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Itinerary advice on 10 days trip to South Korea

Itinerary advice on 10 days trip to South Korea

Old Jan 13, 18, 5:33 pm
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Itinerary advice on 10 days trip to South Korea

Hi everyone, my wife and I are planning a ~10 day/10 night trip to South Korea in March 2018 and wanted to see if we can get some advice on our itinerary. I’ve read a bunch of other posts to craft this trip and have appreciated all of the feedback. As an FYI, we spent 1 day/2 nights in Seoul in 2016 as a long layover and had a great trip but don’t have any other experience with Korea.

Here’s our rough itinerary:

Day 1 - Travel day
  • Fly from Beijing-PEK to Busan-PUS, arriving Busan @ 8pm.
  • Overnight: Busan 1/2
Day 2 - Busan
  • Full day in Busan
  • Overnight: Busan 2/2
Day 3 - Gyeongju
  • Rent car in Busan, drive to Gyeongju
  • Spend all day exploring Gyeongju (Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram, Gyeongju National Park, Golgulsa Temple Stay etc.)
  • Overnight: Gyeongju 1/1
Day 4 - Gyeongju
  • More time in Gyeongju
  • Slowly make way to Daegu (only purpose is to be close to train station)
  • Overnight: Daegu 1/1
Day 5 - Travel/Seoul
  • Take the train from Dongdaegu Station, Daegu to Seoul (app 2 hrs journey time).
  • Check-in to hotel, spend time exploring Myeong-dong neighborhood.
  • Overnight: Seoul 1/6 (Myeong-dong)
Day 6 - Seoul/Day Trip to DMZ
  • Book the "DMZ/JSA & 3rd Tunnel Tour (Seoul)” with Koridoor Tours (we’ve read good things about them here in the forum).
  • Overnight: Seoul 2/6 (Myeong-dong)
Day 7 - Seoul
  • Visit Insa-dong, Samcheong-dong, Namdaemun Market
  • Overnight: Seoul 3/6 (Myeong-dong)
Day 8 - Seoul
  • Switch hotels from Myeong-dong to Gangnam (just for a little variety/change of pace?)
  • Explore Gangnam neighborhood.
  • Overnight: Seoul 4/6 (Gangnam)
Day 9 - Seoul
  • Visit Lotte World
  • Spend more time in Gangnam
  • Overnight: Seoul 5/6 (Gangnam)
Day 10 - Korean Folk Village
  • Day trip to Korean Folk Village?
  • Overnight: Seoul 6/6 (Gangnam)
Day 11 - Travel day
  • Early flight from Seoul-GMP to Beijing-PEK then back to the US.


This is obviously a rough itinerary but any advice on the framework would be appreciated. Also any specifics on what to see/do in each city would be very welcome.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that my wife will be ~4 months pregnant during the trip if that has any bearing on the suggestions.

Thanks,
Jeffrey

Last edited by jmgriffin; Jan 13, 18 at 9:06 pm Reason: Edit
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Old Jan 13, 18, 6:44 pm
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Been a few years since I was in Pusan the last time, but if I was going there sometime soon I would want to revisit a couple places, plus maybe some new ones. Revisiting would include Chagalchi Shijang (fish market) and Taejongdae (coastal park). Something new would probably include a baseball game. Cards on the table, I have no idea whether the baseball season there includes March.

Regarding Seoul, the Koridoor tour is not bad; bring your own grub for a better lunch than the slop they serve in the cafeteria. And for the JSA, which is the raison d'etre for the tour, a decent camera, with good optical zoom, is nice to have. You might get lucky and take pictures or video of Norks parading about. The last time we in Seoul we stayed in the north part (Yonshinnae), so when the Koridoor tour dumped us off downtown, we took advantage of it and grabbed a nice meal at Hwa Ni, a restaurant in Shinsegae Department Store.

You'll be doing a lot of walking in Seoul, something which I look forward to. Because I live in suburbia, I very much like exploring the neighborhoods just off the main roads in Seoul, because it is so different from suburbia. There isn't much of that around Myeong-dong, but within a reasonable distance you can escape the purely commercial areas and find a blend of residential/commercial, or mostly residential, maybe like Samcheong-dong. It's good to get out and about, you never know what can be found. I've enjoyed many meals in mom & pop type restaurants found in neighborhoods off the main roads.

Personally, I'd probably pass on Lotte World and the Folk Village, but each to his own. There are many threads in this forum regarding what do do around Seoul, so search a bit.

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Old Jan 13, 18, 9:16 pm
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I wouldn’t recommend driving from Busan to Gyeong-Ju. Roads in Korea can be confusing sometimes even though most major roads does have English. The KTX from Busan to Dongdaegu is about 30 minutes with a transfer to gyro guy about 12 minutes ride. Gyro gnu is probably my favorite place in Korea, however, you are visiting when it is still cold. Hopefully weather warms up a bit and you can enjoy all the recreation activities Gyeongju has to offer. Also taxis are cheap in Korea.
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Old Jan 14, 18, 1:54 pm
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+1 about not renting a car. Driving in Korea, and Asia in general is quite different compared to western countries and the signs can be confusing if you do not read Korean. Also Google Maps is not as reliable in Korea. Koreans typically use Naver maps which is in Korean only.

Also keep in mind with the recent situations at the border, the DMZ and tunnel portion of the tour has a higher chance of being cancelled. Usually the tour guides will not know this in advance, and if it is cancelled sometimes they won't find out until you're on your way there. However, Koridoor is quite used to this and they will have some backup activities in the event that something gets cancelled. When we went the tunnel portion got cancelled due to "security issues" and the tour guide had no idea we would be let into the DMZ until the very last minute. Because the tunnel portion was cancelled they took us to Imjingak park, which was quite nice and had good views into North Korea. In addition, there are both western and Korean food options there so you can grab a bite to eat there too instead of eating the cafeteria food which is substandard.
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Old Jan 14, 18, 5:05 pm
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Sorry to hijack a bit here, but if we are spending time in both Seoul and Busan, but only want to catch one baseball game (the craziest one possible), where should we go, and what matchup should we look for? (Seoul May 18-23, Busan May 24-28)

Thanks!!
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Old Jan 14, 18, 6:46 pm
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Originally Posted by CanuckFlyHigh View Post
Sorry to hijack a bit here, but if we are spending time in both Seoul and Busan, but only want to catch one baseball game (the craziest one possible), where should we go, and what matchup should we look for? (Seoul May 18-23, Busan May 24-28)
I'm told weekend games can be hard to get tickets for if you're buying last minute. You can see a schedule here. Beyond that, I've no idea.
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Old Jan 14, 18, 7:10 pm
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Originally Posted by jmgriffin View Post
Day 6 - Seoul/Day Trip to DMZ
  • Book the "DMZ/JSA & 3rd Tunnel Tour (Seoul)” with Koridoor Tours (we’ve read good things about them here in the forum).
  • Overnight: Seoul 2/6 (Myeong-dong)
I would have a backup plan for the afternoon, just in case the JSA is closed (to tourists) on the day of your visit -- in which case normally the full day tour converts to a half-day, sans-JSA one.
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Old Jan 15, 18, 3:21 am
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You don't need to spend a night in Daegu if you need a train station. Just use Singyeongju station. KTX stops there. It's just outside the city.

And yes, instead of driving, I'd take a bus from Busan to Gyeongju. The Gyeongju bus terminal is right downtown, but Singyeongju KTX station is like a 15,000W taxi outside the city (or a 30 minute, 1,000W bus). While the main Bulguksa and Seokguram are far away, you can instead rent a driver for a day tour of places. Don't F with driving in Korea. It's just not worth it. Sure, it may be countryside, but you have to find a place to park, it's usually stupidly expensive and Korean drivers are generally A-HOLES without any literal regard to the rules of the road or system.
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Old Jan 15, 18, 3:23 am
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Originally Posted by CanuckFlyHigh View Post
Sorry to hijack a bit here, but if we are spending time in both Seoul and Busan, but only want to catch one baseball game (the craziest one possible), where should we go, and what matchup should we look for? (Seoul May 18-23, Busan May 24-28)

Thanks!!
The two main Seoul teams at the stadium in Jamsil are LG and Doosan. Any game they play against Lotte Giants (Busan team) are what you want. If you want big city rivalry. Lately, the BEST team is Kia Tigers, so you can also see any match with those teams vs. Kia.

And as far as tickets, they sell out LIGHTNING FAST. I used the Korean ticketing app for a random Saturday game LG vs NC Dinos (not even a good team) and literally EVERY SINGLE seat on the Home Team side sold out within TEN seconds. I believe tickets are on sale, maybe two weeks before the game. Just check the timeline on their site and see what comes up. Either way, baseball games are fun and lively here, so you don't have to be on the winning team to enjoy.
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Old Jan 24, 18, 8:00 pm
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Awesome! Thanks for all of the great advice, we'll be sure to catch a baseball game as it looks like the season begins March 24.

I guess as a follow-up question, the itinerary that I outlined in the original post isn't necessarily set in stone, for the Korea experts out there, does this seem like a good overview of Korea?:
  • 2 nights: Busan
  • 2 nights: Gyeongju
  • 6 nights: Seoul

Are there any other areas that would be better to go to instead of one of the above?

Thanks!
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Old Jan 25, 18, 1:31 am
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Personally, I think that 2 nights in Gyeongju is too long as a casual tourist. Unless you really wanna stop and relax. You can do most things in a day and a half at a casual speed..presuming you get there and start in the morning around 10 AM. Of course if you arrive in the afternoon, you will need the second full day.

Otherwise, if you start in the morning, You're better to spend it in Seoul another night. There's just simply more to do/places to go in Seoul. P

If you're running out of things to pad your Seoul schedule, look at the Chuncheon/Gapyeong/Gangwondo area. You can go out and ride bikes through the countryside for very cheap (train ticket and the bike rental. Easy day trip by KTX train just an hour and 6$ one way.
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Old Feb 1, 18, 9:19 am
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Hi!

I have been to Korea more often than I can count probably, and I thought I'd give you my opinion on the Seoul part. Please find my comments in color below:

Day 5 - Travel/Seoul
  • Take the train from Dongdaegu Station, Daegu to Seoul (app 2 hrs journey time).
  • Check-in to hotel, spend time exploring Myeong-dong neighborhood.
  • Overnight: Seoul 1/6 (Myeong-dong) Good choice of neighborhood to stay, although not the best for nightlife. Myeongdong is definitely the main shopping area, and it's also nice to test out all the streetfood! Also, if you feel like it in the late afternoon / evening, take the cable car up to Namsan tower. It's a super nice view on the city, usually an activity for couples. If you feel super fancy there is an expensive but good restaurant on the top floor of Namsan tower - probably number one spot for proposals in Korea.
Day 6 - Seoul/Day Trip to DMZ
  • Book the "DMZ/JSA & 3rd Tunnel Tour (Seoul)” with Koridoor Tours (we’ve read good things about them here in the forum).good experience
  • Overnight: Seoul 2/6 (Myeong-dong)
Day 7 - Seoul
  • Visit Insa-dong, Samcheong-dong, Namdaemun Market On this day, to cover what your plan was, I would probably plan a route to walk from Myeongdong to Gyeongbokgung Palace, then a bit north-east into Bukchon Hanok Village, then back down with a stroll along the Cheongyecheon (a cute stream flowing through the center of Seoul which is nice to look at, especially in spring) and back to Myeongdong. Namdaemun is more of a 1 hour walk-through and nice to see, but there is not that much to do unless you want to buy some fake purses or fabrics and eat streetfood (which you can pretty much find anywhere anyway) - would definitely visit, but not plan too much time for this.
  • Overnight: Seoul 3/6 (Myeong-dong)
Day 8 - Seoul
  • Switch hotels from Myeong-dong to Gangnam (just for a little variety/change of pace?) - I 1000% do not recommend switching hotels to Gangnam. It's like moving from the heart of the city to the boring office district. There are some fancy high rises and some cool stores e.g. Samsung d'light and a lot of expensive designer chains especially in Cheongdamdong, but it is not vibrant or exciting at all in my opinion. I would probably take a stroll there if I was you for a couple of hours and then move on to another activity / area. There's so much more to see! If I can suggest something else: Move your hotel to Hongdae! It's the "student" area of Seoul with exciting night life but also cool, unconventional shops, some funny museums (Trick Art Museum comes to my mind) and good food.
  • Explore Gangnam neighborhood.
  • Overnight: Seoul 4/6 (Gangnam)
Day 9 - Seoul
  • Visit Lotte World - medium recommendation from me. I've been there twice and it's cool if you're living in Seoul and literally have too much time and money, but the queues are endless and the attractions are mediocre in comparison to six flags / disneyland / any European amusement parks. The shopping mall around Lotte World is quite cool, and there is a nice aquarium in that complex as well, and during winter a nice ice rink, but I would not use an entire day of your holiday for this. Alternative recommendation: Do half a day of spa e.g. in Dragon Hill Spa - better value for money imho If it HAS to be an amusement park I would recommend Everland instead. But the queues there are also pretty unbearable, especially if the weather is good.
  • Spend more time in Gangnam
  • Overnight: Seoul 5/6 (Gangnam)
Day 10 - Korean Folk Village
  • Day trip to Korean Folk Village? - I have actually never been there but it seems quite far away. Go for it, or consider any of these areas to check out: 1) Dongdaemun - the fast fashion monopoly. Huuuuuge buildings top to bottom filled with clothes (it's basically a wholesaler) 2) Itaewon - this is the foreigner district and there's not that much to see as a tourist, but Vatos is a mexican restaurant that sells mexican-korean fusion food and is really good (Kimchi fries is all I am craving sometimes). You could also visit the war museum in that area, which is super interesting. 3) Noryangjin Fish market
  • Overnight: Seoul 6/6 (Gangnam)
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Old Feb 3, 18, 7:55 pm
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Originally Posted by mikesaidyes View Post
You don't need to spend a night in Daegu if you need a train station. Just use Singyeongju station. KTX stops there. It's just outside the city.

And yes, instead of driving, I'd take a bus from Busan to Gyeongju. The Gyeongju bus terminal is right downtown, but Singyeongju KTX station is like a 15,000W taxi outside the city (or a 30 minute, 1,000W bus). While the main Bulguksa and Seokguram are far away, you can instead rent a driver for a day tour of places. Don't F with driving in Korea. It's just not worth it. Sure, it may be countryside, but you have to find a place to park, it's usually stupidly expensive and Korean drivers are generally A-HOLES without any literal regard to the rules of the road or system.
Yes, I was astonished to find that the taxi ride from Singyeongju KTX station is the same price as the KTX fare from Busan to Singyeongju. If I were to make such a trip again, I would indeed take the bus, which is in the center of town.
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