Seoul Searching 2011

Sunday, April 17, 2011

One of the things I find helpful when planning travels is the availability of information online. Frankly, you won't need a travel agency to do the itinerary for you. This means that you could save some money and you could customize your travel plans.

Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Seoul, South Korea. And here are a couple of things you may need to know.

1. Visa Processing
The Korean Embassy, located at Upper McKinley, Taguig, is closed on Korean Holidays. Take note of any holiday before going there. If you have US, UK, ANZ, or Japan visa, processing is three days. Otherwise it will be five days. For the three-day processing, if you submit on Work Day 1, it will be submitted on Work Day 4.

2. Korean Won reservation
If you have account in BDO, won reservation is three days and you could only reserve in the branch where you opened your account. If you were not able to reserve beforehand, obtain US dollars instead. Although no reservation is needed, you still need to get the funds from your account opening branch. An alternative would be BPI. You could obtain US dollars from any branch.

3. Outlet adapter
Korea has a so-called Schuko style electrical socket so you need a Euro travel plug adapter. Here's how it looks like.


4. T Money
T Money card is a re-loadable card used to pay fares around the city. There is a KRW100 discount when used in subways. It can be used in place of credit card as well. When you arrive at the airport, obtain this card from convenience stores such GS25. When used in a bus, you need to swipe when you hop on and exit the vehicle to avoid double charge.

5. Cebu Pacific
The airline only has free 15kg check-in luggage. When your stay in the country is more than 3 days and it would be cold, you may need more than 15 kgs. so anticipate the check-in baggage you will be paying for.

When returning back to Manila, the airline has a very early flight (7:20AM) so that you need to get up early to be on time especially if you're in Seoul and the airport is in Incheon. There is an Airport Limousine which is available as early as 4:20AM (Anguk Station). If you catch this bus, you will be at the airport around 6AM.

6. Places
If I have to rearrange my itinerary, it would be something like the following assuming I am staying around the Anguk area:

9AM Changdeok Palace
1030AM Bukchon Village
1130AM Lunch
1230PM Gyeongbok Palace
* See changing of guard ceremony
* Don traditional Korean dress or hanbok for free
230PM National War Memorial
330PM Namdaemun Market
5PM Seoul Tower
* Check out the locks of love
630PM Cheonggye Stream
* Buy key chain souvenirs near Doota Mall
730PM Dinner at Doota Mall

On the next day, do either a ski tour or DMZ tour. Package tours are arranged by the Cosmojin group.

Note that several palaces are closed either on Mondays or Tuesdays. On Sundays, some establishments are closed as well.

7. Food
Experience Korean culture through food. Try out the following:
Samgyupsal (grilled pork wrapped in a lettuce with bean paste and various kinds of kimchi)
Gamjatang (like pork sinigang)
Bibimbap of various kinds
Jajangmyun (Black bean paste noodles)

8. Accommodation
Contrary to common belief, Seoul actually has a number of affordable good places to stay at. We stayed at Beewon Guesthouse near Anguk station which had heated floors, small fridge, cable tv, bathtub, heated water, free breakfast (bread with jam and yogurt) and so on.

Now with the knowledge mentioned, I am certain that you'd be more productive to get the most out of your visit to the country.