Tuesday, May 1, 2012

From One Point to Another

Flying in to Korea
Almost all Philippine air carriers fly to Incheon and Busan in South Korea. If you're flying on a budget airline then expect them to fly you to your destination and that's it. No onboard movies. No free inflight snack/meal. But they do sell food onboard at sky high prices. I stupidly forgot this bit of fact and had not brought any food for the 4.5-hour flight through dinner to Incheon. I paid the price! Extremely hungry, I handed over my Php150 for a chicken sandwich (Php100!!!) and a half-liter bottle of water (Php50!!!). The most expensive snack I've ever had.

When flying international, be sure to bring your passport (of course! You can't leave the country without one), pen (to fill out immigration forms), ticket, itinerary, and hotel confirmation (the latter three for the benefit of the immigration officer who will grill you about your trip). The immigration officer will most likely ask you what you will do in your destination, how much money you are bringing (he/she will then mentally try to calculate how much you will be spending for your accommodation and food and if he/she thinks it's not enough, will ask if you have a credit card), if you are working (if so, which company, and will then ask to see your company ID or PRC license. And I am thinking: Uhhh...why should I bring my company ID/PRC license when I am on vacation?) They are suspicious and believe most Filipinos who go abroad are there to look for work. Geez. On this particular trip, the immigration officer forewarned us (tried to scare us more like) that although she will stamp us through for the trip, expect to be held at immigration in Korea. Which never happened. There were no problems at all at the Korea immigration. No questions asked. I conclude, the Philippine immigration is waayyy too paranoid.

 From the arrival area, you have to take the shuttle train to the passenger terminal.
The shuttle train runs every five minutes.

At Incheon International Airport immigration:
no worries if you forget your eyeglasses hehehe

 At the passenger terminal

Going around Seoul and Gyeonggi province via subway
If you expect to take the subway and buses a good many number of times while in Seoul (and in Gyeonggi province), do yourself a favor and buy a Seoul Citypass Plus or T-money card. This will save you the trouble of getting tickets every time you take the subway and of scrambling for exact change to pay the bus fare. The card can also be used to purchase goods at convenience stores.

Seoul Citypass Plus T-money card

Seoul Citypass Plus or T-money cards can be bought at GS25, Family Mart, and Ministop convenience stores. I bought mine from GS25 located at the arrival floor of Incheon International Airport. Seoul Citypass cards cost 3,000 won (about Php120) and can be recharged up to 500,000 won thru the mentioned convenience stores or thru recharging machines at the subway stations.

If you no longer need T-money, the balance can be refunded minus a 500 won fee. Refund is available at GS25 at Incheon International Airport. This is your last chance to get your money back before leaving South Korea.

Heading to Seoul on the AREX (Airport Railroad Express) commuter line

Bits and pieces from me to you:
  • From the airport, you have three options: the subway, bus, and taxi. The taxi being the most expensive way out.
  • The AREX or Airport Railroad Express has two lines: express line and commuter line. The express line goes nonstop from Incheon to Seoul station, while the commuter line stops at major subway stations. The express line will cost three times as much as the commuter line.
  • Be conscious of your time (and make sure your brain is set on Korea time) especially if your flight arrives late night. The last commuter train to Seoul leaves at 1120PM. This is the cheapest option in going to Seoul.
  • Get yourself a subway map or download one if you have a smartphone. Or better yet, use this Cyber Station map to show you the quickest route, travel time, fares, and transfer points. All you need to do is click on your departure station then your arrival station.
  • Avoid transfers in Seoul station if you can. It entails long walks/transfers. According to my friend, Seoul station looks like an airport.
  • Be aware that lines 1 and 5 has two destinations. Be sure to get on the right one or not miss your transfer.
  • Occasionally you will find a person selling something in the subway train - a knee brace, knife sharpener (and the entrepreneur will have a demo too), powdered soup, chewing gum.
  • You can also do a bit of shopping in subway stations. There will be stalls of food, socks, accessories, clothes. In some, there will be people on the corridors selling these and puppies, too.
 Subway route map from Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit

Seoul Station...just a small portion of it.

No other choice but to take a bus
In areas where tourists are scarce, the signboard on the buses are in Hangul, the Korean alphabet. So are the labels on their route maps. What to do? Either ask the driver if his bus is headed to destination X (and pray you pronounce it right and that he understands you) or have somebody write your destination on a piece of paper, show it to the bus driver, and cross your fingers that he remembers to let you off at the right bus stop.

Cheongpyeong bus terminal

When in doubt, ask
I've asked random people for directions and gotten a healthy dose of blank stares, goofy smiles, head shakes and hand waves, pantomimes, and people who try to help but have trouble speaking in English. In the end, we do find the destination. It does not hurt to ask. 99% of them will try to help you.

South Korea Series:
Random Things About Kimchiland
From One Point to Another (you're here!)
Homes Away From Home
My First Meal is Not Korean
You Will Never Go Hungry Here  
To the North We Go...Almost
Strolling, Collecting Sights
A Dose of History: Gyeongbokgung
Double Dose of History: Changdeokgung & Huwon
Photo Stop: Bukchon Hanok Village
Care For Some Coffee?
Step Back in Time at the Folk Village
Trick Eye Museum
N Seoul Tower
What's in a (Business) Name? Korea
This Little Mustache Went to (Namdaemun) Market
At the Outskirts: Petite France and Namisum
Hunting for Cherry Blossoms at Yeouido Park
Can't Pronounce It So I Stuffed It in My Mouth
The Most Important Question 

No comments:

Post a Comment