Since autumn is coming up, it was decided that we should travel during autumn time (for 9 days) to experience something different (and not too cold, since I still can’t muster the courage for some place wintery… yet). For this trip, we decided to squeeze in a couple of days to visit Jeju island (just 3 days 2 nights), renowned as the "the Hawaii of Korea".
This has got to be one of the most challenging trips ever planned! It was originally a trip planned for 3 than ballooned to 5: due to some unforeseen circumstances (with the challenging coordinating to a frenzied state of panic when the promo tickets for our preferred dates started dwindling in numbers fast) it became a trip for 5 to South Korea on different flights (Singapore Air, Asiana and Korean Airlines) with overlapping days (we all arrive and depart with a 2 day difference, but we still have time to meet up).
Air FlightSingapore Airlines was having a promotion, so naturally it propelled us to want to go even more. With prices almost 50% off the original pricing for a full-service flight (with entertainment, food and an allowance of 30kg checked-in luggage) it is a bargain (even if the timings weren’t the best). [Read all about my analysis on budget vs. full-serviced flight to South Korea here]
So with tickets purchased at S$662 per person for a pair of return tickets from Singapore to Seoul, it was time to check out the accommodation and flight to Jeju!
Domestic flights to Jeju from Seoul’s Gimpo Airport (to Jeju Airport) are available daily at hourly intervals (there is a flight in and out of Jeju almost every hour or so). Depending on the dates (peak season), timing (last minute booking) and (departure) destination (e.g. Seoul or Busan), the average price per person on a domestic flight is around 150,000 to 170,000 won (that’s about S$185 to S$210).
DramaQueen and her friend MX, managed to get their (promotional) tickets on Korean Airlines for about S$740 person, but they would be arriving and departing 2 days earlier. Despite their arrival and departure differences, we still had a couple of overlapping days which we decided to head to Jeju.
Initially we were planning to go with Jeju Air, being budget and all. It would have cost us 108,000 won (about S$135) per person for return trip from Seoul (Gimpo Airport) to Jeju; the other budget airlines were either sold out for the dates we wanted or did not have any special fares (the normal fares were too much to our budget). But thankfully the payment system for Jeju Air failed on me, so after some (more) googling for another alternative which was hopefully cheaper and (more non IE) browser friendly... lo and behold I found Air Busan which was having a promotion. So we ended up paying only 99,000 won (about S$125) per person for a return ticket instead. It was a happy moment (of course if it could be cheaper, even better lol). The total came up to S$787 per person.
C managed to get her (rather later) flight tickets from Flight Center for the (almost) same dates (arriving and departure later than us by at least two days), and it included the flight to Jeju and back to Gimpo Ariport (!). Her return tickets on Asiana from Flight Center (Singapore – Incheon – Jeju – Incheon – Singapore) cost her S$902.
Accommodation (Seoul – Jeju – Seoul)1. [Seoul - Hongdae Accommodation] 2 nights
Since our flight would arrive at night, practically a day would have been wasted, so in order not to waste any more time, we decided to stay in one of the most happening places in Seoul (on a weekend night) – Hongdae, where the shops close late, along with a vibrant youth culture ongoing. Initially the booking was planned to be made with Ara’s 2BR Apartment, located near the Hongik University Subway Station and right smack in the middle of the Hongdae area. Ara’s 2BR Apartment seemed like a perfect fit for our 2 nights stay… until it was snatched up by another person (3 months before our departure!). It was only a matter of days that Ara’s 2BR Apartment was snapped up, leaving us a little at a loss.
So it was back to square one again. After much re-searching it was a contention KIM'S STUDIO (Hongdae) and Private Flat in fun, hip Hongdae. In the end the former won as the location seemed more ideal: the subway/AREX is accessible via the lift and is sheltered, so that would help when it gets wet or chilly (especially since we would arrive late a night). The only issue was that the spare mattress would only be available if there are 3 people or more (a maximum of 4 persons) booking the place. Well, it is only for 2 nights, so it should be ok since it is a queen size bed.
Note: Do note that the KIM'S STUDIO (Hongdae) charges a minimum of 2 persons. So even if you are a single traveler, you would be paying the price of 2, should you choose to book this place. You will only get the extra mattress if you have more than 2 people (it’s a cost thing). Oh, and there is no TV.
After confirming with the host (Sue) that KIM'S STUDIO (Hongdae) was available and that there was only going to be one bed (coupled with the ‘trauma’ of having Ara’s 2BR Apartment so suddenly snapped up and the fact that the popular accommodations seemed to be getting snapped up relatively fast), I quickly used the AirBnB mobile app (first time using it) and booked it with the “Instant Book” option.
While the “Instant Book” option was, well, instant, what I didn’t like about that there was no safety guard should you have a trigger happy shopping finger or any buyers’ regret. The payment went too smoothly, a little too smoothly to my liking and does not seem that secure. It would have been better if there was an OTP (one time pin) sent to the mobile phone for double confirmation, rather than just authorizing the credit card with a simple click of a button.
Anyways, with KIM'S STUDIO (Hongdae) successfully booked for our first 2 nights (and money taken by AirBnB), the headache for the first leg of the trip has been resolved. Now, hopefully the host, Sue, can reply me soon on some of my questions about transportation to her place at night. Stay tuned for my review on KIM'S STUDIO (Hongdae)!
2. [Jeju Accommodation - Jejueco Suites + Tour] 2 nights
I came to know of this really interesting accommodation called Jejueco, an eco-style place that is efficient in the way it uses energy (sorta reminds me of the Beitou Library in Taipei, Taiwan): resources are responsibly used to cause minimal environmental damage. There are only 10 suites (equivalent to 1 room apartments) has a separate bedroom in one room and lounge/dining, and kitchen. Depending on the room type (Deluxe or Jacuzzi) it may or may not come with a balcony. [You can read more about the room details here]
They also provide tours, which was a plus point since it will be our first time in Jeju and we really don’t know (exactly) where to go and what to do. The tour seemed like a perfect “crash-course” on what to do when we are in Jeju. The tour includes breakfast and lunch for 2 days, as well as the admission fees. The only thing would be dinner and evening free time, which should be fine.
The reviews at Tripadvisor were encouraging, so we ended up booking a room for 2 nights with tour for 5 persons 2 rooms). Stay tuned for my review Jejueco Suites + Tour!
3. [Seoul Airbnb Gyeongbukgung Accommodation] 4 nightsFor our remaining 4 nights in Seoul, once back from Jeju, the accommodation chosen was Sui’s Loft (#3) & (#1) located near the Gyeongbokgung Palace and Insadong area – the cultural area. I would have loved to have stayed in Lina’s place again, but it would be a tight squeeze with 5 people. Moreover, Sui provides heat packs and a wifi egg during the stay so those were additional plus points (since it was autumn and should be colder than spring). Stay tuned for the reviews on Sui’s Loft (#3) & (#1)!
Note: If you are traveling to Seoul and are looking for a place to stay for 1-2 persons, I would recommend Lina’s Loft as a good base. Lina’s Loft is near the Gongdeok Station (AREX, Line 5 and 6) and is relatively accessible to the other parts of Seoul as well as the Incheon Airport. There is even a famous market nearby and plenty of restaurants and cafes throughout the area; you will be spoilt for choice! [Read my review on Lina’s Loft here]
VouchersOf course, no trip is complete with discount vouchers. Discount to Everland, Trick Eye Museum, shopping and every other discount we could get our hands on were printed out. :)
Communication Devices and EG SIM CardWhen you are overseas, you might want to get a local SIM card to make those local calls etc... In South Korea, if you are traveling in a large group and just want to use data only than you can consider getting a WiFi egg. But if you are planning to make some local phone calls and use some data, it might be best to use a local SIM since there’s practically free WiFi everywhere in Seoul and the accommodations (we selected) do provide WiFi as well.
Out of all the SIM cards and plans (of different telcos), the EG SIM card seems to be the most economical one. There are many options in how you get your EG Mobile SIM card: you can order online and choose to collect it upon your arrival or have it sent to you, or you could simply purchase it at the authorized places when you arrive in Seoul/Busan/Jeju etc… And there is now this option, you can actually purchase the SIM card at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 for just S$38 (30 minutes worth of talktime and 500mb worth of data), which is not too bad. A trip to the airport and it’s done… now no more hassle over getting a SIM card upon arrival (especially night flights).
For this trip, we decided to only get 1 SIM card, since KIM'S STUDIO (Hongdae) and Sui's Loft provide (complimentary) WiFi egg. And for everything else, well, there’s free WiFi for that.
Transportation: T-MoneySince I still have my T-Money Pass with me from my last trip and DramaQueen so kindly offered to loan hers for this trip (since her flight is in the day and she has time to get another card), catching the last AREX train to Hongdae would be even easier!
Ok, flight(s), accommodation and everything else has been settled… now the only thing left to do is (try) to wait patiently for D DAY! Super excited!