First time in Korea? Part 2.
As mentioned before, Korea has four seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall. It’s now fall and I just love it when the colors of the leaves change to almost every shade of red and gold. Love the color of the sky too! Plus, the temperature has dropped but still not as cold as in winter 🙂
To continue… there are four airlines that serves Manila/Clark/Cebu < --> Seoul/Busan flights. Korea’s carriers, Korean and Asiana, are quite expensive specially during the summer and winter vacations. As they say, it’s best to visit Korea in October or the middle of Spring as tickets are cheaper that time. I usually take Asiana as they have a direct flight from Seoul < --> Clark and the airport in Clark is just a 15 minute drive from where I live in the Philippines. I haven’t flown Philippines Airlines and Cebu Pacific.
At the airport. Incheon International Airport is one of the best airports in the world. After getting off the plane, it takes about three to five minutes to walk to the immigration. There are sections for Koreans and Non-Koreans or Foreigners. When my sister visited, she was asked how long she’ll stay here and where. She answered “less than a week” and “Seoul” (she doesn’t know my address). As a US passport holder, she didn’t need a visa to tour Korea for less than a month. Philippine-passport holders need to get the appropriate visas. The last time I traveled, there was a small group of Filipinos traveling as “tourists”. While waiting for my husband at the arrival area (he forgot that we were arriving at 6AM!), one of them approached me and asked if I could lend him some money to call his brother in Seoul. I lent him my phone card and helped him call, as he was not familiar with the public phone. Then he explained to me that a family of four that he was with were being questioned by the immigration officials. He explained that they’re not actually tourists. After almost an hour, the family was released and explained that they were questioned for traveling as a family.
After passing through the immigration, you go down to the baggage carousel. Carts are free to use, unlike in some airports where you have to pay US$3.00! There are stores and restaurants at the airport.
From Incheon Airport, you can travel to Seoul by bus or subway. The bus fare is 9,000 won (standard limousine). I’m not really sure about the subway fare (heard it’s 3,500 won) but it’s definitely not more than the bus fare. You can also take the taxi, but it’s gonna be a lot more expensive (plus you’ll have to pay the 7,000 won toll fee for a standard sized car).
Escalator, pedxing, sidewalk. Most escalators in Korea have a yellow line in the middle of the steps. If you intend to walk up/down the escalator, use the left side. If you’re just gonna stand, then use the right side. If you stand on the left side, you’ll most likely be called for it or worse, somebody might just push you. Hehehe… Pexing (or pedestrian crossing). It used to be that Koreans walk and cross the street on the left side, shown by the directional arrows on pedestrian crossing and stairs. The government has changed this and you’ll now see the arrows on the right side. In the Philippines, I always walk on the right side but I’ve gotten used to the left side since a few years ago. Now, I have to train myself to walk on the right side again… Walking. Koreans walk on both sides of the sidewalk. Don’t be surprised if you get bumped a couple of times. It’s normal. IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME! What I really hate is when there’s a group of girls/boys/old men/old women hogging the sidewalk that you just can’t pass through them. Motorcycles (o-to-bai in korean) use the sidewalks as well. So keep your ears alert too when walking. You wouldn’t want to be ran over by one.
Bus and subway. What makes it easy to tour Seoul is its bus and subway connections. Basic fare is 1,000 won. A prepaid transportation card or credit card saves you 100 won and you won’t need to pay again when you transfer. Buses are color coded and number coded. They only stop at designated bus stops. The Seoul bus route is available on the internet. There’s also a Seoul cyberstation map. A reminder: always give up your seat to senior citizens, pregnant women and disabled persons. In the subway train, seats are allocated for this group, so better not use them.
Self-service restaurants. I just have to write about this. In the Philippines, after eating in a fast-food joint we usually don’t throw out our leftovers or trash. In Korea, it’s a big no-no. After eating, you’ll have to throw out your own trash. Once my husband and I ate at a self-service pizza joint. Near our table is a group of five Filipino grown-up men (I know they’re Pinoys because they spoke Tagalog). When they were done, they just left their table and didn’t bother to put back their trays and dirty dishes on the designated table.
More later… 🙂