So before I really get down to business with my Mindanaoan in Korea travel series, please allow me to share a few travel tips and tricks that you may find helpful when you travel to Seoul, Korea. I like to be well-prepared whenever I travel and hopefully, these Seoul travel tips can help you, too.
1. Do you already have a valid visa for travel to Korea? Here’s how I applied for a Korean tourist visa
2. Check the weather in Korea at the time of your trip. This way, you can bring proper clothes.
3. I suggest that you bring U.S. Dollars (instead of Philippine pesos) and have those changed to Korean won. The exchange rates at the Incheon International Airport are fair but I got the best exchange rates in Myeongdong, the famed shopping district in Seoul. Here’s a handy tip: 1,000 KRW is roughly 1 US dollar.
Remember that the Incheon airport is about an hour away from Seoul and you may need enough Korean won to pay for either the AREX train (airport express), bus or taxi. You may also need more Korean won to pay for your Seoul, Korea hostel / hotel / accommodation.
4. The Incheon International Airport has been voted the best in the world. It’s pretty huge, modern and offers so many amenities, services and attractions including the Korean Cultural Street, Walk of the Royal Family, gardens and concerts! Don’t worry if it’ll be your first time there. Lots of signages everywhere and Korean folks are friendly.
5. Need to take the AREX train system? Note that it is comprised of the express train and the commuter train. The express train travels non-stop from the airport to Seoul subway station (it’s a smooth 40-minute ride) while the commuter line runs parallel and makes stops at major subway stations in Seoul. More info about the AREX schedules and fares HERE.
6. Need to take the bus from Incheon airport? Not that there are two types of airport buses: deluxe and standard. The deluxe ones are also called “Airport Limousine Buses” and they’re more spacious. The one we rode in had a luggage area near the door. Bus fares for standard airport buses are cheaper. Look for the bus ticket information counters at the arrivals area (first floor) or you can check THIS PAGE. Average bus fare is 10,000 KRW.
Don’t hesitate to go to the Airport Information Desk if you have any concerns or questions. Also, if you find someone wearing like a sash, that’s usually a local volunteers who assists tourists. They speak English so don’t hesitate to approach them.
7. Taking the taxi from the airport to downtown Seoul can cost about 80,000 KRW. Your Seoul hotel may also be able to arrange pick-up. This may cost as much as 100,000 KRW. Around Seoul, you may want to take “international taxis.” These are orange colored taxis and the drivers can speak English or Japanese.
8. If you plan to stay in Seoul for more than 3 days, it might be better if you purchase a T-Money card. This card is similar to the Octopus card in Hong Kong and the EZ Link card in Singapore. It’s a prepaid, “reloadable” card that you can use to take the subway, bus, taxi and to buy stuff at convenience stores as well. Buy the cards from any subway station office. Apart from the fact that you don’t need to queue to get subway tickets, train fees come out cheaper when you use your T-Money card. Read more about the benefits of this card HERE.
9. You can also buy single journey train tickets from vending machines found inside the subway. There are also maps and “community information” posters inside the subways (usually located near the ticket vending machines). The community information posters are helpful if you want to know if the area you are in has particular tourist spots you might want to check out.
10. Like most train systems in modern cities, Seoul’s subway system may seem complicated. However, if you’ve traveled to Hong Kong or Singapore, for instance, you might find it easier to understand Seoul’s subway map. I highly recommend that you download Seoul Subway map apps. There are quite a few now including the Explore Seoul Subway app and the Seoul Metro Map. You can also ask help from the subway station office or from your hotel/hostel/inn. Seoul’s train stations have automatic platform gates for the safety of passengers, by the way.
11. Food can be a bit expensive in Seoul. In sit down restaurants, meals usually start at 12,000 KRW (US $12). In smaller eateries, meals are usually priced at 5,000 KRW (US $5), without drinks. Prices at street food stalls are usually 1,000 KRW (buns) or 3,000 KRW (sausages).
12. Shopping at Myeongdong? Lots (and I mean LOTS) of vendors usually offer FREEBIES/SAMPLES just for you to enter their store! I’m not kidding! The first night we were there, I amassed so many freebies, mostly from Korean beauty shops like Etude, The Face Shop, Tony Moly, Innisfree, Nature Republic etc 🙂 You can actually just get the freebies, enter the store, check out the items for sale and exit without buying anything 😀
13. Check if there will be festivals in Korea when you arrive. In my case, we arrived during Chuseok Festival, an important thanksgiving event among Koreans. In observance of the event, entrance fees to museums, palaces etc were waived. There were also several booths near tourist areas where you can wear the hanbok, the traditional Korean attire.
14. You might want to download the TripCase and Tripomatic apps. These were very useful! These are apps that can help organize your itinerary and other travel needs. Search for them in either the App Store or Google Play.
15. Visitors to Korea who have shopped for goods worth at least 30,000 KRW may be able to avail of tax refunds. Check this page for more details about the tax refund policy.
Did any of these tips help you? Or do you also have travel tips that you might want to share? Please feel free to leave a comment below 🙂
Mindanaoan is a multi-awarded blogger, content creator, seasoned social media strategist and publicist with undeniably successful track record. 2012 International Visitor Leadership Program (for global leaders) alumnus and O visa grantee (for people with extraordinary skills and who have risen to the top of their field). Avid traveler and a proud relief operations volunteer. Regular resource person for social media, blogging and content creation. Available for work and travel – [email protected]