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Trip Report Experiencing a little Seoul during a long Incheon (ICN) layover

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While we’re working (slowly) through our Hanoi trip report, I thought I’d share a little about our very brief excursion into Seoul in case this is helpful to others with similar situations and interests.

In a nutshell, we had a scheduled 12-hour connection at Incheon (ICN) airport—arriving from Hanoi at about 5:00 am and departing for San Francisco at 5:00 pm. While ICN is a darned nice airport, and one could easily occupy him/herself there for that period of time, we really wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to see even a little bit of Seoul.

There are a number of available transit tours, covering everything from food to shopping to cultural sites to the demilitarized zone:

I believe Asiana and also maybe Korean Airlines also offer some day tours to people with long connections (ironically, our limo driver on the way home from O’Hare mentioned that he’d taken an Asiana city tour a few years ago).

But we generally aren’t “tour people” and could never really get excited about that option. After some research, we realized it should be pretty easy to do this on our own—even more so now with the recent opening of the express/commuter train service all the way out to ICN.

Given the early hour of our arrival, we didn't really rush to get out of the airport (what were we going to do in downtown Seoul at 6 am!). We took time for a little breakfast and coffee on the departures level--there's everything from Jamba Juice to Dunkin Donuts to Pascucci and various other options. Once we got going, here's what we did and how we did it.

Planning resources

We used one guidebook, Lonely Planet—primarily because that was the only one available at Borders when I was shopping for a book. It comes with a pull-out map that was fairly useful, but the print is so small that it is a bit challenging even with reading glasses. The book also has some more detailed maps of specific areas.

We also found this article on Trip Advisor to be useful for planning what to do and in what sequence:

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