24 Hours in Seoul (Layover, Free Transit Tour)

I've been trying to finish this post for ages.. I started this right after I landed in LA, one month later, I'm still writing it  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Anyway, we booked our tickets to the US a month prior to our trip - I used Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flight; it was for a non-stop flight via Philippine Airlines. It was a pretty good deal considering the date of our travel. But, then I read somewhere that Korea offers a visa-free entry when you have a connecting flight from Korea to the US. We wanted to kill 2 birds with 1 stone, so we booked our flight via Korean Airlines - it was more expensive than PAL, but it was worth it. I flew the same airline when I went to LA before, and loved it. The FAs were super nice, aircrafts were new, food was good, in-flight services were superb, etc.

Aside from visa-free entry, Incheon International Airport also has free tours for transit passengers - which ranges from 2 to 6 hours. It's recommended that you book your transit tour online, but since we were at the airport at 5:30am, we were able to secure a city tour with no problem.

The City Tour 1 is the only transit tour that isn't free - we had to pay $10 for our tour as payment for the entrance to the palace and our lunch (choice of beef bulgogi or kimchi stew). Still not bad considering Airport Limousine from the Airport to Seoul alone would cost you 15,000KRW!

Passing through the immigration was a breeze, the officer just looked at my outbound ticket (Incheon to LA), then stamped my passport. I read somewhere that the visa-free entry is good for 72-hours, but the immigration officer granted us 30 days.

The bus ride from Incheon to Seoul took an hour. The tour lady was very sweet and super enthusiastic. Apart from the kids, my sister and I were the youngest in the group, and I, being a fan of K-dramas was the only one who could get all her jokes lol. "I'm not snapping my fingers, I'm giving you my heart!" Hay Ate.

Our first stop was Gyeongbokgung Palace.

We were a big group, and kept losing each other along the way haha It took us 2 hours to tour almost the whole palace. The tour lady told us that if we had enough time, she'd take us around more, but since we were a tour group we were pressed for time. We weren't even able to catch the changing of the guards :(

I knew the palace grounds were huge, but I didn't realized it was that huge. It was very beautiful, too. I would have enjoyed it a lot more if the weather wasn't boiling. But we were there in the middle of their summer, so temperature was at 36C with high humidity!

On the way to our next destination, we did a quick stop at the Blue House - which is the residential place of the President of Korea. By quick, I mean we passed by the house, then stopped in front of it for a couple of seconds, then drove on by.

Our next and last stop was Insa-dong. A blogger friend, Tellie, suggested that we go here, so I was excited that it was included in our itinerary for the day.

We first had lunch at this traditional Korean restaurant located at a tiny alley of Insadong. I had the Beef Bulgogi, which was good (but the banchan was better haha). I wanted the Kimchi-jjigae (Kimchi Stew), but let's face it, my stomach would not have survived the 12-hour flight afterwards lol. My sister had it, and she barely finished a quarter of it. It was spiiiiiicy.

After lunch, we said goodbye to the tour group, and roamed around on our own. Our first agenda: eat bingsu. Despite the very Tita toppings, which my Mom chose, it was just what we needed.

I bought a backpack here, not realizing that I could probably buy the same thing in Divisoria for a fraction of the price. It was made in China! Nice souvenir, though.

Ssamziegil is a shopping center right in the middle of Insadong - most shops were selling handcrafted goods.

After walking around, we decided to go to the Insadong PR Center because it was one of the places where you can rent Hanbok (traditional Korean attire) for cheap. Rental costs 3000KRW, and it was good for 20 minutes. I don't think you can take the Hanbok outside the PR Center.

I love that they have numerous Tourist Information Center all around Seoul! They speak fluent English, too.

My Mother, who's 58, refused to walk anymore, so we took a taxi to our next destination. 5-8 minutes cab ride later, we arrived at Myeongdong. My cousin told me we could actually walk from Insa-dong to Myeongdong, but again, it was b o i l i n gHirap huminga!

When we arrive at Myeongdong, it was much more chaotic than I expected. There were stores after stores after stores after stores... OF THE SAME BRAND! Just walk a few steps, and you'll see another branch of the same brand! Kaloka but also: I LOVE IT. 

I didn't take a lot of photos in Myeongdong mostly because I was too busy going inside every store. I was also running on 3 hours of sleep, and was feeling like a zombie. At this point, we were already considering renting an Airbnb for a few hours just so we could rest. We spotted a Mcdonald's, and decided to sit there instead.

I left my sister and Mom in Mcdonald's then continued walking around Myeongdong on my own. You won't get lost, tbh. As I've said, they have Tourist Information Center everywhere.

The food carts started appearing around 6pm, but I didn't try anything apart from the baked cheese (which was not very nice) because I had to think about my 12-hour flight nga.... and I do not want to poop inside the plane (TMI: I DID ANYWAY LEEEELS good thing I have Keeva Essentials spray!).

At around 7:30 pm, we boarded the limousine bus to take us back to Incheon Airport. I slept all the way through the ride.

Back in the airport, we had another 5 hours to kill, so we took advantage of the airport's Rest and Relax Zone located at the 4th floor. I don't think a lot of people know about this area, because there were only a handful of people in the place. There were a lot of bed lounges, an internet zone (with desktop computers), and a kids play area. There's also supposed to be a skin care/massage area, but I didn't see that one.

They have a free shower rooms (ROOMS NOT STALLS! I love it), too, so we also took advantage of that. They will provide you with a clean towel, toothbrush and toothpaste. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash and hair dryer can be found inside each shower room. I cannot tell you how great it was to be squeaky clean before embarking on another long haul flight.

Just fyi: most food shop inside the airport closes at 11pm. We did not know that haha so we went down from the Rest and Relax Zone at 10:30pm, only to find some food stores already closed. Thankfully there's a Starbucks open 24/7 in the departure area.

So there's my 24-hour stay in Korea! I'm here in LA now, and flying to San Francisco tomorrow! (--> SEE HOW OLD THIS POST IS. I'm not in LA anymore - I'm back in Manila now!)



  1. Ahh I'm jealous, my layover was "only" 5 hours and I arrived at 4:30 so the only transit tour I got to take advantage of was the 1 hour one to a small nearby temple. Next time I know to choose a flight with a really long layover haha.

    Also when I was at the relax zone, there were a lottt of people. I'm terrible at timing I guess haha.

    1. It's a good thing you were still able to avail the free transit - don't know what I'd do for 5 hours, especially if I'm alone!

  2. Wow, I learned a lot about Korea from your post sis! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks for sharing this, im planning to do the same too! But i have a question. After the tour, did the tour guide give you guys time to roam around freely? Or do you have to ask permission to do that?

    1. Hello! We asked permission if we could go off on our own after the 5 hour tour sa airport palang (yung counter na magpapasched ka ng free tour) :)

      If you leave after the tour, you have to go back to the airport on your own :D

  4. Hi! Do you still remember the cost of the taxi ride from Insadong to Myeongdong? :)

    1. Hello, not sure of the exact amount, but it's pretty cheap. 5500won-7000 :) There was no traffic when we took the taxi, and the two areas are really close to each other :)

  5. Hi there! I've just recently come across your youtube video which led me to this blog since ive been looking for other people who have experienced taking this tour and I must say this is the best one I've seen and probably the only good one that came up! Anyhow, during the tour do we get time (or a certain time limit in each destination) to roam around a bit and be able to buy a few souvenirs and then meet once again at a designated meeting place in time to head back to the airport? or is everything fast paced each stop and no time to do a quick roam by ourselves?

    1. Hello! For this particular tour, they gave us 45 minutes (IIRC) to take some photos & rest while at Gyeongbokgung Palace :) Not sure in Insadong because we left the tour group already, but I think they do din naman, after lunch! Eat faster so you can shop longer hehe :) Enjoy your trip!!

    2. Oohh okay thank you for the fast, helpful response!!