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Before I start, I would like to put a disclaimer that these are my personal experiences and that this happened last 2016 (pre pandemic).
Oftentimes, when you think about traveling abroad especially in countries like South Korea, the first thing that you think of is it requires a lot of money and that maybe you can’t afford it. Well, it may be true that you will spend money, but there will always be a way to make it not heavy on your pocket.
Plan ahead, and by this I mean months ahead of your desired date, is one of the effective ways to travel on a budget.
When I decided to do my first solo travel, I chose a country where I feel like it is safe for me to go around alone, although each country/person may encounter different dangers, we should just take extra precautions in walking and touring around.
Personally, through my experience, Seoul was pretty safe for me to go, they have very accessible public transportation and most of the people helped me when I asked about directions.
The trip will not come to reality if you don’t have a plane ticket, so the first thing I purchased was a roundtrip plane ticket to Seoul, South Korea. When I booked the ticket, I waited for a promo so I could get it cheaper. (Tip: Getting a promo ticket is like a battle since a lot of people wants to travel and get a cheaper ticket just like you, so you need to prepare the following: at least 2 or more date options preferably the start and return date is a ‘weekday’ (example: to Seoul – Wednesday ; return- Tuesday).
Weekday dates are cheaper than weekends but it still depends so just prepare 2 or more date options as you may be overwhelmed by how fast the tickets are sold). I bought the ticket around July of 2015 as a birthday gift to myself and the flight ticket was March of 2016.
When you travel to South Korea, it requires you to have a tourist visa, which may be a little difficult if it’s your first time and if you are not quite familiar yet with the requirements so I would suggest you to get it through a travel agency. (Please take note that the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the Republic of the Philippines has a list for designated travel agencies, visit: overseas.mofa.go.kr). I was so nervous about applying for my first tourist visa, but the agency (in case you are wondering, I am from Cebu City and I went to: Golden JC Travel Agency in Ayala Mall) helped me a lot to gather all documents needed.
You can check the complete visa requirements on their official website: overseas.mofa.go.kr. The validity of the single entry tourist visa is 59 days so just be mindful of when to apply the visa. If you have all the requirements, just be positive and you will surely get the tourist visa.
In booking the hotel, you can book it before applying the visa if you are confident enough that you have all the requirements and you will get a tourist visa, however it is very common and valid to feel nervous of the result so you can book it after you have the tourist visa already. I also booked mine after I had the results, the rate difference is not so big and I feel more assured to have the visa first.
There are a lot of applications or websites where you can book, I personally recommend www.agoda.com if you are alone or you are a group of 2, but if you are with a big group or 2 or more people who want to share the same room for a cheaper rate then I recommend www.airbnb.com. Plan first on where you want to spend most of your time to save you from traveling from one place to another, it is cost and time efficient.
For my itinerary, I am the type of person who researches first before going to a place, so I did a lot of research on where to go, how much it would cost me and the transportation to get there. For the activities, I use KLOOK (www.klook.com), it would really save you from time in lining up and make you pay less especially if they have a promotion. You can also discover new things to do in the city by looking at the options they provide.
There are activities that you need to plan out, but I also believe that being spontaneous at times can make the trip memorable as well. I spent 6 days in S Korea, most of the activities I did are Nami Island Tour, wearing of Hanbok in the palace, I also went to Hanok village and Namsan tower which were truly beautiful and a must when you visit S. Korea. However, I also have a few times when I just go around, no itinerary, no particular place to go, just stroll, appreciating the beauty of the place and weather, sitting down at a random coffeeshop and dining in at a traditional Korean restaurant, memories that I would treasure and remember.
If you ask me about the cost of the food and the transportation, I wouldn’t say it’s some are expensive or some are too cheap but there are a lot of places and street food that you can enjoy without spending a hefty amount. There’s also buses which you can use when going around, it’s a bit lower in fare price compared to the train, I just used google maps to know which bus number and I asked plenty of people who were kind enough to answer.
Some of the people I asked were not fluent in English, but you can always use hand gestures or they use translation apps to communicate, others ask help from another person so they can answer me, don’t be afraid to ask around. There’s convenience stores almost every corner, so if you are on a tight budget you can definitely get meals there, but I would love you to try Korean Authentic food in a restaurant too if you can, it would cost you just about 300-500 pesos and the serving is quite big already.
Lastly, in traveling solo you may feel scared or uneasy but this I tell you, just enjoy the place, open your mind to new food, culture, experience, and gather memories that you can cherish for a long time. It may be fun to travel with friends and family but to try traveling solo has its own charm, liberating feeling and a lot of learning.
If you have tried traveling solo, can you share with us your experience in the comment section below?