Personally, I didn’t expect I would come to South Korea so soon just because we had come from Japan. I considered both countries very similar that a trip that close would seem redundant. However, South Korea has its own identity and distinct culture that still separates itself from others. After all, it’s time for me to get a glimpse of the country that brought the whole K-drama craze to mine.
Prepare Before Your Trip
Flight – Air Asia and Cebu Pacific offer promo fares for as low as P2,500 roundtrip (crazy how these airlines do it these days!). However, those fares only mean a travel period during the low season, which is not entirely bad. For us, we didn’t have the luxury of taking chances on a low fare so we decided to splurge a little by traveling during the New Year season.
- Trip Dates: December 31, 2015 to January 5, 2016
- Airline: Air Asia
Accommodation – For peak season travel such as ours, I suggest you book your accommodation months before so you can get the best prices for the best locations too. In our case, we were able to book a hostel listed on Airbnb for only P8,269 for a 5-night stay (includes breakfast!) If you’re not feeling the hostel vibes, go on and check out hundreds of other listings at booking.com.
Visa: South Korean visa has no fee for Filipinos traveling 59 days or less. However, you do have to process them yourself at the Embassy located in Upper Mckinley Road, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. Visa requirements can be found here.
- Prepare all your documents, and arrange accordingly. Before my trip, I was unemployed and I didn’t know I had to present my birth certificate to prove that I was going with my parents (to which we forgot and had to go back home!).
- Come in early to line up and avoid exceeding their cut-off time before 11:00 am.
- Processing and releasing of visa are faster if you’ve traveled to any of the OECD member countries within 5 years (US, UK, Japan, etc.), had previous trips to South Korea.
Discount Coupons – Visit South Korea offers various discount coupons (both shopping and tickets) throughout the year. I got my discount coupon for Trickeye Museum which got us 15% discount savings!
Travel Adapter – Standard voltage in South Korea is 220v, and outlets have two round holes. Purchase yours at any nearby Ace Hardware or order online at Lazada.
Rent Overseas Wifi – I only found out about this just recently, but it did help us tremendously on mapping our itineraries. Flytpack has overseas wifi rental in South Korea for as low as PhP 300 per day. I do recommend renting it out (and sharing the bill with your friends), but if you only have a few days to spare, maybe a quick social media detox would be a great idea.
Subway Korea – This app helped us navigate through Korea’s complex subway trains. The great thing about it too is its availability even when offline. Stopping and transferring at the right stations have never been easier. Download here.
Exchange Currency – Numerous 24-7 money changers are available inside the airport. Because exchange rates tend to be higher in the airport, I suggest converting a small amount enough to get you to your accommodation and search for another money changer in the city. Otherwise, you can always exchange at the airport for full convenience in case you really can’t find a money changer elsewhere.
T-Money – Oh the magic of this little card that the Philippines has yet to adapt. T-Money is a reloadable card that can be used for transportation fares from buses to subways in South Korea in lieu of cash. You can purchase and load the card in convenience stores at the airport and outside like 7-Eleven and Watsons. It’s practically useful and even gives you a small discount (around KRW 100 off) on regular fares. What we did was we computed all of the fares I had planned beforehand and estimated the amount to load on the card.
There are two ways to get to the city proper: 1) Airport Limousine Bus, which for me and my parents is the most convenient; 2) By Subway Train. We took the bus, and you can check out the schedule and routes here on the airport’s official website.
We stopped at Sillim Station, the nearest station and just a few short minutes towards our Airbnb hostel. Upon arriving and checking-in our things, we immediately set out for Seoul Times Square to anticipate the New Year Celebration.
Access to Seoul Times Square: From Sillim Station, arrive at Mullae Station. Just a few short blocks, you’ll arrive at Seoul Times Square Mall.
So, to cut this post short, no fireworks happened that night. Apparently, South Korea is not really big on the big January 1 celebration. The only celebration they had was a ticket requiring concert that featured popular Korean artists whom I didn’t know! Nonetheless, it was still a time of family bonding and reflecting on God’s goodness throughout the year.
Next stop, Nami Island!
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