There are basically two ways in and out of Korea: by air or by sea. In general, travel out of Korea is expensive. Airfares offfered by the airlines themselves re not generally very good value. Internet bookings are also likely to cost you more than you need to pay since, as an expat, you cannot use the Korean websites for last minute or discount flights. Your best option is to go through travel agencies.
Although travel agents offer better deals, they do not provide the kind of service you may be used to. To some extent, the industry here is still operates primarily on a package tour basis. That is changing however.
Some ideas for dealing with travel agents in Korea:
- Unless you want to have everything organised to the nearest minute, to spend a large portion of your time shopping where you are taken, to spent only enough time at famous/historical/cultural sites to have your picture taken and to eat Korean food for most of your meals (as opposed to the local cuisine), you may want to avoid tour packages offered by Korean travel agencies. Best to arrange your own with ex-pat help here or though an Internet agency you know. That said there are some travel agencies with experience working with non-Korean travellers and/or who specialise in tours for expats. You will find some of them in the K4E Directory.
- When you contact an agent regarding a specific flight, ask very specific and very complete questions. Do not assume that you have been given information on every option available (airline, price, scheduling), etc. You may have to do some research on your own on the Internet and then ask about the cost and availability of specific flights.
- The ‘discounted’ fares usually come out around the 20th of the month for the next month. It is sometimes difficult to get exact fare information any earlier. You can, however, get a ballpark figure.
- Agents assume that you want a direct flight and that is usually what they will give you. Very few will do much research to find other options.
- The Korean definition of direct flight sometimes differs from ours. Ask specifically if the plane lands anywhere on the way to your destination. If the plane lands to pick up passengers but doesn’t allow enough time for anyone to disembark, it can be considered a ‘direct’ flight.
- Always ask if there are any conditions attached the price you have been quoted – can’t cancel or change flights, penalty for doing one or the other, etc.
- Always ask if you can get air miles from the flight you have booked – the particular price may prevent you claiming miles.
- Book very early for flights before or during major holiday periods (Chusok, Lunar New Year, Christmas, etc.) or at certain peak times (summer). In Korea, people make reservations on spec since no deposits are required until days before the departure date. Agents often also book when you inquire so that your place is saved.
- Another option for holiday or peak seasons, if you don’t mind last minute choices, is to wait until shortly before the date. Lots of flights open up then as the airlines release seats that haven’t been paid. This can happen as late as 24 hours before the flight’s departure however.
- Sometimes, agents can’t get a definitive price until they have given the airline a name.
- Agents will quote the price of the flight, but this doesn’t include the taxes, which can be up to 25% of the cost. New tax information comes out every week, but your agent can give you an estimate of what it will cost.
- You will need to provide the agent with your passport number and expiry date, your date of birth and your nationality (plus sometimes a copy of your passport) before your reservation can be confirmed.
- Your passport must have at least 6 months validity left for travel in most Asian countries.
- You must ask your travel agents specific questions about visa requirements, etc. This information will not necessarily be forthcoming automatically.
- Travel agents can make visa arrangements for you. Most will charge a fee for this service. However, even if your agent insists that you cannot do it yourself, you can.
- If you are using your air miles to travel, it is better to make the arrangements directly with the airline since travel agents work on commission from the airlines, and air miles don’t earn them any.
- To avoid any language miscommunications, e-mailing instructions and information can be helpful. Most agents read English better than they understand it spoken – especially given our various accents, etc.
- Until recently, travel agents received a commission from the airlines, who also processed credit card payments. In 2010, this is no longer the case with all airlines, especially the big local ones. The service fee is now often charged separately. Your travel costs may be two separate credit card transactions (your flight going through the airline's credit card system and the travel agencies service fee going through their own - requests for cash payment of the agencies fee may also occur).
Travel Agencies recommended by expats are listed in the Korea4Expats Directory.
Last Updated on 2011-04-19
|In the same header|
|Getting In and Out of Korea||Travel Agencies|
|Travel by Boat/Ferry||Travel by Bus|
|Travel by Train||Travelling Around Korea|
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