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Tips and Tricks for Flying to Korea

May 16, 2013


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This is probably one of the most practical TL;DRs we’ve answered in a while. Back in the day before the world of these TL;DR videos, we used to have a huge FAQ section on our website that we updated regularly and religiously with tons of helpful info, but we soon discovered that taking the time to update the FAQ page was…a total waste of our time. We still received tons of emails asking us questions for just about everything we had taken the time to write about. Even when we replied to someone’s email with a link to that page, some people still emailed us back asking for a direct response! Grumblecakes!

And so, that was how our TL;DR videos started: to answer commonly asked questions in video format since it seems most people are unwilling to read the answers. Reading’s dead! People want videos instead! But not you guise, since you’re clearly reading this blog post right now. Or maybe you’re not? Maybe we should make a TLDR video about why we made TL;DR videos?

Okay! On to the extra tips and tricks for flying to Korea! If you already watched the video we mentioned briefly about packing and travel on the plane but we didn’t get the chance to talk about what it’s like to arrive at Incheon Airpot.

Just Arriving

First off, if you need to make a phone call, do it at the pay phones while you still can. There aren’t a lot of pay phones in Korea, so you might not get the chance to tell your family that you arrived safely.

Secondly, grab a snack at the local convenience store in the airport. For less than a $2.00 you can get a lovely rice triangle and bottle of water or head to the Paris Croissant for a pretty decent sandwich or some baked good that you can pop in your bag. Trust me, it’s going to take you at least 30 minutes to get to wherever you’re going from here on our.

The Subway

If you’re taking the subway from the airport, you can buy a T-Money card (“tee-cah-duh”) in either plain old regular card format, or as a slightly more expensive cute dangling thingy that hooks onto your cell phone at the local GS25 convenience store inside the airport. You buy the card (just once), then put money on the card and just “beep” it to get on the subway, bus, or even taxi. The advantage of these are that they save you money with every trip and they are rechargeable at convenience store and at the subway themselves but NOT on the buses or in taxis. Plus, you don’t have to know where you are going, you beep to get on the subway, and beep to get off the subway and the machine does all the math for you. If you don’t want to buy a t-money card, head to the subway located under the airport (there are tons of signs) and you’ll have to buy a ticket BUT you’ll have to know the name of the subway stop you are going to in order to buy a ticket. See why t-money card are great? ROBOT TAKE MY MONEY BEEP! We did a video about Korean subways a while ago… a LONG TIME AGO

The subway in Korea is awesome but if you have lots of luggage it will be awful. The airport subway line is pretty empty and spacious but as you transfer lines onto the more populated lines, you’ll have a hard time getting through the crowds and finding an elevator to take you between levels, so I really recommend the bus or a taxi if you have lots of luggage.

The Bus

When you exit the airport, the first ring of roads are for the buses while the second ring is for taxis. There are tons of buses that take you in many directions so I recommend you check out this site to help you with where you are going and how long it will take.

Img busroute01

If you bought a t-money card, you can just beep onto the bus and depending on if it’s a fancy bus (the driver will come down to help you load your luggage under the bus) or if it’s a normal bus (driver stares at you struggling to get your luggage up the stair and onto the bus) it will cost between $2.50 – $15.00. We normally take the bus when we are traveling light and don’t have any animals. Here’s another video we did about using T-Money cards


Once you leave the airport, the taxis are divide according to where they will travel (for example, some go to Seoul, some don’t). There are also English speaking helpers waiting by the taxi stand and help people communicate with the taxi driver. We didn’t have those when we arrived five years ago!

Img 1021

There are three kinds of taxis available. The standard taxis, starting at roughly $2.40, the luxury taxis (it’s just a black taxi with leather seats…oooohhh) starting at $4.50, and the “jumbo” van taxis also at $4.50. If you have two people and four pieces of luggage plus carry-ons, you’ll have to take the jumbo taxi to fit in everything. Advice for using taxis: if you pass by a toll both, which you probably have to, you’ll have to pay an extra $7.00 or so that will be tacked on at the end of your journey so don’t be surprised.

Buuuuut, if you travel between midnight and 4:00am the normal taxi’s meter will start at a higher price (that’s normal anywhere in Korea) HOWEVER if they try to suggest a flat cash rate or refuse to use the meter they are trying to rip you off, so get a different taxi. To give you an idea, going to Seoul in a normal taxi has cost us around $70.00 during crappy slow traffic in the early evening, and around $50.00 for quick moving traffic. Honestly, if you’re really exhausted from both jet lag and a bagillion hours on the plane, then falling asleep in the taxi is the way to go. You don’t have to worry about missing your stop and you can always save money on the way back to the airport by taking the subway and bus once you’re fully awake.

Ok! So those are your options! Let us know if you have any other travel tips. Wow. This blog post feels like a government page or something. Too much information!

Oh, and lastly, if your noodles come undercooked while you’re on the flight, feel free to abuse the flight attendants. HA JOKING! We’re not CEOs



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Tips and Tricks for Flying to Korea


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  1. My name is Stefan i’m From Geneva Switzerland.
    I made the trip to Korea last Friday, 14 hours flight with a stop in Dubai i got some tricks:

    -1 Buy some chewing gums befor the fly. That for to balance you ear pressure for the landing and Take off by chewing.
    -2 Try to get some sleep during the flight. I didn’t sleep at all for the 14 hours, next day in Seoul i needed about 20 hours of sleep.
    -2 When you arrived in Incheon you will need to fill 3 different Form to enter Korea. 1 quarantine 2 Immigration 3 Custum. The problem you can’t get all 3 at the same time. You find itch Form befor the desk. I lose about 10 to 15 minutes just on that.
    Sometimes the Airlines have this form, you could ask the steward if you can get one. (With a big smile, it’s work ever times :) )
    -3 Print befor your trip, a map of the localisation of your Hotel. I got following problem, I take the train from Incheon to Seoul and I wanna take a taxi and none speaks english and didn’t know where my hotel was. (and GPS can’t find it nether)

    So i hope it’s will help some. I wish you a nice trip to Korea.


    2 years ago
  2. I’m going to be travelling to Korea in August with EPIK. I was wondering… can you take a pillow on the plane with you and not have that count as carry-on? Have either of you ever done that?

    2 years ago
  3. This is probably kind of relate to this tl;dr, but the immigration in Korea is awesome. Last time I went there it took me 15 minutes altogether from stepping off the plane, through the immigration, and on to the luggage claim. (unlike London Heathrow that I had to wait 2 hours before >:/)

    2 years ago
  4. The luxury taxi aren’t just more expensive for their ‘nice’ seats….

    those drivers get more because they earned their license by driving regular taxi for more than 20 years without tickets or accidents and so. They are also obliged to do community services occasionally (usually traffic control)

    3 years ago
  5. favorite flavor of bubble tea?

    3 years ago
  6. allkpop does sometimes

    3 years ago
  7. Question.. Is it possible to fly directly into Jeju Island’s airport now, or would we still have to fly into Incheon first and then get to Jeju from Kimpo or Busan?

    3 years ago
  8. very useful! I actually have a ~13hr layover in Incheon on my way to Beijing in about a month.
    for those of you who have been in Incheon before: which restaurant(s) did you like? I looked on their website and there are soooo many to choose from. I’d really like to eat something super good while I’m there. C: thanks!

    3 years ago
  9. Divorce is quite frowned upon in Korea. If you’re divorced, it would be quite difficult to find someone else who’d want to marry you. There are of course divorces in Korea too, but it’s not at all as common as in the west. And it’s not taken as lightly as here either. You never ever ever get married thinking “well, if it doesn’t work out… there’s divorce!”, which I know some people think here in the west.

    And there are other cultural differences. Like here in Sweden, for example, having a family together without being married is extremely common. In Korea, it’s extremely rare.

    When I told my boyfriend about my family history, he was in absolute shock and he still doesn’t think telling his family about it would be a good idea, because it’s too vastly different. (My mother was married before, then left her husband for my father and had two children -me included- with him without marrying, then broke up. As well as she had two other children with her ex husband, and my father has six children with four women (her included) but was only married once etc)

    Regarding love or arranged… It’s definitely love marriage, not arranged, BUT! there is a Lot of preassure sometimes to marry someone that your family deems “good enough”. You don’t really Have to listen to your family, but many feel preassured when choosing a life partner cause they have to be up to a specific standard.

    Regarding the age, I’m not 100% sure but my guess is standard 18 years+.

    3 years ago
  10. 3:54 I believe the word you are looking for is a tote :) You should hire me. I can help you with these things lol

    3 years ago
  11. I would avoid the second half of July, and most of August! It’s the rainy season and it is extremely hot and humid during that time. I’d say the best time might be in June or September, weather wise.. of course the spring is beautiful but not as warm… May-June is generally nice =)

    You could also look into festivals and such if you want those experiences while you’re there.

    3 years ago
  12. Those are great tips for any long flight! :) I definitely could have used those on my long flight 7 years ago. It’s killer Toronto-Shanghai = 19 hours….even with a stopover in Vancouver, our stopover was only 20 minutes long and you weren’t even allowed out of a corral because you have already passed security :P. Since we were flying west, even if I had been on a plane since 5am, it was still only 7am by time I got to Vancouver and there wasn’t any good lunch food out yet at the vendors (sushi store = moldy from days before – ewwwww) For some reason they also played every single movie/tv show about being trapped, which didn’t help – “The Island”, “The Prisoner”, even the chinese movie was similar but I don’t remember what it was called. I will add a couple of extra tips for a long flight since my husband also had to fly to Beijing for work several times:

    1) If you stay up late the night before stressing and packing for your trip, don’t think “well, it will only be a couple of hours, I may as well just stay up until I go” – get what sweet sweet sleep you can get in your bed, if you don’t do this flight regularly, you will NOT sleep on the plane.
    2) Getting to the airport 3-5 hours early is for suckers, especially for early morning flights. If your flight is before 7am, 2 hours at the most is all you’ll need, (really probably only 1 hour, but better safe than miss your flight) there are very few flights before that and they are mostly arriving, you will breeze through security.
    3) Those pillows for babies to sleep in a car that look like “U” , get one – so awesome because you may not have room to sleep on your side.
    4) Noise cancelling earphones. Even if they give you a headache, they will give you LESS of a headache than the plane noise and you can actually hear the in flight movie with them. Go for earbuds because you can’t lean on big headphones.
    5) Bring your own movies and/or music on your device, let the on-flight line-up be a bonus because it may suck or be the same on your way back if you’re not staying long.

    6) Bring aspirin or blue gel advil and maybe even Gravol (anti-nausea). There is nothing worse than a headache on the plane and nothing you can do about it for over half a day.
    7) Don’t bring fruit on the plane for a snack, either there or on the way back – if you buy it last minute, it may not be as tasty as you think and then you will be forced to eat it or declare it.
    8) On your way back, if customs confiscates something that should have been in checked luggage, don’t give up. Take it back to check in and check it in your carry-on bag, put your essentials in your pockets or a plastic bag. Unless you were already late for your flight, you will have time.
    9) No matter how tired you are, shower after a long flight before you collapse into a bed, you are stinkier than you think.
    10) Hard candies (or gum in a pinch). Helps with the air pressure in the ears/sinuses. They used to offer them on flights, but not any more. I think you can even find sugar-free ones these days.
    11) If you can afford an upgrade to first class – DO IT! It makes a big difference compared to “coach”.

    12) People will also try to trade seats with you to be with “their friend” – they secretly want your aisle seat/window – don’t do it unless they are offering an aisle/window seat in return. You can’t really see anything out of the windows from the aisle. There is only ocean most of the time from North America to Asia but the coasts are cool, even at night.

    3 years ago
  13. I actually prefer direct flights because I can take the 14 hours and honestly, how many of us are on the computer for that long (i see you internally raise them hands!) :p

    3 years ago
  14. really good TLDR!

    one thing i can add… i’ve done a similar route several times, living in Japan and being from Canada, and whenever i’m on these long flights, i used to always get a “fake cold” because of the recycled dry air in the plane. (does that happen to you?) like allergies where i’d just start sneezing like crazy or get a runny nose, and then, it doesn’t leave you for 2 days even though you’re off the plane!!! well, i found that the way to remedy that is to wear a face mask! here in Japan, they even sell some special ones at the convenience stores in the airport, that have little “moisture” packs in them so your nose doesn’t get dry… so pretty sure they’d have them as well in korea! but for people back home, a normal mask would be fine, i think…

    anyways, my 2-cents! lol.

    3 years ago
  15. I would say even flying in and out of Incheon is probably one of the best airport experiences I had so far. I just recently took a trip from the Eastern US back to my home country of Laos with stops in Atlanta, Seoul, and Bangkok. The 15 hr flight from Atlanta to Seoul really drains the life out of you. Lucky, the travel agent booked us on Korean Air from ATL all the way to Bangkok and I must say if you can shell out the money, fly with them. Either them or Asiana Airlines, which also uses Seoul Incheon as a hub if you are flying in and out of Asia. The flight staff are extremely attractive, super friendly, and very professional. (Here’s a tangent, have you ever noticed that flight crews from other countries only hire the most attractive people?) The standard meals are great too, with a choice of either a Korean or Western dish. Take the Korean dish people, specially if they are serving Bimipap. For the love of Pete, do not fly a US domestic airliner to Korea. PROTIP: Delta codeshares with Korean Air, United codeshares with Asiana Airlines. Research the flights to see if the codeshare flights are operated by Korean or Asiana, you will be much happier.

    If you are doing a layover in Incheon, you will need to go thru a security checkpoint before you go back into the terminal so don’t freakout. If I had one complaint about the airport there is that there is just one big blue board for all flight information (or maybe i was just stupid and tired when i got there, i arrived there in the early mornings for my layovers) so just remember to look up if your trying to find your gate. Now the good things about the airport. First off is that it’s probably one of the most cleanest and nicest looking airports I’ve ever been in, they really take good care of the place. There is free wi-fi blanketed all over the airport, but there are so many open wi-fi hotspots so I just tend to use the ones labeled like KT or SK (usually named after the cellphone providers). There are charging stations between each gate (which are not hard to find, they are sponsored by Samsung, go figure) but I don’t know if they have regular 120v outlets since I didn’t use one when I was there. More than likely they probably do since they clearly mark the outlets on the walls as 220v and a big red plate that’s says not compatible with 120v devices. Otherwise, the food choices are excellent, there’s TV’s everywhere so you maybe able to catch some K-drama or variety show (I was lucky enough to catch a Super Junior concert on MBC on one of the food court TV’s.) Hell if your even lucky, you may even bump into your favorite idol since everybody flies out of Incheon.

    If, even by a planning “mistake”, you happen to be doing a ridiculously long layover in Seoul, get the heck out of there. I know US passport holders don’t need a Korean Visa to get out of the airport, but I didn’t get to do it :( (for more info on this and a list of countries that support the no visa entry – http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/GK/GK_EN_2_1_1.jsp)

    Hope this helps :)

    3 years ago
    • They do have a couple of big blue boards, but for some reason most of them are rather hidden.

      3 years ago
  16. What about travelling into Seoul from Incheon Intl Airport using the Airport Railroad (or metro system, I’m not sure of the name)? Especially if you’re getting to Hongdae, is that more convenient?

    3 years ago
    • You can use the Metro (subway) to get to Hongdae, but you have to switch lines once or twice, but it’s not difficult at all and I can recommend it as it is cheaper than bus or taxi

      3 years ago
  17. ROBOT TAKE MY MONEY! BEEP!!!! First thing I’m doing if I go there.

    3 years ago
  18. Kes

    You can swipe a T-Money card even on the express bus? o_0 I live in Gwangju, waaaay down at the south end of the country, and I bought a ticket to get me and my luggage there. It’s like 40$ for the limo bus to GJ from Incheon.

    csb, but after I got back in 광주 with all my heavy luggages, after being awake for 30+hours (I can’t sleep in airplanes. ><), a totally random dude saw me struggling with my bags, and helped me to the taxi stop and helped me load my bags. The taxi driver was like "Who was that?" and I'm all idk dude! And we conversed in my crappy Korean and he was like "You need a boyfrien. because you hav a lot of bags." XD /csb, but it warmed the cockles of my heart and made me feel welcomed back into korea o/

    3 years ago
  19. There are quite a few useful apps for your phone (Android or iPhone) that can help out with transport (subway etc) in Korea and also Google Translate is AWESOMELY helpful for places where they speak no English at all. You can either get local SIM cards for your phones, or a pocket WiFi that will enable you to use internet on your phone/laptop/tablet where ever you go. These are easily picked up at the airport but I suggest you book in advance as they only have limited amounts.

    3 years ago
  20. Ha! Ha, ha, ha! I read the article that Simon and Martina linked in the blog, and I am flabbergasted.

    “For his part, the board member reportedly said that he did not hit the female attendant with a magazine but that she came nearby and accidently ran into a magazine he was holding.”

    3 years ago
  21. This was awesome! Thanks guys!!

    3 years ago
  22. Totally distracted during this video. I don’t know why I couldn’t focus on the topic. I kept thinking about werewolves, lawn mowers, Sasquatch…have no idea why. ;-)

    3 years ago
  23. The day I get to go to Korea I will use many of these tips. I will also get tips from my friend who travels to Korea yearly to visit her family. May be I will just make her go with me to make things that much more simple lol

    PS I’ve been zip locking for years. I had shampoo and body spray (same trip) explode in my luggage on a four hour flight. Can’t imagine what would happen on a 14 hr flight.

    3 years ago
  24. I would bring my pillow pet ^_^ When my family goes on vacation this summer my pillow pet is coming with me on the plane, i can’t last a 4 hour flight without a pillow, i will die when i visit Korea lol

    3 years ago
  25. awww poor simon and his size problems lol >.< it seems korea is the place for tiny people like me lol sometimes i cant even fit in a size 5 women shoes lol do you think if i went to korea id be able to find something smaller that would fit better? do clothes and shoes in korea tend to be smaller than american sizes?

    3 years ago
  26. Yeah, I know, the shorter is like 23 hours but if you want to spend less, the flight take 30 hours ouch x_x

    3 years ago
  27. Oh another tip! Print out the names of streets, landmarks, hotels, ect on paper that way if nobody understands your korean you can atleast show them the paper to get directions. Its useful to show taxi drivers too!

    3 years ago
  28. OMG! you stop by vancouver?? let us vancouverites know when you’re stopping by!! ^^

    3 years ago
  29. I love how your clothes were backwards in colors from this tl;dr and last weeks! So cute!!!

    3 years ago
  30. I have traveled a few times to Asia and to places inside Europe.
    In the flights to Asia I could just ask for playing cards in case I were bored and wanted to play some cards. You can even keep them and ask for more then one desk of playing cards. (For some games two sets of cards are needed)

    If you fly in Europe to European countries always eat in beforehand and take food with you. They or won’t give you any food or you need to buy it in the airplane. There might be some exceptions.

    Never say things like I have a bomb or drugs on an airport also when it’s a joke. Security will stand next to you in just seconds.
    (This happened with a school trip someone said he had a bomb as a joke and really they stood next to him in seconds)

    One lesson I learned from Asia. Never take anything sharp with your handbags so make sure with packing that everything that’s sharp goes in the suitcase. Even things that are pointy can be seen as a danger.
    From small scissors, knifes to needles to anything like that. (In Europe they are a bid easier about it but in Asia it’s different)

    You are allowed to take small tubes with shampoo, soap toothpaste inside your handbag or anything like that and as many as you want as long as the tubes has 100 ml or less.

    Some airplanes have personal TV’s others don’t. If you don’t have a personal TV then the TV at the front or on the small televisions above you are mostly on the wrong place or really difficult to watch so don’t expect a television.

    3 years ago
  31. TLDR-ception!

    3 years ago
  32. Wow, reading all these comments.. seems like 2013 is the year for travelling to Korea eh? XD
    If there will be this many more tourists and what not in Korea this year, maybe the natives won’t stare as much as they did last year <(^o^<)

    3 years ago
  33. How can someone do a foreign exchange student or internship program in Korea? (Maybe intern Leigh can tell us!)

    3 years ago
    • If you’re a university student, just go to your school’s Office of International Programs. They’ll usually do everything in their power to help you get an exchange, and they’ll probably know some stuff about internships. If you’re not, it’ll definitely be a lot trickier.

      3 years ago
  34. Is it way more expensive if you take the bus insadong and don’t get a t-money card?

    3 years ago
    • If you will be using public transportation to get around Seoul, Busan, Jeju or Daejeon I recommend that you get a t-money card. It’s pretty cheap and you’ll also save money on transfers.

      3 years ago
    • Depends on your definition…. all transport is really really cheap in Korea, I think. It’s just a difference in How cheap <.<
      But I'm from Sweden, so I'm comparing to our prices.. The taxis in Korea are cheaper than our busses…

      3 years ago
  35. Very Useful tips :D

    3 years ago
  36. Martina, giiiiiirl your nails are fabulous!

    3 years ago
  37. Are you mind readers? O.O I thought about writing you, and ask you for some travel tips to South Korea, recommended airlines or hotels, transportation and a few places to visit. I’m planning to go there but I’m a bit scared to get lost or something XD I feel like such a little kid but I’m 26 DX. Anyways thanks for the tips guys ^^ Can I bother you with a few more questions? -feeling like the bad policeman at a suspect interrogation-

    3 years ago
  38. Hey Simon!! Reading ISN’T dead because well, I read a lot of your blog posts, and I wanted to point out a spelling mistake in this one, lol.

    In the section right above from “Just Arriving”, you wrote ‘Incheon Airpot’ instead of ‘Incheon Airport’, LOL. <3

    But it's okay, because well, Air pot. xD

    3 years ago
  39. If you’re traveling outside of Seoul, you have some options as well. I really recommend getting the limousine bus. It has great recliner-like seats and is really comfortable – but be forewarned – there is no bathroom, and sometimes it doesn’t stop until you get to your destination.

    Another option is to take the subway line (or a taxi) to Seoul Station and take a train to where you need to go. But trying to get a bunch of suitcases onto the subway, and then onto the train, is a pain, which is one reason I recommend the limousine bus.

    If you’re going far enough south, you can always fly into Busan airport or Daegu airport. Sometimes the flights are a bit more expensive, but if you figure in the cost of traveling from Incheon to, say, Daegu plus all the time it takes (about 3-4 more hours of traveling) and it is completely worth it. Plus both Daegu and Busan have smaller airports that are really easy to navigate.

    A word about packing – if you’re coming from the States, you can take two checked suitcases of 50# each and one carry-on. Pack at least one change of clothes in the carry-on – I’ve gotten stuck in an airport on my way to or from Korea about 60% of the time. (Excessive wind in Japan and San Fran, No air conditioner on the plane in Japan, Late flight in Amsterdam, Control tower on fire in New Jersey). Try to find a large backpack, one rolling bag, and one that you can sling on your shoulder. Trying to roll three suitcases is ridiculous. Also – it is very cheap to ship things from Korea to the US, so if you have a lot of things on the way back (and you don’t have time restrictions, mail them. The reverse is not true, however. You may as well buy new things in Korea, it’s so expensive to ship from the US).

    3 years ago
  40. What a coincidence, I was just looking at information on the airport today as I’m coming to Korea this summer. Thanks you so much for the blog post and video they are both saved as favorites for this summer >.<

    3 years ago