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Incheon vs. Gimpo: Which Airport Should I Fly Into?

There are two airports in Korea, one older and one new.  Gimpo, the older one, is closer to the city, but Incheon, the newer one, is larger, has more flights, and has more amenities.

Use a few simple heuristics when deciding what airport to fly into or out of.  

  1. If you’re staying in Incheon, fly out of Incheon.  
  2. If you're staying anywhere else in Korea (except Incheon & Seoul) where a regional bus originates from Incheon Airport, then fly into/out of Incheon.
  3. If you're staying in Seoul, Gimpo is usually the better choice.
    • Unfortunately, Gimpo usually only has regional flights from places like Japan and China.
    • BUT, if you're relying on public transportation and Gimpo doesn't have a bus that drops you off close to where you're staying, then possibly – Incheon is a better choice.
    • Most likely, however, a bus or the subway line will take you where you need to go from Gimpo.

Simply put, flying in/out of Gimpo will save you up to an hour of travel time, both ways, if you're staying in Seoul.  This is the minimum time savings, because the immigration and customs procedures at Gimpo are also much faster.  On the other hand, if you like your airports to be stocked with shopping and restaurant options, then Incheon is the shopping mall/airport you've been looking for.

Here are some illustrations of the travel time differences only:

Incheon to Myeongdong @ ~3pm on a weekday – 75-95 minutes

Gimpo to Myeongdong @ ~3pm on a weekday – 40 minutes

Incheon to Lotte World @ ~3pm on a weekday – 100-110 minutes

Gimpo to Lotte World @ ~3pm on a weekday – 60-65 minutes

See below for more detail.

Incheon

Location

Located on Yongjeong Island in Incheon, the airport is surrounded by modern hotels and amenities – like the Paradise City hotel and resort, with a full-fledged casino available open only to foreigners.  But again, the location is far from Seoul.

Transportation

The airport is well-served with public transportation options.

  • Airport Rail – expect about an hour and a half to downtown Seoul.
  • Bus – an hour and a half to downtown Seoul, approximately two hours to South Seoul.
  • Taxi – 1-1.5 hours, depending on where you're going, and a fare that's in the $80-$100+ range.

We'd recommend you using Google Maps' public transit option to figure out what bus or train to take before you arrive, and once you arrive at the airport, asking the attendants where to find it.

But take note! that most public transportation options more or less stop operating at midnight, even though flights will continue to arrive well past that time.  So what do you do if you've arrived at midnight?  You have three options:

  • Sleep on the benches in the arrival area, which are not so comfortable, but a lot of travelers seem to choose this option.
  • Look for a night bus (심야버스).  There are night buses that operate from both Terminals 1 and 2, so look out for them.  These have limited routes and times; in fact, they usually only go to either of Seoul Station or Gangnam Express Bus Terminal.
  • Stay in one of the capsules operated by Walker Hill Darakhyu.  There is one of these in each terminal.

Shopping & Eating

Incheon International Shopping Mall (source(s): www.airtoday.kr, airport.kr)

As we mentioned before, the Incheon International Airport is like a shopping mall.  From luxury boutiques like Hermes and Ferragamo, to duty free souvenirs, there's no shortage of things to spend your money on.  Restaurant selection is also at shopping mall levels.  Guests staying in nearby hotels on Yongjeong Island are actually often advised to go to the airport's pre-ticketed food court areas for the widest, most reasonable food selection.

Official Site

Go here to plan your trip: https://www.airport.kr

Gimpo

Location

The location, at the western edge of Seoul, shaves off between 30 minutes to 45 minutes in time into Seoul from transportation alone – immigration lines, and shorter distances mean that the total time savings are even greater than that.  The airport is actually in the middle of the city.

Transportation

The Airport Rail and subway lines 5 and 9 lead directly into the International Terminal.

The airport is well-served with public transportation options.

  • Airport Rail – expect about an hour and a half to downtown Seoul.
  • Subway – Line 5 and 9 lead directly to the Gimpo International Airport Stations, and yes, there are two of them.  The subway is, obviously, slower than the airport rail – but can be more convenient based on where you're staying.
  • Bus – 45 minutes to 1 hour to downtown Seoul, approximately 1-1.5 hours to South Seoul.
    • Note that because you're in the middle of the city, Gimpo is well-served by local buses (as opposed to just airport and regional buses).  These are cheaper, but will stop for more stops along the way.  Also, storing large amounts of luggage will be impractical but is still a good option for wider coverage of the city.
  • Taxi – 30 minutes to an hour, depending on where you're going.

As mentioned before, we'd recommend you using Google Maps' public transit option to figure out what bus or train to take before you arrive, and once you arrive at the airport, asking the attendants where to find it.

Shopping & Eating

This is not a reason you would choose Gimpo.  If you're in the international terminal, the food choices at the pre-immigration food court are much better in selection than those next to the gates.  Inside, there are only a few cafes and a noodle shop as your only choices – if this is important to you.

Duty free shopping is much more limited here than at Incheon, for obvious reasons.  If this is a major reason for choosing an airport for you, better to do your shopping before you arrive at the airport.  No haute couture or brands here.

Official Site

Go here to plan your trip.  The URL is similar but different from Incheon's, take note: https://www.airport.co.kr

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