Incheon International Airport, also referred to as Seoul-Incheon International Airport, is the main airport serving the Seoul National Capital Area. It is the largest airport in South Korea and one of the largest and busiest in the world, with a recorded number of 40,785,953 international passengers handled in 2013. It is located 48km (30 miles) west of Seoul, the capital and the largest city of South Korea. It serves as the main hub for or Korean Air, Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air, and Polar Air Cargo, as well as a hub for international civilian air transportation and cargo traffic in East Asia. From 2005 up to present, the airport has been consistently voted as the best airport worldwide, according to Airports Council International.
Seoul, officially known as Seoul Special City, is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. It is also one of the financial and cultural epicentres of East Asia. The city is an extremely fascinating mixture of ancient traditions and modern lifestyle and technology. Suffice to say, there are plenty of stunning and interesting things, places, and activities that Seoul can offer. Since the city is South Korea’s seat of the government, you can visit one of more of its palaces. The most famous of them all, Gyeongbok Palace is a remarkable reminder of Seoul’s grand Joseon Dynasty era. See and learn about Korea’s architecture and court customs during your visit. Other notable palaces are Changdeok-gung, Deokso-gung, Changgyeong-gung, and Gyeonghui-gung. There are also plenty of temples and shrines in Seoul. The most famous one, the Jongmyo Shrine, is devoted to the royal family members of Korean dynasties. Inwang Temple in Mount Inwang is the most famous shamanist shrine in the city while Jogye Temple is one of South Korea’s most important modern Buddhist temples. However, the biggest and most visited one is the Bongeun Temple, which houses an impressive array of Buddhist sculptures and buildings. The mountains in and surrounding Seoul is also perfect for those who like to hike, with Mount Bukhan offering the best hiking opportunities. It is accessible by train to Dobongsan Station. The city parks are not only places to relax and stroll, but some of them also have important historical value. The 4.19 Memorial Cemetery has a museum, a mausoleum, numerous statues, and is a popular park to learn about Korea’s heritage. The Olympic Park, which was built for the 1986 Asian Games and the 1988 Seoul Olympics, is popular with just-married couples taking their wedding pictures, joggers, and visitors. If you want to see traditional Korean wooden homes (known as hanok), visit Bukchon village. Of course, your trip will not be complete without trying some of traditional South Korean food staples. There is a vast array of restaurants and food stalls across Seoul that offers excellent food choices in every budget. One of the best places to start is the 24-hour restaurants that offer a wide variety of food from Korean BBQ to ramyeon. Likewise, there are hundreds of places where you can have a good drink in the city. Visit Itaewon and get lost in one of its several food-and-drink venues.
How to get around within Seoul
Getting around Seoul without getting stuck in traffic jams is done best by taking the subway, the system being the second most used metro transportation in the world. Currently, there are a total of 17 lines, which means you can cover several areas. If you are staying for a longer period of time, say, more than a few weeks, or will be using the Metro extensively, it is highly recommended that you purchase a T-money stored value contactless smart card, which you can buy at most subway stations and newspaper kiosks near subway entrances. Not only you can use it to ride the Metro, but it is also considerably a cheaper way to get around since the card can be used for taxi fares and buses, as well as other services such as pay phones and storage lockers. Be reminded that the subway is not open 24 hours, so if you are out late at night, you might consider finding another alternative; like the Metro, Seoul’s bus transportation service is also extensive and well connected. Take note that there are four types of buses that differ in routes. The yellow buses usually ply around tourist spots. For intercity destinations, take either the red or green bus. Blue buses go across town while green buses are connected with the subway and travel around neighbourhoods. Same as buses, there are also several types of taxis in the city, which mainly differ in terms of fares. They can be easily hailed at any time of the day, especially if you’re in one of the major streets. Have your destination written in Korean before getting on a taxi since most drivers do not speak English or any other foreign language. Driving around by car or on a bicycle can be rather tricky, not to mention, the long rush hours. But if you are planning on biking or walking around, the best way to do so is to learn the rivers and streams. Cars are generally not allowed around these areas so not only you have escaped the traffic, there are places here that you can relax in.
How to get there
If you are flying in, you’ll most probably arrive at Incheon International Airport. Some of the carriers that operate at the airport are Korean Air, British Airways, China Airlines, KLM, and Asiana Airlines. From the airport, you can you can take the A’REX train that connects to Seoul Station and Gimpo Airport. Another way of getting is by bus. There are five major intercity bus terminals: Central City Terminal/Honam Terminal, Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, Nambu Bus Terminal, Sinchon Bus Terminal, and Seoul Express Bus Terminal, the last one being the largest one and serves pretty much all of South Korea. If you plan to drive all the way to Seoul, take the Gyeongbu Expressway, which links the city with Busan. You can also stray from the traffic on Gyeongbu Highway by taking Jungbu/2nd Jungbu, Seohaean, or Yongin-Seoul Expressway. It is also possible to get in the city by ferry. Those who are coming from China will dock at the neighbouring port city of Incheon. If you are coming in from Japan, the nearest port is in Busan. From there, you can take the KTX train to Seoul.