Here is my third Korean Travel Tip, which tells a little of my infatuation with Incheon Airport! ❤
Korea has two major airports- Incheon (the largest and primary airport) and Gimpo. I’ve only been to Incheon so far, and boy did it impress me (Kat’s Favourite Airport Award!). I seem to not be alone in my infatuation either, as it has been voted best airport worldwide NINE YEARS IN A ROW since 2005 by the Airports Council International. Nine years!
There is a lot to be said for Incheon Airport- from the efficiency of its services, to its spacious and clean bathrooms, to its shops and food options… So I’m going to break it down into Kat’s Five Favourite Features of Incheon Airport!
Incheon has got to be one of the most organized and efficient airports in the world. Everything is clearly marked so you know exactly where you are going and exactly what to do, which means waiting times are also the absolute minimum. I found out that the airport authorities actually claim that the average departure and arrival time takes only 19mins and 12mins respectively and I believe it! Their processing is rapid! Apparently there is a 0.0001% baggage-mishandling rate too!
The Airport Services
Let’s talk bathrooms, woo! As we have discovered previously I am a bit of an OCD-clean freak, especially when it comes to bathrooms. The bathrooms at Incheon are kept super clean and tidy, and they are so spacious! Large cubicles with little shelves for your luggage etc and big mirrors! All kinds of goodness.
In fact the whole airport is just so wonderfully spacious, bright and clean. As a result it’s been voted World’s Clean Airport by Skytrax (well deserved Incheon, well deserved. You win all the awards!).
There is also a bunch of other really useful services available at the Airport- including trolleys for your shopping and hand luggage, the phone rental kiosks (which I discussed here in my guide to wifi eggs!), large flight tracking boards, plenty of airport maps (you’ll need them), not to mention the golf course, spa, private sleeping rooms, ice-skating rink, casino, indoor gardens and the Museum of Korean Culture. You won’t be bored!
The Shopping and Food Options
Speaking of not getting bored- shopping and food!
Forget to buy your souvenirs? Never fear, the airport has you covered! I wandered from one end of the airport to the other and it basically feels like a giant shopping mall! It has all your high-end brands (including about 5 MCM stores), several book and cd stores (I got a whole bunch of kdrama OSTs at the airport), some fun stores like a mini Hello Kitty café, and yes! A K-Pop Pop-up Store!
And then the fooddd! No “either McDonalds or Gloria Jeans” for this airport! Oh no! Everything and anything you could possible feel like is available- from takeaway to restaurants! I honestly could hardly choose, but eventually settled on a delicious bowl of mandu ramyun from the street food kiosk (although beef rib soup was a close contender), and a sneaky mocha shake from Dunkin’ Donuts after (ha)! When Holly and I were leaving we headed into one of the more quaint little cafes for some honey toast and Korean berry shakes.
The Ease of Transporting Yourself from the Airport
With all this it’s likely you’ll probably never want to leave the airport, but when you do the transport options are so easy and accessible.
- Taxi: you can grab a taxi right outside the front doors with the help of “Taxi Helpers” (not sure exactly what they’re called, but they are airport employees who stand near the taxis and coordinate everything) who will ask you where you are going and guide you almost directly into a cab (no wait time!). In our case they were quick to recognize English speakers and directed us into an “English Speaking” cab. And the cab fair into Seoul (which is around an hour from the airport) is about $60 = perfect.
- Train: the Incheon International Airport Railroad airport express (or AREX) is just that- express! Of course it depends on where exactly you’re staying as to what makes this efficient, but it just so happens that it connects to the Green Line so Hongdae is on its direct route! Easy! Took about 45mins from the Airport to Hongdae for me, and I simply had to top up my travel money card and off I went. And the great thing about the train (especially for departures) is that you’ll know exactly when it will arrive because no traffic.
- Bus: I haven’t actually caught the bus to or from the airport yet, but it looks just as easy and efficient as the other options. It may be far more efficient for you than the train if you’d have to transit. The buses are called limousine buses and store your luggage below deck for you. They travel to mostly every part of Seoul and the fair is around 10,000 won ($10).
The Cultural Activities
What really sets Incheon Airport apart though, is its wonderful cultural activity offerings. Throughout the airport there are several little cultural experience centers that offer little activities. I did a traditional ink print of a tiger and a traditional wood painting of a horse! You can also takes traditional music classes, and on a scheduled time there is a “Walk of the Royal Family” through the airport which shows off a little bit of the royal culture and some beautiful hanboks. It’s certainly a nice way to spend your time at an airport and leaves you with a wonderful impression of the country as you travel home.
Bonus sneaky feature– there is a concert stage in the airport too! Performances schedules are listed next to the stage and on my first trip I was captivated by this string quartet playing Arirang. Got a little emotional actually, I was already despairing at the thought of leaving Seoul and Arirang got me all teary eyed… !___!
So, I think we can all agree that Incheon Airport well deserves it’s own little tagline- “More than an Airport, Beyond Expectation”. You were happily beyond my expectation Incheon! ^.^
Check out the Incheon Airport Website here.