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How to explore South Korea at no cost and visa-free

Korea visa free

Cost is always factored in when purchasing flight tickets for leisure. The internet is filled with tips and tricks on how to save funds on your flight. Booking in advance is always a good way to save. Another option is to book a long layover.

Arianne Bola, a Filipina engineer based in Los Angeles, buys tickets with long layovers for this reason. She maximizes her trips by choosing airports that offer free transit tours. On her recent trip to the Maldives, she chose to have a layover in Incheon, South Korea.

Her layover often lasts for more than 10 hours and she uses the time wisely.

“I’ve only visited South Korea through the transit tours,” she said. Incheon Airport offers free transit tours for visitors with layovers. These tours last for as short as three hours and as long as five hours.

The tours include a guide, some free time to explore, and transportation. Not included are the entrance fees to some attractions like the P150 fee at Gyeongbokgung Palace. The three-hour tours are Green Lovers (Seoul Botanic Garden), Shop in Style (Hyundai Premium Outlet and Triple Street ) and Petit Shopping Delight (Sinpo Traditional Market).

The four-hour tours are The Tranquil Temple (Jeondeungsa Temple ), Trendy Hub of Youth (Hongdae Street) and Fun with Seagulls (Gueup Ferry Terminal and Wolmi Park).

Finally, the five-hour tours are Presidential Legacy (Cheongaadae and Gwangjang Market), Royal Heritage and Charm (Gyeongbukgung Palace and Insadong Street), Embracing Peace on Divided Land (Odusan Unification Observatory and Imjingak Pyeonghwa Nuri Park) and DMZ (third tunnel and Dorasan Observatory).

Transit travelers

There are four different tours offered every day. They leave the airport starting at 9 a.m. The most frequent is the Pettit Shopping Delight, which is offered every day and scheduled from 3 to 6 p.m. In contrast, DMZ is only offered every Thursday and leaves at 9 a.m. and returns at 2 p.m.

Transiting Filipino travelers can enter South Korea visa-free. The Korean Tourism Organization in Manila stated that transiting tourists who hold a visa for the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and 32 EU countries may stay in South Korea for 30 days.

General transit travelers can enjoy South Korea for three days visa-free if they booked Free Transit Tours or K-Stopover tours ( K-Stopovers are offered to travelers who will stay not more than 72 hours in the country before their next flight. These tour packages have fees.
Bola shares some tips on how to successfully avail yourself of the transit tours. She emphasized the importance of reserving a tour 72 hours in advance through Incheon Airport’s website ( because slots are limited. They allow walk-ins but passengers will be waitlisted. It is possible to book two tours in a day if you have the energy for it.
If it’s winter, they provide jackets for free, as well as umbrellas if it’s raining. Bola suggested that travelers set aside at least a two-hour allowance before their flight when they choose the tour they want. Small luggage can be left at the transit tour information desk but they must be claimed before 6 p.m.

More tips

The desk also processes documents, including details of your next flight.

“Remember that these tours can be canceled at any time for any reason. You must always be flexible when you travel,” she said.

See Also

For her trip last month, she chose to go to the Blue House or the Presidential Legacy Tour because it was a new offering. She wanted to tour the DMZ but the departure time for it conflicted with her flight. She went to Sinpo Market to try the food instead.

“You have to return to the bus on time because they will leave whether you’re on it or not,” she said. But if you do want to extend your stay in a specific area, you can inform the transit desk.

She also made sure to spend some time at the airport to avail herself of the offerings of K-culture Zone, with activities such as mirror-coloring, scroll-writing, and keychain-making. Bola loved that she was able to bring home what she made as souvenirs.

A time to rest and recharge at the airport was also part of her itinerary. She made sure to spend some time in the lounge to eat and relax.

Checking what the airline offers before a trip is a must. Asiana Airlines offers free access to the Plaza Premium Lounge at the Incheon Airport for transiting coach travelers. However, this must be reserved in advance through their hotline or email because slots are limited.

Transit tours allow a hassle-free way to explore South Korea. It’s a convenient way to see the country in a few hours.

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