Traveling to Korea was loads of work and a little fun.
Traveling anywhere is usually a lot of work. Especially when you are going to be gone for at least a year.
Before I left for Korea, I downloaded apps and created a folder, just in case I didn’t have secure WiFi when I arrived. I also went on a few Facebook groups and asked a bunch of questions. I recommend doing that, just to be prepared. However, the WiFi at Incheon airport was fantastic so I could’ve waited too.
The apps that were suggested by the Facebook groups were: KakaoTalk, KakaoMap, KakaoMetro, KakaoBus, Gmarket Global, Subway (지하철), Lotte Cinema (the app has easier steps to change the language to English), Korail (코레일톡) and Naver Maps. The desktop website for Naver Maps is in Korean but the app has the option for English.
You also have to download the quarantine app at the airport. They have a banner with a QR code. If you have to delete the app and start over, as I did, this is the link where you can download it or you can simply type it into the App Store: 자가격리 안전보호.
Since I am still in quarantine, I have only used the quarantine app. Once I am able to explore Korea more, I will get a feel for the others.
Traveling to Korea: BOS to LAX
I laugh about it now but when I was leaving BOS, I paid $500 for my two suitcases through United Airlines. I did not think it would be THAT much. But then again, I packed up my whole room and also broke a suitcase while my dad was trying to bring it upstairs so I guess I should’ve known. One suitcase was 80+ pounds (36kg+) and the other was over 60 (27kg+). My brother had to come to the airport and help me bring them inside because little old me overstuffed them.
Along with my 100 and 30 some odd bags, I had a backpack and a duffle bag which were also stuffed. Thankfully, I didn’t have to deal with the suitcases for a long time because the airport was not busy. I was also surprised by how packed the flight was from BOS to LAX. I thought it wasn’t allowed to be fully booked, but guess I was wrong. There was not an empty seat in sight.
Imagine walking around the LAX airport with both carry-ons, while dripping sweat wearing a jacket and sweatshirt? That was me. Not to mention when I landed in LA, I had no idea what terminal I was going to. I ended up calling one of my friends (thanks Christina) and she looked up the terminal which was TBIT and I was on my way. About 20-30 minutes later, right as I was about to walk into the gate, my name was called over the loudspeaker. I felt so special. To be fair, it wasn’t my fault because the flight to LAX from BOS was delayed by 20 minutes.
Traveling to Korea: LAX to ICN
At last, I was off to ICN. Before entering the airplane, they took temperatures. I was scared that they were going to deny me because I was hot from sweating and nervous because I was hot from sweating 😅
Honestly, traveling to Korea was not too bad.
I had never heard of Asiana Airlines before but in my opinion, they were up there with Qatar. The movie/TV show selection wasn’t that great but the food was delicious. I only had one meal because I passed out right when I got onto the plane. I had the whole row to myself which was awesome for a 14-hour flight. AND for the first time ever, I actually remembered to change my meal plan when I booked the flight to vegetarian. Yay.
Traveling to Korea: The flight
I filled out 4 forms: an arrival card, a travel record declaration, a health declaration, and a traveler declaration form. Make sure you have a Korean phone number and address to use. I only had my address in Korean at the time, so that took about 10 minutes to fill out per page. The flight attendant complimented me on my Korean writing which I am very proud of 🥳
I also downloaded a bunch of Netflix shows/movies, brought a book, and downloaded games that didn’t require internet so I could keep myself entertained. The plane was completely empty, love that for me.
Tip: Don’t be like me and pack your charger where you can’t find it.
I went more than half the flight thinking that I didn’t bring a charger with me when all along it was in my duffle bag. Will I ever learn to be organized? Probably not.
Since I had symptoms of Covid within the past 21 days (along with a cough on the flight) I got pulled aside once I went through customs. I got handed a lanyard with a note that said “Incheon.” I then sat down and waited to be called. The lady asked me what symptoms I had and I explained that I have allergies and also got a Covid test two days before my flight.
Then, I followed these two guys and they gave me a KF94 mask and asked if I had any meal requests (how sweet). The staff asked me what my suitcases looked like so they could set them aside. If you don’t keep the sticker they give you from your suitcase, that’s okay. They gave me one sticker and they were still able to pull both of mine off the belt.
Then, I was taken to a little cubicle-like area and I had to fill out even more forms. I had to write my Korean address down 3 or 4 more times. After that was done, one by one he sat us down. I gave him my visa and he called my school director and then showed me how to use the app and what information to put in.
The airport staff were super friendly and although we couldn’t really communicate, it was simple and straightforward. The three of us then went through immigration and our suitcases were there waiting for us. One of the girls that I was grouped with came from Virginia but was from Korea so she spoke English fluently and explained to me what was going on. She was so kind!
We then went onto a bus, drove for about 10 minutes and we all got tested. We were put into cubicle-like spaces again, along with our belongings and good WiFi. The room also had outlets and various chargers.
Eight hours, two meals, and four water bottles later we received our results. We were taken back to the airport and went our separate ways. My new friend helped me find a taxi. I gave the guy the sheet with my address in Korean we were on our way!
One hour and some change later, I was outside of my apartment building handing the taxi driver ₩190,000 (₩20,000 for the tip). That’s about $172. Just to be clear, I’m not sure if that’s a reasonable price for the distance or if I was scammed.
But either way, don’t make the same mistake that I did. I should’ve known to have the taxi driver use the meter because of my experiences in Thailand. However, I was tired and not all there so I hadn’t thought twice about it. So, make sure you have them run the meter before you leave the airport. Or if you have a working phone, use that to find out how much the fare.
Before I left the airport, I went on Google and saw that their drivers expect a tip of 10-20%. That was a swift Google search so don’t quote me.
From the airport to my apartment I didn’t have any phone service because I canceled my plan before leaving so I had no way of asking anyone how much the ride should be. If I did get scammed, oh well. I mean he did carry my two humungous suitcases in and out of the vehicle.
I typed in the code to my building, broke my second suitcase, and entered my apartment. What a relief.
Traveling to Korea was easy….