TheCebuano in South Korea: 10 Things to Know Before Flying to Seoul
With the undeniable popularity of KPop, KDrama, and just basically anything Korean, more and more Cebuanos are making South Korea one of their top dream destinations. Luckily, travel to the country has become relatively a lot easier thanks to more direct flights, more ‘achievable’ immigration requirements, and stronger ties between South Korea and Cebu.
Can’t wait to finally don that KPop get-up or visit the location of your favorite Korean dramas? In this edition of TheCebuano Travel Guide, we list down 10 important things every Cebuano should know before flying to Seoul, South Korea. Enjoy and annyeong!
1. Visa is Required
The very first thing you need to know is that Filipino tourists visiting South Korea are required to present a valid visa. And mind you, the Korean visa is relatively difficult to secure. But if you have all the proper documents and you follow all the steps meticulously, it’s not impossible to get one. To know the visa requirements for all types of travelers to South Korea, you can check out the official bulletin from the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the Republic of the Philippines.
2. It is VERY Different from Cebu
While we can say that our Cebu is progressive, it is important to note that Seoul is on an entirely different level. It is a very well-developed city which is complete with working infrastructure, big open spaces, and areas for different kinds of civic, social, and leisure activities. It is also home to almost 10 million people (more than three times the population of the whole Metro Cebu.) So, things can get pretty hectic and busy even beyond the usual peak hours.
3. The Airport is Very Pretty. And Very Huge.
South Korea’s Incheon Airport was named the second best airport in the world in Forbes’ The 10 Best Airports In The World In 2018 list. And you know what that usually means: it is gorgeous. The Incheon Airport is considered one of the most efficient, most well-organized, and most beautiful airports in the world. And it is also amazingly huge. Like really big! So if you’re on a tight schedule or are trying to catch a scheduled group tour, be sure to keep your eyes open for signs and marker. Also, never be afraid to ask for directions because seriously, you can get lost if you’re not too careful.
4. It is OK to Use English
Although it is still better to learn the local language, speaking in English is quite acceptable in Korea. If you’re visiting the usual tourist spots, you won’t have to worry at all. Almost everyone can communicate in English (or at least understand what you’re trying to say.) Some Korean shop owners can even speak Filipino (and some can speak Bisaya.) If you’re traveling away from the big cities, however, you may find it hard to connect with the locals. So it would be best to learn some key Korean words before your big trip.
5. They Have a Wonderfully-Designed Subway Network
South Korea’s subway network is nothing short of impressive. Going as deep as five levels underground, the subway network connects the country’s biggest cities to its different regions, districts, and localities. Land transport (buses and cabs) can be a bit expensive, so the subway is your best option. You must take note, however, that things can be a bit confusing. So be sure to get clear directions from info desks or ask kind strangers to tell you where to go. Or you might end up on the wrong platform. Or worse, in the wrong city.
6. Food Can be Quiet Expensive
Korean food is awesome. But it can be a bit expensive (and especially if you don’t know where to look.) If you only check out the areas usually visited by other tourists, you will have to shell out a fortune on what you put in your mouth. However, to truly enjoy Korean cuisine without hurting your pocket, the best way is to find someone who can guide you to areas which are less popular and only frequented by locals. If you can’t find one or if you’re on a really tight budget, you can always find convenience stores which sell packed (and delicious) meals for cheap. They’re seriously delicious, too!
7. They Have Filipino Weekend Pop-Up Carinderias
If for some reason you crave for Filipino food during your visit, don’t fret. There are pop-up carinderias in Seoul which sell your favorite Filipino dishes. You can find some in the Jung-gu area near the Namdaemun Market. For around 5,000 Korean Won, you get two dishes and one plate of rice. If you want a more complete and authentic experience, however, there’s always the Daehangno Weekend Filipino Market in Hyehwa-dong to take care of all your Pinoy food cravings!
8. Prepare a LOT of Shopping Money
Seoul has numerous popular shopping districts that cater to various kinds of shoppers. And as it is home to some of the most popular brands in the world, it is not difficult to find interesting items to buy virtually everywhere you go. So, before your big flight, you might want to plan ahead. List down the things you want to buy and find out where you can find them. And don’t forget to save up before your big trip. There’s a very big chance that you’ll find hard-to-find items that you’d want to bring home with you.
9. Know the Rules
Before your flight, do a bit of research about the most basic rules and laws in South Korea. Since you’re a tourist, it would be wise to focus on immigration rules and street/traffic rules. When on the subway, for example, be wary of seats reserved for people with special needs. You might find yourself getting horrible glares for sitting on a pink seat reserved for pregnant women. Also, it would be wise to know about some basic courtesies before your trip. Learning how to say ‘thank you,’ ‘hello,’ ‘please,’ or ‘goodbye’ in Korean can earn you a smile back or even new friends.
10. Dress Up!
Itching to finally wear that trendy trench coat? Couldn’t wait to finally don those furry winter boots you couldn’t wear in Cebu even during the rainy season? Well, be sure to take them with you as Korea is the perfect place to finally don those dream get-ups! Seoul is a very fashion-forward city and the people are certainly not afraid to wear their style. Also, before your big Korea trip, it would be wise to plan your #ootd ahead. You wouldn’t want to be dressed too lightly during winter or too uncomfortably during summer.
So there you have it! I hope this list helped you in finally giving that long-planned South Korea trip a go. If you found this list helpful, don’t forget to leave a comment and share with your friends!
TheCebuano Travel Guide is a series on TheCebuano which focuses on travel tips, tricks, and guides aimed at making every Cebuano’s out-of-the country travels as pleasant and as hassle-free as possible. Stay tuned for more travel tips on other destinations!