How has it been traveling to South Korea recently? With the endless and ever changing regulations that Covid 19 continues to dictate in terms of travel, planning for trips has become more dizzying than ever.
We’d like to help you plan your trip starting with pre-departure requirements. These were the steps we had to do to enter the country for our entry to South Korea last July 26,2022.
In a nutshell, these were the things we had to submit before our flight:
1 – K-ETA
The K-ETA stands for the Korea Electronic Travel Authorization. Even if you do not need or have already obtained a visa to Korea, you still need this. You can apply here. The K-ETA is much more straightforward than the other steps, so this section is very short in comparison to the Q-CODE or Pre-Departure Covid-19 Test.
TIP: If you’re confused, the K-ETA website offers a detailed guide on how to apply:
What is a QR code? A QR code is a matrix barcode which allows you to access many types of information with your camera – in this case, the information is your vaccination records and certificates.
- Negative COVID-19 PCR Test Result Certificate or Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) Result
- Health Questionnaire & Travel Record Declaration
- Passport information
Many countries use QR codes for this purpose. Korea’s version is the Q-CODE.
The Q-CODE is mandatory to have, even if you have obtained other Covid-19 QR codes. You can apply for it here. Fill up everything you can 5 days before departure, do your pre-departure Covid-19 Test as soon as possible (48 hours before the flight), then submit the form and cross your fingers!
TIP: Q-CODE provides a convenient step list as shown below:
3 – Pre-Departure Covid-Test
Unfortunately, this cannot be any Covid-19 test pack. It has to be one that is approved by the Korean government. We used BINAX NOW by ABBOT. In addition, it has to be a supervised test, meaning that a healthcare professional or proctor has to guide you in real time via a recorded video call. This way, they will see your results in real time. We used emed.com for this.
To know the exact time you can take the test, you can use this calculator. It will show up like this and you manually enter the dates of your flight in the blank space.
✅ They check your temperature as you walk through immigration. There were also different lanes for those who already had a Q-CODE and for those who didn’t.
✅ Take a negative Covid-19 PCR test within one day of arrival either at the airport or at an accredited health clinic near your accommodation. Check out this website for approved testing centers near you.
✅ If you are arriving, however, during the period of August 10, 2022 to September 9, 2022, via Incheon, Gimhae, or Jeju international airports, you have to take the PCR test at the airport testing facility upon arrival.
TIP: Make sure you check ALL the details at this link.
When is the best time to go to Seoul?
Now that you’ve figured out how to enter the country, the next question is when do you want to go? The simplest answer: it’s when you can afford to go. With airfare & hotel costs that vary from season to season, the mystery of when you can take days off from work and the complexities of Covid-19, this question is very complicated to answer. Ultimately, anytime you can actually go is a good time to go. However, there are a few other things to consider.
We’ve been to Seoul twice and there was a huge difference between our stays in Summer and in Autumn. July and August (summer) offer you hot, muggy, and rainy weather, while April to Early June and September to November (spring and autumn) months give gorgeous weather.
For more up to date & accurate weather in Seoul, check this:
As for how much it costs to go to Seoul and when it’s the least expensive time to go there, this site seems to delve on that extensively (I can’t vouch for the accuracy, however).
Where is the best neighborhood to stay in Seoul?
The simplest answer: it depends what you want to do and what you can afford. Sometimes, they don’t really match, but we’ll tell you what neighborhood we picked to stay in and why in here. For the ultimate guide to Seoul’s neighborhoods, check this article out.
How many days is enough in Seoul?
If you just want to see the highlights of Seoul, it can be done in 3 very busy days. However, if you want to see more leisurely and do some day trips like seeing the DMZ, Nami island, Busan or Jeju, 5-7 days is ideal.
What are the things to see and do in Seoul?
For 3 days, these are the places you can visit independently.
3 - 7 Days Itinerary
Day 1(Today is a full day of walking to all of the tourist spots).
📝 Gwanghwamun Plaza is home to the statues of Admiral Yi Sun-sin of Joseon Dynasty and King Sejong the Great of Joseon.
The plaza also has a fountain named 12.23, honoring the 23 battles the Admiral fought with 12 battleships defeating Japan invasions during the years 1592-1598. In 2009, a statue of King Sejong the Great was unveiled in the plaza to celebrate the 563rd year of the creation of the Hangeul alphabet.
📝 If you can only visit one palace, this should be the one. Being the northernmost of the palaces and the largest, it is also the most beautiful. This was used as the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty built in 1395.
✅ Time your visit to witness the changing of the guards at 10am and 2pm daily except Tuesdays, when the palace is closed. Tip: Wearing a Hanbok, a traditional Korean dress, grants free admission. Tickets must be purchased online prior to visit but foreigners can buy tickets in person as long as they are within the 100 visitors limit per day.
National Folk Museum
📍37 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu
📝 National Folk Museum is an open air museum showing how ordinary Koreans lived back in the days.
✅ Admission is free of charge. This museum shares similar grounds with Gyeongbokgung. Make sure you visit the palace first as you can’t go back once you are done.
Bukchon Traditional Village
📝 Bukchon Traditional Village is regarded as a living museum with 860 hanoks, located right in between Gyeongbokgung and Changdeok palace. The nobles, high-ranking officials and Confucian literati elites of the dynasty lived here for its proximity to both palaces. As people still live here nowadays, signs are posted everywhere to remind visitors to be quiet to respect the residents.
✅ Visit during sunset or sunrise hours & wander the streets in a Hanbok. There are a few hanbok rentals and fun craft workshops around. It’s the perfect photo opportunity! Find out more details by visiting the Traditional Crafts Experience Centre.
North Seoul Tower
📝 Also known as the Namsan tower or Seoul tower, this is one of the iconic symbols of Seoul. Access here can be done by taking the shuttle bus, cable car or hiking. The tower offers panoramic views of the city.
✅ You can hike going up and take the cable car going down. For various scenic trails hiking up the tower, check this.
National Museum of Korea
📝 The National Museum of Korea is a world class museum, being the flagship for all Korean museums showcasing Korean history and art. The building is massive and you can easily spend 2 – 3 hours here. Guided tours are also available in English, subject to availability.
✅ There is also a Children’s Museum in the same grounds. Access is free to both. Two of the many things that fascinated us in the National Museum of Korea are the Immersive Digital Gallery and QI, an amusing AI robot that provides you information services.
The Immersive Digital Gallery is an impressive showcase of Korea’s history. One can easily spend 30 minutes here entranced watching the exhibit.
🚂 To reach the National Museum of Korea from N Seoul tower, we took the fastest option: Uber. Download the app and you can go around Seoul in the most convenient way. If you want the cheapest option, take the cable car down, walk to Myeongdong Station, and take the blue 4 train to Ichon Station.
For more information on Seoul’s subway lines, go to here where you can also download the map.
Check their performance here.
🌎 Website: http://www.kwangjangmarket.co.kr/en/
📝 If you’ve seen Netflix’s Street Food series, you will see a familiar place – Gwangjang market, pronounced and sometimes spelled with a ‘K’ as in Kwangjang. It is the country’s first market and the largest traditional market still in use. If you want to try Korean street food, this is the place to go.
🚂 To go from National Museum of Korea to Gwangjang Market, take the
4 blue train from Ichon Station to Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station. From here it’s about a kilometer to Gwangjang market.
📝 Myeongdong, post Covid, still seems to be on its way to recovery. However, it still remains one of Seoul’s most popular neighborhoods together with Insadong, not only for what it has to offer in terms of shopping experience from Korean cosmetics to Kpop merchandise, but also being in proximity to big department stores like Lotte and Shinsegae.
🚂 From Insadong, Myeongdong is a stone’s throw away (1.4kms) and the best way to reach it is by walking while doing some window shopping along the way.
📝Just hearing “Gangnam” makes you want to dance! The name of the song that helped propel Kpop to fame actually came from Seoul’s upscale neighborhood with skyscrapers, night clubs, high end department stores, and restaurants – unsurprisingly named Gangnam. Here, you can also find the CoEx mall, which houses the gigantic Starfield library and an aquarium. The Buddhist temple Bongeunsa and the Seoul Arts Center are also in this neighborhood.
Gangnam Style Statue in Gangnam🚂 To go to Gangnam from Myeongdong, go to the Euljiro 3-ga Station & take the 3-Orange train to Sinsa Station. Change trains and take the Sinbundang-Red to Gangnam Station.
📝 Dongdaemun is a huge shopping district where you can shop until the wee hours of the morning. There are two sections here – one is for retail and one bulk shopping. Each section is a very large complex where you can (and probably will) spend hours shopping.
✅ If you want to skip shopping by this time, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza or the DDP, designed by the world famous architect Zaha Hadid, is a must stop. It is an iconic symbol of modern Seoul. Spend time inside the building and admire exhibits, art installations and much more. The best time to see this is at night! To see a comprehensive list of what you can do in the DDP, check this out.
Here’s a sample of an exhibition in DDP, “The World Of Tim Burton” which goes on until September 12, 2022.
🚂 To get to Dongdaemun from Gangnam station, take the Sinbundang red train to Sinsa Station. Change trains and take the 3-Orange train to Dongguk Univ. Station. Dongdaemun Design Plaza is about 1.5 kms away.
📝 Insadong is one of Seoul’s most popular neighborhoods, if not the most, due to its beautiful maze like alleys filled with traditional restaurants, tea houses, art stores, antique shops and many more shops selling traditional goods.
✅ Insadong has one Main Street – Insadong Street – with lots of alleys branching off of it. This is where we stayed in our most recent visit to Seoul not only because of its charm but also because of its central location.
🚂 From Dongdaenum to Insadong, simply take the Line 1 subway from Cheongnyangni Station to Jonggak Station.
This is the end of our 3 day itinerary. If you have more days, you have two options: continue to stay in Seoul longer and immerse yourself more in the neighborhoods (this is what we did) OR add the following:
In 1953, the Korean armistice was signed ceasing the Korean War. The DMZ, the Korean Demilitarized Zone, was established as a neutral zone between countries. This is a 250 km strip of land in the 38th parallel zone.
Day 5 & 6 Busan 2 nights
🌎 Website: https://www.busan.go.kr/eng/index
✅ Every five years, there is a World Expo where nations gather together to find solutions to shared global problems. For 2030, the government of South Korea has submitted their bid to hold it in Busan under the theme “Transforming Our World, Navigating Toward a Better Future”. With its beaches, mountains and temples, Busan is a perfect candidate! This October 2022, the Korean pop group, BTS, is holding a free concert to promote their bid. Check out this article for more information about the free concert.