Friday, June 29, 2012

Hostels and Guesthouses in Mapo-gu

Also Check:

Mapo-gu is the district in Seoul with a large concentration of hostels and affordable guesthouses in Seoul. Backpackers who are looking to experience living in dorms, making new friends or most importantly are on a tight budget will do well to start looking for accommodation around this area.

Mapo-gu, from KTO Tourist Map
While Mapo-gu is not in the area of downtown Seoul and this may be a deciding factor for most travellers looking for a place, the district is not without its own advantages:
  1. Some have cheaper room rates as compared to downtown Seoul
  2. Cheaper foods because of the many universities, catering to students' needs
  3. Nearer to Incheon Airport: taxi, AREX and airport bus cost less
Hongik University and Sinchon subway stations in Mapo serve the subway line 2, the only circular line in Seoul. Travel time to Myeongdong (via Euljiro 1-ga station) takes only 12 minutes.

The price listed below are for rooms with double occupancy, and for a single bed in a dorm. Not all these places have female only dorms so you need to check their sites to confirm.

A lot of thanks to our friends at Cari Forum, who listed most of the places pinned here.

Click the icons to see rates and websites.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

BaB Restaurant - Hongdae

Category: Restaurant - Vegetarian Friendly Restaurant
Nearest Subway Station: Hongik University Station (Line 2, AREX)
Distance from Subway Station: 603 meters (Exit 9)
District (gu): Mapo-gu
GPS: 37.551922,126.923251
Description:

A break from all the Indian restaurants in the previous entries this one is a vegetarian friendly restaurant where we can order the vegetarian dish bibimbap (mixed rice), sundubu jjigae (soft tofu stew) that is made with seafood or their doenjang jjigae (soybean paste stew). Each selection will come with a set of side dishes. BaB is a restaurant chain and this particular branch is located in Hongdae very near to Hongik University's gate. Price starts at 7,000 KRW (source 1, source 2, source 3)


Location in Google Map:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

First Nepal Restaurant

Category: Restaurant - Halal Restaurant
Nearest Subway Station:  Ewha Woman's University (Line 2)
Distance from Subway Station:  279 meters (Exit 2)
District (gu): Seodaemun-gu
GPS: 37.557821,126.943689
Description:

This restaurant serving Indian and Nepalese dishes is located in the area of many restaurants and clothing stores in front of Ewha Woman's University. It serves halal and vegetarian dishes with the cheapest vegetarian lunch menu set starting at 9,000 KRW. The restaurant is on second floor. (source 1, source 2, source 3)


Location in Google Map:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Shanti Restaurant

Category: Restaurant - Halal Restaurant
Nearest Subway Station: Hongik University Station (Line 2, AREX)
Distance from Subway Station: 244 meters (Exit 8)
District (gu): Mapo-gu
Description:

Another Indian/Nepali restaurant serving Halal food is Shanti located in Hongdae. The menus include curries, tandoori chicken and naan breads among many others. There are three branches of Shanti in Hongdae and this particular one is located near exit 8 of Hongdae station. The restaurant is on the second floor and lunch set starts from 13,000 KRW. (source 1, source 2)


Location in Google Map:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Handel and Gretel - Super Junior

Category: Attraction - Hallyu
Nearest Subway Station: National Assembly Station (Line 9)
Distance from Subway Station: 200 meters (Exit 4)
District (gu): Yeongdeungpo-gu
Description:

Another in the series of cafes opened by family members of Super Junior (you can guess which group I like right now) is Handel and Gretel operated by the parents and younger brother of Yesung. This cafe is situated just in front of KBS so you can group your visits together with watching Super Junior Kiss The Radio and have a day full of Super Junior experience. It serves drinks, cakes and sandwiches and almost all of its customers are Super Junior's fans. (source)


UPDATE: As of October 2012, Yesung's family no longer operate this cafe.

Location in Google Map:

Friday, June 22, 2012

Travelling from Incheon Airport to Seoul

You have touched down! Getting down from the airplane, taking your luggage from the carousel, showing your passport to the immigration officer and are finally out of that gate! Now how to get to Seoul?

There are three options on getting to Seoul:

1. Using AREX

AREX is a railway line that connects Incheon Airport to Seoul. It operates ten stations out of which six are connected to the subway lines.

source: arex.or.kr

There are two types of trains that AREX operate, trains that stop at every station (commuter trains) and express trains that go directly to Seoul Station. The express trains cost more than the normal one.

  • Commuter AREX: Incheon - Seoul Station: 3,850 KRW / 53 minutes
  • Express AREX: Incheon - Seoul Station: 13,800 KRW / 43 minutes

It is extremely cheap to go by AREX especially if you take the commuter AREX. However this option is only suitable if you are not carrying heavy luggage with you. It is hard to find elevator for exits in subway stations so you will have to be prepared to carry your luggage on escalators and stairs. It is the perfect choice however to backpackers who would like to save money (and spend it somewhere else).

To take AREX, make your way to the Transportation Center on B1 Floor. There are signs to guide you towards this building. Then you should buy ticket to the station that is closest to your booked accommodation. Please take note of the transfer station(s) that you may have to go through to get to your intended station.

Journey from Airport - Myeongdong, transfer at Seoul Station
2. Using Airport Limousine Bus

This is a more comfortable option compared to taking AREX but is still an affordable one. Airport bus goes to various parts of Seoul. There are two types of buses, the standard limousine bus that goes to a lot more stations and deluxe bus that makes its stops mostly at major hotels in Seoul and have more spacious seats.

  • Standard Limousine Bus: Incheon - Myeongdong (Sejong Hotel): 10,000 KRW
  • Deluxe Limousine Bus: Incheon - Myeongdong (Sejong Hotel): 14,000 KRW

If you are carrying heavy luggage this is a good option for you. You can put your luggage in the luggage compartment and they will stick a number to the bag and give a stub to you or you can take it with you on the bus. Ticket can be bought either at their ticketing counter or from the bus' driver when boarding the bus.

Platform 3B-6B and 10A-13A for buses to Seoul

Before boarding you have to find out which airport bus goes nearest to your accommodation. This information can be gotten from their official site here.

Standard Limousine Bus to Myeongdong: 6015
Route information for bus: 6015. Clicking the circles will show the map of where the bus stops are located
3. Using Taxi

If you'd rather have someone else find your accommodation for you, send you straight to the doorstep and just want to relax and enjoy the scenery of Seoul after the long flight, you can opt to take a taxi.

A. Hail the taxi

Platform 6C for taxis to Seoul

You can go to the taxi platform (6C for Seoul Taxi) at the airport and take a taxi there. The basic rate for normal taxi is 2,400 KRW for the first 2km and it increases by 100 KRW per 144 meters. You are also expected to pay for the toll fare of around 7,400 KRW. The estimated time and fare for areas in Seoul taken from Incheon International Airport Website is as below:

source: here
However if there is traffic jam the fare can be higher. Also make sure that you take the normal taxi (white/silver or orange) and not the deluxe taxi (black) because the rates are different. Take note too that the meter is running when the journey starts.

normal taxis. source: visitseoul.net

B. Book the taxi

Instead of hailing for taxi at the airport taxi platform, you can also book for your taxi beforehand. The driver will then wait for you in front of the arrival hall with your name sign.


This is a service provided by "International Taxi" and it charges a flat-rate for journey to Seoul according to locations.

Myeongdong is B Zone: 65,000 KRW
Booking for International Taxi can be done through their website here. Their drivers mostly speak passable English so you can carry conversation with them throughout the long journey to Seoul.

While taxi is the most expensive option out of the three, it can be feasible if you are in a large group so you can split the fare. If you are afraid of getting lost finding your accommodation and have elderly or very young children in your group taxi is also probably the best choice. Good luck!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Amma Restaurant

Category: Restaurant - Halal Restaurant
Nearest Subway Station: Sinchon Station (Line 2)
Distance from Subway Station: 276 meters (Exit 2)
District (gu): Seodaemun-gu
Description:

Near to Yonsei University in the neighbourhood of Sinchon-dong is Amma Restaurant, an Indian-Nepali restaurant that serves halal dishes. The chefs come from Nepal and India and are guaranteed to serve you authentic Indian/Nepali food. Lunch set starts at 20,000 KRW for 2 people and chicken briyani is from 9,000 KRW. Restaurant is open from 11.30 AM to 10.30 pm and is located on the 2nd Floor. (source 1, source 2)


Location in Google Map:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Little India Restaurant

Category: Restaurant - Halal Restaurant
Nearest Subway Station: Jongno 3-ga (Line 1, 3, 5)
Distance from Subway Station: 298 meters (Exit 5)
District (gu): Jongno-gu
Description:

If you are in Insadong and instead of vegetarian temple food you want to have some meat in your dish, head to this Halal Indian restaurant located in this area. In the same stretch of road as Ssamziegil and Nami Shuttle Bus Ticketing Office, you can get your tickets to Nami Island and then drop by for lunch here. The restaurant serves the usual Indian dishes like curries and samosa. It is closest to Jongno 3-ga station but is also within walking distance from Anguk station. (source 1, source 2)


Location in Google Map:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Useful Smartphone Apps

Having a smartphone/iPod Touch/tablet can be one of your best travel companions South Korea. In addition to being able to load this site for your instant references (heh), there are extremely useful apps that you can download to guide you on your trip.

The most well-known app when it comes to touring Seoul must be the app developed by Seoul Tourism Organization : i-Tour Seoul. In addition to that app, these are other applications that can help you through your trip in Seoul.

1. Seoul Travel Mate (iOS) - USD 0.99

This is my absolute favourite app. I use it to search for location given a particular address. It is especially useful when there are no maps given for places I am looking for and there are only addresses listed. In addition to that, it also has a subway guide that can be used offline. Choose your departure and arrival and it will show fare information, time taken, exchange stations and also the subway map for that particular journey. Stations can be chosen according to its subway line or by alphabetical order. This app was extremely useful during our visit. Highly recommended.



2. Skype (iOS, Android) - Free

This VOIP application is useful for its ability to call to phone lines. Although to call phones users would have to pay for some Skype Credit, the rate is usually much cheaper than using your mobile phone. Plus call to other Skype users are always free. Use the app to call home and the KTO translation service.


3. Google Map (iOs, Android) - Free

If your phone has GPS, this application can be really helpful. It can detect your current location, give directions to a particular destination and it even gives you access to your saved Google Map maps. Google has also recently announced that it will enable offline mode to phone versions so users can view their downloaded map when there is no internet connection.


4. Viber (iOs, Android) - Free

Viber is another VOIP application, the difference between Viber and Skype however is that Viber doesn't require username for registration but map users with their phone numbers. As long as you have the other user's phone number in your phone, it will automatically add that user as your Viber contact. The application also doesn't have to be running in the background for you to receive calls. As an addition, the messaging function has a location tag. If enabled, messages you send will carry with it the information of where you are at when sending the message. It can be useful if you are lost and your friends need to know where you are at.



5. Jihachul (iOS, Android) - Free

This app gives information on subway stations: timetable, exit info, phone number, available facilities and also buses that go through the stations. In addition to this, the application also can show the stations that user would go through between two determined stations and also the transit info. With location enabled, this station can also show the nearest subway location to where you are currently at.



6. World Nomads Korean Language Guide (iOS) - Free

This app has useful Korean phrases divided by categories. For each phrases there are the romanization and hangul scripts of them. The app will also read out the phrases aloud so you can practice your pronunciation before asking out your questions. This application is available offline and there is a paid version with more phrases.


7. Qibla Compass (Android) - Free

This application can show the location of qibla using only GPS but it requires clear sky view and may take a while. This feature is useful for when there is no internet connection at a place. Most other apps require wireless network to be available before they start locating. This app can also uses wireless network to find the location of qibla and it will locate faster using it. It also list prayer times for our current location.


 Using these apps can be battery draining, so make sure to bring extra battery with you!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Budget Accommodations in Downtown Seoul

Also Check:

Listed in the map is a number of budget accommodations around Seoul, especially in the downtown area of Jung-gu and Jongno-gu. The accommodations listed are those that offer rooms at 100,000 KRW and below per double occupancy.

Downtown Seoul, from KTO Tourist Map
Subway stations are also labeled in English so that you can see which nearest subway stations these accommodations are located in. For each location, the current published rates are also listed together. Please check the websites to double confirm the rates in case they have revised it since I last updated.

These accommodations are pinned on the map on their exact locations. You can add them to your own map. Refer here.

If you want to suggest a place please contact me using the contact form or comment here.


Click the icons to see rates and websites. Drag the map around to see more places.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Korea Tourism Organization Maps

KTO Digital Map

One of this site's feature is the extensive use of Google Map. However, the labels and buildings in South Korea's Google Map is in Hangul. This may be a problem for those who can't read Hangul. Luckily Korea Tourism Organization also have their own digital maps with English labels.

Map of Myeongdong
This digital map can be accessed here. The map also have functions to search for tourist spots, landmarks, addresses and routes. While it doesn't have features as extensive as Google's one, it is useful for us to be able to read the landmarks, buildings and subway stations labels.

Korea Tourist Map

If you go to any nearest KTO Office, you can get your hand on this tourist map:

I got mine from KTO Kuala Lumpur
However if it is not possible for you to go to their office, KTO Website has uploaded this map in the form of e-book at their official site. This map is more tourist oriented with labels of tourist attractions, hostels, guesthouses and also information centers included in the map. You can access the e-book here.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Persian Palace

Category: Restaurant - Halal Restaurant
Nearest Subway Station:  Hyehwa (Line 4)
Distance from Subway Station:  517 meters (Exit 4)
District (gu): Jongno-gu
Description:

This restaurant's specialty is Persian curries that can be customized to varying degrees of spiciness. The owner is an Iranian that came to South Korea to attend university and ended up staying to open up his own restaurant. The dishes have been customized to suit Korean taste. Among the most popular menus is their curry rice. The restaurant is located in front of Sungkyunkwan University so it is quite packed during lunch hours. (source 1, source 2)

It is the orange building at the back. Follow the camel path.

Location in Google Map:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Staying Connected in Seoul

It is recommended to check first the roaming rate to South Korea by your mobile service provider. Most roaming charges are heart attack inducing but sometimes telco companies have service agreements with each other for roaming service. This means that customers can get cheaper price for roaming. There may be certain conditions like only selecting a particular telco in South Korea to be eligible so make sure to check the fine prints.

UPDATE: Maxis customers in Malaysia can refer to this page. For RM 33/day users can access unlimited data provided by SK Telecom. Celcom customers have to pay a higher price at RM 38/day for unlimited data provided by Korea Telecom (KT). Refer this page for more info and T&C.

source: maxis

South Korea uses WCDMA technology for its mobile phone service. This means that until recently phones are locked with specific telcos and are not sim-card based. To stay connected tourists have to rent phones from phone rental companies and pay for days used in addition to the minutes used for calling. Phone rental companies may be hard to find in Seoul so it is a good idea to rent it at the airport.

source: s roaming

Recently telco in South Korea has started to offer sim-card to cater for the visitors market. Due to South Korea's strict identity regulation these sim cards can only be gotten from their official sales offices. Please visit this site and read this post for further information.

South Korea is famous for being the world's most widely internet-connected country. Wi-Fi is available almost everywhere even in subways. However while most cafes and restaurants provide free Wi-Fi to its customers (and you can piggyback on these connections if you are somewhere nearby), the most widely available Wi-Fi access points are those provided by telco companies and to connect to these Wi-Fi you need to be subscribed to their service first.

UPDATE: You can now easily subscribe to Wi-Fi service provided by olleh by buying the temporary Wi-Fi ID through convenience stores in South Korea. More info available here: Olleh Wifi

source: olleh wifi

With internet connection, you can use VoIP (Voice Over IP) applications to make your phone calls. One popular application is Skype. Get some Skype credits and you will be able to call phone lines.


To sum this entry up, there are four options for staying connected in Seoul: roaming with your mobile service provider, renting a phone, getting a prepaid sim card or signing up for Wi-Fi access. Good luck!

Kona Beans Cafe - Super Junior

Category: Attraction - Hallyu
Nearest Subway Station: Apgujeong Station (Line 3)
Distance from Subway Station: 721 meters (Exit 2)
District (gu): Gangnam-gu
Description:

This place may only be of interest to fans of Super Junior. It is a coffee shop managed by the mothers of three Super Junior members: Leeteuk, Sungmin and Kyuhyun. Being close to the SM Building, the sons sometimes drop by and help helm the cash register. Other members and other SM Entertainment's artists are also known to come and visit the mothers. The cafe is decorated with Super Junior decorations and always has fans of Super Junior enjoying their coffees and snacks. Come and make new friends and if you are lucky you may get a Super Junior member taking your orders ;)


Location in Google Map:

Friday, June 8, 2012

Myeongdong Eomoni Jib (명동어머니집)

Category: Restaurant - Seafood Restaurant
Nearest Subway Station: Myeongdong (Line 4)
Distance from Subway Station: 274 meters (Exit 6)
District (gu): Jung-gu
Description:

This seafood restaurant is recommended by Korean Tourism Organization as a restaurant that Muslim travellers should visit. Serving dishes such as spicy seafood stew and octopus stew, these dishes are cooked in a large hot pot and should be shared. This restaurant is located in a small alley in Myeongdong. It should be a good visit for those who are hungry during their shopping trip and craving for some authentic Korean food. (source 1, source 2)


Location in Google Map:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hangang Park - Yeouido

Category: Attraction - Nature
Nearest Subway Station: Yeouinaru Station (Line 5)
Distance from Subway Station: 0 meter (Exit 3,2)
District (gu): Yeongdeungpo-gu
Description:

As the Han River crosses through Seoul, there are many Hangang Park across many neighbourhoods. The most famous one however is the one in Yeouido, an island located in Han River that is the home to many important offices including the Korean Exchange Centre, KBS, MBC, LG, National Assembly and the 63 Building.

During cherry blossom's blooming season, the street in nearby Yeouiseo-ro Street will be filled with the beautiful sights of these flowers. Bicycles can be rented here, and it is one of Seoulites favourite activites when going to Hangang Park. The Han River Ferry Cruise also have one of its many docks here so you can plan your trip to include the ferry cruise. Due to the park being close to broadcasting stations, you may also stumble into drama filming when going there. Want to try your luck? :D


Location in Google Map:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Exploring Seoul

Seoul is divided into two parts by the flowing Han River. The area to the north of Han River is where downtown Seoul is located. Back in Joseon era the administration city was here. This is where old buildings, palaces, secret gardens, and villages full of beautiful hanok houses are located.

Most of attractions especially cultural and historical ones are located in the Jongno-gu and Jung-gu districts of Seoul. Palaces and hanok villages, are located here. The shopping districts Namdaemun and Myeongdong are also here. Due to this, most tourists like to find accommodations around this area.

 Gwanghwamun Square with the statue of King Sejong and Gwanghwamun Gate on the background

Myeongdong street before it is filled with people

The Seoul Grand Mosque is located in Yongsan-gu, which is also the place for the US Army base. There are a significant amount of foreigners in this area especially in the neighbourhood of Itaewon-dong.

Street in Itaewon

Mapo-gu is where new trends and fashions emerge. The area around Ewha Womans' University have a lot of boutiques and stores selling affordable and trendy clothes and accessories. The area around Hongik University meanwhile is known as a clubbing district. Scattered around this area are quirky and unique cafes which also include the famous "Coffee Prince" cafe.

 Array of shops in front of Ewha Womans' University

source: mapsof.net

To the south of Han River is the newer part of Seoul. Here is the location of more trendy and upscale neighbourhood like Apgujeong-dong in Gangnam-gu, the National Assembly building, KBS and MBC broadcasting stations in Yeongdeungpo-gu, 63 Building and COEX Mall among others.

The theme park Lotte World is located in Songpa-gu, in the neighbourhood of Jamsil-dong.

 Streets in Gangnam-gu

Lotte World in Jamsil-dong

This article is short! And you may notice that not all districts of Seoul are discussed here, but I hope I've covered the most interesting ones. :)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Insadong

Category: Attraction - Shopping
Nearest Subway Station: Anguk Station (Line 3)
Distance from Subway Station: 180 meters (Exit 6)
District (gu): Jongno-gu
Description:

Insadong is a neighbourhood filled with antique shops and artworks. There are also numerous traditional Korean tea shops in the streets. Insadong is a popular place for tourists as a centre for culture and crafts. Hanbok, traditional korean papers and brushes, ceramics are among some of the merchandises on display here. Don't forget to go to Ssamziegil, a beautiful building housing craft stores that was featured in Super Junior and Girls Generation "SEOUL" video. If you walk around Insadong you will also be charmed with the sights of Korean elders in their best clothes going out doing social activities with their friends.


 source: visitkorea.or.kr
Location in Google Map:

Friday, June 1, 2012

Jeremy's Treasure Bus

Category: Attraction - Hallyu
Nearest Subway Station: Gasan Digital Complex Station (Line 1, 7)
Distance from Subway Station: 42 meters (Exit 1)
District (gu): Geumcheon-gu
Description:

If you are thinking of experiencing taking a bus in Seoul, why not take the bus Jeremy from You're Beautiful dubbed as his treasure bus? In the drama he said that once the bus has finished its round he will forget all his problems. Perhaps we can follow his tip? (Though I can't imagine what problem we would have while holidaying in Seoul).


I am not sure the exact bus stop that Jeremy and Go Mi Nam used, but the bus stop listed here is one closest to the subway station. As long as it is the same bus eh?
Bus : Village Bus (Green Bus)
Number : Geumcheon 03 (금천03)
Interval : 3-5 minutes
Ticket : 600W (T-Money) 700W (Cash)
 (Don't ask me how many times I play and pause to capture that bus' number. It was.. many times)

 Bus route. If we believe Jeremy it will take one hour for the whole cycle.

Location in Google Map: