Contributed by The Curious Filipina
South Korea has long been in my list in my countries to visit. Whenever I watch kdramas, both modern and historical in setting, I’m always amazed at how much the country offers. However, as it is a country that requires a visa, it makes it seem impossible for me to go. I honestly never thought I’d be able to visit South Korea in my 20s but as the song from Pinnochio says, “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires will come to you. If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme. When you wish upon a star as dreamers do”.
So, enough of the drama and let me share with you my detailed itinerary during my five days and six nights South Korea trip.
5pm: Flight from Cebu, Philippines to Incheon, South Korea
10.30pm: Clear South Korea Immigration, picked up Wifi Egg and purchased/loaded the T-Money Card from the Vending Machine
11pm: Travel to Yooginong Guesthouse, Hongdae
I always prefer hostels or guesthouses when I travel. Not only do they come cheap but they also give me a local experience that I think I cannot get from hotels.
For this trip, we chose Yooginong Guesthouse. It’s located in a quiet neighbourhood in Mangwon, Hongdae and surrounded by a number of food places. It’s also near Mangwon Hangang River Park where you can go biking.
I cannot express enough how grateful I am that we chose this guesthouse. The host was kind enough to wait for us when we arrived past midnight. Our room was huge and was cleaned everyday. The guesthouse offers free WiFi, towels, toiletries, use of the kitchen, bikes and basic breakfast consisting of cereals, milk, jams and bread.
Directions: Ride the Airport Train (all stop). Transfer to Line 6 (orange line) at the Digital Media City Station. Get off at the Mangwon Station Exit 2. Turn right at the Mangwon Station EExit 2. Go straight until you come to IBK bank and turn right. Go straight and then turn right at the Jinny English across 7/11.
12.30am: Check in and went out to grab dinner from 7/11 (yes we were this hungry!)
9am: Preparations and breakfast
10am: Travel to One Day Hanbok Rental (booked via Klook)
Directions: From Mangwon Station, ride to Bulgwang Station. Transfer to Line 3. Ride to Anguk Station and take Exit 2. To the right, walk approximately 300m from Exit 2 of Anguk Station and cross the road from Jae-dong Elementary School.
11am: Hanbok Rental Fitting
11.45am: Walk to Gwanghamun Square
Directions: Walk back to the direction of Anguk Station. When you reach the intersection, turn right and just keep walking until you see the Palace.
12pm: Tour Gwanghamun Square, Gyeongbukgong Palace and National Folk Museum
This palace is at the northern side of Seoul and is the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty. I recommend joining the free English tour to really appreciate the entire place. Aside from its grand architecture and design, you’ll be able to know how each building and how every detail of the design entails its own meaning. We were also taught about Palace customs, practices and some intriguing details about the roles of being a royalty (e.g. how the Queen would only see the King once a month).
Tip: Wearing a Hanbok will gain you free entrance inside the Palace.
At the back of the Palace, where the tour ends, you’ll see a building that houses the National Folk Museum of Korea.
3pm: Back to One Day Hanbok Rental and changed back to our outfits.
4pm: Walk to Bukchon Hanok Village
Directions: Walk straight to the opposite direction from Anguk Station. You’ll immediately see a corner with so many tourists and you’ll know you’re there. You’ll also see signs that you’re near the area.
We got lost along the way trying to look for the famous village as we went to a different direction thanks to Waze. However, we went through many corners but found ourselves in the middle of a street with quaint cafés and stores.
4.20pm: Tour Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village is home to a great number of traditional houses dating back to the Joseon Dynasty. These old houses are called “Hanok”. At first, I really thought they are just preserved houses but it was there that I knew that locals are still living in the area. You’ll see signs everywhere warning visitors to lower down their voices because although it’s a tourist spot, it’s still a residential area. However, some of the houses were already converted into cafés, tea shops and even guesthouses but still retaining their traditional look.
5.30pm: Travel to N Seoul Tower
Directions: From Anguk Station, travel to Dongguk University Station Line 3 and take Exit 6. Turn right and walk until you see the bus stop. Ride Namsan Bus Circular No. 2/3/5.
6.30pm: Tour N Seoul Tower (booked via Klook)
You can do a number of things while in N Seoul Tower. You can visit the observatory where you’ll experience a 360 degree view of South Korea’s beautiful skyline, purchase a love lock for the love bridge/trees, visit Ssentoy Museum and Hello Kitty World or dine in one of the many restaurants in the building. The place is also perfect for dates. The next time I’ll come back, I’ll make sure to bring my oppa with me!
9pm: Back to the guesthouse
Directions: Ride Namsan Bus Circular 2 and get off at Dongguk University station/ Chungmuro Station. Head to Yaksu Station.
8am: Preparations and breakfast
9am: Travel to Gapyeong County for Nami Island, Petite France and The Garden of Morning Calm
Directions: From Mangwon Station, transfer at Hyochang Park Station to Gyeongi Jungang Line. Travel to Mangu Station and transfer to Gyeongchun Line for Gapyeong Station (108 minutes). Go immediately to the Bus Stop in front of the station for the Gapyeong Shuttle Bus.
The shuttle bus offers unlimited rides around certain Gapyeong stops including famous tourist attractions like the Gapyeong Rail Park, Nami Island, Petite France and The Garden of Morning Calm.
If you want to start with the Garden of Morning Calm, which is the farthest destination from Gapyeong station, I suggest getting off at Cheongpyeong station instead. Also, grab a Gapyeong Shuttle Bus brochure and take note of the time the bus will arrive at each place so you can plan well how long you’ll spend in each place.
11.30am: Tour The Garden of Morning Calm, Petite France and Nami Island
One day was not enough to grasp the beauty of these places. I never imagined commuting would take so long. If I could turn back time, I wished we took off at dawn so we could have more time in this beautiful county. I could easily spend a whole day just in the Garden of Morning Calm.
In the meantime, indulge yourself with a few pictures.
The Garden of Morning Calm
At Gapyeong Station, there’s a small snack corner at the right side of the entrance that I highly recommend. They sell popular Korean street food like soondae, odeng and tteokbokki at affordable prices and that are yummy, too. Don’t forget to grab some snacks before heading back!
Of course, you shouldn’t miss the ever crowd favourite Korean chicken when in South Korea. So, after the long trip, we ate at Dasarang Chicken which was near our guesthouse and had a plateful of three flavoured chicken: Spicy, Korean and Buttered. Instead of the common chicken and beer combination, we opted to pair our chicken with Korea’s famous soju. If you’re not used to drinking, please drink soju moderately and have someone to share it with. You seriously don’t want to get knocked out and sleep on the streets.
Also, one of our funniest and most unforgettable experiences happened that night at the chicken restaurant. You see, after our orders were served, we were given the check holder with the bill inside already. As much as we tried to recall in kdramas on how they pay their bills, we just couldn’t. We also tried observing other diners but most did not bill out yet. So what we did was, we left our money inside the check holder and left. A few seconds later, the staff went running after us and asked for our payment. Imagine all eyes from the other diners (the restaurant was quite packed that night). It was so embarrassing. I wanted to shrink for a moment. We then explained that we placed our money on the table inside the check holder which she then checked and confirmed. What a way to end the night, right?
8am: Preparations and breakfast
9am: Travel to Ihwa Mural Village
Directions: From Mangwon Station, head to Samgakji Station. Transfer to Blue Line and head to Hyewa Station Exit 2. Turn left at the park, past the Arco Arts Center and continuing until Dongsung-gil. Make a right turn onto Dongsung-gil and then a left onto Guldari-gil. Following Guldari-gil will take you up to Naksan Park and continue on through the heart of Ihwa-dong Mural Village before turning into Yulgok-ro 19-gil, making its famous P-turn and running back down to the southern end of Daehakno. Look for signs pointing to Naksan Park and the Mural Village.
10am: Tour around Ihwa Mural Village with coffee shop break
11.30am: Travel to Dongdaemun Plaza
Directions: From Hyewa Station, travel to Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station and take Exit 1. Same line.
12.30pm: Tour around Dongdaemun Plaza
2pm: Travel to Myeongdong
Directions: From Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station, travel to Myeongdong Station and go to Exit 6/7. Same line.
2.30pm: Shop and lunch in Myeongdong
5pm: Shop in Myeongdong Underground Shopping
If you don’t want to carry around your shopping bags, you can rent a locker found in the stations for as low as ₩2,000. The smallest locker is good enough for four shopping bags.
7pm: Travel to Seoul Station
Directions: Same line as Myeongdong Station. Head to Seoul Station.
We went to Seoul Station supposedly to shop at Lotte Mart. However, I wasn’t able to read that it’s closed every second and fourth Sunday of the month.
7.30pm: Dinner at Lotteria in Seoul Station
8.30pm: Chill at Seoullo 7017
Seoullo 7017 is one of Seoul’s newest chill places where both locals and tourists come. It used to be an elevated highway built in the 1970s but has now been transformed into a beautiful sky garden and pedestrian walkway connecting the eastern and western sides of the city. There are fountains, gardens, cafés and platform for performances found here.
9.30pm: Back to accommodation
Directions: From Seoul Station, travel to Gongdeok Line and transfer to Line 6. Alight at Mangwon Station.
9am: Preparations and breakfast
10am: Travel to Everland
Directions: From Mangwon Station, travel to Hapjeong Station and transfer to Line 2 (Green Line). Travel to Gangnam Station and get out at Exit 10. Walk straight until you see WHO.A.U and you will be able to see the bus stop for No. 5002. Ride the bus and alight at the last station where you will then ride another bus to Everland for free.
11.30am: Enjoy Everland
Everland is South Korea’s biggest theme park. It has a number of themes, attractions and rides including the world’s steepest wooden rollercoaster called the T-Express. Not only that, you will also get to know Korea’s rich history through “Pride Korea”.
Among others, we were able to try the Columbus Adventure and Thunder Falls where the popular kdrama Strong Woman Do Bong Soon filmed their theme park scenes. These were quite exhilarating rides for me but you’ll just be amazed at how little kids are so willing to try these rides. One thing to note though, some of the rides are not included in your admission fee and would require additional payment. Do not fret, the free rides outnumber the paid rides.
Take note also of the parade that happens twice a day, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. You surely don’t want to miss any of these parades!
What I like most about Everland is the food price. While most theme parks would leave you broke because of the highly inflated meal price, at Everland, snacks/meal prices are almost close to what are sold outside. You are also free to bring your own packed meals and drinks unlike other theme parks. They aren’t really that strict.
7.30pm: Travel to Myeongdong
We stopped by the famous Gangnam area for a quick snap.
Directions: From Gangnam Station, travel to Sadang Station and transfer to Line 4 to Myeongdong Station.
9pm: Street food feast at Myeongdong
11pm: Travel back to accommodation
Directions: From Myeongdong Station, travel to Samgakji Station and transfer to Line 6. Travel to Mangwon Station
The original plan for this day was to go biking at Mangwon Hangang Park in the morning. However, we woke up so late and only had enough time to prepare for our 11am check out.
11am: Travel to Seoul Station-Lotte Mart
After checking out from our guesthouse, we then proceeded to Seoul Station and availed Lotte Outlets’ free luggage storage service. Note that they only have 10-12 free luggage lockers that you can use from 10am to 10pm. If all free lockers are full, you may opt to use lockers found inside Seoul Station for a minimal fee.
Now comes our much awaited Lotte Mart shopping. In Lotte Mart, you can find a wide range of Korean goodies from noodles, snacks, korean seasoning, cosmetics and even household ware. I must say that this place is perfect for those who want to buy food pasalubong (souvenirs) for home. Plus, it is in a very strategic location considering it is in Seoul Station, airport express train’s final stop.
After shopping, we went back to Lotte Outlets and stored our groceries inside the lockers. By experience, the lockers can fit one medium-sized box and one medium-sized luggage.
2.30pm: Travel to Hongdae
Directions: Take the Airport Express Line and alight at Honggik University Station. Go out at Exit 9.
3.30pm: Explore Hongdae Area
Hongdae can be considered a youth zone. It has a very vibrant and exciting mood considering the number of young people who are in the area. Universities are also nearby like Honggik University and Ewha Women’s University. Food and clothing can be cheap here since they cater mostly to students.
We also found by accident the famous One Piece Café near Honggik University. If you’re a fan of the anime, this will definitely be heaven for you.
I suggest coming here in the evening to enjoy the many budget-friendly restaurants and street foods around.
5.30pm: Travel to Seoul Station
Directions: Take the Airport Express Line and alight at Seoul Station.
6.30pm: Travel to Airport
Directions: Take the Airport Express Line to Incheon International Airport.
My original goal was to spend just ₱15,000, which I think was attainable. But as you can see, most of my expenses went to my food, but I do not regret spending on it because South Korean cuisine is one of my favourites. You just can’t go to South Korea and not do a food trip! Surprisingly, their food also does not come cheap with street food prices starting at ₩1,000 equivalent to ₱47.
Another factor that made me not reach my goal was the foreign exchange differences. We booked our accommodation last March 2017 but opted to pay for it later (it was on a pay later, free cancellation scheme). When the payment was credited, we were quite shocked that there’s a ₱1,000 difference. That’s a ₱500 difference for me and my friend.
Tips for the trip
- South Korea experiences all 4 seasons. Know what season it will be during your travel and check the weather forecast. Knowing the season will help you plan your travel OOTDs.
- South Korea’s food usually has big servings. Thus, prices also do not come cheap. Consider sharing food with your travel buddies.
- Most establishments close at 10pm including those in Myeongdong. However, some restaurants are open until dawn.
- Familiarise yourself with basic Korean phrases like “Kamsahamnida” (thank you), “Annyeonghasaeyo” (Hello) and “Eolmayeyo” (How much is this?). You will definitely be using these phrases often.
- Bowing is an important part of the South Korean culture. It shows respect to the person you are talking to so don’t forget to do this when greeting somebody.
- Their transportation system is very convenient. You won’t have a hard time going to places as train and buses are both available and cheap. Make sure to familiarise yourself with the rail system and perhaps download their official train app.
- Observe proper behavior towards elders, pregnant women and the PWD. South Koreans pay much respect to them and you’ll most especially notice this in trains. No matter how cramped the train will be, dedicated seats will be left empty until occupied by them.
- You will walk a lot in South Korea so do wear your most comfortable shoes.
I hope you found this post helpful in planning your South Korea trip and I hope you are inspired to take that chance to go to this beautiful country. To be honest, I do wish to be back soon as I felt like I still have more to explore. For now, I will just continue to reminisce all the beauty that is South Korea until my return trip. 🙂
Photos by my travel buddy, Yang. Give her Instagram profile a visit here.