Getting Around, Seoul
We just finished shopping in Dongdaemum district and about to go back in the hotel but it rained so hard so my friend and I decided to take a taxi. We were waiting for a taxi when this big black cab that just looked like a private car stopped in front of us. It's a taxi with a writing that says "TAXI" and with other writings that clearly says its really a taxi. We were exhausted, so we took the ride to the hotel. But we noticed that the taxi meter increases every 2 mins!!! imagine!!! He even drove us in circles that we strongly believe he did that on purpose!
I believe he knows the way to the hotel but he just pretended he doesn't know! Grrrrrr!!!! I really hate those taxi drivers who tell you at first that they know the place but actually, they don't!
We arrived in the hotel and I can't believe that we paid 120,000KW!!!! My God!!!!
Watch out for these kinds of taxi! It really sucked!
Unique Suggestions: Just think that you won't know things like this if you haven't experience it.
Fun Alternatives: lessons learned, never make it happen again.
Late night cab rides are really several times more expensive than the normal cab rides in the day. We thought it'll just a bit of surcharge on top of the meter fare, but no, we were so wrong. After midnight, we tried to hail a cab and most cab drivers were trying to negotiate a rate instead of going by the meter. We didn't want to go off from the meter as during the day, the meter rate is very reasonable. Finally, there's this cab that agreed to go by the meter (i think it's black in colour, the same kind that drove us from the airport to the hotel). When we got back to the hotel which is really only 15 minutes away, the cab fare came up to about USD 80! On hindsight, those cabbies that were trying to negotiate on a fixed rate instead of going by the meter were at least only one quarter the price of this black cab.
During our trip planning phase we found Grace Travel online. They had a very good website and seemed reputable. We hire them for English speaking guide for a day tour of Seoul. The guide could not speak English very well and the tour was super expensive.
Believe it or not but the extent of us touring the Korean "Presidential Blue House" was the tour bus drove by and the tour guide said look quick!
Grace Travel even had the gaul to bring us to two tourist shopping traps in the guise of site seeing. These two were the "Ginseng Factory" and "Amethyst Museum"... The people at these two sites use pressure sales techniquies for good availabe else where for 1/3 the price without haggling! Grace Travel must get kick back...no reputable guide would expose a client to these sharks.
Unique Suggestions: Don't hire Grace Travel to act as a tour guide within the city.
Han River Cruise should be avoided.
Fun Alternatives: I would recommend using taxi's within Seoul to each of the spots and do the tours by ourselves.
Good Combo's Are Taxi's to:
1) Gyeongbokgung Palace with The National Folk Museum adjacent. The Presidential Blue House is nearby, it would might be interesting to walk from the Museum to this area also.
2) COEX Aquarium is a nice place for kids 4-10 years of age, with a nice Budist Temple across the street.
Not a tourist trap but a warning to female travelers - be careful of some of the white or gray taxi's in and around Korea esp. if you have been drinking. There have been a few cases of women being raped and/or robbed while under the influence of alcohol by cab drivers. Many cabs are nondescript, also no IDs for the drivers are on display, or if they are it's in Korean making it difficult to report your attacker. For the most part Korea is safe but if you are drinking and need a ride home take the luxury black taxis. They are more expensive but the drivers are clearly identified and the company is more reputable.
Language barrier can be a problem as most people do not speak good English (at least from personal experience).
Unique Suggestions: If you have a Korean friend who can write basic sentences/questions for you (eg. do you serve vegetarian food, where can I make a phone call, take me to COEX bldg) in Korean, it will come in handy. I never thought of this idea until my Korean friend herself suggested I should have this before flying to Seoul. Clever idea, it is indeed very useful.
Do not take a taxi if the driver approaches you in the airport. These guys will rip you off. If you want to take a taxi get one from the taxi stand and get a gray taxi as the black taxis are considered luxury taxis and cost 30 to 40% more. The best bet is to take one of the many buses that run to all parts of the city. Just ask at tourist info center first as the guys at the ticket stands outside usually dont speak much English.
From Icheon to the Seoul city center..
Black taxi (including tolls) around 60,000 to 80,000 won
Grey taxi (including tolls) around 40,000 to 60,000 won
Airport bus (you dont need to pay tolls) 8000 to 14,000won
Unique Suggestions: Take a taxi from the taxi stand
If you are going on your own, be sure to blend in with the locals. A few phrases would help.
Unique Suggestions: Buying local food as a tourist is at least twice that expensive.
Fun Alternatives: Go into the residential areas or subways carefully and you will be able to get a good deal for food or otherwise.
I tried to tour Seoul using the Seoul City Tour Bus. The bus circles the city's tourist sights claiming to provide tour guides and English, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese language descriptions of attractions.
I (and others at my hotel who didn't take the bus with me) found that the bus worked well in the morning. However, later in the day it was extremely crowded. The bus was packed full of standing tourists. It seemed that the tour guide's only purpose was to tell customers to "wait for the next bus; this bus is full." However, folks just pushed in anyway. It turns out that they had gotten the same message from each afternoon and evening bus. I was told that one bus runs to each sight every 30 minutes and that there are no extra buses.
Once the bus is full, getting on and off is difficult and involves a LOT of shoving. You need to start worming your way to the door the stop before you get off. It reminded me of riding a bus in Manhattan at rush hour.
Of course while standing on a crowded bus you can't see the city you came to visit, since you can't look out of the window. You also get stepped on and pushed a lot.
There are earphones at each seat that play descriptions of tour attractions in different languages, however, since I couldn't find a seat I couldn't listen to the descriptions.
Every Seoul City Tour Bus tour guide I met spoke Korean and Japanese. One guide told me that she was supposed to be able to answer questions in Korean and Japanese, but not in European languages like English.
My advice is to take the local buses, subways, and taxis while in Seoul; stay off the Seoul City Tour Bus.
They may say that you should take the river cruise that brings you to see the city's river line, the scenary, the historical places etc. I say it only brought me to dream land. Extremely boring and I was trying really hard to find something pretty or interesting. A look around the ferry, most of the tourists were with me ---> in dreamland. Only difference is some are still fighting the sleepy monsters while some has already made it their home. :p
English Tourist Information is rare. So, starting at the International Airport get your info at once. The only other places with info are along the highways, some kiosks in Seoul and in the International Hotels.
Fun Alternatives: Good preparation, although it takes some time to find the better Korean sites in English.
Number 1 foreign visitor's compalin is always about the taxi driver. It is mainly because that they cannot communicate with them. However some of the taxies have started to use the translation service recently, so if you want to be sure, you can find the taxi with 'Foreign Language Service' sticker on for the normal one.
However, don't be surprised even if the taxi driver would accept another passengers after you have sitten in the back. It is still normal in Korea to share a taxi with the people having similar destinations. If you don't like it then, find the black taxi with the yellow cab on. It is more expensive taxi but it does not accept other passensers than you. Also, they are generally nicer drivers.
Additional information for the normal taxi which is not black cab. There are two types of normal taxi one is Gaein Taxi and the drivers of this taxi has to have over 10 years driving experience and this is usually a lot better than the other. You can distinguish with the colour of the cap on the top of the taxi. Gaein taxi has the white cap while the other has blue one.
Confusions and noisy music and many peoples arounding In front of Jongmyo shrine, but there are meeting and playing area of an old peoples