Seoul is a vibrant city that combines old and new; you’ll see palaces, temples and traditional homes near to glitzy shopping districts and towering skyscrapers. There’s plenty to experience, do and see while exploring the metropolis. It is easy to explore and get to and from places because of the extensive networks of buses and subways. [Read: How to Apply for a South Korea Visa in the Philippines]
Seoul is a major hub in the region; many airlines for all types of budget can take you directly to this city from Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or other countries. Book flight tickets as early as possible to get low prices and save more money for your actual trip. From the airport, you can take the express train to the city; the fare is KRW9000 for adults and KRW7000 for kids. Alternatively, you can take the all stop train which takes longer but is cheaper at KRW4150. [Buy Incheon Airport Transfer for Seoul]
If you have time, you can get to South Korea from Japan by boat. Get to Fukuoka by shinkansen, overnight bus or local trains from Tokyo, Nagoya or Osaka. Once in the city, you can book tickets for an overnight or day ride to Busan. The fast boat takes up to three hours per way and costs around JPY13000. The overnight one costs around JPY9000 to JPY12000 depending on class. Once in Busan, you can take the fast train to Seoul. [Rent a Pocket WIFI]
Getting Around the City of SeoulSeoul is an easy city to navigate because of the extensive subway and bus connections to different parts of the metropolis. The size of the network can be quite imposing the first time, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to go from point A to B. Trains run from around 5:30AM until midnight. There are color coded lines to make it easy for passengers to determine which train they should be on. [Buy a Korea Railway Pass]
You’ll need a single or multiple entry ticket to get on the trains. The former requires exact payment and a refundable deposit of KRW (Korean Won) 500. For better value for money, get a Tmoney card instead of buying one way tickets. The card costs about KRW2500 and is reloadable; you can easily buy these at some convenience stores or at the station.
Paying with a Tmoney card provides you with a slight discount such as KRW1250 for 19 year olds and older, KRW720 for 13-18 years old and KRW450 for children ages 6-12, whenever you take the subway.
Tourist Attractions in SeoulSeoul is an interesting city with plenty of things to do.
- War Memorial of Korea – for those interested in history, this is a good place to add to your itinerary. It’s free and has many exhibits.
|War Memorial of Korea | Photo by Glenn Forbes under CC license|
- Gyeongbokgung Palace – a huge complex which was the palace of the royal family during the Joseon Dynasty. Entrance fee is KRW3000; you can also buy the combo ticket which includes others places for KRW10000.
- Changdeokgung Palace – Entrance fee is KRW3000, if you want to go to the Secret Garden as well, you’d have to pay KRW8000. You can also buy the combo ticket which includes others places for KRW10000.
|Changdeokgung Palace | Photo by: redlegsfan21 under CC license|
- Changgyeonggung Palace – another palace to explore during your visit. The ticket costs about KRW1000; you can also pay KRW10000 for the combo ticket.
|Changgyeonggung Palace | Photo by : Kent Kanouse under CC license|
- Myeongdong – this is a vibrant district where you can shop for mid to high priced branded items. This is a good area to walk around in to get a feel of the city, and maybe even grab some street food.
- Hongdae – this is a cool district near Hongik University where there is an artist vibe. You’ll get to see some street performances during your visit.
- Jongmyo Shrine – this attraction is UNESCO listed and is a place where you’ll find the ancestral tablets of the royal family during the Joseon Dynasty. Entrance fee of KRW1000 or get the combo ticket for KRW10000.
- Nami Island – another famous destination for those who love nature; you can take scenic walks and take plenty of photos during your visit. The best time to go is during autumn; the entrance fee is around KRW8000. [Buy a Nami Island and Petite France Ticket]
|Nami Island | Photo by: eugenehuan under CC license|
- Garden of Morning Calm – for nature lovers this garden is a wonderful place to visit because of the flowers and plants. You’ll see different kinds depending on the season, making this attraction worth returning to. Entrance fee is KRW9500 for adults. [Buy a ticket now]
|Garden of Morning Calm | Photo by: Weli’mi’nakwan under CC license|
- Bukchon Hanok Village – Seoul is a bustling metropolis with an old soul; you’ll see remnants of its traditions when you visit Bukchon. As you explore, you’ll see tea houses, guesthouses and restaurants that provide you with a glimpse of the city’s vibrant past. There is no entrance fee for this attraction. [Bukchon Oneday Hanbok Rental Experience]
|Bukchon Hanok Village | Photo by: Mathieu Thouvenin under CC license|
Possible Day Trips from Seoul
There are also some trips you can do outside of the city center.
- DMZ Tour – this takes you to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. A tour costs about KRW40000 to KRW135000, depending on the inclusions. You get to know more about the tension between the two countries with a visit here.
- Suwon Fortress – if you have an extra day or so to spare during your visit, add this fortress to your itinerary. It’s quite far from the city but is worth going to for those interested in history. The complex has an imposing wall and remnants of military facilities that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. Entrance fee is KRW1000 for adults.
Hotels in Seoul : Where to Stay in SeoulHongdae and Myeongdong are popular places to stay in because of the variety of accommodations available in or just outside these areas. You’ll find guesthouses, hotels and hostels in either district. If you’re on a budget, some hostels offer dorm beds for around KRW21000+++. If you want a private room you can get one starting at around KRW50000+++. Ideally, get a place to stay near popular areas such as the two mentioned or near metro stations to make it easy to go around the city. Below are some of the highly rated accommodations in Seoul in Agoda.
- Kimchee Sinchon Guesthouse. Less than Php500. Check availability and reviews.
- TIme Traveler Relax Seoul Guesthouse. Less than Php800. Check availability and reviews.
- Hostel HARU. Less than Php1,500. Check availability and reviews.
- Brownie Guesthouse. Less than Php1,000. Check availability and reviews.
- Naru Guesthouse. Less than Php1300. Check availability and reviews.
Sample Expenses in Seoul
*This sample budget assumes at least two people going on a trip sharing some of the expenses and going to places mostly by public transport
KRW150000 (each whether private room or a dorm bed)
Entrance Fees and Tours
KRW27500 (add KRW40000, if you want to include the DMZ)
Total for 4 Days and 3 Nights
*The conversion rate as of this writing is at P1=KRW20.48; the budget for a 4 days and 3 nights trip is around P15500 or KRW317500 each for two persons. You can add or exclude certain places depending on the duration of your trip and your interests. You can also spend a bit more for better accommodation and food. This sample budget doesn’t include flight tickets; book them as early as possible to get the lowest fares.
Suggested Seoul, South Korea Itinerary
Arrival and check in at hotel
Visit Bukchon Village
Explore Hongdae and Myeongdong at night
Visit the palaces (Gyeongbokgung and others) and Jongmyo Shrine
Nami Island or the DMZ
Garden of Morning Calm or Suwon Fortress
Check out and prepare for departure flight
*This itinerary is at a relatively relaxed pace and if you don’t want to rush through places (especially Nami Island and Garden of Morning Calm). You can change the places to visit based on what you really like to see and experience. You can also go to Lotte World Amusement Park, if that’s your thing. [Buy discounted Lotte World Day Pass]
About the Author
Joshua Berida is a full time writer, part-time wanderer with insatiable wanderlust. He blogs about his adventures at thewanderingjuan.net.