DIY Nami Island, Petite France, and The Garden of the Morning Calm Day Tour: A Guide for Budget Travelers
So, you’re coming to South Korea. Most likely, you’ll wear yourself out visiting palaces wearing hanbok, shopping for skincare products like crazy or even touring the city with an Oppa. But if you visit Seoul without making at least a day trip to Gapyeong County to explore Nami Island, Petite France, and The Garden of the Morning Calm, have you really been to South Korea at all?
Gapyeong County is home to Nami Island, Petite France, and The Garden of the Morning Calm. These three main tourist spots have become extra popular as they were the shooting locations for various Korean movies and dramas like Endless Love: Winter Sonata, My Love from the Star, and I am Not a Robot. There are now tours travel agencies operate to assist tourists that you can book here. But as for me, I chose to DIY my way to Gapyeong County this time. Opting for this method gave me full control over my time and saved me money as well.
In this post, I’m going to share with you my experience and break down the costs I incurred. That way, you can compare if joining a tour or booking a shuttle bus would be more worth it than doing everything on your own from beginning to the end.
Taking the Subway from Chungmuro to Gapyeong Station
I decided to take the subway to reach the Gapyeong County. Taking this route meant that I had to wake up early. After all, I wanted to take advantage of entering the tourist spots earlier than the others. Since I was staying near Chungmuro Station, I started my journey there to reach Gapyeong Station.
To help you plan your route from wherever you're staying in Seoul, download the Kakao Metro app. It displays the simplest way you can take. Also, it gives you the amount of fare to be deducted in your T-money card. From Chungmuro to Gapyeong, I had to pay 2,250 KRW one way.
The first train that you can take from Chungmuro Station in the morning is at 5:32 AM. If you get to ride that train, you will be arriving at Gapyeong Station at 7:01 AM. But that’s given that you won’t get lost between three transfers to reach each train on time.
I left my hostel at past five thirty already. So, I got the later train and arrived at Gapyeong Station at a little past 7:30 AM already. After all, I had to travel for more than one and a half hours and transfer thrice. I even waited for a while at the wrong platform in Mangu Station! Good thing that I was able to realize that the train wasn’t going to Gapyeong Station before I hopped on it.
Taxi from Gapyeong Station to Nami Island Ferry Terminal
Aside from saving money, I wanted to DIY this day trip so that I could reach Nami Island earlier than the others. But since I was very early, I had no choice but to take the taxi. I read that others even walk for about twenty minutes to reach the Nami Island Ferry Terminal. But I didn’t want to risk my time. Also, I didn’t want to walk too much because of my knee pains. So, I took the taxi instead. Saved me from the cold autumn morning, too!
The taxi cost me 3,600 KRW. I would have been able to avoid it if I waited until 9:00 AM for the Gapyeong City Tour Bus. But I wasted no time. I was able to catch the 8:00 AM ferry and arrive at Nami Island. I had enough time to enjoy the island long before the flock of travelers evaded the famous destination.
Nami Island was the obvious first stop in this trip. The first ferry leaves at 7:30 AM at thirty-minute intervals. Travelers have to pay 13,000 KRW— a big leap from the previous 8,000 KRW entrance fee for foreigners. It seemed quite pricey. But I think that it’s cheap considering that it’s inclusive of the roundtrip ferry rides. The five-minute ferry transfer reminded me of my trip to Miyajima Island in Japan. It was also a quick trip to a beautiful island where a lot of tourists are overflowing by lunchtime.
Although Nami Island is a popular Korean drama shooting location, it is still peaceful in the morning. I walked by the riverside where not much people gather. If you have the time and energy to come here early, please do. It's lovely in the morning. You get to snap all the photos you want to while appreciating the beauty of nature at the same time.
Aside from being a gorgeous place, you can also enjoy biking and other activities on the island. There’s a museum, a bunch of restaurants, and even books that kids will truly enjoy. You can easily spend the whole day here relaxing. Some even stay at the only hotel here overnight. As for me, though, I only spent a few hours here before I headed to my next destination in Gapyeong County— Petite France.
Taking the Gapyeong City Tour Bus to Petite France
Don’t be discouraged if other people tell you that you can’t travel to Petite France from Nami Island by bus. They are wrong. The Gapyeong City Tour Bus stops at the opposite side of the covered bus stop five minutes away from the ferry dock. This bus will take you to Petite France. The Gapyeong City Tour Bus stops at the Gapyeong Rail Bike, Nami Island, Petite France, and the Garden of the Morning Calm.
From Gapyeong Station, you can purchase the unlimited ticket for 6,000 KRW already. But since I didn’t wait for the first bus at 9:00 AM, I only bought it from Nami Island. Take note: even if you're only using the Gapyeong City Tour Bus once for the day, you still have to pay 6,000 KRW.
You can pay for the unlimited ticket with cash or your T-money card. The rule of thumb is that if you’re only going to use public transportation once and you’re with a group, take the taxi. But if you’re traveling at least twice, never take the cab.
If you can, take the seat on the left side of the bus when traveling on the way to Petite France. The view of Nami Island from above is such a beautiful sight!
Petite France is another popular Korean drama shooting location. Of course, there are many Le Petite Prince references throughout the little village. There’s even an Antoine de Saint-Exupery Museum where you can read about The Little Prince’s author's life. There’s also a lot of translated books of The Little Prince with manuscripts and drawings of the book.
You can easily roam around the village for a little over an hour. The entrance fee is worth 10,000 KRW. I didn’t eat here, but there’s a decent number of places to enjoy some snacks. Outside Petite France, there are a few shops and a convenience store where you can get some food and necessities at a better price. Don’t forget to visit the souvenir shops inside, though! There's a lot! You can even send a Le Petite Prince postcard from there to your friends and loved ones.
Taking the Gapyeong City Tour Bus from Petite France to The Garden of the Morning Calm
At the bus stop in Petite France, I met a Filipino group of four. They took a taxi from Nami Island to Petite France worth 19,000 KRW. They didn’t know about the unlimited tickets until the Gapyeong City Tour Bus arrived for The Garden of the Morning Calm. Good thing that they didn’t agree with the taxi driver who was trying to take them to the garden. They would be using the bus twice: Petite France to The Garden of the Morning Calm and The Garden of the Morning Calm back to Nami Island. At least, they spared themselves from spending thousands of won again.
Personally, I wouldn’t get the Nami Island two-way shuttle if I won’t be staying on the island the whole day. The bus ride from The Garden of the Morning Calm back to Nami Island is one hour and fifteen minutes. That’s a lot of travel time! But if you are adamant to book a return shuttle at Nami Island after your Gapyeong county day tour, make sure that you take the unlimited ticket instead of taking the taxi. Don’t forget about that!
The Garden of the Morning Calm
With an entrance fee of 9,500 KRW, you can already spend hours at The Garden of the Morning Calm. Sir Tagore’s poem describing Korea as “The Land of the Morning Calm" inspired the creators of Korea's oldest private garden. The 30,000 square meters garden was also, like Nami Island and Petite France, a shooting location of many Korean dramas and movies. But aside from that, nature lovers and photographers will have a field day at the beautiful open space with scenic walkways home to around 5,000 plants.
There are food stalls at the garden entrance, but there are also cafes inside. I loved the souvenir shop the most, though. I tried and tested Garden Shop’s aroma mint spray and balm. It worked like magic, I swear! My knee was hurting so bad that I didn't have the energy to roam around as much as I liked. But a few minutes after one lady tried it on my knee; the pain started to wear off.
Taking the Gapyeong City Tour Bus to Cheongpyeong Station and back to Myeongdong/Chungmuro
Taking the bus from The Garden of the Morning Calm back to Gapyeong Station will cost you about one and a half hours. But, there's a nearer subway station from the garden. So, don’t forget to hop off at Cheongpyeong Station. It is the second bus stop— just twenty-five minutes after leaving The Garden. Cheongpyeong Station is also nearer to Myeongdong so you’ll be saving more travel time back home.
One mistake that I did in Cheongpyeong Station was taking the double-decker express train instead of the subway. I was just so lucky that I only had 50,000 KRW left in my purse. The conductor didn’t have enough money for the change. So, he only asked me to leave the train at the next stop so I can go back to the subway line. Take note: I was on the right platform. I only took the wrong train.
When I left the train at the next stop, I met a couple of other tourists who made the same mistake. So, don’t be like us or you might not get as lucky. That would defeat the purpose of DIY-ing this day tour to save money!
Although I hear a lot of people complain about the pain of commuting from Seoul to Gapyeong county, it’s surprisingly easy. But of course, you have to consider a few things before you decide if DIY is better for you or not. Does sleeping your way through Gapyeong sounds good to you? Is the comfort of straight travel from Seoul to Gapyeong more important? Or do you want to save money? Perhaps, you want to come early and have control of your time the whole day?
Expenses for DIY Nami Island, Petite France, and The Garden of the Morning Calm Day Tour
Subway Chungmuro Station to Gapyeong Station 2,250 KRW
Taxi from Gapyeong Station to Nami Island Ferry Terminal 3,600 KRW
Nami Island entrance fee 13,000 KRW
Gapyeong City Tour Bus Unlimited Ticket 6,000 KRW
Petite France 10,000 KRW
The Garden of the Morning Calm 9,500 KRW
Subway Cheongpyeong Station to Myeongdong Station 2,150 KRW
Total Expenses 46,500 KRW
Note that I would have saved that 3,600 KRW if I waited for the 9:00 AM bus in Gapyeong Station. Also, the Cheongpyeong Station to Myeongdong Station fare is even less expensive than the Gapyeong Station to Myeongdong Station route by a hundred won. It wouldn't just save you time but a tiny bit of money as well! The amount almost is negligible, but it still proves my point. *wink*
The 10-hour tour that I booked for my sister was about 70,000 KRW. It's inclusive of all the transportation to the three spots and their entrance fees, but there's still a huge difference. Just note that you have to wake up early if you want to follow the DIY method. Also, be mindful of your transfers because you have a long travel time ahead of you unlike with the straight bus trip.
Going to Gapyeong County on a DIY method means that you don’t have to limit your time. You won't feel any pressure in staying for as long or as fast as you want in each destination. You can even squeeze in Gapyeong Railbike after Nami Island! As for me, I loved that part because I was walking very slow to avoid tiring my knee out. I could only imagine the horror of constantly thinking if I’m going to make it to my tour bus on time.
Honestly, the comfort of straight bus transfers was also tempting! It’s just that control was my priority here. It is just a bonus that I was able to save thousands of Korean Won. Overall, I think that it's very worth it especially if you're on a tight budget or has a lot of energy for a more challenging way to explore Korea. Travel like locals, right?
How about you, would you want to DIY your trip to Gapyeong County or would you prefer booking a tour?