South Korea, Travel News

South Korean Embassy announces new Tourist Visa requirements

The South Korean Embassy announced recently its new documentary requirements for those who would like to get Tourist Visas to South Korea.

I have written about the Requirements for Tourist Visa before during my first visit last 2012. But last February 17, the embassy announced new requirements which will take effect starting 01 March 2015. This means that all applications which will be received by the embassy from March 01, moving forward should have the following requirements.

Below is the screen shot I took of the announcement posted at the South Korean embassy website.

new visa requirements_SK_2015

It’s unfortunate that the embassy has become more strict and more thorough when it comes to their requirements. In a hindsight, they are actually asking for the same requirements like before, the difference is that they are more thorough and specific with the information that should be included in the posting.

For the Bank Certificate requirements, these information can be requested from the bank itself once you asked for the certificate. In my opinion, what is a bit tricky is for those whose bank account does not usually show a regular flow of savings or input of money. For those who maintain a regular savings account and regularly deposit in their account, any of the changes indicated by the embassy is not a big deal. My impression is that the embassy wants to make sure that there is a regular input of money or savings in the bank account, and not a one-time, big-time kind of thing.

For those who have regular savings account, you must now collate the account statements usually sent by our banks once a month. For BPI account holders, you can actually print this on your own if you have a BPI Express Online account. Again, my impression is that the embassy wants to see the regular input-output of your finances.

Lastly, a bit of a reminder for the submission of ITR. Sometimes, we have to verify with our respective HRs if the TIN numbers reflected in our ITRs are correct. For example, my good friend (who was with me during my last Korea trip) discovered that there is a discrepancy in her TIN number when she submitted her ITR certificate during her visa application. While it is not of her own doing, she had to personally verify with our HR (and yes, only to confirm that there was a problem in the inputting of her TIN) and sort the problem herself at the BIR office. Of course, in the end she was given a visa — but the bottom line is that this proves that the embassy thoroughly checks every document we submit.

On a related note, another announcement included in the SK Embassy’s Visa Announcement page explicitly indicates that a passport should be at least six months valid at the time of the Visa application. So, if you have plans applying for a tourist visa for South Korea and your passport has already barely a year left in its validity, might I recommend that you also take the opportunity to have it renewed prior to going to the embassy? This will save you time and save you from a series of “what if’s…”

Good luck on your Visa Application and just remember that after all the hassle of making sure your documents are in order — it’ll be all worth it as soon as you land in South Korea and you see just how beautiful and wonderful your experience will be.

SOURCE:
The Embassy of the Republic of South Korea – Manila

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South Korea, Traveling on a Budget

Seoul on Budget: DMZ + Final Expense Tally at 20,000plus!

I was able to check one of the items off my bucket list during my last Seoul trip: be in two places at the same time by having one feet in North Korea and the other at the South — thanks to the wonderful DMZ Panmunjeom (JSA) Tour I booked online.

This is when I was standing and looking at the boundary of the two countries:
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For our final day, we didn’t schedule anything anymore since we are certain that the whole day will be spent at the DMZ. The itinerary given to us also indicated that we will be returning to Seoul around 4PM, due to the hour and half drive from the border.

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I’ve written a more detailed description of our fourth day here.

For souvenir items, our guide told us about North Korean wines, BB and CC Creams, North Korean won, mugs and shirts being sold at the Panmunjeom Visitors Center. The waivers we signed prior to the tour was also handed back to us, with our guides noting that it would make a good souvenir for the visit — personally, I think it’s because the signed waivers really didn’t have any use at all at that point. After all, we emerged unscathed from the experience. So, aside from the DMZ shirt (for KRW10,000) which I bought my dad (who loves to collect shirts from the places we visit), the DMZ magnet currently in the fridge (KRW5,000) and a pair of Korean wooden wedding dolls (KRW5,000) I also bought a DPRK 100 won for KRW5,000. Both items I intend to frame one of the these days, but right now — still currently stuck somewhere on the top drawer in my room.


Our total expenses for the DMZ visit (day 4) include:
Payment for the tour (pre-paid): KRW95,000 per pax (PHP3,800.00) NOTE: This includes free lunch
Breakfast from convenience store: KRW10,000 per pax (PHP408)
Souvenir items: KRW25,000 (PHP996)
TOTAL KRW130,000 (PHP5,177.00)

After we were dropped off along the vicinity of City Hall, we just decided to pass time at Dukseogong Palace which is just right across the street and have an early dinner at the nearby Dunkin Donuts (KRW5,000). Then, we decided to hang out at Insadong, the artsy district in Jongno-Gu, with the intention to walk home and retire to bed early in time for our 12NN flight back to Manila the next day.

A famous hang-out place in Insadong is the Ssamzie-gil Mall Complex, composed of rows and rows of shops selling artisal crafts and products, organic cosmetics and food materials as well as artworks. I read somewhere that it’s one of the cool places to hang out in Seoul — where you can indulge in a bit of shopping (if you are the artistic type) or hang out in one of its many cafes. Maybe I’ve had too many coffees already while in Seoul or maybe I just found the items on the pricey side so I didn’t enjoy window shopping at Ssamzie-gil. What I did enjoy though was people watching and taking photos of the art works displayed.

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The next day, we checked out of Stay-In-GAM at 8AM in the midst of pouring rain. Kevin, ever the gentleman, gave me one of the umbrellas at the stand amidst our protestations and declarations of “we’ll be fine”. We walked to the opposite side of the road to catch the same bus (6011) heading to the airport.

We arrived at the airport by 1030AM, just in time to go through the whole check in process and grab a quick bite to eat at the Dunkin Donuts nearest the waiting lounge for the Air Asia flight back to Manila. I also made sure to drop by Starbucks to buy the requisite Seoul City mug.

Expenses (Day 5):
Bus fare – KRW10,000 (PHP408)
Dunkin Donuts – KRW5,000 (PHP204)
Starbucks mug – KRW10,000 (PHP408)
Total Expense – KRW25,000 (PHP996)

Here’s the final tally of all my expenses during the five day, four night trip:

final expense tally SK 2014

As you can see, we really didn’t pass up on the souvenir shopping and the endless eating. We know that we are on a strict budget but we also managed to maximize our expenses during the trip. Minus the air fare, the trip cost me only about PHP20,000 — quite a bargain already considering I went to a lot of places, had fun shopping and even fulfilled my long-time dream of seeing the DMZ. If you want to follow this itinerary, feel free to use the itinerary and information for booking the Nami Island tour bus as well as the DMZ Tour agency. Who know? You might be able to spend less than I did! I look forward to reading your itinerary.

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South Korea, Travel Diaries

Review: Stay-in-GAM Hostel, Jongno-Gu, Korea

I always say that I am the kind of “no-fuss” traveler. I am not choosy when it comes to hotel accommodations and actually prefer staying in B&Bs and hostels if that would mean I will be able to save more money. I am the type who loves discovering cheap accommodations offering superb services, like the amazing CityInn Plus Ximending in Taipei, Taiwan and the quaint K’s House Tokyo Oasis Asakusa in Tokyo, Japan.

So, imagine my pleasant surprise to discover another amazing (and affordable!!!) accommodation in Seoul, South Korea during my second time in the city last November. I found Stay-In-GAM Hostel after a random search at Booking.com which has become my go-to place for quick hostel bookings. After reading a lot of wonderful reviews onsite and on Facebook (because I can be a stealthy tracker like that), I decided to throw caution to the wind and book Stay-In-GAM maybe about 2 months prior to the trip. After getting confirmation from Booking.com, Stay-in-GAM almost immediately got in touch with me through my email to confirm the booking and to send additional info on what limousine bus number to take and where to get off going to the hotel.

We were charged KRW248,000 or about PHP10,118 for a 5 days, 4 nights stay for a twin accommodations room — a steal when you think about it, considering we only paid about PHP5,059 per person for four nights, or about PHp1,265 per person per night for the room stay. And we are staying in central Seoul, a stone’s throw away from Insadong and two MRT rides away from Myeongdong.

“Yes, my WanderingGirl — your hostel stay is cheap, but is it worth it?” you ask. You have no idea.

But first, let me give you the basics:

1. Directions and how to go there

If you are landing at the Incheon International Airport, the easiest and most convenient way to go to Stay-in-GAM is to take the 6011 Limousine Bus stationed just outside the airport. Stay-in-GAM gave us vouchers for a KRW1,000 discount, but it was really of no use for us since the drivers did not honor it. When you find the 6011 bus, just hop in and don’t forget to drop KRW10,000 on the payment counter right beside the driver’s seat. There is room for luggage on the front of the bus, but if you are carrying the equivalent of a small house, the efficient bus driver will store it in the bus luggage compartment. I wish I can say that the drivers are friendly, but they are a bit grouchy.

The email from Kevin (of Stay-in-GAM) indicated that we are to get off the Changdeokgung Palace bus stop, which is just a block away from the hostel, but maybe I was too sleepy or too excited that me and my friend got off the bus not at Changdeokgung (as instructed) but at Gyeongbukgung Palace drop off which is still a 20-minute walk away from the hostel. While it was a bit inconvenient walking the whole way, it was also an opportunity to soak the sights of Seoul and people watch while dragging my heavy luggage with me.

The email from Stay-In-GAM indicated that we are to turn right on the next street after the Nescafe Cafe just right past the Changdukgung Palace–and true enough, there is Stay-In-GAM all warm and cozy as expected!

2. Our Stay

The room is cozy for two people, and comprised of two single-sized beds, outfitted with the most comfortable and softest comforter, aircon, mirror, a bed table, lampshade and a hair dryer. Our room is a part of a three room grouping, located in one corner of the hotel where we shared a common area, toilet & bath, a bench and a cabinet to keep our shoes. Yes, shoes are not allowed inside the room, instead the hostel will issue a standard home sandal for your use.

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The best thing about Stay-In-GAM is that the rooms will look exactly like the pictures on its website. In short, you won’t have the experience of expecting a really nice room only to find something below what you are expecting. Outside our corner is the hallway leading to the elevator and where the common PC, lockers and a phone that can make international phone calls are located.Right across from the elevator is the common kitchen, outfitted with a water dispenser, ref, microwave, stove, sink, table and chairs as well as cooking utensils are located. You are welcome to use them, provided you will clean after yourself after use.

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At the first floor is the reception area and the Stay-In-GAM cafe which served probably one of the best waffle and mochi ice cream combinations. The reception area/coffee shop is also where the free breakfast spread is served every morning. Breakfast is usually bread (with strawberry and butter spread options), steamed egg, steamed ham, bean sprout salad, OJ, milk and coffee. I read some reviews bemoaning the fact that it is the same breakfast over and over again (it is) but I kinda think it’s ungrateful to bitch about something that is given for free, considering the affordable cost of staying in Stay-In-GAM. If you’d like to have some variety during breakfast, I recommend you pick-up ramen, egg or cheese from any of the neighboring convenience stores.

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Decorating the walls of the reception area were messages from the people who stayed there before. Before we left, the friendly and efficient manager, Kevin asked us to also write our messages along with the photo he took of us. Reading through the many messages, to say that Stay-in-GAM has a lot of satisfied customers is an understatement.

The hostel will also issue you your own key for the room (no key card yet) as well as they key code to punch in for the main door. There are no curfews and you can come in anytime you like. The neighborhood is also relatively quiet and very peaceful. In fact, we actually tried walking around the neighborhood at 12MN just to see how it feels like and I swear there’s literally no one there to disturb the peace, except us two crazy Filipinas who probably scared the neighborhood.

3. Any Rants?

None really, well — maybe except the fact that our room has no TV inside. There’s also no television in the common area or even at the reception area. But this is very minor actually, I mean — who would go to Seoul just to watch TV?

Our verdict?
If you are planning to go to Seoul and would like to save a few bucks, consider booking a room at Stay-In-GAM. The place is really nice and Kevin, the manager, is very efficient and accommodating. It is also located just right across Changdeokgung Palace where you can also tour the Secret Garden (do not miss this!), plus walking distance to the Subway, the Bukchon Hanok Village as well as the trendy area of Insadong.

Read more reviews, including mine, on Trip Advisor.

Hotel Details:

Stay-in-GAM Hostel
21 Waryong-dong
Jongno-Gu, Seoul 110-360
South Korea
+822 7642052
www.stayingam.com

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Travel Diaries

Hi! I’m Your Wandering Girl

Let me reintroduce myself. This blog used to be called “The Places You Will Go”, yes — after that famous children’s book. It was a nice name, nostalgic and easy to recall…but definitely not unique. And definitely doesn’t give you an idea of who I am and why I am here.

Well, my first ever blog post for this site briefly explained why I am starting the blog. See it here. But here’s a summary: I am in love with going to different places and will not hesitate to find ways to go on a trip — in spite my meager budget. You see, in spite of my fondest dream of leaving everything and seeing the world on a whim, I don’t exactly have the money of a Hilton or a Vanderbilt. At best, I have a bank account where I keep all money for travel. I balance my bank account according to three items: every day expenses, emergency and savings fund and my travel fund.

This is the same reason why I decided to rename this blog, who has enjoyed your generosity for quite a while now. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on travel. I know that I have been too quiet for a long time–I can assure you, my fellow travel fiends, that each and every time was spent plotting various forms of escape from our mundane day-to-day life.

Still cheaply, and with less expenses as possible, of course. Show me the way to the free attraction and I will gladly try it out for you.

Hopefully, I will get to have more opportunities to travel or in Filipino street slang language, “Lakwatsa” this year. I have come to realize that I have spent much of my time plotting my trips on foreign countries, but less on local destinations. I wish to correct this oversight. You see, the Philippines have a lot of great places to offer. Though in all honesty, I can flat out tell you that the rest of Manila is a jungle. Please, get out of the capital and see the rest of our country if you can. It is marvelous, I promise you. Yes, not only the usual haunts like Boracay, Puerto Princesa or Cebu City. Discover unknown places like the nice beaches of Coron in Palawan, the Bantayan Island in Northern Cebu and the off the beaten track that is abundant in any of our 7,100 islands. You will find something you will truly enjoy, I assure you.

So, yes — nice meeting you again. Here’s wishing for more miles covered, for you and for me.

WANDERING GIRL

July 2007, on board a Sentosa Bus, Singapore

July 2007, on board a Sentosa Bus, Singapore

July 2008 -- With my baby brother and my baby sister, at Hong Kong Disneyland

July 2008 — With my baby brother and my baby sister, at Hong Kong Disneyland

January 2010. A belated honeymoon and first anniversary trip with the Hubby. At the steps of Hong Kong Museum of Modern Art, TST.

January 2010. A belated honeymoon and first anniversary trip with the Hubby. At the steps of Hong Kong Museum of Modern Art, TST.

July 2011... with the siblings and Hubby at the boardwalk going to Sentosa, Singapore

July 2011… with the siblings and Hubby at the boardwalk going to Sentosa, Singapore

March 2012 - In front of the Main Train Station. Busan, South Korea

March 2012 – In front of the Main Train Station. Busan, South Korea

March 2012 - Walking the winding path going to the N Seoul Tower. Mt. Namsan, Seoul, South Korea.

March 2012 – Walking the winding path going to the N Seoul Tower. Mt. Namsan, Seoul, South Korea.

October 2012 - Celebrating mum's birthday in Hong Kong

October 2012 – Celebrating mum’s birthday in Hong Kong

March 2013. Buying tickets for two to the Observation Deck, Taipei 101. Taipei, Taiwan

March 2013. Buying tickets for two to the Observation Deck, Taipei 101. Taipei, Taiwan

September 2013. Wandering through Gardens by the Bay and back in Singapore.

September 2013. Wandering through Gardens by the Bay and back in Singapore.

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South Korea, Travel Diaries

The Great Seoul Searching Trip (Days 1 and 2)

Last March, I had the great opportunity of going to Seoul (via Busan) and see the many magnificent things that I used to see on TV only. As mentioned in my earlier post, the trip was a pleasant surprise, I was not expecting to go but ended up going after being awarded a visa by the embassy.

Since the trip was unexpected, I ended up spending for the plane ticket whereas my sister was able to get hers at PHP3,500 (all in, round trip), while I spent close to PHP20,000.00 for the round trip ticket to Seoul, with roughly less than two weeks to go. I figured, the opportunity was presenting itself to me, I got a visa, so I might as well get the ticket!

As I’ve said, nothing beats booking your tickets early. But for instances when you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, don’t hesitate and just go!

My sister and I are the type of people who prefer to travel on their own, without a travel agency directing our every move. This preference (and the fact that we don’t want to spend money on tour arrangements) has made me a research hound, exhausting all possible informing online, through forums and blogs about South Korea. I was able to make a solid itinerary, good for six days and booked our lodging online–an overnight stay at Toyoko Inn No. 1 in Busan and a six-day stay on a non-sharing guest house run by Zaza Backpackers located at the busy Myeongdong area (more on this later).

We arrived in Busan just as it was getting colder, after all it was already past nine in the evening when the plane landed in Busan. Clearing immigration is a breeze, the officers are very formal but kind. After verifying our visa and travel details, the officers took our pictures and finger prints before handing us back our passport. We got our luggage, breezed through customs, exchanged our pesos for Korean Won before heading out the door.

Outside, we looked for the airport limousine bus station outside the airport arrival halls where buses mostly converge, and searched for the bus marked Busan Train Station, heading to Nampadong area. The buses collect a flat fare of KRW5,000 which you will insert in the metal slot upon boarding the bus. Please note that the Gimhae International Airport is quite far from downtown Busan and you have the option of taking the airport limousine buses or the taxi (which will cost you from KRW20,000 to KRW30,000).

We almost got lost but was kindly given assistance by an artiste-nerdy type guy who was also taking the same night trip to Busan station area. Our hotel, the Toyoko Inn Hotel is strategically located beside Busan Train Station, where we will take the KTX headed for Seoul the next morning.

Toyoko Inn Busan

Toyoko Inn Busan – Small rooms, but gets the job done!

Toyoko Inn Busan view

Our magnificent view from the tiny but comfortable room

If you are looking for a very cheap but comfortable, efficient and clean place to stay in Busan, I highly recommend the Toyoko Inn. A double room will cost you between KRW71,500 to KRW82,500 (tax inclusive) or roughly PHP2,600 for a night’s stay. This already came with a simple buffet breakfast for two. (read more about my review of Toyoko Inn here.)

Had a quick dinner at the Lotteria across the street (Seoul’s version of McDonald’s, with a more interesting menu line-up), before we retired to our room for an early trip tomorrow going to Seoul. I was also very tired, since I had to report for work prior to jetting off to Busan in the afternoon.

Arriving in Seoul

My sister and I took the 8AM KTX trip going to Seoul. The trip took roughly two hours and 45 minutes, and the legs of the trip end exactly at Seoul Station, the gleaming, high-tech train station located right at the heart of the city. In our third-world trained eyes, the train station looked more like our country’s airport. Immediately, the small wonders never failed to amaze us: how the KTX had train stewardesses dressed in impeccable uniform and cute flower hair clips; how the station seemed to be an endless hum of activity; our jaws dropped seeing office girls with their equally cute boyfriends in tow flaunting gorgeous dresses and shoes-to-die-for!

Welcome to the first world, girls!

one of the many entrance to Mt. Namsan

After our quick check-in at Zaza Backpackers, we headed to Mt. Namsan to try the cable car, to see the N Seoul Tower up close and most importantly, drop my contribution to the Locks of Love perimeter fence below the N Seoul Tower.

Here are some exciting things to do on top Mt. Namsan:

1. Take the trip going up through the Namsan Cable Car. The cable car ride cost KRW6,000 one way and KRW7,500 round trip. We chose to buy a one-way ticket since we wanted to explore a bit going down. Trust me, the trip up through the cable car is worth the experience. You will get to see the surrounding areas around Mt. Namsan. This is breath taking during sunset.

2. Contribute to the “Locks of Love” perimeter fence beside the N Seoul Tower. I bought this miniature lock on my building’s resident 711 for PHP65 (USD2) and carried it from Manila to Seoul. I quickly wrote me and the Hubby’s name on one side and then the name of my whole family (i.e. mom, dad, bro and sis)on the other side. I guess, if I can’t bring my whole family to Seoul…then I am bringing their names with me. The Locks of Love usually contain messages declaring undying love, love wishes (from the single peeps, perhaps?) as well as names of couples with their anniversary dates to boot. There’s a belief (fueled by another K-Drama) that couples who put their locks in the Locks of Love wall will remain together forever. If you happen not to have a lock and key with you, you can purchase from the N Seoul Tower gift shop. This will not cost you anything, well save for the lock and key, but it’s worth the experience. You may opt to keep the key or throw it out.

Locks of Love N Seoul Tower

Can you find my lock?

3. Soak in the sights of Seoul atop the viewing deck. – Admission fee to the viewing deck is only KRW9,000 (PHP331.00) but if you want to also visit the Teddy Bear Museum, you can opt to get their Observation Deck + Teddy Bear Museum package at KRW14,000 (PHP516.00). This is already a steal considering Museum Entrance is already worth KRW8,000 (around PHP300). Here’s what you will see on top:

N Seoul Tower

The view on top is simply breath taking!

4. Unleash your inner child at the Teddy Bear Museum – Ever since my sister and I saw the K-Drama “Princess Hours” starring Yoon Eun-Hye, we’ve been crazy about the bears featured in the drama. Remember how the bears used to represent the important plot points each time an episode ends? So, after learning that there are Princess Hours memorabilia present in the museum, we just had to go!

Princess Hours

How cute!!!

The bears were just too cute, that I just wanted to rip them off the shelves and display areas and take them all home.

Bear Museum N Seoul Tower

The little sis playing with the bears…well, almost.

Teddy Bear Museum

The bears from Princess Hours!

Princess Hours memorabilia

Memorabilia from the drama like the script signed by the director, the headband used by Eun-Hye and pencils (props)

5. Lastly, take lots and lots of pictures and enjoy the experience! Prior to climbing the N Seoul Tower, we were already at the Namsan Park enjoying the view as well as the cold air. When we visited, temperature was between 5 to 0 degrees Celsius so we had fun going up and down and posing on some of the areas within the park.

It was also impressive seeing a lot of elderly people taking their afternoon jog on the winding path of the mountain and giving us two Manila girls a run for our money. While we were wheezing and running out of breathe, the oldies were walking like nothing.

In my next post, I will wrote about Namisan or Nami Island.

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Asia, South Korea, Travel Tips

Step by step visa application for South Korea

the South Korean Embassy – Manila (from the embassy’s FB page)

After a successful and memorable Busan and Seoul trip last March, I posted a step-by-step South Korean tourist visa application in my other blog. Following the trip, many of my friends have sent me text messages or even asked me personally about getting a tourist visa for South Korea. I am reposting my experience as well as the tips that worked best for me so that other people might use it as they start planning for their own Seoul Searching trip.

First, my trip was completely, right off the bat, unexpected. Only my sister was supposed to go but her travel buddy had an unexpected family tragedy. Prior to the trip, I have been researching her Korea trip for the last four months, realizing that it won’t cost me anything to apply for a 59D visa (single entry). After finding that I have enough in my bank account to risk getting a bank certificate, I decided that I won’t lose anything should I take a chance an apply for a 59D.

First, allow me to address a misconception. No one knows how much money you should have in your bank in order to get approved. To be honest with you, I have less than PHP50,000 in the bank (more on the lower five figures). There are other factors that the consul consider other than your bank account. It can either be your tenure at your current job, your stability or connection in the Philippines or maybe even the money in your bank account. So for those with less money in the bank but is willing to risk it…I say go for it. Applying for a visa is free. No one really knows if you’ll get approved or not.

“Winging it” and “risking it” turned out positive for me. Valentine’s Day 2011 was made extra memorable not because of any undying declarations of love, but because I realized that I am indeed going to Seoul in three weeks time.

As my way of giving back to the unnamed faces whose post in the internet who helped me get through the visa application process, I am sharing what I knew based from my experience and the many researches that I did early this year.

Process explained below is for TOURIST VISA (59D), SINGLE ENTRY.

Here’s the step-by-step process:

1. Make sure all your documents are complete. This includes the following:
– Application form (downloaded file from the South Korean embassy) which you print using A4 paper. On the application form, attach your most recent passport-sized photo (white background). Please have your photo taken on a really good photography shop.

– Photocopy of the first page (the information page) of your passport.

– Certificate of employment from your current employer indicating your tenure in the company, salary and position. It’s important that in your company letterhead, the company’s complete address and telephone number is indicated. For the love of God, do not even ATTEMPT to submit a fake employment certificate. I heard that someone from the embassy really calls our employers to verify. Please do not do anything stupid which will affect the reputation of other Filipino travelers.

– Bank certificate. The certificate usually indicates how much you have in the bank as of date of request. This is easy to request. In BPI for example, you can get your bank certificate for as less than an hour. You will just have to pay PHP100 (USD2) to facilitate your request. For BDO account holders, my friend told me that you will get your bank certificate the next day.

– Income Tax Return (ITR) Form 2306 – this is a non-negotiable requirement. If you don’t have your current ITR, try submitting your old ITR either from the year before. In fact, I used an ITR issued to me by my former company. I stayed for less than six months in that company hence my contribution rate was minuscule. I was most worried about this document, but apparently the one I submitted qualified.

2. As soon as you have all your documents in order, you are ready to take the next step! Go directly to the South Korean Embassy located in McKinley Hill in Taguig. If you are based in Manila and can spare a few hours of your time, you do not need to have your applications coursed through a travel agency. Coursing your visa application through a travel agency will just cost you money. If you don’t have anything else to do, do it yourself. The application process is easy and very fool-proof. The embassy accepts visa applications from 9AM to 12NN from Monday to Friday. Please bring valid ID so that you can go past the kind guards manning the gate.

3. Submit all your documents. As soon as you enter the Visa Application area, you will see a receptionist stationed near the door. She will ask you if you have a visa in any of the OECD countries (like Japan, USA, Australia, Shengen, etc) — she will ask you this in order to identify which window will accept your application. If you are a first time traveler or don’t have visa from any of the countries indicated in the list, you will be referred to Window 1. She will give you a stub indicating your number.

My sister and I was assigned to Window 1 — while waiting for our number to be called, we arranged our documents and made sure they are neat and presentable. We also arranged them based on the order indicated in the embassy website. Make sure that your documents are neat and presentable. It never hurts to give a good impression to the consul.

When your number is called, approach the assigned window and give your papers to the Consul. He may or he may not ask you questions about your trip. Don’t get nervous and answer him as truthfully as possible. Tell him you are going to Seoul so that you can make Lee MinHo realize that he is meant to be your better half. Or that you are there on a mission to stalk Super Junior. RULE OF THUMB: Please do not lie.

4. After submitting your documents, the consul will hand you a piece of paper which will indicate when you can pick-up your passport. Whatever happens, do not lose that paper. Guard it with your life.

Indicated is the date and time when you can come back to get your passport. Do not lose the paper since that is the only requirement in getting your passport.

After you have the paper, you can now go home and hyperventilate in the safety of your room. You have done your share, let the universe (and fate) take over.

PICKING UP THE PASSPORT
First, a word of caution –just because you submitted the documents does not mean that you are automatically granted a visa. No one knows what will get you approved or denied, except the Consul. You can pick-up your passport on the date indicated on the piece of paper (2PM to 4PM ONLY).

Leave your ID at the guard, pass by the receptionist and get a number and wait for your number to be called. The consul will hand you your passport, and you may check if you have been granted a visa before leaving the embassy grounds.

If your passport does not contain anything but a stamp indicating “APPLICATION RECEIVED” and you are handed a piece of paper with procedures for reapplication printed, it means your application was denied. You will have to wait another six months before you can plot your KPOP staking campaign once again.

REMEMBER — These are based on my personal experience only, and should not be taken as hard facts. For a more comprehensive process, go to the embassy website.

So what did I learn?
1.It pays to do your research.
2. Always be nice to people. You will never know when you will be left wanting for their help and assistance.
3. Do not lie. Be honest always.
4. If in doubt, do not be afraid to ask for directions.

getting a SK tourist visa

Our 59D Visa last March 2012

I hope this post will be of help to you. It may look daunting at first, but I am the perfect example that it is not impossible.

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