Seoul, South Korea: sights, entertainment, national dishes
Five years ago I knew Seoul was the capital of Korea, and its image was very vague: traditional and exotic.
However, once I got there, I realized that everything is much more complex, interesting and diverse. Even after living in the city for a year, I still do not understand it completely, although something became clear to me from the very first days after my arrival: it is easy to fall in love with Seoul.
So, Seoul is one of the world’s largest capitals, where Western and Eastern cultures meet. It is one of those cities where you can turn off a wide avenue lined with tall office buildings, Starbucks coffee houses, and sparse trees and enter a completely different world of ancient wooden buildings, temples, green parks, and small galleries.
Seoul never stops developing, managing to preserve its unique culture, so every year more and more tourists come here, but Seoul copes well with them.
How to get there
The Republic of Korea is located on the Korean Peninsula and is separated from the mainland by North Korea, so you can get here either by plane or by ferry. The latter is relevant only if you are in Vladivostok, China or Japan.
In my opinion, the most convenient way to get to Korea is by plane.
There are daily flights from Moscow operated by airlines such as Aeroflot, S7 Airlines, Qatar Airlines Air China, Korean Air, Etihad Airways and others. Direct flights are possible only with Aeroflot and Korean Air, the average cost of a one-way ticket is 300 USD (compare prices here). Most of the flights are not direct, with one or two transfers.
From St. Petersburg there are also daily flights, but direct flights are much less frequent than from Moscow. If you fly Aeroflot, the connection will be at Domodedovo airport. There are also options for connecting in Shanghai, Beijing, Abu Dhabi and other cities. The cost of a ticket from St. Petersburg is on average higher than a ticket from Moscow and is about 350 USD if you buy a few months in advance.
How to get from Incheon airport to Seoul
Gimpo Airport, located just 15 kilometers from downtown Seoul, unfortunately serves only flights from China, Japan and Jeju Island.
Most international flights are handled by Incheon Airport, 70 kilometers away from Seoul. Incheon Airport is annually ranked among the top five airports in the world and has many times taken first place, so you need not to worry: the staff is very pleasant and helpful, the signs are clear and the airport itself is very convenient.
The cheapest way to get to Seoul is to take the subway. So if you don’t have much stuff, I would recommend this option. You have to go down to -1 floor, following the signs. I advise you to buy a transport card at once instead of buying a ticket for one trip. The cards themselves are called T-money or Cashbee and cost 2,500 won (about 2 USD) and make a good souvenir from the trip thanks to their various designs.
The card can be purchased and recharged at 7/11, CU, GS25 and other stores that have “T-money” and “Cashbee” stickers, as well as at machines in front of the subway.
Important: The card comes with a brochure, which many people throw away immediately, which you should not do because it contains coupons that provide discounts when you visit certain attractions and stores. I also threw it away, and then regretted it.
After buying a transport card, its balance must be replenished. In the future, the cost of travel will be deducted from the balance of the card. The card can be used to pay for bus and subway fares nationwide, cabs, and receipts in stores with the appropriate stickers.
A subway ride to Seoul takes about an hour and costs less than 5000 won (5 USD). You can get to Gimpo Airport, Hongdae District (Honik University), and Seoul Station without a transfer. You can get to the latter without stopping by express train, but you need to buy a ticket separately for that.
Buses are convenient because they can take you anywhere in Seoul and, unlike the subway, don’t require a transfer. You can get tickets and detailed information about the cost and route at ticket offices on the 1st floor of the airport. There you can find out from which stop the bus leaves.
Stops are announced in Korean and English, but English is not always easy to understand because of external noise, so it is better to count at what stop to get off just in case. I also asked the driver to tell me when I needed to get off. Depending on the destination, the cost may vary, but on average it takes about 14 USD to get to Seoul.
There are several types of cabs in Korea: regular, black, and international. Cab cars painted in black are of the luxury class and are more expensive than regular cars. Also, minibuses, designed for a large number of people, are painted in black. So-called “international” cabs are those with drivers who speak a foreign language. You can book a car through the official website of the service.
In a year in Seoul I used a cab only once because it is quite expensive. However, if you have a lot of things and you are traveling in a group of several people, taking a cab would be the most convenient option.
Check the airport website for approximate rates for regular and luxury cabs.