Many friends asked me about how was our family trip to South Korea. So, I decided to write a full article about different aspects of the trip, hoping it can help you making the decision of visiting soon or not and answering the burning questions of where to visit, how much budget to prepare and how it is in general.

This is a complete review or our 3 weeks family trip to South Korea in March-April 2024 as a French Vietnamese family with a toddler of 18 months.

Seoul trip as a family with a toddler review nicolas thanh

Our family experimenting selfies in Bucheon old town in Seoul, Myeongdong busy streets and the Starfield Library

TLDR; 10 key takeaways:

  1. VISA: For Vietnamese it’s possible and you do not need to be filthy wealthy. For French it’s easy; nothing to do. The official government website explains it super clearly.
  2. FLIGHTS: Vietjet Air are regularly flying to Seoul/Busan etc. We did Seoul, Jeju Island and Busan by plane. And then return from Busan to HCMC.
  3. MONEY: you should exchange and arrive with some cash if you can. But we mainly had to use our credit card and we could have used it for everything.
  4. ACCOMMODATION: recommending Airbnb, and if possible staying in rooms of locals apartments/houses. Best way to discover deeply South Korean way of life.
  5. TRANSPORTATION: We used mostly buses and subways that have English translations. And we booked taxis for small trips or when it would needed. Super easy. And sidewalks are large and safe, and adapted for strollers!
  6. FOOD/DRINKS: pleasantly surprised at the variety, quantity and quality and with spicy/non-spicy options. They have bakeries everywhere.
  7. COFFEE: horrible. It’s what we call in French the “jus de chaussette” (translation: picture someone who wrings out their wet socks and pour the juice into a cup)… which they call Americano. I’m exaggerating. But Vietnam still number one coffee in the world for me.
  8. VISITS: everything is so modern, sky-high and beautiful. Lots of parks, free-drinking water, quiet and respectful people. No trash, no destroyed pavements. We took a lot of pictures. Prepare good shoes otherwise your feet will hurt.
  9. MARCH/APRIL: we got lucky, we arrived for the Sakura blossom season. Cherries and Peach trees blooming, my wife and I were charmed. It’s still cold so prepare a good winter jacket but also some normal clothes for the day.
  10. ITINERARY: We stayed something like 10 days in Seoul, 4 days in Jeju Island and 5 days in Busan. Three diverse and great overall choices for visiting South Korea.
  11. BONUS: TRAVELING WITH A BABY: it is an extremely tiring and rewarding at the same time to move out of your comfort zone as a parent. You deeply learn about your kid and yourself. And South Korea has equipped all toilets with super clean/modern baby changing rooms.

If you have more time, you can read my complementary review here which includes more comments on the culture, working as a digital nomad and our travel itinerary with a toddler.

Cultural differences between South Koreans and Vietnamese/French.

South Korea was not on my travel bucket list. But it definitely was on my wife’s list. She was dreaming of it. If you know Vietnamese culture, you might have noticed that they are big fans of the South Korean culture. In fact, after visiting, from my perspective it is really similar cultures:

  • Both Vietnamese and South Koreans deeply respect elders and address to people differently based on their status and age. They both bend to say high. Now I decided to keep that “bending” way to say hello to people. I find it very respectful.
  • Their food culture is similar: you share food, eat with chopsticks and get served mainly rice or rice noodles. They also don’t clean the table until you leave.
  • At home, the responsibilities are similarly shared: the man would go to work / provide for his family. The wife would do the household tasks and take care of the kids.

That being said, there are several significant differences (again from my perspective). For example, South Koreans are much more educated than Vietnamese (and probably French as well) and their country is much more modern. Streets are quiet, clean and side walks are for pedestrians. People respect red lights, even if there is no cars. There are CCTV everywhere. You order with QR codes and tablets, you pay with credit cards. Subways, buses are quiet, clean. No graffitis or trashes. Electic vehicles everywhere.

Subway Seoul clean quiet and modern

Subway Seoul clean quiet and modern

I do hope somehow that Vietnam turns into a KR modern country (or even Japan, although I haven’t visit) rather than a China or Singapore. Especially Saigon… but Saigon is nothing like Seoul. Space is a problem in Saigon and now transportation is another big challenge. In Seoul, taxis were driving 60-80 kms per hour. No one is crossing the streets randomly like in Saigon. Seoul has 30+ lines of subway.

Note: my wife was amazed at how clean the subway was compared to Paris… but also how better it was. I agree. I just also reminded her that Paris metro system is 10 times bigger than Seoul. But I agreed with her that in France, we have people who don’t respect public infrastructures or public spaces as much as in South Korea.

Visas for Vietnamese citizens

If you listen to most VN folks, they will tell you to not even try to apply because it’s impossible to get a tourist visa for South Korea. But when I read their immigration laws and visa policies, the application folder is not so complicated. Unless, if you compare to going from Vietnam to Cambodia..

Anyways, we read what each piece of paper we needed to provide. For your information, about the finance/wealth, the minimum threshold is 100 million VND! and not what I heard from my wife’s friends amounts like billions or else.

So to my VN friends, save up your 100 mils and apply to visit KR. What helped, I think, was that we left that amount sleep for a long time in the bank. I’m talking years.

For the rest,

If you have a decent stable job in Vietnam (one of the two adults if you travel as a married couple). It is easier if it is a non-definite term contract and if possible if you are able to show that you work for the same company for a long period of time.

If you are traveling as a couple, it helps if you are married. It will give additional proof that you enter/leave together. In theory, haha.

And finally, I do not know how they make their decisions. But you apply through the Visa official portal/agency and wait for like a month to get the result. Application fees are cheap. I didn’t use an agent as we are used to paperwork processes in the family 😉 (it’s a long story but we love multi-cultural paperwork in our family)!

Traveling with a toddler: 16+ month infant

Baby changing rooms

South Korea may have a natality issue, they have equipped their cities with amazing infant facilities. I didn’t took a picture of the baby changing room but it was better equipped than our own home in Saigon:

  • microwaves
  • places for kids to eat
  • relaxing music playing
  • cosy lighting
  • private rooms
  • changing stations
  • lots of tissues and electric plugs to heat a milk bottle and other instruments.
  • And other parents/kids to interact with.

How to feed your baby while visiting whole day

  1. bought rice porrige (you can buy cooked rice)
  2. cooked some veggies / meat
  3. prepared some boxes for a few days and kept in the fridge.
  4. Took them and re-heated them using the many microwaves in free access inside the numerous mini-convenient stores in South Korea.

And most of the times, we were buying snacks and feeding him our own meals.

For the water, you can find free drinking water everywhere.

Stroller, to cover our needs

While spending a whole day or many hours in the streets, using our baby stroller was a must. We could carry our baby when tired, put our bags in and avoid having them on our shoulders all the time. And bring with us more things we could use for comfort and different baby situations.

How stressful was it to travel with a baby?

We had both extreme moments of stress and joy during the family trip to South Korea with my son. Thinking back, nothing really different than if we would stay home!

Stress is only an emotion. So it highly depends on your perspective of the moment and on the people.

It is stressful only because it is a big step out of your comfort zone as a parent. And there are many things we didn’t know:

  • airport check-ins; how are we going to go through these long queues waiting while baby is hungry, wants to play or decided to poop…
  • taking the plane; what if the bay cries too much or if we cannot get him to sleep at his right schedule.
  • finding a hotel: some hotels and airbnb hosts refuse babies (but they tell you after you are arrived) and refused us. so it is highly recommended to mention it during the booking and clearly ask if it is ok for the baby to sleep on the same bed than us.

What helps is to be two parents. We could relay each other.

Another thing that helped was to “accept” (yeah! again… acceptance!) and design visit plans that were simple. that is why we booked a 3 weeks vacation for things we could probably visit in 10 days as adults.

What we did was to aim for a place and visit only that area today. For example, we did one day Gangnam. One day Bucheon, etc. Because in any case you move slower with the baby and you need to pause when he is hungry, relax more often because we spend a lot of energy.

In the end, it’s rewarding for our family. We all learned. We all grew up. We learn the essentials of traveling as a family with a baby. We know better how to get him to sleep in any situation and feed him and improvise playing times with “what we have in the moment”. And the baby is a conversation trigger for adults. Elders in Korea especially loved to play with the baby. It made our son more friendly, more precise in his way to express what he needed.

Best time to visit South Korea

We were planning to visit during the winter to see the snow and ski. But we got delay with the visa, with my own personal situation as well. So we decided to leave from 25th of March to 15th of April.

And it was a great move. We could visit South Korea during the time where the pink cherry flowers blossom. Entire streets literally decorated naturally. It’s quite something.

sakura pink cherry blossom flowers jeju island dodubong south korea nicolas thanh father with baby stroller blue outfit

Sakura pink cherry blossom flowers in Jeju Island and Seoul with Nicolas Thanh

As soon as we arrived, we could still enjoy the strawberries season, which lasted until we left more or less.

strawberries from south korea seoul fresh from the market

strawberries from south korea seoul fresh from the market

The first week was really cold in Seoul. Especially at night. But during the day it was cool and warm; a real spring weather that we can also experience in Western Europe (France).

Temperatures during our family trip to South Korea were ranging from 9 to 20 degrees. So we always had our jackets in case. Bring a scarf as sometimes the wind blows strongly.

Best cities: Seoul, Jeju Island and Busan

In 3 weeks, we could have visited more cities. But with a baby, and with my experience of traveling, now I prefer to spend more nights in the same place to really experience the city and not just run from one landmark to the other.

busan haeundae beach in the morning

Busan Haeundae beach one early morning befor a work session

I was also partially working remotely, in the early mornings and some evenings. I could finished a website for a customer!

Our ideal way was designed like this: find a new area to explore. And wander around the streets. Try new food, check different landmarks and let our eyes and palets enjoy the new colors, savours and feelings.

itaewon island streets photo seoul south korea trip

Itaewon Island street view when buying a sim card the first day.

All these places are very nice if you visit South Korea. I loved the most Busan and Seoul. For Jeju, we didn’t stay long enough and the weather wasn’t nice all time. Jeju, I would recommend it with kids that can hike to explore more the volcano and the forests. It is a place for retreats and for hiking.

Moving from city to city with 3 suitcases, 2 bags and a child

Thanks to elevators in subway stations, we could use the subway super easily. Then, for the walking parts we were booking taxis. There is no seven seats taxis like in Vietnam or we couldn’t book any easily. So, if you are more people, your luggages might not fit and you might need two cars.

Best apps for South Korea


So many offers and an easy way to communicate with hosts as Airbnb translates conversations on the spot. You ask questions in English (didn’t try Vietnamese or French) and the host replies in Korean.. and Airbnb translates back to English.

I recommend to book places with locals living in the place so you can have better conversations and these places are usually more equipped than usual. In Seoul we stayed a full week in an elder couple’s house and it was perfect. As they had grandchild, they provided everything for the baby from bath to toys to bedding. The grandma even cooked for me one morning and they shared about their life in Seoul.


The best translation app for traveling in South Korea. And turns out it even works for French and Vietnamese. So I will use this more with my parents in laws and I will recommend my mom to use it with my wife.

I don’t even know why we learn foreign languages anymore… those apps are a real game changer. I didn’t had that we I first traveled abroad and I remember taking 15 minutes to ask for damn stamp to put on my postal card. Today I’d probably use Papago… or just send the picture with Messenger lol.

Kakao T or Kakao Taxi

Perfect to book a taxi. And they are honest (unlike some experiences I could have in Vietnam.. sorry, my country, but your taxi riders take advantage too much of tourists. You should take example of your South Korean brother).

We were using the map pin point as the address had to be written in Korean.

Kakao Map

Works better than Google Maps because my beloved Google Maps couldn’t get me the itineraries for pedestrians… so it wouldn’t find results for going from one place to another unless I take a bus or subway.

Kakao map was usefriendly, had English supported and worked the same way than Google Maps.

I didn’t try Maps Me actually I should have. It’s a famous community map app that works offline.

Food & Travel recommendations

Seoul Busan Jeju South Korean food fish mackerel and rice and beef soup

South Korean food displayed on our table at restaurants: Mackerels and beef soup with many dishes to share.

  • Buy a sim card as early as possible, with a prepaid 4g package. I think we spent 25,000 KW for 15GB of data valid a full month and it was enough for the entire trip. I was saving by using the public free wifi networks as much as possible.
  • Korean food is as trendy and amazing as we were told. Barbecues, noodles, rice, sandwiches, snacks, drinks.. beer and soju is the best discovery of my life. I wish I would discover this drink earlier. In a restaurant you order for example 300g of meat and it comes with 10 side dishes. The table is suddenly full. It feels like a feast at every meals.
  • Dumplings Mang-du are amazing.
  • Candies also much more diverse than in Vietnam. Similar than France. My wife who doesn’t really know about candies, discovered existing stuff. Of course to eat with moderation.
  • Plan good walking shoes. South Korea cities are built on mountains lol. Coming from flat Ho Chi Minh city… our feets/legs were sore and we had to buy proper shoes.
  • It’s a credit-card society. Prepare some cash before traveling but consider you can use your card in all places.

walking in seoul number of steps per day average from iphone health app statistics as a tourist

You can see from the 25th of March my steps significant increase

Digital Nomad opportunities in South Korea

While we were preparing this family trip to South Korea, I found two working opportunities online. So I had to work part time during our travel.

office of the day as digital nomad in south korea nicolas thanh

My office in Jeju Island with the view on the sea and sunrise.

And South Korea is amazing for Digital Nomads. Powerful wifi and 4G/5G everywhere. You can work in cafes for hours without any problem. And I booked Airbnbs with a desk so I could work at home as well.

If you are a Starbucks fan, they are everywhere. It’s a huge chain in KR and most of the time they are full.

Korean culture is a lot about bakeries. They all have French names which I found funny. But couldn’t find a decent pastry there. It’s all fruit / chocolate cakes or sweet or salty things. I prefer my traditional croissant, or banh-mi sorry…

Korean coffee is horrible by the way haha. They either serve tasteless americano or heavy loaded diary-sugary drinks that looks nothing like coffee. I missed my Vietnamese coffee… still the best!

Conclusion & budget

I want to go back. It is 5h away by plane from Ho Chi Minh City. There are direct flights from the 3 international airports of Vietnam. Koreans are generally friendly, helpful and honest. I remember overpaying or just giving what I thought was the price written and they either lowered the price or refused me to overpay.

family traveling to seoul with infant nicolas thanh-min

drawing from Busan artist of our Family of 3; Nicolas Tam and Théo

South Korea was surprisingly very nice. I wasn’t expecting anything special. I was a bit stressed that it would be pricey. But it is actually alright.

For 3 weeks, we spent a bit less than 4,000 euros in total with our 3 family members; two adults and a 16 months old baby. Including the purchases for preparation and the visa for my wife.

I think it is alright. We were not overspending but not restraining ourselves:

  • Travelled low cost airlines
  • No crazy shopping
  • We rented nice Airbnb but normally priced, where we cooked a few times food from the supermarket
  • We ate decent food but not too expensive meals (or only occasionally)
  • We took subways and buses, only took taxis for real necessity; for example after a long day if we are tired or if we have the big suitcases and we need to walk.
  • We didn’t book any tour.

That’s already a long article so I am going to stop here. Feel free to ask questions in the comments if any. This summary was made because many friends asked me to do a review. Some of them are tempted to book a plane ticket and some others are already going there soon.