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Seoul 2023: Day 1

It is hard to believe that the last time I boarded an international flight was nearly five years ago. But this morning we took an Uber to YYZ and after a quick jaunt through security we were relaxing in the Maple Leaf Lounge, waiting to board our 2pm flight to Seoul.

In these post-pandemic times I shouldn't have been surprised that our flight was slightly delayed (only by 20 minutes) but this had the hilarious knock-on effect of increasing our flight time from 14 hours 30 minutes to 15 hours 15 minutes. Normally that would have been an agonizing increment but Elsie and I decided that we should travel in style and splurged for business class. So that just meant 45 more minutes in a pod where we could order even more "free" alcohol.

The flight itself was fantastic. We were served dinner shortly after takeoff and I choose the beef tenderloin with fingerling potatoes. I passed most of the time by either reading a book or listening to podcasts. The only films I watched were Violent Night and Batman: The Long Halloween which I would both recommend. Shortly before landing we were served breakfast which was a perfect little omelette and sausage to "start the day".

We landed at 6am EST which meant that I had now been awake for 21 hours. But it was 7pm in Seoul so my "brilliant" plan was that by the time we got to the hotel I would be so sleepy that I would immediately pass out and beat any possible jet lag.

Going through customs at Incheon was an absolute breeze thanks to the tips we received from Megan Osten's YouTube channel. She has a video of her entering South Korea in March 2023 that matched our experience perfectly. The biggest pro-tip was to fill out your Q-Code form before leaving Canada so when you got off the plane you could just scan a QR code on your phone and proceed straight to customs. We then handed our passport, printout of our K-ETA visa, and our arrival card (which is a little slip of paper we were given on the plane) to the customs official who took our picture, scanned our fingerprints, and let us into the country. Easy peasy.

I gotta say, for an airport that was built over 22 years ago Incheon still feels incredibly modern and clean. All of the signage was also in English so we had no trouble finding our way to the train stations. Once there we needed to make our first purchase of the trip and get T-money cards which we would be using to tap on/off every train in Seoul. The catch with T-money cards is that while they can be purchased from vending machines using a credit card, they can only be loaded with actual cash. So our plan was to budget $5 a day in subway usage (yes Seoul Metro really is that cheap) which meant we would need to load our T-money cards with ₩50,000. We walked by a number of currency exchange places in the airport but Elsie and I didn't want to trouble ourselves with that so we made sure we got Korean won from our bank before we left.

Our hotel is right near city hall in downtown Seoul so there were two options for us.

  1. Take the AREX line straight to Seoul Station via the express train, transfer to Line 1, and go one stop to City Hall station.
  2. Take the AREX line to Hongik station via the all-stop train, transfer to Line 2, and go five stops to City Hall station.

We choose the second option because we knew we were going to be using Line 2 a lot during our trip so we wanted to become experienced with it immediately. However, knowing what I know now, I would definitely have taken the express train to Seoul Station. It requires you to reserve a seat whereas the all-stop train does not so we ended up standing for the entire ride.

By the time we entered our hotel room it was 10 pm in Seoul and I had been up for over 24 hours. After a quick shower to wash off all the travel grime I hopped into bed and enacted my genius plan of sleeping off all of my jet lag. Tune into day 2 to see how well that went.