Our take on Seoul:
We have put together our costs breakdown and itinerary for our trip to Seoul in case you might find it useful for planning. There are many accommodation options and things to do here so we recommend a visit to the handy Seoul Visitor’s Guide along with some input from TripAdvisor, which the visitor guide conveniently provides on its site.
- Length of Time: Short Term Trip, 4.5 days from 3 May – 7 May
- Total Expenses for 2 in $US excluding airfare as of May, 2014: $532.45
- Accommodation for 4 nights at AirBnb (Jen’s Place): $242.16
- Entertainment Costs for 2: $33.61
- TrickEye and Ice Museum: $28.01
- Palace Entry: $5.60
- Food and Drinks for 2: $205.32
- Most Expensive: $29.14 – dinner at traditional restaurant
- Least Expensive: $13.07 – breakfast at café
- Transportation for 2: $51.36
- Train from airport to apartment: $14.01
- 2 Visit Korea cards for 2 days on Seoul Train System: $37.35 / 36,000 KRW
- Day 1 – arrival
- Day 2
- Day 3
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
- TrickEye and Ice Museum
- Jamsil Area
- Lotte World Adventure
- Lotte Department Store
- Seokchon Lake Park
- Day 4
- Heunginjimun (Gate)
- Seoul City Wall
- Bukchon Hanok Village
- Myeong-dong Shopping District
- Dongdaemun Design Plaza
- Good place for info: Visit Seoul – helpful guides, basic info like etiquette, national holidays, maps, and things to do/see
- IOS Apps Used: TripAdvisor City Guides – Seoul, MapMyWalk, Maps.Me Offline Maps, Google Offline Maps, WorldMate, TripRider, GuideWithMe Offline Travel Guides – Seoul, Google Translate, Electronic versions of Seoul guidebooks and maps: Official Seoul City Guides
- Internet Country Rating: Very fast. Our experience was that the Internet, at least where we stayed at our AirBnb accommodation was lightning quick.
First Impressions Rating: 8 out of 10 – Friendly and Clean:
After we got off the train, we exited the station and looked very touristy and confused, standing with our luggage and trying to get an idea of which way to turn. You have seen us where you live, standing out, vulnerable and probably a little anxious. A young guy was one of many friendly people we met who tried to help us, all without a hidden agenda. We got the impression people wanted to practise their English, and were eager to help out of common courtesy rather than gaining anything from helping us. Not to say that there are no pickpockets, or whatever in Seoul but it was a nice feeling to meet some genuinely helpful people on our first night. Over the next few days people randomly talked to us and asked questions about where we were from, if we liked South Korea so far, and usually ended with “Enjoy your stay!” Our impression from our trip to Seoul, albeit a very short trip, was that the people are friendly, the city looks clean and well kept, and we would like to come back for more.
Transportation Rating: 9 out of 10
We arrived in Seoul and easily found our way to the Line 5 – Purple subway from the airport to Jongno-gu where we were staying. The ride took more than an hour from the airport but the subways are great here. With cute noises and “thank you’s” at every door that made the ride sound a little like we were riding inside a 1990’s Nintendo, conjuring up images of brightly colored video game characters in my head. Yep, I was really tired and probably hallucinating a little bit. But still, the ride felt safe, the signs in the train were well posted in Korean and English and there were announcements and video screens that showed the stop and which side to exit.This may sound like a very boring comment on South Korea but I have the feeling that we will wish more cities had this great signage and transportation efficiency as we continue our travels.
You can get a good idea of the current costs for tickets as well as the simple map that will direct you to most areas of the city here: Map of Seoul Train System
The trains run from 5 a.m. to midnight every day and the costs are reasonable. For MPass, you will need to purchase a refundable card that also refunds any remaining credit for 4,500 KRW. You can choose from a single trip T-Pass, MPass, or a Tourist Pass for trains and buses. The options are listed here: Visit Korea
Our Accommodation Rating: 7 out of 10
We used AirBnb for the first time in Seoul. We were very relieved to find that the AirBnb apartment’s complex was on a quiet street near the train, restaurants, well-known hotels, and some small grocers and cafés. The accommodation was on the small, if not tiny, side but it was clean and well-stocked with everything we needed. The apartment was nicely secured with a passcode lock on the door and the room included a micro kitchen, kettle, microwave and utensils so that we could buy some staples for coffee, brekkie and some other snacks for the fridge. So far so good. The bed was very firm, almost like a rock but we have now learned that this is standard practice in quite a few countries. You may want to go to an upscale hotel if you are looking for a comfy pillow top bed. By the way, when I mention the apartment was small and tiny I should say it was efficient. Very very cozy but certainly the location and price were right for us.
Trip to Seoul Highlights (Our favorites)
As you travel with us on our blog, you will probably find that we walk almost everywhere we can. We like the exercise, it makes us feel like we know the place a little better because of the sights, sounds and smells on the street, and it’s generally better on the budget.
We covered a lot of ground in Seoul in a few days and recommend good walking shoes if you plan on doing the same. That being said, we thought Seoul was very pedestrian friendly and easy to get around. The sights and attractions in Seoul can be organized by neighborhood. We spent some time looking through the Visit Seoul Official Tourist Guide book we picked up at the airport and online. The TripAdvisor App was also pretty helpful as an offline guide and pointed us towards the subway stations and points of interest.
Hours: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. (3 times per day, 10 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m.) – closed on Tuesdays
Guard Exiting Ceremony Only: 11 a.m, 2 p.m., 4 p.m
At the top of our highlights, we have the Gyeongbokgung Palace where we watched the changing of the guard. We recommend going there early and getting a spot as tour busses will show up and suddenly you will find yourself in a sea of people outside the entrance. The procession of guardsmen walking through the courtyard was very colorful and we highly recommend it.
This is a beautiful little area that has some great views and architecture that takes you a step back in time to the Joseon Dynasty. Make sure to visit the Gahoedong-gil (Alley) for the best views of the village and Changdeokgung. Although it is a well known tourist destination (read very busy) the policy is to be quiet and respectful while visiting the village as it is still a residential area where people still live today. We saw a few abuses of the noise pollution policy but found that most tourists make the attempt to be courteous here, making it a nice place to walk even on busy footpaths. There are some very nice places to eat and shop as well as a few museums to check out. To save on our daily budget we opted to walk in the area for free and to eat in a less touristy destination.
Summary of Seoul
Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our brief trip to Seoul with its mixture of modern and traditional, fascinating buildings and customs, amazing food, friendly and polite people, cleanliness and a great public transportation system.