Why go to PyeongChang?
Nestled amid the Taebaek Mountains in the northeast province of Gangwon, PyeongChang county in South Korea will host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
Starting on February 9, 2018, participants from all around the globe will compete in over 102 medal events in fifteen different sports over the span of two weeks. The events will be broken up into two clusters—the PyeongChang mountain cluster and the Gangneung coastal cluster.
To host the Winter Olympics, you’re obviously going to need some mountains. Because PyeongChang is located 2,296 feet (700 meters) above sea level, it is sometimes referred to as “Happy 700.” PyeongChang’s vibe is definitely chill, and many of the things to do here are outdoorsy types of activities.
Pyeongchang Travel Guide
Do United States Passport Holders Need a Visa when entering Korea?
No visa is required for visits to Korea as long as you are not staying longer than 3 months
Korean Money Exchange
Pyeongchang like the rest of South Korea uses Won. $1 USD = 1138.94 Won. Mastercard and Visa cards are also accepted at most places. I prefer to use my credit card or debit card when traveling but you'll definitely want to carry $100 or more in cash for incidentals. Unless you are spending a ton of money, I wouldn't spend a huge amount of time trying to find the best exchange rate. Usually I just go to my local bank branch and exchange money before my trip, just to have to save the trouble of waiting in line at the airport. Otherwise withdrawing money with my ATM card while in Korea works just fine.
Places to see in PyeongChang
Apart from all of the Olympic uproar, PyeongChang is a spectacular place in its own right. Its mountainous topography and rich culture afford many opportunities to indulge in both natural ecology and cultural experiences.
The Korea Botanic Garden is situated at the foot of Mt. Odaesan. The garden showcases 500 kinds of rare wild plants, making it an attraction for tourists, locals, and researchers. In addition to 49 acres of outdoor gardens, Korea Botanic Garden features indoor exhibition halls. If you want a wilder experience, you can hike along the Donggang River or go caving in one of the area’s many caves.
Those seeking a more cultural experience should pay a visit to Jinbu Traditional Market. Here, you will find an array of local wild vegetables and medicinal herbs, trendy merchandise from Seoul, freshly caught fish, and more.
Woljeongsa Temple and PyeongChang Hyanggyo are also attractions to note. Located in a wooded valley to the east of Odaesan Mountain, Woljeongsa Temple is the home of Seongbo Museum. This museum displays Buddhist culture artifacts dating back to 1392 and a wide variety of treasures that shed light on the rich culture of the area.
Hyanggyo were government-controlled provincial schools. The particular one at PyeongChang was built in 1658 and was used to educate Confucian scholars and houses the ancestral tablets of Confucius and others.
But you’re here for the Olympics, so let’s get on with it.
Pyeong sounds close to a combination of the worlds 'lung' and 'long" whereas Chang should not rhyme with 'fang" and should sound more like a combination of 'ah' and 'ing'. The 'p' and the 'ch' should be quite accented. Click here to listen to what it should sound like!
Korea and the Olympics
Patience, persistence, and perseverance pay off. For a decade, PyeongChang proposed hosting the Winter Olympics only to be denied. In 2014, PyeongChang finished second to Vancouver and second to Sochi, Russia in 2014. However, her time to shine is finally here. PyongChang will be the third Asian city to host the Winter Games. Additionally, the 2018 Winter Games marks the first time that Olympic Games are held in an Asian country other than Japan.
During deliberations, South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak personally traveled to Durban, South Africa to make a personal pitch for the 2018 Games. However, it was likely not PyeongChang’s game-winning card. Instead, the probability of potentially expanding the popularity of winter sports in a country that had not previously hosted the Winter Olympics was likely the impetus behind the decision.
“The Olympics will benefit from returning to Asia and especially Korea, which has become a major global business center,” said Andrew Judelson, the chief revenue and marketing officer for the United States Ski and Snowboard Association.
But why South Korea’s persistence? Why the determination to host the Winter Olympics?
According to Forbes magazine, Olympic games in Asian nations have come to be something like a “revival game,” a stepping stone to development—a golden opportunity to promote the nation to the world.
With Korea’s already bubbling culture, we can’t wait to see what PyeongChang has up her sleeve.
The Pyeongchang 2018 Mascot
The official mascots for the 2018 Winter Games are Soohorang and Bandabi. Soohorang is a playful tiger and Bandabi is a friendly bear. The bear is a symbol of strength and courage in Korea. The Pyeongchang Organizing Committee hosted a mascot selection process back in 2014. You can already use them as emoticons in the popular Korean chat App, KakaoTalk.
The PyeongChang Olympic Stadium
The Pyeongchang Olympic stadium is a temporary facility that has been built in Daegwallyeong-myeon. It will serve as the location for the distribution of the awards and medals and will also host the opening and closing ceremonies. The entire area measures 860,000 square feet, fits 50,000 spectators, and is projected to cost $78 million to complete. It will be broken down after the events and should be fully completed in September 2017.
The Sports at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics
The Winter Games will host 102 medal events divided among fifteen different sports.
- Alpine skiing
- Figure skating
- Freestyle skiing
- Nordic combined
- Short track
- Ski jumping
- Speed skating
Due to varying terrain demands, the Games will be divided into two clusters—the PyeongChang mountain cluster and the Gangneung coastal cluster. The ice events—hockey, curling, speed skating, and figure skating—will be a part of the Gangneung cluster; the remaining sports belong to the mountain cluster.
Four new events will be making their debut in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Next year, snowboarding and freestyle skiing athletes will be able to compete in big air events, mass start will be added in the speedskating division, and curlers will be able to compete in mixed doubles.
PyeongChang Olympics Tickets
If you want to buy tickets to PyeongChang 2018, be prepared to dish out some serious cash, as prices range from affordable to tear-jerking. CoSport, a lead travel and ticketing agency of the Olympic games, offers hotel and ticket packages, individual tickets, and ticket packages.
The most affordable hotel and ticket package starts at $4,145 per person and includes a private bedroom and bath in a communal two bedroom condominium hotel in Alpensia (mountain cluster). Each package includes tickets to any three events of your choice.
If you happen to be staying with a friend or in another hotel and just want to watch a particular event, you can do so by purchasing individual tickets. You should expect to pay a bare minimum of $150 for a single ticket. Bundled tickets combine the excitement of multiple events at a discounted price.
Transportation to and from PyeongChang
Seoul to Pyeongchang
High Speed Train
Now complete and is in its testing phase, the new high-speed train linking South Korean capital Seoul and PyeongChang whisks passengers at speeds up to 184 mph (300 kph). This $3.7 billion project will transport travelers from Seoul’s Incheon Airport to Olympic Gangneung in 69 minutes. This is less than half the current time it takes via train and the two and a half hours it takes to travel by road.
From Seoul you can take bus from the Dong-Seoul Express Bus Terminal in Seoul at the international airport. Find the Jangpyeong bus which offers a free shuttle to Phoenix Park in PyeongChang. This bus is available in 2 hours increments from the hours of 9am - 9pm. The bus trip will take just about 2 hours and will run you around ₩12,000 or $20 USD.
While in PyeongChang, a well-established bus route allows visitors to easily get from PyeongChang Olympic Stadium to Gangneung Olympic Park as well as the surrounding areas.
You will take the Yeongdong Expressway to get from Seoul to Pyeongchang. Your exit will be the Pyeongchang InterChange.
Taxis are plentiful in South Korea and they can definitely drive you directly from Seoul to Pyeongchang. If money is no object, this may be the option for you! It'll run you about $140-170 USD.
Uber is my absolute favorite travel option as it's already my normal mode of transportation around to events in West Hollywood (there is absolutely no parking anywhere!) However, for a 2 hour ride, prices start at ₩282,100 or about $250 USD so you're better off taking a taxi.
Getting Around in Pyeongchang
By Tour Package
Where to stay - Hotels in Pyeongchang
While many travel packages include accommodations, the majority of those packages come with a hefty price tag. Do your research first, but you may be better off just buying event tickets and booking a hotel or Airbnb separately.
To get you started, here are three of the best hotels in PyeongChang. Keep in mind, however, that everyone and their mother is going to want a room during the two weeks of the Olympics, so to get the best deal (or even get a room at all), we suggest that you make your reservations like right this second.
Pyeongchang Ski Resorts
Conveniently situated between the mountain and coastal cluster, this hotel and resort has 238 guest rooms and suites. It is home to Ocean 700, an indoor waterpark. The resort also features two Olympic-class ski slopes, three scenic golf courses, and a full spa.
Set in dramatic mountain scenery, Holiday Inn Alpensia is located at the foot of great ski slopes in a car-free village. During the summer, a private 27-hole golf course and a public 18-hole golf course are available for use by guests.
This hotel is geared more toward females. It focuses on health, entertainment, relaxation, and beauty. The facility features a luxurious pool and lush gardens (though we can’t vouch for their condition during the winter). All of the hotel’s 306 rooms offer free WiFi, balconies, room service, and flat-screen TVs.
However, thanks to the new high-speed train linking Seoul and PyeongChang options for lodging abound. This train has effectively opened up South Korea, allowing visitors to access different parts of the country easily. Now you don’t have to decide between exploring the capital city or watching the Olympic Games. By day, you can watch the Games, and by night, you can explore vibrant Seoul. Should you decide to stay in the city, check out the best places to stay in Seoul.
Watching the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games
Information as to which locations in PyeongChang will provide live streaming of the Olympic Games is currently unavailable. However, we do know that the games will be broadcast on NBC, NBCSN, and across the networks of NBC Universal.
You can also view the action online or by downloading the NBC Sports app, where you will be able to stream live or on-demand each Olympic event.
Pyeongchang Skiing has a total party atmosphere. The slopes open into the late hours of the night with KPOP music playing from the loudspeakers. The resorts are more boutique in size and feature great snow. Different from skiing in other parts of the world, #skilife in Korea includes jjimjilbangs, plenty of Korean BBQ and KPOP galore. Btw these ski resort jimjilbangs are not your average jimjilbangs, these are supercharged amusement parks with tons of food, waterslides and epic pools.It's a popular vacation destination for Korea's celebrities and elite. Feel free to carry soju with you when you hit the slopes. It's a party atmosphere!
Currently its about a 2 and half hour drive from Seoul but during the Olympics, the high-speed train should be ready to go!
Escape from PyeongChang
You may find that all of the commotion associated with the Olympics is a little too overwhelming. Or perhaps, you have some spare time after the Winter Olympics to explore a little. Regardless of your situation, South Korea is a beautiful and vibrant country and has something to offer everyone.
Head to the beach. While South Korea is mainly known for its vibrant culture and lavish nightlife, the country boasts beautiful beaches and sandy shores. Who doesn’t love the beach?
Tour Busan. This coastal city is home to Songdo Sky Walk, South Korea’s longest ocean skywalk. The second largest city in Korea, Busan is home to several world-class beaches, college towns, and exciting nightlife.
Explore Seoul. Thanks to the completion of a new high-speed rail, you can get from PyeongChang to Korea’s capital in a little over an hour. Once there, you can explore the city’s many restaurants, nightclubs, shops, and cat cafes—the options are endless.
Whenever a city hosts the Olympics, that city is instantly changed and forever transformed. And when a person has the chance to witness these stellar Games and the ambiance they create, they will never be the same. If you’ve wanted to visit South Korea, what better time than when the Olympic Games are in town? Just bookmark this handy guide, and you will have everything you need to know about the PyeongChang Winter Games 2018 at your fingertips.