Since I came to Mongolia, I had transits in Seoul more than 10 times, but usually within 3 hours so I just tend to stay in the comfortable airport.
The last time I had a transit, however, I had about 6 hours, which I thought was enough to get out of the comfort zone, see the city and come back.
If you have been there, you know that there is free transit tour organized by the airport (options of 2-5 hours). But as a person with traveller’s mindset (although don’t travel as much as I used to), I decided to travel alone. The good thing about this airport is that there is free wifi. But I couldn’t find information on traveling alone within short time, so wanted to share some tips on traveling alone for long hour transit, which I think can be applicable to other countries.
In short, this time (1) I took a bus from Inchon airport to Seoul (getting off at Gyeongbokgung station), (2) visited Gyeongbokgung palace, (3) saw controversial statue of comfort woman in front of previous Japanese embassy (4) walked around Bukchon Hanok Village and (5) entered Changdeokgung palace, (6) ate some Korean foods, (7) then came back to the airport by subway (total 4 hours including 2 hours round trip).
Below are some guides to travel alone.
Get a map application beforehand
To travel anywhere, I recommend to download the application called “Maps.me” which shows the map of the country offline, so that you don’t have to have any connection (you have to download the country map beforehand when there is connection).
Always check the visa requirement in that country. Fortunately (thanks mainly to bilateral relationship), Japanese passport doesn’t require tourist visa in many countries including South Korea.
Check your time
The whole idea is to enjoy the city during your transit time without missing your flight, so make sure that you have enough time to go, enjoy and come back 2 hours before your flight. Also, make sure the time zone (once I made a mistake by not changing the time on my phone)
Check the locker to leave you stuff
If you have heavy bag, you can put your stuff in the locker (in Inchon airport, there is one at the post service place).
Find information center
This is very important since they know what can be done in which place and how much it will cost. What I usually do is to tell what time is my flight and what kind of things I would like to do (e.g. seeing interesting things and nature and eat good food, but no interest in shopping).
Also, ask city map where you are going and how to get there and come back, and how much it will cost including transportation and food.
Once you know how much it will cost to do what you want, go to money exchange place and get some money (always go to more than 1 place to compare and get a bit more local currency than what you need just in case).
Buy ticket for transportation
You have your map, money and left your heavy bag, so you are ready to leave the airport. I recommend to buy bus ticket instead of subway since the former allows you to see the landscape (once you get used to getting around, you can try subway).
Check the map and time
Always check your map (both application and city map) and time to make sure you can do what you want and come back to the airport on time.
Take as many photos as possible instead of staying in one place for long time, so that you can enjoy photos laters and visit as many places as possible.
Food is one of my priorities in traveling (I think so is most of travelers). I usually ask best recommendation at the restaurant since you cannot choose many plates in 1 day.
Meeting new people is also one of the virtues of traveling alone. From my experience, the more people you travel with, the more difficult to get to know local people.
It is natural that you want to see and do more things, but try to limit the places you visit
3. Be ready for your flight
Return on time
Since you are not local person, it’s better to take returning transportation well in advance, especially when you want to take something different (e.g. I took a bus first then took subway to return).
Get your luggage
Make sure you don’t have any liquid or any other prohibited to pass the gate.
Exchange local currency
Once you enjoyed your trip, you don’t need local currency unless you collect foreign currency.
I hope above tips can be useful for any other traveller. If you have any other recommendation, please share!
This time, I learned that:
You can enjoy sightseeing within 6 hour long transit as long as you prepare well and take actions, which can be applicable to other things.