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Introduction to Seoul
Seoul is a busy metropolis that has become popularised through hallyu, the Korean Wave that has swept across Asia. You can see the influence Korea has on teenagers and adults alike, with their obsession over the latest K-Pop groups, K-Dramas and even Korean food.
If you are into Korean culture, Seoul should not be unfamiliar to you. Seoul is the capital of South Korea and you should definitely not miss out on travelling to this metropolitan centre!
The capital city of Seoul is truly unique as it is a mix of both the traditional and modern. If you’ve seen pictures of friends and celebrities wearing Hanbok and posing in historical sites, Seoul is where the most well-known Korean palaces are located at!
The city is surrounded by famous islands such as Jeju and Nami Island and is a Train ride To Busan. With its abundance of cafe-filled areas and Instagram-worthy murals, Seoul has a variety of activities that can fit with everyone’s interests. So, why not let us bring you on a get-away trip to Seoul!
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Flight to Seoul
There are two main airports in Seoul – the Incheon International Airport and Gimpo Airport respectively. The Incheon Airport is relatively further from the city centre but currently is the only airport in Seoul that allows for international flight touchdowns. Taxi rides from Incheon Airport to the city take around 80 to 90 minutes and can be flagged at the arrival halls of Terminal 1.
For a cheaper option, the Airport Railroad Express (AREX) runs directly from the airport terminals to the Seoul Station via the Express or All Stop trains.
Tip: If you are not in a rush for time and short for cash, you can opt for the All Stop AREX train, that takes around 58 to 66 minutes to reach Seoul Station, which costs at least 3000 won (around S$3) cheaper than the Express AREX train, that takes around 43 to 51 minutes.
In addition, the All Stop train has a higher frequency that runs every 5 to 15 minutes as compared to the Express train that departs every 30 to 45 minutes.
The flight from Singapore to Seoul takes around 6.5 hours. To compare flight details and find cheapest options, Skyscanner or Google Flights are readily available. The cheapest round-flights would be from budget airlines such as AirAsia and Scoot where prices can be as low as $418 (as of 7/3/19).
However, such flights are often connecting flights that may have 1 stop for each direction. Better options such as direct flights include Korean Airlines or Singapore Airlines.
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Getting around Seoul
Seoul is an easy city to navigate around via public transport as it has the Seoul Metropolitan Subway, a metro system that covers an extensive area and is extremely accessible for tourists. It has 18 lines that are colour-coded for easy recognition and the voice announcements in the train are given in Korean, followed by English so there is no need to worry about missing your stop!
The subway is one of the most commonly used forms of transport in Seoul and you can either purchase a single journey ticket or a reloadable T-money Card to travel on the subway. In addition, there are exclusive tourist passes that offer discounts on admission fees and attractions around Seoul.
Do avoid the rush hour on the subway in the evening from about 4.30 pm to 8 pm when the metro gets extremely busy or walk to the ends of the platforms in order to find a little more space during these times.
Other than the subway, public buses are also available as another form of public transport that is widely accessible. You can pay for public buses using the same T-money Card or any other transport passes you purchase.
However, for tourists who do not speak or read Korean, these buses might be a hassle as most do not provide signs or announcements in English. There are four colours of buses respectively: the Blue, Green, Red and Yellow buses to be differentiated for their routes.
In addition, taxis are also convenient, but a slightly more expensive mode of transport – especially for short rides. Taxis are available in Seoul as four types: Regular, Deluxe, Jumbo and International.
The recommended and cheapest types of taxis to use are the Regular taxis that come in silver, orange or white with a “Taxi” sign on the top and the slightly more expensive Deluxe taxis that come in black with yellow stripes. International taxis have drivers that are able to speak English, Chinese or Japanese but have a higher fare than regular taxis.
Tip: If you do not want to splurge on the higher fares of an international taxi but still wish to take a taxi and are scared of a communication breakdown, you can always write your destination on a piece of paper or your phone in hangul and show it to the driver!
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Accommodation in Seoul
If you are looking to pamper yourself to a luxurious stay in Seoul, one of the best options would be at the JW Marriott Hotel Seoul. It is a premium five-star hotel located in Gangnam, comfortably near the shopping districts.
For a cheaper but still comfortable place to stay, you can choose the Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Seoul. The hotel is located right in the heart of the Myeongdong shopping district and is surrounded by famous department stores and shops. Furthermore, it is a walking distance from the Myeongdong subway station.
For a budget-friendly option, you can book a stay at the Chisun Hotel Seoul Myeongdong! It is a walking distance away from a subway station and is a comfortable stay.
Tip: If you are really on a tight budget for your trip, hostels and capsule hotels are always an option in Seoul. Airbnb has a variety of cheap rooms at hostels and full apartments or houses for you to book from! However, be sure to check their reviews before you book your stay as some apartments only have stairs for you to climb up with hefty pieces of luggage.
Attractions in Seoul
From sightseeing to shopping to food, Seoul is a wonderful city with so much to offer. Although there are hundreds of tourist attractions in this bustling city, we’ve compiled a list of our top must-visit attractions here!
Must-eat Food in Seoul!
Have you ever imagined your food to come alive on your plate? Well, one of the top things to try while you are in Seoul is sannakji – “live” octopus.
The octopus’ tentacles continue to move on the plate and it is a famous delicacy that you should definitely try! This dish is usually sold in restaurants that also serve sliced raw finish but also can be found at bars as an accompaniment to alcoholic drinks such as soju.
A must-go street food haven is the Gwangjang Market. It is one of the oldest traditional markets and is most well-known for its prepared food section – selling a variety of Korean street foods such as soondae (blood sausages), kimbap (Korean sushi rolls), tteokbokki (rice cakes) and bindaetteok (mung bean pancakes).
The market provides a sense of friendliness from the vendors and you can have a relatively inexpensive meal here with a wide variety of food items to choose from. For more modern street food varieties, the Myeongdong Food Street is full of unique twists on local delights and creations.
Other than these options, you definitely should not miss out on Gogigui – grilled meat or more commonly known as Korean barbecue. At barbecue restaurants, the dishes usually come either as marinated or unmarinated meats. The most popular dish is bulgogi (marinated beef) while others prefer a range from samgyeopsal (pork belly) to dak bulgogi (barbecued chicken). It comes with a variety of banchan (side dishes) and it is a unique experience to have Korean BBQ in actual Korea.
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Other than the traditional Korean food, Seoul is also full of unique and pretty cafés – there are various locations near Hongdae and Myeongdong that allow you to go café hopping to your heart’s desire.
One such café that has caught my eye is Zapangi, uniquely hidden behind a “vending machine” door. Most visitors come here to take a shot right next to the door and it is located in Mangwon-dong, an area full of up-and-coming cafés and restaurants. You can come here by taking the subway to Mangwon Station and leave by Exit 2.
Seoul is the perfect travel destination for those interested in Korean culture or is looking for a foreign place to explore. There is a wide range of activities in Seoul that caters to people of all ages to and is a family-friendly destination! The extensive subway station allows tourists to easily manoeuvre the city and most tourist spots are only a walk away from the stations.
Furthermore, many public transportation signs come in both English and Korean. When you are lost, feel free to seek help from high school or college students as some of them will understand Korean. It will always be helpful to write your destination in hangul.
If you are looking for a trip to somewhere that can be as foreign as Asia gets, with easy transportation and a totally different culture to explore, then Seoul is the right place for you!