For budget, travel info, culture, see Itinerary Part 1.
For Seoul Itinerary Days 1-3, and Days 12-14, see Parts 2 & 8 respectively.
For Andong Itinerary Day 4, see Part 3.
For Gyeongju Itinerary Day 5, see Part 4.
For Busan itinerary Days 6-8, see Part 5.
For Jeju Island Days 9-10, see Part 6.
For Haeinsa at Gayasan National Park Day 11, see Part 7.
Korean public toilets, especially at train stations, have no soap dispenser but a bar of soap!
How to Get to Seoul City from Incheon Airport & Gimpo Airport
Incheon Airport serves international flights and Gimpo Airport serves domestic flights and both airports are on the airport railroad (AREX), an inexpensive 45-minute train that goes to Seoul subway station [about ₩4000 (S$4.50)]. This is the best and fastest way. TIP: When you reach Seoul station, remember to get a refund ₩500 for your ticket-card.
If you have heavy luggage, then take the limousine buses [₩10, 000 (S$11)] or KAL deluxe limousine buses [₩15, 000 (S$18)] that stop at 20 major hotels in Seoul.
Taxis can charge anywhere before ₩50, 000-100, 000 (S$55-110), depending on midnight charge or peak hours.
Getting Around Seoul
1. Subway / Metro: The Seoul Metro is the best way to travel although some stations are quite far from the attractions. The first thing you should do is grab a metro map from any station. The trains stop around midnight and try to avoid peak hours (8-9am and 6-7pm).
You can buy single-journey cards but to save the hassle, time and money, get a T-money or Seoul City+ Pass (pictured left, get from the blue machine in the background) for ₩2000 (S$2.20), then “recharge” the card at the machine. You can use this card for trains, buses, some taxis, convenience shops, Kyobo Bookstore, Lotte World (shopping) and gives you discounts to some theaters, museums and restaurants.
TIP: When you leave Seoul, go to any metro ticketing office to get a refund up to ₩20,000 of the balance in the card. But you can’t get the the ₩2000 card fee back.
2. Taxis: Taxis are very affordable in Seoul. I took a midnight taxi and it cost only S$6! That’s the base fare for SIngapore’s midnight cabs! That being said, Chiobu took a midnight taxi and the driver refused to run by meter and charged her ₩20, 000 (S$22).
3. Bus: A new friend I made in Seoul told me he only takes buses. Buses are good because the subway/Metro train stations can be far from attractions but buses are confusing to tourists. Check out the bus routes. TIP: You can a free transfer from one bus to another bus or subway within 30 minutes from when you get off. Tap your T-money or City Pass+ card when you exit the bus.
Where to Stay in Seoul
Hotel lifts have no 4th floor because in Korean, it sounds like “death.”
1. For most travelers: If you’re like me and want a bit of everything (sightseeing, shopping, bar-hopping), the best places to stay are along Lines 1 and 4 of the metro. (Line 4 is nice and quiet and you can get a seat at most times). Try to stay around Seoul Station (lines 1 & 4), Myeong-dong Station (line 4) or Chungmuro Station (lines 3 & 4).
2. For gay travelers: For those who like k-pop star type, stay around Itaewon Station (line 6). For those who prefer late 20s-50s men, stay at Jongno 3-ga Station (lines 1, 3 & 5).
Review of Namsan Guest House
Namsan Guest House is a very, very convenient hostel, just 5 minutes walk from Myeong-dong Station (line 4). If you exit Exit 2 or 3 of Line 4, it’s Namsan Guest House. If you exit Exit 6, it’s a major shopping area.
Namsan has 3 guest houses. Opt for Namsan 2 or 3 because Namsan 1 is oldest and furthest away, high up on a hill so you’ll sweat like rain when you reach there.
Given my luck, there weren’t any rooms left in 2 or 3, so I took Namsan 1 for ₩50, 000 a night. The room smelled of mildew and was old but adequate. They provided towels, tv, hairdryer, etc but no toothbrush. I was quite surprised to find that they didn’t provide new toothpaste and soap. The toothbrush and soap were already opened and used, but I found that all hostels and 3-star hotels I stayed at did the same thing. TIP: Bring a toothbrush. Most hostels and 3-star hotels don’t provide toothbrush.
There was breakfast provided (just bread) but you can take instant noodles from the pantry any time.
Service: There was a slim (Chinese?) receptionist who was quite rude. I asked him for directions to go to Andong and he retorted, “How would I know? I have never been to Andong.” A friendly and polite Korean guy quickly took over and checked the information for me.
In conclusion, the strong point is its location, near to major tourist attractions and shopping areas, but the rooms may be too rundown for some people and the service was uneven.
Address: 33-3 Namsandong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
T: +82-2-752-6363 or +82-2-753-6262
How to Get to Namsan Guest House
Exit 3 of Myeong-dong Station. When you are above ground, there is a road between Exit 2 and Exit 3. Take the road uphill and you’ll see Pacific Hotel. Take the right side of the road of Pacific Hotel, walk 2-3 minutes, and Namsan should be on your left. The reception is at Namsan 2.
Review of Hotel New World Seoul
Hotel New World doesn’t have a website but you can just google for “Hotel New World Seoul” and it will bring you to a few of the booking sites. Surrounded by love motels, the 3-star hotel is one-minute walk from Sookmyung Women University Station (Line 4), which is just a station away from Seoul Station. It cost about S$100 a night.
Free drinks from the fridge: a very sour, sour plum drink and a rice drink that has a musky taste. Both require acquired taste.
The location is still very convenient, though slightly less convenient than Namsan’s. However, everything else was superior. The room was much more spacious and cleaned daily, towels replenished, tv more advanced. Even the hotel slippers were padded. The receptionist was polite. Between Namsan and Hotel New World, I prefer the latter.
Address: 42, Namyeong-dong, Yongsan, Seoul, South Korea
How to Get to Hotel New World
Exit 5 from Sookmyung Women University Station (Line 4). Turn right at the first road, walk straight to the end, and turn right.
To be continued…
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.