Saturday 3 September, 2022
Day 1 / Flight to Seoul
A new cycling adventure begins! It’s been a long 2 1/2 years since our last international trip (Japan) and we’ve been very much looking forward to this trip since international borders opened up.
Before we even jumped on the plane, there was a lot of prep work in the lead up to this trip due to stricter rules around international travel. A lot of it is no longer required as the rules become more relaxed, but I’ll cover some of those things later.
In the months leading up to our departure, airlines within Australia had become consistently unreliable with majority of flights either delayed or cancelled, especially from our home airport in regional Australia. So you imagine how shocked we were when all three of our flights were ON TIME. Covid is still in the air and masks are still required, but only some of the time. Transitting through Singapore, majority of people were still wearing one, and we even spotted a group of asian men wearing full hazmat suits on one of our flights.
After nearly 24 hours of travel and transit time, we land at Incheon airport at 3:30pm. I think people often forget how far away from everything Australia is. It still always feels strange eating dinner at 1am or being offered an ice cream at some random hour in the morning but that’s plane life for you.
The immigration process was relatively smooth, mainly because we did a lot of prep work as mentioned earlier. This is what was required for pre-departure and arrival in South Korea as at September 2022:
Korean Visa Registration via K-ETA website
Australians technically do not require a visa but are now required to apply for a K-ETA at least 72 hours before departure.
Pre-departure COVID-19 negative PCR or supervised RAT result
We got our supervised RAT result the afternoon before we departed. It was pretty straight forward but no longer required as of October 2022.
This is where you input all your travel details and your negative COVID-19 test result. It wasn’t entirely necessary but was recommended for easier entry into South Korea.
PCR test booking for arrival into South Korea
Highly recommended as the queue for those without booking was long and slow. We were in and out within 5-10 minutes and cost 80,000 won each. This was no longer required as of the end of September 2022.
Korean SIM card
You can technically organise this at the airport when you get there but it’s so much easier to purchase and set up beforehand. We bought ours from Trazy which provided unlimited data (15GB at max speed/unlimited at lower speed), 100 min of calls and 100 texts for 30 days.
There are a few options for airport transfers including the train or cab but we opted for the airport bus which took us to within 200m of our accommodation. Our bus was a bit of a wait but we found this was the best option since we would have to isolate upon arriving at our accommodation until the PCR test result was ready (approx 9pm).
We ended up sorting out a few things at the airport during our wait:
You can buy these from any train station or convenience store and use for trains, buses and even general purchases at some places. The card itself is 10,000w which can be purchased with a credit/debit card, however you can only top it up using cash. We brought along our cards from previous trips so just made sure they were topped up and ready to go.
The best option in most countries is to stay clear of money exchange places at the airport as they have the worst rates. Same goes for ATM cash withdrawals. We looked at three different ATMs and the bank fee varied between 4,800w to 13,700w for a single cash withdrawal. Outside of the airport they average around 3,500w however this doesn’t include your local bank fee in your home country which varies depending on your bank and type of card. Some ATMs may not like certain foreign cards so you might have to try a few before finding one that works for your card. You can get bank cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees, but the international bank will still charge you a fee from their end, which is unavoidable.
Convenience store food
Food and drink purchased at convenience stores at the airport generally doesn’t cost any more than those purchased in the city or suburbs so don’t be afraid to grab something. This is a nice change to Australian airports that charge a premium for anything and everything!
Once our bus arrives it takes an hour to get into town. We walk our bikes up to the accommodation, exhausted but glad everything has gone smoothly.
Our room is cosy and perfect for our one night stay before we set off the next day for our cycling adventures.
We do have to isolate until our PCR test result comes through but within 15 minutes of settling in we both receive an email notification with a negative result. After a quick cheer and sigh of relief, we grab our things and head straight out to get some dinner.
The original plan was to drop into a convenience store to get one of the handy pre-packed dinners on offer but we pass by a small Korean eatery offering traditional dishes, including our some of our favourites.
We order bibimbap, tteokbokki and tempura from the touch screen and take a seat.
They have self-serve banchan (side dishes) on offer so we grab some kimchi and pickles.
Our food comes out quickly and it’s so nice to have proper Korean cuisine after being away for so long. I don’t think we realise how hungry we both are until start eating.
We finish up and do our usual visit to the convenience store to pick up some Korean snacks. We discover Honey Butter Almond Cornettos and Injeolmi ice blocks! And also some sneaky Crunky.
We’ve been messaging some of our friends, telling them we have arrived in the country safely and will be visiting them very soon. One of them advises us that there is a typhoon approaching South Korea and is expected to hit on Monday and Tuesday. He tells us to reconsider our cycling plans. I did notice there was rain forecasted on those days but had no idea it was that serious. We’re used to cycling in a bit of rain but doubt we want to be caught up in a typhoon.
After heading back to the room to put our bikes together we discover they have been damaged during transit. Some parts have been snapped off and other parts have been damaged making the bikes unrideable, which basically ruins our plans of starting our cycling the following day.
After a brief discussion we make the decision to delay our cycling until at least Wednesday to allow time for bike repairs and to avoid the extreme weather conditions.
I book another nights accommodation for now and message the owner to let them know so we don’t have to check out the following morning. By the time we get everything sorted it’s past midnight and we are both exhausted and collapse into a heap before getting some proper sleep for the first time in two days.