Visiting Seoul with a Free Transit Tour

I was at it again, planning my next trip to the USA to take that much awaited vacation. I was keen on buying a Delta round trip flight from Manila to San Francisco using my miles however things suddenly changed when Delta changed its SkyMiles policy over a short period of time which led to me needing more miles to get that ticket. To cut the story short, I had to just buy a ticket from another airline since I felt really mad at Delta and I thought that Delta didn’t deserve my loyalty anyway.

After researching online, I knew I had to take a Korean Air flight because it gives me the opportunity to take advantage of a free transit tour in Seoul, South Korea when we stop over for the second leg of my journey to USA. Incheon Airport is the hub of Korean Air, hence, all Korean Air flights stop over at this world class airport wherever your destination is. And since some may have a longer than normal stop over, it’s a cool thing that Incheon International Airport (ICN) thought of a way to allow passengers have a more productive stop over by allowing them to join a FREE tour organized daily by the airport management in partnership with a local travel agency.

The tour already includes bus rides to popular destinations all the way back to the airport and the group you are in will be accompanied by a knowledgeable and very friendly tour guide. You just have to pay around USD $13 for the entrance fees at temples and the authentic Korean food your group will be sharing whilst in the city. Yeah you still have to pay, but what is 13 dollars, right? Still cheap since it already includes those that I’ve mentioned. Not to mention the bus ride and the tour guide service which is already provided free of charge. What I liked about it as well is that you get the chance to meet people from all over the world and you get to share your stories over a hot meal.

Update (June 29, 2015): I recently went on the same route but this time with Asiana Airlines, a 5-star airline. It is interesting to know that Asiana has its own free transit tour / hotel stay for its own passengers, apart from what the ICN airport already offers. You may read more on my latest article here

How to Take Advantage of this Transit Tour:

  1. Book a flight from the Philippines to anywhere in the United States via Korean Air. For your Korean visa to be waived at the immigration counter, you must have:
  • Your free transit tour reservation details from CyberAirport.kr. See next steps on how to reserve.
  • a valid visa to the United States, and
  • a ticket showing you have a flight bound for USA within the day.
  1. You must have at least 5 hours lay over at Incheon International Airport (ICN)
  2. Choose which tour you’d like to take based on the attractions you wish to visit and the time and duration of your stopover, and fill out the online form here.
  • Duration of free group tours range from 1 hour to 5 hours
  • Note that the free group tours are available during the day only, so make sure to book a trip that allows for a daytime stop over.
  • Note that you have to consider the time you’ll need to pass through the security checks once you are back at the airport.
  • There is a maximum number of persons set for each group tour so it’s best to reserve as soon as you get your flight confirmation details
  • When booking an early transit tour (e.g.8AM) on their website, you might come across a confusing statement on their website saying that the service hours for applying for transit tour is only from 09:00 – 18:00. Question is, what if your transit tour starts at 8AM? I’ve asked that question too, and to give you peace of mind, the answer is you can still participate in the 8AM transit tour just as long as you have valid US visa and you have a connecting trip to the US within the day. See below discussions for your reference.

Incheon Transit Tour Question

Incheon Transit Tour Answer

  1. You will then be sent a confirmation email like this one I received from them minutes after booking. Print this out so you can just show your transit tour confirmation together with your passport, visa, and ticket to the immigration officer and transit tour desk (the transit tour desk is located in the arrivals area which is very easy to find).

Korea Transit Tour Confirmation Email

  1. Enjoy your trip! Since you already have a bus and tour guide at your service, just sit back, relax, appreciate the small details and you are sure of a worry and hassle free transit tour! Plus, you’re sure that you’ll get back to the airport on time for your next flight.

Read: How to get free access at a K-POP TV show during your Seoul ICN stopover

Photos I took during the 8AM Seoul City tour

Visa not needed to be able to join the transit tour as long as you meet certain requirements discussed above

Visa not needed to be able to join the transit tour as long as you meet certain requirements discussed above

Visa not needed to be able to join the transit tour as long as you meet certain requirements discussed above

Visa not needed to be able to join the transit tour as long as you meet certain requirements discussed above

Welcome to Korea!

Welcome to Korea!

Inside: Incheon International Airport (ICN)

Inside: Incheon International Airport (ICN)

Signage inside the tour bus

Signage inside the tour bus

Our Tour Bus!

Our Tour Bus!

 

A handout given to us by our lovely tour guide while still in the bus so we can try to communicate with locals

A handout given to us by our lovely tour guide while still in the bus so we can try to communicate with locals

Our first stop - the beautiful Gyeongbokgung palace right in the heart of Seoul!

Our first stop – the beautiful Gyeongbokgung palace right in the heart of Seoul!

I was lucky to witness a changing of the guards ceremony at Gyeongbokgung palace

I was lucky to witness a changing of the guards ceremony at Gyeongbokgung palace

Gyeongbokgung palace against Seoul skyline - a striking contrast

Gyeongbokgung palace against Seoul skyline – a striking contrast

Next stop: The hip Insadong street where we ate lunch and went for some shopping

Next stop: The hip Insadong street where we ate lunch and went for some shopping

Next stop: The hip Insadong street where we ate lunch and went for some shopping

Next stop: The hip Insadong street where we ate lunch and went for some shopping

You can go souvenir shopping on the hip Insadong street

You can go souvenir shopping on the hip Insadong street

The thirteen dollars you pay is for the entrance to the Palace and for the meal which you will share with other transit tour participants. It's a nice feeling to share a meal (and share side dishes in the picture) with new people from all over the world and hear their stories).

The thirteen dollars you pay is for the entrance to the Palace and for the meal which you will share with other transit tour participants. It’s a nice feeling to share a meal (and share side dishes in the picture) with new people from all over the world and hear their stories.

Next and Final stop: Jogyesa Temple

Next and Final stop: Jogyesa Temple

Next Stop: San Francisco, USA via Korean Air flight KE 023

Next Stop: San Francisco, USA via Korean Air flight KE 023

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Stay awesome,

FRUSTRATEDBILLIONAIRE

FrustratedBillionaire