The highlight of Korean Tourism is Hallyu (it is a term first coined by the Chinese press in 1990s to describe the growing popularity of South Korean Culture). Most tourist spots have “kdrama significance”. Even locals engage in conversations asking if you like Kpop. They are aware that most tourists visit their country because of Hallyu wave. You will get to appreciate more your stay and visit to different places if you are a fan. But it’s also equally good to immerse in their culture and history. Engage in conversations, try their foods, wear their Hanbok and visit picturesque palaces. I recommend that you take the public commute rather than group tours. To avoid feeling rushed and have a vibe of their daily lives.
Getting a visa:
- Here’s the link to visa requirements and procedure: http://embassy_philippines.mofa.go.kr/english/as/embassy_philippines/visa/requirement/
- Personally, I don’t have an ITR so I submitted my form 2307 instead. I even emailed the embassy if it’s fine that I don’t have my ITR. And they replied saying to just submit whatever requirements that I have.
- Download the application form and fill it out before arriving at the embassy and organize your papers in order it was listed on the requirements.
- Friends who went before me to SK advised that I should have at least 30-50k in my bank account. I heeded this advice to be sure.
- Visa validity is for 3 months, single entry.
- There is no processing fee.
- Address: 122 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig city 1634, Philippines
- Hours of operation: 8:30am to 5:00pm
- Arrive early at the embassy. They have cut off of 11am for visa application. But the first time we went, there were a lot people and they set an earlier cut off time of 10am. Try to arrive at around 7am. You will list your name on the visitor’s list at the guard house. By 7:30am they will start calling in names in order to start entering the embassy. Opening of counters and acceptance of requirements starts at exactly 8:30am. The service is very swift and efficient. On or before 9am we are finished submitting our requirements.
- Releasing is one week after submission (1pm to 4pm). Same procedure applies, you will have to list your name and the guards will start calling names by 12:30pm. It only took us 10 minutes with the releasing
This itinerary is tailored to someone who wants to experience Korea’s culture and achieve her fangirl goals 🙂
Day 1 – Arrival
We arrived from Manila to Incheon International Airport at 8:00pm KST (Korean Standard Time). From the airport we took Airport Bus 6013 to go to our place which we got thru Airbnb at price of 2,443php per day located at 373-3 Sun and Vill Tower Jangan-dong Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It’s around 2 and half hour away from the airport. Its an accessible place with a bus stop just right in front of the building and subway station just 15mins away by walking. The owner is very well versed in English and is very accommodating.
It’s a studio type unit, with 2 – 3 people capacity, with wifi, cable and basic necessities (towels, toiletries, laundry soap, utensils and cooking ware)
Here’s the link to Jongdae’s Airbnb place, Urban Oasis: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/9579563
Day 2 – Palace Tour and Namsan Tower
From our place, we went to Bukchon Hanok Village popular for its villages lined with traditional houses. At Bukchon Hanok we rented a Hanbok (Korean traditional clothes) for a day. We found this deal for 24USD from www.trazy.com. If you want your hair done too, it costs an additional of 5000 won, you just have to pay onsite. The store can give you a guide map of the area, of good places to visit including the palaces. There are student guides helping tourists to go around. Most tourists are wearing hanbok so don’t be awkward about it. Also, if you are wearing a Hanbok, admission to palaces is free.You just have to claim a ticket from the booth. But for Changdeokgung, you can just go straight to the entrance.
From the Hanbok rental place we walked to Gyeongbokgung palace. The student guides are handing out maps and directs which is the fastest route to take. It took us around 20mins walk. We roamed around the palace and took photos for about 3 hours. After Gyeongbokgung palace we had lunch around the area and proceeded to visit Changdokgung palace. We stayed at Cheongdokgung for around 2 hours. Then we returned to the hanbok rental place. The hanbok has to be returned by 6pm, 10,000won fine will be incurred if past the deadline
After this we had coffee around the area before we took the Namsan Tour Bus to Namsan Tower.
We didn’t get to visit all of the five palaces of the Joseon Dynasty (Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Gyeonghui and Deoksugung) but I believe visiting only 2 is fine because we don’t feel rushed. I think 1 day is not enough to fully appreciate the palaces. You could also take the Seoul City Tour Bus (Palace Tour), which has dropped off points on different tourists location (including all palaces and Namsan tower).
Here’s the link to Seoul City Tour Bus for more info on its route: http://en.seoulcitybus.com/
Having decided to walk from one location to another is not as tiring as expected because it’s always good to explore and appreciate another country by yourself. And you get to encounter more locals than when taking the usual tourist routes.
Its fun wearing hanbok in the palaces as it completes the vibe of feeling the history and culture of Korea.
Day 3 – DMZ Tour, Myeongdong shopping and Nanta Performance
On the morning we had DMZ tour (demilitarized zone) near the South and North Korean borders. We also got this deal through www.trazy.com for 42 USD which includes transportation, guide and entrance tickets. DMZ is in Paju which is approximately 2 hours drive away from Seoul. We visited one of the tunnels made by North Korea supposedly to infiltrate Seoul. We also went to Dorosan train station which is being established as port to Pyeongyang (North Korean Capital) in hopes of reunification. From Paju we went back to Seoul and the drop off point is at the Seoul City Hall.
From Seoul City Hall, we had lunch at the area and walked to Myeongdong Shopping District. This is a true haven for shoppers. The streets are lined with famous Korean Cosmetic stores, street foods, restaurants, cheap retails, posters and billboards of famous Hallyu stars. There were store staffs giving out free samples of face masks and discount coupons.
Within Myeongdong is one of the Nanta Theaters. Nanta is a musical comedic cooking show which showcases Korean humor and artistry. It has been shown in 329 countries and the longest running stage show in Korea. You must see this if you are visiting Seoul. Their performance is truly spectacular. It would leave you awed and ecstatic. A show that leaves a joyous mark in the hearts of its audiences. We purchased VIP tickets for 44USD at http://www.trazy.com
Day 4 – KPOP (MBC tour, Gangnam K-star road, Dal.Komm Coffee, Lotte Mall, KPOP Hologram Concert)
From our place we took the subway to Digital Media City where most network offices are located including MBC. MBC tour showcases their famous dramas and famous artists. There were also photo booths with the stars. Inclusive in the tour is a hologram concert featuring Big Bang. There’s is no tour guide. There is a staff per booth/area to just assist on the next thing to do.
We also tried MBC broadcasting. Wherein you could be a reporter from the studio reporting with prompts from the monitor. It was a hilarious and amusing experience.
From DMC we took the subway to Gangnam K-star road. Gangnam is the high end of Seoul housing international luxury brands. K-star road is lined with Gangnam-dols of famous KPOP groups including 2PM, Bigbang, BST. There’s nothing really much to do in Gangnam unless you plan on luxury shopping. You can just chill in coffee shops and restaurants which are usual hangouts of famous celebrities.
From K-star road we took a 15min bus to Dal.Komm coffee, popular coffee shop in dramas like Goblin and Descendants of the Sun.
From Dal.Komm we took a 15min bus to Lotte Mall where Miniso (shooting location from Goblin/Dokaebi) was located. From here I bought the iconic doll of the said drama, Boglegel aka Mr. Buckwheat, costs 59, 000 won. The smaller Mr. Buckwheat costs 24,000 won.
From Lotte Mall we took the subway to Lotte’ Fitin where KPOP Hologram Concert was located. We watched 2PM, Wonder Girls and GOT7. Again, we purchased the concert ticket from Trazy.
Day 5 – Yongdap Bridge, Teseum and Mirror Maze, Olive Chicken Café, Hongdae, Han River Cruise
From our place we went to Yongdap bridge by subway. Yongdap bridge is where Sunny and Grim Reaper from Goblin usually meets.
From Yongdap we went to Teddy Bear Museum and Mirror Maze.
After Teseum we decided to have lunch at Olive Chicken Café from the drama Goblin. They open at 12nn to 11pm. The place is clean and cozy. And their chicken is one of the best I’ve tried. Will definitely come back for this. Even if you’re not a fan, you should try this. Its flavorful and spiced just right (craving for this right now huhu). We ordered the boneless glazed chicken for 12,000 won. It’s good for 3 persons.
After lunch we decided to visit Hongdae famous for its cafes and youthful vibe. Streets were lined with independent musicians. Here we were able to buy Boglegel tops for our dogs. Here at Hongdae we met Korean students who were studying Korean culture and traditions aiming to promote to tourists and locals a like these traditions so that it will not be lost amidst progress and modernization. They invited us to their study place and had us participated in a Korean ceremony while wearing hanbok. They taught us 3 different kinds of bow practiced in ceremonies. They have 2 annual celebrations, Solar and Chuseok. This time families gather together for ceremonies. After the ceremony we had a meal together and they shared further about their practices, history and beliefs.
After this they accompanied us to the station to Han River for our booked cruise. I recommend you take the evening cruise, 7:30pm, to catch the rainbow fountain.
Day 6 – Nami Island, Gangchon Rail Bike, Garden of The Morning Calm, Petite France, Hongdae, Riverside Spa Land
We booked a 4 in 1 tour to Gangchon Rail Bike, Petite France, Nami Island and Garden of The Morning Calm. This includes transportation and entrance tickets. From the meeting place (Dongdaemun History Culture and Park) it takes around 2 hours to reach the first destination. And 30-40mins drive from one destination to another. This is a good tour because there is enough time allotment for every place and there is no guide tagging along (the guide only gives instructions in the bus). You wouldn’t feel rushed and you have time to enjoy the place. All these places are exquisite, picture perfect and calming.
After arriving at the drop off point (you can choose your drop off point: Hongik University Station at Hongdae, Myeongdong or Dongdaemun History and Culture Park), we roamed around Hongdae again and saw cheaper finds of clothes, accessories, bags, shoes, socks and everything that’s cute and nice. Hongdae shopping street is cheaper than that of Myeongdong. So if you’re planning on shopping clothes save it for Hongdae rather than Myeongdong. Though Myeongdong has wider and better shop options. Restaurants are also cheaper at Hongdae. These area bustles with life overnight.
From Hongdae, we took the subway to Riverside Spa Land because we wanted to try the Korean public sauna. We also decided to stay the night there. It costs 11,000won for an overnight stay.
Day 7 – Grevin Wax Museum, Incheon International Airport
Around 6am we left the sauna and went back to our place. We organized our stuff first before leaving for Grevin Wax Museum. In Grevin there were wax figures of famous international and local celebrities. Sadly, LMH did not have a wax figure here only a hand print. As far as I know LMH’s wax figure is in China. There was also a souvenir shop in Grevin where you can purchase exclusive merchandises of famous hallyu celebrities like LMH, Kim Hyun Bin and Kim Soo Hyun.
From Grevin we went back to our place, ready for check out at 2pm. We then took the airport bus to Incheon International Airport. It took around 2 and a half hour to the airport. Still plenty of time before our 9:35pm flight to Manila to roam around world’s best airport for 12 consecutive years.
- 50k php including roundtrip ticket, accomodation, food expenses, tours and entrance tickets
- food price ranges from 4,000 – 10, 000 won. Street food costs 1,000 – 2,000 won.
- transportation (subways and buses) cost 60, 000 won for 7 days, including 18,000 won two-way use of the airport bus. The airport bus has a 10% discount if you will use the Amazing Pay Seoul. Original price is 20,000 won for two-way use.
- Amazing Pay Seoul costs 50,000 won with a consumable amount of 46,000won and card fee of 4,000 won
- If you don’t plan on taking arranged group tours with transportation and decides to take the public commute to go around Seoul, wear comfortable sneakers because you will be doing a lot of walking and going up and down the stairs even you just have to transfer from one subway line to another. Their subway system is so vast.
- Download the Subway Korea app. You will need it.
- When you take the bus be sure to be attentive when the name of the next stop is being announced and don’t forget to press the STOP button if you’re going off at the next stop so the driver will know that a passenger has to alight.
- Be on time. Always. Especially for booked tours. In Korea they are very strict with time even if its just a minute.
- Use https://www.trazy.com/ or www.funtastickorea.com to purchase cheaper entrance and show tickets and group tours.
- Bring an adapter. They only have round outlets.
- Get a portable wifi. You can rent this from the airport. You will be needing this to fully utilize your google maps on how you could go from one place to another. You don’t know when you might get lost. Even locals use maps. They get lost in their own subway.
- Have your credit card ready. Sometimes purchases are cheaper if you pay with credit card than have your money changed to their local currency.
- Always bring your passport. Some shops especially cosmetic stores would ask for your passport so they could lessen the tax from your purchase. Also some purchased tickets from trazy, would apparently need a passport presented even if it wasn’t stated in the voucher.
- Learn basic Korean. It’s quite difficult to communicate. Because most local couldn’t quickly shift to basic English even if they know you are a foreigner. The app “Learn Korean Like a Native” is very helpful.
- If you don’t eat a lot and you’re eating with someone, just share a meal. Because their serving for one is good for 2. And most restaurants don’t allow takeout with most of their meals. But there would also be restaurants that doesn’t allow sharing of meals. So just ask.
- Keep your receipts and bring it at the airport. At Incheon International Airport they have kiosks for tax refunds.
- They are strict with recycling / waste segregation.
- Most have strong accent when speaking in English so just be patient in trying to communicate with one another.
- If you are not into spicy foods, order the simplest more common food you can understand from the menu.
- Purchase the Amazing Seoul Pay card from the airport. It will serve as your transport card with subways, buses and taxis. You have to swipe it when get on and off the bus except for the airport bus, you don’t have to swipe it when you get off. You can also use this card as mode of payment to convenience stores and other affiliated shops. They will be giving a list of affiliated brands. Also included in this pack are discount coupons to popular tourist destinations.
- You can visit http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/index.kto for more details regarding SK tourism. Included in this site are information regarding entrances fees, opening hours and directions.
- You can also try the app VISIT A CITY to plan your itinerary. I didn’t use this but i’m planning to for my next trip!
Annyeong! Jeulgyeo! ❤