South Korea

How to make the most of your South Korea to Hong Kong visa run – William’s story

Ntobeko Ntombela

Ntobeko Ntombela

September 20, 2018

We at TravelBud love to share travel stories, we work day in and day out to make people’s dreams of travelling and teaching abroad come true. Our aim is make sure you have the best possible experience while capturing a lifetime of unforgettable memories!

William is one of our awesome American participants who did our South Korea in-class TEFL course. He was accepted to our program with less than four months until the orientation, meaning he didn’t have enough time to acquire a work visa prior to departing. This isn’t a problem though as with our program you can do a “visa-run” (a trip out of the country to apply for your visa from abroad) at the end of the TESOL course. William chose Hong Kong as his destination. We explore why and what that experience was like for him…

William is a big believer in seizing any opportunity and he believes that money shouldn’t stand in your way of making a memorable experience – this is probably why he’s made so many epic memories already on his trip. If you’re on a tighter budget, click the link below to jump to our section on how to do the visa run if you’re strapped for cash.

Jump to read about how to do a visa run on a tight budget.

You went to Hong Kong for your visa run, how much would you say you spent in total?

I don’t have the exact totals of what I spent in Hong Kong but I full heartedly believe that when you travel, you should make the most of your time and not worry about the expenses.

You can always make up the money, you’ll never be able to make up the memories. I’m not advocating for going crazy, you should absolutely budget, but, do so responsibly. Budget where you’re better served to budget and not where you’ll lose out on experiences.

I utilized the travel website couchsurfing and was able to stay with two Hong Kong residents where I really got the full Hong Kong experience. They were wonderful and did not charge me anything. When I wasn’t able to find a host I stayed at hostels. I’d recommend a hostel called, “Smart Hotel” in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Hong Kong.

It’s the perfect (convenient) location and it’s a great rate. The hostel is clean and the people that occupy your room will most certainly be worth meeting. If I had to give a guesstimate as to how much I spent in my 12 days in Hong Kong (including one in Macau), I’d say I probably spent $2,000 USD.

Jump to read about how to do a visa run on a tighter budget of around $480.

Who did you go with?

I was fortunate enough to travel with several members of the TESOL training group. I really enjoyed experiencing Hong Kong with them. I was rather bummed they had to return to Korea so quickly. I stayed far longer than they did.

Image: William

You seemed to meet a lot of interesting people while on the trip. Who was the most interesting new friend you made?

I met so many amazing people in Hong Kong it’s hard to say who is the most interesting. The city is full of really interesting travelers trying to get the true Hong Kong experience. The Hong Kong locals are also wonderful people. I was able to stay two nights with a young man named Yat Tin. 

Yat Tin and his family took me into their home in the northern part of Hong Kong and gave me an incredible Hong Kong experience. Yat Tin showed me and our group all around the city. It was an experience I’ll never forget. He took in a total stranger and made sure I saw everything his city had to offer. 

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Meet Yat Tin. A 20 year old college student studying Chemistry at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Yat Tin and his parents welcomed me (a total stranger) into their home for two days. They gave me an experience of a lifetime. An experience I will hold dear to me for the rest of my life. Yat Tin was a great tour guide as we conquered the best of Hong Kong. When I was losing faith in humanity as tensions rise back home in the United States and we look more for what divides than what we have in common, Yat Tin and I bonded over the differences in our cultures. We found a lot of common ground. Especially our love of exploring! To anyone who read this far. Be bold. Take chances. Get out of your comfort zone bubble. Eat things that make you uncomfortable. Be friendly and adventurous. There are great people out there who will show you the world. Find them.

A post shared by William Hirsch (@whirsch_wvu) on

How long did you go for and what were the highlights of your trip?

I was in Hong Kong for 12 days. Honestly, there is no answer to this. There is no single experience that stands out. Everything was worth seeing and doing. Hong Kong has so many worthwhile things to see and do.

Was the visa application process difficult?

The visa process was the easiest part of the trip. The Korean Consulate has made the process quite easy. The TravelBud partners here in Asia make sure you’re all set up to make the process as easy as you could possibly imagine. Don’t stress about the visa process, make sure you get the best Hong Kong experience.

What did you enjoy most about the in-class TESOL and orientation?

The best part about the in class TESOL course was being able to live with strangers who become life long brothers and sisters. Everyone is in the same boat knowing they’re uprooting their lives for an experience of a lifetime. There are so many different backgrounds and way of lives all coming together.

I learned so much about life and the rest of the world from them. Not only that, we were able to spend a month adapting to our new home before hitting the daily grind of having a full time and demanding job. 

Why did you decide to do the in-class TESOL rather than online?

I did the in class TESOL course because I figured I’d never be able to finish the online course. If I’m not being taught by a teacher in a classroom setting there are far too many distractions. I also wanted to get out of the United States and an 11 week online course seemed like such a drag. I made the best decision.

The in class allows you to slowly get comfortable with your new home. I can’t recommend the in class enough. Taking the TESOL course online doesn’t do you any justice. 

How much has this helped you settle into life in South Korea?

I don’t believe I’d be thriving the way I am if I had done the TESOL course online. I knew almost nothing about Korea beside my grandfather being a MASH surgeon in the Korean War here in 1950/1951. 

I wouldn’t know Korea beyond the news headlines from the United States. There is SO MUCH MORE to Korea than what you hear on the news. 

How long before your visa trip did you get your job offer ?

I got the job offer a few weeks before I went on my Visa run but I signed the contract making it official just a few days before I left.

Our backpacking budget

William was really excited to seize this opportunity to explore and experience Hong Kong, as he felt this might be the only chance he’ll get to do it. This explains why he spent 12 days there, and made it more of a vacation. William was more concerned with having an exciting Hong Kong experience and the visa run was just part of the deal.

We’ve found that with most of our applicants that do the visa run, they tend to either get the visa and come straight back or spend a day or two in Hong Kong then come back. So yes, there is a way for you to get your visa and get back to Korea on a tight budget.

You can get a return flight from Seoul to Hong Kong on JinAir for around $250 (at day of publication), full service airlines like Korean Air, Asiana or Cathay Pacific will cost more though. For transportation, you can get a metro rail card for HK$150 (Around $20 US) for 72 hour pass, which you can return for a HK$50 refund. According to budgetmytrip.com, the average cost of a dorm room in a hostel is $20 and $49 for a private/double room in a hostel.

If you budgeted around $50 spending money per day and did a 3 night stay, you could spend as little as $480 for the trip, the Korean Consulate is often very quick meaning you could do just a one night stay. We’d definitely recommend budgeting more though as flight and accommodation prices fluctuate and you’ll definitely want to do a few activities while abroad. So maybe budget more around $850 if you can for a 3 night stay! This price excludes the approximate $46-$93 (US) you pay for the visa, that price depends on your nationality.

William is one of our American participants who hails from Virginia. He graduated from West Virginia University with a BSC in Broadcast news Journalism. Having previously worked for ESPN, you can see he has a keen eye and passion for sport. William has decided to spend 13 months in Asia, teaching English in South Korea. His extraordinary story telling is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

To follow more of William’s adventures:

Facebook: WanderlustWithWill/

Blog: www.wanderlustwithwill.com

Instagram: @whirsch_wvu

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