Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cand goes to South Korea 2015: Prep


I am heading to Seoul in a week's time with my best friend/Seoul sister (LOL Get it??), Isabel, and my mommy! This is the first time I will be documenting my whole trip in a full-blown travel post! So, wish me luck and I hope this post helps anybody traveling to Seoul (and Jeju)!

We will be in South Korea for 9 days and 8 nights. However, thanks to the travel/transit downtime, we really only have 7 full days to explore. Here is how we prepared for the trip! 

1) Deciding when to go:

First, we had to decide when we wanted to visit Korea. Besides matching up schedules, do also take into account the 4 seasons that Korea has to offer. All 4 seasons will provide you with completely different experiences, all of which would be equally beautiful. Eventually, we chose to travel at the end of May (early summer) because of 2 simple reasons: 

1) Our schedules fit - I would be back in Singapore during my summer break, and my mommy and Isabel have blocked out leaves for that period.

2) My super awesome roommie, Jin, (who's Korean btw) said that the weather is perfect at the end May! Late summer would be too HOT, something that I don't think my mommy or Isabel would appreciate coming from tropical humid island that is Singapore!!! Small update from Jin (as of May 10), Seoul is still a little cold even now, and we should maybe bring a sweater or cardigan with us! 

Anyway, I'm still kinda bummed about not being able to go a little later in June. We'll be missing out on UMF (Ultra Music Festival) - a music festival that is almost equivalent to Zoukout, except that it is not held at the beach! LOL. Nevertheless, I'm still pumped about the trip!!! 

If you, like me, are from Singapore (or somewhere tropical), you might want to visit during winter to experience snow and go skiing/snowboarding. BUT be ready to freeze your ass off. Seoul is VERY cold during winter (even colder than Victoria, Canada), so bundle up!! 

2) Booking flights:

After deciding on our travel dates, we looked into flight tickets. If your schedule is flexible, then you can choose to travel on the days with the cheapest tickets. The best time to buy tickets is about 4-5 months before travel. Keep a lookout for discounts and promotions!

We decided to fly with Cathay Pacific (CX).
Flight prices (round trip):  620 SGD/person.

Our tickets were so cheap as they were a part of CX's two-to-travel promotion. And in case you were wondering, my mommy and best friend got the promo tickets, while I claimed a free flight using my mileage (I still paid almost $200 for the airport taxes and miscellaneous stuff).

Why CX?

The pros:
 They were on promo and were cheaper than other airlines, even budget airline, Scoot! The tickets also already included a 20kg baggage allowance as well as meals onboard. Also, as I fly with CX pretty often, I know for sure that service is great! And, not that this should be a deciding factor, but they serve Haagen Dazs ice cream onboard! 

The cons: Longer traveling time. Heading to Seoul (ICN) on a direct flight would take approximately 6 hours. However, our travel time increased to 10 hours because of the transit in Hong Kong. Note that flying with Scoot would also require you to transit in Taipei.

Eventually, we decided on CX despite the longer traveling time because it was the cheapest! Also, since I could claim a free ticket, why not?! Ultimately, everyone has different priorities and if your time is extremely valuable and you have an extra 200-300 SGD to spare, do fly SIA or KAL to save on transit time! 

3) Deciding where we wanted to visit in Korea:

The (arguably) most visited cities in South Korea are: Seoul, Jeju, and Busan. Most travellers make a pitstop in all three cities. Although I would have liked to make a pit stop in Busan too, our days in Korea were really limited and we didn't want to rush around during the trip. So we eventually narrowed it down visiting just Jeju (2 days) and Seoul (5 days).

3a) Jeju:

Getting to Jeju: 

Airline: Jeju air
Price for a round trip: 82,400won/person. This works out to 108.36 SGD/person.

We chose Jeju Air simply because it seemed like the most appropriate airline to go to Jeju on. It is cheap, and their website is very user-friendly as well!

# of Days in Jeju: 3 days, 2 nights

Accommodation in Jeju: Mir Guesthouse via

I was in love with KAL hotel and it was in the perfect location (for us), it looked beautiful, and was where Jin had stayed at when she went to Jeju previously. The one thing that really upset me was the - yeah, you guessed it! - PRICE.

As we couldn't pay that much, I went to look up more hotels/hostels, and I found Mir Guesthouse. It has very interesting architecture and looked very cool! Pictures showed clean rooms, and it is in a good location. Also, the owner seems like a very nice guy (as mentioned by many reviewers)! 

Price: Approx. 125 SGD/night

Getting around Jeju: 

Car rental: We decided to rent a car to not only save time, but save money. Obviously, I will be the one driving, so the stress is on me!!! Wish me luck! I've read lots of helpful blogs, so I think I'm geared up and ready!! Besides, I've been driving in Canada (which utilizes the left hand drive as well) for more than 2+ years now, so I would say I'm pretty confident about driving in Jeju!

Price: Approx. 138 SGD for two nights for a Hyundai Accent with insurance! 

Remember that to drive, you will need to bring your driver's license, an international driving permit *IMPORTANT*, and your passport (which you will obviously have with you).

Taking advice from the blogs I listed above, I registered as a member first then proceeded to make a booking/reservation. Remember to request for an English GPS (unless you are fluent in Korean), and if you want, you can secure yourself a WiFi egg too!

3b) Seoul:

# of Days in Seoul: 5 days, 4 nights
Accommodation in Seoul: Airbnb - LINK

Unlike most travellers who stay in the Myeongdong area, we decided to stay next to Garosugil because its near Jin's place and Gangnam. It is also near the Sinsa and Apgujeong subway stations. Also, the Garosugil neighbourhood seems like such a nice area gives off a REALLY cool vibe!! It is also very much in the middle of Seoul and extremely near the Han river.

Price: Approx 160 SGD/night

4) Planning our itinerary!!! 

I spent a good deal of time researching and reading through lots of blogs. I came up with a list of things I wanted to do, and then slowly narrowed it down to things that we can AND want to do. You might be surprised, but there are things that you might want to do but can't. For example, I want to go to Lotte Amusement Park but can't because my mommy wouldn't go on rides. When traveling in a group, you need to take into consideration things that your fellow travellers would or would not like to do. (If you can force it onto them, then good for you! Although that is highly unrecommended! LOL).

Stay tuned to my future blog posts (which will come with pictures) to follow our Korea itinerary! 

5) Get Miscellaneous stuff out and ready:

Now the physical prep starts! Remember to bring your passport, international driving permit (if you intend to drive in Korea - or more specifically, Jeju). Print out confirmation slips of your flights, have your itinerary ready in hand, pack according to the weather, etc! I have read and visited LOTS of travel blogs, I think I am pretty ready and know what to expect when I am there.

6) Get Excited!!!!

Now, I'm ALL set for my Korea trip!!! Caution: Impending Seoul puns might (or might not) appear in my future blog posts.

Here are some additional links that helped me plan my Seoul trip:

Lastly, follow my journey to Jeju and Seoul on Instagram via the hash tags: #candinkorea, #candinseoul #candinjeju #bananasinkorea #b1b2inKorea #b1b2inSeoul #seoulsearCHIN #b1b2seoulsisters

XX, Cand.

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