Before the Trip:
1. Try to learn basic Hangul words because most of Koreans are not English-speakers. Most helpful ones are about directions, numbers (for count, money, etc.), restaurants… Could create a blog to list down the phrases, which helped me survived for the past 5 visits I did. I’ll keep you posted.
2. Secure your visa. Read my step-by-step blog.
3. Book your hotel/apartment before hand.
- The first time I’ve visited the country, me and my friends lived in GrandeVill 32-8, Yangpyeong-dong 4-ga, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul. It is very homey so recommendable. Check out this link.
- The fifth time I’ve been there, I rented a Double Private Room in H2O Guesthouse, Myeongdong. What I liked about it is it’s very cheap (about P1,200 per night for two with free simple breakfast) and it is near a subway station (Euljiro 3(sam)-ga Exit 2). But the place is not that well-maintained. I’d still recommend the place, though, for solo travelers who do not mind staying in a guesthouse. Check prices here.
- There are lots of hotels, guesthouses, and dorms you could choose from depending on your preference. I honestly find Trivago very good because it redirects me on other hotel comparison sites (Agoda, Booking, Expedia, etc).
4. Buy adapter. They have different sockets there. I bought mine in Ace Hardware for P29 each.
5. For transportation, download “Subway Korea” App. It will serve you well when using subway. For bus transportation, Google maps would be of good help.
During the Trip:
1. Buy T-Money card. This is like PH beep card except that T-Money can be used in all kinds of payment (transportation, restaurants, coffee shops, convenient stores, etc.)
- Comes with different designs (even KPop groups on some stores)
- Can be bought in convenient stores (7-11, GS25, CU)
- Depending on your destinations and usage of card the frequency of reloading needed. We load KRW 25,000 initially (it served us a week of transportation). Minimum load is KRW 2,000. If your load is lower than that, you won’t be able to tap it in on subways/buses.
2. Avoid taxis. Costly. Meter starts KRW 3,000. Better take buses.
3. Transportation. Traveling around South Korea is fairly easy because of their good transportation system. You just need to match your own schedule to the bus/subway schedule and decide which better fits—bus or subway. Using Google Maps, just input your location and where you are headed to; it will suggest several means on how to reach your destination via bus or subway.
Via subway. Know what station you are departing from and arriving at. Subway Korea app will help you strategize by:
- suggesting which line you should use
- indicating how many transfers/stations
- providing travel duration
- specifying which subway door you should get off from (so you can properly sit/stand near the exit door for faster travel)
- showing the arrival of the train (provided that you are connected in Wifi, which by the way is almost everywhere in Seoul)
This app is actually a wonder!
While riding, it will be announced what station you already are. You can also keep track using the app.
It’s also strategic to know the Exit# you should go to especially when your destination is near a subway exit.
Subways usually close between 10PM-12AM. The app will also show you the last train.
Via bus. It was only after my 5th visit that I braved using the bus. Buses in Seoul are numbered; not all of them have signs of where they are headed to that’s why I was too chicken to try them out. Google Maps will show you the nearest bus station where you can ride as well as the bus number you should ride into. It will also say the number of stations before you arrive as well as the estimated time of arrival. While riding, it will be announced what station you already are. You can also keep track using GMaps.
4. Change currency/Withdraw in Woori Bank. They have PHp for currency exchange, and they have international ATM (mine is BPI, which can be used internationally).
- Ready yourselves for long walks. There’d be lots.
Myeongdong is a shopping mecca for those who are very familiar with Seoul already. But stores here sell products for higher prices compared to stores near market or less conspicuous places. What’s good with Myeongdong is that it’s a one-stop place so everything you might cosmetically need is here already. Try looking for other branches outside crowded places; prices may differ and you can save money too.
Food quality does not differ much between prominent ones versus carinderias. So choose the latter because it’s way way cheaper. What will differ is the menu. But taste? Not really. They are all yummy!
Expect people not saying “Excuse me” “Sorry” when they hit you. It’s not PH after all.
Leaving South Korea
1. Be in the airport at least 4 hours before to give you ample time for any trouble (like baggage issues and all).
- As much as possible, only fabric-related items should be hand-carried. No instant food as well. Check-in everything else like makeups (liquid creams, facial wash, sprays, etc.). Don’t inconvenience yourselves. Airport is very strict. Even coins are being checked already.
3. Accept the fact that you are leaving.