If there’s one travel tip that I always follow, it’s to visit a place during off-peak season. This allows us to get the best rates on airfare, accommodations, and even on tours. Plus, we seldom have to deal with long queues and crowds this way.
Don’t get me wrong, it does have its down sides. For instance we may never see cherry blossoms bloom, as this happens right in the middle of the busy tourist season. But for me the pros far outweigh the cons, which is precisely why we chose to visit Seoul, Korea at winter time.
An experienced traveler or tourist guide will tell you that the best time to come to Korea is during the autumn months of September to November, and from March to May in time for spring. We were there in between Christmas and New Year’s in 2013, and while this may not be the ideal vacation schedule for most, it was for me. Bonus: We got to enjoy the snow!
Our arrival at Incheon
We took a red eye flight from Manila to Incheon International Airport via Philippine Airlines on the morning of December 27. Flight time is approximately four hours, and we arrived at around 6:00 AM on that day. It may seem like an inconvenient time to travel, especially when you have small children, but I prefer this sort of schedule because it gives us an entire day to explore and enjoy. Plus, you can always catch some sleep on the plane.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by freezing -8 degree Celsius weather. It was such a huge change from what we are used to in Manila, and it took us a while to adjust. We didn’t immediately head to our hotel from the airport, as our travel itinerary had us scheduled to see Petite France and then Nami Island first.
If you do wish to go straight to your hotel from the airport, though, know that the best way to travel from the airport to the Seoul City center is via the Airport Railroad Express (AREX), which runs directly from the Incheon airport to Seoul Station, nonstop. Other options are the Seoul Metropolitan Subway system, airport limousine buses, and taxis, which can be quite expensive.
Our hotel accommodations at the Lotte Mapo City Hotel
For this trip, we stayed at the Lotte Mapo City Hotel, which is a premium business hotel located very near the downtown Seoul area. The closest train station is minutes away on foot, so getting from here to wherever you want to go is truly quick and stress-free. There are also restaurants and a grocery store at the basement of the hotel, and a swimming pool and fitness center available to stay-in guests.
We chose a Deluxe Family Twin room for our stay. The space was large enough for our family of four. The room also comes with free wired and wireless internet access, which really is a feature that most travelers these days look for in a hotel room.
Those looking for more budget-friendly accommodations in Seoul can take a look at hostel or an Airbnb options, and even Couchsurfing if you are the adventurous type.
We booked our accommodations as part of a tour package, which we availed from Bosuk Tours Ltd. Booking a tour package saved me from a lot of stress during the planning phase of our vacation, and I really recommend that you do the same if budget permits. One of the best inclusions in our package was an English-speaking tour guide, which is something really important in a place like Korea where most locals only understand a little bit of English. Aside from this, here are eight more travel tips I would like to share with you based on my experience.
- To really make the most out of your visit, plan to stay at least 7 days.
- Look out for good deals on airline tickets before you book. Planning your trip months in advance can prove to be advantageous in this case.
- You need a Visa to travel from the Philippines to Korea. You can download a list of requirements, and the visa application form from the Korean Embassy website.
- Upon arrival, get yourself a T-money card. This is a reloadable card that is used to conveniently pay for transportation around Seoul and other areas in South Korea.
- Avoid getting lost by using a travel app and downloading the map of the metro onto your phone.
- You can buy tickets to many popular tourist attractions online, and doing so can help you avoid long, stressful queues. Note that this will doesn’t leave you much room for itinerary adjustments, though.
- The local currency is Korean Won. ATMs are easy to come by in the city, and most large establishments accept credit cards. Small kiosks and boutiques are usually on a cash-only basis.
- A trip to Korea is quite affordable. You can get by on an average budget of $100 -$150 per person per day, excluding shopping expenses.
I hope you’ll check out the rest of the posts in my Korea series. You can find them here:
- A Korean Winter Wonderland: Petit France and Nami Island
- Strolling Around the City of Seoul
- Beyond Seoul: Everland Resort and Yongpyong Ski Resort
Always remember, travel enriches life. It teaches us to enjoy moments, to say goodbye to stress and embrace joy instead. Experience has taught me this, and I’m happy that I get to share my journeys with you now, too. Anytime you need help and tips finding worry-free, budget-friendly places to see, I’m here to help!