Guided Tours

Guided Tours

English is not at all widely spoken in Korea, especially to a level at which locals will be able to adequately explain their cultural history to you. More adventurous travelers might prefer to make use of a good guidebook and a bit of common sense, but if you’re here on holiday and hoping to truly let go, you might prefer to grab a guided tour. Here are a few of the best options on offer:

Adventure KoreaA tour company aimed very much at young expats, this is a great way to meet people if you’re on a short trip, though you’ll have to book up well in advance using the website (email them and they’ll explain how to pay without a Korean bank account). Trips are extremely affordable, but don’t have the hands on ‘guided’ nature that a more detail-focused traveler might like. Still, they’ll drag you across the country to places you wouldn’t have the nerve to visit yourself and throw you into the thick of things, doing everything from temple stays, ski trips and mountain climbing to a host of the country’s major festivals. Unless you’re averse to large groups of people, this is probably the best (and most affordable) place to start when it comes to tours.

Official ToursThe Korean tourism authority might be a better bet if you prefer your tours a little bit more hands on and thoroughly explained, though you’ll also pay substantially more for the privilege. Being connected with the government, of course, they’ll be less of a focus on partying, and a bit more of an official feel to proceedings. The website is also fairly useful for any unanswered questions you may have (though feel free to ask us, too!), and for learning about the sites that Koreans see as significant. They also run a great DMZ tour, something you should certainly consider as part of your Korean trip. Perhaps not as good as the next one, though…

USO ToursPrimarily aimed at the American military and their families, some USO tours are nonetheless open to the general public, American or not. The key one to keep an eye on is the USO version of the DMZ tour, which due to the status of American troops (and safety depending) allows more access to the DMZ than a lot of the less official tours. You can, for example, visit the spot where North and South Korean representatives hold talks on the border, and look directly into the eyes of the North Korean border guards (who invariably where sunglasses as a psychological aid, even in the snow). It’s quite an experience, and it’s always worth asking about the other tours as well, which can be pretty adventurous.

Hyundai AsanIn the current political climate, Hyundai Asan are just another tour company. As the company that offers the strongest connections to North Korea, though (their CEO has North Korean roots) should North Korean tours across the South Korean border open up, this is where you’ll find them. The Kumgangsan Mountain tour is the most likely to re-open should the political situation improve. You’ll need to book well in advance, as there’s a lot of paperwork involved. It’s not completely safe, but the risks are as low as they come if you want to visit the North. Expect the tour to be closed, but it’s always worth checking.

Discover KoreaA fairly standard tour company running a selection of tours around the country, we’ve found ‘Discover Korea’ to be consistently reliable and accommodating, especially when it comes to considering your budget and adjusting the details of their tours slightly to suit it.