Saturday, August 31, 2013

[Jeju-do / Seoul, Korea] Tips on Tax Refund for Budget Travellers in Korea

Korea is a shopping paradise, especially to ladies.  Endless pretty shoes, gorgeous bags, cute cosmetics and delicious food seem to follow you wherever you are.  You just feel like buying the entire Korea back!  Practically, budget travellers like me cannot afford to buy anything and everything that I fancy.  Being a budget travellers mean we are interested to know money saving tips. 

One of the ways is to buy things from shops that offer Tax Refund!  The amazing thing in Korea is that MANY shops offer tax refund with a minimum spending of 30,000 won, including the regular cosmetics shops such as The Face Shop, Innisfree, pharmacies and household stores such as Olive Young, and of course, the big departmental stores!  There are 2 tax refund agents in Korea - Global Blue Tax Free and Global Tax Free.  Keep a lookout for these logos when you go shopping.

Tips to Note:

1.  At the payment counter, inform the staff that you would like to have the Tax Refund Receipt.  The staff will ask for your passport, enter your particulars into their system, print the tax refund receipt and pass you the tax refund envelop.  Keep your original receipts and tax refund receipt in the envelop.

2.  Pack those items that you seeking tax refund separately for easy of retrieval during inspection at the airport.  The airport staff may or may not ask to see the goods.  But you should be get ready for the goods to be inspected.  (Tips: For clothes, shoes, sunshades, watches, you might want to wear them to the airport!)

3.  Before departing for airport, fill in your particulars on the Tax Refund Receipts.  Some receipts may require you to fill in your credit card number.  That is because they may refund the tax via your credit card instead of cash.  But so far, I managed to get all tax refunds through cash instead of via credit card.

4.  Put all Tax Refund receipts under the respective agents within the same envelop, so that you need not carry so many duplicate envelops around.

5.  Upon arriving at the airport, go to your airline check-in counter.  For items that cannot be hand-carried on-board, you can pack them in your check-in luggage.  Inform the check-in agent that you have items for tax-refund.  After collecting your boarding pass, you will then bring your check-in luggage to the Tax Refund desk.

6.  At the Tax Refund desk, your passport, receipts and goods to the staff.  The staff will verify the tax-refund items, stamp on the receipts but no cash will be refunded at this point.  Your luggage together with the tax-free items will be checked-in there.  But of course, you can also choose to hand-carry the tax-refund items, if you prefer to do so.  Note that you should still hold-on to the receipts for the actual cash refund.

6.  After clearing the immigration, go to the Global Blue Tax Free and/or Global Tax Free counter for the refund.

Tax Refund Counter at Jeju Airport

The Tax Refund Counter is located near Entrance 5 at the Departure Level.  There are only 2 counters serving the entire airport, so it is better to be there early to beat the queue.  Not surprisingly, the directional sign is in Chinese because of the number of Chinese tourists visiting Jeju these days.

If your next destination is to another place in Korea, you will not get the tax refund then.  The airport staff will do a verification that they had seen the goods and hence, no need for a re-inspection when you are at the next airport in Korea.  However, you must keep the tax refund receipts and seek the refund before departing Korea.

Tax Refund Counter at Incheon Airport

Upon arriving at the Incheon Airport, go to the Tax Free Inspection Counter that is located Passenger Terminal, 3rd Floor, far end behind Check-in Counter J or Counter D near the immigration area.  The area is not very conspicuous and a little hidden.

After obtaining the clearance from the counter, you may proceed to Departure Immigration.  I would recommend that you use Immigration Gate 3, which is nearest to the Global Blue Tax Free and Global Tax Free counters.  After clearing the immigration, turn right and keep a lookout for Starbucks on the left-side.  The tax refund counters are around the corner.

There are 2 separate queues for Global Blue Tax Free and Global Tax Free.  If you are claiming for both, you will need to queue twice!  Be sure to factor in sufficient waiting time as the queue can get freaking long!  Some travellers had to give up on the wait since they have to catch the flight!  That's too bad.... Finally, the cash you receive will be in Korean won.  But of course, you can convert the money into your home country currency at the money changer.

Latest Update - Seek Tax Refunds at 6 locations in downtown Seoul!

Starting from 30 Aug, besides seeking the refund at the airports, you can now get the refunds from 6 locations in Myeongdong, Dongdaemun and Sinchon.  Here are the details.

Global Blue Tax Free
1.  Woori Bank - Myeongdong Branch (located across Myeongdong Theatre)
2.  Main Floor at Lotte Department Store (Flagship Branch at Myeongdong)
3.  10th Floor at Hyundai Department Store (Sinchon Branch)

Global Tax Free
1.  2nd Floor at Olive Young (Main Branch at Myeongdong, located next to Seoul Royal Hotel)
2.  Main floor of the luxury hall of Shinsegae Department Store (Flagship store at Myeongdong)
3.  B1 and 5th Floor of Doota (Dongdaemun)

Read more about Downtown Tax Refund here.  Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

[Jeju-do, Korea] 10 Tips for travelling on Jeju Air (Domestic Flight)

Travelling is exciting when things go smooth.  I hope the following tips will be useful to travellers travelling from Seoul, Gimpo Airport to Jeju Airport for the first time.

First, if you travel to Gimpo Airport by A'REX (Airport Railroad) or subway, take the direction that brings you to the Domestic Airport.  Gimpo Airport is connected domestically and internationally, unless Incheon Airport which serves only international routes.

Second, if you think that Jeju Air is the only domestic flight to Jeju, then you are in for a big surprise.  They are at least 6 domestic airlines that are connected to Jeju.  Jeju Air can easily be spotted by their bright orange logo.  Counter staff mostly are able to converse in English and are helpful too.

Third, this flimsy-looking piece of paper is your air ticket.  Do not lose it.  Key info is available in English too.

Fourth, check-in is 40mins prior to flight departure.  Unlike international flights which require you to appear 2 hours ahead for the thorough check-in process.  Checking in for domestic flights is quite straight forward.  As there flight frequency is very high, the counter may not attend to you if you show up too early. 

Fifth, observe the baggage allowance.  Maximum allowance for check-in luggage is 15kg while for hand-carry, it is 10kg.  The weighing scale is placed right before the boarding gate for passengers to check their hand-carry baggage's weight.  Nonetheless, a point to note is penalty for excess baggage charge for Jeju Air isn't that bad.... 2000 won per kg.

Sixth, Jeju is a small island and strong coastal wind may cause some difficulty during landing.  Hold tight to your seat, relax and just smile.

Seventh, the situation faced at departure from Jeju Airport is quite different from arrival to Jeju.  The queue at the departure gate starts to form quite early.  I was puzzled their enthusiasm to board the plane.  But I finally why after I passed the departure gate.  Read on...

Eighth, the flight does not take off from the departure gate itself!  The passengers need to take a shuttle bus to the flight.  The queue was formed early so as to get a seat on the shuttle bus!

Nineth, here's how you board the Jeju Air flight from Jeju!  Pray for good weather and manage your luggage load.  It is quite cumbersome to move your luggage from bus to plane if it is huge and heavy!

Finally and most importantly, book your tickets early to enjoy great discount which can be as much as 65%!

Wishing you a pleasant journey! *J^

Related Posts:
- Airfare Promotions to Seoul/Busan/Jeju (Click here)
- Flight Options to Jeju (Click here)
- Minjunggak Guesthouse in Jeju (Click here)
- Locating EG SIM Card shop at Seoul Station (Click here)
- Exploring Korean Traditional Markets on Subway Line 5 (Click here)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Free Latte from Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (Until 31 Dec 13)

Redeemed my first iced latte from Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf today!  Listen up if you are a frequent taxi user!!

For your trips taken using Comfort or Citycab taxi, make 3 payments using MasterCard Paypass from POSB, DBS or CIMB card within the same month and you can redeem an iced or hot latte from Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.  This promotion is until 31 Dec 2013!

Note that you must use the Paypass payment method ie.  tap-and-go to qualify for this promotion.  If the driver swipes or inserts the card into the payment device, your receipt will not be eligible for this promotion.  Some drivers may not be familiar with using the credit card payment device.  So, as a passenger, help them to help yourself get the free drink.  Here's what the driver needs to do:

1.  On the payment device, select "Credit"
2.  Place the MasterCard Paypass card on the screen.  The machine takes about 3 to 5 secs to detect the Paypass card.
3.  Once the transaction goes through, the word "Approved" will appear on the payment device in green.

How to identify the Paypass receipt?  From my observation, the approval slip is denoted by "Y1".  One other thing to note for using the MasterCard Paypass is that there is a 10% admin charge and GST is imposed on the admin charge amount.  The good news is, under this Paypass promotion, there is a 10% rebate on the cab fare.  This means that the only additional cost is only the GST imposed on admin charge which is quite little compare to the latte drink which you will be eligible to redeem!

Details of the promotion is available respectively on MasterCard and Comfort Delgro's website.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

[Singapore Restaurant] Korean Grill BBQ Buffet - Ssikkek BBQ

Hey, looking for buffet, and particularly Korean buffet?  Not many Korean restaurants serve buffet and Korean food is known not to be cheap in Singapore. After so many years, Ssikkek has maintained its top spot in the hearts of my friends and I because the food is generally good and it is quite affordable.  Weekday lunch buffet at $14++ and dinner at $22++.  Weekend / Public Holiday is at $24++.  Check the website for kids' price.

The kimchi soup is always the first dish that we would dash for because it is soooo popular.  Relatively thick gravy and flavourful.  Look!  The soup is finishing up faster than the ingredients!

Second on my list to dash for is the rice cakes, ddeokbokki.  Fresh fish cakes and rice cakes that are chewy and not too hard.  Sauce is good too.

Third item to dash for is the pancake, pajeon.  Thin slices and fragrant.  Those who prefer thick batter may disagree that this is worth dashing for.

And finally, meat dishes is what people may dash for at other restaurants.  But in Ssikkek, even though all the side dishes and drinks have ran out, the meat continues to be available.  It isn't that the meat dishes are not popular, in fact, they are very well marinated and delicious.  The standard chicken, pork and beef variety is sufficient to fill any hungry fellow.

While all these may sound all too good, are there things to note while dining there?  Yes, there are.  Firstly, due to long queues at the restaurants all the time, they have staggered the dinner hours.  I may not be totally certain but I think there are only 2 timings to choose from for dinner, either 6pm or 8pm.  So, timing isn't that flexible.  Secondly, if you are taking the 8pm dinner slot, fast fingers are needed to dash for the side dishes because the dishes may run out by 8.30pm :(  Thirdly, the restaurant closes at 10ish, so dinner at 8pm may be a little short if your plan is to have a slow and relax meal....

Ssikkek Korean BBQ
101 Thomson Road, United Square
Singapore 307591
Tel: 6254 8123

Opening Hours:
Mon to Fri : 11.30am to 2.30pm (Lunch), 5pm to 11pm (Dinner)
Weekend / PH : 11.30pm to 11pm

Nearest Station: Novena Station

Getting there: Use Exit B1.  Walk in the direction against the traffic flow and pass by Goldhill Shopping Centre.  The next building is United Square. 

View Larger Map

Like my post?  Follow me at Instagram (@joslovesfood), Facebook (Joslovesfood) and Twitter (@Joslovesfood)! ^^

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

San Shu Gong (三叔公) and Lao Qian (老钱) in Singapore

There's always 1 product that I am sure to bring back to Singapore whenever I go to Malacca.  That's the San Shu Gong beh-teh-soh (三叔公马蹄酥).  This is a flaky-crunchy crust-skin pastry with malt filling.  It is a charcoal-baked traditional Hokkien pastry.... delicious!

I vaguely remembered that the Lao Qian coffee is quite nice.... a colleague had introduced this to me.  However, I only tried once.  Now that I chance upon it again, shall give it another try!

For Malaysian-pastry lovers, you might go crazy and want to buy EVERYTHING home!  Chill!

Where are these found?  The answer is Cold Storage at Compass Point Basement 1.... while stock lasts!

Like my post?  Follow me at Instagram (@joslovesfood), Facebook (Joslovesfood) and Twitter (@Joslovesfood)! ^^

Sunday, August 18, 2013

[Seoul, Korea] Foodhunt: Black' Smith Sinsa by Song Seung Heon [Closed]

If you think that Korean food is all the Koreans love, you are in for a big surprise.  Western food is a big influence in Korea, especially Italian food.  Many chefs, native Koreans, obtain their professional culinary trainings abroad.  Look at the recipes they had created, the food is totally enticing!  These yummy Italian dishes are from Black' Smith located at Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul.

Spoon pizza is one which I personally like very much.  Key ingredients include roasted bacon and potato, sweet potato and cheese!  Baked to perfect golden brown.  Why is it called spoon pizza?  Because it is to be eaten by scooping using a spoon.

Gorgonzola Pizza is a basic (yet delicious) pizza.  It is gorgonzola cheese served with honey ... simple is good.  You get to focus on the fragrance of the gorgonzola cheese which has a nice buttery taste.

This pasta is Black'Smith's signature dish - Black Smith's Cream Pasta cooked using mushrooms, green peas, bacon, onion and deep flavoured cream sauce.  If you are not a fan of cream pasta, you may find this a little too rich.
If you prefer tomato-based pasta, then try Promodoro.  It is a basic pasta with basil, delicious cheese, extra virgin olive oil and of course, tomatoes.  

Warm bread rolls are served as appetisers, with olive oil dip.  The bread comes with variety so you don't always get the same type of bread when you dine there.

Now, to locate the restaurant is really very easy if you take the subway.  It is a simple 1 minute walk from Exit 8, Sinsa Station.  Look out for the directional details at the end of this post.  This is the building and the restaurant occupies 2 storey.

You will be greeted by Song Seong Heon life-size standy, posters and his interview video clips.  He is in fact the owner of this outlet!

The interior decoration is contemporary and cosy.  Each table comes with a bag holder and this is so useful for female diners.

Did you know that some of the scenes from Korean Drama, When A Man Loves, was filmed in this restaurant too?  The drama poster is up there and I was lucky enough to receive a postcard from the staff when I last visited in April =D

Black'Smith Sinsa
서울 강남구 신사동 514-20
Seoul, Gangnam-gu, Sinsa-dong 514-20
Opening Hours: 11am to 10pm (extended to 11pm on Fri, Sat and Sun)

Tel: 02-3444 8211

Getting there: Take Subway Line 3 to Sinsa Station and use Exit 8.  At the first junction, turn left and Black'Smith would be just in front of you.

View Larger Map

Related Posts:
- Catching the Autumn Foliage in Korea (Click here)
- EG SIM Card : Collection at Seoul Station (Click here)
- The original Dakgalbi at Chuncheon (Click here)
- Airfare Deals : Singapore to Korea (Click here)
- 10 Tips for Travelling on Jeju Air (Click here)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Korea Comes to I12 Katong!

Have you already made plans for this weekend?  If you haven't, you might want to check out the Korean food, crafts, photography and performances at I12 Katong!

Featured Brands
CJ Bibigo: Crispy Seaweed, ready-made paste and sauces to create your favourite Korean dish at home.

Damotory: Wide selection of imported Korean wine, including Makguli and Bok Bun Ja, all selling at more than 25% off retail price.

Hodunamu: Traditional Korean snacks including Yak Gwa, Gim Bap and Traditional Korean Rice Cake.

In-Season: Organic products grown in a farm in Korea. *Exclusive to this event and not available anywhere else in Singapore.

MCnelly: Hand-made accessories for ladies designed by Jihee Ahn, a Korean designer who has designed for Salvatore Ferragamo and TOD’s previously.

Baby U Studio: Professional Korean photography studio specializing in taking Korean-style shots for families and babies. * Free photoshoot available at booth

Programme Highlights
  • Taekwondo performance by IL DO Taekwondo - Fri, 3pm & Sat, 12pm
  • K-Pop Dance by Studio deS - Fri, 7pm & Sun, 2pm
  • JUMP – Comic Martial Arts Performance - Sat, 3pm & Sun, 3pm
  • Free cooking class by Nolboo Hangari Galbi - Sat, 4.30pm & Sun, 4.30pm
  • Traditional Boochaechum Dance - Sat, 6pm

Monday, August 12, 2013

[Korea] Catching the Autumn Foliage in Korea

So, you have been planning a trip to Korea for the longest time to see the autumn foliage.  The travel guidebooks say that autumn season is from September to November but does it mean that you can expect to see the red autumn leaves anytime from September to November?  If your answer is no, you are absolutely right.  Just like spring blooms, the most beautiful period of the autumn season is only for about 2 weeks. 

Another important consideration is the location where you will be.  The northern part of the country gets the autumn foliage first and it gradually moves south-wards.  The difference is about 2 weeks.

I went to Korea in mid October last year, hoping to see the autumn leaves.  Instead of taking a typical itinerary of going to Soraksan, I explored a mountain that was in the southern part of Korea.  This was my experience.

On 17 October, as per our itinerary, the guide brought the group to Naejangsan National Park (내장산 국립공원), which is said to be the most famous mountain to view the autumn foliage. It is located in the Jeollanam-do. Naejangsa (Naejang Temple), one of the oldest temple in South Korea built during the 7th century, was found deep in the mountain. Because it is located in the southern part, it was way too early to see the crimson leaves. In fact, the peak of the autumn foliage only happened at the 2nd week of November!

(Entrance to the Naejang Temple)

(Mainly green leaves on the trees)

(Only a handful of trees have started to turn orangy)
(The beautiful temple at the serene mountain top) 

On 18 October, we visited the Metasequoia-lined Road, located at Jeollanam-do, Damyang-gun.  It is a 4-km boulevard, lined with Metasequoia trees on both sides of the path.  Here's my experience with autumn leaves in this area - trees were all very green still, with no signs of autumn.  How sad!  But anyway, the following 3 photos will give you some ideas when would be a good time to catch the beautiful autumn leaves at the Jeollanam-do area.

 (Photo taken on 18 Oct 2012)

(Photo taken in mid November 2012 during the peak of the autumn foliage)

(Photo taken in early December 2007 during an earlier trip.  The leaves had started to turn brownish.)

As mentioned earlier, the northern areas experience autumn foliage earlier then the southern areas.  Travelling north-wards, Everland, located in Gyeonggi-do, might be a possible place that you can catch autumn leaves here and there.  These photos were taken on 19 October and it shows that the leaves were only starting to change colour.  They were somewhat yellowish still and mostly still greenish.

In fact, Seoul, located in the northern part of South Korea and has more scenic autumn leaves compared to the southern places that I travelled to earlier before reaching Seoul.  You may be surprised but university campuses in Korea looks somewhat like a park with its beautiful trees and shrubs planted within their campus.  The photos were taken at Ewha Womans University last October.  Although the crimson leaves were not in full bloom yet, there were more colourful trees in the campus.

The Korea Tourism Organisation website publishes the nation-wide estimated autumn foliage dates in late September.  That information would be useful for you to plan your autumn travel dates.  You can use the 2012 dates as a reference since the 2013 dates are not released yet.  A quick summary for 2012's autumn foliage calendar shows that the first foliage took place between 3 Oct to 27 Oct while the peak foliage was between 18 Oct to 5 Nov.  So, choose your dates and the places you want to visit carefully to avoid any disappointment. =)

Related Posts:
- Airfare Promotions to Seoul/Busan/Jeju (Click here)
- Locating EG SIM Card shop at Seoul Station (Click here)
- Gangwon-do: Chuncheong Dakgalbi (Click here)
- Exploring Korean Traditional Markets on Subway Line 5 (Click here)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

[Seoul, Korea] Travel Tips : Data-Roaming in Korea and Locating EG SIM Card Agent at Seoul Station

Many of us have developed the habit of staying connected with our social media accounts while on the go.  As such, one of the hassles of travelling is not being to stay connected and get online as and when we wish to.  If you do not already know, Korea is probably one of the most "internet-friendly" countries for travellers.  Wifi is available in the subway stations, guesthouses, hotels in Seoul and in most cafes, the wifi is also freely accessible with or without password.  If password is needed, the café staff would be most happy to assist you.

However, if your preference is to stay connected ALL the time, here are a few options:
1.  Rent a mobile phone.  One-time rental fee and daily for the type of plan you opt for.  May be used for phone and data network.  Note that you may be required to pay a huge sum as a deposit.  ( or or

2.  Rent a pocket wifi-modem.  Rental fee, daily charge and deposit may be applicable.  Since it is a wifi modem, you can access data whereas for phone call, you may do so via applications that allow data calling eg. Kakaotalk and Line.  The advantage for this option is that multiple users may tap on the same modem.  The downside is that with more users, battery may be drained more quickly.  ( or or

3.  Buy a prepard SIM card.  This is a prepaid card and you simply draw down on the value based on your usage.  May be used for data network and phone call.  However, you need to have a spare phone to use this option.  ( or or or

4.  Buy an hourly or daily wifi.  The usage is available for 60 minutes or 24 hours.  The clock starts counting the moment the account is activated.  You can purchase this at some convenient stores.  You will be issued a receipt with a pin number.  Account is activated by unlocking the pin.  The downside is that you need to first get free wifi to log into the website in order to key in the pin.  (

Using the EG SIM Card

My personal preference is to get a prepaid SIM card which provides data as well as phone call facilitates.  It may be a little convenient to inform others of your new number, but hey, it is much much cheaper to receive and call out using the SIM card's number.  For example, calls made to Singapore is at 215won (~ S$0.25) per minute.  Way much cheaper than to use our local telco's roaming service!  Data plan costs 16,500 won (~ S$19) for 1GB.  Usually, for travellers who are there for 1 to 2 weeks, 1GB is way more than enough unless you are a super heavy user.  One suggestion is to opt for the cheaper plan and top-up as and when necessary.  Topping card can be done at various convenient stalls or via credit card.

What you need to do is to place an order for the SIM card 3 days before arriving Korea.  They have recently enhanced their service and they are now able to deliver the SIM Card to hotels. 

Upon arrival, collect the SIM card at Incheon Airport, Gimpo Airport, Gimhae Airport, Seoul Station, their Myeongdong agency or office at Gangnam.

[Updated on 30 Nov: I noticed that EG SIM Card has updated some policies recently, please visit their website for latest changes.]

Seoul Station is one of the stations with the highest traffic flow.  Especially for first time travellers to Seoul and do not understand the Korean language, finding the Premium Travel Centre (that's the agent for EG SIM Card at Seoul Station) may not be so easy.  Here's the direction to the shop at Seoul Station.

This is how Seoul Station looks like from the outside.

Walk up the flight of steps.  At the end of the steps, walk towards the direction where you see the word "OUTLETS".  That's the entrance to Lotte Outlets.

Walk along "Lotte Outlets" in the direction towards "Seoul Station" and "Airport Railroad" as indicated on the blue signboard.

When you enter the entrance, turn right.

As you walk, look out for blue signage that points you to "Airport Railroad".

The walk is about 5 mins when you walk from 1 end to the other.  Again, look for the blue signage at the end of the building showing "Airport Railroad" and points to the doors at the left side.

Go through the entrance to KORAIL Airport Railroad Seoul Station  and Terminal.

Take the elevator to Basement 2 level.

As you get out from the lift, turn right.  The shop "Premium Travel Center" will be just around the corner.  Note the opening hours of the centre which is from 9am to 9pm.  Alternatively, a reader has shared that you can take the escalator down to Basement 2 and you will see the centre immediately when you get off the escalator.

The staff speaks pretty good English so no worries about communication issues.  This is how the SIM Card cover and actual micro SIM looks like.

Before the staff assist to setup the SIM card, do inform the staff whether your phone is 3G or LTE-enabled.  I had some problem with the initial setup for my 3G Samsung Galaxy S3 as they seemed to have programmed it to LTE-enabled.  Other than this particular issues, I had no problem using EG SIM Card's service ^.^

Detailed information on EG SIM Card can be found here:

Location Map of Seoul Station

View Larger Map

Related Posts:
- Airfare Promotions to Seoul/Busan/Jeju (Click here)
- Gangwon-do: Chuncheong Dakgalbi (Click here)
- Exploring Korean Traditional Markets on Subway Line 5 (Click here)
- Korean Fried Chicken Culture (Click here)

Like my post?  Follow me at Instagram (@joslovesfood), Facebook (Joslovesfood) and Twitter (@Joslovesfood)! ^^
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