There is no doubt that as soon as international students arrive to Jeonju, all they wanted to do was explore every corner of Jeollabuk-do. Until now, many international students are excited to visit new places, to get a taste of authentic Korean food, to immerse themselves in the culture, and to create amazing memories. Jeollabuk-do has given me this and much more great experiences. It has been my home for the past three years, but also a place where I have enjoyed traveling with my friends and had some of the best moments. Every city and county in the province has offered me something unique that I will always remember. Whether it be the area’s scenery, food, history, culture or even its people; there is always something unforgettable.
As a touristic destination, it is easy to travel in the region. It takes about one hour or maybe a little more to move from one city to another either by bus, train or car. You can plan your trip for one day, a weekend or maybe many trips for a day without any problems. There is too much to see and do every season. Jeollabuk-do has awesome mountains to explore throughout the year, beaches on its western coast, facilities for winter sports, and it is also the home of the traditional Korean cuisine.
As a university students, we deal with certain constraints in our budgets. We have a lot of time but not much money for travelling. Most of us think that traveling requires having a big budget and time. But, I disagree. Allow me to give you some tips on how I have made the most of my time here with less money.
Plan and research in advance what to do and where to go
Jeollabuk-do has many things to offer. But it is hard to visit all places at once. A quick search on the internet to narrow down your search. The Korean Tourism Organization can give you some good ideas. But if you want something more specific about Jeollabuk-do, I recommending checking out the Jeollabuk-do Center for International Affairs website at http://www.jbcia.or.kr. There is a lot of tourist information in English and Korean about places to visit in every city and county. You can also call the “Korea Travel Hotline” at 1330 and they will provide you tourist information in Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese.
If you are more adventurous, you can always visit the tourism office in each town. They are usually at the train stations, bus terminals or near main tourist spots. You can get some maps and booklets and ask any question that you might have. I would recommend taking some of the maps if you do not have a data plan on your phone. These are excellent ways to avoid wasting time and money by taking the wrong routes or visiting the wrong places.
After getting all the information that you need, it is time to get ready for your trip. I usually travel early in the morning, so I can make the most of the day. It would depend on you where you are planning to go. But if you want to avoid crowds, it is better to arrive a little bit after the opening time.
Public transportation in Korea starts at around 5:30 am, so you can have an idea how early you can start your journey. The best advice I can give you is to get a good night’s rest so you will enjoy the most of your trip.
The best time to travel and public holidays
There are a lot of festivals in Jeollabuk-do that you can enjoy during the whole year. Just keep yourself updated about these events. Sometimes these festivals provide free activities and cultural experiences targeted specifically to foreign visitors. Major Korean holidays such as Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) and Solnal (Lunar New Years) bring along festivals, with tourist destinations having recreational activities and musical performances for all visitors. Visiting any tourist spot in the region on these dates is not a bad idea after all. However, if you do not like crowds, you can always plan your trip for weekends or whenever you have free time.
These are some of the festivals in the region:
• Bibimbap Festival (Jeonju)
• International Sori Festival (Jeonju)
• Hanji Culture Festival(Jeonju)
• Jeonju International Film Festival (Jeonju)
• Gimje Horizon Festival (Gimje)
• Muju Firefly Festival (Muju)
• Wanju Wild Food Festival (Wanju)
• Seodong Festival (Iksan)
• Iksan Ten Million Chrysanthemum Festival (Iksan)
• Jeongeupsa Culture Festival (Jeongeup)
• Jinan Mai Cultural Festival(Jinan)
• Namwon Chunhyang Festival(Namwon)
• Imsil Cheese Festival (Imsil)
• Buan Masil Festival (Buan)
Be ready for walking or maybe hiking?
This next tip depends on what you are planning to visit or do. Reaching most places with stunning scenery and natural landscape require a little bit of effort. Some attractions are in places where you need to walk, climb, or maybe hike for a bit to get to. Most of us have probably already noticed how many Koreans like to hike or climb mountains, so it is best to be prepared because we might have to do the same. I usually have something light for breakfast, like gimbap, some milk or maybe bread from any convenient store. I also always bring a bottle of water in my bag. You will always find a fountain or a water dispenser where you can refill your bottle for free. Yes, drinkable water is free in Korea, even in restaurants!
One of the mountains that I like most is Naejangsan National Park (내장산국립공원).
It is one of the best spots in autumn where the hillsides and pathways are covered in a multitude of red, orange, brown and yellow leaves. There is also a small Hanok house in the middle of a lake that looks incredible. It appears in most of the touristic brochures of Korea. So, you will want to see it with your very own eyes! The entrance fee to the park is about 3,000 Korean Won and for an extra 1,000 won, you can take a shuttle bus to a cable car. It is up to you to either walk or to take the shuttle. I recommend walking to enjoy the weather and scenery. Naejangsan National Park is a good place to spend an autumn day.
Get the Jeonbuk Tour Pass
It is the easiest, most convenient and cheapest way to visit many places and save some money. For a fixed price you can visit from 4 to 65 facilities. You can choose from either a free pass for 1, 2 or 3 days or the Hanok Village Pass. You can easily acquire it in any information tourist office or at some bus terminals across the country. It is also available online and it can also be used as a transportation card. For those who prefer a more spontaneous trip and do not like to plan ahead, it gives an excellent guide to places to visit. For more information, you can check out their website at jbtourpass.kr/
Always use public transportation.
Korea, in general, has an excellent transportation system. Even though you are in a different city or town you can easily access the bus or train information like schedules and routes. However, the only drawback is that most of the time this information is just available in Korean.
My advice is to use Korean mobile apps for navigation like Naver. They do not require high Korean skills, only just typing addresses in Korean and choosing your preferred transportation method. Do not forget to refresh the actual location. This even shows you how much a taxi can charge you and which buses you can take. You can still use Google Maps but since everything is romanized, sometimes it may be inaccurate and out-of-date. You can still give it a try though.
For intercity buses, you can book your tickets online or on an app called 고속버스 모바일-Kobus. There are other apps that also work just like this one. These apps allow you to get the cheapest buses at the most convenient time for you. The website is in Korean and English, but you need to register first. This saves you a lot of money.
They are usually different rates depending on the type of bus. The more comfortable the bus, the more expensive the ticket will be. I always choose the cheapest bus since most locations within Jeollabuk-do are close to Jeonju. Just because it’s the cheapest bus doesn’t mean that it’s uncomfortable!
Additionally, inner-city buses in each city run to all the touristic attractions or leave you really close to them. In Jeonju, for example, bus number 1000 takes you to every tourist hotspot in the city and even to the express bus terminal and train station.
Depending on the city, buses have different routes and schedules. In general, they start early at around 5:30 AM until late at night. In places like mountains or natural parks, the last buses usually depart at around 7 pm. So it is better to check the schedule before planning your trip.
If you get lost, avoid taking a taxi.
In my three years living here, I have gotten lost sometimes and I did not know what to do. The first time I got lost, I took a taxi which ended up being a bad choice since it was expensive. The next time, I decided to fight my fears and tried to communicate in Korean with people on the street. Some of them were so helpful and I am sure you will find someone who will help you as well. If you are afraid to talk, you can try speaking English. However, if you afraid to talk, you can always go to any police station and try to ask for some help. Some of them speak some basic English and they might help you to get where you want to go. One time I asked them for help and they even took me on their police car and left me few blocks away of where I wanted to go.
Sometimes getting lost is the best way to find and explore new places. As students, we sometimes get bored or just need to go out for a while to distract ourselves. When you feel like that, the best thing that you can do it is explore the city where you live. I have done this various times and found places where I have never been before. Even after three years of living in Jeonju, I still get surprised by all the new places that I find. If you are in Jeonju and you need a place to relax and escape from the busy life of the city, I recommend you going to Ajungli Lake(아중리호수). This is an impressive area to walk in and enjoy, especially in spring. Along the bank of the lake, big cherry blossom trees in full bloom give a stunning scenery. There are also small coffee shops along the lake that offer a great view of the place.
Eat like a local
Jeollabuk-do is well-known for its variety of delicious food. After some time living here, you enjoy the food so much and even find Korean restaurants where you become a regular customer. Prices of the restaurants vary according to locations and which kind of food you want.
Generally, some of the best budget food in the province comes from street vendors and local markets. It is not just cheap; the taste is also wonderful. You can have a sample of local or even international food without spending too much money. You do not need to walk long distances in order to find a restaurant with terrific food. There are also restaurants in the markets where you can have a taste of authentic traditional food in each city that you visit.
One of my favorite places for having street food in Jeonju is at the night market in Nambu Market. It opens on Friday and Saturday from around 6 pm until midnight (it varies depending on the season). They offer a huge variety of Korean and international street food.
The experience of going there is wonderful. Also on the second floor is Cheongnyeon Mall (literally “youth mall”) with its own unique flair and youthful style. It has some small stores, coffee shops, and bars if you want to look around.
You can also visit local restaurants, especially run by older ladies or ajumas. They have homemade food at affordable prices. Personally, I like to try restaurants that are not big, but where you can see a lot of people during lunchtime. There are also Korean restaurants that have appeared on TV and publicize themselves with pictures of the broadcasts they appeared in on the walls. In most of them, the food is amazing, but the price may be a little high. They usually give you a lot of side dishes. The choice ultimately depends on you. Just remember that spending money on good food is always worth it.
If you are still undecided on which restaurant to choose, you can always ask your Korean friends or even people from the city that you are visiting. In my experience, locals, especially older people, have given me the best advice for restaurants.
As a mentioned before, one of the advantages of living in Jeollabuk-do is how close each town and city are from each other. So, one-day trips are perfect if you’re on a tight budget. But, if you really want to have a full experience for a weekend or several days, you can also find some cheap options.
If you are just planning to stay for one night, you can stay at a jimjilbang (찜질방) for about 10,000 to 15,000 Korean Won. They are almost everywhere, and they are close to buses terminals and train stations in every city.
It is a relaxing experience and a must-do when you are studying here. It has pools with temperate water and a common area where you can get some sleep. There are also other options for accommodation that you can try out like guesthouses. Usually, the ones close to touristic places and bus stops charge you more money. For booking, I usually just ask for help to my Korean friends. Hotels, motels, and Korean temple stays are always more expensive and require booking in advance.
Enjoy your trip
As students here, we must enjoy our study abroad experience at a maximum. Traveling is an important part of it, so do not restrain yourself and discover new places and meet new people along the way. If you do not like to travel alone, you can always find a travel partner. Someone who shares your interests and wants to know more about Jeollabuk-do would be the ideal travel partner.
Traveling does not require a lot of money. If you plan it in advance and follow some of these tips, you will have more fun with less money. My last recommendation is to learn more about the culture and at least one new word in Korean every day. It is always worth it and it becomes a part of this amazing experience. So don’t be afraid to get out there and explore Jeoallabuk-do!