|Seoul Tower // (c) 2011 Korea Tourism Organization|
Contra Costa Times, June 19, 2011
By Ann Tatko-Peterson
Q. My wife and I will be traveling to and from India in a few months. Our return flight connects in Seoul, South Korea, with a six-hour layover in the middle of the day. Would it be possible or practical to either arrange for a private driving tour of the city or take a commercial tour bus for a couple of hours? Are there visa or other documentation considerations that must be met?
A. With only six hours, you won't have much time to leave the airport, see a few sights and return to catch your flight.
There isn't much to do or see around Incheon Airport. Your best bet here is Eurwangni Beach, a sandy stretch on the coastline with many seafood restaurants. It's about 20 minutes from the airport on the Incheon City Tour Bus. The bus departs on the hour from the airport's transfer center. Tickets are $5.50 and good for a full day.
To really see Seoul, you would need to take the Airport Railroad Express (AREX), which departs every 7 to 15 minutes and travels to Seoul Station in about 53 minutes. It operates a lot like a commuter train, with a few stops along the way. One-way fare is about $12 per person. Details: http://tinyurl.com/3zotru3.
Taking a taxi into the heart of Seoul would cost about $14 each way for you and your wife, but the trip would add at least 20 minutes of travel time. Plus, taxis and driving tours are a risk for layovers because traffic congestion is often grueling in Seoul.
With only a couple of hours for sightseeing, you could stay at Seoul Station and check out tourist stands, department stores and a few restaurants serving authentic Korean cuisine.
Also close by is the Seoul Tower, the 777-foot communications tower featuring gift shops, four observation decks and several restaurants, including one that rotates. A cable car takes visitors up the Namsan mountain for $7. Tickets to the observation decks are $7.50. Lines for the cable car and observation tower elevators can be long, especially on weekends. Details: www.nseoultower.net.
Private tours are also an option but often pricey (usually around $500). These at least give you flexibility as a guide can work within your time frame. You can find English-speaking guides at www.toursbylocals.com/SeoulAirportLayoverTours.
In terms of visas and documentation, you're in luck. South Korea allows visitors from the United States to visit visa-free for up to 30 days, as long as they have a confirmed departure ticket.
(c) 2011, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.).
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