Flying can be a draining experience, especially when faced with long layovers. However, an often overlooked gem during a layover in Seoul Airport in South Korea is the opportunity to explore and enjoy Seoul for a few hours without even having to worry about the cost. The Incheon Transit Tour offers free and paid Seoul layover tours of the city for passengers with extended layovers, making it a fantastic chance to break up the monotony of air travel and immerse oneself in the vibrant Korean culture.
During my time in Seoul, I was amazed at how easily accessible these tours were. The Incheon Transit Tour makes for perfect opportunity to get a taste of Korean history, culture, and daily life, all without breaking the bank. And who knows, it just might inspire you to book your next trip to South Korea! From breathtaking ancient palaces to bustling city streets, the tour allows you to see the highlights of Seoul, making your layover in Seoul much more enjoyable than simply waiting in the airport.
Incheon Transit Tour Overview
Incheon Airport offers free transit tours for visitors on a layover in Seoul. These tours provide a great opportunity to explore the city and its surroundings without having to worry about planning your own itinerary or sitting at the airport not having much to do. There are several options available, ranging from short 1-hour tours to longer 5-hour experiences. Some of the popular tour options include visiting cultural and historical attractions like Gyeongbokgung Palace and Insadong, or exploring the bustling streets of Myeongdong and Gangnam. I highly value these tours, as they help make the most of my layover in Seoul.
Here is a list of the 15 tours in the Incheon Transit Tour offer:
K-Culture Zone: Hanbok experience, Hangeul craft (Airport tour) – 30 min, Free
Free Experience Korean culture without leaving the airport at K-Culture Zone. Try on traditional Korean costumes, known as hanbok, and learn about the country’s unique writing system, Hangeul, while crafting your own souvenirs such as bracelets and scrolls.
Schedule: Terminal 1,2 (4F East Transfer Lounge) 09:00~16:30
Past and Present: Cheongwadae (Blue House), Tongin Market – 5 hr, Free
Explore the historical landmarks of Cheongwadae and Tongin Market on this 5-hour tour. Cheongwadae served as the official residence and office of the president of the Republic of Korea, and now serves as a museum for art and history exhibitions. Tongin Market is a marketplace for delicious food and fresh ingredients.
Schedule: Terminal 1,2 08:00~13:00 (Mon)
Tradition: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Insa-dong – 5 hr, $3
Visit Gyeongbokgung Palace, the first palace of the Joseon dynasty, and Insa-dong, a neighborhood filled with old yet invaluable items. Gyeongbokgung Palace was restored in 1867 after it was burnt down during the Japanese invasion of Korea. Insa-dong is a maze of alleyways filled with galleries, traditional crafts shops, ancient art stores, traditional tea houses, cafes, and more.
Schedule: Terminal 1,2 08:00~13:00 (Tue~Sun)
Peaceful Korea: Imjingak Pyeonghwa Nuri Park, Dokgae Bridge: 5 hr, $4
Visit Imjingak Pyeonghwa Nuri Park and Dokgae Bridge, important places in Korean history. Imjingak Park was created in 1972 to comfort those who were not able to return to their homeland following the division of Korea. Dokgae Bridge was the only bridge that connected the north and south prior to the Korean War.
Schedule: Terminal 1,2 09:00~14:00 (Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun)
DMZ: The Third Tunnel, Dora Observatory 5 hr, $4
Explore the Third Tunnel, a cave dug by North Korea to invade South Korea, and the Dora Observatory, situated within the DMZ. The Third Tunnel is often called the Seoul Tunnel due to its proximity to Seoul. Dora Observatory guards the northernmost post of the western front and offers a view of North Korea.
Schedule: Terminal 1, 2 09:00~14:00 (Tue)
Future: Hyundai Motorstudio Goyang, Yeongjongdaegyo Observatory 5 hr, $5
Visit Hyundai Motorstudio Goyang, the largest automobile theme park in Korea, and Yeongjongdaegyo Observatory, which boasts endless mudflats with skies where planes take-off and land.
History: Jeondeungsa Temple 5 hr, $2
Visit Jeondeungsa Temple, which was established in 382 and gained state protection by the Joseon royal family as it started to store The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty from 1678.
Schedule: Terminal 1,2 09:00~14:00 (Thu)
Street: Hongdae Street – 4 hr, Free
Explore Korea’s foremost youth street filled with countless cafes, clubs, graffiti, fashion streets, underground music, and art festivals. This 4-hour tour is free of cost and starts from Incheon Airport.
Schedule: Terminal 1,2 14:00~18:00.
Experience: Hanji Experience Workshop, Sinpo Market – 3 hr, $0-20
This 3-hour tour takes you to Sinpo Market, which was created during the late 19th century and is known for its sweet and sour fried chicken with spicy sauce. You can also visit the Hanji Experience Workshop and make your own traditional Korean hanji. The cost of the tour is $0~$20, and it starts from Incheon Airport.
Schedule: Terminal 1 15:0018:00 (Tue, Sun).
Shopping: Hyundai Premium Outlet, Triple Street – 3 hr, Free
If you love shopping, this 3-hour tour is perfect for you. Visit Hyundai Premium Outlet, which features a wide array of luxury and trendy brands, and Triple Street, a booming shopping street with many things to see, eat, and enjoy along with cultural facilities. The tour is free of cost and starts from Incheon Airport.
Schedule: Terminal 1 15:00~18:00 (Mon).
Temple: Yonggungsa Temple – 1 hr, Free
This 1-hour tour takes you to Yonggungsa Temple, which is said to be a temple constructed by the Buddhist priest Wonhyo Daesa during the Silla dynasty. The temple was the temporary residence of Heungseon Daewongun for ten years before King Gojong’s coronation. The tour is free of cost and starts from Incheon Airport.
Schedule: Terminal 2 08:00~09:00.
Entertainment: Paradise City Art-tainment – 1 hr, free
If you are looking for entertainment, this 1-hour tour is perfect for you. Visit Paradise City, the first resort complex in northeast Asia that provides enjoyment and cultural experiences such as convenient accommodation, casinos, art gallery, clubs, and more. There is also an art gallery that exhibits more than 2,700 works by famous artists from across the globe, such as Yayoi Kusama and Damien Hirst. The tour is free of cost and starts from Incheon Airport.
Schedule: Terminal 1 1F 3C every 05, 35 minute, Terminal 1 1F 14C every 10, 40 minute, Terminal 2 1F 2A every 45 minute
Landscape: Yedanpo Trail and Haneul Garden – 2 hr, Free
This 2-hour tour takes you to Yedanpo Trail, located near Incheon Airport, where you can enjoy a comfortable walk in the park and breathe in the fresh air. You can also visit Haneul Garden, a place where you can enjoy the beautiful sky and the vast flower garden. Seasonal flowers will bloom beneath you while airplanes cross the blue skies. The tour is free of cost and starts from Incheon Airport.
Schedule: Scheduled to operate in the second half.
Songdo: Songdo Central Park and Tri-bowl – 2 hr, Water Taxi $4
This 2-hour tour takes you to Songdo Central Park, the first-ever park to use seawater. Visitors can not only enjoy a comfortable walk in the park but also experience water taxi rides, canoeing, moonboats, and more. You can also visit Tri-bowl, one of Songdo Central Park’s landmarks, which has a unique flat ceiling and a round floor. The cost of the tour is $4, and it starts from Incheon Airport.
Cave Theme Park: Gwangmyeong Cave – 4 hr, Free
This 4-hour tour takes you to Gwangmyeong Cave, formerly known as Siheung Mine, which was constructed starting in 1912 with the purpose of resource exploitation by the Japanese. It was used as a warehouse for salted shrimp for 40 years since it was closed in 1972. Gwangmyeong Cave became Korea’s greatest cave theme park in 2011 after the city of Gwangmyeong transformed it into a historical and cultural tourist spot attracting 1.4 million annual visitors. The tour is free of cost and starts from Incheon Airport. Schedule: Scheduled to operate in the second half. (Note: Gwangmyeong Cave is closed every Monday and may be replaced with a different course.)
The eligibility criteria for participating in the Incheon Transit Tour may vary slightly depending on the tour option. Generally, passengers with a layover of at least 6 hours at Incheon Airport are eligible. The passengers must be in transit to a third country or their country of nationality, and not just entering South Korea as their final destination. The tour spots are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s important to reserve a spot as soon as possible upon arrival at the airport.
Incheon Transit Tours are designed to accommodate a wide variety of nationalities. For many travelers, a visa may not be required to participate in these tours, as long as they remain within the designated tour areas. Passengers who are eligible for visa-free entry or transit through South Korea can take advantage of the Incheon Transit Tour without having to obtain an additional visa. Remember that the exact visa requirements will depend on your nationality and the tour you choose, so make sure to double-check the requirements before planning your visit.
Booking and Registration Process
To secure a spot on the Incheon International Airport Transit Tour on your layover in Seoul, it’s important to make a reservation in advance. There are a few options available for making reservations:
- Online: The preferred method is to register online through the official website or email.
- Transit Tour Desk: Alternatively, you could book a tour at Incheon International Airport’s Transit Tour Desk located near Gate 8. It operates on a first-come, first-served basis.
Bear in mind that most of the tours will be available to people with 6 or more hour long layovers in Seoul. So if you have a 5 hour layover in Seoul or a 3 hour layover in Seoul, the best thing to do is probably just the hanbok experience inside the airport.
Passport Control and Immigration
To take part in the Incheon Transit Tour oj your layover in Seoul, you will be required to pass through passport control and immigration. As a participant of the Transit Tourism Program, passengers from most countries can enjoy visa-free entry to South Korea. However, it is vital to check if your country qualifies for this exemption before booking the tour.
When you arrive at Incheon International Airport and proceed through immigration, you should carry your transit tour reservation confirmation as proof of participation. After going through customs and immigration, you can then proceed to the starting point of the tour, ready to explore Seoul!
I hope you enjoyed this free guide to everything you need to know about the Incheon transit tour and how to best spend your layover in Seoul. For more information visit Incheon Airport’s website.