12-Hour Layover at Incheon, Korea: Free Transit Tour!

2021 Update: Due to the pandemic, the Free Korean transit tours have been temporarily suspended util further notice. Feel free to save info here for future reference.

I was never a fan of long layovers, but after finding out about the Free Transit Tours in Korea got me converted! Ps. These transit tours does not require you to have a Korean Visa!

I actually found this out from a family friend and decided to try it out on my trip to the US. This was a super fun and different experience since this was also my first time travelling alone. Would recommend this if —

  • You have extra time to spend
  • Want to get cheaper flight on the way to US; or
  • Just want to explore parts of Korea when you have no Korean Visa

Getting there: I booked a roundtrip flight to the US via Korean Air, with a 12-hour layover (my layover going back was only 2hrs) for around $800, which was fairly cheaper compared to the other flights back then which were around $900+ . It was my first time flying with them and they did not disappoint! Their service was pretty great and had bulgogi & bibimbap as their food choices (my fave).

Signing up: Upon arriving at Incheon, I went straight ahead to the Transit Tour Desk. I reviewed their brochure ahead to plan out my entire layover.

Requirements: Passport, and at most $35 depending on the tour you’ll be taking (make sure to bring cash and get it exchanged at the foreign exchange desk nearby)

The Tour: I took the 5-hour transit tour (Highlight in Seoul). We had to shell out $10 since lunch would be included in the itinerary (for the 1 and 2-hr tours, it’s entirely free).

The first place we went to was Gyeongbok Palace, where we learned a little bit of Korea’s history and how the palaces worked before. We only had a limited time to look around the area since we still had to go out for lunch after and the heat was also unbearable at the time we were there so most of the people were already itching to head out and cool off.

Next was Insadong street, where we had lunch at a small restaurant. This was automatically paid by the tour guide using the $10 fee we paid before the tour (and of course, i chose bulgogi as my meal). This was the most fun for me as I did a little window shopping since the area had different stores – from skincare, clothing, to novelty stores.

Last stop was Jogyesa temple where we just watched some cultural performances.

After: Before my trip, I read that Incheon Airport has sleep lounges and also free showers! So before going, I made sure to include extra clothes in my carry-on. So after the tour, I decided to go to the free shower area. Best decision I made cause the tour made me very sweaty considering we were under the sun during the whole tour.

I was also able to go around the duty free stores and bought a good amount of face masks for pasalubongs.

So that’s about it! Here’s a few roundup of tips before taking the free transit tour:

  • Plan out your day – make sure you have enough time to freshen up after the tour before your next flight. The 5hr tour was enough for my 12-hr layover since I was able to freshen up, rest, and also buy loads of face masks at Duty Free!
  • Bring water or extra snacks – especially during the summer, it was extra hot during our trip and was a bad decision for me not to bring any (buy at the airport before leaving)
  • Stay with your group! or always keep sight of your tour guide. The tour guides are not responsible for any passengers left behind so it’s up to you on how you’d go back to the airport (Haha imagine the horror if this happened to me with no money in hand!!)
  • Have extra money exchanged – especially if you spot something you like during the tour!

I would definitely go back and try another long layover on my next trips! Or better yet, finally book a longer trip in the near future with friends!

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