South Korea is approximately 5 hours away from Manila airport. But sometimes the return trip is a few hours less. While in flight, arrival cards and health declaration forms will be provided by the crew. Fill it up truthfully and avoid erasures. You could ask the crew for a new one if you made a mistake. If it’s not provided to you, it will be available somewhere near the immigration counter.
The health declaration form contains questions about a few symptoms that you experience in the past few days or currently experiencing. Just be honest, hiding it might cost a grave consequence. On one of my trips to Seoul, I acquired sore eyes the day before my flight. One of the symptoms indicated in the form asks if you had red eyes, so I declared it. Upon arrival, I submitted it to the health officer, she simply asks me why I have red eyes. I said, “the doctor said my eyes are red due to sore eyes,” she said, “okay, thank you” and smiled. Simple, isn’t it? Though I’ve been anxious the whole trip on how they are going to respond about it.
Arrival in Incheon International Airport – South Korea
Upon arrival and deplaning, walk straight ahead and follow the crowd, and it will lead you to a train platform where you will be transported for free to the main airport where the immigration is located. Upon exit from the baggage conveyor belt, there will be convenience stores, service booths, tourist information, ATMs, etc.
If you arrive very late or near midnight, make sure to exit quickly as the train’s operating hours are only until midnight. The train from the airport to Seoul is called Airport Railroad Express (AREX). Look for the sign AIRPORT Railroad to find your way to the platform. There are 2 types of AREX Trains:
The express train which runs non-stop from INC airport to Seoul Station, and takes 45 minutes. This type of train offers free WIFI and assigned seat, but cost 9,000 won. It operates from 5:15am until 10:48pm, and the frequency is approximately 30-45 minutes. Tickets are available in service stations at the airport, payment can be made by either credit card or cash.
The All Stop Train stops through all 11 subway stations in the line until it gets to Seoul Station and the journey can take up to an hour. This type of train is free seating and only cost 4,750 won. If you need to transfer to Gimpo International Airport, then you should take this train. It operates from 5:18am until 11:32pm, and frequency is approximately 5-15 minutes. Tickets are available in machines and service stations. If you already have a T-Money card (or Discover Seoul Pass), you can simply top up, and you’re ready to use it. Any excess in the T-Money can be refunded before you depart South Korea.
Departure from Incheon International Airport back to the Philippines
The airport is quite confusing the moment you reach it. When you get inside, you’ll see a long escalator going up, then turn right. You will pass by an octopus-like pathway and notice signs which refer and lead you to assigned airlines. You might not see AirAsia and Cebu Pacific in one of them, but don’t panic. Just walk straight ahead, all paths will lead you to the airline counters anyway.
There is a re-enactment of a royal walk in Incheon Airport. They look very similar in Kdramas and the portrayal is complete with costumes, makeup, prosthetics, extravagant props, and background music. You will be entertained for a bit before leaving the main airport to ride the train again, which will take you to your assigned gate.
The time difference is only one hour. Philippines is one hour behind South Korea (GMT +9hours). Clocks do not change in South Korea as they already stop observing daylight saving time since 1988.
South Korea has 4 distinct seasons. Spring and autumn season is the most visited time of the year, due to its cold weather and beautiful landscape that changes hues. The right timing to see the peak of the colors is a must-know so you can encounter the best of nature can offer. If you plan to visit in Spring, note that the blooming schedule is different in every region. Cherry blossom forecast is announced in early March, so make sure to be guided accordingly.
Visa is required to the mainland but free in Jeju Island for 30 days.
Apply for a visa as early as you can to ensure that you will get your passport back in time before your departure. Don’t risk time, because travel agencies can’t vouch for it either. KPop and KDrama has just too much impact on all of us. Therefore, everyone wants to get a piece of K experience in their life. Recently, the South Korean embassy in Manila alone has been overwhelmed with thousands of applications in a day and has been experiencing a backlog. So, it’s better to apply 2 months ahead.
Korean won is used in South Korea, which uses currency notes and coins as well. 500 won is the highest amount of coin, and 50,000 won is the highest paper bill. If you want to avoid coins, you can simply use your T-Money to pay for small purchases in convenience stores and restaurants. You can simply ask or show it first if you can pay using it or not.
Exchange a few dollars in the airport enough to get you by to the city center. Afterward, find a reasonable exchange rate to exchange the rest. You can also withdraw directly from any MasterCard or VISA enabled ATM machine for a fee.
South Korea has an extensive subway system, even in the countryside. Therefore, you can even reach distant places in a few hours. Traveling between cities and towns is very easy and cheap because fares are calculated by distance. Trains arrive on time, so you can basically expect that you will be on your destination in no time. Yet, there will always be a rush hour so it can sometimes be crowded and unable to board the current train.
SUBWAY Tips and Facts
-Subway trains have a designated place for the elderly, PWD, pregnant women, and the seats are colored differently. Avoid sitting on these spots.
-While inside the train, it is a must to put your backpack in front of you as a courtesy and avoid bumping other people.
-Although eating is not forbidden on the train, it is considered inappropriate. Therefore, avoid it as much as you can, mostly smelly food.
-Subway operating hours are from 5:30am to approximately 12:00 midnight. The estimated travel time between subway stations is 2-3 minutes, therefore don’t get too engrossed with your phone and be aware of the station announcement. English announcements are available and make sure you heard it right.
-Download the Subway Korea app(Yellow Logo), if you plan to use the subway very often, but remember it doesn’t display or suggest rides by bus or taxi. You can search only subway stations though and not a specific location on the map.
TIPS and FACTS
1. Sim card / WIFI – buy at least a day ahead in Klook or KK day. If not, you can simply buy in the airport, the price is approximately the same, more or less. Pocket WIFI availability can sometimes be limited, especially during peak season. So make sure to book at least a week ahead. Sim card is highly recommended, though, for convenience and its multi-purpose.
2. Since google map is not working in South Korea, you can download Naver Map as a substitute. To bookmark places in the app, you need to sign-up first. If you register while you are already in South Korea and if OTP doesn’t work using your PH sim card, use your SK sim number instead to receive OTP.
3. If you like nightlife, aka clubbing and bar hopping, bring an ID with your birthday in it. South Korea is strict with age limits. When I say limit, it doesn’t merely refer to legal adult age, but as you get older than 30, the more limited clubs/bars you can enter. To get into clubs hassle-free, I recommend to book Seoul Pub Crawl via Klook or Airbnb. Read more here about clubbing.
4. South Korea is practically safe for tourists, mostly solo travelers. Also, CCTV is at every corner of every place.
5. Book the KR pass in Klook or KK day if you plan to travel the whole country. It will save you a lot of time and money.
6. If you availed the Discover Seoul Pass card, download the app. It lets you see the time left, the discounted attractions, places with free admissions, and help you plan accordingly.
7. South Koreans observe the “Stand on the Right, Walk on the Left” side rule in escalators and stairs. Ensure your belongings or luggage are also on the right side, keeping the left lane clear and open for rushing passengers.
8. If you plan to go to visit Gapyeong Province, make sure to leave as early as 7am or more before. It will take you at least 2 hours to reach the place. Trains from Seoul is not yet crowded during that time so you can still board and sit hassle-free. Going early can also allow you to experience Nami Island with less crowd because busload of day-trippers flock the island around 10am. In addition, other attractions like Petit France are way too far from each other, so traveling alone would really take the whole day.
9. Okay, honestly, I’ve encountered few weird people in South Korea. Weird in terms of suddenly coming right in front of you, asking you to tie your hair or someone suddenly talking to you, and asking random questions (Are you single?). They are somehow non-violent, but you just have to play along, they will eventually leave as I’ve experienced. A bit scary and weird but manageable.
South Korea has so many things to offer, aside from the Kpop and Kdrama. This country is very beautiful, and a few days will never be enough. Since I have a full-time job, the secret to unravel each place is to just keep on coming and never stop exploring. Here’s a quick iBLOG I made to grasp everything in one page. Pin it so you can get back at this page later.