Vacationista: US Trip Day 0 (Transit tour in Korea)

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When we were planning for our US trip, I told my sister that if we were to pass by Korea, I wanted a long layover so I could at least avail of the free tours in their airport which I’ve been reading about. Thus, me and my cousin got the Manila-Dallas itinerary with a 5 hour transit in Seoul, Korea.
 


Korean Air has a really nice aircraft, even for the economy class. Leg room is huge as compared to PAL and Cebu Pacific (duh) plus the service is really good. I love that their entertainment system also includes a USB port so I don’t have to worry about my phone’s battery dying on me in the middle of a show or photo taking session. Headphones, a blanket, a pillow and a bottle of Jeju water awaits once you arrive on your seat.

 

As for the meals, no complaints from me. Aside from me not being a picky eater, I think their menu is good enough as it includes the standard main meal, bread and butter, salad or fruits and your choice of drink. Only thing I didn’t like was that they didn’t have the usual chili flakes or chilli oil but instead they only had the Korean hot pepper paste which really wasn’t spicy. I also noticed that if a passenger is sleeping during meal time, the stewardess sticks a note on their seat stating to tell the attendants, once they wake up, if they would still like to eat. Such a considerate gesture, don’t you think?

 

We arrived in Incheon early morning around 6am and the airport was empty. We first looked for the free tours kiosk. It’s more of a small stall than a dedicated desk so keep your eyes open. We waited near the stall and at around 630am, a woman arrived and we booked our one hour free tour on the spot. There are a lot of options starting from one hour tours up to 5 hour tours, depending on your transit time, though the 5 hour tours has a fee of $10. The others are mostly free.

 

Once we gave our boarding pass details, the woman gave us our arrivals card and accompanied us to the immigrations counter. No need for Korean visa for transit tours. We were hoping we could make the 7am tour but the line to the immigrations was quite long so we had to take the 8am tour. Once done with immigrations, we had to go to the tours desk outside the arrivals halls and register again. We had time to kill so we walked around the arrivals hall which had a lot of stores. In the middle of the halls were pretty Christmas-inspired decors.

 

10 minutes before 8am, we made our way to the tours desk and met up with the others passengers. A staff brought us to the awaiting shuttle. We knew it would be freezing in Korea so we came prepared with our thermals and winter coat. It was super cold! I think around 5 degrees Celsius. But good thing there was the sun. 


It’s quite funny because our tour guide said that it will take 20 minutes to get to the Yonggungsa Temple – the only temple a one-hour tour can accommodate – per way. That meant we would only have 10 minutes at the temple for picture taking. Haha! Even so, I really enjoyed our quick stay at the temple. There was no traffic going there and the scenery was nice. It was good to go out of the airport before our 13 hour flight to the US. Plus, it’s free so what more can you ask for? For more info on the tours, please visit their website. This is really a great initiative of the Korean government and I really hope other international hubs would follow suit.

 

The tour guide shared some info with us as we went around the temple grounds. On the dot, after 10 minutes, we headed back to our shuttle and made it back to the airport. I was a bit worried we wouldn’t make it on time for our flight since the immigration line was so long again but thankfully we arrived at our gate, with about 30 minutes to spare. Enough time for me to check out the nearby cosmetics store and score this awesome deal on Nature Republic face masks – 30+30 for $21 with 40% off. They had an ongoing sale so the saleswoman was really telling me it was a one-of-a-kind deal. In other words, I paid only $13 for 60 assorted masks. That’s like paying Php10 for each mask. Super sulit deal! They even had my current face mist of choice on sale too, 3 for $10 but I decided against it since I still had a spare one at home. To note, on our way home, I checked the store again for the same deal and they no longer had it. Good thing I already bought a pack. It’ll last me for years. Haha!    

 

Same as the Manila-Seoul flight, the Seoul-Dallas flight also had the standard entertainment system with USB portal. 


For one of our meals on this flight, I chose their bibimbap meal which wasn’t that much filling but still ok. Pizza was my snack of choice. I always sit on the aisle seats for easy restroom access. I needed to prepare for the change of time zone so I made sure to get some sleep on the plane, which was easy enough for me given the comfy seats and leg room.

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