DIY: First Time in Seoul Part 1 (Getting Around)

Contrary to the belief of most of us, Seoul, South Korea is not as expensive as it looks like as long as you’re able to plan your itinerary in advance and budget your potential expenditures! I’ve been here twice and getting around is fairly easy due to the efficient transportation system and the ability of the locals to speak English well. Here is a quick guide about getting around the city:

Airfare – AirAsia offers the most affordable travel deals from Manila-Incheon, plus the departure times are also good. if you’re lucky to book a seat sale, the far can go as low as 5,000 pesos, roundtrip. I booked mine last May 2015 for 5,700 pesos roundtrip for an early December flight schedule.

Tip: You can subscribe to their list or download third party “seat sale alert” applications. To be able to get a really good deal, you must book months in advance. Plan your leave ahead.

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Visa – Filipino Citizens need to apply for a visa to enter Korea. The good news is, there is no processing fee! (Yes, visa application is FREE)

Requirements for Employees:

  • Completed Application Form
  • Passport-sized picture (NO SMILING!)
  • Original Passport w/ at least 6 months before expiration
  • Photocopy of the back of your passport BIO
  • Original and Photocopy of VALID OECD visas for the past 5 years (if applicable)
  • Certificate of Employment (With salary, position, length of stay). Please include the landline number of the HR department for verification
  • Bank Statement  (3 months) with account type, ADB and opening date AND your personal Bank Certificate (This will cost around 100php each)
  • Income Tax Return

Visa notes:

  • Processing time usually takes 3 days if you have a previous OECD visa and 5 days otherwise.
  • From what I’ve heard, they DO NOT ALLOW unemployed people to apply.
  • Personal appearance IS NOT required. Just give an authorization letter.
  • RT airline ticket is not necessary. The embassy sometimes returns those additional documents.
  • How much money is needed? There is no exact amount, for as long as you have enough proof that you are coming back to the Philippines. It’s safe to say that you should at least have 100USD per day.

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When to go? Korea has 4 distinct seasons. They say the best time to go to Korea is during Autumn. I’ve been there during winter for 2 times and the weather can really be terrible at times, especially for us Filipinos who are used to the tropical climate. But hey, you can wear layers! And minsan lang naman ‘eh.

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Where to stay? You won’t run out of places to stay in Korea. I swear they have a lot of hotels and BnBs. Last time, we stayed at Hotel Rian. The location was excellent, it was just a 5-minute walk from 3 train lines. Price-wise, we paid 25,000 for 6 nights with breakfast included. Not bad at all.

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Transportation – South Korea is one of the more advanced countries with regards to transportation system. I recommend you taking a train to navigate your way since almost all stations are connected with each other.

Taxi rate in Korea starts at KRW 3,000 (Php 120) while train rides start at KRW 250

3

Touchdown, Incheon!

  • Getting to Seoul via AREX costs KRW 4,500. Travel time is about an hour. Ask for directions at the airport information area. By the way, there is also an express train wherein travel time is reduced for a few minutes. Price is around KRW 8,000. It will drop you off at Seoul Station. From there, you can ask for directions again going to your hotel.

2

Food

Food trips in Korea are very worthy. Everything is freshly cooked so expect your food to cost at about KRW 10,000 (Php 400) per meal in tourist places. Though you can find Korean BBQ restaurants that offer such at a lower price, at about Php 200. Just deviate away from main roads and look for side streets with lesser commercial spaces. Street food in Korea varies from KRW 1,000 to 3,000. (Php 40 – 120)

Recommendations:

Rent a pocket Wifi – You can find rental stations around the arrival hall of the airport. Rental cost for us was 50,000 KRW (about Php 2000) for 7 days, better than Globe’s 599/day internet scheme. This will help you in navigation and communication.

Bring a PowerBank along – The pocket wifi’s battery lasts for 2-3 hours so bring a power bank and a cord to charge the device.

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Download Visit Korea App – I found this app very helpful for it has the major tourist destinations with description and instructions on getting there.

Download the Korail App – It has its GPS You just have to click on the metro station and

Buy a T-Money card – It is a reloadable card than can be used on major transportation systems such as buses, trains and even taxis. It saves you a lot of time!! You can purchase one at 711 stores.

12311149_1062986683740899_4378337849999535923_nAdditional Notes:

  • Plan your itinerary in ADVANCE. Know the routes to take and plot them out so you can save a few dollars on transportation expense.
  • If you’re planning to visit during winter, do put on moisturizer and a lip balm. The weather is quite harsh because of below 0 temperatures. I wore 4 layers during our stay. Hand warmers and masks are available in convenience stores.
  • Be prepared for LONG WALKS!!
  • Seoul is generally a safe place and people are very friendly and willing to answer your queries

My next post is about my top destination picks for the first time traveler in Seoul.

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