On our quarterly short getaway to recharge from work, we (or rather Brenda) decided on Korea (again…). On our last trip, we did Jeju-do and Seoul, so this time round we decided to spend a couple of days in Busan then go shopping in Seoul, South Korea.
We started checking out for flights late June 2016. After sifting through several airlines for best prices, we finally booked with Singapore Airlines on SQ600 leaving for Seoul on 22/9/2016, returning on 29/9/2016.
SQ600’s departure was 0800LT and the flight time was about 6.5 hours. A little short to enjoy all the movies on Krisworld (which for me is always a pleasure since I love watching movies).
Besides that, most other airlines don’t come close to the service on Singapore Airlines in terms of amenities and service.
Brunch and drinks were served during the flight with regular rounds of water and juice (standard service procedure) for all SIA flights, while other airlines only serve drinks and snacks on request.
We arrived shortly after 1430LT, and cleared immigration and collected our baggage just before 1545LT. First things first; to get connected on WiFi!
In Korea, you can rent a hand phone or a WiFi port to stay connected. We chose the latter of course since we don’t need to be connected by phone from anyone nor do we wish to be bothered while having a good time on holiday (who does anyway right?).
You can easily sign-up for a portable WiFi port from a LG service kiosk located immediately to the left of the arrival hall once you exit the transit area after you have collected your baggage.
In Korea, instead of a data SIM card, the LG port serves as a mobile WiFi connector. It cost 6,500KW a day to rent. There is isn’t a package rate regardless of number of days you plan to use it for.
Take a queue number and wait to be served. We waited for about 15 minutes before getting our LG WiFi port. Do take note, you can share the network and only one unit is required if your group is together on the move.
Directions to Busan
Our challenge next is to get to Busan. Before leaving for South Korea, I was too lazy to do any research. Anyway, there are several ways.
You can rent a car (self drive), take a bus or get on the High Speed Rail (HSR) via Korail’s KTX trains. We chose the latter since we have never been on a HSR before and thought it would be fun.
Bookings can be made online via Korail’s website. Frankly, I can’t really say it’s user friendly. Train information and schedules were hard to find.
The only information I could gather were prices for their Happy Rail Pass. I decided to consult a Korean friend of mine who lives in Seoul for more information.
He told us that there are regular HSR trains departing for Busan every hour or so from Seoul and we need not book in advance. He also mentioned, the Happy Rail passes don’t apply to KTX HSR but only on regular rail trains. So it defeats the purpose of booking online.
The entire ride is about 2.5 hours from Seoul station not including a 40 minute ride from Incheon International Airport as there are no direct HSRs to Busan. For your information, a bus ride takes about 4.5 hours and self drive depends on your driving ability as well as experience.
You can buy tickets for the entire journey directly from all ticket counters located at Incheon Airport Rail Station. Your ticket connects and transfers you from the airport rail system to Seoul Station then onward to Busan (or other cities of your choice if service is available) on KTX HSR. Total cost 133,500KW for the both of us (one- way economy). First class tickets cost about 30% more.
We arrived at Seoul station around 1800 rather leisurely and with 30 minutes to spare before connecting to the HSR.
Just you know, KORAIL’s KTX and regular train connects statewide and the procedure is the same if you like to visit other cities in South Korea.
Do buy a takeaway dinner before you board your connecting train ride to Busan. They only serve beverages and snacks on board.
There are several stores selling bento set meals along the way to the train platforms. Bento meals cost between 5,000 to 9,000KW. Full set meals includes the main course, soup, wet napkins, and a small pack of water.
Another thing to note, all train services (regular or HSR) are very puncture. They arrive and leave on the dot. So do arrive early at the correct train platform and be ready to board on time.
We settled into our seats in economy quite easily. There are luggage racks in every cabin so not to worry.
The HSR train cabins are clean, washroom amenities are stocked regularly, the are the seats are comfortable, leg room is reasonable, and the air conditioning is just right. The 2.5 hour ride was fast as expected and it was rather enjoyable.
Overall, the experience was seamless and effortless. There are clear signage along the way to show you where to go, i.e. directions to the Airport Rail network, where to buy tickets, entrance to the station, cellular or mobile network service providers, etc. At one point, Incheon International Airport was rated the best in the world, so expectations are fulfilled above and beyond at most levels of passenger service.
Everyone from the airport speaks English reasonably well, and are mostly friendly assuming some are a little apprehensive due to their degree of proficiency. But overall, I find Koreans generally friendly. It was a great start to our holiday.
I hope my article was helpful in helping you plan for your trip to South Korea. If it is, do feel free to share by clicking on the share icons below or leave your comment and feedback.