Alhamdulillah, who would have thought that I would finally be able to land my foot in Korea (because I do not see that coming even from three months before this). The trip was impromptu, yes, but I still think it is well-prepared for :) It took me about one whole month of studying, researching, booking the flight and looking for the best accommodation. The internet & laptop are my best friend for the whole month as I had to present my proposal to my parents.
Upon reading countless of blogs for information, I realized that it is rather difficult and rare to find a blog that writes about Summer Trip to Korea. It seems to not so ideal to visit Korea in Summer due to the hot and humid weather so I am taking the initiative with the intention of giving aid to those who needs it.
1. Choose dates & book your flight - This is the initial step.
My mother and I decided to spend our Hari Raya in Korea so we chose 7th July to 13th July (a week in total) of 2016. Our flight was on the night of the first raya.
2. Set your budget for the whole trip.
3. Pick your area & start looking for accommodation.
Most people would go for the guest houses that are vastly available across Seoul. I went back and forth with my decision of where to stay so I seek guidance from friends whom already visited Korea before. Thanks DJ & Nabihah!
DJ recommended Hongdae area as Hongik University station has an Airport Line (AREX) connected to the subway station. Making it easy to reach to/from the airport without having to make a transfer.
Nabihah however, recommended the Myeongdong area as it is in the center of Seoul, making the area accessible to loads of attractions with less subway stations and less travel time needed. The con is, to go to/from the airport via train, you will need to make a transfer at Seoul Station. Not entirely troublesome as I think it is so easy to make a transfer from one line to another :)
I, on the other hand finally chose to stay in an apartment (booked via airbnb) at Chungmuro area. The apartment is 2 mins walk from the Chungmuro station Exit 6, 10-15 mins walk to Myeongdong, 25 mins walk to Namsan Orumi (elevator that goes to Namsan Cable Car) and Namdaemun Market.
The reason to finally settled with an apartment is because I traveled with my mother so I take that into consideration. The studio apartment is well-equipped with microwave, washing machine and dryer, as well as iron! I was having the week of my life in Seoul. Hari-hari basuh baju okay!
4. Jot down the places that you want to go & be flexible with your planning
This is important. Before arranging which places to visit on which day, list down the places that you want to go first and work your itinerary from there.
Study and know the Seoul and the subway map by heart (download the Subway Korea app on Google Store). Chances are, some places that you want to go are in the same area so you can just put them in one day without having to go to the same area twice. If you are efficient with your time management and planning, you can even go to 5-6 places in one day just like I did :)
Take note also about which exit you should go out at for each attractions/places. Some big stations can have up to 15 exits! Not knowing which exit can totally mislead you and brings you to a completely opposite area.
5. Allocate time for eating and work your itinerary around prayer times (for Muslims)
There are several Halal eateries & prayer areas in Seoul which I will share later in another post, inshaAllah.
6. Check and recheck the weather forecast
July is the month of early Summer season & known to be monsoon season as well (unpredictable rains & thunderstorms). I was worried for the weather as few days before my departure, Seoul was poured with heavy rain. Fortunately enough, alhamdulillah, the weather was sunny and bright for the whole week of my stay. It rains on my final day to the airport, though. Heheh.
For Summer season, I would suggest light clothing. Something breathable. Ditch your sweater/cardigan. Be prepared with rain jacket/parka. For girls, bring along your singlets as the hot weather will lead to excessive sweating. I am not trying to be funny here.
Sunglasses. The sun will burn your eyessss (obviously exaggerating). Wear decent amount of sunblock. I wore SPF 130.
Bring travel adaptors as Korea uses the 2 pins socket.
Comfortable shoes. Sneakers or sport shoes are highly recommended. Your travel in Korea will involve A LOT of walking, climbing stairs and walk uphill. This isn't me exaggerating.
For bags... it depends. I brought a trolley bag, medium size, light weighted. Some people prefer to bring the huge backpack. I did not bring any hand luggage suitcase with me.
Foods! If you are on a tight budget, I would suggest for you to bring instant Brahims, tuna in cans, biscuits, maggie cup or even porridge in cups.
8. Be fit for subway stairs and walking.
The flight of stairs at Korea's subway stations are just unbelievable. Some are deadly, especially at Myeongdong Exit 6 and Anguk station Exit 2. Please set your mindset beforehand or you will lose your strength by the second day of your trip. No wonder most Koreans have lean legs. The amount of stairs involved in their lives... phewh.
Fret not, some areas still offer decent amount of escalators but you will need to queue up especially during peak hours (early morning and when Koreans get off work).
That's about it for preparation I think. Do email me if anyone ever needs a soft copy of my itinerary. I will gladly share it with you :)