If you have several hours of layover at the Incheon International Airport in South Korea, what would you do with your time in transit? You could wait at the gate for your next flight, window shopping at the various stores in the terminal, or — if you’re adventurous — go on a transit tour.
When I walked around the airport on the way to find out about my hotel assignment during the 22-hour layover, I saw billboards advertising the transit tours. I went straight to the hotel after receiving my hotel assignment, but the idea of taking a tour sounded interesting to me, especially considering on the following day my flight to Jakarta was not scheduled to leave until 3 pm in the afternoon. When I arrived at the hotel, I asked the hotel receptionist about the transit tour, and he said that’s a great idea and I should consider going back to the airport early on the next day and find out about the tour availability.
I went to the airport on the 8 am shuttle, and waited until the transit tour information desk opened at 9 am. Initially I was thinking about taking one of their shorter options (either 1-hr or 2-hr tour), but when the lady at the tour booth found out that my flight was not until 3 pm, she suggested that I consider joining the 5-hr Seoul City Tour that includes a traditional Korean lunch. She assured me that I would be back in time for my flight.
The Seoul City Tour took us to several locations within the city of Seoul. The city itself is about 45-minute drive from Incheon. We visited the Gyeongbokgung Palace and the nearby National Folk Museum, and then continued on to spend some time walking on the street of Insa-dong, an area full of stores selling arts and crafts. We also stopped by at the Cheong Gye Cheon, a man-made stream with walking path that cuts through downtown Seoul. We finished up the tour with a lunch at a traditional Korean restaurant. It’s quite a packed program for a 5-hour period. I made it back the airport with just enough time to go through security and find my departure gate.
Depending on your time availability, you can also consider other tours that are either shorter or longer in duration. One thing you have to consider is that you would need to go through immigration first and get a visitor visa before you can go on the tour. Depending on the time of the day, this may take an extra 30 minutes to 1 hour. I do think it’s worth the hassle. It gives you a much more memorable experience than just sitting at the waiting area near your departure gate.
The photo below was taken at the front of the Gyeongbokgung Palace. There was a changing of the guard ceremony going on when we arrived at the palace.