I have traveled to Korea every December since 1997. As a Korean adoptee and an adoptive mom of a Korean daughter, I’ve escorted five children from Seoul to the U.S. (including my daughter), and Korea will always be one of my favorite destinations as a traveler.
That said, I think it’s only fair that I begin with a disclaimer: I put comfort before frugality when I go to Korea, and I believe that adoptive parents who are not seasoned international travelers should do the same. This is a once-in-a-lifetime trip and spending a few extra dollars to insure that you have 1) access to good food, 2) a western bed, a western toilet and English-speaking hotel personnel, and 3) familiar surroundings could mean the difference between an enjoyable stay and discomfort.
The one exception is staying in the guesthouses located at the Korean agencies. SWS (Social Welfare Society) is building a beautiful new guesthouse that should be completed at the end of 2000 or early 2001. Holt and Eastern also have comfortable, affordable accommodations.
Here are some other things I tell folks who are traveling to Korea to bring home their adopted children:
Hotels: You can’t go wrong with one of the super deluxe hotels like the Grand Hyatt, the Hilton, the Westin or the Ritz-Carlton. The view at the Grand Hyatt (and the concierge service) is the best in the city.
Transportation in Seoul: If you’re in town only for a day or so -- or if you’re alone -- don’t bother trying to use the subways. Many stations don't have English signs, and it's easy to get lost. I live in New York City, am used to public transportation, and I couldn't manage the subways alone until I was there one full week.
Take cabs. By NYC standards, Seoul taxis are cheap. You can travel to somewhere 30 minutes away for about $8. Have the hotel concierge write out the name of your hotel and your destination in Korean, and present it to the taxi drivers. There are two grades of taxis: black and gray. The black ones are deluxe (they have cell phones in them), but the gray ones are much cheaper and just as nice. One advantage to the cell phone: You can call someone who speaks Korean if you get lost and can't communicate with your driver.