Travel preparation

Here I describe my experiences with booking of the flights from my departure from Frankfurt to Seoul at the beginning of my exchange semester as well as my travelling to Shanghai and Tokyo, ending in my flight back to Frankfurt.

Flight from Frankfurt to Seoul

I booked my flight over in January 2016 after I got the confirmation of acceptance at the Korea University and the dates of the orientation days as well as the ending period of the semester.

As Two way tickets are usually cheaper, I bought my return ticket simultaneously, but now after my stay I recommend to buy a one way ticket to be more flexible after the semester. In my case, I would have stayed a few more days in Korea if I wouldn’t have already booked my flight back.

I also recommend to set the arrival time in either the morning or noon. If flights get delayed, it’s otherwise likely you’ll arrive in the middle of the night which could cause some trouble, e. g. if you’re busy changing money first and getting the bus on time or want to get a SIM card as the shops are closed.

As I couldn’t use my credit card at the Incheon Airport in Seoul, I also recommend carrying some cash (e. g. enough for bus tickets, something to eat and at least one night at the hotel) for exchange.

The costs were overall 600 € and I flew with Japan Airlines and British Airways. The flight lines were BA 4602 and JL 959 on 2017/02/19 and BA 18 and BA 912 on 2017/06/25.

It is important to check the weight of your luggage as each airline can have unique limits. For my flight with British Airways, I used 22.3 out of max 23.0 kg.

For the flight itself, you can buy travel compression socks to prevent thrombosis.

Travelling to Shanghai, Tokyo and back to Seoul

General planning

Due to high workload and weekly assignments I postponed travelling to other locations to the end of my semester while other exchange students went to Jeju Island and Busan before, especially at the beginning of May.

As my flight back to Frankfurt was already booked and my last exam was on 2017/06/15, I had one week between the last exam and my flight back that I used for flights to Shanghai and Tokyo.

This time I booked my flight over, as well as the upcoming flights. The route Seoul Incheon → Shanghai Pudong, Shanghai Pudong → Tokyo Haneda and Tokyo Haneda → Seoul Incheon costs about 364 € (9c 8560, 9c 8515 and 7C 1105; the first two with Spring Airlines, the last one with Jeju Air).

While Seoul → Shanghai and Shanghai → Tokyo was no problem, only few flights Tokyo → Seoul were available, and my flight with Jeju Air couldn’t be confirmed at first. I skyped with Opodo, then with Jeju Air and again with Opodo so eventually the flight Tokyo → Seoul and my booking were cancelled. I booked another one over Opodo with T’way Air for nearly the same price and a few days later I got the refund for the cancelled trip from Tokyo → Seoul with Jeju Air.

The flight from Seoul Incheon → Shanghai Pudong takes two hours, from Shanghai Pudong → Tokyo Haneda three hours and from Tokyo Haneda → Seoul Incheon one and a half hours.

Apart from choosing the best flight you may also consider where the airports are located. Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo all have two airports; Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda are nearly two hours apart by train which could make a huge difference for short stays.

Specifics for Shanghai

In general, China restricts visa-free short-stay transfers up to 72 hours one day after the arrival. For selected cities (e. g. Shanghai) the period is 144 hours. This means that apart from a short visit you’re unable to enter China without a costly visa.

At the arrival, there’s a special counter for those within the 144 hours period. It’s obligatory to name the hotel you’ll stay at; the hotel has then to register you at a police station. If you’re not staying at a hotel, you have to do it on your own.

Preparation right before visit

  • Bring documents about the stay in the hotels with you
  • Check weather, prepare for rain
  • Sometimes only two power banks are allowed and sometimes at the check-in you get asked to weight your hand baggage which mustn’t exceed about 7.8 kg
  • Some carriers only allow liquids up to 100 ml, so don’t bring larger tubes with you (at Seoul Incheon Airport even my tooth paste was removed)

Flight back to Frankfurt

Before my flight back, I made sure to export anything not necessary a few days before to lower the stuff I had to carry within my luggage, especially my handbags (see here for information about exporting). However, as I was not able to get rid of my weights that came in a suitcase and I wasn’t able to fit all my belongings into my first suitcase I eventually choose to take a second one with me. Unfortunately, with the addition of the guitar I had three check-in cases which was very expensive (about 300.000 WON). Thus, my recommendation is to rather export everything than carrying it around with you, at least if you can spare your stuff for a while.


Featured Image – By, via

Spring Airlines Logo – By Spring Airlines ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons