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Seoul for 4 days

Seoul for 4 days

Old Feb 16, 15, 6:58 am
  #1  
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Seoul for 4 days

My wife and I are going to be in Seoul next month. We arrive on a Thursday around noon and leave Sunday late afternoon. Here's the plan so far:

Thursday: flight lands at ICN at noon. It's a short hop over from NRT so no issues with jetlag or anything. Get through immigration and then take either the bus or train to our hotel in Myeongdong. We won't have any checked luggage so I figure immigration will be fairly swift and we can reach Myeongdong by 2 PM? Still searching for things to do the rest of the day. Maybe take a tour of Gyeongbokgung Palace, I checked and there's a 3.30 pm English tour. Wander the area around our hotel after that.

Friday: Panmunjom/JSA tour, which will take the better part of the day.

Saturday: I've signed up for a tour of the Secret Garden at Changdeokgung Palace. My wife is also interested in seeing the Seodaemun Prison History Hall. I figure we can do both of these one after the other since on the map they seem accessible by the #3/Orange line. So far those are the only two things.

Sunday: no plans at the moment. Head back to the airport around 3 PM.

There's time for us to fit in other stuff on Saturday, as well as Sunday morning. Some of the other things we want to see are the War Memorial, the Olympic Stadium, Cheonggyecheon Stream, Jogyesa Temple.

A few questions:
1. Seems people here recommend taking the limousine bus from the airport. However according to our hotel's website, taking the train from ICN and then switching to the Green line seems both quicker and cheaper. Since we'll only have wheeled carry-ons and maybe a backpack, would we be better off taking the train?

2. Regarding trains, is the T-Money pass the way to go? Are there any unlimited use type passes that would be worth our while? How about the Seoul City Pass that's mentioned here? http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/TR/TR_EN_5_4.jsp

3. Seems like quite a few of the JSA tour places have their offices on the 6th floor of the Lotte Hotel. Are we better off just going up there on Thursday and shop around for the best deal for a tour leaving the following day? Or is it advisable to book ahead of time?

4. I mentioned the Gyeongbokgung Palace tour earlier. Is this something we can do without i.e. tour on our own?

Thanks in advance for the help. Any tips/comments on our itinerary also greatly appreciated.
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Old Feb 16, 15, 7:12 am
  #2  
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Originally Posted by shinjukuflyer View Post
A few questions:
1. Seems people here recommend taking the limousine bus from the airport. However according to our hotel's website, taking the train from ICN and then switching to the Green line seems both quicker and cheaper. Since we'll only have wheeled carry-ons and maybe a backpack, would we be better off taking the train?
IMO, yes.

I've only done the trains and if it goes near your hotel then that's a win.

Originally Posted by shinjukuflyer View Post
2. Regarding trains, is the T-Money pass the way to go? Are there any unlimited use type passes that would be worth our while? How about the Seoul City Pass that's mentioned here? http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/TR/TR_EN_5_4.jsp
I got the T-Money pass, put a bunch of won on it and didn't worry about individual fares. That was nice. I typically do the same thing in Tokyo with a Passmo card and I'm doing the same in Istanbul right now as well. Yes, I usually have a few dollars left over on the card but that's better than trying to figure out all the fares at each trip IMO.

Originally Posted by shinjukuflyer View Post
4. I mentioned the Gyeongbokgung Palace tour earlier. Is this something we can do without i.e. tour on our own?
We did the guided version at Gyeongbokgung and I think there was enough interesting info in the tour to make it worthwhile. But you can definitely walk the grounds without a guide just fine. If you can get the Secret Garden tour on the same day that would be convenient as it is all at the same place. Also wander about the old Hanok Village area while you're in the neighborhood.

Also consider a visit to Noryangjin fish market as something to do during the trip.

n.b. The link above is to my blog or to one which I am a regular contributor. FT rules require that I disclose that in the post.
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Old Feb 16, 15, 8:13 am
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Try the Lunchbox Cafe at Tongin Market. Or explore Gwangjang Market in Jongno 5. Lots of unique food and good stores there. I was surprised at how much my dad loved it.

And yes, with a small wheelie and a backpack, the train is fine. It's with a big suitcase that the train can be a pain.

And also explore Samcheongdong and the Hanok Village. If you come out of the east gate of Gyeongbokgung by the Folk Museum, you'll be right there!

I wouldn't get an unlimited M pass or whatever. Just put some won on a T-Money card and use it as you go. If you stick to Myeongdong and Jongno areas, you won't use the subway too much as you can walk/taxi/ bus (if you're confident). If you have leftover T-Money, you can spend it at the 7-Eleven on snacks/drinks or even pay for taxis or Lotteria Fast food with it.
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Old Feb 16, 15, 8:15 am
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Also, the JSA tour guides charge around the same, 90 USD. Cosmojin and Koridoor (USO) are the two big players. I wouldn't waste time visiting offices in the Lotte Hotel, just book it online in advance. These tours also fill up and sell out in advance.
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Old Feb 16, 15, 10:21 pm
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Originally Posted by sbm12 View Post
We did the guided version at Gyeongbokgung and I think there was enough interesting info in the tour to make it worthwhile. But you can definitely walk the grounds without a guide just fine. If you can get the Secret Garden tour on the same day that would be convenient as it is all at the same place. Also wander about the old Hanok Village area while you're in the neighborhood.
Thanks for the info. So looks like we can combine Gyeongbokgung with Changdeokgung/Secret Garden and Hanok Village all at the same time? In which case I might try and switch this to Saturday morning. I had initially thought of going to Gyeongbokgung on Thursday afternoon when we get in, but might do something else now if we're going to the area anyway on Saturday.

Is it worth seeing all the five palaces?

Also consider a visit to Noryangjin fish market as something to do during the trip.
I would have no problems with this but the smell of a fish market makes my wife a bit queasy. Thanks for the recommendation though!
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Old Feb 16, 15, 10:30 pm
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Originally Posted by mikesaidyes View Post
Try the Lunchbox Cafe at Tongin Market. Or explore Gwangjang Market in Jongno 5. Lots of unique food and good stores there. I was surprised at how much my dad loved it.

And yes, with a small wheelie and a backpack, the train is fine. It's with a big suitcase that the train can be a pain.

And also explore Samcheongdong and the Hanok Village. If you come out of the east gate of Gyeongbokgung by the Folk Museum, you'll be right there!

I wouldn't get an unlimited M pass or whatever. Just put some won on a T-Money card and use it as you go. If you stick to Myeongdong and Jongno areas, you won't use the subway too much as you can walk/taxi/ bus (if you're confident). If you have leftover T-Money, you can spend it at the 7-Eleven on snacks/drinks or even pay for taxis or Lotteria Fast food with it.
Thanks for all the info!

If we take the train from Incheon, is it a reasonable estimate that we would get to Myeongdong by 2 PM given that our flight lands at noon?

Also regarding the T-Money pass, where can we get these at the airport? And can we purchase/recharge using credit cards? If not I guess I'll just add cash at the airport. I'm assuming ATMs that take foreign bank cards will be easy to find at ICN?
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Old Feb 17, 15, 3:18 am
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Originally Posted by shinjukuflyer View Post
Thanks for all the info!

If we take the train from Incheon, is it a reasonable estimate that we would get to Myeongdong by 2 PM given that our flight lands at noon?

Also regarding the T-Money pass, where can we get these at the airport? And can we purchase/recharge using credit cards? If not I guess I'll just add cash at the airport. I'm assuming ATMs that take foreign bank cards will be easy to find at ICN?
I can't remember exactly, but I think the train ride took about 1.5 hours. Considering time spent in immigration and waiting for the train 2PM is rather ambitious.

For the JSA tour, I believe you have to book in advance. You can easily do this online by sending a copy of your passport in your communication with them. I picked TourDMZ at that time. It was a good experience.
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Old Feb 17, 15, 4:57 pm
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Originally Posted by shinjukuflyer View Post
Is it worth seeing all the five palaces?
It depends. If you are really interested in the history/architecture of pre-modern Korea, then yes. If not, seeing the main portions should be enough. There are also side attractions such as the Folk Museum which may be worth your while. I would also recommend visiting the War Museum and Olympic Stadium, they are great attractions!
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Old Feb 17, 15, 10:01 pm
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I think that in four days, seeing five palaces is a waste of time as they all look the same.

The train takes just around 50 minutes from Incheon to Hongdae. 12 PM is the middle of the day (not 6 AM SE Asia arrivals, American/Europe arrivals haven't started), so it shouldn't take you too long to get out of the airport. I'd realistically expect a 2 or 2:30 hotel arrival. Drop bags and check in and out the door by 3-3:30.

A good subway app to download is Jihachul. As all the subway doors are marked by car and car door number, it tells you exactly where to stand to make your transfer the quickest, etc.

The only place to purchase T-Money cards inside the airport is at the GS 25 by Door 10 on the arrivals level. I tried at other 7-Eleven on the arrivals level (in Korean) and was told to go there. You cannot recharge with cash, but you should be able to make the initial purchase with card as it's rung as a normal transaction.

ATMs will take foreign cards, yes. Just make sure it has a Global Sticker. If you don't see one, you'll know it works by seeing "Foreign Card" as an option under the English menu.

To be honest, since you're arriving in the afternoon, I'd just check in and wait for Seoul Tower and sunset. Then, Seoul Tower at sunset (around 5 - need to plan to wait to get in and get up to the top) and explore Myeongdong at night. Myeongdong has a lot happening at night, but you just need to see it once.

The next morning, do a tour around Jongno area - go to the far east to Gwangjang Market, then swing back to Insadong and hop over to Gyeongbokgung Palace. On the way home, walk through Gwanghwamun Plaza and by the Cheonggyechon. Take a nap, rest, and then head tothe war museum and Itaewon for dinner. Itaewon used to be the seedy area, yes, but now it is SUPER trendy with Koreans and has TONS of international and cute restaurants in the area behind the Hamilton Hotel. The war museum is about a ten - fifteen minute walk west of the Itaewon area. From your hotel, take Line 4 to Samgakji (or a cheap taxi) and then the museum is there. After the museum, walk to Itaewon.

The next day: DMZ tour. Get back to the hotel and then maybe you can head to the national museum. It's also on Line 4 at Ichon. I actually hate museums, but still spent two hours there. It's huge.

That night: Head over to Jongno 3-Ga (around the area of subway exit 5) for dinner. It's a very traditional Korean neighborhood aka lots of old people, post work activity, all kinds of food (and there's a lot of guesthouses there so they're used to the random tourist).

The next day: Hop on Line 2 and head down to Jamsil/Gangnam just to see the area. Sports Complex stop has the stadium. There's a good mall at Samseong Station called Coex, for shopping. In the main Gangnam area, more shopping, shiny buildings and people (but nothing unusual for Tokyo of course).

Easier way to deal with bags: Take them with you when you check out and put them in a subway station locker. That way you don't waste time going back to the hotel. There's an airport bus from EVERYWHERE, so you can hop on where ever you are.
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Old Feb 18, 15, 8:03 pm
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Originally Posted by rizayosia View Post
I can't remember exactly, but I think the train ride took about 1.5 hours. Considering time spent in immigration and waiting for the train 2PM is rather ambitious.

For the JSA tour, I believe you have to book in advance. You can easily do this online by sending a copy of your passport in your communication with them. I picked TourDMZ at that time. It was a good experience.
Thanks for the info. I tried booking the JSA tour online and it seems they want my credit card info upfront. This is in case I cancel within a day or two of the tour date, they will charge me something for it anyway. I'm a bit hesitant to provide cc info in a non-secure way e.g. via email or phone. Do you remember this being an issue for you?

Originally Posted by AUCLABruin View Post
It depends. If you are really interested in the history/architecture of pre-modern Korea, then yes. If not, seeing the main portions should be enough. There are also side attractions such as the Folk Museum which may be worth your while. I would also recommend visiting the War Museum and Olympic Stadium, they are great attractions!
Thanks. Definitely plan on seeing both the War Museum and the Olympic Park.
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Old Feb 18, 15, 8:05 pm
  #11  
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Originally Posted by mikesaidyes View Post
I think that in four days, seeing five palaces is a waste of time as they all look the same.

The train takes just around 50 minutes from Incheon to Hongdae. 12 PM is the middle of the day (not 6 AM SE Asia arrivals, American/Europe arrivals haven't started), so it shouldn't take you too long to get out of the airport. I'd realistically expect a 2 or 2:30 hotel arrival. Drop bags and check in and out the door by 3-3:30.

A good subway app to download is Jihachul. As all the subway doors are marked by car and car door number, it tells you exactly where to stand to make your transfer the quickest, etc.

The only place to purchase T-Money cards inside the airport is at the GS 25 by Door 10 on the arrivals level. I tried at other 7-Eleven on the arrivals level (in Korean) and was told to go there. You cannot recharge with cash, but you should be able to make the initial purchase with card as it's rung as a normal transaction.

ATMs will take foreign cards, yes. Just make sure it has a Global Sticker. If you don't see one, you'll know it works by seeing "Foreign Card" as an option under the English menu.

To be honest, since you're arriving in the afternoon, I'd just check in and wait for Seoul Tower and sunset. Then, Seoul Tower at sunset (around 5 - need to plan to wait to get in and get up to the top) and explore Myeongdong at night. Myeongdong has a lot happening at night, but you just need to see it once.

The next morning, do a tour around Jongno area - go to the far east to Gwangjang Market, then swing back to Insadong and hop over to Gyeongbokgung Palace. On the way home, walk through Gwanghwamun Plaza and by the Cheonggyechon. Take a nap, rest, and then head tothe war museum and Itaewon for dinner. Itaewon used to be the seedy area, yes, but now it is SUPER trendy with Koreans and has TONS of international and cute restaurants in the area behind the Hamilton Hotel. The war museum is about a ten - fifteen minute walk west of the Itaewon area. From your hotel, take Line 4 to Samgakji (or a cheap taxi) and then the museum is there. After the museum, walk to Itaewon.

The next day: DMZ tour. Get back to the hotel and then maybe you can head to the national museum. It's also on Line 4 at Ichon. I actually hate museums, but still spent two hours there. It's huge.

That night: Head over to Jongno 3-Ga (around the area of subway exit 5) for dinner. It's a very traditional Korean neighborhood aka lots of old people, post work activity, all kinds of food (and there's a lot of guesthouses there so they're used to the random tourist).

The next day: Hop on Line 2 and head down to Jamsil/Gangnam just to see the area. Sports Complex stop has the stadium. There's a good mall at Samseong Station called Coex, for shopping. In the main Gangnam area, more shopping, shiny buildings and people (but nothing unusual for Tokyo of course).

Easier way to deal with bags: Take them with you when you check out and put them in a subway station locker. That way you don't waste time going back to the hotel. There's an airport bus from EVERYWHERE, so you can hop on where ever you are.
Wow thanks so much. This is super stuff, exactly what I was looking for!
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Old Feb 18, 15, 11:42 pm
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Originally Posted by shinjukuflyer View Post
Thanks for the info. I tried booking the JSA tour online and it seems they want my credit card info upfront. This is in case I cancel within a day or two of the tour date, they will charge me something for it anyway. I'm a bit hesitant to provide cc info in a non-secure way e.g. via email or phone. Do you remember this being an issue for you?
Hmm, they didn't ask for my cc at that time. Maybe you are contacting a different provider than the one that I used. I simply sent an email to [email protected] to register. I also included the photo page of my passport and my contact number when I sent the email.
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Old Feb 19, 15, 7:42 pm
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Originally Posted by rizayosia View Post
Hmm, they didn't ask for my cc at that time. Maybe you are contacting a different provider than the one that I used. I simply sent an email to [email protected] to register. I also included the photo page of my passport and my contact number when I sent the email.
Sorry about the confusion. I checked and it is in fact a different provider, Panmunjom Tours. I had gone with the list that they have here: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_4_1.jsp
They all seem to offer the same tour, except this one has a North Korean defector as a tour guide, which I thought could be interesting. I will sort it out with them about cc info.
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Old Feb 20, 15, 7:41 am
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and I made a mistake about TMoney. You MUST recharge with cash, you cannot do it with card. The initial purchase should be able to be done by card, but it's kind of pointless to do it that way...as you still have to put cash on it.
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Old Mar 12, 15, 8:52 am
  #15  
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First day in Seoul, loving it so far! Got in to the city just fine, train from Incheon to City Hall took about an hour including one transfer. Dropped bags off at hotel and was off to lunch by 2 pm.

Did the Seoul Tower, though have to say that place could use a window wash.

Food is awesome from what little I've tried. People don't hold back on spices here, everything is bold and fiery. Nice change from Japanese food.

Tomorrow we'll do the JSA tour.

One question: what is the best place to look for K-League football club jerseys? Knockoffs are okay, don't have to be originals or anything.
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