Thursday, July 5, 2018

South Korea: Seoul: Itinerary for First-time Visitors and Beyond

Welcome traveler!  From my learning and experience I hope the tips and guides below will also help you plan and enjoy your upcoming travel in South Korea!

Go to the following topics:

How to Apply for Visa: Guide and Tips for South Korea Trip
Rules in South Korea Embassy (Taguig, Philippines)
When is the best time to go in Seoul in terms of weather?
How to find cheap flights to Incheon (Seoul) and Busan
Encounter with the Immigration Officer
Airport Transfer: What to do on late arrivals or delayed flights?
Airport Transfer: How to reach Incheon Airport with early flights?
What transportation card to use?

Helpful Link/s:
Bus routes or walking trail on destinations
Bus route in Seoul
Subway Tour routes
English Map | version 2017 [new]
2017 Top Representative Destinations

  • Enjoy cherry blossom starting the 1st week of April (end of March is still too early for sakura).  For those with asthma or dust allergy be warned about fine and yellow dust during this time.  
  • Stay away during July due to monsoon, there are 2 weeks to 1 month wet summer in between spring and hot summer (August).
  • Autumn colors starts by 1st week of October. 1st of November can be too late for the colors. [2016|2015|2014]

When is the best time to go in Seoul in terms of weather?

I suggest Spring and Autumn.
  • January - definitely for snow, but there might be flight cancellations due to snow storm.  If you are not familiar walking in snow, there are cases of accidents when it is slippery on the streets.  If you are from tropical country, this might be too cold, or you may not enjoy walking outside.  Lunar New Year (Seollal) is mostly celebrated for 3 days, day before and after the actual holiday.  Expect that most of the shops will be closed in the city.  However, it also a good time to see the palaces since you'll have all the space for photo opportunity (with less locals).  Expect traffic on exits going to the provinces as some will be heading back to their home town. 
  • February - if you want to enjoy Valentines on their country.  Try to chase snow  if there are still few frozen river and soil (which will be too muddy to walk).
  • March - still too early for cherry blossom, but try to check the tulips festival.
  • April - try the first week for early or full bloom of sakura, second week for the petal fall experience. [forecast|suggestions] If you are unable to catch cherry blossom in Seoul metro, and you have visited South Korea by mid- to 3rd week of April, try to catch double layered cherry blossom and royal azaleas in Wansan Park, Jeonju. Or check if there is an event for Taean Tulip Festival.
  • May - possible rose festival. Check-out Seoul Grand Park Rose Festival by end of May to first week of June.
  • June - combination of summer and monsoon summer.  Trees are in full green.
  • July - monsoon summer, it will definitely rain during your stay.  Temperature will be hot, you'll sweat even if it is raining.  Watch out for Sinchon Water Gun Festival held in Sinchon and Yonsei-ro area on last week of July.
  • August - the hot summer that we normally know to spend on beaches.  Too much heat and high temperature, go out with fashionable shorts!
  • September - equinox, start of of the autumn festival.  If you happened to book during the dates of Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) Festival, hotels in the city will not be a problem.  What can cause you an issue is the difficulty in train transfers and bus tickets on provinces as most locals will be definitely going back to their hometown.  Bus from Seoul to Busan is also an option but the normal 4-5 hrs can be 7-10 hrs travel due to traffic during the holidays.  During this long holiday, flights between Incheon and Jeju might also be booked already.  Some bars and restaurants near nightlife areas will be open but most of the stores may also be closed.  In residential areas, pop-up restaurants may be closed for one day, some would stay closed for 3 days. Watch out for KTO's announcement on availability schedule of attractions and shops for possible altered hours (announcement for 2016|2017).  Enjoy the cultural tourism program during this holiday period (sample for 2016). 
  • October - chasing the maple and ginkgo trees. Peak forecast may be on last week.
  • November - least possibility to catch autumn, you'll be lucky if you can still see on the first half of the month.  Make sure to catch Lantern Festival in Cheonggyecheon stream
  • December - where lights will be everywhere in time for Christmas season.  Last week will be for KDrama awards and Idol concerts. 

    If you are concerned about the temperature, rain or precipitation, snow as you are still planning or wanted to see previous reports about the city, you can visit this site (just change on your preferred month): e.g. March 2016, temperature history in 

    If you are then preparing for the upcoming forecast of weather, here's the 14-day extended forecast

    If you are catching the sun for sunrise scenes on summer or waiting for it to set for the night light festivals on Winter, visit this site.  This will help you set expectation on your preparation for your trip.

    For those visiting Everland during winter season, popular rides may be closed for maintenance check.  It is advisable to check the theme park's calendar first prior to your visit.

    Cheap Flights to Incheon (Seoul) and Busan

    How to get cheap airline tickets or plane tickets heading to Incheon Airport (Seoul) or Gimhae Airport (Busan)? I normally fly with Cebu Pacific, their regular airfare ranges from 6,000 to 7,500php, bought 7-10 months earlier before the actual departure date.  If bought less than a month, it can be 10,000php and beyond.  The cheapest round trip I got on sale was on Christmas eve of 2010, it's 1,629php for  late autumn visit the following year (2011).  So if you can get a price for less than 5,000php it's already a good deal!

    Air Asia can go from 7,000 to 9,000 on regular rates.  While Philippine Airlines can run from 12,000php on budget economy to 22,000php on regular economy.

    *Starting 2013 or 2016, CEB has new category of DPSC added tax which is Domestic Passenger Service Charge/Terminal Fee.  If you notice we travelers only pay Travel Tax (1620php) at the airport and no longer pay for Terminal Fee of 550php.

    View other flights offered by Asiana, Korean Air and Philippine Airlines

    Encounter with the Immigration Officer
    I'm nervous because it's my first time to travel.  When you reach the Korean Immigration counter, will there be an interview?

    As long as you have a legal personal trip and carrying the complete documents there is nothing to worry about. Make sure that you have printed copies of (1) round trip tickets back to your home country, (2) hotel bookings that is parallel to your length of stay and ticket departure.  Make sure that you do understand English and can speak English as well.  There maybe questions but as long as you have the intent to stay as a visitor or traveler only within the days that is allowed by your visa then why would you worry?  Just honestly answer the question asked by the officer.  No need to lengthen your answer.

    • Always carry a pen with you. Arrival card will be given by flight attendants while you are on flight.  Make sure you are English literate to fill-up the form.   
    • While on queue, check again the form, make sure to complete the form and your place of accommodation is very readable. 
    • Never take a selfie, nor use your mobile. Be careful not to take photos on this area.
    • Queue in properly on your way to the counter.  There would be warning signs (normally a bar in yellow, mentioning that "stay behind the yellow lane").  Wait for your turn. 
    • Greet the officer (i.e. Good Morning, Good Evening), nothing more. I normally don't initiate a small talk unless asked.
    • Immediately handover to the officer your passport.  (No need to include the boarding pass, or the custom's declaration form) 
    • The officer would ask you look at the camera for face recognition and so that your photo can be taken.  Plus, they will request for your thumb or index finger scan.
    • Once you received back your passport, never forget to say "Thank you."
    • Check your passport for the arrival stamp and the date you are allowed to stay.
    • Continue walking to the luggage carousel, pick-up your luggage, pass by or submit the form at the custom's declaration officer and head to the Arrival Gates. 

    Transportation from to the airport: Answer to late arrivals or delayed flights
    What is the arrival procedure in Incheon?

    Cebu Pacific will be arriving in Terminal 1.  (As of Feb 2018, Terminal 2 is dedicated to Korean Air, Delta, Air France and KLM.) [See details on Incheon Airport website]

    • While on-board, you'll be given arrival cards.  Make sure to fill-up before the touch down.
    • From the arrival gates, look for signs heading to long escalators, you'll be taking monorails for free, going to Immigration Area.
    • Queue in at the Immigration counter.  Please no selfie and no camera here. Be quiet and be confident.
    • Baggage claim. Look for the rotating belt assigned to your airline. 
    • Queue and pass the Customs Inspection.
    • Pass through the arrival gates. 

    Read more on:
    Related: How to transfer between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 (opened 2018) in Incheon Airport

    How far is Seoul from Incheon Airport Terminal 1? If we take Seoul Station as our landmark, it is less than 70 minutes by commuter train, less than 50 minutes by non-stop Airport Express (AREX)

    What is the best way to arrive in Seoul? I prefer to take commuter train over AREX heading to Seoul (it will take few more minutes but it's cheaper than non-stop), then use Limousine Airport Bus (more expensive, but no need to carry your luggage underground) going back to the airport.

    Where exactly is airport bus stop? Any landmark? For Myeongdong, both bus 6015 and 6001 can be used. Open the links on the new tab, then click on the desired stop station, the page will then be showing the exact location of the pick-up and drop-off point. 

    Where to buy T-money card upon arrival?
    At the airport, once you exit the arrival gates, go to your right-hand side direction. Look for C.U. (convenience store), then you can tell them that you are buying T-money card.  You can also opt to add the value to the card (40,00 KRW = 1,600 PHP, can already last for 5-7 days around the city).

    Using Seoul City Pass which costs 15,000 KRW for upto 20 times ride on bus/subway may be more expensive if you are only taking 3-4 routes in a day (which can cost you around less than 7,500 KRW fare + 2,500 KRW T-money card)

    Don't worry about getting refund at the end of your trip or if you are thinking about surrendering the T-money card - once you experience Seoul, you can't get enough of it.  For sure that you'll be coming back, and what's good news is that the card will not expire.  Thus, you can still use the remaining value from your previous trip to your next trip back in South Korea.  Plus, the card can also be used in other cities and provinces like Busan, Jeju, Daegu, etc.

    Guide upon arrival to All-Stop or AREX service


    [Updated below is the information with Terminal 2 details]

    Take note, that there is different time table for last trains between Weekdays and Weekend:

    Bus 6015 (for Myeong-dong) (Bus Station at the Airport: (1st Floor) 5B,12A)
    For Seoul: First 5:35, Last: 22:50 (every 20-35mins) at 10000
    For Airport: First 4:50, Last: 20:35 at 10000krw (400ph); Journey: 1h30m

    Option 1: Use the Subway Cyber Station [version 2017 | updated 2018] map to navigate and change the departure time from the airport. Start with 23:00, then 23:20 until to catch the last available train on when you can rush upon arrival.

    Option 2: If there are transfers required like in Seoul or Hongik Station (for Myeong-dong) or Gongdeok (Itaewon), check the map if you can take 11:40 last commuter train from the airport.  From the transfer station, if there are no more trains to your destination, you can take taxi from there.

    Option 3: Take the night bus, departure 00:15, 01:05, 02:00 etc.. @ for Seoul Station. Fares can be paid on cash or T-money.
    Navigate from Airport website > To & From the Airport > Public Transformation > Late Night Bus

    Airport Transfer: How to reach Incheon with early flights?
    There are flights that were scheduled too early where you have to be in the airport by 5am.

    By Subway (Journey Time: 67 minutes at 4250KrW)

    05:45am - Earliest departure from Myeongdong to Seoul (followed by 5:58)
    06:00am - Transfer at Seoul Station
    06:43am - Arrival at Incheon Intl. Airport

    By Bus 

    The first bus departs from Sejong Hotel (Myeongdong station) at 4:50am in the morning.  Arrival will depend on the traffic, normally journey will be 1h15m-1h30m.

    By Taxi

    If you are not confident to meet your target time in Incheon Airport from Myeongdong via bus or subway, you can use Taxi. [read more information on Taxi Types and Fares][Taxi Reservation]

    Nearby Hotel

    Stay in the Airport in jimjilbang in he Spa On Air (lowerground).  I have not personally tried the service, hopefully soon.  But you can read more reviews about this place on Trip Advisor.

    Or near the airport the night before the departure flight, like Global Guest House.

    Unseo Station

    From Trip Advisor, ethelman has a good suggestion of staying in Unseo station (Airport Town), 8 minutes away from Incheon.
    Earliest Departure (Unseo) - 05:42am
    Arrival (Incheon Intl Airport) - 5:47am

    Accommodation: Where to stay in Seoul?
    Myeong-dong area - I prefer this area due to accessibility by Euljiro-1-ga and Myeong-dong area.  Multiple options of cafes, restaurants and shops.  The area is lively with street market and hawkers until 11pm.   It is centrally located, with quick accessibility to Namsan Tower by Bus 05 (Myeongdong Station Exit 1) and to the palaces coming from Euljiro-3 (sam) ga on the same Line 3 for Anguk (Changdeokgung) and Gyeongbokgung.

    For delayed flights from Cebu Pacific, be careful as the alleys became dark after 12mn.  Make sure to notify the hotel desk by mail if you are expecting late check-ins.  Some owners are not stay-in on hostels or guesthouses.

    Just a tip, better to stay near the subway station than the cheaper guesthouses in the hilly part heading to Namsan Tower.  It was hard to push/pull luggage on that section of the road. [Click here for station guide for escalator or elevator service.]

    K Pop Residence II Myeongdong (on the back alley, there is a trash across the street; a decent choice in Myeongdong)
    4-2, Myeongdong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul

    Green Residence (good on late autumn, winter, but not during summer)
    Location: 17F Tae Heung Building, Myeongdong, Seoul

    ZaZa Backpackers Hostel (in hilly area of Myeongdong)
    Address: 32-3, Namsandong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul/South Korea (Myeongdong Exit 2)

    Hongdae/Hongik - My second preferred area.  Since Myeong-dong is already too familiar and I lost the sense of getting lost, thus I prefer this place.  You have option to stay near Ewha or Hongik universities.  Closer to student's cafes and shops - not necessarily less expensive, but a place for yuppies.  [Click here for station guide for escalator or elevator location (Line 2).|If you are looking for elevator/escalator details on Airport Road/Line-Hongik Station, click here]

    24 Guesthouse - Sinchon Style (near restaurants, decent choice in Yonsei)
    Address: 24, Yonsei-ro 5na-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul (Changcheon-dong)

    Swanhouse Hongdae (Magellan 21, near Exit 2)

    You can further read arguments and feedback on Trip Advisor: 1, 2, 3

    Jongno - 3rd option to stay is in the area of Jongno, which is likely to be suggested by other travelers in Trip Advisor. Check the rooms available in Yellow Brick Hostel.

    Location on the City

    Itinerary: Places to go, Things to see, What to do in Seoul?
    Sharing the itinerary we planned last 2011 during our first visit to Seoul.  This has then been updated with additional points of interest as we progress on our succeeding trips.


    Going to Gyeongbokgung Palace 경복궁
    Take the opportunity to join the English Free Guided Tour: 11:00, 13:30, 15:30

    Start of the On-Our-Own walking tour in downtown Seoul

    • Admiral Yi Sun-shin Fountain
    • Haechi Madang
    • Waterways of History
    • Central Square - A site for relaxation and exhibition
    • Statue of King Sejong
    • Flower Carpet

    Taking shuttle bus to Nami Island

    Closed on Mondays: Seoul City Hall, DMZ, Changdeokgung Palace and Huwon, Namsangol Hanok Village, Deoksugung, Changgyeonggung, Culture Station Seoul; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, City Tour Bus does not operate on Mondays


    (Optional to have an overnight stay, to experience the island with less crowd)
    or visit Petit France (Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do) or Jade Garden (Chuncheon-si Gangwon-do) or Garden of Morning Calm (Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do)

    Closed on Tuesdays: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Jongmyo

    Take the ferry from Nami Island to mainland (back to Seoul)

    Take a cab to Gapyeong Station (take several transfers until Myeongdong)

    • Departure at: Gapyeong Station (Line: Gyeongchun; Direction: Mangu/Sanbong)
    • Transfer at: Mangu Station (take the Jung ang Line; Direction: Jungang/Yongsan)
    • Transfer at: Inchon (take Line 4: BLUE: Direction: to Seoul Station)
    Going to Namsan Tower (Teddy Bear Museum-closed last Nov 2013 | Autumn Visit on 2016 | Tower Map)
    Head to a market (Namdaemun for shopping or Hongdae for street night party)
    If you are in struggle of thinking to put together Nami Island, Petite France and Garden of Morning Calm in one day, read here for more thoughts.

    Thursday: (choice of theme park)

    Lotte World (Line 2: GREEN: Lotte World, Museum, Exit 4) (If you would like to stay in the city area, would like to enjoy kiddie rides in indoor or outdoor area - this maybe your choice.)
    OR Everland (If you don't mind travelling 2 hrs away from the city, would definitely ride the T-express wooden coaster and like to see flower garden and other zoo adventure - this is a place for you.)

    (We prefer to separate the traditional palaces and temples in 2 days not to get tired of or be fed up.) 
    Going to Changdeokgung Palace (Anguk Station, Seoul Subway Line 3, proceed out of Exit #3)
    Try to join the English palace tour or Huwon (Secret Garden Tour)
    Optional: Bukchon Hanok Village, InsadongGahoe-dong Catholic Church

    Going to Dongdaemun (Doota Mall)


    (Considered free day, for those you were not able to visit above or other places you wanted to visit.)
    • Try a campus tour
    • or go to Samseong Station: for Kring Museum (not recommended if you are not Drama addict) and COEX
    • or go to Banpo Bridge Hangang Park for Moonlight Rainbow Fountain (After it stops for autumn and winter time, the fountain show re-opens by April;  Visiting the area is not recommended during heavy rains on June-Aug)
    How to reach Banpo Bridge the easy way?  When we try to visit Banpo Bridge, we walked a very long path from Express Bus Terminal. However, it can be easily reach by bus from Noksapyeong Station (녹사평역) check the route here, drop by Banpo Hangang Park, Sebitseom (반포한강공원.플로팅아일랜드). [Other reference for Bus 740 route]
    Or another option is to take the shuttle service from Express Bus Terminal to Somesevit.

    Cathedral of Saints Mary and Nicholas (Myeongdong)
    Free Day

    Open all year round: Namsan Tower, Lotte World, Everland, Nami Island, Petite France, Garden of Morning Calm, Seoraksan

    (Optional to stay near Incheon airport if the flight is too early in the morning) 

    Global Guest House
    Address: 801 IBC Daewoo Theoville, 2850 Unseo-dong, Jung-gu,

    *No need to spend an overnight stay for Busan on your first visit to South Korea.  What you can find in Seoul, you can also find in Busan (except for Haeundae Beach).  If you want to see Busan, have a separate trip on it, together with other provinces in the southern peninsula.
    Or, to have a better plan, in-bound in Incheon Airport for  Seoul, use KTX for your train to Busan, then out-bound back to your home country in Gimhae Airport.

    Attractions in and near Seoul
    Attractionvisitkorea 2016visitseoul.nettripadvisor 2016travelfeeder 2014tommyooi 2011insight guides
    Gyeongbokgung Palace13121-
    N Seoul Tower34333-
    Bukchon Hanok Village4--26-
    Namiseom Island2--412-
    Dongdaemun Market-1--4-
    Namdaemun Market76----
    Dongdaemun Design Plaza-88---
    Seoraksan National Park (Gangwon)----152
    Lotte World5---14-
    The War Memorial of Korea--2---
    Cheong Wa Dae----5-
    Seoul City Wall-7----
    Bongeunsa Temple (Seoul)--7---
    Lotte Department Store – Main Branch8-----
    Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain10-----
    Cheonggyecheon (Stream)-10----
    Demilitarised Zone (DMZ)-----10
    Jongmyo Shrine----11-


    visitkorea 2016TOP 10 Most Popular Korean Attractions of 2016
    visitseoul.netTop 10 Attractions
    tripadvisor 2016Top 10 Landmarks — South Korea
    tommyooi 201115 Must Visit Seoul Attractions & Travel Guide
    travelfeeder 2014Korea top 10 places to visit during your holiday
    insightguidesSouth Korea: top attractions

    Suggested Places to See (Based on Category)

    Normal Must See First Time Itinerary
    Other Suggestions
    Culture & Tradition
    Gwanghwamun Square, Exit 9 (Admiral Yi Sun-shin, King Sejong)
    Changdeokgung Palace, Anguk Exit 3
    Secret Garden (Changdeokgung Palace, Anguk Exit 3)
    Deoksugung Palace (City Hall Station (Seoul Subway Line 1 – Exit 2 / Seoul Subway Line 2 – Exit 12
    Culture Station Seoul (Former Seoul Station)
    Cheonggyecheon Stream ( Gwanghwamun Exit 5, Seoul Lantern Festival)
    Banpo Bridge
    Yeouido Hangang Park
    Cheong Wa Dae (Blue House)
    Seoullo 7017
    Lotte Seoul Sky Tower
    Theme Park
    Lotte World, Jamsil Exit 3
    Everland (near Suwon)
    Seoulland, Seoul Grand Park Exit 2
    Book Park in Itaewon
    Insadong, Anguk Exit 3 (arts & crafts)
    Myeong-dong (Euljiro 1(il) ga) Exit 5,6 (cosmetics)
    Namdaemun Market
    Dongdaemun (Doota Mall) (clothing)
    Gangnam, Garosugil, Apgujeongdong
    Rodeo Street, Munjeong Exit 1
    Noryangjin Seafood Market
    Common Ground
    Old Ferry Donut in Itaewon
    Oliva Garden [Pretty Noona]
    Day Away
    Nami Island
    Petite France
    Gapyeong Rail Bike
    DMZ or JSA (Check Koridoor, TourDMZ, Cosmojin JSA)
    Haeoreum Art Village
    School Visit
    Hongdae Area (Hongik University)
    Yonsei University
    Lotte World Folk Museum, Jamsil Exit 3
    National Museum of Korea is the sixth largest museum in the world.
    Seoul Museum of Art 
    The War Memorial of Korea
    Hanok Village
    Bukchon, Anguk Exit 2 (+300m)
    Samcheon-dong, Anguk Exit 1
    Namsangol, Chungmuro Exit 2,3
    Flower Seasons/Nature
    Seokchon Lake near Lotte Tower (for cherry blossom/April or autumn colors/November)
    Jinhae (from Busan, for cherry blossom/April)
    World Cup Park (for silver grass and autumn/Oct)
    Nari Park (for Kochia scoparia fireball shrub/mid-Oct)
    Wansan Park, Jeonju (double petal cherry blossom/mid-April)
    Gochang Green Barley Field Festival (3rd week April)
    Making of Seoul Lantern (mid-May, in celebration for Buddha's Birthday the following week)

    Joining Tours

    If you are still not confident in looking around the area on solo adventure, why not join city tours. Check the following:
    Or check offers from valid travel agency from your area. (Personally, I'm not fond on joining package tours.  I find DIY travel as challenging, requires research but also cheaper.)


    Tip: You can limit your expenses (exclusive of airfare and accommodation) for 5-8 days stay to 25k-30k php/ea.

    For the detailed computation or good estimate on your plan, read more on Budget Travel: How much does it cost to travel to South Korea

    Where and how to get Korean Won

    There are multiple options to get your Korean Won: get it from local banks and money changers from the Philippines, buy some when you arrive in Incheon and get the remaining from exchanges in Myeongdong (others recommend the one near Chinese Embassy to have better rates) and lastly is to enable your overseas withdrawal on ATM or use credit card on your transactions in the city.  Related Article: Types of Travelers who deal with Foreign Exchange

    Where can I go shopping?

    • Myeong-dong - you can enjoy both underground and street shopping
    • Dongdaemun - for returning gifts and whole sale buying
    • Hongdae - for artsy stuff (which were created by students) during weekends
    • Gangnam - if budget is not a question go to the main streets or high-end shopping malls in this area. Otherwise, visit Goto Mall (found in Gangnam Terminal Underground Shopping Center), take subway to Express Bus Terminal Station.  Expect log alleys of clothes underground. 
    View more photos of the area on this page.

    What application or interactive map to use for locating a place and getting directions in Seoul?

    Google Maps works fine for the city center and for traveler's prime destination targets.  Although there are known limitation for other secured areas.

    Naver is recommended and used by locals but is in Hangul language. The image below was after the translate extension feature of Chrome.

    For those who have international license and can follow the driving direction of South Korea, Waze is also a good option.

    How hard it is for someone who doesn't speak Korean to make their way around the country?
    Are you afraid on the language barrier? Is it difficult to travel in South Korea knowing only English?
    Do you also ask how much English is spoken in Seoul? Is it your concern if people will understand you when you visit Korea?  But have you think about the thought of will you also understand them when they try to communicate with you?

    I'm not a Korean speaker, but I'm able to enjoy the place not just in the city, but also extended my travel map to mountains and southern provinces.
    • On international airport, most city trains, subway announcement and famous city streets, most road direction signs are in English.  
    • This is not the case for city buses, most stop announcement are done in local language.  You have to be familiar on following your current location on gps to know if it's your bus stop.  For famous location spots, sometimes I just follow the volume of people when most of them get-off, that must be place - but you have to be good in your trusting your instinct to be good in decision making or should I say, decision guessing.
    • Make sure you have reference or copy of the Korean/Hangul/Romanized/English names of your selected destinations/stations/terminals.  It would be easier to show a local/driver on the correct name to help you navigate on the right direction.
    • Famous tourist spots like Myeongdong, Bukchon, etc. have dedicated Tourist Information Center.  Plus, there are tourist helpers and guides mostly in red suit roaming around the area carrying maps to help those who seemed to be at lost.  
    • On buying in markets, some vendors can speak less or no English, make sure to politely ask the price before buying anything.  Use extensive hand signs to make the communication easier.  Always say thank you before leaving the store.  
    • You can use the calculator on your phone or their calculator when bargaining on prices or if requesting for discounts.
    • When dining in a local or traditional restaurant, capture the photo of the food displayed outside the restaurant wall and show it at the counter or server in case they don't have English menu.
    • Download offline applications that can help you on some phrase list that are mostly used when traveling, like where is the bathroom (replace it with more common words like toilet), how much is this, does it have pork, is it spicy,  
    • If you are heading to more secluded part of the country or to provinces,  expect for no English sign area.  I suggest you get a wifi to easily navigate on the area.  You can also use translation applications to communicate with the locals. 
    • Some shy locals would run away or ignore you if they don't speak English but that rarely happen.  Normally, if I bump to someone who can't respond, they look for someone who can help me instead.  
    • If you have longer preparation time and fond of learning new language, you can listen to basic Korean language on KBS World Radio 


    • If you don't want to get lost and time matters on your trip, prepare the transfer stations and exit #s.
    • Use T-money for cheaper fares (in case you are not able to top-up on subway stations, go to the nearest 7/11 or convenience stores)
    • Pair of boots is not a requirement (especially during summer)!  But it happen to be a fad as it completes your Korean fashion for late autumn, winter to early spring.  I suggest you don't use fashion boots (with heels) when heading to the mountains, to prevent on getting an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.  Remember dress properly for the occasion and location.
    • Have a comfortable walking shoes.  Although, the country is well planned with trains and buses, expect to have a lot of walking activities.
    • Look and print/have a copy of online coupons for discounts. (|| If you are looking for activities with best deals and prices upto 30% cheaper, book with or onemoretrip.
    • On dining at the restaurants, you can find your utensils, chopsticks on a drawer under the table.  Upon ordering, the receipt will be laid upside down at the table before the food starts to be served.  After eating, bring your receipt and pay at the counter. 
    • Bring power adapter.  For electric outlet, mostly they have two round holes.  Bring your own power adapter since you'll gonna use it on your future trips.  But you can also borrow it from hotel desk for a minimal price.  For those who have personal tv on your booked rooms, you can use the USB adapter behind the tv to charge your phones.
    • If carrying luggage, make sure there is elevator on your hostel.  Or check the subway exit with escalator or elevator.
    • There are theme parks which has an option for park regular admission or day pass.  The difference is that the normal park admission is cheaper because it lets you enter the park but need to pay separate payment for the featured rides.  The Day Pass will let you use mostly all of the rides and park facilities, until it closes at night.  There are also cheaper Night tickets which lets you enter the park by late afternoon until the park closes at night. 
    • Kimchi is not allowed to be bring on-board or hand-carry since it is considered as a "liquid".  If you want to bring home one make sure that the package is sealed due to strong smell and keep it on your check-in baggage.
    • If you are interested to know about safe lockers service in subway station, for information on Lines 5, 6, 7, 8, you may visit this link.  KTO confirmed that as of Aug 14 2017, lockers are not available in Chuncheon or Gapyeong station.
    • Children age of 6 and younger: Free of charge.
    • For those who have extended weeks of stay in Seoul and looking for coin laundry service, check-out either this or this link. Or open a map application and type in 코인워시 / koin-wosi / coin wash to look for one. 
    • If you are looking for rooftop or roof deck or terrace overlooking sites in Seoul, this video might help you with your plan.
    • Be familiar on the time difference between South Korea and your home country.  Make sure that either your watch is sync to new time. This will prevent you from getting late when attending joining tours.  Use also dual clock from your mobile phone for your awareness.
    • Be aware of the news and up coming events that will coincide during the schedule of your visit.  Either this can be added to your target destination or make you ready for any change of plans or routes.
    • Beware of scams on offers for having free hanbok wearing and free tea ceremony, not sure if this is true because I have not met one during my visits, but you may want to watch the story here.  Instead, visit the official site of K-style hub if you want to experience hanbok wearing  for free.
    • What is the difference between JSA vs DMZ? As posted in TripAdvisor, "If it doesn't say "JSA" or "Panmunjeom" in the title of the tour, you don't enter DMZ. You only go to an observatory from which you can see into the DMZ."
    • Where to buy tickets for idol or kpop concerts, foreign acts and Korean musical? Check Interpark or Yes24 websites.
    • How to apply for K-pop music shows like SBS Inkigayo, KBS Music Bank, M Countdown? Also check koreatraveleasy and trazy as they also offer SBS The Show
    • Know about the bucket list of the locals (not for the visitors)
    • Are you looking for luggage storage in Incheon Airport, Hongdae area or Seoul Station? Visit for details.  

    Staying Connected
    Previously (2011), its easier to have access on the internet.  Just walk along the streets and for sure you'll  be connected for free.

    However, most connections now require password.

    If you are on solo adventure and staying for about 2 weeks with transfers on your accommodation, and you are visiting mountain side or provincial areas better to get a data local sim, to be online as needed (can cost you about 20000krw=1000php), to the places where English is not used.

    I did bought my sim from T-world in Gyeongju

    But if you are just staying for about a week on the same accommodation, egg rental can be a better option. At least you can connect more than 3 devices while on the road.  Then, you can turn it off as wifi routers are mostly available on guesthouses or hotels.
    Rate: Egg rental from Swanhouse (Hongdae) - @ 5000krw (200php, 2016)

    Here's a good read for your assistance on the comparison between service provider of egg.

    Another tip for solo travelers and you want your parents or sisters to be at ease while you travel alone, I recommend the application Life360.  They can locate you when you have both GPS and wifi active. It shows where you were last seen or been online, even if you don't click on the 'check-in' button.

    Discount Tips

    Don't think of this country as an expensive tour.  Below are just few tips on how you can find ways to make cheap deals.

    Use T-money for you subway and bus transactions since there are discounts offered than using a single journey ticket. Note: T-Money cards have no expiration date and any unused balance will remain on your card until used. [Reference]  So make sure to keep them safe until your next visit in South Korea.

    Visit Korea - Imagine your Korea (or click)

    You can get coupon booklets for Gyeonggi-do, Duty Free discounts, K-Shuttle promotions, and coupons for attractions like Alive Museum and Trick Museum.

    Visit Korea Coupons  

    Where you can find coupons for the most of the beauty shops (ie. Missha, Tony Moly, Etude, Banila co., Skinfood, etc) and cafes (Hollys Coffee, Dunkin Donuts, Droptop, etc) in Myeongdong 

    Other sample itineraries:
    For my further sample itinerary, expense, trip reports and PDF guides, please visit links below:

    Read PDF version

    This page was last updated: 2018 April.

    How about you? What were your highlights of South Korea? What would you say are must do's and tips for other travelers seeking sites for their next adventure? Post your comments below. 

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