Just got back from my fourth trip to Seoul and if you’ll ask me if I covered everything (including DMZ)? NOT! Lol. But just like my three other visits, it’s still as charming as ever. You’ll find yourself falling in love with the place all over again.
I’ve said this before that I’ll be writing a comprehensive travel post on how to visit Korea (Seoul to be exact) like a pro. Bear with me for the side comments though! This is designed for those who have prior experience visiting countries with complicated train routes (and has applied for their Korean visas already) as I won’t be explaining as to how you should read train maps and stuff. BUT if you have transportation-related questions, let me know in the comment box.
Where should I stay in Seoul?
In terms of navigation, I’ll pick Jongno anytime of the day (it’s Jongno-gu or the Bell Street) or a close tie with Jung-gu (Central Seoul) since they are very accessible to the more “tourist-y” attractions like Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Namsan Tower, Myeongdong, Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, Bukchon, Insadong, Gwanghwamun — basically most palaces and markets you see on Instagram. Plus if you’re into walking, you can go through all of the main spots with the help of your trusty Google Maps (in Hangul though).
For quaint cafes, affordable skincare, art supplies, cheaper hostels and food, I highly recommend Hongdae (short for Hongik Daehangno — Hongik University or 홍익대학교), the most prestigious art university in Korea.
Buses or Trains?
Buses are definitely more affordable when going around, it’s just that I find it easier to take their subway for a slight difference in price.
Upon your arrival in Incheon Airport, you have two ways to get to Seoul. First is through their limousine bus, which is the more common method as you’ll only need to buy a ticket worth KRW 10,000. Look for the bus number and alight at the nearest bus stop in your hotel. I like this method since it’s faster and friendlier for tourists.
Second is through the AREX, or the Airport Railroad Express, which stops at Seoul station and then just transfer to your line. You may get a T-Money card in CU or GS25 (two of the popular convenience stores in Korea). It works like your BEEP card here in the Philippines. You can top it up and use it to buy stuff in convenience stores, tap them in buses and of course for your train rides. You can also use your T-Money (or CashBee) in areas like Suwon and Chuncheon.
If I only have three days in Seoul, what activities would you recommend for me/us to do?
You can start with the palace tours as they really close to each other. In the evening, a little of Myeongdong. For day two, you can visit Garosugil, Samcheongdong, Itaewon or Hongdae. Day three can be devoted to your shopping in Insadong, Namdaemun or even in Myeongdong (TIP: Always bring your passport as most establishments provide tax refunds for a single purchase of 30,000 KRW and up).
To get free passes in their palace/s, you can show up there wearing your favorite Hanbok (rentals at 10-20k Won).
Where should we get our Wifi?
Hahahahahaha I’m not the best person to ask about this, because I only depend on free WiFi that’s basically everywhere or through my data roaming service. But it’s easy to rent a Wifi egg at the airport. Hehe.
There’s also Seoul Public WiFi available in key areas.
Any food that we should try out? Restaurant favorites?
You can’t just fly out the land of the morning calm (and nomnoms) without even trying out all their great food! I’ll divide this into 3 different categories: Street Food, Restaurants and Take-out.
A. Street Food
There’s literally A LOT of street foods that you can try out in areas such as Myeongdong and Gwangjang Market or even outside your hotel. And as much as I wanted to encourage you to buy them all at once, I’d recommend that you try them out first in small servings before getting a mouthful, for two reasons: 1) They can be extremely spicy; 2) They may not suit your taste, which is actually quite rare.
Here are 5 (of my many) favorites:
- Odeng (Fish Cakes) – The first thing that came to me when I saw an ahjumma selling this is that they looked more like pig’s intestines, which I don’t mind eating either. Lol. Then after looking up the hangul translation (since I can read and speak a little hangul), I read fish cakes! Lol wth. Personally, if you’re looking into the ultimate hangover soup other than Dried Pollock Soup or Bukeoguk, then I think this will work well too. The broth is to die for. Make sure to grab an extra cup for free.
- Tteokbokki (Rice Cakes) – Probably my favorite street food! A well-cooked tteokbokki is not annoyingly spicy and soft to bite. Take note of that.
- Yangnyeom Tongdak (Korean fried chicken with tteok) – Whenever I visit Korea, I always look for this and Yoogane because of my obsession with crispy fried chicken and cheese. If you’re in the area, make sure to try this out. Hopefully you’ll also go cray!
- Tteokgalbi (Beef Rib Meatballs) – Minced ribs rolled into balls with white sauce. Heaven! Trivia: Galbi means rib in Korean.
- Gyeran Ppang (Egg bread) – This magical egg bread has converted several tourists to the religion of egg-bread crazy people (and their god is probably Gudetama). If you’re into breakfast food, eggs, cheese, you might end up consuming more. The other variant with cheese is also superb!
I only go to Yoogane (my favorite dakgalbi restaurant) every time I’m in Seoul. The other restaurants, I don’t even remember the names! We just look at the menu, store our coats in their secret compartment, and order away. Tipping is not a common practice in restaurants, AND you need to pay at the counter after eating. The staff will provide you an updated invoice upon placing your orders, so you can check and split the payment (if you plan to do so).
Not sure about this, but’s also unusual to eat alone. Their servings usually have a minimum, so make sure to tag someone to share the meal with you — or you end up not finishing it.
Some restaurants you might want to try:
- Tosokchon Samgyetang – It’s a very popular ginseng chicken resto in Seoul, people line up to try it.
- Palsaek Samgyeopsal – Quite pricey for a samgyeopsal but they take pride in eight special sauces and their servings are good for 4 people.
- Chicken shops outside Nami Island – I don’t know if it’s just me or Chuncheon has the nicest Dakgalbi restaurants.
- OR try out San-nakji at Noryanjin Fish Market. HEHE.
Anyways, I’ll write a separate post for the do’s and don’ts. 😀
My sister and I are big fans of take-out food because we usually like to fly in Korea during the colder months and we enjoy the warm floor in the hotel. Hahahahaha. You should try this even for once as you may have seen in K-dramas, they enjoy buying chicken and beer and consume it while watching TV or practically just spend time with good people.
My forever favorite is Nae Nae Chicken, and their menu is in Hangul. You may ask help from the reception to order stuff for you and just wait for your order. Also: free drink!
- Their spicy is 3-5x spicier than ours. No ramyeon is not spicy.
- They’re not used to saying sorry when they bump into you. You’ll need to realize that. They can be rude sometimes.
- Always bring a shopping bag.
- Research and study when and where to get your train fee refunds and stuff.
- Going to Nami? Outside of Seoul? Buy tickets in advance, and get reserved seats (it’s almost the same price with non-reserved, unless you’re into standing for long train rides). Also, look for the punch-in punch-out machine for your T-Money before taking the KTX.
- Most shops close early.
- Clean as you go.
- MEMORIZE and LEARN how to count in Korean (Sino-Korean numbers will help you a lot).
- Use ALL your coins first because you won’t be able to exchange them back.
- Never leave the hotel with wet hair.
- Learn the basic Korean words and phrases.
- Keep a map.
- Bring a universal adapter.
- During spring, autumn and winter, bring a good moisturizer and computer glasses.
- Do not request for extra Banchan (side dishes) if you haven’t finished the first one.
There are still a lot to cover! But I hope you learned something from this post. If you have something in mind, hit me a message!