The Ultimate Traveling Guide to Seoul, South Korea that Every Filipino Needs

Before anything else, allow me to say that although South Korea was on my bucket list of places to go, it wasn't at the top most. As in, I don't follow KPop groups and I seldom watch KDramas. I am more Western-inclined, and Europe is still my numero uno travel goal destination.
I did not expect that I will get to visit South Korea as soon as 5 months after passing the board exam. To think I don't have work yet! It all started when my best friend Ayessa, who started getting hooked on KDramas, booked us tickets to Seoul on a Cebu Pacific sale. She's been bugging me to travel together since we reconnected 5 years ago, and since she would be getting married in July, I knew that this time, I couldn't say no.
We stayed for 9 days in the second week of April, which was in time for cherry blossom season. Let me tell you, it was glorious! But before the fun part (which is landing in Korea and getting our fill of whatever we want out of it), let us start with the nitty gritty basics.
Disclaimer: I do not claim to be a Korea expert. What I am sharing is based on my own experience in the hopes that it can help someone. Beware! This is gonna be an extra long post!

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not endorsing any brand. The brands or names and websites I link are ones I truly believe in.

Visa Application

Filipinos need a visa to visit South Korea. If you will be staying for 59 days or less, the visa is free. You can process it for yourself or for others (your traveling companions) or get a travel agency to do so. If you live in Manila, I highly encourage you to process it yourself since it would only take you about 1.5 hrs to go through the whole thing and you can answer the questions yourself, should the consul have any. This is most especially encouraged for those going out of the country for the first time. Visa processing is 3 days for those with visa stamps from OECD countries, and 5 days for those without. As of writing, BDO and BPI have an ongoing promo wherein if you have a Gold credit card, you may be granted a multiple entry visa.

I'm not going to detail the requirements needed for the visa since there are tons of blogs discussing that, and the Korean Embassy's website to refer to. Just know that they are looking for 3 things:

1. Proof that you are able to support yourself financially during your stay,
2. Proof of ties to your home country, meaning you have good reason to go back home (be it a job, school, family ties...), and
3. Consistency in your answers.

There is a little element of risk when applying for a Korean visa because you could be denied (que horror!), and have to wait another 6 months to reapply. The Pinoy Exchange thread is very helpful. 


We initially wanted to stay at an AirBnB (sign up here to get Php 1100 off your first booking!) but when we found out it would just be Ayessa and I instead of the 4 of us (Me & Ayessa and Faina & her brother), most of the affordable ones at good locations were already taken so we decided to book a hostel. 

I am not very picky about where to stay as long as:

1) It has a clean bathroom,


2) It is at a good location, meaning close to the subways and other modes of public transportation. You can read that on the previews on, or add it to the search filters.
You can also try looking for a hostel that offers free breakfast since you will be able to save money that way too. Just add that to the search filters as well.

After scouring the internet and reading tons of reviews, we chose to stay at Sunrise Inn Dongdaemun. Out of our 3 choices, they had the best review and cheapest price. We only paid around PhP 5300 each for a 9-day stay in a private double room. Although the bed looked small in the photos, it was actually big and comfortable. The room was small though (choosy pa ba when you're out most of the day anyway?), but the bathroom was clean.

I am so glad we stayed there! Although I knew it was near a subway station, to our luck, we found out that the inn was near Sinseol-dong Station which is a Line 1 & 2 station. These 2 stations are among the major subway stations, meaning they pass through most of the major destinations and stations like Seoul Station & Dongdaemun (Line 1) and Gangnam, Hongik, Ewha & Jamsil (for Lotte world) stations (Line 2). And since we live near those 2 lines, we didn't have to transfer often.

If I were to go back to Seoul again, I would recommend staying there if you want a quiet neighborhood. Other locations I would recommend are hostels near the Dongdaemun Design Plaza station because it is connected to 3 subway lines (2, 4 & 5) or in Jongno, near the City Hall station, which is also connected to Lines 1 & 2.

For first timers in Seoul, I highly recommend the latter, since once you're around the Jongno area, especially near the Cheonggyecheon stream, Myeongdong, Namdaemun and the palaces and Insadong are only a few minutes walk away.


Seoul's currency is the Korean Won. At the time of our travel, 1 KRW was about 0.045 PHP.

For money, the best tip I can give you is to exchange your Philippine peso to US Dollars! The USD is a stronger currency, so when you exchange your money to KRW, you'll get more bang for your buck versus exchanging PHP to KRW. I changed both PHP and USD to KRW and saw the difference.

For example, I spent 5050 pesos to convert my money to $100 ($1 = Php 50.50). I changed the $100 to KRW with the rate 1130 KRW to $1, so I have 113,000 KRW for Php 5050. If I hadnt exchanged my money to USD and had my peso exchanged directly to KRW, I would have 108,575 KRW (1 Php = 21.5 KRW). That's around a 4,000 KRW difference, which can buy you a decent meal or a lipstick or something!

Second, DO NOT CHANGE ALL YOUR MONEY AT THE AIRPORT! Change enough money to live on and buy tickets then EXCHANGE YOUR MONEY IN MYEONGDONG!!! They give the best rates. Take it from me, who has been to Myeongdong 5 times out of the 9 days we were there! Also, don't go for the locations out on the street, always compare first before exchanging.

In my experience, I got the best rate at this money changer which was located on the seventh floor of a building. There is a sign with the Philippine flag among the flags of the other countries out on the streets. It's around the Woori Bank and Teenie Weenie area.
Sometimes, we don't get to bring enough money, or we overspend because the items and deals on makeup are just so damn good that we have to withdraw from our ATM. So, another tip I would give  in relation to international withdrawal is to withdraw more money than you think you need because the fees are steep. I made the dumbest mistake of withdrawing only 10,000 KRW on our last day to buy my sister a last minute bilin and I was charged around 160 pesos for withdrawing around 450 pesos sana. Sayang, diba?

It was kind of my fault as well since I didn't load up my debit card, thus I really had to withdraw money to spend. So, my last tip which came from Mia is just that: use a debit card when you can because there are no charges. You can use naman a credit card, but for me using a debit card when traveling makes much more sense since you're spending money you have allotted, meaning lesser chance of going over budget, and as a personal preference, parang pangit lang that you will have bills to worry about after your trip, when payments made abroad don't usually come in installments. Use credit card in extreme emergencies, if you are super rich and don't need to worry about money and for the travel insurance. 
I have the new Unionbank x Getgo card, which allows you to earn 1 Getgo point for every Php 88 spend. It is also under Visa, so you can use it to sign up for Paypal like their eon card, only this one earns you points.

Getting to and from the Airport

South Korea is so lucky to have an amazing and affordable transportation system. If you arrive at the airport before 12mn, you can take the train. There is a nonstop train (AREX) that would take you to Seoul Station and an All Stop Train that stops at all stops (it starts at Seoul Station and passes through Hongdae and a few other popular stops). The difference between the two is that the AREX is faster by about 15 minutes (not a big difference) and the All Stop train is cheaper by about 10,000 won.
Of course, the AREX has more premium seats, while the All Stop train is like the regular subway. You can use the TMoney card* to pay for the All Stop Train while I think you need to buy a separate ticket for the AREX. We didn't ride the AREX but I think it costs around 14,800 KRW and the All Stop train costs 4,250 KRW.
Update: You can pre-book an AREX pass here! It comes off cheaper. 7,300 KRW versus the 14,800 KRW on the website!
*TMoney: Oh yes, get one at an airport convenience store! It will save you time and about 100 KRW per way in fares. The card costs 4000 KRW then you have to load it up with credits, but you can use it again the next time you go back to Korea. You can load up at any convenience store and use it to pay for a lot of things, including convenience store food. I think we used TMoney to pay for a breakfast at Mcdonald's once.
If you arrive late, or past 12 midnight like we did, you can ride a bus. The buses cost 10,000 KRW but since we had a TMoney card, we only paid 9,000 KRW. We rode bus 6002 to Sunrise Inn. You can ask the Help Desks at the Airport which trains to ride, but we found out which one to ride because of Google. =))
People online advised to download the Seoul Subway App, but we found it hard to use so we mostly relied on Google. Good thing there is free wifi everywhere!
Buses are nice cause they are warm and toasty, and you have guaranteed seats. Plus, you also get to see Seoul up close. It also is a more viable option if you have tons of baggage or are with old people and don't want to book car rentals or airport transfers. But in case you need it, book airport transfers good for 4 here!

Clothes and Shopping

For clothes, I have one advice: CHECK THE WEATHER!!! AND BRING BACK UP!!!!

I checked the weather before leaving to plan my outfits. They said it would be 7 degrees at night and around 14 degrees (lowest) during the day. But, I was so excited that it would be there at spring, so I brought my girly clothes (dresses, off shoulder tops, ganoin) and despite my fashion blogging background (HUWOW, seems like a lifetime ago), I didn't wanna seem like the OA Pinoy na avail na sa layers, makaOOTD lang kasi abroad so I only brought 2 light coats. When I got there, anuna ang light coats? Anuna ang off shoulder? When I stepped out of the airport & felt #thechillisreal, I realized that when I was in Japan during autumn, I was shivering in 18 degrees, what more pa dito? Super excited kasi. HAHA
So yeah, I recommend bringing backup. And if you do not have warmer clothes, it's better if you buy in Korea. THEIR CLOTHES ARE CHEAP!!! Not Bangkok cheap I bet, but super affordable. I guess that is why a lot of Koreans are stylish; they have so much cheap stylish quality clothes on sale. Subways have so many trendy clothes for as low as 5000 KRW. You can buy a coat or sweater for around 20-30,000 KRW.
While there are tons of cheap clothes at subway stations, the mecca of clothes shopping is at Dongdaemun Market. I've read that they have more than 8 buildings or plazas filled with TONS of merchants selling both wholesale and retail. But of course, if you are European sized like me, don't bother. Most of their clothes are tailored to suit the small Korean frame.
If you see something you want to get, do not forget to haggle. They welcome it. If you see something you do like but are just thinking about, think twice whether to ask. Some ahjummas can be very pushy. 
I was looking around and asked about a jacket. The ahjumma was saying "you're my first customer. In Korea, the first customer is considered very lucky. You can't say no to me" and she was whispering to me conspiratorially saying "others, I give it 40k, for you, 20k". Basically she was saying I was special, blah blah, wrapping it up for me when I kept telling her that I just wanted to look at it and I needed to go. She was like, slapping my arm as if saying "sige na, buy it na" Good thing I was firm. But then, another customer came along, and after realizing I wasn't gonna buy, she ignored me. After all the special treatment. HAHA

Two tips for Dongdaemun Market:
1) Bring cash. They prefer cash transactions.
2) Don't go on your first day. Ubos pera, besh. So much cute clothes!
Hongdae also has a lot of cheap, hip clothes because students are their main market. I saw bags worth 10,000 KRW.

On fashion and style:

Koreans are very stylish and I noticed that they tended to go for classic looks. Never had I seen so many well-cut coats and suits. Other styles included feminine style for girls (think florals, chiffon and pearls), while for guys, especially teenage guys, they tended to go for the urban look (think oversize hoodies, pants, rapper looks, ganoin).
It was spring, so I brought my bright clothes too. As in, my coats were bright green and pink. Then when we got there, people had coats in neutral colors like black, gray and camel. I felt weirdly over the top! Should've just gone for basic blacks and whites.
For makeup, DUH. Myeongdong. Although cosmetic shops are everywhere, the ones in Myeongdong give the best deals (and freebies to lure in customers. Other branches in other areas don't usually). Their cosmetic deals are too hard to resist! They have 10 + 10 promotions, tons of freebies & discounts. But like any prudent shopper worth her salt, compare, compare, compare! We got a good deal on face masks which cost us around 500 won each, compared to the other stores when upon computing, cost around 1000 won each.
Also, go on a Saturday! We were in Myeongdong 5 times and we found out the best deals were offered on a Saturday.
For Lotte goods, go to the grocery at the Lotte Department Store in Myeongdong. Although I must warn you, it can be a bit crowded after work! Or just go to a regular grocery. Their prices aren't much different from the Lotte store, but I don't think they honor tax refunds.
Lastly, foreigners get automatic tax refund for purchases above 30,000 KRW, so bring your passport!


For what is supposedly an expensive city, food can be surprisingly cheap. No, we didn't live on convenience food or street food alone, we did eat out at good places from time to time.
Korean street food is da-bomb-dot-com! I mean, where in the world can you get lobsters and cheese on a street?? 

Only in Korea.
(We didn't get to try it though since it was too expensive for street food) We did get to try 

spicy rice cakes (Tteok-bokki)
fried food dipped in batter like hotdog, shrimp & squid,
waffles with ice cream,
meatballs, crepe,  fish cakes (Odeng) and so much more!
Myeongdong at night has a lot of food, but compared to the other areas we've been to, they are more expensive. Hongdae also has a good street food scene but since we ate at a restaurant before going to Hongdae, we didn't get to try it out.
Also, I heard that if you want the authentic food trip experience in Korea, you should go to Gwangjang Market. We did not get to go, but if you want to eat live octopus, a local delicacy, Gwangjang is the place to be. 

Tips for food:

1) Always go where the lines are. They're probably local favorites & almost guaranteed the food is good.
2) It is nice to have a friend along. Some meals were out of our budget (we ate at a place where we paid 20k won) but it was worth it cause we could split the bill. Mind you, the 20k we paid had food enough for like, 4 people. So unless it looks like a pretty swanky place, don't be fooled by the "expensive" price tag cause Koreans can be very generous with the "freebies" like kimchi and other side dishes.
our 20k meal, so worth it

Sulbing at Myeongdong. This one is made of bean powder
I read on The Poor Traveler that they budgeted around 15,000 KRW for both lunch & dinner and that is more than generous. I think we lived on the 15,000 KRW per day, even less sometimes.


For our 9 day trip, we spent about 40,000 PHP in total.
Pre-departure expenses:
Roundtrip tickets to Incheon via Cebu (Cebu Pacific) = Php 8970 
Roundtrip tickets (DVO-CEB-DVO) bought at the last minute = Php 4424
*could've totally lowered the cost for this had I booked the RT tickets during a sale (it was Php 2700 at the time)
Travel Tax = Php 1620
Terminal Fees = Php 950 (at Davao (Php 200) and Cebu (Php 750) airports)
Prebooked activities (Nami, Everland and Lotte via Klook, just paid Ayessa) = Php 5000
Total pre-departure expenses: Php 20,694
Expenses in Seoul:
Accommodation (Double Room in Sunrise Inn Dongdaemun for 9 days, no breakfast): 236,000 KRW/2 = 118,000 KRW
Food budget: 15,000 KRW * 9 days = 135,000 KRW
TMoney card: 80,000 KRW (okay na din cause I used it to pay for food sometimes, and our fares to and from the airport)

Entrance fees: 
-Integrated Palace Pass: 10,000 KRW
-N-Seoul Tower Combo (for 2, comes with popcorn & drinks): 21,000 KRW/2 = 10,500 KRW
Total expense in Seoul: 353,500 KRW (or Php 15,907  using the rate 1 KRW = 0.045 Php)
TOTAL= Php 36,601.50

*I didn't include how much I spent shopping so allot a shopping budget suited to you. There were tons of cute stuff but I didn't buy a lot because I came to see Korea, not shop!
(And because of limited budget and baggage allowance)
*We got a deal on the inn so we didn't get free breakfast. We usually left the Inn at around 11am anyway so we had lunch right away
*The nice thing about this trip is that I didn't have to pay for everything right away, like we bought our tickets in November, then with the trip 5 months away, had time to save for everything else.
*I didn't include visa processing fee, but if you are from Davao, Ayessa had hers done by Hager Travel & Tours. It costs Php 2000. They will have Hana Tours, a partner travel agency in Cebu to process it.
You can also have your visa processed at Rakso Travel Agency. I think it is really a Korea-affiliated travel agency. There is a branch in Robinsons Cybergate in Lanang. According to Anagon's blog and the Rakso website, visa processing fee of Rakso is Php 1000 but I don't know if the rate is different for Davao and Manila.
*If you are from Manila or Cebu, then lucky you because you don't have to spend additional airfare. You can also forego the visa processing fee if you apply for it yourself.

Itinerary and Activities

For some of our activities, we booked on Klook (sign up here to get free HKD $25 credit off your first booking!) instead of Funtastic Korea cause they had easier payment methods. They accept credit cards and Paypal. Sometimes, they even have other promo codes for VISA card users. Just check the internet from time to time.

Day 1: Transit & Arrival

Davao to Cebu flight at 11:30 am. Cebu to Incheon flight at 3:40pm. We arrived at Korea at around 9pm and after getting lost (our bus dropped us off at the next station because he did not hear me so we had to walk in the freezing night cold), got to the hostel at around 1 am.

Day 2: Myeongdong

We had planned to go to the palaces for culture day but it was raining in Seoul, so we went shopping..which was a bad idea. As in. Really, DO NOT SHOP ON THE FIRST DAY. Every traveler worth their salt (whether budget or not) knows that. But, we had no choice.

Day 3: Gangnam & Everland

Booked our tickets to Everland on Klook cause it was WAAAAY cheaper. I mean it! It was the cheapest one we found! And it was guaranteed because over 10,000 people booked from the site. You can book them here!
Day 4: Insadong, Gyeongbokgung & Hongdae

We bought the Integrated palace pass because I thought we would be able to visit more than 2 palaces, but we left late and the palaces close early. (We even missed the changing of the guard! Huhu)
If you're intending only to visit Gyeongbokgung & Changdeokgung, rent a hanbok at one of the places outside! These palaces give free admission to those in hanboks. This also means a better photo taking opportunity!

Day 5: Changdeokgung & Dongdaemun 

Since the palaces close early & we couldn't make it to Changdeokgung yesterday, we opted to continue it today. I wanted to see the Secret Garden so bad so we joined the Chinese! LOL. We were supposed to go to N Seoul but there was a rally and the buses weren't allowed to pass.

Day 6: N-Seoul Tower & Myeongdong again

waiting for my oppa

N-Seoul is very near Myeongdong. You can even walk up the mountain but it would take an hour or so. We opted to ride the bus since the cable cars take so long (a 40-60 minute wait for a 5 minute ride!). Book your N-Seoul Tower tickets here!

Day 7: Lotte World & Seokchon Lake

Seokchon Lake is a gem and a must visit during cherry blossom season! Lotte World was well, mostly for kids. Like tiny kids. Or people that like riding extreme rides. If you have to choose a theme park, go for Everland!
You can book your tickets to Lotte World here! They also have a combo ticket which allows you to access the aquarium.

Day 8: Nami Island & Petite France

For our Nami Island and Petite France experience, we chose to go on a tour because for one, we couldn't motivate ourselves to wake up early. You have to leave early because Gapyeong (where you will ride the ferry to Nami Island) is 2 hours away. Booking a tour would motivate us to not get lazy and miss the experience since we already paid for it.
Click this link to go on the tour we got!

Second, we wanted to save ourselves the hassle of a DIY trip. I read a blog that if you want to explore Nami Island and the rest of Gapyeong (including Petite France and Garden of the Morning Calm), you have to get on the Gapyeong City Tour bus which is on a tight schedule, so unless you are very organized and can motivate yourself to follow a schedule to the tee, you might miss the bus and the next one takes a while to come. Besides, based on my computations, the tour only cost us a little more than the DIY route, but saved us a load of a hassle and headache!

Click this link to go on the tour we got!

Day 9 Hongik & Ewha

We went almost everywhere that Ayessa wanted to go already. I put her itinerary first since this was her trip, cum supposed bachelorette shower. We wanted a chill day (not full itinerary) and I wanted to see Ewha University so that is where we went.

Day 10 Hanbok Experience and Departure

We tried on hanboks at the cultural center cause it was free and so that we could have something to do on the last day. Our flight was at 10pm, but we left for the airport as early as 4pm. No regrets though because their airport was huge, beautiful and there was tons to do. I heard that Incheon International Airport is the 3rd Best Airport in the World!

There were a lot of things I did not get to do. I wanted to visit the other palaces or at least stay longer than we did but I could see my best friend was getting bored so we left early. I wanted to stay longer at Ewha Women's University, visit Bukchon Hanok village & Iwha Mural village, go inside the museums, Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Gwangjang Market, Sports Stadium and Yeouido Park. I also wanted to go on the DMZ tour, which will take you to the UN Safe Zone where North & South Korea meet, but it was too expensive for us.

I realized that if you have a limited time in Seoul, you have to do itineraries in themes because there is just so many things to do! Some trips I had in mind are an Arts & Culture trip, Touristy things (like Nami, theme parks & N-Seoul) trip, purely shopping trip, food trip and a K-drama trip!

For someone who did not know or have an appreciation for Korea previously, I have all the more reason to come back! Next time I hope I can take my sisters & will be sure to visit all the cultural places because I know they appreciate these things as much as I do.


Electric sockets look like this and are at 220 Volts, like in the Philippines. Best buy an adaptor, which are available in convenience stores. But dont buy at the airport! It costs 8000 KRW and I saw ones that were 3500 KRW. #cheapskate

Pocket Wifi. We did not rent any and went with the free wifi Seoul had. Live in the moment, Instagram photos can wait. And, don't be afraid to get lost! That is the fun in traveling!

But if you really want to get one, they offer wifi rentals at the airport, on Klook (rent a wifi here for $3/day!), or some Airbnbs offer some for free when you stay at their place as well.

Photos. You can bring a tripod or have someone take some of you, especially at tourist destinations where other tourists are willing to trade. If you want really good ones, look for those with DSLRs & fancy equipment, shooting intently. We had our luck getting really nice shots of us from these professional photographers. Trust your instincts! Feel ko you'll just know if someone's a real photographer vs someone with a DSLR.

If you have the budget, you can also hire photographer to follow you around. I really like this Instagram account @sweet.escape. You can visit their website to hire a photographer to get some good shots on your holiday.

Anyway, whew! That was one comprehensive guide! I hope that I was able to help in some way! :) Did I miss anything? Anything you want to know? Comment down below!

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