When I was still in school, I used to follow a few Koreanovelas. My expectations were basically set by these hit K-dramas; so going to South Korea was like reliving a scene from the silverscreen. Everywhere I looked seemed familiar. I can almost identify the frequented tourist spots as I’ve probably seen them at least once in one of the shows. What I particularly loved about the experience was the comparable feeling of being part of the actual casting! Say for example when I went to Gyeongbokgung Palace. I was astounded to witness the marching of the temple guards. Though I did not follow the show (I only see it when I switch channels during commercial breaks), the scene reminded me of Jewel in the Palace. It was imposing that all I ever did was stare in awe and I even forgot to take snaps. LOL!
South Korea was not really something I dreamt of going to, then. I thought it was like Japan which is kind of a long shot for Filipinos to go to unlike the popular choices like Hongkong or Singapore. Speaking of Singapore, we met a lovely couple while we were on our way to the Night Safari back then. They happened to be Koreans. They seemed a bit unsure of the directions so we offered a hand and incidentally, they were doing the Night Safari, too. We decided to do the tour altogether and that was the birth of a friendship which remains until now.
Yong and Mi-Hwa randomly told us to visit them in South Korea and we uncertainly answered, yes! A year later, we found ourselves in the concrete jungles of Seoul. We re-connected with the couple and they were the best hosts and they made our experience totally one for the books. This July, I am set to go back to South Korea again with CEBU PACIFIC AIR. This is one place I will never get tired of going back to.
For now, here’s guide that can help you plan for that trip to South Korea on a BUDGET.
I will try to make a separate and comprehensive post about this soon but this is a quick rundown on the things you’ll need.
- Properly accomplished application form
- Valid Passport
- Photocopy of the passport Bio page (Page 2)
- 1 passport size colored photo
- Proof of income
Financial stability is one of the variables that could affect your visa application. Here are the requirements you need to accomplish when you apply for SK Visa.
- Certificate of Employment (Must be original; and must have the address of the employer, the landline number and email address of employer’s HR department, applicant’s position, date hired, and compensation)
Original Personal Bank Certificate (must include account type, current balance, account opening date, ADB)
Original or certified true copy of bank statements/passbook for the last 3 months)
Photocopy of ITR (Income Tax Return) or Form 2316
- Photocopy of Business registration form from DTI or SEC
Photocopy of Business permit or Mayor’s permit
Photocopy of ITR
Original Personal Bank Certificate
- Husband’s Original Bank Certificate
Husband’s Original Certificate of Employment
Photocopy of husband’s ITR
Photocopy of NSO Marriage Certificate
- Parents’ Original Bank Certificate
Parents’ Original Certificate of Employment or Photocopy of parents’ SEC/DTI Permit and Mayor’s Permit (whichever is applicable).
Photocopy of ITR of parents
Photocopy of NSO Birth Certificate of applicant
Photocopy of School ID
Original School Certificate
If you have visas previously issued by any member country of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), include this in the submission of your visa requirements. You need to submit the original and photocopy of all of your visas. Although this does not guarantee an approval, I believe this has advantage and will speed up the process.
SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION TO THE KOREAN EMBASSY
I don’t think a personal appearance is required. It was my bestfriend who traveled with me to SoKor who submitted my application. If you could, just go to the embassy, get a number and wait to be called. Alternatively, you may course through your application to a travel agency. There’s a corresponding processing fee, of course.
The Korean Embassy is located at 122 Upper McKinley Road, McKinley Town Center, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. The schedule of application is on Monday-Friday at 08:30am-11am only. However, when there are too many applicants, the embassy might stop accepting submissions earlier than stated.
BOOK YOUR PLANE TICKETS AHEAD
Our local airlines can offer a one-way ticket to Seoul for only ₱800 if you are lucky enough to snag a promo fare from CEBU PACIFIC AIR just like me! It may seem crazy, but I’d usually book my flights even a year ahead of my travel dates. I allocate the money I saved from my plane tickets to either shopping or FOOD!
SEARCH FOR HOSTELS OR BACKPACKER INNS
Jongno, Hongdae and Myeongdong are three of the backpacking districts in Seoul. The common choice for Filipino travelers to stay in is the NAMSAN GUESTHOUSE. There are hot deals in Agoda popping out from time to time and price is usually cheap if you book way ahead of your travel date.
DOWNLOAD NAVIGATIONS APPS and MAPS
Living in the province, I am not exposed to public modes of transportation. Getting on a train is unfamiliar to me. However, even with the most overwhelming system in the world, Seoul subway system is actually easy to navigate. Download the SUBWAY KOREA app on your mobiles to find ease as you roam around the city. Maps will also be a lot of help! These will be your lifelines as you travel in South Korea.
If you are a budget traveler, your best option would be backpacker hostels with dorm-type rooms. You can book a room for a little less than ₱400/night only! However, if you want more privacy, you may consider D7 Suites in Dongdaemun or Namsan City Hotel in Myeongdong. Both hotels have rooms from ₱2,000/night and up. Check the rates via the AGODA plug-in on this site as there are HUGE DISCOUNTS offered from time to time.
MUST-VISITs IN SOUTH KOREA
I’ll just put in a very brief description of each place to preserve the element of surprise for you.
This is a personal favorite and the most regal of all the palaces in SK.
Entrance Fee: KRW 3,000
Station: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Line 3, Exit 5
This is Korea’s grandest outdoor amusement park and is home to the world’s wildest roller coaster with the highest drop!
Entrance Fee: KRW 54,000
Budget tip: KLOOK Everland Pass is on discount at only KRW 35,000! Book through the link now!
Station: Yongin Everline, Exit 3
While Everland targets teens and adults, Lotte World is more child-friendly. It’s like a blown up carnival but can still manage to bring out the child in you.
Entrance Fee: KRW 52,000
Budget tip: KLOOK Lotte World Pass is on discount at only KRW 33,000! Book through the link now!
Station: Jamsil, Line 2, Exit 4
If you’re a K-drama fan, this is one place you SHOULD NOT DARE MISS! The best times to visit this place are during fall when the foliage starts to turn red and gold and on Spring where everything turns into a magical work of nature. Winter would be awesome too as this island turns into a frozen wonderland.
Entrance Fee: KRW 8,000
How to go to Nami Island?
There are shuttle buses open for reservations (email@example.com) going to Nami Island. Just go to Insadong near Tapgol Park and it usually leaves at 9am. Bus fare is at ₩15,000 roundtrip.
Alternatively, you can take a train going to Nami Island too. From Myeongdong Station, go to Sangbong Station (Line 7). Once arrived, walk towards the ITX train station (10-minute walk). Buy your tickets in ITX to Gapyeong station. After arriving at Gapyeong Station, take the Gapyeong Tour Bus (₩6,000 RT) and head on to the wharf where you can purchase your tickets to Nami Island. The Gapyeong Tour bus will drop you off to Petite France if you plan to go there too.
You may also want to check KLOOK Nami Island Pass deals now for convenience and hot offers!
N Seoul Tower
If you want a 360-degree view of the city, this is where you should be! How about a picturesque dinner right at the tower? Yes, they have a restaurant in there, too. N Seoul Tower is also one of the most popular landmarks in Seoul.
Entrance Fee: KRW 10,000
Budget tip: KLOOK N Seoul Tower Pass pass is on sale at KRW 7,000 only! BOOK NOW!
- SPECIAL PROMOTION: Book this activity from June to August 2017 and get a 5,000 KRW shopping coupon from Namdaemun Market for free!
How to go to N Seoul Tower via cable cars?
Reserve some energy if you plan to go to the tower towards sunset. Chances are you’re already drained from all the walking you did early that day. From Myeondong Station Line 4, walk straight and use the road to the right of Pacific Hotel. This is a 10-minute walk depending on your pace. I remember how tired I was during this leg but the cable ride made up for it.
Shopping has become a way of life for most Koreans. Here are the top areas to shop til you drop:
The largest and perhaps the shopping capital of Seoul is Myeongdong. I enjoyed the upbeat vibe while shopping here feels like you’re in New York! (as if I’ve been to NYC! LOL!) For lady travelers, this is your shopping paradise. Cosmetic and beauty products are widely available here from all corners of the streets.
Opens at: 10am to 10pm, Daily
Nearest station: Myeongdong Station, Exits 5, 6, 7, or 8
* Namdaemun Market
If you are into cheap or market-style shopping, you’ll love it here. The street-style shopping in Namdaemun is ideal for your “pasalubongs” from magnets to wallets.
Opens at: 11pm to 5pm, Monday to Saturday
Nearest station: Hoehyeon Station, Exit 5
This is where huge shopping malls are located. Think about the MBK in Bangkok, Thailand, this is Korea’s answer to that. The top centers here are HELLO APM, Doota Tower and Good Morning City. Prepare to splurge here because you’ll be welcomed by a long list of wholesalers and retailers in Dongdaemun!
Opens at: 10am to 5am on Tuesday to Saturday and 10:30am to 11pm on Sunday.
Nearest station: Dongdaemun Stadium Station, exit 8 or 9
Another shopping street with great finds is Insadong. I noticed that there were a lot of authentic and traditional Korean stuff being sold here.
Opens at: 10am to 8pm, Daily
Nearest station: Anguk Station, Exit 6 or Jonggak Station, Exit 3
* Subway Shopping
Yes, this is a common scene in Seoul. Subways are almost synonymous to shopping centers. It’s crazy to think how shopaholics Koreans must be for them to have all of these unlimited shopping options! I love, Korea!
SAMPLE ITINERARY WITH EXPENSES
Here’s a 5D/4N BUDGET travel guide given the circumstances that you are staying in a dorm-type room and will allocate a 300php/meal budget daily. Most hostels in Seoul offer free light breakfast and if you’re not a “breakfast” person, then you’re good!
- Day 0: FLIGHT and CHECK-IN
* Airfare: If you’re a fan of promo fares, you can even snag an ₱800/one way ticket to Seoul via Cebu Pacific! I did. 🙂 However, I will not include it in the budget expectations since we are likely to have varied rates here.
*Travel Tax: ₩38,200
*Train from Incheon to Seoul: ₩4,250 (AREX ALL STOP TRAIN)
*T-Money: ₩15,000 (Already loaded for 4 days)
*Room: ₩45,400 (Dorm-type room for 4 nights)
TOTAL : ₩165,850
- Day 1: TEMPLES, BUKCHON VILLAGE, NSEOUL TOWER
*Changdeokgung Palace: ₩3,000 (Anguk Station, Line 3, Exit 3)
*Gyeongbokgung Palace: ₩3,000 (Line 3, Exit 5)
*Bukchon Hanok Village: FREE (Anguk Station, Line 3, Exit 2)
*NSeoul Tower: ₩8,500 (Myeongdong Station, Line 4, Exit 3)
*Shopping at Myeongdong
TOTAL : ₩29,500
· Day 2: NAMI ISLAND and PETITE FRANCE
*Nami Island: ₩24,000 (Inclusive of all transportation and entrance fees.)
*Petite France: ₩8,000 (This is OPTIONAL but if you have extra money, this place is lovely and very Instagram-worthy! This is also one of the top KDrama locations and will make you feel like you’re in Europe!)
KLOOK also offers Nami Island and Petite France plus Rail Bike guided tours. Book through the link now!
*Back to Namdaemun: (Subway to Namdaemun Station)
*Visit Cat Café: Seoul is known for its peculiar-themed cafes. (Myeongdong Station, Exit 6. Go to the major fashion alley where Uniqlo is and fing your way to the dancing mascot. A little help from locals won’t hurt. )
*Stroll at Myeongdong
TOTAL : ₩47,000
· Day 3: EXPLORE HONGDAE and SINCHON
*This day will be basically free of entrance fees as you’ll be doing city explorations only. When it comes to cheap shopping, the locality around major universities is a great place to visit. The market is geared towards students so expect to find awesome deals here! If you’re fond of people-watching, these areas will let you observe Korean behavior. It was fun! K-pop fans will love this place and would definitely go fan-girling or fan-boying here!
It is also fun to note that Korean stores would usually give out freebies to lure you into their shops! When my sisters got the hang of it, they would buy one or two items from each store and then hop on to the next store. In the end, they were able to gather a lot of freebies good enough to take home as pasalubongs! That’s a gotMARKed tip right there, guys! HAHAHA!
TOTAL : ₩15,000
· Day 4: EVERLAND
*Everland: ₩35,000 via KLOOK Everland Pass
*Gangnam: You may opt to explore this part and unleash your inner PSY in there. OPPA GANGNAM STYLE! lol
TOTAL : ₩50,000
· Day 5: DEPARTURE
*You may opt to visit any neighborhood in Seoul like Myeondongbe, Insadong and Itaewon before leaving. Flights from Incheon to Manila with Cebu Pacific Air usually leaves in the evening.
*Train from Seoul to Incheon: ₩5,000
TOTAL : ₩12,500
GRAND TOTAL : ₩256,850 or ₱11,379
See! ₱11,000 is doable if you really are on a budget but that doesn’t make your travel to Seoul, South Korea any less. You may also adjust the daily activities and tours on this guide according to your preferences to cut on expenses.
Traveling from Incheon Airport to Seoul
The most operative way is to take the AREX (Airport Railroad). You have the option to either take an Express Train or an All Stop Train. The All Stop Train is cheaper and it is only a few minutes slower to get into Seoul compared to the Express Train.
You may also check KLOOK AREX rates for promos.
Purchase a T-Money card when in travelling to Seoul. This will give you access to Seoul’s buses and metro system. This will save you a small amount of cash per ride but collectively, you’ll be able to save enough especially if you’re staying for a good number of days. These cards are available at top convenience stores in Seoul.
Eating in Seoul could be cheap if you know where to go. Just like my suggestions when I blog about Philippine destinations, go look for eateries that are bent towards locals. This is where you can find food at $3 or so.
Finding cheap food shouldn’t be a concern for budget travelers. Just make use of convenience stores, too. Here you can find a wide array of food from curry, rice bowls and other Korean eatables. But please if you have the budget, spend on food! They’re sure to be a bit expensive but Korean cuisine is definitely one of the best in the world, in my opinion! This is one aspect of traveling we just can’t sacrifice. Haha!
Go on a café exploration.
I don’t even know if there’s such a thing, but let me tell you that Korea has the most decorative café’s in the world. I suppose. From cat, sheep, dog, Hello Kitty, flower cafes, name it. They have it! Also try their sundaes and coolers. They’re nothing but the sweeeeeeetest thing in the world!!!
Unlike Japan, subways in Seoul are throbbing if you wear uncomfortable shoes. It will require a lot of walking from transfers to exits so better wear proper footwear.
K-POP and K-DRAMA Madness!
If you are a fan of either of the two, then prepare yourself to be enthralled with the beauty of South Korea. Just like Japan, SoKor just pulled through my heartstrings. <3 We will be coming back to Seoul next month to visit the shooting locations of GOBLIN and strike a pose there!!! I can’t wait to share it with you, soon! Haha!
Rent a pocket wifi
There are pocket wifi’s available for rent at the airport for KRW 8,470. I find this cheap for it can connect up to over 5 phones and let’s not even talk about how fast the connection in Seoul is! They’re incomparable.
Bring universal adapters
Most hotels/hostels usually have these adapters for rent as well but it would be better if you can secure one for yourself prior to departure.
That’s about it! Allow me to thank CEBU PACIFIC AIR and KLOOK for really making this Korean Dream travel possible to many budget travelers out there. I have saved huge money enough for pasalubongs! Be on the look out for their promos, byaheros! 🙂
Seoul, South Korea just #gotMARKed!
Follow more of my crazy adventures on INSTAGRAM.
But wait, there’s more! The awesome team of Ms. Tin Tin from Simply Special Weddings and Events is giving away an all-expense paid “K-Drama inspired” pre-nuptial shoot plus 120,000-pesos worth of wedding essentials for FREE! Link HERE.
Gamsahamnida for reading this blog, guys! I hope you share this with your friends, too. God bless, everyone!