12 hours at ICN

Old Jun 15, 16, 1:04 pm
  #1  
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12 hours at ICN

Hello everyone -- I have an upcoming layover of about 11.5 hours at ICN, and am hoping to get to see some of Seoul. We land around 6am and take off around 6pm -- and we will have lounge access (*A Gold / Business Class) as well.

I'm aware of the ICN-offered tours of Seoul, but those last only 5 hours and even accounting for customs/immigration leaving the airport and security coming back, we still have many more hours to spend.

My main questions are as follows:
1. Would people recommend skipping the ICN-offered tour to do our own tour? What would you recommend for that amount of time, and what time should we head back?
2. Is there a way to join the ICN-offered tour, but not take the trip back to the airport (and complete some additional touring on our own)?

Additionally, should we desire, is there a place to leave luggage at ICN (either a "Left Luggage" like I've seen all over Europe, or somewhere safe at a *A lounge)? We can carry our carry-on luggage with us if need be, but it's certainly easier to only take a backpack than all the carry-ons we'll have for our many many hours of flights before/after.

Thanks!

Adam
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Old Jun 15, 16, 1:08 pm
  #2  
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For the logistical part, start by checking whether these tours require visas for nationalities that normally do to enter Korea. If not, I would assume it means a bus tour with people not being allowed to leave the bus. In this case, taking carry on items wouldn't be much of a problem. OTOH, if they stamp you into the country, then I don't see why they would object to someone staying longer in Seoul unless they're just being very bureaucratic about it, which is very possible.
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Old Jun 20, 16, 3:47 am
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1. I've never taken the ICN-offered tour before, but what I heard from people that have is that the tour very briefly touches a few spots in Seoul. Also, if you have a longer layover, it doesn't really matter as the tour gets you back to ICN very early. What would I recommend? Let me work backwards. Assuming a 6pm departure, then roughly a 5:30pm boarding time. If you arrived back at the airport by 4:30pm, that should be plenty of time to make it to the gate. For me, I would get back a bit earlier (4pm?) and grab a quick shower in the lounge before getting on a long haul.

What to do? Lot of choices. Something cultural? Gyeongbokgung Palace is a great place to visit. They have a changing of the guard ceremony which is fantastic to watch. The palace is closed on Tuesdays. But there are other palaces to visit if you are arriving on a Tuesday.

Then after visiting the palace, if you head to the East, you can see the Bukchon Hanok Village, a traditional Korean village. It is not a tourist attraction, but an actual residential village with most homes there built traditionally. Unfortunately the number of tourists visiting there have skyrockets in the last few years and residents have started to complain. The complaints seem to be geared towards large tourists groups led with megaphones and being disruptive. If it is just you and one other, I'm sure you will be fine.

Lastly, Insadong is a great place for visitors. It is a great place for souvenir shopping.


2. I am not sure if you can bail out on the tour midway, but given the above, I think it should be enough to do.

There is a place in ICN airport that has luggage storage service. Check here. Also there is a luggage storage service at Seoul Train Station. But I figure it would be easier to leave it at the airport.

Getting into Seoul is easy. Let's assume you have cleared immigration by 7:00am. From here you have two good choices for getting into Seoul. The Airport Train or the Airport Limo buses. The Airport Train (AREX) is made up of two different services. The non-stop Airport Express train goes from ICN directly to Seoul Station. More info here. Sometimes if the Express train has just left, the staff may direct you over to the Commuter All-Stop train. The All-Stop Train takes 15 minutes longer, however it beats having to wait 30 minutes for the next Express train. Once arrived, take the multiple escalators up to street level. From there, take a taxi to your destination.

The Airport Limo bus is also an excellent choice for getting into Seoul. It won't take you to a palace but will get you to one of the hotels nearby. You can get a feel of the city just looking out the windows of the bus. But the downside is that you might get stuck in the morning rush hour traffic as you get closer to the city.

Let me know if you need any more information. Monsoon season is starting soon so hopefully you arrive after that.
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Old Jun 20, 16, 4:42 pm
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Huge help, thank you!

A few notes:
- On your point #2, when you say "given the above I think it should be enough to do", you mean the items in #1 will be plenty of things to do during my layover, not that those things after the airport tour would be sufficient -- right?
- I assume if I use one of the Luggage Storage locations, I'd want to use the one of the Arrivals area ones, since I'd be picking up my bag again on the other side of security. Would you agree?
- I will be there on 7/19 -- hoping that's past monsoon season?
- 7/19 is a Tuesday, does that affect the opening or hours of any of the activities you've recommended?

Again, thank you a ton!
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Old Jun 20, 16, 6:07 pm
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Yes, it should be plenty to do during your layover, and not after the airport tour. I would skip the airport-led tour. Seoul is a fairly safe city so exploring on your own is easy. But please go with what you are comfortable with.

For luggage storage, I've only used the service located on the departure level. My thought on that was to keep the distance from the luggage service to the check in counter as short as possible. Mostly because I am lazy!

July should be past monsoon season. But the heat and humidity will be coming on strong by then. Mostly the humidity in late July and August. But it is a good reason to duck into any of the cafes and dessert shops to cool off and refresh. Or grab a bottle of water at any of the convenience stores before walking outside.

If arriving on a Tuesday, I would recommend visiting Changdeokgung Palace instead. You can also make a tour reservation for the Secret Garden online. The palace is located just next to the Bukchon Hanok Village area so exploring the neighborhood should be fun. The palaces all have different closing days. So tuesday just happens to be closing day for one of the palaces. But the opening hour should not be affected by this.

How would I get to Changdeokgung palace from Seoul station? Given your morning time, I would take a taxi. Even though it might be morning rush hour, the traffic still moves and taxi drivers in general are pretty good at getting you to your destination. The subway might be a zoo, especially getting on from Seoul station. If you still want to try it, you will want to take line 1 (dark blue line) towards Jongno 3-ga, then transfer to line 3 (orange line) and get off the next stop, Anguk station. From there, you should surface at exit #3 and head east. Also, if you intend to visit Insadong, you would go to exit #6, head west and then make a left turn at the intersection. You should see a pedestrian friendly path lined with various shops.

Enjoy!
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