Los Angeles International (LAX) is the 4th busiest airport in the world, the 2nd busiest in the USA, and it can be found 17 miles outside downtown LA. Seoul Airport (ICN) is also known as Incheon International Airport, and regularly wins Airports Council International Awards for the world's best international airport. It can be found 29 miles outside the city center.
Travelers can choose flights from around 23 airlines when flying to ICN from LAX. However, the primary carriers on the route include United Airlines, Delta, Korean Air, and Asiana Airlines. All fly direct to Seoul from Los Angeles.
Flights will need to cross the Pacific, and the distance is approximately 5,903 miles. This means that the fastest journey times for direct flights will be 12 hours 29 minutes, and many take around 13 hours 15 minutes. If changes are needed, the flight time will increase, typically to 14-15 hours including stopovers.
Travelers can expect a choice of seven direct weekday flights from Los Angeles (LAX) - Seoul (ICN), along with 7-8 options at weekends. In addition, there should be over 90 indirect journeys. However, the longest journeys take 49 hours, so passengers need to be careful when booking tickets.
Shuttle buses provide connections from four locations in the LA metropolitan area, while ride-sharing apps specialize in ferrying passengers to the terminals. LAX is also well set-up for parking, with short and long-stay options. Expect to pay a daily rate, depending on the length of stay required.
Long and short-term parking lots at ICN are connected to the terminals via regular shuttle buses. Those wanting to head into town can also take AREX trains (45 minutes), various bus routes, and taxis. Expect taxis to take around one hour, depending on traffic. Alternatively, car rental is available at Terminal 2 and the airport's Transportation Center.
Most visitors from the USA will not need a valid visa to enter South Korea. All that is required is a valid US passport. This entitles travelers to stay in the country for 90 days without requiring a student or employment visa.
When renting cars in South Korea, visitors will need an International Driving Permit and have held a standard Driving License for one or two years, depending on the type of car being hired. An age limit of 21 and above also applies.
The weather in Seoul tends to be more extreme than in LA, with a monsoon season in June and July, and cold winters from December to March. Summer temperatures can be very warm, with average highs of 99 degrees F in August.
Peak travel season usually arrives in June and August. However, April and May, as well as September and October are the ideal time to visit. Both periods see warm, generally dry weather and crowds won't be anywhere near as large as during peak vacation season.
The time difference can be an issue for some visitors. Seoul is 16 hours ahead of Los Angeles, so change any clocks or watches before arrival. Korean is also the default language everywhere in Seoul. Many locals will speak some English, but travelers shouldn't expect this, so learning a few words of Korean will help.
Korea's currency is the won, and as of September 2019, one dollar was worth 1,200 won. Exchanging some cash at LAX is advisable, but almost everywhere accepts credit cards. Getting around is made much easier with a rechargeable T-Travel card, which delivers discounts compared to credit cards and cash.
Seoul has five major palace complexes, but Gyeongbokgung is the most impressive. The home of the Joseon emperors for 600 years, it was built in 1395, and has a very special status for South Koreans. Don't miss the National Folk Museum in the grounds, and turn up in a hanbok costume for free entry.
Visit a jjimjilbang
Everyone who visits Seoul should spend some time at a jjimjilbang. These traditional bathhouses come complete with saunas and massage tables, where customers can experience bracing "seshin" rubs, laze around in heated pools, or even indulge in karaoke at some establishments.
Take tea at Bukcheon Hanok
Next door to Gyeongbokgung, Bukcheon Hanok is a charming neighborhood that seems to have been missed by history. It's full of ancient hanok homes, many of which serve rejuvenating jujube teas and delicious steamed pumpkin cakes. The Craft Center is also a great place to stock up on souvenirs, or learn some hanji paper crafting skills.