After five long years of not having a family holiday, we finally packed and headed off to South Korea for eight days. It has always been my dream place to visit because I love watching K-dramas and wanted to experience their life there.
Reality is not always what you expect! I did not realise the amount of hilly roads I had to climb each day. In the K-dramas, I’ve always noticed lots of staircases and hills, but I had no idea it was so tough. Of course, they have a lot of fantastic places to visit and foods to eat, which I will blog about in later posts.
We departed from Singapore Changi Airport and arrived at Seoul Incheon International via Scoot. Scoot is owned by Singapore Airlines and is their budget offering.
The flight took six hours and twenty minutes and it didn’t take long to check out of the airport. We did not need to fill out or pay a fee for the landing card as our passports do not require it at the moment. South Korea is on Korea Standard Time (KST) which is GMT+9.
Before this trip, we had paid for two 4G prepaid SIM cards for airport pickup via the Klook app. We were able to get a 5% discount as we were first-time users (£39.90 for 10 days of unlimited data – two SIM cards). It is so easy to find the KT booth as they are very well signed. They just needed our passport for verification and they even included the pin to open the SIM card slot on your phone! We opted for a data-only plan as we can make phone calls to each other through WhatsApp.
We then proceeded to buy the T-Money cards near their train station. The machine only accepted cash and it was 4,000 KRW per card (approx £2.40). As the children were entitled to child’s fares, we had to take their cards to activate in a convenience store (e.g. shops such as CU, GS25, Ministop, and 7-Eleven) – the human element is required to check the children’s passports. It’s a bit annoying that the cards we bought are non-refundable. They can only refund us the leftover money with a 500 KRW deduction. We had no use of the cards once we left the country.
Later, we took the AREX Incheon airport express train, which again I had bought in advance via Klook. They were discounted (£17 each for four persons) through the Klook app. The journey was very comfortable and we all had allocated seats. It was very clean, with air con and free Wi-Fi. It arrived at Seoul station and we had to make our way via the subway/Metro to our hotel, ibis Ambassador Seoul Myeongdong.
In fact, there were many forms of transport we could have taken, e.g. by 6015 airport bus, which costs you 17,000 KRW (approx £10.20) by cash or T-Money only, which takes 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours. This bus stops in front of our hotel, but we didn’t realise until it was too late as we already paid for our express train tickets. A hotel normal taxi costs 85,000 KRW (approx £51) and a jumbo taxi costs 110,000 KRW (approx £66). Public orange taxis will depend on the fee of the meter and toll charge. On our departure, we decided to take the Metro using the Airport Line instead at 7,250 KRW for an adult (£4.40) and 4,250 KRW for a child (£2.60). It was not the most comfortable, but it was the cheapest option we found.
We were so lucky to have booked the ibis Ambassador hotel (£979 – two twin rooms for eight nights). It is a 3-star hotel and is near Euljiro 1-ga subway station exit 6. It is very near the night market called Myeongdong Night Market but not in the main footfall areas. The hotel is situated next to the LOTTE Department Store, LOTTE Young Plaza and many other fashion shops and restaurants.
Although the hotel room was small, it had everything we needed, like free Wi-Fi, TV, laundry room, daily complimentary bottled water, coffee/tea, Japanese bidet toilet seats etc. We had to do some laundry and it cost us 1,000krw for laundry detergent, 5,000krw for washing and 5,000krw for drying. Approximately £7 to wash and dry the family load which we thought was pretty reasonable. Note though the machines only take cash. We didn’t take advantage of their gym, restaurant and other facilities. The only downside of this hotel is that I think their air con was turned off from 3 to 6 am. I got quite hot during these hours. Overall, we had a good time staying there and would recommend it.
Cash or card? It is always best to have both! Some places don’t take cash and some places don’t take cards! We took £400 for four of us to spend for 8 days. By the end of our trip, we were only left with a small amount of cash.
One shop I really enjoyed was the 24-hour instant noodle shop! They only take cards here and they offer a range of instant noodles. We bought the instant noodles at 4,500 KRW each (£2.80) via a vending machine. There was a bit of a communication barrier so we passed our packets of noodles to the staff and he kindly helped us to cook the noodles via the microwave. The garnish and eggs were free to use. There’s a seating area and disposable utensils provided.
On the day of arrival, we also went to one of their biggest supermarkets Lotte Mart to stock up on drinks and snacks. It is situated at the Seoul station. As we bought more than 100,000 KRW / £60 (the threshold was above 60,000 KRW / £36) of food and drink, we were able to reclaim the tax back, by showing our passport to them. Let me stop there for now and I will blog more about our trip soon!