Sunday, September 2, 2018

Korea Fits You Travel Seminar

So may I continue...

First day of September, autumn is nearly coming to Korea. And as excited like you, let me share more of my random thoughts on how do I prepare DIY travel to Korea.

Know your travel duration!  
When browsing online, a lot would ask if 5 days is enough for Seoul?  If they can still squeeze in Busan for a day or even go to Jeju on their first trip?

My initial advise would be, it is better not to squeeze in too many destinations in just one trip, for you to enjoy more of the scenery. (But, in reality it is because "you'll be coming back for more!"  This may just be the first, but sure enough you'll be buying that next flight back to Korea!)

It maybe different if you are on a solo travel, because you have more flexibility to go farther.  The same as you, as solo travelers we have that pride and fulfillment when we were able to reach ambitious destinations.  We also have more flexibility in making decisions, thus we can do any workaround just to reach that target location.  So nothing is impossible if you place your heart in covering more places. 

Know your travel mates!
But going with a group of friends and families, having to reflect on the budget and the pace of everyone else is a  different story.  You have to consider if everyone else go for the decision on going to the next step, or if they have been to tired or just lazy to see more.  Each of us has their own fascination.  The place or activity that hypes your curiosity might not be interesting to others.  Not everyone are into K-pop, K-drama, and I believe that Korea is more than that.  Some go there for the food, technology, architecture, nature and what I enjoy the most is about the season, particularly autumn.  

Know you interests!
Whether you are going there for culture and tradition, city landmarks, theme park, shopping, food exploration, museum, day trips, nature and mountain, architecture and universities.  You have to decide the activities you wanted to do and know what will be your focus, purpose, reason why are going there ("there" meaning not Korea as a whole, but by that specific city or province within Korea)

Where do I get the information?
  • VisitKorea has this Travel News section (which includes new places to visit, and spring and fall forecast and autumn destinations) and Suggested Itineraries section (which also suggests how to spend few days on provinces)
  • Online Magazines (Smile, WayToGo, CNN, etc.) and Trip Journals
  • Read a lot of blogs and watch a lot of video logs, but I still believe that you cannot just simply copy one because you have to decide for your own route to make it a more meaningful travel.  
  • Participate in online forums (pinoyexchange | tripadvisor) and join Facebook Groups to and exchange ideas with other travelers not just in the Philippines but around the globe. 
  • Apart from koreatourismmanila and koreatourism, there are also other Facebook pages that are dedicated to other cities.

List, prioritize and decide your places of interest.
As you research more about Korea, make sure to enlist the places that made you interested with.  Along with it, I decide which places are Priority 1 (even how far or hard will I able to reach it, or even how expensive it will be, I will go to that place). Priority 2 (optional for this trip) and  Priority 3 (will surely be deferred for the next trip).

Factors I consider in deferral or removal of the places are: off the road, location, being cured over a drama (let's move on to the next location), too many places falls on same category (if too many palaces or universities are on the same trip).

My 2017 Autumn trip focused on autumn, filming location, new attractions, hiking, night and observatory photography, theme cafes and universities.  Visit this page for full report.

How to group the place and to set the schedule?
Identify all the places of interest in the map.  Draw an imaginary line to distribute them in between days. 

External factors on scheduling a place
  • For the outdoor activities - weather dictates my pace.  I prefer to see the precipitation volume in advance to plan more for activities like when doing a long walk or heading for the mountain trail. Weather Forecast
  • For a long walk in the city, like Seoullo 7017 that has no shade and less covered areas - better to visit it at night that in the day. 

How to squeeze in other places?
  • If you suddenly ended your day early and still don't want to rest - know where are the quick places to visit.  These are known as reserved destinations, it may not hurt me if I skip them, but it will be enjoyable on my end if I was able to visit them.
  • If your original area of coverage (i.e. restaurants) has late opening time, look for a place that has no restriction to public at any time (i.e. parks).

How to plan your transportation/commuting route
  • SMRT Cyber Station, Busan Humetro and Google Maps are my friends when planning on transfers, knowing the fare budget.  Going beyond other places, I also use Naver, VisitKorea Map.
  • Elevator or access lift information are also part of my research in preparation on the days that I'll be carrying any luggage (However, on my 8th time I was able to follow my hand carry bag only rule).
  • On taking buses, not all stops are announced in English. So better to activate your GPS to follow your route and know when to click that bus stop button.  
  • Have you ever wondered why sleeping locals on train do not miss their arrival station?  Download Subway Korea because you can set alarm on transfer and arrival station.  This will be helpful for you on your long journeys to Gapyeong or Chuncheon. 

How to locate areas?
I can't afford to spend a minute in getting lost. Every second counts, so I drill down my maps, upto knowing the specific Exit#, counting the blocks, knowing ideal landmarks to reach my destination. 
In visiting schools, (do not stop on Google Maps), I extend on visiting university websites to find campus maps for me to locate University Museum, cafes, parks, public areas or school chapel.  

Are you afraid of the language?  Is it difficult to travel in South Korea?
What I do to cover this concern is to have a perfect and research-intensive plan before going for a trip, by creating a PDF.  I already think of the possible questions or conversational thoughts I'll have there and already prepare English/Hangul/Romanized version on it.  Take note Romanized is not understood by locals, those are just our guide on how to pronounce Hangul. So better have your Hangul words prepared when creating a plan. 

  • For getting off-road destinations, I prepare addresses in Hangul, that I can point to when asking locals to help me. 
  • I walk in Google Street View to have an overview of the place.
  • For non-English menu restaurants, I translate Naver blogs to read reviews, recommended meal, plus prepare Hangul name of the meal or order I'll be taking.  (This tip helped me enjoy samgyupsal in Cheongpa-dong and order the right beer in Mojiko)

Pork BBQ

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

Where to go next, beyond Seoul, Jeju and Busan?
  • Do a temple stay in Songnisan Mountain in Daejeon
  • Take a route to Love Rain filming location
  • Visit Suncheon Bay and National Garden
  • Join a City Tour Bus to Biseulsan from Daegu
  • Visit Herb Hillz for It's Okay It's Love in Daegu
  • Visit to Gyeongju, the Museum without Walls

Questions and Answers

From Seoul to Busan, can I buy bus tickets on the actual day of the trip?
It is possible to buy bus tickets on bus station for long haul bus travel.  But specific for Busan, taking KTX from Seoul is more recommended because travel time is just less than 3 hours.  Check schedule and tickets up to 20 days in advance.

You can also select other train types like Mugunghwa or ITX-Saemaul which is more affordable but will have a longer time travel. 

In choosing flights, I would not choose this because there is still 2 hours preparation (check-in, x-ray, officer's check) prior to your flight schedule. 

If you asked me if it's worthy to spend just a day in Busan from Seoul?  I'll skip that.  I prefer to stay in Seoul and cover more places than spend my time on the train/road which will reduce my remaining time to cover places in Busan.  If I really want to go to Busan, at least 3 full days stay would be enough.

Flying with CEB's night flight:
While Cebu Pacific's flight arrives late at night, you can play around Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 to kill time.

Are there places to see in Incheon?
I personally would like to have an "Incheon-only" trip, bus this did not happen yet.  
In my preparation for Incheon, I have learned that there are a lot to see and the place deserves more than a day.  Last November 2017, I can only spare a day before going to the airport, so I was able to visit only Inha University and Cafe Valor.  Hopefully I can re-prioritize this next trip.  Incheon has several filming locations on Tri-bowl, Songdo Central Park, Dalkomm (DOTS), NC Canal Walk (for shopping and cafes), Wolmi Theme Park, Jajjangmyeon Museum (Hwayugi), Art Platform, Sangdong Lake Park (for cherry blossom), etc.

From Seoul to Busan, are there other provinces to stop-over?
  • If you still prefer city-type stop-over, I would choose Daegu.  There is also a shopping district like Myeongdong of Seoul.  There are other filming location spots as well. | Things to do in Daegu
  • If you are more of culture and tradition, go to Jeonju Hanok Village.
  • If you prefer to have an outdoor visit to museum with walls, go to Gyeongju. (Bus and walking intensive area, and less English signage area) | 6 places to see in Gyeongju

Traveling on Chuseok 
September/October - equinox, start 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. | 2017

Advise on Mountain Hiking in Korea
  • Sunrise Peak in Jeju
  • Seoraksan is more friendly and has cable car so you can definitely reach the top area. | Read more
  • Bukhansan can offer more adventure.  It's a type of "don't tell my mother trip" since I've done it solo on a peaceful Friday when there are only few locals going by that time. | Read more
  • Join a city tour from Daegu for the more convenient way to reach Biseulsan | Read more

On this travel seminar, all the participants were welcomed by KTO Director Joon Kil Jo.  Basic information about Korea and the new visa application process was shared by Kat.  Hosted by John and the rest of the KTO Team organizing the behind the scenes of the event.  Join next time to be part of the winners of the raffle draws.  Together with Aileen and Ana, this is me Roocie as one of speakers thanking the Korea Tourism Organization Manila Office.  Hopefully, we were able to impart our experiences and knowledge to the participants as they plan and enjoy their visit in South Korea.  

Let's go back to Korea! 

12m:33s #VisitKorea #KoreaFitsYou


  1. Lots to see and do in Korea. Your post is very comprehensive and covers cities and itinerary for first-time travelers. Well done.

  2. Loved the itinerary. Having been there last year I can see why this would work very well. Loved Seoul the most and the Korean traditional villages are awesome!

    1. Nice to know that you have seen the place too! It was really a great city!

  3. This is such a great post. This will encourage anyone who is planning to boost Korea to make a plan accordingly. Amazingly written. Thanks for sharing.

  4. You compiled a fantastic travel planning guide for the upcoming season. I am guilty of squeezing in one too many must-see locations when I am a visiting a new city. I always justify this with the notion that I am not quite sure when I get to return so best to explore everything now. It's great advice to know your interests, duration, and commute.

  5. I like the idea of self planning the places, where in we can squeeze in places to visit based on our interest.

  6. I feel like I am ready to plan a trip to Korea! What an incredible resource! Can I just get you to plan all of my vacations? LOL . Great Job.

  7. I live across the ocean from South Korea but never been there. I will remember you post when I visit there as I don't know much Korean (but know English and Japanese).

  8. This is a really helpful guide when planning a trip to Korea. I will send this to my sister. Her daughter wants a trip to Korea for her 18th birthday. I know it is still 2 years from now, but it is best to plan early.

  9. Korea has always been on my travel list, but I never thought to travel there during the fall! And yes, I definitely agree with not trying to squeeze in too many destinations in one trip. I did this in Iceland when I went a few years ago, and looking back, we wish we had taken things a little bit slower :) Thanks for the great travel guide! If I ever get to go to Korea some day, I'll have to reference this.

  10. Awesome guide with tons of resources to help travelers. Totally agree about not spreading yourself too thin when visiting. I've lived here for 10 years, and still haven't managed to make it to half the places I want to!! :)

  11. A pretty extensive list of useful links but don't forget the English speaking Magazines and their super helpful websites - Groove and 10mag!

  12. Was this article based off a seminar in the Philippines promoting tourism to S. Korea? I thought your tip about being able to set an alarm using the Subway Korea app was really neat. I didn't know it had this feature. Also, I find it remarkable that you get the translations of Korean articles to make your travel through Korea easier. I have never gone to that effort, and truth be told, it seriously limits my travel within Korea.

    1. Hi Natasha, I was invited to do a 10-minute talk about traveling to Korea

  13. Wow, you're writing an extensive guide. This is useful for first-time travelers to Korea... and even those who have lived here for a long time but is overwhelmed with all the fantastic places of Korea.

  14. Weather definitely dictates my pace as well. I'm hoping this autumn will be fantastic. They usually are and I can't wait for that foliage!