Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Incheon International Airport - FREE KOREA TRANSIT TOUR!!!

Hello readers! It's been a month since my trip to Seattle, Washington, USA. I had a long layover to South Koreaa total of 13 hours. My route was Manila (Philippines) → Incheon (South Korea) → Seattle (Washington, USA) via Asiana Airlines. Fortunately, Incheon International Airport provides free local tours to travelers with long layovers. It was a great decision to join at that time. 


» Conditions «

  • Those who are eligible to enter South Korea without a visa. Citizens from the following countries must hold a Korean transit visa: Egypt, Sudan, Syria and Yemen
  • In general, passengers who has a connecting flight to South Korea within 24 hours and travelling to the USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand and has a valid visa to those countries.

Please consult South Korea's transit tour page for more information.

» Book Online «

It's better to book the tour online because it easily get fully booked. Walk-in is possible but it comes with first come first served upon arrival. 

You can head over to this link: https://www.airport.kr/ap/en/trn/trnTourMain.do for more details.

» Course Information «

There are 8 local tours to choose from according to your preferences. There are 1-hour, 2-hour, 4-hour and 5-hour tours. Each transit tours are led by English-speaking tour guide.

  • Temple Tour (1 hour) → Airport - Temple - Airport
    • Terminal 1 → 08:00~09:00 / 09:00~10:00 / 14:00~15:00
    • Terminal 2 → 07:00~08:00 / 08:00~09:00 / 13:00~1400 / 14:00~15:00
Credit: Incheon International Airport website
  • Paradise City Art-Tainment Tour (1 hour) → Airport - Paradise City - Airport
    • Terminal 1&2 → 10:00~11:00 / 13:00~14:00
Credit: Incheon International Airport website
  • Old & New Tour (2 hours) → Airport - Songdo Hanok Village - Triple Street - Airport
    • Terminal 1&2 → 15:00~17:00
Credit: Incheon International Airport website
  • Temple Tour (4 hours) → Airport - Jeondeungsa Temple - Deokjinjin - Airport
    • Terminal 1&2 → 8:00~12:00
Credit: Incheon International Airport website
  • Adventure Tour (4 hours) → Airport - Gwangmyeong Cave - Airport
    • Terminal 1&2 → 9:00~13:00 (Not available on Mondays)
Credit: Incheon International Airport website
  • K-Culture Tour (4 hours) → Airport - World Cup Stadium - Hongdae Street - Airport
    • Terminal 1&2 → 14:00~18:00
Credit: Incheon International Airport website
  • Tradition Tour (5 hours) → Airport - Gyeongbokgung Palace - Insadong - Airport
    • Terminal 1&2 → 8:00~13:00 / 10:00~15:00
Credit: Incheon International Airport website
  • Shopping Tour (5 hours) → Airport - Myeong-dong - Namdaemun Market - Airport
    • Terminal 1&2 → 13:00~18:00
Credit: Incheon International Airport website

» Transit Process «

  • While inside the plane, the cabin crew(s) will give quarantine card and arrival card for passengers who will travel to South Korea. Fill-out the form for easy transit process. Use TRANSIT TOUR as your accommodation in the arrival card.
  • From Manila, I arrived at Incheon International Airport at 4:30 am. The original arrival time was 4:40 am.
  • Asiana Airlines from Manila is Gate 14.
  • Follow Transfer signs but when you see the Arrival sign, go straight until you reach the Quarantine Area. Surrender the Quarantine card
  • Then, head straight to the Immigration. For foreigners, go to Counter C.
  • Tell the immigration officer that you reserved online for transit tour. Show your boarding pass, passport and printed reservation form (from email).
  • Questions asked: Do you have a US visa? Do you have companions?
  • No passport stamp. The officer will just give you an entry confirmation paper with your personal details: name and passport number as well as your date of entry and date permitted.
  • Go down to 1st floor and look for exit.
  • Surrender your arrival card to the officer.
  • Note that the you're not going to get your checked bags in the carousel because it will be sent straight to your travel destination.
  • Then, look for Gate #8. Beside it, you can see the Transit Tour Information Desk Desk #41 and #42.

» Transit Tour Information Desk «

The desk is open from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm only. Please be there at least 30 minutes before the tour starts. Prepare your online reservation form, passport, previous and next boarding pass.



I chose the Palace Tour (8:00 am to 1:00 pm) so I paid $10, for the palace's entrance fee $3 and for the lunch $7.

The officer will ask you to come back by 7:45 am for the meeting time. He will also give a transit tour pin (free of charge).


At 7:45am, participants made a long line and followed the tour guide to the very end of the terminal, where the tour bus was waiting. You can put your carry-on baggage and store it beneath the bus. Just make sure your valuables are with you.

» Actual Tour «

Luckily, Asiana Airlines is located in Terminal 1. The passengers of Terminal 1 are the first one, who will board the bus.

Note: Check the weather outside before the tour. When I got here, it was 0°C. Good thing that I was wearing thermal turtle neck, thermal leggings and thermal socks from Uniqlo. I also wore two layers of jackets from Uniqlo. It's not sponsored, huh.

Our tour guide was Jennie. She was very nice, warm and informative. Our first stop was Gyeongbokgung Palace

Photo grabbed from Free Korea transit tour Facebook page
I've been here last March 2016 but I didn't witness the changing of guards. It's good that I witnessed it this time.


The second and last stop was Insadong. We went to a traditional Korean restaurant. I ordered Bulgogi.




After the tour, we were dropped off at the airport.


» After the Tour «

Here are the steps that I did after the tour:
  • Get off the bus and get your bag(s) beneath the bus. The bus driver will help you get your things.
  • Go inside the airport and look for the elevator or escalator.
  • Head over to the third floor and look for the immigration.
  • Fall in line and do the common immigration procedures.
  • Then, go to your boarding gate (indicated in your boarding pass) or try other activities to do at the airport.

» Things to Do at the Airport «

Here are the main attractions that I checked that time:

  • Korea Traditional Culture Experience Center (T1 East) - Located in Terminal 1 near Gate 25.
  • Mini Classical Concerts - Located in Terminal 1 near Gate 27/28.
  • The Walk of Royal Family - Located in Terminal 1 between Gate 25 and 29.

  • Free Korean traditional clothes experience - Located in Terminal 1 near Gate 25. The event was only from December 14, 2019 to December 18, 2019 from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. I joined and they also gave me free 2 postcards with my photo at the back.



  • Free call booths with surprises - Located in Terminal, near Gate 25. The event was only from December 14, 2019 to December 18, 2019 from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. I got a free gift after joining the call booth.



You can check this link: https://www.airport.kr/ap/en/svc/attractionMain.do for more details on other attractions.

» Info «

Website:                        https://www.airport.kr/ap_cnt/en/trn/tour/trtour/trtour.do
E-mail Address:              transittour@airport.kr
Telephone Number:       +82-32-741-3139
Managing Team:             Airline Marketing Team

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Thursday, January 02, 2020

How I Got My First US Tourist Visa as a Philippine Passport Holder


United States of America is was one of my dream countries to visit since I was a child. My grandparents (from my father side) had lot of stories about this country. While writing this blog entry, I am was a bit teary-eyed because I really missed them. 

At first, I was hesitant to apply for a tourist visa. Even though I have sufficient money to pay for it and I know that I can pay for my travel, I have had that fear of rejection. Everyone also feels the same, right?

Without further ado, here are the steps on how I got my FIRST US tourist visa.

» Determine Your Visa Type «

There are various types of US Visa that you can apply for: business/tourist visawork visastudent visaexchange visitor visatransit/ship crew visareligious worker visadomestic employee visajournalist and media visatreaty investors and tradersCNMI-Saipan visa, and so on

Do note that it is best to go to the visa type that best matches to your application. Never lie.


This guide is only applicable for B1/B2 classification only.


» Register «

Once you have determined your visa type, register at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs to create your applicant profile. Here's their website. You can use this to keep track of your application, verify your payment as well as check and book your interview dates.


If you're in a group, you can all register under one account. 

Once you already have an account, head on to the next step.

» Ready your 2x2 Photo «

Head on to your nearest photo printing shop and have your 2x2 photo. You will be needing this when you fill-out your DS-160 application form. Request to have a soft copy of it in a CD or a USB flash drive. I had mine at Photoline in SM Dasmariñas (Cavite). Please make sure that your photo is in corporate attire with white background.

Take note that if you will pass the US Tourist Visa, this 2x2 photo will be shown on your visa so make sure that it's pretty decent. You can smile but don't show your teeth. Make sure also that your hair is not covering your ears and other parts of your face.

» Complete the DS-160 Form «

Here's the website on where you will fill out the DS-160 application form. Take note the Application ID that will flash on the screen because you will be needing this one on the next step. Get ready the soft copy of your 2x2 photo.

Then, ANSWER THE FORM WHOLE-HEARTEDLY. I'm not kidding. The form consists of:

  • Personal Information
  • Address and Phone Information
  • Passport Information
  • Travel Information including purpose of travel, travel plans, intended date of arrival and length of stay in the U.S., US contact number(s) and address
  • Travel Companions Information (if there is any)
  • Previous U.S. Travel Information (if there is any)
  • U.S. Point of Contact Information (contact person in the U.S. if there is any)
  • Family Information (father's name, mother's name, immediate relatives (siblings), and birthdates) 
  • Spouse Information (if there is any)
  • Employment Details
  • Educational Background
  • Security Questions and Background
  • Upload your 2x2 Photo

Update (June 2, 2019): The United States has begun requiring visa applicants to submit social media profiles as part of the online application. It must be at least 5 years old.

It's very lengthy and it took me 2 hours to fill out the form because I have to gather my passport and other personal details. Answer everything completely and put N/A or not applicable if doesn't apply to you. 

By the way, I used Google Chrome browser when I answered the DS-160 application form. Once you're done, save this one to your desktop. The consul will based almost all of his / her questions on this form. 


Save also the DS-160 confirmation page. It includes the application ID and other personal details. It is also one of the requirements to bring on your visa interview.


» Pay the Non-Refundable US Visa Fee «

As of May 2018, the visa fee costs USD 160 with exchange rate of USD 1 = Php 53 so it costs Php 8,480 in Philippine currency. Take note that it's non-refundable and non-transferable whether you are accepted or rejected.

You can't schedule or view an appointment unless you payed your visa fee. There are two ways to pay for it:
  • Online transaction
  • Over-the-counter transaction

I chose to pay online via BPI because it's hassle-free and to avoid long queues in the bank. Here's the link if you want to pay online via BPI. Take note of your reference number because it serves as your receipt number in booking for your appointment. For the detailed BPI instructions on how to pay online, click here.

If you will pay online via BancNet, click here. Same as above, you have to take note the reference number. For the detailed BancNet instructions, go to this link


In case you will go for over-the-counter transaction, go to this link and print this page. The page consists of bank copy and customer's copy. It includes the amount to pay, expiration date and receipt number. Take note that it is one of the requirements and you have to pay for it.


» Confirm your Visa Fee Payment «

Go back to U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website and login.  Click New Application / Schedule Appointment and choose Nonimmigrant visa > Manila > Business/Tourism > B1/B2. Fill out your personal data. Get the DS-160 confirmation number on the DS-160 confirmation page that you answered above. Next, put your current address on the delivery address portion. Note that the delivery fee is inclusive on your visa fee.

Then, head over this link to confirm your payment. Don't forget to enter your receipt number.

» Schedule your Visa Interview «

Once you confirm your visa payment, you can schedule your visa interview. After you chose your desired date and time, confirm your visa interview appointment. After you receive the confirmation of your appointment on your email, print it because it is one of the requirements for your interview.

Here's the processing timelines for online payment:

  • BPI
    • If you payed between 12:01 am to 2:59 am, you may schedule your appointment four hours later the same day
    • If you payed between 3:00 pm to 11:59 pm, you can book after 11:00 am on the next day.
  • BancNet 
    • If you payed between 12 midnight to 11:59 am, you may schedule after 1:30 pm on the next day.
    • If you payed on weekends and bank holidays, you can also schedule after 1:30 pm on the next day.

For over-the-counter transaction, if you payed before 3:00 pm, you have to wait for four hours before you schedule your appointment. For payments after 3:00 pm, you have to wait around 1:00 pm on the next banking day before you schedule your appointment.

On my case, I payed online via BPI last April 11, 2018 in the morning and I scheduled it after lunch time in the afternoon.


At that time, the earliest day for visa interview was May 7, 2018. I booked that date and chose 8:45 amOthers said it's better if you will schedule in the morning than in the late afternoon. 

» Gather your Requirements «

Basic requirements are as follows:
  • Valid Passport
  • 2x2 digitized photo
  • DS-160 confirmation page
  • Visa fee payment receipt
  • Appointment confirmation

You can bring supporting documents such as employment or school certificate, bank certificate and so on. In my case, they never ask for it.

» US Tourist Visa Interview «

Show up 15 minutes before your scheduled time. All electronic devices are prohibited inside the Embassy so make sure you bring none. I just brought a small bag with my pocket money, a mirror, a lipstick and a tissue paper.

Once you reached the US Embassy (Philippines), asked the security guard on where to fall in line. Then, a staff member will ask for your passport and appointment form. They will attach a sticker on your passport for tracking purposes.


After that, you will be instructed to go inside where you will be asked to put your belongings in a conveyor belt. Once done, you will be redirected to a shaded area with chairs. I didn't spend much time there and was instructed to go inside the main building.


My bag was manually checked again inside the Embassy. The FIRST step was fall in line for pre-screening. They will asked your name, birthday and purpose of travel. The SECOND step was finger scanning. The FINAL step and the most important one was the interview.


This was the questions asked to me by the consul:


Consul:   What's your name and age?

Me:         I'm Ulyssa Elaine Reyes, 25 years of age.
Consul:   What's the purpose of your travel?
Me:         I will visit my grandparents and attend their 61st wedding anniversary celebration.
Consul:    Where in US are you traveling?
Me:          In Lynnwood, Washington state.
Consul:    Have you traveled outside the country?
Me:          Yes, many times.
Consul:    Where did you travel?
Me:          I have travelled to South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
Consul:    Who will pay for your trip?
Me:          Myself
Consul:    What's your work?
Me:          I'm a Mobile Applications Developer.
Consul:    How much is your salary?
Me:          Php **,***

After a minute, she told me that I should wait for my passport to be delivered on my current address.


I arrived at the embassy around 8:30 am and exited at around 9:10 am. It's really nice that the embassy has a faster process now. A day after I was interviewed, I received a text from the Embassy that my passport was ready to pick-up. After 3 days, my passport was delivered to my address. My passport has now 10-year multiple entry US tourist visa! I'm now ready to go to US and visit my grandparents!


UPDATE (January 1, 2019) : Unfortunately, I didn't go this June 2018 with my dad because of personal reasons. But, I will make sure to go late this year 2018 or early next year 2019 to visit them. I also didn't push through my plan trip last November because of roller coster emotions and personal reasons, too. 😞 


UPDATE (May 14, 2019) : Hurray! Today, I just booked my roundtrip tickets and I'm flying to USA! I'm now ready to conquer my fears and spread my wings. I will spend holidays: Christmas and New Year with my grandparents as well as my aunt's family. 😃

UPDATE (December 16, 2019) : I arrived at USA. I just accomplished my bucket list. I'll share my experience on my next blog post. 😃

» US Embassy (Philippines) Information «

Address:                        1201 Roxas Blvd, Ermita, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila
Website:                        https://ph.usembassy.gov/
Nearby LRT Station(s):   United Nations or Padre Faura. Then, take a jeep or a cab going to the embassy.