As our flight is at 9.30 am, we took the first AREX train to the airport. The train departs Seoul station at 6 am. We were at the train station at 5.30 am got our tickets and headed towards the airport. Upon reaching, after we did our tax claims, we checked in our luggage and proceeded to return the mobile wifi that has accompanied our journey in Korea. In the next part of our trip, we spent 2 nights in Bangkok for some relaxation and massages before heading back to Singapore.
Seoul Station in the wee hours of the morning.
Do keep the paper receipt after purchasing the ticket, this receipt will be inspected and tells you where your seat assignment is on AREX
AREX at Incheon Airport station
Rather than recounting what we have done today, I thought of sharing some travel tips I gained from my trip to Korea.
Tip 1: Keeping Connected
Getting connected during a trip is what most travelers prefer, which allows one to share the experiences during the trip via social media. Staying connected is especially important for people who travel Free and Easy, as one would need the information on where to go and how to go. One of the problems (or so I heard) when traveling to Korea is the sim card. One way to circumnavigate this is to rent a mobile wifi router. The one that I have gotten is from SK Telecom. SK Telecom is one of the biggest Telco in South Korea. The wifi I have rented costs around SGD35 for a total of 7 days of rental (which is more than 60% savings as compared to a similar router I would have rented from Singapore). The signal I have gotten from the wifi is fantastic. There is great coverage anywhere I been to in Korea. This is even true when I visited Seoraksan National Park, I was able to WhatsApp my friend a picture I took near the peak of the mountain. There is not a situation when I did not get mobile data coverage from the mobile wifi router. However, the downside is the battery of the wifi router only lasts for 8 hours. Luckily we brought our power bank with us on this trip, which allows us to charge the router on the go. Renting of the wifi router is easy, one can make reservations online via the SK Telecom website (yes there is an English Version of the website), or simply approach the counter at the airport for rental.
Very reliable wifi router that provided us access to the internet via our mobile phones throughout the trip. The connection is superb even in the mountains
Tip 2: Arrive at the Airport Early
The thing that most travelers fear is to miss our flight. I always have the habit of arriving at the airport at least 3 hours early. This is especially pronounced in Incheon Airport. We had to wait for our checked-in luggage to be x-rayed before we can go anywhere. On top of that, we planned to get our tax refund, which requires some time. More importantly, the queue to clear immigration in Incheon Airport is very long at all the entrances. We waited about 30 mins in the queue to clear immigration. There are very stringent checks before one is allowed to clear immigration. On top of that, Incheon airport is rather large, we had to take a train to a satellite terminal for boarding. All these already take up around 2 hours of our time at the airport. We barely have time to roam around the duty-free shops for shopping whilst in Incheon Airport.
It took us around 30 mins to clear the immigration. Do cater time for checking-in of luggage (especially when one have not done internet check-in), processing and collecting of tax refund, as well as clearance of immigration
Tip 3: Get a Subway App
There are a number of apps for the Korean Subway system. I used one of an app called the Subway Korea app. It is very useful as the Korean Subway system can be confusing and overwhelming for some. This app tells me which station and which line to change subway trains and even gives an estimation of the time needed for traveling on the subway to my destination.
I used this app during my stay in Korea. This app is very useful in guiding me in which station to change to which line in order to reach my destination. It also tells me the time required and the fare amount.
The interface of the Subway App
Tip 4: Visiting the Palaces
There are the “Big 5” palaces in Seoul. Do cater more time when planning to visit them. As my experience has taught me to space out visits to Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung into 2 days rather than cramping these 2 into 1 day. These 2 palaces are the largest in Seoul and more time needs to be catered to have a more fruitful visit. While one is getting the ticket to these palaces, do pick up a copy of the palace maps from the ticketing counter, which can guide one on the suggested route to take when visiting. The palaces in Seoul does have free guided tours at specific timings. I would recommend Free and Easy travelers to join these guided tours as they provide more insights into the palaces and also the significance of each building. Otherwise, all the buildings will appear the same after a while.
Tip 5: Always Carry Your Belongings with you
It goes without saying that one should always carry their belongings with them especially while traveling overseas. However, this context applies to when traveling onboard public transports especially interstate buses. From my experience during day 5 where the bus has driven off without us, at the point when we alighted the bus at the pitstop, I was still contemplating if I should bring my backpack along or just take the important stuff. Luckily I decided to bring all my belongings with me, at least when the bus drove off, I still had my backpack with me. I can imagine the backpack would have gone missing, despite being told by the bus company staff that they would disembark my backpack at the terminal we were supposed to stop.