My Korea Trip 2013
Things to get ready before trip.
As usual, before begin of any trip, luggage packing is important. That is very up to individual of the packing method. More concern was what to prepare and what should be done ahead.
1. Research and collect information of Korea.
We are having a 14 days trip to Korea. This time we are targeting of Seoul and Jeju Island. Since we are on our own free and easy, a lot of research and homework need to be done. Korea is a big city and lots of tourist attraction. Get all the information and planning the schedule is hard. We took almost half year to collect information and also learn basic Korea languages. Having understanding the culture and information about Korea, it will be fun and easier to adapt to the place on 1st time visit. Lots of information can be found from the internet such as blogs, forums and most important, Korea tourism sites. Get to this link and it will helps you a lot.
Visit Korea - http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/index.kto
Visit Seoul - http://www.visitseoul.net/en/index.do
Exploring Korea - http://www.exploringkorea.com/
If you have enough time for preparation, learn some Korean. A good sites to learn. http://www.talktomeinkorean.com/
2. Understand their subway system.
Seoul famous with their underground city. You can find lots of underground shopping mall in Seoul. The subway is fast (approx. 5 minutes waiting) for the next train if you miss one. Some subway station have up to 4 level deep underground and some with interchange where you can transfer from one line to the other. If you are going interchange, do not exit from the line. Just drop your self out from the train and there are link where you can walk to the other line without charging yourself out from the exit.
Find yourself in the Google map for the location, then proceed to check in the interactive subway map. http://www.smrt.co.kr/program/cyberStation/main2.jsp?lang=e
The interactive subway map also can be find in all subway station as picture below.
Alternatively you may try to use others transportation such as taxi or buses. Some location may just need to walk to arrive.
3. Get your self a T-Money card
Each person will need to get a T-Money card if you travel in Seoul. What is T-Money? Basically it is a rechargeable card where you can use for subway, buses and convenience store. There are lots of convenience store such as GS25, 7-eleven, CVS, Ministop and etc. You can purchase the card from the airport convenience store. Upon arrival at Incheon airport, coming out from the arrival hall, you will see along the way at the center, there is the GS25 store. You can get one there or you can get one at the subway station in the machine like below. You can also recharge the card from this machine or from any convenience store.
This card you may use it to pay when you are purchasing items from convenience store. When you use it for the subway, you will get 100won discount in each entry compare to single journey ticket. They do include some discount coupon when you purchase the T-Money card.
T-Money - http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_6.jsp?cid=258958
4. Rent a phone
Renting mobile phone is not expensive. It may just cause you about 90,000won (~RM260) for the entire stay of 2 weeks not including the VAT and call charges. Phone is useful when you want to call to the hotel, checking Google map, getting translation and etc. Usually it comes with package of several GB of internet or unlimited internet.
There are 3 popular company providing the services. It is cheaper to book online 1-2 weeks ahead for more discount.
Phone rental - http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/RE/RE_EN_1_2_4_1.jsp
5. Rent a car if you heading to Jeju Island.
In Jeju, there are no subway. Only buses, taxi and car rental. It is always easier to rent a car. It cost about 78,000won (~RM220) for 5 days for a compact car. I rented a KIA Morning which size about a Peroduo Viva but way more solid and better quality. I prebook online which I receive 50% discount which cost me 78,000won. The car rental does come with free GPS Navigator and EGG unit. The GPS Navigator does come in English and of course if you prebook earlier, you will get one. Getting to a location, you just need either the address or the phone number of the location. By entering the phone number, it will be able to navigate you there.
EGG unit in the other hand is the mobile broadband. Of course we do not need that if you rent a phone but since it is free, just get one.
Remember to get an international driving license. Just proceed to JPJ and apply for international driving license. It cost about RM150. You need this to rent a car and in case road block. http://www.jpj.my/International_Driving_Permit.htm
Remember do not drink a single cup of alcohol when you are driving. If you are unlucky and fall into a police roadblock, be prepare to pay a summon ticket of 1-2 million won which is about 1-2 thousand USD. (RM3000-4000). Drive slowly too as there are lots of traffic camera along the way. I seriously means a lot which in some places, one at each 1-2KM. There are two type of petrol, gasoline and LPG. Gasoline cost about 2,000won per liter at that time of my travel.
Car Rental - http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/RE/RE_EN_1_4_3_1.jsp
6. Get a good accomodation.
Getting a stay in Hotel is quite expensive in Seoul but cheap in Jeju. Therefore in Seoul, it is recommend to stay in guest house. You can find good guest house at agoda.com or booking.com. Some comes with private bathroom. Since you going to use most of the time touring and only back to guest house for sleep, hotel is not really neccessary if budget concerned.
7. Get a list of food that you want to eat and where you can eat that.
In Korea, you can find lots of nice food in restaurant and street food. Get a list of the food you want to try and where you can eat that. The food normally come in big portion. Very big portion. Also free filter water and free coffee can be obtain from the guesthouse, hotel and restaurant.
8. Get a list of tourist attraction.
There are many popular tourist attraction. Some people may like visiting landscape, some historical monuments and some shopping. Get your self good information about all the tourist attraction. List them down and put it into your schedule. Always come with backup plan.
9. Know where and how to get help.
You can call 1330 if you need English assistance when you in Korea. You can also look for tourism information counter. In some popular tourist attraction, you may able to see the mobile tourism information wearing read cloths like below. Approach them and ask for help. It is free.
10. Print discount coupon and look for tax refund.
If you are a shopaholic, I recommend to get yourself print with some discount coupon. You can get discount for skincare and cosmetic product.
Discount coupon - http://english.visitkoreayear.com/english/benefit/benefit_06_01_01.asp
When buying products, remember to look for Global Blue Tax Free or Global Tax Free icon. Eg. if you go to SkinFood in Myeongdong, as along the street you can find about 3 SkinFood shop. Maybe only one of them have the Tax Free. So look carefully. Some mart like Lotte Mart or e-Mart do have this too.
How to get tax refund - http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SH/SH_EN_7_1_4.jsp
11. Get ready with some USD with yourself.
You don’t have to carry lots of cash with you. Get yourself about RM500 of Korean won, and get maybe RM1000 of USD. In most places, they accept credit card. Paying with credit card is very easy and fast. Their system is fast and not like Malaysia where we have to wait when processing credit card. It took only 5 seconds to get the payment via credit card done. Shopping mall, mart, restaurant, shops, mostly accept cards.
If you are running out of won, you may get some change in money changer. I recommend Myeongdong as there are lots of good prices money changer. Look for the Myeongdong theater. Along the theater, you may find various shop of money changer. You can also ask the mobile tourism information people. The money changer in Myeongdong offer great price and they only accept USD, China RMB, Japan Yen. If you use Ringgit, you might find yourself unlucky. So get some USD. Also exchanging Ringgit to USD, and then exchange USD to KRW in Myeongdong able to let you save about 3-4% comparing to Ringgit to KRW.