My trip to Seoul in South Korea aged 18 is hands down my biggest achievement. Travelling 5000 miles to another continent just my friend and I, is the most exciting and incredible thing I have ever done and I cannot wait to go back one day! I’m going to make a 3 part series about travelling to Seoul and my personal experience with the whole trip. So let’s begin!
As a kind of disclaimer; I don’t wish to come across as bragging, especially when discussing the financial aspects of this trip – I just want to be as helpful and informative as possible. As a bit of a background story, this trip took 18 months to save for and I paid for every penny of it myself. I started working and saving money in early 2016 whilst still studying at school, and we finally flew in the late summer of 2017 after completing school and saving even more. I had 2 different jobs over the course of the 18 months as seeing Seoul through my own eyes was my dream – I still thank my ambition to this day.
Travel insurance is not essential – but is important depending on your trip. Just for peace of mind, we took out joint travel insurance here in the UK with the Post Office that covered us for the duration of our trip.. Our policy covered both parties for £85.02 which included cover on the following if god forbid something were to happen:
Staying at Heathrow:
I’m so glad I listened to my mum and booked a hotel room for the night before our flight. If this is a doable option for you, I would highly advise you do, especially if you have a morning flight so you can avoid rushing and you’re already perfectly located on the day you travel. We stayed a night at the Ibis Heathrow directly opposite the airport. They offer an airport bus link directly from hotel door to airport for £4.50 available from reception. However, here is a trick we learnt….the bus drove past us – so panic set in and a very kind employee noticed. He informed us that if we cross the road to the bus stop on the other side of the road, a free bus runs every 5/10 minutes and goes directly to the airport! If only we knew.
We ended up flying economy on an airbus from Heathrow, London with the German airline Lufthansa – who I would highly recommend and use again. We chose a connecting flight which meant we had a short stop in Frankfurt, Germany before continuing on to Korea. We were also supplied with a snack on the carrier plane from London-Frankfurt and vice versa and meals on the long haul flights to Korea and back. We were also provided with a blanket, pillow and headphones on each flight which was a nice touch considering we had to fly a total of 12 hours (roughly) each way. The option to buy wifi was also available, I paid roughly £17 both there and back which sounds ridiculous – but you can snapchat from 40,000 feet!
Lufthansa were extremely accommodating and the plane food wasn’t anywhere as poor as what everyone says! The flights there were almost to the minute accurate, however returning home wasn’t quite the same. We experienced some delays coming from Frankfurt to London due to storms, but that couldn’t be helped and wasn’t the airlines fault. Overall the flights cost us: £1057 which came out as £764 each.
We were truly spoilt for choice when choosing where to stay – Seoul is like a chocolate box of amazing modern apartments and cute studios, it’s just so hard choosing the best one. We knew we wanted home away from home comforts and the ability to cook for ourselves if we so pleased. Hotels seemed above our budget and we wanted something more homely than a hostel. So we headed straight to Airbnb, which was the birthplace for lots of sleek and perfectly located homes!
Location was the most important aspect for us – it’s all well choosing somewhere that looks pretty, but in reality you’re just there to sleep and get ready. We finally chose an amazingly-equipped apartment in the district of Mapo-gu. The building sat above Mapo subway station, so was super easy to reach from Incheon airport and a great place to access the whole of Seoul. It came with a built-in kitchen, could sleep 4 people and overlooked the beautiful Han River. The view we had from the 30th floor still takes my breath away even today. I shall link the apartment here if you wish to check it out: the host was very hospitable and added a great touch to our trip. In total for 11 nights it cost £587 which was £293 each. What a deal !! It’s even cheaper now, sitting at just £28 a night. ★★★★★
How much you wish to take away with you is entirely a personal preference – I exchanged £300.87 for the equivalent of 411,000 ₩ with Tesco bank. I also transferred roughly £20 into rougly 22 euros for the stop in Germany (6 euros for a kinder bueno and bottle of water, excuse me). I wasn’t shy with money over there, yet that amount lasted me the whole trip and I even came home with money spare. Seoul is so cheap – you really do get your money’s worth over there. Food and travel sit at such a reasonable price, you can afford to eat out every day and catch as many subways as you wish for a fraction of the price you would back at home. I really do miss the convenience Seoul had to offer for everyday things.
Incheon airport – SIM and Travel Cards:
Directions to the Airport Travel Centre we used: (it took some attempts)
- After locating exit 8, stand as if you’re about to leave, then turn around and walk to the escalators that are heading downstairs to Basement 1.
- Go straight in the direction of Airport railroad & KTX → the above head signs will have an arrow pointing you in the correct direction.
- Keep going straight and in front of you will be the Travel Centre where they speak English.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwZO1KcHLGc a virtual walk through
Here is where I spent 3,000 ₩ (£2) on a Korean T-Money Tour Card which is the equivalent to an Oyster card if you’re in the UK. It’s literally a tap, top-up and go service which is so simple to navigate. I then paid 32,500 ₩ (£22 approx.) for a KT Olleh sim card. This is available for 5/10/30 days, I chose 10 days and this gave me unlimited 4G/LTE data.
From Incheon to Seoul:
We took the AREX all stop train from Incheon, transferred at Gongdeok station and continued
to Mapo subway station which was located at the bottom of our apartment building. This meant we could catch the lift from floor 30 all the way down to the subway. We put 20,000 ₩ (£13) onto our T-Money cards (which are available pretty much everywhere), and paid £5-£7 for a 45 minute ride into Seoul. After travelling for so long, our reception into such an efficient system was much needed. The price for this journey is currently 8,000 ₩ for adults (£5).
From this point, the rest of the trip is yours to decide! Seoul is now your oyster – where are you going to go?
Tune in for part 2: Our Seoul tour
Thanks so much for reading, until next time,