Seoul Trip

Old Jul 23, 17, 9:10 pm
  #1  
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Seoul Trip

My wife and I will be traveling to Seoul for 3 nights in late August as part of a multi-city Asia trip. We'll be staying at the Four Seasons Seoul.

We are planning to checkout the DMZ/JSA. Is it possible to just do a JSA only tour? I know we need to book thru the USO or another tour operator however due to our limited amount of time in Seoul we do not want to tie up a whole day checking out the border. What are the recommended tour operators?

Besides the DMZ we're planning to checkout Gyeongbokgung, Bukchon Village, Namsan Tower, do a little shopping, and hopefully eat lots of good food. Any other must see sites while we're there?

We typically use Uber when traveling thus how reliable/convenient is Uber in Seoul? We're flying out of Gimpo at ~9 in the morning on a Monday. What time should we leave for the airport?

Thanks.
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Old Jul 23, 17, 11:25 pm
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Originally Posted by kajonesbu View Post

We typically use Uber when traveling thus how reliable/convenient is Uber in Seoul? We're flying out of Gimpo at ~9 in the morning on a Monday. What time should we leave for the airport?

Thanks.
Uber is nonexistent in Korea, there's an app called Kakao Taxi which has a stranglehold over the market. You might want to check if there is a English version of the app. Unlike Uber Kakao Taxi only calls and lets the driver know your destination but you pay the driver directly.

Oh and you really might want to rethink taking taxis from ICN and during peak times. It's over 60km from the airport to Seoul, there is a rather notorious taxi mob at the ICN that may block Kakao Taxis from coming in and the traffic in general can be extremely horrendous at times (like moving only 1km during 1 hour levels). Just take the limo bus from ICN. Going to GMP in a taxi is OK as long as you don't get snared in traffic.
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Old Jul 24, 17, 7:01 am
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The hotel limo bus was pretty easy for me when I was there to/from the airport. Although the Conrad is the 2nd stop out of the airport and the second to last pickup before getting there, so I did not have to sit through many stops. It is like $15 US each way and was not crowded at all on July 1 when I was there.

The people there told me which one to buy a ticket for and where to wait for the bus. it is really straightforward. I did not take a taxi at all, I got a T-Money card and public transported along with much walking.

For a shopping plus tower experience, Lotte World and Lotte Tower was cool. It was cloudy and raining when I went, but the view should be pretty good if you can see the city.
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Old Jul 24, 17, 9:16 am
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I second the suggestion to take public transit in Seoul, even if you do not do so at home.

Traffic in Seoul is just plain awful. Despite the subways, which are extensive, fast, and convenient to everywhere, Seoul differs from Tokyo in that the subways are supplemented entirely by buses instead of partly by surface and elevated trains.

I took one of those hop-on, hop-off tour buses, and it kept getting stuck in traffic. This experience convinced me to buy a T-Money card and rely on the subway and my feet as much as possible.

However, when I took the bus from Seoul Station to ICN, as my guesthouse owner recommended, it ran on a dedicated busway until we were out of the city, so traffic was no problem.
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Old Jul 24, 17, 6:33 pm
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I'm pretty sure there is no JSA only tour. I believe there might be some half day tours that do include the JSA, but it will be combined with other attractions nearby.

Not sure where OP is from, but taxis in Seoul are very cheap when you compare them to North American standards, you can hail them almost everywhere, and taxis in Korea never hesitate to take credit card either.
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Old Jul 24, 17, 8:53 pm
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Originally Posted by B407 View Post
I'm pretty sure there is no JSA only tour. I believe there might be some half day tours that do include the JSA, but it will be combined with other attractions nearby.

Not sure where OP is from, but taxis in Seoul are very cheap when you compare them to North American standards, you can hail them almost everywhere, and taxis in Korea never hesitate to take credit card either.
I'm from the states. My concern with taking cabs overseas typically revolves around the cab driver taking some round about way to drive up the fair and being unable to comment/assist with routing. Good to know the cabs take credit card. Are the cab drivers from ICN pretty reliable? If we weren't coming off a 15 hour flight we would just take the train/bus. From what I've seen looks like a cab should be about $50 USD from ICN to downtown?

Thanks for your input on the JSA. A couple friends of mine who've lived in Seoul said to avoid tours that spend lots of time on the tunnels, etc. instead try to just find one that focuses on the JSA.
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Old Jul 24, 17, 10:12 pm
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I find people in Korea to be very honest, I did not notice cab drivers taking longer routes on purpose to jack up the fare. A lot cab drivers do not speak english so its good to have your destination in korean on your phone. I believe at the airport they have taxis that have drivers who do speak english but they charge more. Howevee I found this unnecessary, its very easy to google the korean names of popular spots on your phone.
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Old Jul 24, 17, 10:53 pm
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Originally Posted by corbomite View Post
Uber is nonexistent in Korea, there's an app called Kakao Taxi which has a stranglehold over the market. You might want to check if there is a English version of the app. Unlike Uber Kakao Taxi only calls and lets the driver know your destination but you pay the driver directly.

Oh and you really might want to rethink taking taxis from ICN and during peak times. It's over 60km from the airport to Seoul, there is a rather notorious taxi mob at the ICN that may block Kakao Taxis from coming in and the traffic in general can be extremely horrendous at times (like moving only 1km during 1 hour levels). Just take the limo bus from ICN. Going to GMP in a taxi is OK as long as you don't get snared in traffic.
This is incorrect, Uber does exist in Korea, but that being said, Kakao Taxi is much much better. On average, there's only 5-6 ubers available at a given time in Seoul. Also, if you want to go straight to Seoul Station, I highly recommend taking the non-stop express train. It takes about 40 minutes and costs 7-8 bucks.
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Old Jul 25, 17, 7:17 am
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Uber exists at GROSSLY inflated rates. Taxis are VERY plentiful except obviously right when it starts to pour, or around 1 AM near nightlife areas (some places like Itaewon forget a taxi between 3-6 AM).

You up can catch a taxi in a matter of seconds. What is a 6,000W taxi in Seoul Uber charges 20,000W. Taxis are generally honest just like most places. If you do have a problem with a taxi driver, you can report them by calling 1330, 120 or finding tourist police. Get a receipt in that case and pay with your card. They face HUGE fines for ripping off tourists and the city is actively cracking down on anyone that is reported.

And to go to the JSA you must also visit the tunnel and observatory. You can technically stay on the bus if you even prefer.
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Old Jul 25, 17, 8:16 pm
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Originally Posted by mikesaidyes View Post
Uber exists at GROSSLY inflated rates. Taxis are VERY plentiful except obviously right when it starts to pour, or around 1 AM near nightlife areas (some places like Itaewon forget a taxi between 3-6 AM).

You up can catch a taxi in a matter of seconds. What is a 6,000W taxi in Seoul Uber charges 20,000W. Taxis are generally honest just like most places. If you do have a problem with a taxi driver, you can report them by calling 1330, 120 or finding tourist police. Get a receipt in that case and pay with your card. They face HUGE fines for ripping off tourists and the city is actively cracking down on anyone that is reported.

And to go to the JSA you must also visit the tunnel and observatory. You can technically stay on the bus if you even prefer.
Thanks for the insight on taxis.

Do you have a recommendation for a tour operator to the JSA?
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Old Jul 26, 17, 1:09 am
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Originally Posted by kajonesbu View Post
Thanks for the insight on taxis.

Do you have a recommendation for a tour operator to the JSA?
Koridoor and the USO.
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Old Jul 31, 17, 8:45 am
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Seoul's public transport network is extensive and easy to use generally. But the stations can be enormous with lots of walking/stairs/escalators. It was one of my favorite things about Seoul though.

The train from/to the airport was pretty simple in my experience but my accommodation was right next to a station on the airport line so that worked well for me.

I found the national museum to be excellent. It was a great place on a rainy day and provides a good explanation of Korean history. Could have use a little more interpretation in English but what there is is quite good.
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Old Aug 10, 17, 6:43 pm
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Thanks for all of the replies.

As someone who normally doesn't buy into panic (traveled to Thailand during the protests, military coup, traveled to Paris right after the '15 attacks) should I be concerned at all with my upcoming trip in two weeks? I know this is nothing new however there seems to be a bit more bluster than usual. My guess would be if tensions really got high there would be some sort of State Department Travel Warning, correct?
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Old Aug 10, 17, 7:03 pm
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Be aware that you need to book the JSA tours in advance, although sometimes hotels can get last minute reservations for DMZ only. Also, whenever tensions are heightened, the tours are cancelled, so I wouldn't be optimistic about being able to see the DMZ/JSA in late August.

ADDED: If one of the airport buses from ICN serves your hotel, I highly recommend using it. Don't try to take a taxi. Most of the buses are luxurious and the rest are clean and comfortable. It's door to door service for a very reasonable price with no worries about traffic, etc.
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Old Aug 11, 17, 9:53 am
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
Be aware that you need to book the JSA tours in advance, although sometimes hotels can get last minute reservations for DMZ only. Also, whenever tensions are heightened, the tours are cancelled, so I wouldn't be optimistic about being able to see the DMZ/JSA in late August.

ADDED: If one of the airport buses from ICN serves your hotel, I highly recommend using it. Don't try to take a taxi. Most of the buses are luxurious and the rest are clean and comfortable. It's door to door service for a very reasonable price with no worries about traffic, etc.
Thanks. We've decided not to do the DMZ as we're thinking the JSA will be closed due to current tensions.

Keeping my fingers crossed cooler heads prevail and tensions decline over the coming days/weeks.
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