A Travellerspoint blog

South Korea P3: Tips and bits upon arrival

for first-time travelers

View South Korea on Phpassport's travel map.

This is Part 3 of my SK series.

You can read PART 1 here and Part 2 here.

More than a month after I got my visa, my much awaited fan-girling and Korean Invasion has come!

I want to share some tips that might be helpful for first time travelers to South Korea.

1. Bring a pen.
This comes handy as you will need to fill-up departure card, arrival card and customs declaration form. During this trip, there was a girl who obviously was waiting for me to finish filling up my departure card so she can borrow my pen. Good thing I carry a couple of pens with me every time I go abroad so I gave her one and told her to keep it as she will need it once she arrives to her destination ***good Samaritan, eh?
Another time-saving tip: fill-up these two forms as soon as it is handed to you by the cabin crew.


SK arrival card

2. Stand near the train doors.
Depending on the airline and gate assignment, you might need to use the transfer train from the gate to arrival hall. Standing near the door gives you the chance to dash your way to the immigration line and be the first one to be cleared. Bear in mind that immigration lines can get crowded since there are a lot of travelers arriving in Incheon. It took me about 45 minutes to complete custom formalities.


3. T-Money.
This is the Korean version of Hong Kong's Octopus card and London's Oyster card. I bought mine in one of the convenience stores located in the arrival hall for KRW2500 roughly around PHP100. You can also purchase credits on the same store. T-moneys are reloadable on subway stations and convenience stores bearing the T-Money logo.

I mainly used T-Money for subway and bus transportation in Seoul and Busan.

4. AREX.
Airport Express (express train and all-stop train) runs from ICN airport to Seoul station. Travel time is around 1 hour. The Express train costs KRW14800 (roughly PHP592) while All Stop Train costs KRW4250 (roughly PHP170). Being the stingy traveler as I am, I took the all-stop train. Difference in travel time is only 13minutes. From the arrival hall, just follow the signs going to the correct train platform.


From L to R: Arrival Hall to AREX; inside AREX all-stop train; outside Seoul Station

5. Keep your sanity. Install the Subway Map in your smart phone.
There are English versions you can download via iOS and Play Store. It will give you information regarding train schedules, fares, line transfers, station information, etc. Again, you may want to save your self from wasting time, fare and time. Some areas of interests in Seoul are reachable using subway.


Seoul Subway Map

There is also a Busan Subway Map you can download if you plan to visit this another interesting city.

6. Subway Lockers.
Since I used CouchSurfing on this trip and my host will be available in the evening, I didn't want to waste time waiting so I decided to use one of the lockers in Seoul Station so I can start roaming around the city . Depending on the locker size, keeping your bags will cost around KRW2000 to KRW3000 (PHP80 to PHP120). It s very simple to use. Just choose which box number you would like to use, select method of payment ( I used cash but they also accept T-Money), it will ask you for fingerprints, then print out a receipt with the locker information. It will automatically open and lock once you close the locker door.
To retrieve your luggage, just select the locker number, system will ask for your fingerprints and will open the locker automatically.

7. Conversion computation.
Korean Won can be confusing because of the denomination. Simple computation I learned is to remove the last 2 digits then multiply the remaining into 4.
Sample Computation:

KRW 12500 to PHP
Remove the last 2 digits: 125
Then, multiply the remaining numbers to 4: 125 x 4
Equivalent to PHP: 500
XE conversion as of writing (June 20, 2016): KRW12500 = PHP495.868

These are just some of my tips that might help you on your first time to South Korea.

Do you have any other tips? Share it with other travelers by putting up comments below!

Posted by Phpassport 16:43 Archived in South Korea Tagged travel south_korea tips first-timer Comments (0)

South Korea: Travelling outside SEAsia for the first time

PART 1: The why, how, when, where and who of Korea travel influences and other preparations

sunny 12 °C
View South Korea on Phpassport's travel map.

Land of the morning calm.

Ramen kimchi jjigae

Nobody, nobody but you **clap clap (I learned this in college)
Eh eh eh eh eh eh eh eh 2NE1 (I also learned this in college, great influence eh, Sintang Paaralan?)
My idea of Korea is limited by these words.

In every circle of people I know; church mates to workmates, college colleagues, virtual friends and even the ahjummas in the office where I had my OJT, there is always someone addicted to Korean trend and I always steer away from them once they start talking about actors and idols like they know them personally.

Just when I thought I will be spared from this hype, I slowly found my self getting fascinated to K-dramas.

The sleepless nights I had when studying for Final exams is almost the same with trying to finish a drama in just a few days (well, I finished one drama in 1 day!)

From the actors, to the plot, it is very different with local dramas produced: unpredictable stories and very seldom that they extend the series regardless of how popular the show has become.

Then I dreamed on going to the sites where the filming took place.

And so when an airline released a seat sale, I decided to book the flight and give it a go without thinking of the visa application requirements.
How can I refuse a Php4000 roundtrip Manila-Incheon fare anyways?
Can you?

So here's what happened next:

Part 2: The Nerve-wracking Visa Application

Posted by Phpassport 21:26 Archived in South Korea Tagged south_korea seoul busan solo_travel Comments (0)

South Korea P2: Travelling outside SEAsia for the first time

The nerve-wracking Visa Application

sunny 12 °C
View South Korea on Phpassport's travel map.

Missed Part 1? Click HERE and read thru my South Korea trip beyond passport stamps.

As a traveler with a third-world passport, it is easy to be discouraged by visa applications.

Stories and news from other travelers who just want to explore as tourists getting denied of a visa are really disheartening.

While it's true that it is difficult to get your visa application approved, it's not totally impossible!

South Korea is the first country I traveled to that requires a visa.
You may have read it several times but my advice is also to build up your travel history. Visit visa-free countries first.
It is like building your resume.
This way, they will know that you have been outside of the country and returned to the Philippines and did not seek employment or stayed illegally.

Prior to this trip, I have been to Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Macau.

READ: Visa Requirements for Filipinos

==So how to apply for South Korean visa?==

My checklist

===Tourist/Business Visa Requirements for Employees===

1. Application Form
2. 1 piece of Passport size colored picture
3. Original Passport (should be valid for more than 6months)
4. Photocopy of Passport Bio-page (page 2)
5. Original & Photocopy of valid visa/s and arrival stamps to OECD member countries for the past 5 years (If applicable only)
6. Original Certificate of Employment - mine didn't have HR e-mail address and they still accepted it
(must include applicant's position, date hired, compensation, office address, HR landline number(cell-phone number is not allowed), HR e-mail address)
7. Original Personal Bank Certificate
(must include account type, current balance, account opening date, ADB)
8. Bank Statement
(original or certified true copy of bank statements/passbook for the last 3 months)
9. ITR(Income Tax Return) or Form 2316 Copy - I emailed the Embassy for this and told me a photocopy, even without the BIR stamp is okay
10. Copy of PRC Card or IBP Card (If applicable only)

Please note: This is for tourist visa application for employees without sponsor. For other types of visa, kindly refer to the website of Embassy of South Korea to the Philippines

  • Frequent travellers who have travelled as tourist to OECD member countries within 5 years are exempted from submitting ITR.

■ Processing Time:
3 working days (for those who have been to OECD member countries within 5 years as tourist)
5 working days (for those who have not been to OECD member countries within 5 years)

■ Visa Fee: 59 days (or less) stay in Korea -- GRATIS
60 to 90 days stay in Korea -- PHP1,800.00

Single-entry visas are valid for 3-months from date of issue with a stay of not more than 59 days.
I lodged my application March 8 and is due to be released March 15. My intended date of Entry is last week of April.

Directions to Korean Embasssy using Public Transportation:

- Whether you are coming from North or South of Metro Manila, the easiest way is to take the MRT to Guadalupe Station.

- Look for the jeepney terminal and take the jeepney with C5 signboard. It will pass through Market! Market! and SM Aura. You will be dropped off right in front of the embassy.

I suggest going there earlier than 8AM.
There were already a lot of people having their documents checked by one of the staffs and giving priority number when I arrived and that was only 8:05A.
I had a chance to talk to someone I met while waiting on queue.
He told me that he went there the day prior around 10:30AM thinking that most of the applicants is finished by then but was surprised that the embassy had their cut-off time earlier than the usual due to the number of applicants that show up that day.
So he had to go back the next day. Talk about the hassle of braving the traffic in EDSA.

Schedule of visa application and releasing starting June 1, 2015

8:30 am to 11:00 am - Visa Application
1:30 pm to 4:00 pm - Releasing of Passports

The visa application is painless. You just have to wait for your number to be flashed on the screen for the proper window where to submit your documents.

In my case, since I am a first time traveler, I was assigned to Window 1. And, make sure you have your documents organized as per the checklist.
The embassy staff is quite strict about this. The person before me was told to sort the papers first and go back once it is arranged.

It only took me 1.5 hours to complete the application. You will be given a claim stub with the release date of your passport hopefully with a visa.
Since I am leaving for Davao City the following day, I just asked my brother to claim my passport after 5 days.
No need to present any authorization form whatsoever if someone will be picking up your passport.

I know you are curious as to how much money you should have in your account right? Because I was too!

Well, there is no amount set by the embassy but since I booked my flight 9 months in advance, I had a lot of time saving for this trip.
I had Php 122k in my savings account when I applied with ADB of Php 70k.
I had to restrict my self from splurging and spending which means thhat my 13th month pay, SL conversion, Tax Refund and almost 70% of my salary is deposited to my savings.
Some other travelers said that they only have Php 30k in their bank account but still got their visa approved.

So the waiting game started. I was paranoid. What if it will be denied?

I can't finalize my itinerary yet because I don't want to be very disappointed.

Fast forward to March 15

, I already prepared my self of all the possibilities. I even looked for airfares online for PLAN B in case my passport will be returned empty handed.
I literally even went to the beach in Samal Island just to clear my mind of the paranoia.

Then my brother texted me that he already got my passport. He was so clueless, he did not know if it was denied or approved.

A friend told me that if they return the passport without any papers stapled to it, that means your visa is approved.

So I asked if there are papers attached to the passport. My heart beating fast. Breathing gets heavy.

He said no paper. Just the maroon booklet.

I didn't believe him at first. I asked him to browse through the pages and take a picture of the visa.


Used South Korean visa

I wanted to scream for joy not just because it got approved but because I proved that it is totally possible for a third-world passport to have a visa application granted!

Posted by Phpassport 20:23 Archived in Philippines Tagged south_korea seoul busan solo_travel visa_application Comments (0)

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