Travel Guide: Korea in Winter
Getting the Visa (Philippines):
Visa requirements are on the Korean embassy page.
If your parents are retired (they don’t have an ITR), you can use your ITR as a substitute. My brother is in school so I used my ITR since I was sponsoring his trip.
I don’t think you need to be physically present when applying for the Visa. We forgot a requirement (my brother’s school certificate) the first time we got there so we re-applied a few days after. I didn’t come with him but I got my Visa approved anyway.
You have to get there early. The embassy will open at 8:30 am but just assume that there will be a line before then. We went there at around 6:00 am and we were fourth in line. If we came in at 8:00 we would probably be in seventieth (!) place. You can stay in the Shakey’s from across the street, at around 6:30, they were open. There is also a Coffee Bean but it was closed at that time.
Also, I think they stop taking in applicants by about 10am, because they release completed applications in the afternoon.
At 8:30, the guard will call out names on the logbook and you have to be there. By this time you have to accumulate all your requirements in a clipboard or a folder or something. There are two lines–one is the line to the requirements person (Filipino), he will just preliminarily check your requirements and give you a number to the windows where the Korean visa agents are. The second line is to the Korean visa agent, where you wait for your number to be called. I suggest bringing a book to read, we still waited 30 minutes.
There are three lines/windows inside the embassy. The window at the very left is for first time Visa applicants and the window at the very right is for people who have an OECD visa already. So you might get confused why the other lines are moving but yours isn’t.
On requirements: You must have all of them and nothing more. If you think things like other Visas, accommodation receipts, and flight tickets will help you, they won’t. The Korean lady even told us “why so many, I don’t need this.” So don’t bother bringing those things.
They will give you a claim stub for your passports. Try not to lose them.
On Visa releasing: 5 business days after they got the application. For us, this was about 1 week before our flight. I went there alone and I arrived at around 2:00pm. It was sort of the same process as applying, I just gave my claim stub and waited to get called. While waiting I heard someone singing (auditioning?) in the adjacent room. I guess you show your talents to the consul if you’re applying to be an entertainer? Whatever hehe.
When I got our approved Visas, I did a small dance in my head! We didn’t waste money on a ticket that we can’t use! BTW, I didn’t know what a Visa looked like, apparently these things are just a page in the passport. Cool.
By the way the traffic from the embassy was insane. I rode my bike and it still took me 40 minutes to get from BGC to Pasig.
The Flight/Getting to your Hostel
Things to bring: a book, pens for the immigration card.
If you have an option to pay the airport tax while booking your flight, just take it. It took us about 20 minutes to get through that line at the airport.
In addition to the immigration/arrival card, all passengers were asked to fill up a Quarantine card and a Customs card. They take this when leaving the airport but they really didn’t check it that much.
After deplaning, there’s just one way to immigration. Take the train and walk fast so you don’t have to stay in line that long. Immigration took around 3 minutes for the both of us. We got a Simcard via Trazy (you can also use Klook) and we got a T-money card from the convenience store in the airport.
BTW, you can start wearing your costume/winter clothes in the airport. I walked out of the airport doors and within 5 seconds a gust of 3C winter wind slapped me in the face. :(
Getting to your hostel: So we left the airport at around 12:30am, so the trains were closed. We took a bus to Seoul Station (8K KRW each), took around 50 minutes? It’s just like the buses at home. When we got to Seoul Station some taxi drivers wanted to hustle us to our hostel, they were charging 20K KRW to go to Itaewon which was just a few kilometers away. Tried to take a bus but I stupidly rode the opposite direction so we just got a cab. 8K for the cab from somewhere near Seoul station to Itaewon.
Expenses upon landing:
- 4K KRW: T-Money card. (You can deposit this for 0.5K KRW).
- 20K: T-MOney
- $22.5 dollars Sim card for 5 days via Trazy. 10 days = $31.5, 30 days = $58.5. No calls but you can call via Kakao, Whatsapp, Messenger, Skype.
Dealing with Cold Weather
- Here’s what I normally wore:
- Head: Russia hat/Ushanka. Vastly superior to a simple bonnet.
- Head: Headphones. Surprisingly effective.
- Head: Mask. Also surprisingly effective. You can’t wear glasses with them though since your eyes will get fogged up. So bring your contact lens.
- Body: Base layer, long sleeved Uniqlo Heattech (V-neck).
- Body: Random long sleeved shirt.
- Body: Marks and Spencer Medium heat sweater. 1500 PHP.
- Body: Fleece. I have my Columbia one from hiking. I found an Ukay (overruns) for my brother for 300 PHP ($6). I haven’t use the local brands (Lagalag etc.) fleeces, those are 1000 PHP ($25).
- Body: Windbreaker. I also
- Hands: Random gloves I have. This was my weak point. I had really cold hands and I would frequently put my hands in my pockets.
- Pants: Marks and Spencer heat pants. 1500 PHP.
- Pants: Normal jeans or normal chinos.
- Socks: Normal thick socks. I used my cycling socks.
- Socks: Marks and Spencer socks. 1500 PHP for 3 pairs?
- Shoes: Normal sneakers. I was fine without boots.
Going Around, Tips:
- Minimum train cost is 1.25K KRW per trip. I think all of the subway stations are connected, but some of the transfer stations are really far apart (5 minute walk). Trains arrive every 5 minutes.
- You can use the Seoul subway app. It’s a bit hard to use at first but…
- Google Maps works but isn’t as effective for walking in Seoul. This is because of.
- I brought an emergency whistle with a compass attached to it. This compass was actually very helpful because phone GPS systems/direction arrows weren’t really that reliable.
- Seoul has a lot of steep streets. Reference
- For us at least (non-shoppers who just like walking around), going around Seoul was not that expensive. Most of the attractions are free or have cheap entrance fees:
- Palaces: 3K KRW each or 10K for the 4 of them. Visit them on a Wednesday-Sunday so all of them are open.
- Bukchon Hanok/Korean village: free, you can go in some of the houses.
- War Museum: free.
- National Museum of Korea: free.
- Hongdae area: free.
- N Seoul Tower: free if you like hiking. From Myeongdong station it was about a one hour hike up. You can also take a cable car for 6K KRW ($6), and you can get to the observation decks.
- Dongdamun/Nangdamun market/Gwangjang market: free. You can buy street foods which are honestly expensive.
- Haneul Park: free.
What’s expensive was the food. Normal meals cost at least 6K KRW ($6). I rarely buy meals that expensive in the Philippines. But we found some hacks. For cheap meals, you can:
- Bring bread from home: peanut butter has the most calories I think. We brought Prestos, Happy Peanuts, Whey, and Nescafe 3 in 1 packets.
- Convenience store food. We had the Korean lunch boxes for about 3.5k KRW each. The Gimbap is also 2K won each.
- Street food: Rice cake is 1K, and is 2K.
- Isaac’s Toast in Myeongdong: 3.5K each.
- Then once a day you can eat at the 8-12K KRW restaurants. We ate at: …
Still a work in progress! Hehe.