South Korea after CoVid

Visiting South East Asia, we saw that South Korea and Japan reopened their gates without any CoVid restriction, so we took a direct flight from Bangkok to Seoul. We only had 12 days to visit the country as it wasn’t really in our plan nor our budget!

I share with you all the details, budget and itinerary in South Korea, from Seoul to Jeonju, Busan and Gyeongju.


CoVid restrictions in South Korea

To go to South Korea you first need to apply to the online visa K-ETA (only 50k won), we received ours in less than 24h! In term of CoVid restrictions in South Korea, since the 1st october 2022 they opened its gates without any PCR test or other requirement related to CoVid. We only had to fill in a form (you can also do it online and get a QR code which is faster), they took our temperature and that’s it! Masks are still recomended in the streets and mandatory in public transports.

General prices (in won):
– Food in supermarkets: sandwich around 2500, sushis around 3000, instant noodles from 1200
Can of beer: between 2000 and 4000 in supermarket, 5000 a draft beer in bars
– Korean Barbecue: between 9000 and 15000 per person
– Dumplings: around 8000 per person
– Street food: 5000 chicken stick, 4000 a sausage
– Coffee: 5000 a hot americano
– Waffle: 3000
Budget:
We spent a total of 90€/day for 2 people. The biggest expense comes from our accommodations (average: 35€ per night for a double room with private bathroom). FYI you can pay everywhere with your credit card, we only withdrawed the equivalent of 150€ for the markets and the metro (you can only pay by cash).
Small tip:
To save money once per day we ate food from the supermarkets: They all have microwaves, hot water and sometimes tables to eat in!
For the smokers:
Smoking in the street is not really well taken by locals. You should find discrete smoking areas or check where people smoke and join them!

Seoul

From Incheon or Gimpo aiports: You have a train connected to the metro (around 1h, 4250w only by cash).

We arrived in the evening and enjoyed Hongdae area (Metro Hongik university), a great nightlife with a lot of games and karaoke, and groups practicing K-pop in the street (and filmed like stars).

The day after it was raining so we focused on the inside visits: Museum of war and National museum (both free). You can easily reach them by metro. We also visited Gyeonbokgung palace (3000W).

Second day we went to Ihwadong area and fortress, Changdoekgung palace (3000) and its secret garden (5000w guided visit). We had lunch in Bukcheon Hanok village, nice traditional houses. Then we climbed to Namsan where you can find the Seoul Tower (if you are lazy you can still take the cable car for 14000wons). The tower cost is 16000wons, we chose to stay on its feet!

To stay in Seoul: Hotel Dongdaemun Hwashin (45000w double room with free washing machine and dryer you can use).
– Price of the Metro: between 1400 and 1600w (you have machines to buy a card, with 500w deposit you can get back when you leave the metro).

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Good to know:
– You can use the T-Money card, a card you pay 3000 and can recharge with cash in any 7 eleven. You can use it as metro card, for the bus or in any supermarket.
– To check the bus timetable (and supposedly book online): Kobus.co.kr
– Most of our hostels had a kitchen available which was very helpful to save money.
– You have supermarkets everywhere (GS25, CU, 7 Eleven) with sandwishes, sushis, instant noodles and many other surprises, cheap and correct!

Jeonju

We took a bus from Seoul (2h40, 14000w) to visit Jeonju. In one day we had time to visit everything, no need more:

Pungnammun Gate

Hanok village

Jaman mural village

Nambu market

Omokdae

Gyeonggijeon palace

Entrance: 3000w

Jeondong cathedral

Only from outside as the doors were closed
To sleep: Happy Memory (35000wons a double room)
To go to the center from the bus terminal: The bus stop is located nearby the river, on the other side of the road when you leave the station, on your left. You can take line 102 or 5002. Ticket price is around 1500won, you can directly to the driver or use your T-Money card.
Tip: Use Google map to find the perfect transportation.

Busan

We took a VIP bus from Jeonju Express bus Terminal (3h, 27500wons) and arrived at Nopo metro station. First day we visited the harbour area close to Busan Tower (metro Jagalchi): Gukje market, the book street (very small), the Biff square and around, and of course the fish market. We passed the evening at Seomyeon where we had our hostel.

Second day we visited the famous Gamcheon village, famous for its coloured houses and view on the sea (metro Toseong). Then we had lunch on Gwangalli Beach (metro Geumnyeonsan) and visited Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.
2 options to go there from Gwangan metro station: You can take the line 2 until Bexco station, change for the train to Osiria station and walk 25min – 1600+1400won / Option 2: Bus number 1001 and walk 10min, 1400wons).

We finished the day at Haeundae Beach and Bay 101 to enjoy the beautiful nightview on the buildings and Gwangan bridge.

Third day was dedicated to Beomeosa Temple (2,5km from metro Namsan). We didn’t do much more than walking through Bujeon market and Jeonpo area to enjoy a good traditional Korean BBQ.

To stay in Busan: K Guesthouse in Seomyeon (45k a double room with breakfast included)
To travel: Metro is almost everywhere, you can buy a day card for 5000wons or pay single tickets between 1400 and 1600wons.

Gyeongju

Only 1h from Busan, Gyeongju is an open sky museum: once the capital of Silla kingdom, you have plenty of archeological sites to visit there!

As the first day was rainy and very croudy (try to avoid the week-end if you like quiet visit), we only visited Daerungwon ancient tombs (impressive tumuli).

Second day was sunny, so we took the bus 11 in front of the bus station (bus number 10 also works fine), to go to Gyeongju national parc. We met there the monks of Gulbulsa temple who kindly invited us for the tea. You can also stay with them for free (only need to contact them in advance using Talk App: +82 010 8660 1009 or by email: koreazen@gmail.com). We crossed the mountain from the East to the West side and took a bus to go back home.

Last day we walked to Cheomseongdae observatory (the oldest in Asia), to Gyochon hanok village (don’t miss there the Woljeonggyo Bridge). We waited the dusk to visit Donggung palace (3000wons, opened until 10pm).

To stay in Gyeongju: Hanjin hotel (64000wons for a double room – note that you can find cheaper, but the location was perfect, close to the bus station and the touristic area).

Summary of our 12 days itinerary in South Korea:

Seoul: 2,5 days, 3 nights
Jeonju: 1 day, 1 night
Busan: 2,5 days, 3 nights
Gyeongju: 3 days, 3 nights
Busan: back for one night before our flight to Japan! We slept at ”Airport guesthouse”, 30€ a double room, 15min walking to the airport or 5min by train.
Looking back…
– As we visited very quickly the cities, we could have use 1 more day in Seoul and visit the demilitarized area, or even 2 days to visit Sokcho or Andong.
– To visit Jeju island you need at least 3 days so it will be for our next visit!

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