Day 1 Activities - Seoul, South Korea:
- Fly to Incheon Airport
- Exchange money
- Rent cell phone
- Take limousine bus to hotel
- Explore what's nearby
- Sleep early
There are two main airports in South Korea, Incheon International Airport and Gimpo International Airport. Incheon is the newer one of the two, but also the one that is further away from the heart of Seoul. Most international flights tend to go through Incheon, while domestic flights take off at Gimpo.
I flew to Korea from Taiwan, arriving at Incheon Airport. Since there is only a one hour time difference between Korea and Taiwan, I did not have to battle any sort of jet lag.
|Checking in at Kaohsiung International Airport|
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|Plane to Seoul, South Korea|
I was expecting a Korean themed in-flight meal, but it was just your normal Chinese fare. Pretty healthy for airplane food actually...
|View of the sunset from the plane|
The flight took a little over two hours. Before landing, make sure you fill out your Arrival Card and Custom Declaration Form (if needed).
Here I am passing over Seoul on the way to Incheon (they are 40min-1 hour apart by car, depending on traffic):
|Flying over Seoul at night|
Incheon Airport is really clean and really big! I was so impressed by the bathrooms that I just had to take a picture:
|Bathroom at Incheon International Airport|
I then took a short shuttle ride to the main part of the airport. You don't have to worry about rushing to make the shuttle because there is a helpful attendant inside who will wait for you. I wish I knew this beforehand. Then I wouldn't have rushed all the way down the escalators, dragging my luggage in a fury, only to wait in the shuttle while it waited for other passengers.
|Walking to the airport shuttle|
|Waiting for the airport shuttle|
|Inside the airport shuttle|
After passing through immigration, I went to exchange some USD for Korean Won. You can either exchange your money at banks in the airport (open 9:30 am - 4:30 pm, except on weekends) or at exchange service centers (usually open 24 hours). I exchanged my money at the exchange service center because by the time my flight arrived, the banks were already closed. Don't exchange all of your money at once though. The exchange rate offered at the airport is not as favorable as the rates offered by outside banks. There are also some individually owned street shops that offer exchange rate services, but since I was new to Korea and wasn't sure if those were legit, I went the safe route and exchanged most of my money at a bank near my hotel (more on that on Day 2). While at the airport though, just exchange enough money to buy your bus ticket, miscellaneous things like bottled water and snacks, and maybe some spending money for the next day if you have an early schedule planned (since banks open at 9:30am). When you get your money, check the amount with a calculator and count your bills before leaving.
After exchanging some money, I was off to get my rental cell phone. There are 3 main cell phone rental companies in Korea: KT, S Roaming, and SK Telecom. I went with S Roaming because it was the cheapest one of the three. With S Roaming, you get free and unlimited incoming calls and texts (domestic and international) and only have to pay your base daily rental fee along with the rate for any outgoing calls or texts you make. If you reserve a cell phone online 3 days before picking up your cell phone at the airport, you get a 50% discount! Definitely take advantage of this offer. I actually reserved my cell phone one day before my flight and I still got the discount, so my rental fee was around $1.50 per day.
Whether you make an online reservation or not, you have to pick up your cell phone at the S Roaming booth. It's located on the first floor of the airport between exit Gates 10 and 11. As you walk toward the gate, keep your eyes peeled towards the left hand side. The S Roaming booth is small and inconspicuous compared to all of the other service booths lined along the wall. It also shares the booth with another cell phone rental company, so make sure you are at the correct place. As you walk, towards the right, there will be tourist information booths. Make sure you pick up a few maps of Seoul while you're at it.
The people at the S Roaming booth speak English. You'll need your passport, credit card, contact number (it can be an international number), date of rental, and date of return. If you don't have a credit card, a $300 deposit is required. They give back the deposit and don't charge your credit card, as long as you return the cell phone by the date specified. So you don't need to do anything but put down a deposit or credit card to rent the phone. You pay for everything when you return it.
This is the cell phone rental kit I got. It comes with a cell phone, battery, charger, case, and manual:
|S Roaming rental cell phone kit|
Not the spiffiest or most user-friendly phone, but it gets the job done.
After picking up my cell phone, I was off to buy my limousine bus ticket to get to my hotel. Taking a limousine bus, which really just looks like a normal bus, is the best way to get to your hotel from the airport, unless of course you have someone picking you up. Look up directions to your hotel beforehand so you will know what bus number you need to take. If you don't know, you can ask the service people at the bus ticket booth for help. I stayed at Ibis Ambassador Hotel in Myeongdong, so I had to take Limousine Bus No. 6015.
|Incheon Airport Map|
First, you have to buy a bus ticket at a bus ticket booth. According to Korea's Tourism Organization, "airport bus ticket booths are located between Gates 2 and 3, Gates 4 and 5, Gates 8 and 9, and Gates 12 and 13. If you walk out through Gates 7 or 8, you will find a ticket booth right next to the gate. Small ticket stands are along the outside of the arrival floor (1st floor) where the airport bus stops are located." I didn't find the bus ticket booths inside the airport, so I went outside the gate to buy my ticket. One ticket cost 10,000 won.
|Bus ticket office at Incheon Airport|
Here is my bus ticket:
|Bus ticket to Myeongdong from Incheon Airport|
There are bus stops for Limousine Bus No. 6015 at either exit 5B or 12A.
|Bus stop for Bus 6015|
While I was a bit concerned that the bus route didn't specifically say Ibis Hotel, Euljiro is the right stop (Ibis Hotel is near Euljiro). Double check with people around you just in case.
Here is the bus time table for 6015. I didn't have to wait long before the bus came.
|Bus 6015 Schedule and Route Map|
|Bus 6015 route|
If you have big luggage bags, they will be stowed beneath the bus. Each luggage will be tagged with a sticker that corresponds to a luggage ticket they give you, that way you can make sure you are getting the right luggage when you get off the bus. Here is a picture of the luggage tickets:
|Ticket for luggage stored under the bus|
The bus was pretty comfortable and the ride to my stop took around 30 minutes. They actually announce the upcoming stops so you can hear when you have to get off, but when they load your luggage onto the bus, they will usually notify the bus driver that he has passengers for whatever hotel.
Inside the bus:
|Inside limousine bus 6015|
|Driving out of Incheon Airport|
Going into Seoul:
|Driving into Seoul|
After all of that, I finally arriving at my hotel! If you get off at Ibis Hotel on the 6015 route, the hotel is on the same side of the street as the bus stop, towards the right. The hotel sign is a little small, but you'll see it. You actually have to go up to the 19th floor to check in.
I booked a single hotel room with a double bed for around 121,000 won + tax per night. I highly recommend Ibis Hotel if you are going to stay in Seoul. It's not super luxurious or anything and the rooms are kind of small, but it is in the absolute best location for the price you pay. Myeongdong (lots of restaurants and shopping) is right behind the hotel (so you can walk around there at night if you return to your hotel early) and most other places in Seoul (like Insadong or Cheonggyecheon Stream) are within 30 minutes of walking. Lotte Department Store is right across the street, with Lotte Young, Shinsegae Department Store, and Migliore in the vicinity. KB Bank (where I exchanged my money) is also right next to the hotel. Inside the hotel, there are free refillable water stations, so no need to buy bottled water. You can also wash your clothes at the coin-operated laundry room. Ibis Hotel offers a free shuttle service to some attractions, so make sure you reserve a spot the night before and save on transportation!
Here is more information on the hotel:
- Ibis Ambassador Hotel Myeong-dong 이비스 앰배서더 명동
- Address: 59-5 Myeong-dong 1Ga Jung-gu 서울시 중구 명동1가 59-5
- Check in/out: 12pm
- Phone: 02-6272-1101
|Room inside Ibis Hotel|
I found the amount of outlets to be lacking, but it wasn't that big of a deal. You can get a multi-adaptor from the front desk too.
|Power outlet in Ibis Hotel room|
View from my room the next morning:
|View from Ibis Hotel room|
I ended up going to GS25 (convenience store) next to the hotel to get some snacks and walked around Myeongdong for a bit before turning in early.