The Incheon Airport Free Transit Tour was a fantastic option to get to see a little bit of Korea during a long layover, instead of spending hours wandering around the airport! With the amount of time I had, I chose to do the 5-Hour Traditional Sites tour to Gyeongbokgung Palace and Insadong.
My tour group was initially met by a tour person who attempted to teach us to say “hello” and “thank you” in Korean, as well as generally keep us entertained while our bus was on its way to us. The bus itself was very comfortable and has plenty of space underneath for luggage if you have carry-ons, as well as a number of parkas available to borrow for those who don’t have a heavy coat. It was about 30 degrees Farenheit when I visited, and though I had a coat, I really could have used one of the parkas instead!
The tour group I was with consisted of about 25 people and we were driven in a comfortable bus to Gyeongbokgung Palace first, which took about an hour to get to from the airport. Our tour guide told us some historical stories of the palace, but as usual, I was too busy finding good spots for pics to pay attention. The only fun fact I remember it that the palace burned down at some point and was rebuilt in the 1800s, and our guide pointed out some elements of the buildings or decor that were modified during the rebuild.
Lunch & shopping in Insa-dong
I really wish I could remember the name of the local restaurant with the delicious bulgogi (a type of beef stew), but it was hidden in an alley, and without the direction of a tour guide, it’s not a place I would have stumbled into on my own. With only about an hour in the city, most of us opted for as quick of a lunch as possible, then went out to look around and shop for a bit. I found the shopping in Insa-dong to be very touristy stuff, and not at all what I was looking for so I didn’t purchase anything.
The tour itself was only $10 USD and reservations can be made online beforehand (which is what I did), or you can find one of the tour desks when you arrive to join one of the tours. The tour desk attendants can help you decide which tour you may like best and pick a tour that you have time for, given your layover time constraint.
The Incheon Airport Free Transit Tour was much more enjoyable than hanging out in the airport for 5-6 hours, and I wondered afterward if there were other airports with layover tours. It turns out there are more, some paid and some free, that can be found here. If more airports start offering tour opportunities like this, I might have to purposefully make sure I have long layovers on upcoming trips!