By Laurie Jo Miller Farr
All eyes are on South Korea for the XXIII Olympic Winter Games on Feb. 9-25, 2018. Known as PyeongChang 2018, the Asian city won their Olympic host bid back in 2011, so the games return to Korea for the first time since 1988. Representing the USA, a team of 240 veteran and newcomer athletes is expected to compete in 15 winter sport disciplines. The Paralympic Games will follow at the same venue on March 9-18, 2018.
Everybody’s heard of the capital city of Seoul, but where’s Pyeongchang? About 80 miles east of Seoul, it’s a relatively small region (population less than 45,000) tucked away in the snowy Taebaek Mountains of Gangwan-do Province, which reaches all the way to the Sea of Japan coastline.
International visitors fly in and out of Incheon International Airport, a world-renowned facility that is South Korea’s largest airport. Located about 30 miles from Seoul, the airport has frequent subway and bus service into various parts of the capital city. For those requiring jet lag remedy, the Hyatt Regency Hotel is just two minutes from the airport by free shuttle bus.
Transportation from Seoul to the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics is something of a challenge. It’s important to note that personal car use near the venues will be restricted. A new KTX high speed train connection on the Wonju-Gangneung Line departs Incheon International Airport via Seoul and travels on to Jinbu Station near PyeongChang, as well as Gangneung Station, in about two hours.
Attending the Games
Tickets went on sale one year before the event in February 2017. Residents of the U.S. can access ticket sales for individual events or multi-event packages through CoSport/Jet Set Sports, the authorized ticket reseller for the Olympics. The U.S. National Olympic Committee is also advertising ticket sales through CoSport on the Team USA website. All tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis and opening and closing ceremony tickets are selling at a premium.
Major Sports Venues
Some 90 countries will compete in 15 major winter sports including figure skating, alpine skiing, and ice hockey. The sport venues will be split between PyeongChang mountain venues and other venues in the nearby town of Gangneung. All the downhill skiing, ski jumping, big air snowboard, bobsled, skeleton and luge events are at the Alpensia Resort Park and Bokwang Snow Park in the mountains. Also in PyeongChang, the Jeongseon and Yongpyong Alpine Centers will be used for alpine ski events. The figure skating, speed skating, ice hockey, and curling are held in several newly built arenas in the town where the opening and closing ceremonies also take place.
Where to Stay
CoSport is also selling accommodation and event ticket packages ranging from stays of 3 days to10 days. Airfare to Korea and ground transportation are not included. Packages offering three or more ticketed events in the mountains can be purchased online, with the name of the fully serviced condo in Alpensia to be allocated after payment is complete. The 10-day package, which includes closing ceremony tickets, uses the newly opened Ramada Gangwon Sokcho, a four star hotel near the coast. Gangneung is accessed from Sokcho by subway and twice hourly intercity public buses for a journey of approximately 70 minutes. Upgrades to include meals, airport and sports event transfers are available in some packages.
Alternative accommodation options within surrounding cities is being suggested by official websites for the Olympic games. Local tourism websites in the region are suggesting homestays on Korean language websites.
Useful Traveler Tips
American citizens entering Korea are required to have a valid passport. No visa is required for tourism-related stays of up to 90 days. Banks and airports have international currency facilities and money exchange rates for the Korean won can be checked online. For small electrical appliances and chargers, the standard voltage in Korea is 220 volts at 60 Hertz at wall outlets that have two round holes. Internet service is found in many public transportation stations, hotels, and 24-hour internet cafes. Unlimited use SIM cards can be purchased online, at the airport, and at some convenience stores in large cities, such as 7-Eleven. Taxis can be hailed on the street, and those with bilingual drivers (although not always English as a second language) are marked “International Taxi.” For more tourist information, go online at Visit Korea.