Last year, I went on a trip from Manila to San Francisco and back via Korean Air, a 4-star airline, just so I could take advantage of the free Seoul transit tour provided for by Seoul’s Incheon International Airport (ICN). I scored this trip when Korean Air had an online promotion – I purchased the ticket for USD $1,080. See my article regarding this here.
This year I went on the same route, this time via Asiana Air, a 5-star airline. I got the ticket for USD $897 – I didn’t know at first that the Asiana Air website has year round promo fares and I just found out about it after scouring the web and comparing fares. Such a great deal, I must say! The cheapest I know of for this route.
Anyway, I was planning to register for another free transit tour with ICN airport when I called Asiana to confirm my reservation. Since my Seoul stopover is 12 hours, the agent asked me if I wanted a free transit tour or hotel accommodation provided for free by Asiana. I didn’t know at that time that Asiana has its own free transit tour, although ICN airport already has its own.
Of course I had to try Asiana’s freebies this time, however, the dilemma is, if I wanted the free transit tour or the hotel accommodation. For those of you who are wondering if you can have both, the answer is no. You can only choose one, as confirmed by the Asiana phone agent with a cute Korean accent. I asked what we will be doing if I choose the free tour – the agent replied it is the same as the tour provided for by the airport, only this time the food and temple entrance fees are for free.
I was actually itching to do another free tour since I didn’t need to rest anyway, however, since I love my readers, and to give you another perspective (what you’ll likely expect when you choose the hotel), I chose the free hotel. Who knows, I might find something interesting not far from the hotel I’ll be staying in.
Before I continue, a word of caution: you will have to call Asiana again to confirm if your hotel/tour has been successfully booked. This is because they will need some time to confirm your booking through a ‘central’ system, hence, they might forget your request (I think that shouldn’t be any of our concerns). Seriously, folks. When I asked the reason why I had to call them again the next day on my third call, the agent replied “this service is just for free anyway". Anyway, enough of that. Just know that you’ll have to re-confirm. :) Also, Asiana cannot confirm which hotel you’ll be booked in as this information will only be available once you are in Korea (there are a number of partner hotels).
Also, for those of you who want to know how to join the transit tour without a visa, the process is the same in my previous article.
So there I was, at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport. After immigration, I immediately went to the arrivals area where the Asiana transit desk is location. The process was swift – after I showed them my passport and tickets, they immediately gave me my hotel room and meal voucher, along with the hotel – airport pick up time. I waited with other passengers for 10 minutes, and we were then picked up by the hotel service.
The name is Hotel June. It is situated right in the town of Unseo which is just 15 minutes away from ICN. It is a small hotel (I think it is a 3-star hotel) in a commercial neighborhood full of Korean restaurants, pop-up shops, quaint and cute coffee shops, massage parlors, convenience stores, karaoke clubs, and internet cafes.
Check in was fast, and I was immediately led to my room. The whole hotel looked outdated, but it is clean and well maintained. My room was surprisingly huge and all to myself. It has a foyer, a large bathroom, 2 beds, and an entertainment system complete with a non-functional desktop computer :) (you may need to call IT if you need to use it). Wi-Fi was free and super fast. There were 3 complimentary bottles of water in my fridge as well.
Since I wasn’t able to sleep during the MNL-ICN leg of my flight, I decided to snooze before heading out for a walk. Pick-up time for the airport was 2pm, I still had lots of time to explore the area. I was excited to look around this small town, however I found it quite boring just after a few minutes of walking due to the lack of activity around the area. I think it is because it is still too early in the day and most of the activity goes off at night time (most of the establishments sport bright neon lights which for sure looks good at night).
After the long walk, I headed back to the hotel to take the free buffet lunch and then finally take a shower and prepare for the airport trip. The food was ok, not a lot of selections but enough to make you feel full and satisfied for the next leg of your long-haul trip. There were salads, sliced bread, coffee and juices, soup, rice, fries, fried pork, chicken something, fried fish, and of course, kimchi. I then prepared and waited in the lobby area to make sure that I don’t miss the trip. I assumed that they will not wait for you if you are late, but yes, they do wait for you if you’re running a bit late, as some of the travelers were late for the free trip to the airport (but please do not try this as you might get left behind). We arrived at the airport on time with lots of free time to roam around. I’ll talk about my airport experience on another article.