Do you want to travel to South Korea? Well then, you’ve come to the right place! Flights are often one of the most expensive parts of the trip, but here are a few tips and tricks I have learned along the way to make flying a little bit more comfortable and affordable.
The Cheapest Flights to Korea
Time of Year
Looking at the past several years, the cheapest flights to Korea are avalible in January, November, and October. The most expensive are normally summer months, December, and late February following regular school vacation times.
Time Before Travel
Plane tickets almost never get cheaper closer to your desired departure date. For international travel, it is best to book around three months in advance.
Days of the Week
Normally, flights are cheapest when they are booked on a Sunday. Then, it is always cheapest to book a mid-week, middle of the night flight.
Airlines With Flights to Korea
Pre-pandemic, I normally booked flights that included a layover because of the discounted price. However, I ended up with multiple flight cancelations due to changes in covid and immigration policy changes as well as airline staffing shortages. With multiple airlines and third-party bookings, it was extremely difficult to get refunds. As a result, I highly recommend purchasing a direct flight from airline carriers’ websites.
South Korea’s two international airline carriers are Asiana and Korean Air. In general, Asiana tends to be a bit cheaper. However, the customer service is better with Korean Air. Personally, I have never had an issue with either airline.
Common Layovers for Flights to Korea
I highly recommend avoiding layovers in China. Currently, with the zero covid policy, conditions are unpredictable. If you end up with a multi-day layover, you probably will not be able to leave the airport as there is currently no visa-free travel in China.
Before covid, I was held for questioning during a transfer in Chengdu along with some other westerners. We ended up missing our connecting flight and being stuck there for three days. None of the machines at the airport accepted international bank cards and we weren’t able to call our families or use western social media to tell them what had happened. Luckily some of us had cash that we were able to put together to pay for our meals. We ended up making the most of it and in the end, it was actually a pretty great adventure. However, after that experience, I haven’t booked a flight that transfers through China and I don’t recommend it to other people.
If you are transferring through Japan, be aware that there are actually two airports on opposite ends of Tokyo. One is Narita (NRT) and the other is (HND). Oftentimes, when transferring in Japan, you will actually need to change airports so be sure to take a close look at your ticket!
If you are transferring airports, you will need to go through immigration, receive a transit visa, and then make the 1hr 30min journey with all of your luggage from one airport to the other. Whatever form of transportation you take, be sure to have Japanese currency on hand. Japan is a surprisingly cash-dependent country and your international bank cards might not be accepted.
Overall, it can be a bit of a hassle. However, if you allow yourself enough time between flights, it is a great way to have a chance to see Tokyo, even if it is only for a few hours.
If you do decide to take a flight that has a transfer, I one-hundred percent recommend passing through Taipei. I have transferred there dozens of times and have never had a single issue.
In my experience, Canadian, American, and Korean bank cards are accepted at the airport. They have great waiting areas and delicious food for you to try out.
Pro Tips for Flights to Korea
Use Google Flights to Check Prices
So, in South Korea, you cannot book flights directly through Google Flights. However, I always use it to see when I should book. They have some great features that can allow you to easily check for the cheapest dates and times.
My favorite feature on Google Flights is Explore. There, you can simply select your departure location. Then, it will show you all of the cheapest flights available within the next six months. You can Click Here to try out the feature for yourself.
ALWAYS Pack Cash
There are been 5 times in my life when I have traveled only to discover that my bank cards were completely useless at my destination. This includes the first time I came to South Korea.
Although many more places accept international cards than they used to, South Korea does have a closed banking system. Normally payment machines in Korea only accept cards with an IC chip. If your payment method requires an NFC terminal, a CAC, or ID reader, it will not work at most stores in Korea.
Additionally, I had one instance where there was a data breach at my bank and my card was frozen mid-flight. My bag with my backup card in it had also been lost in transit. As a result, if I had not had cash with me, I wouldn’t have even been able to pay for the international call needed to reactivate my card.
After you arrive in Korea, the first thing you need to do is tell immigration where you are staying. Then, of course, you need to get there once you leave the airport. Google Maps is absolutely terrible in Korea and adresses really don’t translate well. This can cause you problems right at the immigration gate. You need to prepare the adress of where you are staying in Korean.
When you give the taxi driver the adress of your stay, you need to give him the Korean address, so that he can find the location using local map services. If you are traveling using public transportation, I highly suggest downloading Naver or Kakao Maps and bookmarking the location in advance.
Booking and preparing for flights to Korea can be a daunting task. However, it will all be worth it once you set foot on Korean soil. Be sure to check back with KoreabyMe for tips on amazing places to visit during your stay!