Getting there & away
There are no restrictions when it comes to citizens of foreign countries entering Korea. Most visitors don’t need a visa, but if your country is not on the visa-free list, you will need one.
Be sure you research all the options carefully to make sure you get the deal that best suits your circumstances and requirements. The internet is a useful resource for researching airline prices.
Automated online ticket sales work well if you’re doing a simple one-way or return trip on specified dates, but are no substitute for a travel agent with the low-down on special deals, strategies for avoiding layovers and other useful advice.
Paying by credit card offers some protection if you unwittingly end up dealing with a rogue fly-by-night travel agency, as most card issuers provide refunds if you can prove you didn’t receive what you paid for. Alternatively, buy a ticket from a bonded agent, such as one covered by the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL; www.atol.org.uk) scheme in the UK. If you have doubts about the service provider, at the very least call the airline and confirm that your booking has been made.
The following websites can search for air fares to Korea when booking online or researching prices prior to visiting your travel agent:
www.airbrokers.com American round-the-world ticket specialists who can include Korea.
www.cheapestflights.co.uk Cheap worldwide flights from the UK.
www.cheapflight.com Excellent American site with fast access to fares to Korea.
www.expedia.com Microsoft’s travel site with access to worldwide fares.
www.travelocity.com Search fares quickly and easily from virtually anywhere to anywhere.
Korean airport departure taxes are included in the ticket price.
Ticket prices vary widely and change often, depending on the airline, the season, the amount of competition, the level of demand and so on. Ever-increasing security, fuel and other surcharges add another element of uncertainty. Prices of flights from Korea can increase 50% in July and August, and special offers are less common during holiday periods. The peak of the peak for outbound flights is August, when it can be difficult or even impossible to find a seat.
International ferries are worth considering if you’re travelling around North Asia. You can catch a ferry to Incheon in South Korea from a number of Chinese ports, travel around South Korea, and then leave on a fast ferry from Busan to Japan. Another ferry option is travelling to or from Russia via Sokcho in Gang·won-do.
Having North Korea as a hostile neighbour for over 50 years has turned South Korea into a virtual island. However, if North Korea does ever relax its isolationist policies, the South could quickly be linked by road and rail through North Korea to China, Russia and beyond. It’s an exciting prospect but unlikely to happen any time soon.
Most international flights leave from Incheon International Airport, which is at least an hour from Seoul by bus, and there are six regional airports that provide international flights, mainly to China and Japan. The two major ones are Gimhae International Airport (which serves Busan, Korea’s second-largest city) and Jejudo International Airport on Korea’s southern holiday island. View www.airport.co.kr for information on all the airports. Eight flights a day travel between the small international terminal at Seoul’s Gimpo airport and Haneda airport in Tokyo (both airports are nearer their respective cities’ downtown areas than Incheon and Narita).
Korea’s own carriers are Korean Air and Asiana Airlines. Many airlines serve Korea including:
Lufthansa Airlines (airline code LH; 02-3420 0400, airport 032-744 3400; www.lufthansa.com) Hub Frankfurt Airport.
Qantas Airways (airline code QF; 02-777 6871, airport 032-744 3283; www.qantas.com.au) Hub Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney.
Singapore Airlines (airline code SQ; 02-755 1226, airport 032-744 6500; www.singaporeairlines.com) Hub Changi International Airport.