Beyond Seoul, Jeju is definitely the most popular destination in Korea for the average tourist. No tour itinerary is complete without a few days in Korea’s “honeymoon island” and it is often said that there are more tourists than locals in Jeju.
So why don’t I recommend Jeju? Here are a few reasons:
1) It is needlessly EXPENSIVE
Accommodation and food prices in Jeju are jacked up by the hordes of tourists. A simple meal at a homely restaurant cost me 8,000 won when it could have been 4,500 won in Busan. Also, do factor in the flight cost. In comparison, many of Korea’s southern towns, such as Tongyeong, Yeosu and Gyeongju, are just as pretty as Jeju and only half the price.
2) Jeju is poor with transport
As mentioned, you need to fly to Jeju, which already makes it more of a hassle and eats into your precious holiday time. Most first-time tourists think that Jeju is a little sunny island but did you know that it is three times the size of Singapore and has a massive volcano in the middle? Unlike the rest of Korea, public transport is scarce in Jeju and taking a bus from one area to another can take hours.
If you are prepared to rent a car or taxi for a day, traveling in Jeju can be really fun, but if not, do be prepared for the travel time. And carefully check your accommodation location – some hostels are located in extremely rural areas.
3) Jeju’s weather is unpredictable
Of the three days I spent in Jeju in summer, it rained half the time. You don’t want to spend all that money only to be at the mercy of the weather, so do check the weather forecast in advance. Or base yourself in Busan instead, where you have the flexibility to shop and play indoors on wet days and make day trips to Korea’s breathtaking southern coastline on sunny days.
4) The view may not be what you expect
We’ve all seen those epic helicopter-view photos of Jeju’s Seongsan Ilchubong (sunrise peak), an emerald gem glistening in azure waters. But when I went there, it was so foggy I couldn’t see 5 metres in front of my face. Hallasan’s epic crater turned out to be a little puddle when I climbed it in early summer.
I’m not saying that Jeju is a terrible place; in fact I really enjoyed climbing Hallasan and visiting the creepy Manjanggul lava tunnels. It’s just that if you have limited time and budget, there are other scenic destinations in Korea that are equally awe-inspiring and can be covered with a more flexible travel plan that allows for bad weather. For example, see my post on Yeosu.
Blogging on secretkorea.net is my way of sharing cool travel experiences with all of you. I do my best to personally verify everything posted here. However, prices and conditions may have changed since my last visit. Please double check with other sources such as official tourist hotlines to avoid disappointment. If you like this post, disagree, have questions or want to contribute additional useful information for other travelers, please comment below! =)