South Korea Discovery and Service
$4,795 + Airfare + $300 Intra Trip Flights
Jul 12 – Jul 28
|Who can go on this trip?||
Students from all over the world!
9, 10, 11, 12
|Places we visit:||
Seoul, Busan, Suncheon, Jeju Island, and Gyeongju
|Optional group flight there:||
LAX to Busan (via Seoul)
|Optional group flight back:||
Seoul to LAX
South Korea is the undiscovered gem of the far east, with food, k-culture, and mountainous scenery that you will never forget! Our discovery trip begins in Korea’s modern port city of Busan, where we’ll visit the ancient capital city of Gyeongju and explore the rural beauty of Korea’s South Jeolla Province. Our next destination is Jeju Island, recently listed as one of the new Seven Natural Wonders of the World. After a couple of days exploring this island paradise, we will visit the vibrant capital city of Seoul, where we explore regal palaces, bustling downtown neighborhoods, and have fun at the theatre. We’ll even k-party it up with some k-pop hologram shows and a meal at the N-Seoul Tower.
You’ll also have the opportunity to gain community service hours in a rewarding experience at one of South Korea’s orphanages, an enriching experience for both you and the people you’ll meet there!
On this trip you will:
- Dress up in traditional Korean clothes (hanbok) and take photos at the palace
- Learn the history of the DMZ and see the tunnels that North Korea tried to dig under it
- See martial arts performances by Buddhist monks and the sword art of Kumdo
- Stay overnight at a temple and learn temple etiquette so that you can eat with the monks
- Explore the natural wonders of the once volcanic island of Jeju and the imposing extinct volcano of Hallasan
- Eat your kimchi and try a range of Korean foods from beef BBQ (Bulgogi) to mixed rice and vegetables (bibimbap)
- Earn up to 20 hours of community service at an orphanage in Suncheon
- Drink in (literally!) the view of the green tea fields at Boseong with a fresh made cup of tea
- Watch the highly rated Nanta performance in Seoul and the Queen’s banquet in Busan
- Explore temples, royal tombs, and summer gardens in the historic city of Gyeongju
- Experience a k-pop hologram show by some of Korea’s famous musicians
- Enjoy the natural beauty of South Korea’s bays, bamboo forests, and waterfalls
- Go swimming at one of the world’s busiest beaches, Haeundae in Busan
- Go sailing on Busan’s beautiful Diamond Bay*
- Scuba dive to discover Jeju’s amazing underwater scenery and see what the Haenyeo, Jeju’s famous female divers, see every day*
*These are optional excursions.
DAY 1: GROUP FLIGHT DEPARTS FROM LOS ANGELES (LAX)
DAY 2: (LOST AS WE FLY OVER THE INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE)
DAYS 3-7: BUSAN
Upon our arrival in Seoul, we’ll head directly out to South Korea’s second largest city, Busan, a vibrant port and home to the famous Busan International Film Festival. This is a coastal city blessed with some excellent beaches; it also has mountains, temples, and some of the tallest residential buildings in the world! You’ll discover the Gamcheon Cultural Village, which is where many South Koreans fled to during the Korean War. Then it’s back to downtown Busan to see the famous Jagalchi Fish Market…are you brave enough to try some of the seafood there? Oh, and did we mention the beach? Haeundae is the most famous beach in South Korea and possibly one of the busiest beaches in the world, attracting up to a million people on its busiest days, and you’ll get to be one of them! Those who want to can shop ‘til they drop at the Shinsegae Shopping Mall, or you can try out one of Korea’s largest spas at Spa Land. You will also have the option of taking a sailing lesson on Busan’s pristine Diamond Bay, with some of Korea’s tallest apartment buildings in the background. Want some more excitement? There will be the option to paraglide over a city of 3 million as you drift over mountains and view the famous Diamond Bridge from above! To immerse yourself in the culture you’ll attend the Queen’s Banquet, where you will watch traditional fan dances and Koreans dressed in costumes just like in the historic k-drama’s.
DAYS 7-8: GYEONGJU
The Silla Dynasty capital of South Korea, Gyeongju is the cultural heart of the country. There are many temples, summer gardens, and royal burial tombs to explore in this laidback town. We will arrive in the morning so that we can make the most of our time by taking a walk through Tumuli Park, which has many burial mounds of kings, followed by seeing royalty’s summer playground, the Anapji Ponds. In the afternoon, we’ll leave the town and head to our mountain retreat, Golgulsa Temple, for a truly one of a kind experience. At Golgulsa, you’ll learn about the Buddhist martial art of Sunmudo, which is a form of Taekwondo. Golgulsa is also where you’ll stay the night, waking up at dawn to pray with the monks and you will even have the chance to take part in a fascination breakfast ceremony before enjoying a tea ceremony with the head monk of the temple!
Days 8-11: SUNCHEON
Suncheon, which is in Korea’s South Jeolla Province, is a typical rural South Korean town. This is the location of our service work, where we will help at a Korean orphanage. The work you’ll do here will be very rewarding, and the orphans will never forget their time spent with you. In the evening you’ll see one of Korea’s most iconic landscapes, the sweeping s-curve of Suncheon Bay as it meanders out to sea. Many South Koreans will also tell you that the best food in South Korea can be found in South Jeolla, so we’ll be putting that to the test by sampling BBQ duck, BBQ beef, and Kimchi dumplings. On our final day in Suncheon, day you’ll go on a roadtrip to take in more of the stunning landscapes as we travel through the sweeping tea fields at Boseon before heading to the bamboo forest at Damyang.
DAYS 11-14: JEJU ISLAND
Jeju is Korea’s “honeymoon island,” and often described as Korea’s Hawaii, though Jeju’s volcano is no longer active. The geology of the island is formed from its volcanic past, which has resulted in some breathtaking vistas throughout the island. Here you’ll see folk villages with acrobatic farm dancing shows, majestic waterfalls that fall into the ocean, and hexagonal shaped cliffsides formed from old volcanic eruptions. One of the most famous things about Jeju are the haenyeo, female divers who scour the ocean for their living. You can also see Jeju’s underwater paradise by trying either scuba diving or taking a submarine trip to the sea floor. If you love the outdoors, then Jeju is for you! Enjoy this wonderful outdoor lifestyle by going hiking or trying one of the beaches dotted around the island.
DAYS 14-17: SEOUL
Now it’s time for one last party, and Seoul won’t disappoint! You can take your pick from world famous amusement parks, shopping, fine dining at Seoul Tower, and of course, a k-pop music show! The land of the morning calm, you say? More like the land that never sleeps! Sleep is for the plane ride home, as you’ll want to squeeze every last drop of fun out of your stay in South Korea before you say farewell!
Our trip will wrap up in this world-class capital city, which offers you a trip to the past through its many palaces and also into its space age future with culture from its k-pop stars to its spaceship-like Dongdaemun Design Plaza. Most people know about Korea as a result of its noisy north, and you can even step into North Korea during the trip to the DMZ, albeit by only a few feet. In the evening we’ll have fun watching a performance by Nanta that will surely make you hungry for the many delicious Korean foods such as Bibimbap, Mangdu and Bulgolgi. We’ll even visit the beautiful Gyeongbokgung Palace, with its pavilion roofs, pagoda gardens, and opportunities to dress up in Hanbok to take memorable photos in front of the picturesque scenery.
DAY 17: RETURN FLIGHT HOME FROM SEOUL (ONE DAY GAINED PASSING OVER THE INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE)
Who can go on this trip? What kind of teen typically goes on this trip?
We have teens join this program from all over the world! They are typically culturally curious teens who are excited about making new friends, stepping out of their comfort zone, expanding their horizons, and trying something new. This trip is only for students who have finished 9th through 12th grades by the time the trip leaves. If you are from outside of the USA and want to join, this means approximately 15-19 years old.
Where do we stay?
Our hotels are specifically chosen to be in safe areas and well-suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. This means we do not use large, impersonal chain hotels on the outskirts of cities. We prefer to select smaller, family-run hotels where we establish personal relationships with the owners.
In Seoul we’ll stay in the vibrant Insadong District, with easy access to the center of Seoul and lots of good eating options nearby. In Busan we’ll stay in the Haeundae Beach District of town, close to some of the places we visit, and with easy access to public transport to those areas farther away. In Gyeongju we’ll make a nearby temple our home for the night. In Suncheon we’ll stay near the center of town, with everything within easy walking distance from the hostel. On Jeju we’ll stay at a guesthouse in Seogwipo.
For safety reasons, we do not publish the names of the accommodations we use. We do not feel it is safe to publish the name of a hotel where a group of teenagers is staying abroad. After registering, participants and parents are given access to our secure parent website where you will be able to see the names of all of the accommodations for a trip.
Do most travelers go by themselves?
Yes, in fact over 75% of students who travel with us choose to come independently. This encourages teens to step further outside their comfort zone and make new friends. We believe that one of the most rewarding and exciting elements of travel is the new friendships that are formed along the way. If you travel by yourself, you are bound to make new friends from all over the country and even the world. The best part is, you can travel again with your new BFFs on another TFT trip the next summer!
Can I bring a friend?
Absolutely! We just ask that if you come with a friend, you and your friend(s) are still open to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.
What do students generally like most on this program?
Students love to see Asian culture and cuisine, as well as how life contrasts to their life back home. They love seeing the traditional buildings and watching the martial arts performed in this country. Students are also attracted to this program for the community service with young children.
What is unique about this program?
The chance to experience the real life of a Buddhist monk at one of the temples in South Korea and train alongside them. The chance to make a difference in the lives of orphans. Watching farm dance performances and learning to cook Korean food are just some of the highlights of this trip to South Korea.
What is included?
Ground transportation, all accommodations, all breakfasts and dinners, lunch on the last day, chaperones and guides, trip related activities, trip related activity admissions, taxes and tips.
Not included (not intended to be an exhaustive list): All airfare (international and within the trip), lunches, visas and visa application fees, beverages other than bottled water at lunch and dinner, activities and admissions not referenced in the itinerary or deemed not trip related, such as movies and clubs, expenses incurred by the participant that are outside the trip description, such as damage to hotels and excess baggage fees, expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters, as well as personal and medical expenses.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss this trip’s flight details. You are not required to take the group flight, although there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is chaperoned by TFT staff, it offers an opportunity for the students to get to know each other before the trip starts, and we get preferred group flight prices on trips that have group contracts (ask for details). Parents are responsible for arranging for participants to get to the group flight airport. Travel For Teens staff are at the airport, greet arriving participants, and help them get to where the rest of the group has assembled. For more information about Flights, visit our Flights page.
Who are the counselors on the trip?
The Trip Director for every trip is a seasoned teen travel professional with extensive TFT experience. Trip Directors often live or have lived and worked in the destination country. Extensive knowledge of the language and culture of the destination is crucial. Our Senior Counselors are experienced, responsible and fun-loving individuals who our participants can share experiences with and look to for guidance and support. At Travel for Teens we pride ourselves on our rigorous staff application process and the professionalism of our full time and summer staff.
It is the job of the counselors to keep the trip fun and exciting, the learning and the laughter in good balance, and to oversee the safety of the participants. Minimum ratios are on average one staff member to every seven participants. Trips may also include one or two Junior Counselors, who are college students with a history of TFT travel, and one or more Counselors in Training (CIT’s) with limited responsibility. CIT’s are not counted in staff-participant ratios.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
All of our staff members attend a week long training session every May to prepare for the upcoming summer and go over safety precautions and protocols. Likewise, every counselor is CPR/First Aid certified and Trip Directors are Lifeguard certified. All staff undergo a rigorous interview process and thorough background check.
What is the average group size?
At Travel for Teens, our trips typically fall into 3 different size categories.
Small: 7-14 students where 14 is the maximum.
Medium: Average is between 14-21 students with 21 as the maximum.
Large: Trips 21-35 students. These are our largest trips.
Typically South Korea falls into the small to medium range, but trip sizes differ from year to year.
How does this program connect to other programs?
Most of our Asian and Australian programs are designed specifically so that participants can combine them with other trips. If you are connecting to another program, your counselor will escort you to the airport on the last day of the trip and help you get to your next destination where you will meet up with your new counselors and group.
What is the food like on this trip?
In a word – Delicious! At TFT, we believe food should be an integral part of the travel experience and always make an effort to eat at authentic establishments when we can. What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a place than by sampling the local delicacies, and we encourage students to do so whenever possible! Just as we stay away from Americanized hotel chains, we try to avoid restaurants with menus that cater only to tourists because every good traveler knows the best food is found wherever the locals are eating!
In South Korea there are lots of food options for meat and seafood eaters to try, as well as for vegetarians. Korean food is famous for its pork and beef BBQs. There are many kinds of soup: the rice-based Bibimbap, different varieties of Mangdu (dumplings), Korean pancakes (Jun), Kimchi, and many more. You’ll go to the towns that are famous for particular dishes. There are also districts in the bigger cities that cater for a more international taste, so there is also the opportunity to mix it up. Last but not least, we will try some traditional Korean desserts for those of who you have a sweet tooth.
As always, we are willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
Do I need any vaccinations for this trip?
We recommend that you check with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the areas you will be visiting. For more information, please check out the World Health Organization’s website www.who.int/en/.
How much free time do we get?
Our counselors are with the group nearly always. Everyday we will break up into smaller groups to give our participants some choices and flexibility in their itinerary. We do offer some free time to do some shopping, for example, in defined areas that we are very familiar with. If participants are ever shopping by themselves within these defined areas they go in groups and for no more than an hour. On this trip, the group will have some free time to explore some of the safe pedestrian areas of Seoul, Busan, Jeju City, and Suncheon. A counselor will always be nearby when participants have free time in each city. A lifeguard certified counselor will be supervising the students any time they are involved in water activities.
What kind of Visa do you need for this trip?
Any US citizen that enters South Korea is automatically granted a free 90-day tourist visa. If you are coming from somewhere outside the US, please be sure to check your country specific visa requirements.
Do I need to speak the language?
No, our skilled staff members will help you get around and even teach you a few fun phrases!