South Korea has been a special place for me. It’s my first time to celebrate my birthday abroad. My first trip there was last autumn of 2015. I fell in love with the beautiful colorful trees, the cool weather, the warm people, and the sumptuous food. How ironic that autumn is when every plant is dying, yet everything is so colorful. A beautiful parade if mother nature’s way of showing her grandeur.
With this, when my dearest friend Sai ask me to go back, I didn’t think twice to book our ticket and return for Spring 2016. Ever since I was a kid I always dreamt of Cherry blossoms. I remember when I started to learn to use a computer, I used to draw cherry blossom tree on MS Paint – classic right? So to cut the story short, I always dream to see one. Japan is famous for this beautiful flower. However, I can’t afford a trip to Japan, we decided to go to South Korea.
South Korea is located in the East part of Asia. At the advent of K-Pop mania, many tourists are flocking to this country. South Korea has 4 Seasons – Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Seoul is the capital of the country. It is a city that a lot to offer. From being the makeup haven due to its wide array of cosmetic stores, to the sumptuous street foods, and well-preserved historical sites.
Language: Korean. English is becoming common. Most signs have English translations at the tourist spots.
Currency: South Korean Won KRW 1000 is roughly USD 0.85 PHP 42.62 (as of Jan 2017)
Payments: Most establishments accept Major credit cards.
Electricity info: 220 volts. Plugs have to round pins. Adaptors are available at the convenience store.
How to get there
First of all, If you’re a Filipino you need to secure a visa. Here’s our guide to get a Korean tourist visa for Filipinos.
Seoul has 2 airports – Incheon International Airport (ICN) and Gimpo International Airport (GMP). Gimpo is usually used for domestic flights. Incheon is mostly used by the international flights. Incheon is roughly an hour away by train or 1.5 hrs away by bus.
If you’re coming from the Philippines, Cheapest rates are offered by AirAsia or CebuPacific. It’s a 3 hrs flight from Manila.
How to get from Incheon Airport to the heart of Seoul?
There are three modes of transportations available: subway, bus, and taxi. Of course, a taxi will be the most expensive one.
CHEAPEST WAY: ALL STOP Train
FASTEST WAY: EXPRESS Train
EASIEST WAY: BUS – There are a lot of bus stops scattered around the city. Ask the nearest bus stop to your hotel or hostel.
Where to stay
Seoul has 3 major backpacking districts: Myeondong, Jongno, and Hongdae. All of the three is close to the major tourist. But where to stay? I guess the answer is it depends on what will you visit.
Myeongdong. his the heart of Seoul’s shopping district. Nandaemon Market is also closer here. If you’re into shopping stay here.
Jongno. The traditional side of Seoul. This district is filled with shrines, temples, and traditional sites. 4/5 grand palaces can be found in Jongno. If you want to explore more on the core history of Seoul and if you’re first time stay around here.
Hongdae. The youth and pop culture side of Seoul. This is where the Seoul’s University Belt. Lots of creative and cool restaurants. If you want to explore the palette of Should stay here.
I prefer staying at Jongno cause you have so much to see just walking around plus I love the history.
Where did we stay?
Here are the hotels and hostels that we tried. Click each image for our review:
Seoul is one of the most walkable city – make your Seoul-searching more dramatic while strolling around the streets of Seoul. It saves you a lot of money and also it allows you to explore and discover the city for yourself.
There are 14 lines of subways at Seoul. It looks like a complex circuit board but taking the train is very easy. Thanks to Korea Subway app getting around the city comes in handy. I suggest you get the T-Money since you need to ride the subway. This is also available at any convenience store. It can be a form of card or bracelet. Of course, the card is much cheaper than the bracelet.
The bus is also another option to get around the city. Google maps directions is very helpful to which bus no. you’ll ride. Always take note of the bus no. before you get in and note the next station just to be sure that you’re heading in the right direction.
This may be the last resort since it is more expensive than the two. Avoid the black taxi since it’s their premium Taxi which means the fare is higher.
How to Stay Connected
South Korea has the fastest internet connection in the world! Most of the shops and establishments offer FREE wifi. but if you want to stay connected and experience the fastest connection all the time you can purchase an LTE Simcard or rent a Pocket Wifi.
LTE Simcard: There lots of types of prepaid plans depending on the length of stay in Korea – 5 days or 10 days or more. Some of it also comes with calls. You can purchase the Simcard as soon as you arrive at Incheon International Airport.
Pocket Wifi: Wifi may be available in most spots in Seoul. But if you’re traveling in a group or you have extra money – you can rent the pocket wifi at the airport. If you’re traveling in a group, I recommend you to get this one. It allows you to connect 3 devices at the same time. Wifi rental cost around Php 400 ($5) per day. You can get this also when you arrive at the airport.
You can book your wifi ahead to save with Klook
Places to visit
Here are the tourist destinations around the city:
Seoul’s iconic tower and offers the breathtaking view of the city. The tower is accessible by bus or taxi but I recommend you to take the cable car for the breathtaking view of the city.
The boarding station is located near Myeongdong Station (Line 4, Exit 3). Walk down the street on the right side of Pacific Hotel.
Admission Fee: Adults, ₩10,000; Children, ₩8,000.
Everland is the largest theme park in Korea.
Admission Fee: Adults, ₩52,000; Children, ₩41,000.
Nearest Station: Jeondae-Everland (Yongin EverLine, Exit 3).
Korean Tourism Office
I highly recommend you to drop by at the Korean Tourism Office on your first day in Seoul. The office can give you an overview of what the city has to offer. If you’re on a budget trip, they have this 360 virtual tour where you can experience Korea’s top activities/attractions through the VR. They have also Travel advisors where you can ask additional recommendations to your itineraries. They are very helpful especially if you want to save time and money,
Office hours: 9:00 – 20:00
For more information, visit their website.
This is the grandest among the city’s five palaces.
Admission fee: Adults ₩3,000, Youth (18 y.o. and below) ₩1,500.
Nearest station: Gyeongbokgung Palace (Line 3, Exit 5)
National Folk Museum of Korea
Located within the ground of the Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is the national museum of Korea. It displays the history of Korea from prehistoric times to the end of Joseon Dynasty.
Gwanghwamun Square is located at the center of Sejong-ro which connects Gwanghwamun Gate and Cheonggye Square. The square is divided into the sections, “Recovering the History of Gwanghwamun Gate Plaza,” “Reenacting Yukjo Street Plaza,” “Korea Main Plaza,” “Civil Participation Urban Culture Plaza,” “Downtown Plaza” and “Cheonggyecheon Stream Connector.”
The 8.4 km long stream passes through Deoksugung Palace, Seoul Plaza, the Sejong Center, Insa-dong Street, the Changdeokgung Palace, and the Changgyeonggung Palace.
City Hall Station (Seoul Subway Line 1, 2), Exit 2. Go straight 100m to arrive at Daehanmun Gate on the right.
Yeouido Park is a large recreational area located on Yeouido Island in the central part of Seoul. It is one of the most romantic places in the city. One of the must-see areas is the Yunjunro Street, behind the National Assembly Building. This place is famous for having the loveliest cherry blossom street in Seoul.
Hanggang River Cruise
If you want to impress your date or feel something new – try this cruise. This also one of the film locations of famous K Dramas like “My Love From Another Star” and “Fated to Love You”
Myeongdong is the Seoul’s shopping district. If you’re looking for branded clothes/shoes, cosmetic products, and street foods. This is place is a must visit for you.
Nearest station: Myeongdong (Line 4, Exit 6).
Other places to Shop in Seoul
The oldest and traditional market in Korea. There are 10,200 stores across 66,000 sq. m. Everything is sold here. from clothes to electronics. If you’re looking for ref magnets or other bulk souvenirs – it’s cheaper to buy here.
Nearest station: Hwehyeon (Line 4, Exit 5)
Dongdaemun market is famous for its wholesale shops. Retail shops are also available here. This is a place where everything is fashion.
Nearest Station: Dongdaemun Stadium (Line 2, 4 or 5)
If you’re looking for traditional souvenirs – artworks, paper goods, and ceramics. This place is for you.
Nearest station: Jonggak Station (Line 1, Exit 3)
Day Tour from Seoul
For more details check our Nami Island Travel Guide
For more details, check our Petite France Guide
For more details on how to get there, check our Mt. Seoraksan Travel Guide
Hwaseong Fortress, Suwon
For more details on how to get there, check our Hwaseong Fortress Travel Guide.
Taean Tulips Festival, Taean
For more details on how to get there, check our Taean Tulips Festival Travel Guide.
Our Sample Itinerary:
Here’s our itinerary last Spring for 7 days/6 nights:
This itinerary will cost you ₩423,683.35 (PHP 19, 124.19 or USD 377.18 or EUR327) excluding the airfare. You can still cut down your expenses if you want to skip other tours/festivals but please don’t cut down the budget for food because Korean foods are delicious!
If you’re coming from Manila, you can the ticket for as low as PHP 7,000. During my first trip, I was able to get the ticket in a SEAT SALE for around Php 7,000++ including the Travel Tax.