When I first came to Korea, I made it my mission to integrate as much as possible into the expat community here. I joined countless Facebook and Meetup groups to get a feel for the types of activities that go on. Through my research, I found out that a number of groups and companies offer tours around Korea and sometimes abroad. These tours welcome both Koreans and foreigners to join and make signing up and traveling easy and hassle free. The total price typically includes transportation, accommodation, some meals, and a trip full of activities that you wouldn’t get if you organized the trip yourself. The trip leader speaks English well and manages everything, leaving you to relax, make some new friends, and enjoy the adventure.
Here’s how it works:
- Groups post their upcoming trips usually several weeks or even months in advance on their preferred social medium. The itineraries, dates, and costs are listed. Many trips are during weekends or holidays, so those who work during the week don’t have to ask for time off.
- If you are interested, you can transfer the money to the group’s Korean bank account or most groups give you the option to send it via Paypal as well. If trips aren’t completely booked, you can sometimes just show up at the meeting spot and pay in cash for a little bit extra.
- Send an email to the appropriate person (specified on the event invite) stating that you sent the money and giving any other requested information like preferred pickup location or if you want to sign up for optional parts of the trip.
Then you’re done! Just show up at the designated meeting place at the right time and you’re good to go.
I was worried that these trips would be kind of hokey at first. I’ve traveled internationally before and take pride in being able to plan a decent itinerary, but these trips are the real deal. Most of the groups are designed specifically for foreigners to be able to experience Korea and for Koreans to interact and make friends with foreigners. I wish I had tried this sooner. So far, I’ve been to Hwangmaesan and Bijindo island in the south with Bangawayo and to Ulleungdo with Adventure Korea.
So don’t worry about planning the itinerary, booking the hotel, or speaking the language while in Korea. Here’s a list of the tour groups that I know of. Be sure to sign up for notifications from each group so that you get the invitations for trips well in advance. Happy traveling!
After going to Ulleungdo with these guys, I think they are a great group with dedicated and knowledgeable staff members. Having been around since 2000, they definitely know their stuff. On my trip to Ulleungdo, our return ferry Sunday afternoon was delayed until Monday because of the rough waves. It was certainly an inconvenience for many people to miss work unexpectedly, but our leader Seokjin made sure that we all had a place to stay that night and were informed about when our real departure time would be.
They regularly offer tours of the DMZ in addition to their frequent trip destinations like Ulleungdo, Gangwondo, and Bogildo. True to their name, they also include adventure activities like rafting, paintballing, bungee jumping, cycling, and skiing. On my trip with them, there were adults of all ages, and partying was not the main objective. So, be sure to look into a trip with Adventure Korea if you’re looking for a thrill while you’re in Korea.
Friend Bangawoyo on Facebook and you’ll get invited to all of their events. I can personally attest that the owner of the page and leader of the group Johnny (a.k.a. Johnny Fishcakes) is a great guy and loves to plan fun trips. He’s very social and on top of travel, he also plans parties and social outings like beer pong tournaments and trips to water parks. This group typically attracts people in their 20s-30s, but anyone who likes to have a good time is welcome to join.
Phone: 010-4009-1294 (Johnny)
While they don’t offer trips as regularly as some of the other groups on this list, Enjoy Korea seems to hit the major events and destinations that foreigners would want to visit. These include the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival, Boryeong Mud Festival, and Jeju island during the Chuseok holiday. Although they only offer events about once a month, they still have an active Facebook following with many signing up for their trips.
This group seeks to expose trip members to lesser known parts of Korea in addition to the touristy areas like Nami Island, the Garden of Morning Calm, and the main sights of Seoul. They frequently offer trips to different beaches around Korea and regularly go to Jeju island. In addition, Goh Travel tries to incorporate nature activities like kayaking, hiking, biking, and camping.
Phone: 010-6737-1637, 82-10-6737-1637 if outside Korea
Eric Kim Hoik, the group’s founder and one of its organizers, started this group to make friends and stay active. Most of the group’s trips are one-day meetups that cover a trail on the outskirts of Seoul. Many trips are free (some charge for transportation if they are farther from the city). You just have to show up with water and whatever snacks you want to eat along the hike. The group prides itself on welcoming hikers of all levels and doesn’t only concentrate on hardcore activities.
Contact through Facebook or Meetup group.
Started in 2008 by Warren Kim, the name says it all. This group is all about hiking. They offer weekly events year round and hit up major hiking destinations in Korea including Hallasan on Jeju, Jirisan, and Seoraksan. They welcome anyone interested no matter their hiking experience.
Founded in 2010, WinK stands for “When in Korea” and boasts full-time staff to assist in providing quality trips. On top of offering regular trips throughout the country, they have a standalone kitchen and taphouse that also bears the WinK name. Located near Seoul National University of Education in Seocho-dong, the restaurant is one of the pickup locations for trips, so people can show up early to grab a bite to eat before getting on the bus. It’s also a good place to have a meal or a drink after returning from the trip or anytime you’re in the area.