoul tower and plenty of options for food and drink.

Visit The Royal Palaces

It's definitely worth spending a couple of hours at one of the five Joseon-era Palaces which are all within easy walking distance from Myeong-dong. Entrance costs around 3,000 won (under £2). Guided and audio tours also available.

Hike in Bukhansan National Park

Easily reachable from the center of Seoul, the three mountain peaks of Bukhansan are visible from across the city. There are numerous well-marked hiking routes, with several of them following the 5.9-mile defensive wall of the Bukhansan-seong Fortress.

Most of the paths are shaded by dense forest, mitigating the impact of any hot daytime temperatures. It's worth noting that one of the peaks was inaccessible during my visit due to falling rocks, so it's advisable to plan your route in advance, considering any known closures.

There are numerous ways to ascend it, I could recommend an East to West route starting from either 북한산보국문 or Solsaem stations with the finish at the main entrance.

Walk through Namsan Mountain Park

Where as you ideally want to dedicate a full day to Bukhansan, Namsam is an ideal place to head to either before or after work, easily accessible from anywhere in the city center. There's impressive panoramic views from the top as well as the Seoul tower and plenty of options for food and drink.

Visit The Royal Palaces

It's definitely worth spending a couple of hours at one of the five Joseon-era Palaces which are all within easy walking distance from Myeong-dong. Entrance costs around 3,000 won (under £2). Guided and audio tours also available.

Duration & season

The start of May felt like the ideal time to be in Seoul. Summer temperatures can frequently reach 35+ degrees, a world away from the -10 temperatures which face the city in winter.

I would have no hesitation booking for a month, if not longer, in the city. If you are only passing through, I would suggest a minimum of a week to give yourself enough time to see various parts of the city.

Food & drink

Bukhansan Hike
·
Walk
I'd highly recommend setting aside a day to explore the national park. On this route, I took the metro to Solsaem and proceeded to the "Bukhansanseong Valley Trail Entrance," which you can easily locate on Google Maps.
Namsan Park
·
Walk
Home of the Seoul Tower, there are several paths leading to the top varying in steepness. Lots of outlets for refreshments at the top of the hill and panoramic views across the city.
Han River Cycle Path
·
Run
A great quality cycle route with a dedicated running path runs along the southern side of the Han river.

People

South Koreans are undoubtedly one of the most stylish populations I've encountered. Across all demographic groups, people appeared to take great pride in their attire, with the city fostering a remarkably high level of attention to detail in fashion.

Seoul felt remarkably cosmopolitan, with a higher volume of tourists from more diverse backgrounds than expected. While areas like Itaewon and Myeongdong were densely populated with visitors, this dropped off sharply just beyond their core areas.

Even though I was only in the city for a week, I did not get the sense that it was a significant remote work hub, which is unsurprising given its geographical location. Coworking spaces often serve as a litmus test for this, and at each WeWork location I visited, I encountered practically no foreign workers.

Exercise

Bukhansan Hike
I'd highly recommend setting aside a day to explore the national park. On this route, I took the metro to Solsaem and proceeded to the "Bukhansanseong Valley Trail Entrance," which you can easily locate on Google Maps.
keyboard_arrow_down
Namsan Park
Home of the Seoul Tower, there are several paths leading to the top varying in steepness. Lots of outlets for refreshments at the top of the hill and panoramic views across the city.
keyboard_arrow_down
Han River Cycle Path
A great quality cycle route with a dedicated running path runs along the southern side of the Han river.
keyboard_arrow_down
Bukhansan Hike
I'd highly recommend setting aside a day to explore the national park. On this route, I took the metro to Solsaem and proceeded to the "Bukhansanseong Valley Trail Entrance," which you can easily locate on Google Maps.
Namsan Park
Home of the Seoul Tower, there are several paths leading to the top varying in steepness. Lots of outlets for refreshments at the top of the hill and panoramic views across the city.
Han River Cycle Path
A great quality cycle route with a dedicated running path runs along the southern side of the Han river.

Verdict

Positives
  • No matter what you are looking for, you are going to find it in Seoul.The city ticks practically every box. Secluded hiking routes, high-end shopping, historic buildings, street food, vibrant nightlife, and everything in between. Outside of work hours, you'll never be short of things to do.
  • A distinct national culture.Having arrived from Malaysia, where the national identity felt diluted, Seoul represents the polar opposite. The ubiquitous K-pop music, Hangul script, distinctive local cuisine, and historic architecture all contribute to an instantly recognisable national identity.
  • Good value.If arriving from Western Europe, most day-to-day expenses will seem reasonably priced to varying degrees. Dining out, in particular, offers very affordable options for local cuisine at casual restaurants.
  • WeWorks are everywhere.Assuming you want to experience as much of the city as possible, the distribution of WeWork locations throughout Seoul makes it easy to set up a base in various areas each time with an All Access pass. The majority of them provide 24-hour access, making them ideal if maintaining European working hours. The working atmospheres were generally more professional and courteous regarding noise levels, in comparison to some other co-working spaces in other countries.
  • A great base to explore the rest of the country.The high speed KTX train service makes cross-country train travel a highly enjoyable experience. Tickets can be purchased in advance online from the spectacularly antiquated Korail website.
  • A top class metro service.Getting around the city is effortless with an extensive and well-maintained underground system. Services are frequent, comfortable, and clearly signposted in English. Stations double up as subterranean hubs of activity, with markets and food vendors lining the expansive network of corridors.
  • Inspiring natural scenery.The mountain ranges flanking both ends of the city, Namsan Park, and the Han River flowing through the centre are all easily accessible and visually distinctive parts of the cityscape.
  • A satisfying place to walk around.Compared to the often arduous experience of traversing SE Asian cities on foot, aimlessly wandering around Seoul is a pleasure in itself.
Negatives
  • It's an enormous place.If you're looking for somewhere that you feel like you will understand intimately, it's unlikely you'll achieve that in a months stay in Seoul.
  • The dining culture is optimised for groups.It was one of the more difficult cities I've encountered when trying to get a meal as an individual, especially in the evenings. You will always find something, but may have to do a bit more searching at 23:00 compared to SE Asia.
  • A relatively short window of optimal weather conditions.No one I spoke with seemed particularly enthused about the harshness of either the Korean winter or summer, with neither feeling like a particularly compelling prospect.
  • Not an obvious remote work community.Whilst it's a popular international tourist destination, there didn't appear to be much of a remote work community in the city. This wasn't surprising given its distance from Europe and North America. The overwhelming majority of the WeWork locations I visited were filled with Koreans and generally emptied out by 7 pm.
  • Accomodation can be problematic.There isn't a tonne of inventory on Airbnb compared to other cities, so if planning a stay of a month or longer, you'd be best advised to book well in advance as much as possible and outside the peak tourist seasons.
Tips
  • Grab the express train from the airport to Seoul Station.The journey takes around 40 minutes costing 9,500 won and is the quickest way of getting between the two.
  • Google Maps is not fully functional within South Korea.Due to some bureaucratic issues, it cannot be used for anything other than public transport routing. If looking for walking or driving directions, Kakao Maps and Naver are national alternatives and worth downloading prior to arrival.
  • English is spoken sparsely.Outside of major retail environments and more foreign orientated restaurants do not expect to converse in English to any degree. Download Google Translate and pin it to your home screen on arrival.
  • Always carry around a physical debit card.Apple Pay only launched in 2023, with most outlets catering only for Samsung Pay. Lots of outlets will only accept card also, so bring a Visa or Mastercard with you at all times to be safe.
  • Not all ATMs accept foreign cards.I found I had the best luck using Woori Bank ATMs which could be found easily.
  • I found the best deal on an eSIM through Mobi Matter.A 30GB package cost $13.99. Airalo is available but expect to pay twice as much for a similar deal. If staying for any longer in the country, getting a Korean SIM could be useful for registering with local services.
  • If looking for a gym head to PAGODA Health Club.A day pass can be bought for 15,000 won (£8.75), with a large weights room and showers on site. Run by a friendly woman who speaks great English running the place.
Planning a trip?
I loved everything about this trip to Japan. I've put together some thoughts on my entire stay in the country, which may come in handy if you are planning a visit soon.
The Cheonggyecheon Stream runs for 12km and is a perfect place for an uninterrupted run at any time of day. Outdoor gym equipment can be found at various sites along the way.
Hongdae Street is a popular area with students due to the nearby Hongik University. Lots of vintage clothing shops, cafes, and bars in the surrounding areas.
Popular with locals and tourists alike, the tranquil and hilly forest around Namsan Park makes for a convenient hike wherever you are based in the city.
If there's any data missing that you would like to see in these articles please leave some feedback and I'll aim to add it in.