After n months of dawdling and procrastinating, I finally got the time to compile my South Korea itinerary for Spring 2017. Images of falling cherry blossoms, sizzling samgyupsal, and piping hot odeng were starting to haunt me so I decided that it’s finally time to stop watching Kdramas (for a few hours) and try to get something done for once. Hey, I have a chronic case of blogging laziness, and it’s not something that can be fixed easily. But I try, and here’s a little show of trying.
Unlike my previous travels in South Korea, our trip last April was impulsive. It wasn’t in my plan to go back early this year, because I wanted to go back right when Changmin gets discharged from the army, lol. But once my sister asked me if I wanted to go, I answered a definite and resounding YAAAAAS. It had been two years and five months since my last visit, and I was itching to roam the streets of Seoul and to hear KPOP anywhere I go. My sister hadn’t been back in Korea since our first visit in 2012. I was just 22 and wore ugly ugg boots even though it was Spring.
This time, we booked a trip for seven days to explore both Seoul and Busan. I probably won’t be able to blog about each day like in my previous visits, so I’ll share our seven-day itinerary in Busan and Seoul instead. If time permits, I would love to rave about the new places I got to visit this time!
Please note that this wasn’t our first time visiting, so we avoid the usual tourist spots and focused on visiting Kdrama filming locations, hehe. This is a rather relaxed trip and we really tried to enjoy each location. We also spent too much time hanging out at Korean-style gazebos, which seem to be abundant anywhere in Seoul. Also, I didn’t bother including the travel time in the itinerary. Let’s just say that it takes us approximately an hour to get to each location, with a lot of convenience store and street food stopovers.
Day 0: Busan (Wednesday)
Our flight got delayed so our plans to explore Seomyeon in Busan pretty much didn’t happen. We took the subway from Gimhae International Airport to Seomyeon, and I almost left my backpack at the train station, hehe. Don’t worry. I already got an earful from my sister so it will not happen again.
9:30 p.m. – Arrive at Gimhae Airport
9: 30 p.m. – 11:30 p.m. – Travel from Gimhae Airport to Seomyeon via subway
11:30 p.m – Check-in at 24Guesthouse Seomyeon
1:00 a.m. – Lights out
Day 1: Busan to Seoul (Thursday)
We woke up early to take the KTX from Busan to Seoul. (Remind me to update my KTX travel guide!) And no, we didn’t get to meet any zombies. We did, however, binged on odeng and kimbap at the train station. Once in Seoul, our first order of business after checking in at our hostel was to eat at Bok Chikin. If you watched Weighlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo, then you know what I’m talking about. #NameLeeIsStillReal
6:00 a.m. – Check-out of 24Guesthouse Seomyeon
7:30 a.m. 10:00 a.m. – KTX trip to Seoul
10:00 a.m. – Arrive in Seoul
11:30 a.m. – Check-in at Hotel Maui Dongdaemun in Seoul
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Rest
1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. – Lunch at Weightlifitng Fairy Kim Bok-Joo‘s Chicken Restaurant (작은마을)
4:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Yeouido Hangang Park
7:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. – Dinner, tour, shopping in Hongdae
Day 2: Gapyeong (Friday)
I’m just joking when I said we didn’t visit tourist-y places. My sister hadn’t been to Nami Island before and I hadn’t been to the Garden of the Morning Calm, which was a filming location of Park Bogum‘s Moonlight Drawn by Clouds. But Kdrama references aside, these two places are definitely worth a visit. We woke up early to visit both, and if you have extra time, try to squeeze in Petite France.
7:00 a.m. – Breakfast + Leave hostel
9:30 a.m. – Arrive at Gapyeong
9:30 a.m. -10:00 a.m. – Travel from Gapyeong Station to Nami Island
10:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. – Nami Island
1:30 – 3:00 p.m. – Lunch at a restaurant near Nami Island
4:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. – Garden of the Morning Calm
7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. – Travel Back to Seoul
8:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. – Dinner, tour, shopping in Dongdaemun
If doing a DIY Gapyeong tour is too much of a hassle, you can simply book a Nami Island-Garden of the Morning Calm tour. Both Nami Island and Garden of the Morning Calm are famous Kdrama filming locations. So if you’re a Kdrama fan, you’ll be missing out a lot if you skip these two.
Day 3: Seoul (Saturday)
Looking back, I realized that this was the only day we fully spent in Seoul. We rented hanbok from Seohwa Hanbok and spent a painful amount of time trying to look dainty in our hanbok. It was hilarious. The murals at Ihwa-dong seem to be fewer this year, but we saw people walking around wearing Korean high school uniform reminiscent of the ones in the movies Once Upon a Time in HIgh School and The Classic. I wanted to try it, but we already spent the morning playing dress up. I’ll save this for next time.
8:00 a.m. Breakfast + Leave hostel
9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Rented hanbok at SeoHwa Hanbok and toured Gyeongbokgung
2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Lunch at Insadong
4:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Golden hour at Iwha-dong and Naksan Park
7:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. Dinner, tour, shopping in Myeongdong
Day 4: Incheon (Sunday)
This was hands down my favorite day, but it was also our last day in Seoul. We ventured a little out of the capital and visited the neighboring city of Incheon. It wasn’t too cold and most of the places we visited were full of cute kids. If you do have a day to spare, I highly recommend spending at least a day in Incheon. Or if you have only one spot in your itinerary for a mural village, I have to say that Songwol-dong Fairy Tale Village than Ihwa-dong will be more worthy of your time. We also visited Songdo Central Park, where Return of Superman‘s Song Triplets spend a lot of time biking and playing, and Wolmido Theme Park of the infamous Disco Pang Pang.
8:00 a.m. Breakfast + Leave hostel
9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Songdo Central Park
2:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Songwol-dong Fairy Tale Village and Incheon Chinatown
5:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Travel from Incheon Chinatown to Wolmido Theme Park
6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Wolmi-do Theme Park
9:00 p.m. Arrive back in Seoul
Day 5: Seoul – Busan(Monday)
It always makes me sad when I have to leave Seoul, with no idea on when I’ll be back. But knowing that I wasn’t going to work on a Monday and going to Busan instead cheered me up. We went back south for our last three days in SoKor.
6:00 a.m. – Check out from Hotel Maui DDM
7:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. – Travel from Seoul to Busan
11:00 a.m. – Check in at 24Guesthouse Seomyeon
11:00 p.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Samgyupsal Lunch at Seomyeon
2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. – Cable car ride up to Geumgang Park
5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. – Nampo-dong: Busan Tower, BIFF Square, Jagalchi Market
Day 6: Busan (Tuesday)
It was raining hard on our second to the last day, just when we planned to go to Taejongdae! We waited for the rain to stop, but it didn’t. We just braved the outdoors even though it was freezing and arrived at Taejongdae around lunch time, but we devoured the best samgyupsal I had in my life first before touring the nature park. In the afternoon, we roamed around Gamcheon Culture Village and spend the rest of the night at Gwangalli Beach then Seomyeon for some last minute shopping.
9:00 a.m. Leave hostel for Taejongdae
10:30 a.m. Arrive at Taejongdae
11:00 a.m. Early lunch near Taejongdae (samgyupsal!)
11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Taejongdae
3:30 p.m. 6:00 p.m. Gamcheon Culture Village
6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Gwangalli Beach
8:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Dinner, tour, shopping at Seomyeon
Day 7: Busan (Wednesday)
Luck wasn’t on our side because it was still raining on our last day! But we had no choice but to go out, because we don’t want to spend our last day cooped up inside our room. Thankfully, it stopped raining after lunch. We still didn’t get to visit Haeundae, but we did manage to see Haedong Yonggungsa and the Oryukdo Skywalk. We found a coffee shop chain that sells 1 liter iced coffee!
8:00 a.m. Breakfast + Leave hostel
9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Haedong Yonggungsa
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Lunch at a Gugukbap restaurant near Busan station
12:30 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Travel from Busan Station to Oryukdo Skywalk
1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Oryukdo Skywalk
5:00 p.m. Check out of hostel
This was my longest travel to date, and it was unexpectedly so tiring! On the sixth day, I could barely walk without wincing every few steps. Considering we didn’t really rush from one location to the next, we still felt the physical toll of being on the road for a week. How do full-time travelers do it? I honestly can’t imaging myself traveling for two weeks straight! Unless, of course, I’d get a few days of rest in between.
But still, this has to be one of my most memorable trips ever! It had been years since I traveled with my sister out of the country, and South Korea will always be my favorite place to visit. I can never get enough of it! It has changed so much over the past few years that I didn’t visit. And yet, it still feels weirdly comforting and familiar. I love South Korea, and I don’t think I have to say it for you to believe me.
Since I get tons of inquiries about traveling to Korea, I figured that I might as well answer it all here.
How much money do I need for South Korea?
A typical budget trip to South Korea can cost you betwen PHP 20,000 to PHP 30,000. Of course, this can vary depending on where you eat, where you’ll be staying, and what places you want to visit.
I cannot call myself a budget traveler, mostly because I want to eat as many local delicacies as possible. Though I do eat a lot of street food, I still crave for the usual bulgogi, kimchi jjigae, and samgyupsal when I visit South Korea. Whenever I prepare a travel budget for Korea, I allot at least PHP 2,000 per day (USD 40) for food, travel allowance, and attraction fees, and that’s already pretty generous.
The only time you’ll really spend a lot is if you want to go to amusement parks (around PHP 1,500). The most we spent for an attraction was for Nami Island and Garden of the Morning Calm, both of which has an admission fee of KRW 8,000, or roughly around PHP 400.
A decent meal costs PHP 250 to PHP 350 (KRW 6000 – KRW 7000). Yes, with just PHP 300 per person, you can already have yummy bibimbap, omurice, yukgaejang, kimchi jjigae, and if you’re in Busan, gukbap! But of course, you’ll have to spend a little more if you want to eat bulgogi or samgyupsal.
I have written two articles as guides on how you can travel South Korea on a budget:
Our travel budget for our 2017 South Korea trip was less than PHP 30,000, and that already includes round-trip airfare, accommodation in Busan and Seoul, round-trip KTX ride, food, attraction fees, and shopping! If you’re wondering if that’s more than enough, I just want you to know that I didn’t get hungry. I have friends who can survive in Korea for seven days with only PHP 20,000. But I prefer eating all the Korean food I can get my hands on. Saying no to odeng is not my thing.
And with tons of discount websites such as Trazy.com, traveling in style but still within budget is still possible. Though it’s possible that some prices have increased in 2018, but my travel budget in 2014 compared to 2017 didn’t change much. I’m pretty sure 2018 wouldn’t be too different, too.
Where should I stay in South Korea?
There are tons of hotels and hostels in South Korea suitable for any budget. I prefer staying in a hostel, mostly because it’s cheaper and I only use it for sleeping anyway. There’s no need to stay in a lavish hotel when I wouldn’t even be staying there for the whole day. Besides, hostels in South Korea are cute, and it usually comes with a free breakfast already.
Here are the hotels I can recommend:
- Hotel Maui DDM in Dongdaemun, Seoul
- K Hostel in Dongdaemun, Seoul
- Hongdae Family Housetel in Hongdae, Seoul
- Backpackers Mr. Sea in Hyehwa, Seoul
- Hi Korea Hostel in Haeundae, Busan
- 24Guesthouse in Seomyeon, Busan
I have yet to have an ugly experience in staying at a hostel. Maybe I’m just not picky, but really, staying in hostels is pretty amazing.
For more options, try exploring in Agoda. I’ve booked most of my travel accommodations via the site:
Where can I borrow a pocket wifi or subscribe to mobile data?
One thing I haven’t tried when visiting Korea is to rent a pocket wifi or subscribe to unlimited mobile data. I’m really stingy and really old school that I like using maps when navigating around the city. But there are tons of booths and shops that rent out pocket wifi in both Seoul and Busan, and even Jeju Island. I believe there are also hostels that rent out travel pocket wifis.
If you’re the type who likes to stay connected 24/7 or to upload your photos immediately, I suggest:
- Buying a SIM card subscribed to unlimited 4G LTE data – There are data-only SIM cards that can also be used for tethering. The cheapest is the 5-day SIM card worth 25 USD. 10-day and 30-day data only SIM cards are also available. It’s necessary for your phone to be unlocked before purchasing this one!
- Renting a portable wifi – There are portable wifis available for rent, too. You can rent it per day so if you’ll be spending less than 5 days in Korea, then this one’s pretty useful.
The booths for both the data-only SIM card and portable wifi are both available in (Incheon) International Airport and (Busan) Gimhae International Airport so you can immediately go online once you arrive in Korea.
Are five days enough to travel South Korea?
I get a lot of questions whether so and so days are enough for South Korea, but no matter how many days that may be, my answer will always be no. I can probably stay in Korea for a month and it still won’t be enough. But that’s just the fan in me talking, and I do not have the funds for a month-long pilgrimage in Oppaland.
If you just want to cover the basics, meaning the popular attraction, fives days are more than enough to cover the most recommended tourist spots.
Can you give me South Korea travel tips?
I gotchu fam:
- KTX Travel Guide from Seoul to Busan and Back Again
- A Filipino Traveller’s Guide to Visiting Korea for the First Time
- A KPOP Fangirl’s Guide Around Seoul
- 8 Attractions in Seoul that Most Tourists Don’t Know About
- 15 Must-Try Korean Dishes for Non-Spicy Food Lovers
- 25 Photos to Convince You to Travel to South Korea in Autumn
- 10 Budget-Friendly Things to Do in Busan
Despite the country being incredibly dynamic, I’m pretty sure that most of these South Korea travel hacks are still applicable in 2018. If not, feel free to comment down below for any corrections.
Can I have a copy of your South Korea itinerary?
Yes, you can! Just tweet this post and like our Facebook page and you can download my 2017 South Korea spring itinerary for seven days in Seoul and Busan. It includes comprehensive directions on how to visit each attraction and even an estimate of the expenses.
I don’t have the itineraries of my previous trips, but all my Korea itineraries and guides are fully documented on the blog. You can just follow these tags:
- Spring 2012 in South Korea
- Summer 2014 in Seoul
- Autumn 2014 in Seoul and Busan
- Spring 2017 in Seoul and Busan
When are you going back? Can I come with you?
My heart says soon, but my wallet screams STOP VISITING KOREA. But I do wish to go back and fulfill my South Korea bucket list, which includes climbing Bukhansan, travelling solo, trying everything at Gwangjang Market, attending festivals, visiting other provinces like Jeonju, Jeju, and Gwangju, skiing, watching a TVXQ concert, staking out at SME HQ, and coffee shop hopping.
But I’ll stay away from now and try visiting other places first. And when the time is right and the budget is enough, I will be back.❤