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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Comprehensive Seoul trip guide/run down - part 1

This is going to be a long post, it might even get split into multiple posts. I decided that instead of splitting our trip into bits and pieces, I would write in sequential order, everything.

We decided last minute to go to Seoul for the three day weekend. Spontaneity! But you know me, I always have to do a little planning at least. So I created a power point with some recommended places to stay, the Seoul subway map, and some potential tourist sites.

KTX/KORAIL/The Bullet Train
I booked our KTX tickets from their website. One thing KTX is not very clear about on their website is station location (or, "what it's really called"). If you're trying to sync up subway maps with KTX maps, here's what you need to know.  In Seoul, you can catch the KTX @ Seoul Station (#1 & #4 lines) and in Busan, you can catch the KTX at Busan Station (#1 line).

Seoul subway map (click to enlarge)

Busan subway map (click to enlarge)
Also, random tip, if you're ever lost and looking for a metro/subway stop, don't ask for the metro (even though it says metro everywhere) no one will know what you're talking about, ask for the subway.

For 55,500W each person/one way you can have a reserved seat on a bullet train that will take you 2.5 - 3 hours to get from Seoul->Busan or Busan->Seoul. The seats are nice, airplane style, even a little bigger (I think). We decided to take the bus and the subway down and then take the KTX up and stay downtown the entire weekend. Now taking the bus and subway take about an hour and a half for us, 45 minutes on both, and the bus only leaves once an hour. We didn't know what the lines would be like at the KTX (do we have to go through security like at the airport?) So we decided we'd like to get there at least 45 minutes early, and if we got there too early, we could go and get dinner, or coffee or something. Shannon had to get home from work, pack, we caught the 7pm bus and actually walked across the plaza at 8:45pm. 

Oh another random tip, if you're coming from Seoul, the signs aren't very good, you have to exit the KTX station and walk across the plaza to get to the subway. You can't see the subway because this is in the way: 

We stood in a very short line (about 10 minutes) and picked up our reserved tickets. We walked to see where we needed to go. FYI folks, no security, no one even checks if you have a ticket, you just walk on down to the train, so you don't need to plan on more then 20-30 minutes before your train leaves. That would be 10-20 minutes to get your ticket and 10-20 minutes to board the train. Weird right?

So we got dinner. Busan Station is a very nice plaza, with fast stuff to eat and sit down places. We sat down and still got on the train earlier then anyone else. Also, Busan station has a lot of Love Motels around it. I hear all kinds of good things about Love Motels, cheap clean and entertaining. I'll get more into this later, but for anyone wanting to know, you can get off a KTX train in Busan and find a love motel to stay, no problem. After a long ride and arriving at 12:30am, the same can not be said for Seoul. There are some you can see from Seoul Station, but can be hard to find when you actually go looking for them. After about an hour of walking (and discussing how we'd already seen a lot more homeless/bums in Seoul then we ever had in Busan) we decided to hail a cab and ask them to take us to one of the Love motels I had looked up prior to coming.

Warning! Subways in Seoul and Busan shut down after midnight! Plan on staying close or catching a taxi if you arrive after midnight.

Busan Taxi's > Seoul Taxi's
Or at least our short experience has lead us to believe this. In Busan, we have used Taxi's several times. It's always extremely easy to get one, even at 5am (yep, we've done that). And, if you're going close by, typically costs 4,000-5,000W. Not a bad deal at all. 

In Seoul, we waved and waved and waved, finally a very nice Korean man (Thank you thank you thank you!!!) hailed a cab in front of us and gave us the cab!!! We have no idea if we were being avoided for some reason or what, but it was not a good experience. The cab ride was slightly more expensive then I was used you, at 4,900W, we were going VERY close, but it wasn't bad all the same. Later we were warned that if we had been unlucky enough to catch a "Black" taxi or foreigner taxi, we could've paid up to 100,000W!! What?! That's crazy!  Glad we avoided that, but be aware - normal taxi=super cheap and in Busan super convenient, Foreigner Taxi=super expensive!! 

Or at least that was the rumor, this site seems to think it's more reasonable then that. It still would have been more expensive, and if you have a map of where you want to go or an address in Korean, or directions in Korean, you are going to be just fine with a normal Korean taxi. Still, Busan doesn't have these, so maybe we were being avoided by other taxis because we were considered belonging to the foreigner taxis?

Love Motel - a one night stand.
That's right, we stayed one night at the Love Motel. It wasn't bad, in fact, it seemed pretty clean and the bathroom was huge. But it definitely gave a sleazy vibe. And we didn't sleep well at all. Which sucks b/c we got there at 1:30am, you think we would've slept like a rock. No, I don't remember the name, but like I said, it wasn't bad so I don't want to give it a bad review anyway. I forgot to take pictures too. :( We just decided we'd rather stay somewhere more respectable if we could the next day. More on that in a minute.

If you don't know what a Love Motel is, they are motels that cater to illicit affairs, or at least that's how they got started. I heard about them on TV in the US and had been dying to try them out. Why? Because of this:

OMG, it's so wonderful and kitschy. And they're supposed to be clean and cheap. Ours was, but it also gave you the sleaze vibe. (Of course above are presidential suites, they cost more then 80,000W on a holiday weekend). I was using this site to find Love Motels near where I wanted to be. It's all in Korean, but Google does a pretty good job translating so you can use that. Just don't plan on calling, they'll probably speak little to no English. Better to try in person. Also, check in usually starts at 11pm, so it was good for us when we were arriving so late without any reservations.

This is as far as I got today, I need to get some unpacking and cleaning done. More tomorrow. Maybe I'll actually go into what we did this weekend, not just how we got there. :D

<3 <3 <3   Kim


  1. So do the Koreans have the same weird fear about riding backwards on the train? On the trains in Japan, the seats actually flipped around so that everyone was riding forwards... i thought it was very odd. ~Jamaal

  2. Nope. We rode backwards on the way back. Though I would've been happier if I were riding forwards. Riding backwards made me a little nauseous. Flippy seats just sounds convenient. :D

  3. Can we use the Korean Rail Pass from Seoul to Busan?