The 2018 Winter Olympics kicks off on Friday, Feb. 8 and ends Feb. 25. Squeezing in a last-minute trip to the games in Pyeongchang, South Korea is a tall order. At this point, accommodations and flights are limited, so travel would likely cost you. But if the 17 days of events have you adding the newest Olympics host to your travel bucket list, here’s what you should know about traveling to Pyeongchang.
Before you book
Violent crime isn’t common in South Korea, per the U.S. State Department, but due to the country’s proximity to North Korea, it’s a good idea to check for travel advisories before booking a trip — and getting on the plane. (Advisory levels were normal a few days out of the 2018 Olympics.) You can enroll with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to get direct safety and security updates ahead of your trip.
U.S. citizens don’t need a visa to visit South Korea. You also don’t have to get any vaccinations, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hepatitis A, typhoid, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis and rabies vaccines. The CDC suggests visiting your doctor four to six weeks before your trip to discuss vaccines and medicines. It also recommends travel health and medical evacuation insurance. That’s because most U.S. health insurance policies limit coverage while traveling abroad, so emergency medical care costs could fall to you.
Getting there ... on a budget
Airfare prices fluctuate, depending on supply and demand. But, to give you an idea of what a trip to Pyeongchang might set you back, we ran some numbers. Per Skyscanner, flights from Los Angeles to the airports around Pyeongchang a few weeks after the Olympics were around $700 to $1,200 round trip as of press time. Flights out of Chicago were around $800 to $1,300 as were flights out of New York.
Booking in advance could score you a cheaper seat. Plus, try searching for your tickets on incognito mode. Otherwise, your browser could tracks flight ticket pages and show you higher-prices the more you visit a page in an attempt to get you to buy. Other ways to save on airfare include signing up for alerts, traveling on off-peak days (think Tuesdays or Wednesdays) and during off-peak seasons.
Hotels are the most expensive route to go, costing you anywhere from $130 to $600 a night, according to Expedia. Splitting the difference, the average for a week at a hotel in Pyeongchang can cost around $2,555. Again, you can save by booking off-peak days or during off-peak season.
You can also explore alternatives. Airbnb shows homes and rooms for rent in the area at $62 and $75 a night during the Olympics. So, particularly if you speak Korean, this route can be a huge way to save money.
Consider, too, staying outside the city. Nearby Hoenggye has cheaper lodging options and offers a chance to see what things are like in South Korea outside of the Olympic buzz. Just be sure to vet any establishment thoroughly before booking.
While in Pyeongchang, you’ll be using the won and not the dollar, so know your exchange rates. As of press-time, the won was growing stronger against the dollar, and the current exchange rate was 1075 won for $1.
Travel website Budget Your Trip collects data from travelers to paint a picture of what destinations cost. It estimates you’ll need $30 a day to dine out in Pyeongchang. A good rule of thumb to save money on food anywhere in the world is to eat vegetarian and to try to buy at least one meal from a grocery store or market.
Things to do in Pyeongchang
South Korea is a beautiful country and there’s a lot of history to take in. Pyeongchang is only an hour away from Seoul by their high speed train, so you can easily spend a day exploring the capital city. (In fact, you’re best bet is to fly in and out of Seoul Incheon International Airport to get to the Olympics host.) Seoul has become a major travel destination in recent years, offering fantastic food, a thriving nightlife and temples that are dripping with history and beauty everywhere.
Speaking of temples, the The Woljeongsa Temple in Pyeongchang is a true South Korean experience. It was founded in 643 and is a Buddhist temple that has lived through wars and dynasties. Destroyed by fire in 1833, it was rebuilt and today houses many precious carvings and statues.
For the nature lovers out there, Mount Odaesan offers a chance to marvel at the natural beauty in the Pyeongchang area. It has an elevation of 5,128 ft and is centered in Odaesan National Park. Picture hills and mountains covered in trees, delicate bridges over rocky streams, and staircases carved into mountain sides.
You can find more about attractions, accommodations, dining, shopping and more in Pyeongchang on Visit Korea, the country’s tourism website. And for more about travel protections in general, check out our flyer’s bill of rights.