If you have read my previous blog, I’m sure you will be enticed to travel in such marvelous country of Seoul, South Korea.
WHEN TO BOOK:
Korea is one of the nearest countries in the Philippines to have legit four seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall.
If you are like me who wishes to witness the snowflakes fall, then book on December to February. The snow’s peak month is January; this is when the heavy snow falls. But based on some, it is very difficult to travel during these months especially for those who have never tried winter before. You may end up freezing and may choose to stay indoor.
For those who dream to see cherry blossoms bloom, it is best to travel during spring: March to May. Note, however, that cherry blossoms do not bloom for a long time. It depends on the weather. Some says the cherry blossoms normally bloom on the 2nd week of April. So pray that you can catch them bloom.
For those who want to spend summer in Korea, you can schedule your trips on June to August and for those who wishes to see vibrant colors of fall, try visiting on September to November. They say the best season to visit Seoul is spring or fall. But whatever your purpose is, book the one that best suits you.
We booked our tickets months before our scheduled trip. We patiently waited for Cebu Pacific’s P1so fare and booked ourselves on the 1st week of December. Our roundtrip airfare is Php 4,175 per person: Manila-Incheon-Manila. This rate does not include baggage allowance which we only booked just a week before our scheduled trip.
WHAT TO BRING:
- Passport and Visa
- Winter Clothes
Passport and Visa
Applying for a Korean Visa is FREE. All you have to do is to have the following requirements:
- Application form
- 1 piece passport size colored picture
- Original Passport (should be valid for more than 6 months)
- Photocopy of Passport Bio-page (page 2)
- Original & Photocopy of valid visa/s and arrival stamps to OECD member countries for the past 5 years (if applicable)
- Original Certificate of Employment
- Original Personal Bank Certificate (must include account type, current balance, account opening date, average daily balance)
- Photocopy of Income Tax Return (ITR) or Form 2316
- Bank Statement (original or certified true copy of bank statements/passbook for the last 3 months)
- If personally invited by a Korean, invitation letter & copy of invitor’s passport
- If invited by a Company in Korea, invitation letter & copy of Korean Company Business Permit
- Copy of Flight Itinerary
- Copy of Hotel Voucher
- Copy of Birth Certificate
- Copy of Valid IDs
- Copy of Credit Cards, ATM cards
- Copy of VL Form
Once you have compiled the aforementioned documents, you can personally apply in the Embassy of Korea or have someone submit for you. Since, we are from Davao we requested a friend to submit our requirements in the Embassy. Processing time normally takes 3 to 5 working days. No need for physical appearance. You only have to submit one brown envelop with all your requirements and the embassy will inform you on when will the visa be released. If you want a hassle-free transaction, you can pay for an agency to apply for you. It usually cost Php 2,500 per person.
We applied a month before our scheduled trip since the visa is only good for 3 months. For more details, you can check the Embassy of Korea official website.
Once you have booked your airfare, then you must start saving your money. Our budget for the trip is Php30,000; Php 20,000 of which is our pocket money. However, if you have read my previous blog post, Php 20,000 is more than enough for the trip. This includes airfare, travel tax, baggage allowance, food, hotel and transportation. Your pocket money actually depends on you but here are the things you must include on your budget:
- Airfare and Baggage Allowance
- Hotel Accommodation
- T-Money and T-Card
- Travel Tax (Php 1,620)
- Pocket Wifi
- Entrance Fees (depending on your itinerary)
The currency in Korea is in Korean Won (1Php=0.04KRW). I suggest for you to exchange your peso to KRW and in USD. You can then exchange your USD to KRW when you arrived in Korea.
Since we went there during winter, we actually prepared for our winter clothes. Here are the things we bought prior our travel:
- Winter Gloves
- Heat-tech Shirts and Leggings
I highly suggest for you to invest in heat-tech and touch-type gloves. It’s one of the most important things you should have when travelling during winter. This type of gloves can be found at Columbia, Northface and Uniqlo. Since it’s expensive I bought a cheap one at Terranova but ended up buying another pair of gloves in Korea, which actually most me higher. 😦
Heat-tech/heat-gen leggings and long sleeves can be found at Uniqlo (Php 590) and Marks and Spencer (Php 1,000). Both brands are reliable and effective. You can actually buy one and re-use it for your entire travel! HAHAHA :p Nobody knows, right?
My coats are given to me by my grandparents, parents and cousin; so I haven’t spent a single cent for them. Haha. Thanks sponsors. A coat normally costs Php2,000 and above. So if you want to save your money, you can opt to buy in an Ukay-Ukay store which actually range from Php 300 to Php 1,000.
Boots, scarves, earmuffs and beanie can be bought online or in department stores. Terranova, Springfield, Saizen, Debenhams and Tutto Moda have winter accessories. These accessories are also very helpful to save you from the freezing weather. 🙂
Actually, winter clothes and accessories are abundant in Korea during winter. In fact, their fashion actually depends on the season. Hence, we haven’t seen any shirt, sleeveless or dress on sale.
Camera is something you should never miss when travelling. Remember, if it is not documented, it is not done. So yeah, bring all the cameras you have. Every corner is instagram worthy. 🙂
WHERE TO STAY:
Like all other countries, hotels are expensive in Korea. In fact, the cheapest place to stay is in a dormitel wherein you share your room with strangers. Good thing we found a homey cozy hotel in Agoda : 2nd Casa Hotel. The hotel is very convenient as it is only a 2-minute walk from Myeongdong Station. Plus, we got a free yummy breakfast. Our room only costs Php2,010 per night good for 4 persons.
HOW LONG TO STAY:
Korea offers a lot of tourist destinations. Seoul itself actually needs 5 full days to maximise everything it has to offer. They have two theme parks: Everland and Lotte World, which we have not visited due to time constraints. Honestly speaking, 3 full days is not enough if you want to visit the theme parks. We basically went through all the landmarks Seoul has to offer except for the theme parks. But like I said, it depends on your priorities. 😉
MODES OF TRANSPORTATION:
Subways serve as a convenient means to travel around Seoul. It is probably the most favoured public transportation by both Koreans and tourists. It is easy to understand and is hassle-free. However, there are tourist destinations wherein only bus can accommodate like going to a ski resort or in N Seoul Tower.
I suggest for you to download the Korean Subway app on your phone as it is very helpful and useful.
By the way I suggest that you buy a T-Card or T-Money at the airport. This is a rechargeable transportation card used for public transportation like bus and subway. The T-Card costs 5,000 KRW and we loaded up to 20,000KRW for the whole trip. This can be bought at the airport and at any convenience stores or subway stations. You don’t have to load it at full since it is reloadable.
WHAT AND WHERE TO EAT:
Korean cuisine is largely based on rice, meat and vegetables. Bulgogi, bibimbap, kimchi and japchae are some of the most popular dishes in Korea. Due to the number of free side dishes, we normally order just two meals enough for us to share. Whether it be a cozy frenzy resto or a restaurant at the corner, the price of every meal is almost the same. It usually cost 10,000-20,000KRW.
Only few Koreans speak or understand English. Maybe 1 out of 10 of all we encountered understands English. Even in their subway information booth or crews in the tourist spots, knows a no to little English. So how did we manage to interact with them to ask for directions? Charade! hahaha. Aside from sign language or charade, we also downloaded Google Translate app on our phones to make our lives easier. But what really helped us through is our friend, Chie, who speaks and understands Korean. Yehey! Thanks Chie! 🙂 Being addicted to Koreanovelas pays off. So just a tip, if you do not know how to speak or do not understand Korean, prepare your Google Translate app or prepare your moves for the charade. Hahaha.
So tada! I guess that’s all. For more queries about Korea, please do not hesitate to comment. 🙂