Just a little info on what to expect from departure to arrival
1)Wrapping your luggage.
Like typical South Africans we thought – trust no one! – and wrapped our luggage. It costs R70 per bag at CT airport. What you need to know: Weigh your bag at any check-in counter before wrapping (in case you need to remove something). They only accept cash AND once we arrived at Incheon Airport we got a lot of strange looks because our bags were the only ones that were wrapped. I think I will skip the wrapping when I do this again, but it did help to have some peace of mind regarding luggage safety.
We were really lucky to have a very friendly lady at the check in. We had hand luggage weighing more than the allowed 7kg (unlike with domestic flights your hand luggage gets weighed). We were allowed the access and also got permission to take regular laptop bags instead of slimline. We also had two huge pillows which were allowed.
Even though it’s standard for packing tips – do not wear your heaviest and bulkiest items! Rather try to squeeze it into your luggage. It was lovely when we left CT Airport, but as soon as we stepped on the plane we wanted to faint. The economy seats are small, and the air in the plane is stuffy. You will already be sweaty and heated because of carrying all your belongings and passing custom checks etc. Even worse, when we arrived in Dubai it was 41° Celsius. I nearly died.
South Africa, you surprised me once again. This was very quick, easy and efficient. When we had to go through customs in Dubai, it was the exact opposite. I was taken to a room and asked to undress. Apparently my bra strap (because I was the only woman wearing a bra on that flight??) kept on tripping the security sensor. There was also a lot of shoving going around, since the DXB is extremely busy and a major layover Airport. We had a two hour layover, and it took us about 1 hour to get through customs and another hour to reach the correct terminal for departure. RUN RUN RUN! At least the Airport signs are marked clearly. Make sure before you disembark the plane that you know exactly where you have to go to. Emirates has an in-flight system giving continues updates on delays and departures.
Don’t bargain on washing and changing before your next flight. Rather pack a small bag to do it on the plane while everybody is asleep. Dubai airport has the worst bathroom facility I have ever had to deal with. The whole floor is wet, so there is no place to put your bag . There are no toilet seat covers. I had to rest my bag on my one leg, do a balancing act worthy of an Oscar, and try to clean myself and change my clothes. I gave up after about 10 minutes of struggling and having to listen to people outside the cubicle complaining about how long I am taking. Also, we were at a gate where there were only two cubicles – and 100’s of people queuing to us them.
My first time ever, and I loved it! As soon as we departed from DXB we were handed refreshment towels, and an Emirates toiletries bag. The bag contained earplugs, a mask and socks. The in-flight system was also more user friendly and you did not have to use a touch screen (there is a remote control option). Maybe this is general knowledge and nothing new, but it’s worth mentioning because everything else was pretty damn unpleasant. Also, the Korean menu on the flight was amazing! We had so much Kimchi and Chili Honey paste, which got the excitement going for Korean cuisine.
7) Medical stuff
On the plane we were handed three forms to complete before arrival at Incheon Airport. The first, a declaration of duty free goods. The second two; information on your stay in Korea and a Health Declaration. Al three forms are easy to complete. Just have the schools physical address and phone number at hand in order to complete the one form. We did not, and got away with just providing the school name and email address, however it caused a bit of a hold-up so I will advice you to have it ready. Don’t worry when you get poked on the neck with some scanner thingy, it’s to check your body temperature. If it’s close to a fever, you will be sent to the quarantine line. You will have to complete some other forms there, and will receive a face mask to wear.
8) After collecting your luggage, do a money exchange before leaving the arrival terminal. It took us about 5 minutes, and we only had to provide our passports.
We arranged with FUNKO for an airport pickup. It was cheaper than taking the taxis waiting outside, and we had the security of knowing exactly where we were going to end up that night (since giving directions to a place you don’t know in a language you don’t speak does not sound like fun). We ordered a minivan, since we also knew that fitting all our luggage into a regular Sedan car was not going to happen. We were very pleased with the service. The driver even helped us contact the guesthouse owner in Seoul, because we did not know how to get access to the foyer entrance. We also got to pay before leaving RSA, so that sorted out the worries of having to try and figure out payment in a foreign currency.
I hope this info will make your travels a bit easier. When you arrive at Incheon be sure to buy something small at the Airport as a memento of how far you’ve come 🙂