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Travel Guide Budget and Itinerary for Seoul DIY 2020

Seoul is South Korea's capital; it is also its biggest and most cosmopolitan city. It is a bustling metropolis that has an eclectic mix of ancient and modern, and its vision of the future. It was my second time in the city and I wanted to see more of it for this trip.


Guide to Seoul


Seoul was my first and last stop on this second trip to South Korea. I initially didn't have any intentions to return to the country, but my plans changed when my other travel plans didn't push through. I immediately went to Busan after spending a night near the airport. After Busan I went to Gyeongju then Daegu then to my last stop, Seoul.

Places of Interest

Gyeongbokgung Palace




Gyeongbokgung Palace is one of the most popular attractions in the city. This huge palace complex will take you back to ancient Korea. The Joseon era families used it as their main palace. The palace has different halls and sections that provide a glimpse of the city's glorious past. Stick around to see the changing of the guard ceremony.

Admission Fee: Free when you wear a hanbok or the last Wednesday of every month. You can also buy a combination ticket for KRW10000 which covers other attractions.

How to Go: You can alight at either Anguk or Gyeongbokgung metro stations. Follow the signs that will lead you to the palace.

Changgyeonggung Palace



Include Changgyeonggung in your palace hopping activity in the city. This attraction dates back to the 1480s when King Seongjong had it built. It is a fine example of the design used during the Joseon epoch. Don't let its small size fool you, it is just as majestic as the other palaces in Seoul.

Admission Fee: Free if you wear a hanbok or visit on the last Wednesday of every month. Buy a combo ticket for KRW10000 which also includes other attractions.

How to Go: You can alight at either Hyehwa or Anguk metro stations. There are many signs pointing you where to exit and go.

Changdeokgung Palace




Changdeokgung Palace is a UNESCO Listed attraction. Changdeokgung was the second royal villa after the completion of Gyeongbokgung Palace. in the early 1400s. The Joseon era kings used this as their primary palace. It is also the most well-preserved of the 5 Joseon palaces. You can also go on a special tour of the Huwon Secret Garden.

Admission Fee: A KRW10000 combo ticket allows you to enter Changdeokgung along with other attractions. You'll need to join a tour to enter Huwon and it has a separate entrance fee of KRW8000 for adults.

How to Go: Anguk metro station is close by. From there, you can just walk to the palace.

Jongmyo Shrine



This shrine is one UNESCO's world heritage list. It is also where the Joseon kings worshiped. There is a traditional ceremony called Jongmyo Jaerye that has been held here during ancient times. You can only explore this attraction with a guided tour.

Admission Fee: You can get a combo ticket for KRW10000. This ticket covers other attractions such as some of the palaces mentioned above.

How to Go: Alight at Jongno 3-ga and follow the signs on which exit to take.

DMZ



The demilitarized zone is a popular destination because of its proximity to North Korea and its history. This area is the demarcation line that separates North and South Korea. There have been summits and talks held in the DMZ. I joined a tour because it was the most convenient way to go. Tours start at around KRW55000 and includes stops at 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, Bridge of Freedom, Dorasan Station and others.

Link to post: DMZ trip

Suwon Hwaseong






The fortress was one of my stops when I visit Seoul for the first time a few years ago. The UNESCO-listed fort is a historic destination that provides a glimpse of the past. I walked around some parts of the wall. Thankfully, it was a good spring day; the sun was out and the wind was cool.

Admission Fee: KRW1000

How to Go: Get down at Suwon's metro station. Before reaching Suwon, you'll need to change stations along the way. Go to the tourist information center and board any of the following buses 13, 11 or 36.

Link to Post: Guide to Suwon

Bukhansan National Park



Seoul has many nearby mountains, one of the most popular is Bukhansan. The park is huge with many trails. The trail I followed was to its highest peak, Baegundae. The first part of the hike was relatively easy. The last leg up to the peak was difficult because of the steeper inclines. Towards the end, there are handrails and stairs that go up to the flag and marker. The overlooking views were stunning and worth all the effort it took to see.

Admission Fee: Free

How to Go: Get down at Gubapal Station and get out at exit 1. Look for the stop and board bus 34, 704 or 8772. Get down at Bukhansanseong, then just follow the hikers to the main entrance.

Link to Post: Guide to Bukhansan

Namhansanseong Fortress




If you're looking for another UNESCO World Heritage Site near Seoul, then put Namhansanseong on your list. This fort was used as a last line of defense of the Joseon Dynasty emperors. It was big enough to become the capital in times of emergencies.

Admission Fee: KRW2000 for the palace, but the hiking trails are free

How to Go: Alight at Sanseong Station ask the station personnel which exit to take. Once outside, board bus 9-1.

Link to Post: Guide to Namhansanseong

Bukchon Traditional Village



Bukchon has many traditional houses that provide you a glimpse of the past. There are many visitors who go here to wear traditional clothes and pose in front of the houses. Keep quiet and be respectful because people still actually live in there.

Admission Fee: Free

How to Go: Alight at Anguk Station and just follow the signs.


Jogyesa Temple




This beautiful temple was established by Korea's Jogye Order. The structures are colorful in typical Korean Buddhist architecture fashion. There are regular ceremonies and lectures held here.

Admission Fee: Free

How to Go: Get down at Anguk Station and follow the signs, the temple is very near.

Insadong




This area is a popular place to see and experience Korean culture. There are many restaurants, stalls, shops and even exhibits throughout the day. Buy souvenirs, art and other items you might want to take home here.

Admission Fee: Free

How to Go: Get down at Anguk Station and follow the directions.

Starfield Library



This beautiful library has become popular not just with locals but with tourists as well. Most of the reading materials here are in Korean, so if you want to read anything, bring your own book.

Admission Fee: Free

How to Go: The nearest station is Gangnam. Follow the signs to COEX Mall and look for the library.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza



This Zaha Hadid designed complex is (simply put) beautiful. The futuristic looking structure is eye candy. Even if you're not into architecture, you'll still find this fetching.

Admission Fee: Free

How to Go: Nearest metro station is Dongdaemun.

Gangnam



Gangnam is a posh shopping, entertainment and dining district in Seoul. Psy made a song out of it and became a worldwide hit.

How to Go: Nearest metro station is Gangnam.

Dongdaemun



Dongdaemun is another district to shop until you drop. There are also many nearby food stalls and restaurants.

How to Go: Alight at Dongdaemun metro station.

Sinchon



This huge entertainment, shopping and dining district is a great place to hang out, eat, drink and be merry. There's plenty of establishments here from bars to karaoke and others.

How to Go: Nearest stop is Sinchon metro station.

Hongdae




Hongdae is another place to eat, drink, bar hop, shop and others. There are also many performers, singing, dancing or doing whatever. There are art installations from local artists and quaint cafes.

How to Go: Alight at Hongik University station and just follow the signs.

Namdaemun Market

If you want to shop, head on over to Namdaemun. There are several stalls and shops lining the street. Namdaemun is one of the most famous markets in Seoul.

How to Go: Hoehyeon is the stop you want to get to, from there follow the signs.

N Seoul Tower

This tower rises over the city and has its own observation area. This is a popular place to visit for those who want to get bird's eye views of Seoul. Blue hour to evening are the ideal times to go up.

Admission Fee: Entrance costs KRW11000 and KRW9500 to take the cable car up and back down.

How to Go: Alight at Myeongdong metro station and walk to the cable car station.

Gwangjang Market

This market is a popular destination for foodies. You'll find plenty of local treats and cuisine while exploring this market. You'll enjoy pigging out on delicious Korean food and snacks. Some notable eats include: soondae, mayak gimbap, tteokbokki, bindaetteok and others.

How to Go: Nearest metro stop is Jongno 5-ga.

Day Tours from Seoul


There are many day tour options for those who want to see more of the big city, here are suggested tours:
  • Lotte World Day Pass - Lotte World is a famous theme park where kids and adults alike can enjoy various rides and attractions. Some of the rides you can try include The Conquistador, VR Space, World Monorail, Comet Express, Gyro Spring and others. 
  • Nami Island, Garden of the Morning Calm, Petite France Day Trip - These three destinations are very popular with both local and foreign tourists. These deserve the attention because of the views you'll see and the experiences you'll have. Enjoy walking the scenic trails (especially in autumn) and take leisurely strolls. The tour has different package options for those who want to see just two or all of the inclusions.
  • DMZ Day Trip - This tour to the country's demilitarized zone will provide you information and details about the split of Korea between North and South. Get to see the Dora Observatory and the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel. This package has options to choose from.
  • Everland Ticket and Shuttle - Everland is another theme park you can add to your itinerary during your trip to Seoul. The park has many rides and attractions you can enjoy with friends or with family. This package comes with round trip shuttle bus.
  • Nanta Show Seoul - This is the country's longest running show. It combines old and new performances, and blends acrobatics, cooking, music and martial arts. You can choose from different theaters around the city. 

Getting Around Seoul


Seoul is a developed city that is easy to explore and navigate. I took the subway 99% of the time since many attractions are within walking distance of the metro stations. The buses are also convenient to use and I did take them to some places. I used a Cash Bee Card and topped it up every time it ran out of load. You can also use a T Money Card or other day passes.

  • Get a Seoul 5 Day Pass to see some of the city's main attractions such as Hangang River, N Seoul Tower Observatorym and Coex Aquarium just to name a few. The pass also allows you to board the Dongdaemun City Tour Bus. 
  • Get a Discover Seoul Pass to visit the city's many attractions. You can get the pass for 24, 48 or 72 hours. The pass gets you a discount for 35 attractions. This pass serves as a top up card for transportation and as an entrance ticket. Places you can visit include the Trickeye & Ice Museum, Museum Kimchikan, Leeum Samsung Museum of Art and others. 

Metro App I Used

I used this offline app while exploring Seoul. It was convenient and easy to use, especially in places when I had no internet connection.






It displays the different stations and lines of Seoul metro. It also shows the fare, distance and estimated time. It also helped me figure out which stations I had to transit and change into.


How to Go to Seoul



There are many and regular flights from Cebu, Clark and Manila to Seoul. Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia are popular choices for this route. Book your tickets weeks or months before your flight to get the lowest possible price.


Getting in and out of Incheon Airport



It is convenient to get in and out of Incheon Airport, you have options. If you're not in a hurry or arrive when it is still available, you can take the all-stop train which costs from KRW4150-4750 depending on whether you get down or leave from Terminal 1 or 2.

The fastest option is to take the AREX (Airport Express). Fare for this option is KRW9000 (adults, children pay less). You can alight at Hongik University or Seoul Station. You can also take the bus; fare varies from KRW9000-16000. Look for the ticket booths for the buses at Terminal 1's Arrival Hall or Terminal 2's Transportation Center.

Get a Visa


Many nationalities need a visa to enter South Korea, Filipinos are one of them. Visa processing used to take just up to 7 business days, now it can take longer than a month. Send in your application at least, more than 1 month before your trip.

Read more about the process here: South Korea tourist visa application

Where to Stay in Seoul


During my recent visit in Seoul, I stayed at Chocolate Tree Guesthouse in Sinchon. I stayed somewhere in Hongdae during my first visit. I usually stay in hostels, but Seoul has plenty of accommodations from budget to high-end. Prices change depending on when you book. The price for a room or bed during the weekend is more expensive. Online prices also vary, it's better to book or at least reserve before your trip.




Where to Go Next



Seoul is a transportation hub where many trains and buses come and go. If your trip is more than a few days, you might want to include these places in your itinerary.

Busan



This beautiful coastal city is laid back and easy to explore. I stayed for a few days and go to see most of the attractions. You can reach Busan by train or bus from Seoul.

Link to post: Guide to Busan

Gyeongju



Gyeongju was the Silla Kingdom's ancient capital. There are a handful of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in this city and also many relics of Korea's past. I stayed a few days here to soak in the culture and history. You can also reach Gyeongju by either bus or train.

Link to post: Guide to Gyeongju

Daegu



I was pleasantly surprised with Daegu. It was a chill and livable city with some places of interest. I went around the shopping, dining and entertainment districts. I hung out at Seomun Market to eat street food and listen to local musicians play.

Link to Post: Guide to Daegu

Budget for Seoul (sample only)


The amount you spend will depend on your habits, if you shop, where you stay and eat, and what places you want to include in your itinerary.

Here's a sample 5 days and 4 nights budget guide for your upcoming trip. Everything's in Korean Won.

80000 - Dorm bed for 4 nights
80000 - Food and drinks
4750 - All stop train to Seoul from Incheon Airport
4750 - All stop train to Incheon Airport from Seoul
30000 - Transportation with T-Money or Cash Bee card
10000 - Combo ticket for Jongmyo Shrine and the palaces
55000 - Nami Island and Garden of the Morning Calm Tour
11000 - N Seoul Tower entrance
9500 - Cable car ticket for Namsan                                        

285000 - Total for 5 days and 4 nights

*Here's is a link to my old post during my first trip for comparison: Seoul trip

*This is roughly P12200 or around P2400 a day. You can reduce this amount by choosing which places to include in your itinerary.



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