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South Korea

Travel Advisory July 24, 2023

South korea - level 1: exercise normal precautions.

Reissued with obsolete COVID-19 page links removed.

Exercise normal precautions in South Korea.

Read the  country information page  for additional information on travel to South Korea.

If you decide to travel to South Korea:

  • Enroll in the  Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)  to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.   
  • Follow the Department of State on  Facebook  and  Twitter .   
  • Review the  Country Security Report  for South Korea.   
  • Visit the CDC page for the latest  Travel Health Information  related to your travel.   
  • Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the  Traveler’s Checklist .    

Embassy Messages

View Alerts and Messages Archive

Quick Facts

Must be valid at time of entry

One page per stamp

No – From April 1, 2023, to December 31, 2024, the Korean Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) is not required for US citizens traveling for short-term business or tourism purposes.

Embassies and Consulates

U.s. embassy seoul.

188 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul 03141, Korea Telephone: +(82) (2) 397-4114 (from within Korea, dial 02-397-4114)  DSN:721-4114 Fax: +(82) (2) 397-4101 Email:  [email protected]

U.S. Consulate in Busan

Lotte Gold Rose Building #612, Jungang-daero 993, Jin-gu Busan 47209, Korea Telephone: (+82) 51-863-0731 Email:  [email protected]

The Embassy and Consulate are closed on weekends and on  American and Korean holidays .  Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +82 (2) 397-4114.

Destination Description

Learn about the U.S. relationship to countries around the world.

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

  • You must have a valid U.S. passport to enter Korea. From April 1, 2023, to December 31, 2024, the  Korean Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA)  is not required for US citizens for stays of 90 days or less that are for tourism or business purposes.
  • Visa required for all other purposes, including employment, teaching English, and for stays longer than 90 days.

Exceeding your authorized stay or not possessing a valid visa may result in detention and fines.

  • In the event of an overstay, apply for a visa extension from the  Korea Immigration Service (KIS)  before attempting to leave the country. Also consult with KIS regarding changes in visa category.

Military Personnel/DOD and their families on orders:

  • Consult  DOD Foreign Clearance Guide , and follow all instructions.
  • Enter Korea with DOD identification and travel orders.
  • Do not transit other countries such as China without a passport and appropriate visas.
  • Family Members/Dependents of Military Personnel/DOD on orders must present upon arrival passports valid for at least six months .

U.S. Government Executive Branch personnel on official business and DOD personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy  (Including family members/dependents):

  • Employes assigned to Mission Korea should enter Korea with a diplomatic or official passport and a diplomatic or official Korean visa obtained through their sponsoring agency.  Check with your sponsoring agency about other requirements. 
  • TDY visitors traveling to Korea for up to 90 days on diplomatic or official passports do  not  require Korean visas and do  not  require a K-ETA. TDY visitors must obtain country clearance using  Department of State's eCC system  or  DOD APACS system .

HIV/AIDS Restriction:  The Department of State is unaware of any such entry restrictions for visitors or foreign residents in Korea.

  • Visit the  Embassy of Korea  website for current visa information. Please read our  Customs Information page .

COVID-19 Requirements :

  • There are no COVID-related entry requirements for U.S. citizens.
  • Travel regulations and restrictions are subject to change, sometimes with little notice. You should review the information available on your nearest Korean Embassy or Consulate’s webpage before traveling.

Safety and Security

Public Demonstrations:  Demonstrations and rallies are common in South Korea, particularly near the U.S. Embassy, Seoul City Hall, and areas surrounding military installations. You should avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place and exercise caution in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or rallies. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.

North Korea (The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK):  An armistice agreement, monitored by the United Nations, has maintained general peace on the Korean peninsula since 1953. Tensions occasionally flare up because of provocative acts by North Korea, including ballistic missile and nuclear tests and limited armed incursions into ROK-held territory. Some provocations have escalated into geographically limited skirmishes. South Korea routinely conducts military training exercises and civil defense drills. North Korea often issues strongly-worded and threatening messages, frequently in connection with these exercises. Please see our  Fact Sheet on North Korea .

Weather-related Events:  Heavy rains and flooding may occur during the June - August monsoon season or the May - November typhoon season. See general information about natural disaster preparedness at the U.S.  Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)  website.

Enroll in the  Smart Traveler Enrollment Program  ( STEP ):  To receive security messages by email and make it easier to locate you in an emergency, register in STEP. 

If the Embassy becomes aware of any specific and credible threat to the safety and security of U.S. citizens, we will inform you through our website, social media, and email.

Crime:  For most visitors, South Korea remains a very safe country. Common crimes occur more frequently in major metropolitan areas, tourist sites, and crowded markets.

  • Take routine safety precautions.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings.
  • Report any concerns to local police.

Violent crime is not common; however, remain vigilant:

  • Exercise caution in crowded entertainment, nightlife, and shopping districts.
  • If traveling at night, consider traveling in groups.
  • Use legitimate taxis or public transportation only.

Victims of Crime:  Call 112 for emergency assistance or to report a crime to local authorities. Call 02-397-4114 to contact the U.S. Embassy. We can:

  • Help you find appropriate medical care;
  • Assist you in reporting a crime to police;
  • Contact relatives or friends on your behalf;
  • Explain Korean judicial procedures in general terms;
  • Provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution;
  • Help you find accommodations and flight arrangements to the United States;
  • Replace a lost or stolen passport.

Sexual Assault:   The Embassy regularly receives reports of sexual assault from U.S. citizens. Most cases involved young women assaulted by acquaintances they met on social media, dating, or messaging apps. Alcohol is often involved, and Korea’s low overall crime can create a false sense of security.  Specialized hospital units and police are available in South Korea to assist victims, however services in English and responsiveness to the crime are not always consistent. In general, sex crimes are not punished as harshly in South Korea as in the United States and the road to prosecution is a challenging one for victims.

Domestic Violence:  Victim’s assistance resources or battered women’s shelters exist in Seoul and other urban areas but may be limited in rural areas. Most are government administered and require a police referral. Call 112 for emergency assistance or 1366 to reach Korea’s 24-hour domestic violence hotline. Victims may also contact the Embassy, tel. (+82) 2-397-4114.

Lost or Stolen Passports:  If your passport is stolen, file a report at the nearest police station.

Don't buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if widely available.  It is against South Korean law to purchase these goods and against U.S. law to bring them into the United States. The  Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Division in the U.S. Department of Justice  has more information.

Avoid fraud and scams:  See  Department of State  and  FBI  websites for more information.

Tourism:  The tourism industry is generally regulated and rules with regard to best practices and safety inspections are regularly enforced. Hazardous areas/activities are identified with appropriate signage and professional staff is typically on hand in support of organized activities. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is widely available throughout the country. Outside of a major metropolitan center, it may take more time for first responders and medical professionals to stabilize a patient and provide life-saving assistance. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on  insurance providers for overseas coverage .

Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties:  While in Korea, you are subject to local laws. If you violate Korean laws, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Be aware that:

  • Immigration violations can lead to arrest, fines, and deportation.
  • There is little tolerance for illegal drugs.
  • If you mail illegal drugs to/ from Korea, you will be prosecuted.
  • Commercial disputes may lead to criminal charges being filed under local laws.

Be aware that some crimes are prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on  crimes against minors abroad  and the  Department of Justice  website.

Arrest Notification:  If you are arrested or detained, ask officials to notify the Embassy. See our  webpage  for further information.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES

Dual Nationality and Military Conscription:  Dual national males (including U.S. service members) may be subject to compulsory military service. If you have family ties to South Korea, consult the nearest Korean Embassy or Consulate or the  Korean Military Manpower Administration  regarding potential citizenship obligations  before entering South Korea .

Passport Seizures and Exit Bans:  If you are involved in a criminal investigation or commercial dispute, authorities may seize your passport and/or block your departure. While we may reissue a passport, we cannot lift an exit ban.

Exit Permits:  Exit permits are not generally required. However, if a parent requests a travel restriction on his/her child, Korean authorities may prevent that child from departing even when traveling with the other parent. As of June 1, 2020, foreigners who are long-term residents of the ROK are required to obtain a re-entry permit four business days prior to departure from Korea. The permits are available online through an e-application at the  www.hikorea.go.kr  website.

International Child Abduction:  See our website for information related to the  prevention of international child abduction . 

Working in South Korea:  If working, including teaching or modeling, you must enter with the appropriate work visa. It is not possible to change your visa status without leaving the country. If you begin work without the appropriate visa, you may be arrested, fined, and/or deported. If you are working without a valid work permit and get into a contractual dispute with your employer, you have little legal recourse.

Students:  See our  Students Abroad  page and  FBI travel tips .

Women Travelers:  See our travel tips for  Women Travelers .

ROK National Security Law:  Authorities may detain, arrest, and imprison persons believed to have committed acts intended to endanger the “security of the state,” including statements deemed to praise the political system and/or officials of the DPRK. 

Customs Regulations: There is strict enforcement of regulations on importing and exporting items such as firearms, narcotics and prescription drugs, non-prescription health supplements, radio equipment, and gold. Importation of materials deemed to be obscene, subversive, or harmful to the public peace is also restricted.

  • Amphetamines are illegal in Korea. Do not bring amphetamines or other prescription narcotics into the country without obtaining advance permission in writing from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. See the  U.S. Embassy Seoul, Health Information page .
  • Traveling with Pets: See  Korea’s Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency  website.

See the  Korean Customs Regulations website for complete information.

LGBTI Travelers:  Consensual same-sex sexual activity is not criminalized. Korea is a conservative country in regards to LGBTI issues. However, there are an increasing number of LGBTI-oriented clubs, festivals and NGOs advocating for LGBTI issues. The ROK National Human Rights Commission Act prohibits discrimination against individuals because of their sexual orientation, but there are no laws specifying punishment for persons found to have discriminated on this basis. Same-sex marriages are not recognized. Korean citizens can legally change their gender identity.

See   our  LGBTI Travel Information  page and section 6 of the  Department of State's Human Rights report  for further details.

Mobility Issues:  Korean law mandates access to transportation, communication, and public buildings. Cross walks typically have audio and visual signals. Older buildings and streets are generally less accessible than modern ones. Metro cars and buses in Seoul offer priority seating for the disabled and most metro stations have elevators. Metro platforms include Korean Braille information. Contact individual bus companies and subway associations for specific information. Foreign residents are eligible for disability assistance from local ward offices; assistance varies by ward.

Quality of Care : Western-style medical facilities are available in most large cities. However, not all doctors and staff, are proficient in English. A  list of hospitals  and medical specialists who speak English is available on our website. For emergency ambulance service dial 119. Ambulance services are widely available. For information on medical evacuation from South Korea, please see the State Department’s brochure on  Air Ambulance/MedEvac/Medical Escort Providers . 

We do not pay medical bills.  Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas. Verify your health insurance coverage before traveling overseas. See our webpage for information on  insurance providers for overseas coverage . In most cases, health care providers will require payment in advance of treatment or will not release a patient until hospital bills are paid. We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to include coverage for medical evacuation.

Medication:  Carry prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. Most prescription medications, except psychotropic types, can be obtained at Korean pharmacies (brand names often differ). Local pharmacies will require a prescription from a Korean doctor.

Update  vaccinations  recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

For further health information go to:

  • World Health Organization
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC)

Travel and Transportation

Road Conditions and Safety:  Roads are well-paved, traffic signals functional, and most drivers comply with basic traffic laws. South Korea has a significantly higher traffic fatality rate than the United States. Causes of accidents include excessive speed, frequent lane changes without signaling, running red lights, aggressive bus drivers, and weaving motorcyclists. It is recommended that you photo document any traffic accidents.

Be aware that motorcyclists may drive on sidewalks, and drivers do not always yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks.

Traffic Laws include:

  • International driving permit (or ROK license) is required for all drivers.
  • Left-hand turns prohibited except with green arrow.
  • Seat belts and car seats are mandatory.
  • Motorcycle passengers must wear helmets.
  • Automobile drivers are presumed to have some fault in accidents involving pedestrians.
  • Expect long waits at police stations while police investigate any incidents.
  • Police may take your passport or detain you during an investigation.
  • Even if negligence is not proven, criminal charges may be filed.
  • Blood-alcohol content of 0.03% or higher is considered legally intoxicated.
  • Police regularly set up DUI checkpoints. Drivers are required to submit to breathalyzer tests; refusal can result in cancellation of your license.

For information about driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, refer to our  Road Safety page . You may also visit the  Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) website.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:  The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the Republic of Korea's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of the ROK's air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the  FAA's Safety Assessment Page .

Maritime Travel:  Mariners planning travel to South Korea should check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s  Maritime Security Communications with Industry Web Portal . Information may also be posted to the  U.S. Coast Guard homeport website  and as a broadcast warning on the  National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s website .

For additional travel information

  • Enroll in the  Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)  to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
  • See the  State Department’s travel website  for the  Worldwide Caution  and  Travel Advisories .
  • Follow us on  Twitter  and  Facebook .
  • See  traveling safely abroad  for useful travel tips.

South Korea was cited in the State Department’s 2022 Annual Report to Congress on International Child Abduction for demonstrating a pattern of non-compliance with respect to international parental child abduction. Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in  South Korea.  For additional IPCA-related information, please see the  International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act ( ICAPRA )  report.

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Check passport expiration dates carefully for all travelers! Children’s passports are issued for 5 years, adult passports for 10 years.

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South Korea Travel Restrictions

Traveler's COVID-19 vaccination status

Traveling from the United States to South Korea

Open for vaccinated visitors

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Not required for vaccinated visitors

Restaurants

Not required in public spaces and public transportation.

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Can I travel to South Korea from the United States?

Most visitors from the United States, regardless of vaccination status, can enter South Korea.

Can I travel to South Korea if I am vaccinated?

Fully vaccinated visitors from the United States can enter South Korea without restrictions.

Can I travel to South Korea without being vaccinated?

Unvaccinated visitors from the United States can enter South Korea without restrictions.

Do I need a COVID test to enter South Korea?

Visitors from the United States are not required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test or antigen result upon entering South Korea.

Can I travel to South Korea without quarantine?

Travelers from the United States are not required to quarantine.

Do I need to wear a mask in South Korea?

Mask usage in South Korea is not required in public spaces and public transportation.

Are the restaurants and bars open in South Korea?

Restaurants in South Korea are open. Bars in South Korea are .

travel requirements south korea

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travel requirements south korea

South Korea Travel and Entry Restrictions 2022: COVID-19 Update

영어 홍보 안내문.pdf fileDownload

The South Korea entry restrictions determine who can enter the country and under what conditions.

Normally, foreigners must meet the  South Korea visa requirements  for their nationality and obtain the relevant permit before traveling.

Additionally, several South Korea  COVID restrictions   are now in place  to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

As a result, the Republic of Korea has temporarily revised its  visa policy  to suspended visa exemptions for some countries.

Continue reading to learn about  current   South Korean travel restrictions  and travel bans in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Can I Travel to South Korea Visa-Free During Coronavirus?

South Korea has approved  96 countries  to enter the country visa-free during coronavirus.

Under normal circumstances, passport holders from over 100 countries can  stay in South Korea without a visa  for  between 30 and 180 days , depending on their nationality.

Once the coronavirus suspension ends, all visa-exempt travelers will need to  apply for the K-ETA  for South Korea.

Citizens of 96 approved countries can apply.

south korea visa application

Temporary Health Measures for South Korea

Anyone wishing to travel to the East Asian nation during the current restrictions needs to be aware of the  health entry requirements for South Korea  now in place.

These temporary measures are designed to protect residents and visitors in South Korea.

Unless exempt, travelers are subject to the following entry rules:

  • PCR test : Travelers aged 6 and older must present a medical certificate showing a negative PCR COVID-19 test result taken within 2 days of departure. The tests accepted are LAMP, NAAT, NEAR, PCR, SDA, or TMA.
  • Health Declaration Form : This contact form must be completed and presented on arrival
  • Self-quarantine safety protection mobile app : All passengers traveling to South Korea must install this on their mobile device.

Health requirements are  subject to change at short notice . Travelers should ensure they have all the latest information before arranging a trip to South Korea.

Do I Need a Coronavirus Vaccine to Travel to South Korea?

At the moment,  a coronavirus vaccine is not required  to travel to South Korea. However, vaccinated passengers are able to travel to South Korea with fewer restrictions.

Travelers should  stay updated with the latest developments  and ensure they have all the  vaccinations needed to travel to South Korea  before departure.

Is It Mandatory to Quarantine on Arrival in South Korea?

From April 1, 2022, vaccinated travelers who register with the Q-code system are eligible for  quarantine exemption .

Most other passengers are subject to  quarantine for 7 days  on arrival. Visitors must take a PCR test on day 7.

Passengers who are required to quarantine must install the “self-quarantine safety protection mobile app” on their device before departure or upon arrival.

Vaccinated Travel Lane With Singapore

Passengers arriving from Singapore under the Vaccinated Travel Lane must present:

  • a COVID-19 vaccination certificate complete with a QR code
  • a confirmation of their arrival COVID-19 test
  • a printed copy of medical insurance with coverage of USD 25,100 for COVID-19 related medical expenses.

Can I Transit through South Korea During COVID-19?

South Korea entry restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic also inlcude some limitations for transit passengers.

Travelers are currently only allowed to transit through South Korea for a  maximum of 24 hours . They must have a confirmed connecting ticket.

Nationals of Egypt, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen are not allowed to transit.

All Passengers in transit must  complete a health questionnaire  on arrival.

Internal and Movement Restrictions within South Korea

Intercity transportation in South Korea is fully operational in most areas.   Use of a facemask is mandatory,  and eating and drinking are not permitted.

  • Domestic flights : most routes have resumed with full capacity
  • Trains : operational with some changes to timetables. Hygiene measures in place at stations and onboard
  • Buses : inter-regional bus journeys are now permitted
  • Local transport : taxis, metro, tram, and bus operational

Travelers should check the restrictions in place in the specific area of South Korea that they plan to visit. Visitors cannot board a domestic flight until completing the 7-day quarantine.

Korean Flights Affected by Coronavirus

Some airlines have canceled flights to and from South Korea, largely due to a decline in demand.

International and national routes are affected, although South Korea remains well-served by some services. Passengers with plane tickets in the coming days should  check with the airline  to ensure that the flight is to go ahead as scheduled.

Is It Safe to Travel to South Korea during COVID-19?

Some passengers are questioning whether it is safe to go to South Korea now. Most lockdown measures in South Korea have been lifted.

Most stores, educational facilities, stores, and other  businesses are now open and operating as normal . Provided travelers take the necessary precautions and maintain a social distance, such facilities can be used safely.

There are some  regional differences in the safety measures  being implemented. Travelers should check the specific rules and regulations for their destination.

Health advice for travelers in South Korea

Foreigners currently in South Korea are asked to follow health advice that is being issued internationally.

  • Do not travel if experiencing any symptoms
  • Regularly wash hands with soap and water and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.
  • Cover the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people
  • Wear a mask when taking public transportation

Foreigners in South Korea who show any COVID-19 can call 1339 for 24-hour advice.

As always, foreigners should consult the latest health information for South Korea well ahead of departure.

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Warnings and insurance.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office ( FCDO ) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice .

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:

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Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram . You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

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Entry Requirements for South Korea: A Comprehensive Guide for US Travelers

Are you considering a visit to the Republic of South Korea? Now is the perfect time to go, as South Korea is celebrating its travel year. From April 1, 2023, to December 31, 2024, US citizens traveling for short-term business or tourism purposes will not need the Korean Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) before entering South Korea. This travel guide is packed with helpful information and travel advice to help you make the most of your visit.

Can US citizens travel to South Korea right now?

What travel documents do american citizens need to enter south korea, can us citizens go to south korea without a passport, can us citizens get a south korean visa on arrival, who can travel to south korea without a visa, how do i obtain or apply for a valid visa for south korea.

How much is a South Korean visa for US citizens

How long is my South Korean visa valid?

What happens if i overstay my visa in south korea, how do i obtain an entry and exit form, what health requirements and screenings are required when entering south korea.

FAQs on South Korea travel requirements Online resources for travelers to South Korea

Online resources for travelers to South Korea

Always travel well-informed with CIBTvisas

As a US citizen planning to travel to South Korea, you cannot obtain a visa on arrival. US citizens don't require a tourist visa to enter South Korea. Normally, you must apply for a K-ETA before entering Korea for short-term stays. However, that requirement has been lifted through December 2024.

Travelers planning long-term stays of more than 90 days must obtain a visa from a Korean Government diplomatic office, like the nearest embassy or consulate, before traveling for longer stays or going to South Korea to study or work. Plan ahead and obtain the necessary visa to avoid any inconvenience during your trip

How much is a South Korean visa for US citizens?

The duration of validity for a South Korean visa varies depending on the type of visa that has been granted. The K-ETA visa is valid for two years from the date of issuance and includes an automatic reentry permit. Travelers can make multiple trips to visit South Korea for short-term(90-day) stays within its validity period. Be sure to review your visa details for precise travel information and validity.

An entry and exit form is not required for US citizens traveling to South Korea.

There are currently no special requirements or screenings to enter Korea. Travelers should check the CDC’s travel guidance on South Korea for updates.

Vaccinations

Travelers to South Korea are not required to receive mandatory vaccinations. However, it is generally recommended that most travelers get vaccinated for diseases such as hepatitis A and B, typhoid, and rabies. To determine which vaccinations you may need and for other travel health tips, consult the CDC's recommendation .

Prescriptions

As a traveler, you can bring prescription drugs for personal use into Korea. You should carry a doctor's note or prescription and ensure the medicine is in its original packaging. If you need medication while in Korea, you must visit a local doctor and obtain a prescription before it can be filled by a Korean pharmacy. While Korean pharmacies do sell most prescription medications (even though the brand names may differ), they may not have psychotropics available.

Since COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, there are no COVID-19 testing, vaccination, or quarantine requirements for entry into South Korea. According to the CDC, international travellers should be up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations before traveling abroad. Because the COVID-19 situation could change with little or no notice, travelers are advised to check the South Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency for updates before departing. A list of some COVID-19 testing facilities in South Korea and further information can be found on the Korean Embassy website , should travelers need testing for travel to other countries.

FAQs on South Korea travel requirements

Do i need to wear a mask in south korea.

Per the current COVID-19 guidelines, wearing a mask in public places is voluntary in major cities in South Korea, except in certain hospitals and other medical care facilities. However, many South Koreans still wear masks outdoors and on public transport.

Are restaurants and bars open in South Korea?

Restaurants and bars are open in South Korea and operating normally.

Will my phone work in South Korea?

Most US carriers work in South Korea, but roaming charges may apply. Check with your service provider for data, text, and voice roaming charges. You can buy a local SIM card on arrival at South Korean airports or at a local shop. High-speed Wi-Fi is readily available in South Korea. Keeping your phone in flight mode and using Wi-Fi to connect is a cost-effective alternative to roaming.

What kind of plugs do I need in South Korea?

South Korea uses type C and F plugs, as found in Europe. US travelers will need a travel adapter. The standard voltage is 220V, and the standard frequency is 60Hz. You may also want to pack a power converter if you use any electrical devices that aren’t rated for dual voltage.

What should I wear in South Korea?

South Korea is modern and cosmopolitan. People dress smartly and well in professional settings, and there is a general preference for modest dress. It is especially advisable to dress modestly when visiting religious sites.

Can I smoke or drink alcohol in public in South Korea?

Smoking is prohibited in many public places and only permitted in designated areas. Drinking in public is allowed, but public drunkenness is frowned upon by local authorities. Local laws impose fines and penalties for causing disruptions to the public peace. To avoid visiting the local police station, it’s best to drink in moderation.

Is it safe for LGBTQ+ travelers in South Korea?

Although younger generations in South Korea are increasingly tolerant, many gays and lesbians still opt to keep their sexual orientation hidden from their families and employers. Those who choose to publicly share their orientation while traveling in South Korea should be prepared for possible negative reactions

Online resources for travelers to South

  • US Department of State: International Travel to South Korea
  • US CDC Traveler’s Health: South Korea
  • Embassy of South Korea in the US: Visa Guidance
  • Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency: Public Health News and Alerts
  • South Korea Tourism: Visit Korea

Make sure your travel documentation is in order, and get ready to immerse yourself in South Korea's vibrant mix of tradition and innovation. An experienced visa specialist can help you navigate the complexities of border crossing requirements. Contact CIBTvisas for a quote today.

Anjeonhan yeohaeng doeseyo! Safe travels!

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Living and traveling in Korea

The Soul of Seoul

What are the travel requirements for South Korea?

Are you thinking about traveling to South Korea? The country is one of the top places to visit in the world today. Do you know what you need to travel into the country? The travel requirements changed for tourists during Covid and while some of those updates will go away, some are here to stay. We will go through the list of travel requirements for South Korea and other things you may need to know.

Do you need to get travel documents translated into Korean? Can you just walk right through immigration as a tourist to Korea? Let’s see.

Seoul, Korea

Get ready to travel to Korea:

Why travel to South Korea

South korea travel requirements.

  • How long does it take to get the K-ETA approved?

Where to apply for the K-ETA

Requirements for a working visa in south korea, document translation.

  • Processing Time

In-Person Interview

  • How Many Bags Can I Take to Korea?

Can I Take Medications into Korea? 

Do i need a sim card in korea.

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Tomedes: Korean translation services

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Deoksugung Palace, Seoul, Korea: Hallie Bradley and family

There are so many reasons to visit South Korea. First, you need to see the historical places in the country. Korea has a very long history, and it has an abundance of historical sites.  If you follow popular culture, you know that K-pop, or Korean popular culture, has taken the world by storm. The biggest musical artists today are from Korea and if you’re a fan, then going there is worth it. The country also has beautiful natural wonders. If it’s your first time to travel to Korea, learn more in this Epic Guide to Seoul for the First Timer that will get you started.

After you’ve decided that you want to visit South Korea, you need to gather all the required documents and information.  South Korea allows visa-free travel for passport holders from certain countries. Canadian citizens, for example, can enter the country and stay there for up to 180 days without a visa. If you are from the United States, you will enjoy the same privilege for 90 days. You can find the list of countries that don’t require a visa to enter as a tourist below. If you’re entering as a tourist, it’s pretty straightforward for most travelers. Note, that while you do not have to apply for the visa, you do need to apply for the K-ETA prior to travel (More information below.) Remember that you cannot work on a tourist visa. 

Visa Application Form: If you are applying for a visa other than a tourist visa, t he form can be downloaded online . Make sure that you complete the form and that all of the information you write down on the form is correct and accurate.

Valid Passport: Your passport must have at least six months of validity when applying for a visa to enter South Korea. On top of that, it should have at least two blank visa pages.

1 Passport Photo: Make sure that the picture you submit follows the passport photo requirements. It should have been taken in the last six months. Never use filters. Don’t take a selfie. Make sure that you ask someone to take the picture for you. The background should be white or off-white, at least.

Visa Fee: The fee you must pay will depend on the kind of visa that you are applying for.  

Korea travel planning: How to do the K-ETA

K-ETA is a digital travel authorization that is required by any foreign visitors that do not require a visa. It needs to be obtained before entering the Republic of Korea. The purpose of travel should be tourism, visiting a family member, participating in events or meetings, or commercial business (excluding the pursuit of profit). It is mandatory for visa-free and visa-waiver countries. Anyone without a valid visa or K-ETA will not be allowed to board a plane to South Korea. This is meant to make immigration and customs a smoother process upon landing, streamlining the whole process. 

How long does it take to get K-ETA approved?

K-ETA is available for eligible people from countries that don’t require a visa to enter South Korea. It must be obtained before boarding a flight or ship and can take up to 72 hours to process. That means you should apply for it at least a month before your trip just to be safe but you could apply for it up to a few days before departure. 

On average, most people in our travel groups say they’ve received results within a day but it can take longer.

For all of the information on the validity, which countries need the K-ETA prior to travel and how to fill in the website, check out our article Everything you need to know about the K-ETA

On arrival in South Korea, you need to submit a questionnaire on your health condition. The South Korean government encourages all arrivals to log this information in the  Quarantine COVID19 Defence (Q-Code) system prior to travel. Paper-based alternatives can be used instead but may result in a slower arrivals process.

If you will be getting a working visa, maybe to teach English in South Korea , the following are the additional documents you need to provide.

Original Employment Contract and a Korean Translation of the Document

If you’re going to South Korea to work, you will need to show proof of it in the form of an employment contract. Generally, companies and schools will provide the Korean version of the contract. However, if they do not, you may need to have the contract translated by someone who knows how to translate Korean document to English and vice versa . The contract should state clearly the details of your employment including location, salary, etc.

Copy of Certificate for Business Registration of Employer

Another document that you need to present when you will be going to South Korea to work is a copy of the Certificate for Business Registration of your Korean employer. Your employer should be able to provide you with that document.

Letter from Company 

Your employer should also provide you with a letter stating that they have actually employed you. This will facilitate your visa application.

Need An Apostille? How To Get A Document Apostilled

Document translation and other things to know

When entering as a tourist, you generally don’t need to have anything translated. However, for other visas, like the marriage visa , for example, documents should be provided in Korean to immigration. Remember that Korean is the main language spoken, written, and read in Korea so documents in other languages may not be suitable.

Processing Time 

Normally, it takes up to two weeks to process a visa application. You should take that into consideration when you are applying for a visa.

Many consulates require an in-person visit and possibly a brief interview to ensure what you have provided is accurate. Make sure to check with your local Korean consulate. For some locations, they prefer that applications be mailed in. 

how many bags can I take to Korea

Visiting Korea FAQ

How many bags can i take to korea .

How much luggage you can take with you into South Korea depends on the airline. With Korean Air, if you are riding Economy, you are allowed a personal item and a standard carry-on bag. Those two should not exceed 25 pounds (12 kg). Your air-checked baggage should not exceed 50 pounds (23 kg). Be sure to check with the relevant airline as this is subject to change.

Yes, you can bring medications into South Korea but there are restrictions on the types of medications. For prescription medications, you must submit an application to the Narcotics Control Division of the Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) before the travel date. Any medication which contains narcotics, even those with a prescription is prohibited. Don’t try to bring in medication that is not allowed by the authorities as it may be confiscated, or worse, you may be deported.

These are just some of the things that you should take note of when you’re visiting South Korea. There are other things that are worth knowing before you travel there. It helps to read up on the history and culture of the country that you are visiting.

Did you know there are more than 500,000 public WiFi hotspots in Seoul? Wifi is readily available and easy to access in Korea, but you do need a Korean phone number for a variety of things so a SIM is a convenient travel requirement really. Read this guide to the best Korean SIM cards so you can choose the right one for your trip.

Get ready for your trip to South Korea!

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What are the travel requirements for South Korea: Do you know what to prepare to travel to South Korea? Here are the requirements and the forms that you need translated for the trip.

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South Korea Traveler View

Travel health notices, vaccines and medicines, non-vaccine-preventable diseases, stay healthy and safe.

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After Your Trip

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There are no notices currently in effect for South Korea.

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Check the vaccines and medicines list and visit your doctor at least a month before your trip to get vaccines or medicines you may need. If you or your doctor need help finding a location that provides certain vaccines or medicines, visit the Find a Clinic page.

Routine vaccines

Recommendations.

Make sure you are up-to-date on all routine vaccines before every trip. Some of these vaccines include

  • Chickenpox (Varicella)
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis
  • Flu (influenza)
  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR)

Immunization schedules

All eligible travelers should be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines. Please see  Your COVID-19 Vaccination  for more information. 

COVID-19 vaccine

Hepatitis A

Recommended for unvaccinated travelers one year old or older going to South Korea.

Infants 6 to 11 months old should also be vaccinated against Hepatitis A. The dose does not count toward the routine 2-dose series.

Travelers allergic to a vaccine component or who are younger than 6 months should receive a single dose of immune globulin, which provides effective protection for up to 2 months depending on dosage given.

Unvaccinated travelers who are over 40 years old, immunocompromised, or have chronic medical conditions planning to depart to a risk area in less than 2 weeks should get the initial dose of vaccine and at the same appointment receive immune globulin.

Hepatitis A - CDC Yellow Book

Dosing info - Hep A

Hepatitis B

Recommended for unvaccinated travelers younger than 60 years old traveling to South Korea. Unvaccinated travelers 60 years and older may get vaccinated before traveling to South Korea.

Hepatitis B - CDC Yellow Book

Dosing info - Hep B

Japanese Encephalitis

Recommended for travelers who

  • Are moving to an area with Japanese encephalitis to live
  • Spend long periods of time, such as a month or more, in areas with Japanese encephalitis
  • Frequently travel to areas with Japanese encephalitis

Consider vaccination for travelers

  • Spending less than a month in areas with Japanese encephalitis but will be doing activities that increase risk of infection, such as visiting rural areas, hiking or camping, or staying in places without air conditioning, screens, or bed nets
  • Going to areas with Japanese encephalitis who are uncertain of their activities or how long they will be there

Not recommended for travelers planning short-term travel to urban areas or travel to areas with no clear Japanese encephalitis season. 

Japanese encephalitis - CDC Yellow Book

Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine for US Children

CDC recommends that travelers going to certain areas of South Korea take prescription medicine to prevent malaria. Depending on the medicine you take, you will need to start taking this medicine multiple days before your trip, as well as during and after your trip. Talk to your doctor about which malaria medication you should take.

Find  country-specific information  about malaria.

Malaria - CDC Yellow Book

Considerations when choosing a drug for malaria prophylaxis (CDC Yellow Book)

Malaria information for South Korea.

Cases of measles are on the rise worldwide. Travelers are at risk of measles if they have not been fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to departure, or have not had measles in the past, and travel internationally to areas where measles is spreading.

All international travelers should be fully vaccinated against measles with the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, including an early dose for infants 6–11 months, according to  CDC’s measles vaccination recommendations for international travel .

Measles (Rubeola) - CDC Yellow Book

South Korea is free of dog rabies. However, rabies may still be present in wildlife species, particularly bats. CDC recommends rabies vaccination before travel only for people working directly with wildlife. These people may include veterinarians, animal handlers, field biologists, or laboratory workers working with specimens from mammalian species.

Rabies - CDC Yellow Book

Tick-borne Encephalitis

Avoid bug bites

Learn more about tick-borne encephalitis at your destination .

Tick-borne Encephalitis - CDC Yellow Book

Recommended for most travelers, especially those staying with friends or relatives or visiting smaller cities or rural areas.

Typhoid - CDC Yellow Book

Dosing info - Typhoid

Yellow Fever

Required if traveling from a country with risk of YF virus transmission and ≥1 year of age. 1

Yellow Fever - CDC Yellow Book

Avoid contaminated water

Leptospirosis

How most people get sick (most common modes of transmission)

  • Touching urine or other body fluids from an animal infected with leptospirosis
  • Swimming or wading in urine-contaminated fresh water, or contact with urine-contaminated mud
  • Drinking water or eating food contaminated with animal urine
  • Avoid contaminated water and soil

Clinical Guidance

Airborne & droplet, avian/bird flu.

  • Being around, touching, or working with infected poultry, such as visiting poultry farms or live-animal markets
  • Avoid domestic and wild poultry
  • Breathing in air or accidentally eating food contaminated with the urine, droppings, or saliva of infected rodents
  • Bite from an infected rodent
  • Less commonly, being around someone sick with hantavirus (only occurs with Andes virus)
  • Avoid rodents and areas where they live
  • Avoid sick people

Tuberculosis (TB)

  • Breathe in TB bacteria that is in the air from an infected and contagious person coughing, speaking, or singing.

Learn actions you can take to stay healthy and safe on your trip. Vaccines cannot protect you from many diseases in South Korea, so your behaviors are important.

Eat and drink safely

Food and water standards around the world vary based on the destination. Standards may also differ within a country and risk may change depending on activity type (e.g., hiking versus business trip). You can learn more about safe food and drink choices when traveling by accessing the resources below.

  • Choose Safe Food and Drinks When Traveling
  • Water Treatment Options When Hiking, Camping or Traveling
  • Global Water, Sanitation and Hygiene | Healthy Water
  • Avoid Contaminated Water During Travel

You can also visit the  Department of State Country Information Pages  for additional information about food and water safety.

Prevent bug bites

Although South Korea is an industrialized country, bug bites here can still spread diseases. Just as you would in the United States, try to avoid bug bites while spending time outside or in wooded areas.

What can I do to prevent bug bites?

  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
  • Use an appropriate insect repellent (see below).
  • Consider using permethrin-treated clothing and gear if spending a lot of time outside. Do not use permethrin directly on skin.

What type of insect repellent should I use?

  • FOR PROTECTION AGAINST TICKS AND MOSQUITOES: Use a repellent that contains 20% or more DEET for protection that lasts up to several hours.
  • Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin)
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD)
  • 2-undecanone
  • Always use insect repellent as directed.

What should I do if I am bitten by bugs?

  • Avoid scratching bug bites, and apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to reduce the itching.
  • Check your entire body for ticks after outdoor activity. Be sure to remove ticks properly.

What can I do to avoid bed bugs?

Although bed bugs do not carry disease, they are an annoyance. See our information page about avoiding bug bites for some easy tips to avoid them. For more information on bed bugs, see Bed Bugs .

For more detailed information on avoiding bug bites, see Avoid Bug Bites .

Stay safe outdoors

If your travel plans in South Korea include outdoor activities, take these steps to stay safe and healthy during your trip:

  • Stay alert to changing weather conditions and adjust your plans if conditions become unsafe.
  • Prepare for activities by wearing the right clothes and packing protective items, such as bug spray, sunscreen, and a basic first aid kit.
  • Consider learning basic first aid and CPR before travel. Bring a travel health kit with items appropriate for your activities.
  • If you are outside for many hours in the heat, eat salty snacks and drink water to stay hydrated and replace salt lost through sweating.
  • Protect yourself from UV radiation : use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, wear protective clothing, and seek shade during the hottest time of day (10 a.m.–4 p.m.).
  • Be especially careful during summer months and at high elevation. Because sunlight reflects off snow, sand, and water, sun exposure may be increased during activities like skiing, swimming, and sailing.
  • Very cold temperatures can be dangerous. Dress in layers and cover heads, hands, and feet properly if you are visiting a cold location.

Stay safe around water

  • Swim only in designated swimming areas. Obey lifeguards and warning flags on beaches.
  • Do not dive into shallow water.
  • Avoid swallowing water when swimming. Untreated water can carry germs that make you sick.
  • Practice safe boating—follow all boating safety laws, do not drink alcohol if you are driving a boat, and always wear a life jacket.

Keep away from animals

Most animals avoid people, but they may attack if they feel threatened, are protecting their young or territory, or if they are injured or ill. Animal bites and scratches can lead to serious diseases such as rabies.

Follow these tips to protect yourself:

  • Do not touch or feed any animals you do not know.
  • Do not allow animals to lick open wounds, and do not get animal saliva in your eyes or mouth.
  • Avoid rodents and their urine and feces.
  • Traveling pets should be supervised closely and not allowed to come in contact with local animals.
  • If you wake in a room with a bat, seek medical care immediately.  Bat bites may be hard to see.

All animals can pose a threat, but be extra careful around dogs, bats, monkeys, sea animals such as jellyfish, and snakes. If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, immediately:

  • Wash the wound with soap and clean water.
  • Go to a doctor right away.
  • Tell your doctor about your injury when you get back to the United States.

Reduce your exposure to germs

Follow these tips to avoid getting sick or spreading illness to others while traveling:

  • Wash your hands often, especially before eating.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, clean hands with hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol).
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Try to avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home or in your hotel room, unless you need medical care.

Avoid sharing body fluids

Diseases can be spread through body fluids, such as saliva, blood, vomit, and semen.

Protect yourself:

  • Use latex condoms correctly.
  • Do not inject drugs.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. People take more risks when intoxicated.
  • Do not share needles or any devices that can break the skin. That includes needles for tattoos, piercings, and acupuncture.
  • If you receive medical or dental care, make sure the equipment is disinfected or sanitized.

Know how to get medical care while traveling

Plan for how you will get health care during your trip, should the need arise:

  • Carry a list of local doctors and hospitals at your destination.
  • Review your health insurance plan to determine what medical services it would cover during your trip. Consider purchasing travel health and medical evacuation insurance for things your regular insurance will not cover.
  • Carry a card that identifies, in the local language, your blood type, chronic conditions or serious allergies, and the generic names of any medicines you take.
  • Bring copies of your prescriptions for medicine and for eye glasses and contact lenses.
  • Some prescription drugs may be illegal in other countries. Call South Korea’s embassy to verify that all of your prescription(s) are legal to bring with you.
  • Bring all the medicines (including over-the-counter medicines) you think you might need during your trip, including extra in case of travel delays. Ask your doctor to help you get prescriptions filled early if you need to.

Many foreign hospitals and clinics are accredited by the Joint Commission International. A list of accredited facilities is available at their website ( www.jointcommissioninternational.org ).

Malaria is a risk in some parts of South Korea. If you are going to a risk area, fill your malaria prescription before you leave, and take enough with you for the entire length of your trip. Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking the pills; some need to be started before you leave.

Select safe transportation

Motor vehicle crashes are the #1 killer of healthy US citizens in foreign countries.

Be smart when you are traveling on foot.

  • Use sidewalks and marked crosswalks.
  • Pay attention to the traffic around you, especially in crowded areas.
  • Remember, people on foot do not always have the right of way in other countries.

Riding/Driving

Choose a safe vehicle.

  • Choose official taxis or public transportation, such as trains and buses.
  • Make sure there are seatbelts.
  • Avoid overcrowded, overloaded, top-heavy buses and minivans.
  • Avoid riding on motorcycles or motorbikes, especially motorbike taxis. (Many crashes are caused by inexperienced motorbike drivers.)
  • Choose newer vehicles—they may have more safety features, such as airbags, and be more reliable.
  • Choose larger vehicles, which may provide more protection in crashes.

Think about the driver.

  • Do not drive after drinking alcohol or ride with someone who has been drinking.
  • Consider hiring a licensed, trained driver familiar with the area.
  • Arrange payment before departing.

Follow basic safety tips.

  • Wear a seatbelt at all times.
  • Sit in the back seat of cars and taxis.
  • When on motorbikes or bicycles, always wear a helmet. (Bring a helmet from home, if needed.)
  • Do not use a cell phone or text while driving (illegal in many countries).
  • Travel during daylight hours only, especially in rural areas.
  • If you choose to drive a vehicle in South Korea, learn the local traffic laws and have the proper paperwork.
  • Get any driving permits and insurance you may need. Get an International Driving Permit (IDP). Carry the IDP and a US-issued driver's license at all times.
  • Check with your auto insurance policy's international coverage, and get more coverage if needed. Make sure you have liability insurance.
  • Avoid using local, unscheduled aircraft.
  • If possible, fly on larger planes (more than 30 seats); larger airplanes are more likely to have regular safety inspections.
  • Try to schedule flights during daylight hours and in good weather.

Helpful Resources

Road Safety Overseas (Information from the US Department of State): Includes tips on driving in other countries, International Driving Permits, auto insurance, and other resources.

The Association for International Road Travel has country-specific Road Travel Reports available for most countries for a minimal fee.

Maintain personal security

Use the same common sense traveling overseas that you would at home, and always stay alert and aware of your surroundings.

Before you leave

  • Research your destination(s), including local laws, customs, and culture.
  • Monitor travel advisories and alerts and read travel tips from the US Department of State.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) .
  • Leave a copy of your itinerary, contact information, credit cards, and passport with someone at home.
  • Pack as light as possible, and leave at home any item you could not replace.

While at your destination(s)

  • Carry contact information for the nearest US embassy or consulate .
  • Carry a photocopy of your passport and entry stamp; leave the actual passport securely in your hotel.
  • Follow all local laws and social customs.
  • Do not wear expensive clothing or jewelry.
  • Always keep hotel doors locked, and store valuables in secure areas.
  • If possible, choose hotel rooms between the 2nd and 6th floors.

Healthy Travel Packing List

Use the Healthy Travel Packing List for South Korea for a list of health-related items to consider packing for your trip. Talk to your doctor about which items are most important for you.

Why does CDC recommend packing these health-related items?

It’s best to be prepared to prevent and treat common illnesses and injuries. Some supplies and medicines may be difficult to find at your destination, may have different names, or may have different ingredients than what you normally use.

If you are not feeling well after your trip, you may need to see a doctor. If you need help finding a travel medicine specialist, see Find a Clinic . Be sure to tell your doctor about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip. Also tell your doctor if you were bitten or scratched by an animal while traveling.

If your doctor prescribed antimalarial medicine for your trip, keep taking the rest of your pills after you return home. If you stop taking your medicine too soon, you could still get sick.

Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness. If you become ill with a fever either while traveling in a malaria-risk area or after you return home (for up to 1 year), you should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the doctor about your travel history.

For more information on what to do if you are sick after your trip, see Getting Sick after Travel .

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All you need to know before you go: South Korea entry requirements

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Latest information of entry requirements

1. pre-departure negative pcr test certificate will no longer be required to enter korea from september 3, 2022, 2. all nationals entering korea will not be required to do a 7-day mandatory quarantine., 3. mandatory for entry: k-eta or valid visa, 4. q-code system, 5. after-entry covid test will not be required from october 1, what requirements do i need to travel to south korea, q: do i need to apply visa to enter south korea, q: what are the necessary documents for entering south korea, q: what are the entry regulations for those who have not been vaccinated, top 5 best instagram-worthy hotels in seoul, 😉read more:.

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Visitors who already completed the COVID-19 vaccinations have been exempt from mandatory quarantine as of April 1 , according to South Korea’s Ministry of the Interior and Safety.

And the exemptions expanded to include overseas vaccinations that have not registered for vaccination status in Korea as well.

For international travelers, that is definitely good news! With beautiful mountains and oceans, colorful cities and nightscapes, dynamic culture and delicious K-food, South Korea is one of the best destinations for global travelers. Trip.com has offered you the latest entry requirements and essential travel information before your trip to South Korea!

Visitors are not required to provide a pre-departure COVID-19 test or to have a PCR test on arrival to enter South Korea. It's recommended you register your personal information in the Korean Q-code registration system before you travel to South Korea at the Q-code website.

Checklist for foreigners entering South Korea

- From September 3 2022 , pre-departure PCR (RAT) test and negative certificate will not be required to enter Korea, for all Koreans and Foreigners.

From April 2022, nationals of visa waiver countries or designated visa-free countries must obtain ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) before entering The Republic of Korea.

​For entry to Korea, all foreigners must have a K-ETA (for visa-free visitors) or a valid visa (for visa-required visitors) to enter Korea. The K-ETA process will take up to 72 hours and the result will be sent to your email address directly. Visitors need to have the printed hard copy ready.

Irish nationals are eligible to enter and stay in Korea for up to 90 days with a K-ETA for tourist purpose.

Using the Q-code system is recommended for all people entering South Korea to upload their health condition and after entry COVID-19 test results.

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Day 1 PCR test will not be mandatory from people entering South Korea from October 1. Korean and foreigners who wish to get a COVID test, may visit the Public Health center of their resident area to get a test free of charge.

Here is a helpful checklist of South Korea travel documents that you will need to present before you enter the country:

- A valid Q-Code. Foreign tourists are required to register their vaccination history through the Quarantine COVID-19 Defence (Q-Code) System before your trip.

- A valid visa (for visa-required visitors) or K-ETA (for visa-free visitors). Since the visa-free and visa-waiver program is temporarily suspended, visa-free passport holders must check for their eligibility and apply for a K-ETA in advance to be able to enter South Korea.

Frequently asked questions for travel to South Korea

Passengers can enter the country without a visa as long as they apply for an electronic travel permit K-ETA 72 hours before the departure! At present, South Korea has also announced an indefinite extension of the visa-free entry measures, so that any passenger can easily enter South Korea.

From September 3 2022, pre-departure PCR (RAT) test and negative certificate will not be required to enter Korea, for all Koreans and Foreigners.

Tips: Remember to register your personal information in the Korean Q-code registration system before you travel to South Korea at the Q-code website.

From June 8, no matter whether you have been vaccinated or not, you no longer need to be quarantined when entering South Korea!

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visa

Visas for South Korea: here’s what you need to know

Charles Usher

Feb 18, 2024 • 4 min read

A young woman traveling in South Korea pauses to enjoy the view while hiking down from the summit of Hallasan, the highest mountain in South Korea located on Jeju Island.

Visiting South Korea lets you take in the country’s cutting-edge cities and beautiful natural attractions © Joel Carillet / Getty Images

Not many countries have the sights-to-size ratio of South Korea . You can get from one corner of the country to the other in just two and a half hours, and in between you’ll find mountain trails leading to Buddhist hermitages, super-spectacle K-Pop concerts, back-alley pubs serving craft rice wines, enchanting bamboo forests and much more.

Getting the most out of a visit here starts with getting your entry requirements in order, a simple enough process for most travelers. Here are the basics on who needs a visa to South Korea and how to apply.

Who can travel to South Korea visa-free?

Many travelers – including those from the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and most European countries – can visit Korea for up to 90 days with no visa required. Canadians can do so for up to six months, while South Africans get 30 days. To check the most up-to-date requirements for your country, visit the Korean government’s Visa Portal and enter your information in its  Visa Navigator .

Although you might not need a visa, you will need to apply for a Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (₩10,000) on the  K-ETA website or K-ETA app (for  iOS  and  Android ) at least 72 hours before your departure. Once you’ve applied, you should receive your results via email within 24 hours. Your K-ETA will remain valid for two years from the date your application is approved, meaning you don’t have to reapply if you visit multiple times within that window.

Rear view of a woman using chopsticks to eat a spread of Korean food

Who needs a tourist visa for South Korea?

Citizens of countries that don’t have a visa-waiver agreement with South Korea or that Korea doesn’t grant visa-free entry will need a visa, which is typically for a single entry and permits stays of 90 days.

If you do need a visa, after entering your information in the Visa Navigator , select the visa you’re applying for (most likely Ordinary Tourist, or C-3-9) and then find the eligibility criteria that applies to you (most likely “travel for holidays or leisure”). Complete your application online ( e-Form ) or by hand ( downloadable PDF ) and then visit a Korean embassy or consulate with your application or a printout of your completed e-Form, your passport, a 3.5cm x 4.5cm (1.4in x 1.7in) passport photo and any additional required documents. The application fee for a basic tourist visa is $40, though it can vary by country.

Horseback riding near the Udo Lighthouse, Jeju-do, South Korea

The Jeju-do visa exception

Jeju-do Island is a designated Special Tourist Zone, which means many (though not all) citizens from countries that require visas for South Korea do not need them to visit Jeju-do for up to 30 days. Note that you must arrive in Jeju-do via ship or direct flight from abroad; you may not connect through another South Korean airport.

Extending your stay in South Korea

In almost all cases, if you’re visiting South Korea as a tourist, you are not allowed to extend your stay. If you need to stay longer because of an emergency, however, contact the Korea Immigration Service. The Hi Korea website provides immigration info for international visitors and residents.

Visas for working and studying in South Korea

Thanks to its all-conquering pop culture and dynamic economy, South Korea is an attractive destination for international students and professionals, and a wide range of visas is available for those wishing to study or work in the country. The first step is determining which visa you need, whether you’re seeking to enroll in a Korean university, teach English or do something else. You can sort through the options and get details on eligibility and requirements at the Visa Navigator  site. Work and study visas generally permit stays of up to two years, with one year being the most common length.

Neon lights on a street in Seoul, South Korea, East Asia

Working holidays in South Korea

South Korea offers one-year working holiday visas to citizens of 25 countries, including the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many European nations. Travelers with a working-holiday visa are permitted to work up to 25 hours per week and can also study the Korean language at private academies and university programs. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Working Holiday Info Center and Working Holiday Guide provide extensive information on who can apply, what the restrictions are, and work, study and housing resources.

Visas for people of Korean descent

If you’re of South Korean descent, you’ll likely have the option of applying for an overseas Korean visa, colloquially referred to as a gyopo visa. These are available to individuals who were born in Korea but have acquired another country’s citizenship or whose parent or grandparent was a Korean citizen. These visas allow initial stays of up to two years and provide a lot of flexibility in terms of what you can do for work or study.

This article was first published Jul 30, 2022 and updated Feb 18, 2024.

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COVID-19: travel health notice for all travellers

South Korea travel advice

Latest updates: The Health section was updated - travel health information (Public Health Agency of Canada)

Last updated: May 6, 2024 10:24 ET

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Safety and security, entry and exit requirements, laws and culture, natural disasters and climate, south korea - take normal security precautions.

Take normal security precautions in South Korea

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Tensions on the Korean Peninsula

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula could escalate with little notice and the security situation could deteriorate suddenly. Tensions may increase before, during and after North Korean nuclear and missile tests, military exercises or as the result of incidents or military activities at or near the inter-Korean border.

Monitor developments, remain vigilant and follow the instructions of local authorities. We strongly recommend that Canadians register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to receive the latest updates.

Registration of Canadians Abroad

Crime against foreigners is generally low. Petty crime occurs in major metropolitan areas, tourist sites and public markets. Remain aware of your surroundings in crowded entertainment, nightlife and shopping districts.

Petty crime and sexual harassment can occur in public spaces including bars and restaurants, and on buses.

  • Avoid walking alone, especially after dark.
  • Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times.

You can report crimes, including a sexual assault, to the Korean National Police Agency by dialling 112. This is a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week service. For non-Korean speakers, the police will link an interpreter into the call.

Women’s safety

Women travelling alone may be subject to certain forms of harassment. Sexual assault and harassment do occur, particularly around bars and nightlife areas, such as Itaewon and Hongdae-Ipgu.

Local authorities may not always respond adequately to reports of sexual violence and harassment. If you are sexually assaulted, you should report it immediately to local authorities and to the nearest Canadian government office.

  • Avoid travelling alone, especially at night
  • Remain vigilant
  • Be careful when dealing with strangers or recent acquaintances

Advice for women travellers

Demonstrations

Political, labour and student demonstrations and marches may occur. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation.

  • Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities
  • Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations

Mass gatherings (large-scale events)

Civil emergency exercises

Civil emergency exercises are held for fires, earthquakes, other disasters and civil defence drills by the Ministry of the Interior and Safety.

In 2024, four exercises will take place in March, May, August and October. The exercise on August 21, 2024, will be a nationwide exercise. Depending on the exercise, sirens may sound, transport may stop and authorities may ask some people to take shelter in metro stations or basements. While visitor participation is not necessary, familiarize yourself with procedures and check local announcements for further exercises.

Useful links

  • Ministry of the Interior and Safety
  • National Disaster and Safety Portal

Emergency assistance mobile application

The Ministry of the Interior and Safety offers a free emergency assistance mobile application called Emergency Ready (available on Google Play and iTunes). The app allows users to contact  emergency services, locate the closest medical centre or shelter and view first aid videos.

  • Emergency Ready App  - Google Play
  • Emergency Ready  - iTunes

Road safety

The rate of fatal road accidents is very high. Check carefully before crossing the road. Vehicles may not stop at pedestrian crossings. Use underground or above-ground pedestrian crossings, where available.

Speeding, running red lights, lane changes without signalling and other risky driving behaviours are common, particularly by buses, taxis and motorcyclists. Motorcycles are sometimes driven on sidewalks.

Automobile drivers are presumed to be at fault in accidents involving motorcycles or pedestrians. Criminal charges and heavy penalties are common when accidents result in injury. Even if negligence is not proven, you may be subject to criminal charges.

Public transportation

The use of public transport after dark may be safer than using taxis when travelling alone. When subway and bus services end for the night, use officially marked taxis only. It is mandatory to fasten your seatbelt in a taxi. Drivers may speak some English, but have your destination written in Korean.

High-speed train services (KTX and SRT) link Seoul and major southern cities such as Busan, Gwangju and Mokpo.

  • Book high-speed train tickets – Korail
  • Book high-speed train tickets – SRT

We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.

Information about foreign domestic airlines

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.

We have obtained the information on this page from the South Korean authorities. It can, however, change at any time.

Verify this information with the  Foreign Representatives in Canada .

Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.

Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.

Regular Canadian passport

Your passport must be valid beyond the date of expected departure from South Korea.

Passport for official travel

Different entry rules may apply.

Official travel

Passport with “X” gender identifier

While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.

Other travel documents

Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.

  • Foreign Representatives in Canada
  • Canadian passports

Tourist visa: not required* Business visa: not required* Student visa: required (must be obtained outside South Korea) Working visa: required (must be obtained outside South Korea)

*Canadians are exempt from the Korea Electronic Travel Authority (K-ETA) requirement to visit South Korea until December 31, 2024.

You can't change your visa status once you're in South Korea.

If you wish to extend the length of your visa, contact the Korea Immigration Service as soon as possible to apply for an extension. Authorities strictly enforce immigration laws and regulations.

  • Korea Electronic Travel Authority (K-ETA) – Ministry of Justice, Republic of Korea
  • More information about visas – Korea Immigration Service

Foreigners must register their biometrics (fingerprints and facial scan) at their port of entry. Children younger than 17 years and diplomats are exempt from this screening.

Screening measures

The Korea Immigration Service will screen your body temperature upon your arrival at the airport. They may test you for infectious diseases including cholera and Zika virus. In some cases, authorities may quarantine you for medical observation if you show flu-like symptoms or test positive for an infectious disease.

Children and travel

Learn more about travelling with children .

Yellow fever

Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).

Relevant Travel Health Notices

  • Global Measles Notice - 13 March, 2024
  • COVID-19 and International Travel - 13 March, 2024

This section contains information on possible health risks and restrictions regularly found or ongoing in the destination. Follow this advice to lower your risk of becoming ill while travelling. Not all risks are listed below.

Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations.

Routine vaccines

Be sure that your  routine vaccinations , as per your province or territory , are up-to-date before travelling, regardless of your destination.

Some of these vaccinations include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.

Pre-travel vaccines and medications

You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines may be right for you, based on your destination and itinerary. 

Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.

Country Entry Requirement*

  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.

Recommendation

  • Vaccination is not recommended.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.

About Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada

There is a risk of hepatitis A in this destination. It is a disease of the liver. People can get hepatitis A if they ingest contaminated food or water, eat foods prepared by an infectious person, or if they have close physical contact (such as oral-anal sex) with an infectious person, although casual contact among people does not spread the virus.

Practise  safe food and water precautions and wash your hands often. Vaccination is recommended for all travellers to areas where hepatitis A is present.

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a risk in some areas of this destination. It is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It is spread to humans by the bite of infected ticks or occasionally when unpasteurized milk products are consumed.

Travellers to areas where TBE is found may be at higher risk  during April to November, and the risk is highest for people who hike or camp in forested areas.

Protect yourself from tick bites . The vaccine is not available in Canada. It may be available in the destination you are travelling to.

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.

Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.

Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.

Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain.  It is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is very low for most travellers. Travellers at relatively higher risk may want to consider vaccination for JE prior to travelling.

Travellers are at higher risk if they will be:

  • travelling long term (e.g. more than 30 days)
  • making multiple trips to endemic areas
  • staying for extended periods in rural areas
  • visiting an area suffering a JE outbreak
  • engaging in activities involving high contact with mosquitos (e.g., entomologists)

  Hepatitis B is a risk in every destination. It is a viral liver disease that is easily transmitted from one person to another through exposure to blood and body fluids containing the hepatitis B virus.  Travellers who may be exposed to blood or other bodily fluids (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) are at higher risk of getting hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all travellers. Prevent hepatitis B infection by practicing safe sex, only using new and sterile drug equipment, and only getting tattoos and piercings in settings that follow public health regulations and standards.

 The best way to protect yourself from seasonal influenza (flu) is to get vaccinated every year. Get the flu shot at least 2 weeks before travelling.  

 The flu occurs worldwide. 

  •  In the Northern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs from November to   April.
  •  In the Southern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs between April and   October.
  •  In the tropics, there is flu activity year round. 

The flu vaccine available in one hemisphere may only offer partial protection against the flu in the other hemisphere.

The flu virus spreads from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Clean your hands often and wear a mask if you have a fever or respiratory symptoms.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.

It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.

Before travelling, verify your destination’s COVID-19 vaccination entry/exit requirements. Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.

Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease that is caused by parasites spread through the bites of mosquitoes.   Limited malaria transmission may occur in this destination, but risk to travellers is very low.    Antimalarial medication is not recommended for most travellers. Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic before travelling to discuss your options. It is recommended to do this 6 weeks before travel, however, it is still a good idea any time before leaving.    Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times: 

  • Cover your skin and use an approved insect repellent on uncovered skin.
  • Exclude mosquitoes from your living area with screening and/or closed, well-sealed doors and windows.
  • Use insecticide-treated bed nets if mosquitoes cannot be excluded from your living area.
  • Wear permethrin-treated clothing. 

If you develop symptoms similar to malaria when you are travelling or up to a year after you return home, see a health care professional immediately. Tell them where you have been travelling or living. 

In this destination, rabies  may be present in some wildlife species, including bats. Rabies is a deadly disease that spreads to humans primarily through bites or scratches from an infected animal. 

If you are bitten or scratched by an animal while travelling, immediately wash the wound with soap and clean water and see a health care professional. 

Before travel, discuss rabies vaccination with a health care professional. It may be recommended for travellers who will be working directly with wildlife. 

Safe food and water precautions

Many illnesses can be caused by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by bacteria, parasites, toxins, or viruses, or by swimming or bathing in contaminated water.

  • Learn more about food and water precautions to take to avoid getting sick by visiting our eat and drink safely abroad page. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
  • Avoid getting water into your eyes, mouth or nose when swimming or participating in activities in freshwater (streams, canals, lakes), particularly after flooding or heavy rain. Water may look clean but could still be polluted or contaminated.
  • Avoid inhaling or swallowing water while bathing, showering, or swimming in pools or hot tubs. 

Typhoid   is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.

Travellers visiting regions with a risk of typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation, should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.  

Insect bite prevention

Many diseases are spread by the bites of infected insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas or flies. When travelling to areas where infected insects may be present:

  • Use insect repellent (bug spray) on exposed skin
  • Cover up with light-coloured, loose clothes made of tightly woven materials such as nylon or polyester
  • Minimize exposure to insects
  • Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in buildings that are not fully enclosed

To learn more about how you can reduce your risk of infection and disease caused by bites, both at home and abroad, visit our insect bite prevention page.

Find out what types of insects are present where you’re travelling, when they’re most active, and the symptoms of the diseases they spread.

There is a risk of chikungunya in this country.  The risk may vary between regions of a country.  Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.

Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.

Animal precautions

Some infections, such as rabies and influenza, can be shared between humans and animals. Certain types of activities may increase your chance of contact with animals, such as travelling in rural or forested areas, camping, hiking, and visiting wet markets (places where live animals are slaughtered and sold) or caves.

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, livestock (pigs, cows), monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats, and to avoid eating undercooked wild game.

Closely supervise children, as they are more likely to come in contact with animals.

Person-to-person infections

Stay home if you’re sick and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette , which includes coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand. Reduce your risk of colds, the flu and other illnesses by:

  •   washing your hands often
  • avoiding or limiting the amount of time spent in closed spaces, crowded places, or at large-scale events (concerts, sporting events, rallies)
  • avoiding close physical contact with people who may be showing symptoms of illness 

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) , HIV , and mpox are spread through blood and bodily fluids; use condoms, practise safe sex, and limit your number of sexual partners. Check with your local public health authority pre-travel to determine your eligibility for mpox vaccine.  

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care professional.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.

Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities meet Canadian standards. Private hospitals and clinics located in cities are often better staffed and equipped than public or rural facilities. Payment is expected at time of service. Korean medical institutions will not charge insurance companies directly.

Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.

Travel health and safety

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a   travel health kit , especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You must abide by local laws.

Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad .

Police may confiscate your passport and/or detain you during an investigation.

Overview of the criminal law system in South Korea

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines and deportation. Minor violations, including smoking small quantities of an illegal drug such as cannabis (even in a private home) can result in pre-trial detention.

Drugs, alcohol and travel

Support for anti-government organizations

South Korea’s National Security Law prohibits statements and materials that praise anti-government organizations.

Photography

Photography of military installations and government buildings is illegal.

You must carry an International Driving Permit or a South Korean driver’s licence.

Penalties for drinking and driving are severe. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.03%. If the police suspect you of drinking and driving, they could confiscate your driver’s licence on the spot. If you’re convicted, you can expect heavy fines and a jail sentence.

International Driving Permit

Teaching English

Carefully review any contract to teach English in South Korea before signing it, even when arranged by a Canadian recruiter. There have been reports that some contracts have been modified after the fact. Ensure that all terms and conditions of employment are clear before accepting an offer. Ensure that you meet all the necessary requirements.

The Korean government investigates the use of fraudulent documents, degrees and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) certificates. Penalties for using fraudulent documents include arrest, deportation and restrictions on re-entry. Be aware that written contracts may not be binding documents. Verbal agreements often take precedence over written agreements.

Guide for teaching English in Korea

Dual citizenship

South Korea legally recognizes dual citizenship. If you’re a citizen of Canada, but also a citizen of South Korea, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you’re there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements.

The South Korean government considers children born from a Korean and a non-Korean parent to be South Korean citizens until age 18, even if they weren’t born in South Korea. Former Koreans over 65 who wish to live their remaining years in South Korea may be granted citizenship.

A male dual citizen whose name appears on the Korean family relation certificate may be subject to compulsory military service, even when entering South Korea on a Canadian passport. Before travelling to South Korea, Canadian males of Korean origin may need to renounce their Korean citizenship or have their names removed from the Korean family relation certificate to avoid this requirement.

Korean authorities will only recognize you as a Canadian-South Korean citizen if you meet certain criteria. If you think you may have a claim to South Korean citizenship, contact the Embassy of the Republic of Korea or one of its consulates.

  • Entry/exit requirements
  • Foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada
  • General information for travellers with dual citizenship

International Child Abduction

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. The convention applies between Canada and South Korea.

If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in South Korea, and if the applicable conditions are met, you may apply for the return of your child to the South Korean court.

If you are in this situation:

  • act as quickly as you can
  • contact the Central Authority for your province or territory of residence for information on starting an application under The Hague Convention
  • consult a lawyer in Canada and in South Korea to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
  • report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children’s Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre

If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.

Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country’s judicial affairs.

  • List of Canadian Central Authorities for the Hague Convention
  • International Child Abduction: A Guidebook for Left-Behind Parents
  • Travelling with children
  • The Hague Convention - Hague Conference on Private International Law
  • Canadian embassies and consulates by destination
  • Emergency Watch and Response Centre

2SLGBTQI+ travellers

Although the laws of South Korea do not prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex, homosexuality is not socially tolerated. Same sex marriages are not legally recognised in South Korea.

2SLGBTQI+ travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to South Korea.

Travel and your sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics

The currency in South Korea is the won (KRW). Some major banks have ATMs that accept international debit or credit cards. The amount allowed per withdrawal may be quite low, making the service charge excessive. Most ATMs that allow withdrawal of money from Canadian bank accounts offer English instructions.

Rainy and typhoon seasons

The rainy season extends from late June until August. July is usually the wettest month. Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and landslides.

Typhoons occur in August and September. These severe storms can cause significant loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure. They can hamper the provision of essential services.

If you decide to travel to South Korea during the rainy or typhoon seasons:

  • know that you expose yourself to serious safety risks
  • be prepared to change your travel plans on short notice, including cutting short or cancelling your trip
  • stay informed of the latest regional weather forecasts
  • carry emergency contact information for your airline or tour operator
  • follow the advice and instructions of local authorities
  • Korea Meteorological Administration
  • Tornadoes, cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons and monsoons
  • Large-scale emergencies abroad

Air pollution

Air pollution, including yellow dust pollution, is common in South Korea throughout the year and especially in March, April and May.

Air pollution in South Korea - World Air Quality Index

Wildfires are common in the spring months, but are generally contained within inaccessible areas. The air quality in areas near active fires may deteriorate due to heavy smoke. In case of a major fire:

  • stay away from the affected area, particularly if you suffer from respiratory ailments
  • follow the instructions of local emergency services personnel
  • monitor local media for up-to-date information on the situation
  • National Fire Agency  - Korean Ministry of the Interior and Safety
  • Korea Forest Service  - Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Local services

In case of emergency, dial:

  • police: 112
  • medical assistance: 119
  • firefighters: 119

An English interpretation service is available.

Consular assistance

For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada to South Korea and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.

The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.

The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.

If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.

Learn more about consular services .

Risk Levels

  take normal security precautions.

Take similar precautions to those you would take in Canada.

  Exercise a high degree of caution

There are certain safety and security concerns or the situation could change quickly. Be very cautious at all times, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities.

IMPORTANT: The two levels below are official Government of Canada Travel Advisories and are issued when the safety and security of Canadians travelling or living in the country or region may be at risk.

  Avoid non-essential travel

Your safety and security could be at risk. You should think about your need to travel to this country, territory or region based on family or business requirements, knowledge of or familiarity with the region, and other factors. If you are already there, think about whether you really need to be there. If you do not need to be there, you should think about leaving.

  Avoid all travel

You should not travel to this country, territory or region. Your personal safety and security are at great risk. If you are already there, you should think about leaving if it is safe to do so.

In My Korea

Complete South Korea Travel Guide 2024: Korean Travel Tips

Planning a trip to Korea but not sure where to start? First-time traveller who isn’t sure if Korea is the right country for your next trip? Worried about travelling to Korea and facing problems with the Korean language, culture, money, Internet, transportation, hotels, food, or etiquette? Then this complete South Korea travel guide is packed full of tips that you’ll certainly need.

You’ll find all the best Korean travel tips and advice in this article. Whether you’re a first-time traveller to Korea, or you’ve visited before, this South Korea travel guide will show what to see, when to travel, and which places to visit, as well as help you avoid any difficult situations or surprising culture shocks.

This guide is designed to walk you through everything you need to know to prepare for your trip to Korea. You can use it to plan your itinerary, to pre-book travel essentials, to learn about what festivals and seasonal events are on, and to find more reasons to want to travel to Korea right now.

Table of Contents

Affiliate Disclaimer :  This site contains affiliate links and I may earn commission for purchases made after clicking these links.

What’s In This South Korea Travel Guide

South Korea Travel Guide For Seoul And Korea

This South Korea travel guide covers all the essential information you need to plan a trip to Korea. This is useful for first-time travellers to Korea who might not be aware of uniquely Korean cultural and travel issues. Even if you’ve visited Korea before, I’m sure you can learn a lot from this travel guide.

This article contains lots of insights and knowledge about travelling to Korea and is quite long. I’ve added links in each section to articles that provide more information about each topic. Therefore, I suggest viewing this South Korea travel guide on a desktop computer as it will be easier to read.

What Are You Looking For?

To help make it easier for you to find what you’re looking for, I’ve broken this article into the following sections. Click the quick links below to jump straight there or keep reading through all parts.

Korean Travel News And Travel Restrictions

Latest Travel News

Current Requirements To Travel To Korea

Entry Requirements

Why You Should Travel To Korea

Why Visit Korea

The Best Time To Visit Korea

When To Visit

How To Book Flights To Korea

Flights To Korea

Where To Stay In Seoul New

Where To Stay

Cost To Travel In South Korea

Korea Travel Costs

Travel Money And Money Exchanges In Korea

Travel Money

Mobile Phones And Internet In Korea

Phones & Internet

Using Public Transport In Korea

Public Transport

Best Places To Visit In Korea

Where To Visit

Best Day Tours From Seoul

Seoul Day Tours

Best Sights To See In Korea

Sightseeing Spots

Best Activities To Try In Korea

Korean Activities

Best Korean Festivals To Join

Korean Festivals

Recommended Itinerary For Korea

1-Week Itinerary

Cultural Issues When Visiting Korea

Culture Issues

Language Issues When Travelling Korea

Language Issues

Health And Safety Issues In Korea

Health & Safety

Personal Travel Tips For Korea

Korean Travel Tips

Korean Travel News And Travel Restrictions 2024

Latest Korean Travel News

This section of the South Korea travel guide will show you the latest travel news and restriction updates, including any temporary or permanent changes to the entry process, visa changes, and other things that might affect travel to Korea. COVID-related updates will also be posted here.

Latest Korean Travel News In 2024

This section will detail any interesting or important travel news that could affect travellers to Korea, such as price increases in public transport, travel changes, new services, or closures.

The Korean government is aiming to boost tourism to Korea by doubling the amount travellers can claim back in tax when shopping in Korea. From 2024, travellers will be able to claim up to 5,000,000 KRW on eligible purchases with a limit of 1,000,000 KRW tax back per transaction. Source : Korea Herald

From August 2023, the price to travel on buses in Seoul is set to rise. Bus fares will rise to 1,500 KRW per journey. From October 7th, 2023, Seoul’s subway fares will rise to 1,400 KRW per journey. Other cities in Korea will enact similar rises throughout 2023 to cover higher costs of public transportation. Source : Korea Herald

From July 15th, 2023, the requirement to register your health condition through the Q-Code portal will be scrapped. Source : Korea Times

From July 3rd, 2023, children aged 17 years and younger, as well as adults aged 65 and older, will no longer need to apply for a K-ETA to travel to Korea. Furthermore, the validity period has been increased from 2 years to 3 years to make travelling to Korea easier. Source: K-ETA website .

From June 2023, Korea will end almost all pandemic-related restrictions for tourists and locals. Masks will no longer be necessary except in hospitals and infected people no longer face mandatory self-isolation (although the government still recommends 5 days self-isolation). Q-Code requirements haven’t been mentioned, however. Source : Korea Herald .

From April 2023 until December 2024, travellers from 22 countries won’t have to complete a K-ETA when visiting Korea, saving time and money for citizens of those countries. People from other countries still need a K-ETA. Source : K-ETA

The 22 countries temporarily excluded from the K-ETA requirement are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Macao, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, UK, US (including Guam).

From April 2023, all foreigners under 19 years old (18 and under) can now enter major royal palaces and tombs, including Seoul’s Gyeongbokgung Palace, for free. Previously, all foreigners were made to pay a fee to enter. Source : Korea Herald

From March 2023, a quarter of all buses in Seoul will refuse cash payments and allow only card payments using transportation cards, such as the T-Money card. Seoul’s night buses won’t be included for now, and 262 of Seoul’s 370 bus routes will still accept cash. Expect further increases in cash-free buses in the future. Source : Korea Herald

From February 2023, the base fare for a taxi journey in Korea has increased by 1,000 won to a minimum of 4,800 won. The distance that the base fare applies has also been shortened from 2km to 1.6km, which will make fares more expensive. Source : Korea Times

What Are the Current COVID Restrictions In Korea In 2024?

Korean royal guard outside a palace in Seoul

Korea has been removing COVID-related restrictions in the country throughout 2022 and 2023. It is no longer necessary to show a QR code to enter a building and restrictions involving masks and health checks have mostly gone. The latest COVID-related rules for Korea are as follows .

Masks : From Monday, March 20th, Korea has removed the mandatory mask rule for public transport, one of the final places that masks were required for the general public. The only places that require a face mask (from June 1st) are in medical facilities (hospitals). Masks are not mandatory elsewhere, including in schools, shops, restaurants or anywhere outside. Source : Korea Herald

Self-Quarantine : From June 1st, Korea will no longer impose a mandatory self-isolation period on infected people. The government instead ‘recommends’ a period of self-isolation for 5 days to reduce the chance of transmission to other people. Source : Korea Herald

For further details about the latest COVID requirements for entering or travelling in Korea, check out the second section of this South Korea travel guide, which has a list of all the updated entry requirements, including visas, tests, and other considerations.

Planning to visit Korea? These travel essentials will help you plan your trip, get the best deals, and save you time and money before and during your Korean adventure.

Visas & K-ETA: Some travellers to Korea need a Tourist Visa , but most can travel with a Korean Electronic Travel Authorisation (K-ETA). Currently 22 Countries don’t need either one.

How To Stay Connected : Pre-order a Korean Sim Card or a WiFi Router to collect on-arrival at Incheon Airport (desks open 24-hours). Alternatively, download a Korean eSIM for you travels.

Where To Stay : For Seoul, I recommend Myeongdong (convenient), Hongdae (cool culture) or Gangnam (shopping). For Busan, Haeundae (Beach) or Seomyeon (Downtown).

Incheon Airport To Seoul : Take the Airport Express (AREX) to Seoul Station or a Limo Bus across Seoul. Book an Incheon Airport Private Transfer and relax to or from the airport.

Korean Tour Operators : Tour companies that have a big presence in Korea include Klook , Trazy , Viator , and Get Your Guide . These sites offer discounted entry tickets for top attractions.

Seoul City Passes : Visit Seoul’s top attractions for free with a Discover Seoul Pass or Go City Seoul Pass . These passes are great for families and couples visiting Seoul – you can save lots.

How To Get Around : For public transport, grab a T-Money Card . Save money on Korea’s high speed trains with a Korea Rail Pass . To see more of Korea, there are many rental car options from Klook , EconomyBookings , and RentalCars .

Travel Money : Use money exchanges near Myeongdong and Hongdae subway stations for the best exchange rates. Order a Wise Card or WOWPASS to pay by card across Korea.

Flights To Korea : I use flight comparison sites such as Expedia and Skyscanner to find the best flights to Korea from any country. Air Asia is a good option for budget flights from Asia.

Travel Insurance : It is important to insure your trips to protect yourself against the unexpected. World Nomad is a specialized travel insurance provider with options for different coverage for travellers from around the world. You can also purchase cover when you are already travelling.

How To Learn Korean : The language course from 90 Day Korean or Korean Class 101 both have well-structured lessons and lots of useful resources to help you learn Korean.

Current Requirements To Travel To Korea In 2024

Passport and other documents for travelling to Korea

This part of the South Korea travel guide is for tourists . If you plan to travel for business, employment, or other reasons, check your nearest Korean embassy for the latest travel requirements.

Most of the restrictions and requirements for travelling to Korea have now been scrapped. You can see what entry and travel rules are in place for Korea in the table below:

The following section provides more information and exceptions about these requirements:

COVID-positive travellers should avoid travelling to Korea : To avoid infecting others on the way to Korea, as well as in Korea, the Korean government recommends that you shouldn’t travel to Korea if you exhibit COVID-symptoms or have tested positive. Self-quarantine is mandatory in Korea.

There are no PCR or other testing requirements : It is not necessary to take a PCR or other test before travelling to Korea. However, you will be asked to take a test if you show symptoms of COVID or similar illnesses when travelling to or arriving in Korea.

There is no quarantine on arrival : Travellers to Korea no longer need to quarantine when entering Korea. From June 1st, there is only a ‘recommended’ 5 day self-isolation period for infected travellers, but this is not enforced.

Complete the self-health check before or on arrival : From July 15th, 2023, travellers to Korea no longer need to complete a Q-Code self-health check or declare their health status on arrival.

Apply for a K-ETA or tourist visa before travelling : You need to apply for either a K-ETA or tourist visa for South Korea before flying to the country. Entry will be prohibited without the correct one. From April 1st, 2023 until December 31st, 2024, 22 countries are excluded from the K-ETA.

If you’re not sure which of these you need to apply for, more information is provided in the next section of this South Korea travel guide about the K-ETA and tourist visa for Korea.

K-ETA (Korean Electronic Travel Authorisation)

The K-ETA (Korean Electronic Travel Authorisation) is an online travel authorisation that visa-free foreign visitors aged 18 to 65 must obtain before entering the Korea for tourism, visiting relatives, participating in events or meetings, and for business purposes other than profitable activities.

Tourists from 112 eligible countries need to apply for a K-ETA before travelling to Korea and won’t be allowed to board a flight to Korea without it. The approval process isn’t difficult, but requires accommodation details, travel dates, and personal details such as passport number, etc.

From April 1st, 2023 until December 31st, 2024, the Korean government has decided to suspend the K-ETA requirement for travellers from the following 22 countries:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Macao, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, UK, US (including Guam).

The aim is to reduce the burden of travellers coming to Korea and to encourage more people to visit Korea during the ‘Visit Korea Year’, which runs during 2023 and 2024.

Source : K-ETA website news .

From July 3rd, 2023, the Korean government will no longer ask for travellers who are 17 years and younger, or 65 years and older, to apply for a K-ETA when visiting Korea. These are ages based on the time you travel to Korea, not the age when you apply to travel.

Furthermore, the validity period of the K-ETA is now 3 years, not 2 years. The Korean government has decided to extend the validity period to make it easier for people to travel to Korea.

The K-ETA is based on your nationality , not the country you’re travelling from. That means, if you require a tourist visa from your home country (e.g. the Philippines), but are travelling from a country that requires a K-ETA (e.g. the USA), you can’t use the K-ETA to travel to Korea.

Tourists should apply as far in advance as possible at the official K-ETA website. If you would like to know more about the K-ETA, check out my article explaining what is the K-ETA . The K-ETA costs 10,000 KRW (about $9.00 USD). If you are charged more than this, you’re on the wrong site.

Official K-ETA website

Not sure if you need a K-ETA? Check out this infographic to find out.

Do You Need A K-ETA Poster

Will The K-ETA End In The Future?

The K-ETA will continue for the indefinite future. It is not a pandemic-related travel restriction but a permanent feature that just happened to start in 2021. The Korean government have stated that the K-ETA will be ongoing and other countries and areas, such as the EU, are planning similar ETAs.

Update : In July 2023, the Korean government stopped requiring children 17 years and younger and adults 65 years and older to apply for a K-ETA. The validity period was also increased to 3 years.

Update : In April 2023, the Korean government suspended the K-ETA for travellers from 22 countries (listed previously). This is in an effort to reduce the burden on travellers visiting Korea during the ‘Visit Korea Years’ of 2023 and 2024. This lasts until December 2024, but could possibly go on longer.

Tourist Visas For South Korea

Tourists that aren’t from one of the 112 countries that require a K-ETA to travel to Korea will need to apply for a tourist visa. This includes nationals from countries such India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines. Tourist visas are based on nationality (passport), not country of residence.

The process to apply for a tourist visa differs depending on the country and may be as simple as submitting an application at the Korean embassy in the country you live in. For other countries, it may be necessary to submit extra information like bank statements and a full itinerary.

If you need a tourist visa for South Korea, contact your nearest Korean embassy as soon as you can to start the process. Tourist visas may be rejected, delayed, or take longer than expected. For some countries, such as the Philippines, it is necessary to apply through a specialist visa agency.

Transit Tour Visas For South Korea

Travel advisory about visa-free entry to Korea

Visa-free entry for foreign transit passengers at Incheon Airport will resume from May 2023 after being suspended for 3 years during the pandemic. There are two types of visa-free transit entry methods for travellers to Korea, they differ in length, requirements, and eligibility.

The first type of visa-free entry for transit passengers is open to all travellers to Korea and allows entry for 3 days, as long as they take a transit tour from Incheon Airport. The second type of visa-free entry for transit passengers is available for 30 days, but only from travellers from 36 select countries.

Visa-Free Entry For Transit Passengers (3 Days)

From May 15, 2023, travellers from any country can travel from Incheon Airport to the Seoul Metropolitan area for up to 3 days, as long as they book at least 1 transit tour from Incheon Airport. If Korea is not their final destination, they’re free to explore more of Seoul after the tour.

There are a wide range of transit tours available from Incheon Airport, including cultural, historic, food, shopping, and entertainment tours. See the sights of Seoul’s most popular places in a few hours, or stay for longer and see more. You can find out more about transit tours from the Visit Korea website .

Requirements : To be eligible for a transit tour visa, travellers must:

  • Have an onward flight to their home country or a 3rd country after Korea.
  • Participate in a transit tour program by a designated travel agency.
  • Stay within the Seoul Metropolitan area only.
  • Have more than 2 hours between connecting flights.

Eligible countries : Visa-free entry with a transit tour is open to passengers of all countries, as long as they meet the above requirements.

Tip : If you have a transit tour in Korea, I recommend staying in Hongdae , as there is a direct train from Incheon Airport to Hongdae called the All-Stop Airport Line. Hongdae is also a really fun place where you can see lots of culture, try Korean dishes, and pack your suitcase with Korean souvenirs.

Transit passenger tour information for South Korea

Visa-Free Entry For Transit Passengers (30 Days)

This will allow travellers from 36 countries to enter and stay in Korea for up to 30 days without a Korean visa. Travellers must be travelling to or from one of these 36 countries to be eligible to stay in Korea without a visa. This includes passengers who are not citizens of those countries.

Requirements : To be eligible for a visa-free entry as a transit passenger, travellers must:

  • Hold an onward flight to any of the 36 countries mentioned below.
  • Have no illegal stay records of any kind, nor have been denied entry to Korea.
  • Not have exceeded a maximum of 3 days stay in any other transit airport.

Eligible countries : Travellers from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and 32 EU countries (see picture below) can stay for up to 30 days, as long as the above-mentioned requirements are met.

Transit tour information for South Korea

Why You Should Travel To Korea In 2024

Women in hanbok at Korean palace in Seoul

There’s not enough space in this South Korea travel guide to write down all of the reasons why you should travel to South Korea. Korea is an under-appreciated gem that has so much to discover and experience that’s completely different from what you’ll find in other countries.

Much the way that Japan has a very distinct culture and history, Korea has lots of unique, appealing places to see, people to meet, history to learn about, and natural sights to appreciate. Many people only see a small slice of Korean culture and beauty through modern media, but there’s a lot more.

Here are some of the reasons you should travel to Korea:

  • Delicious foods and tasty seasonal dishes.
  • Four distinct seasons that offer a variety of views.
  • Fascinating history to learn about and explore.
  • Stunning mountains and beaches for outdoor lovers.
  • Unique and unusual festivals throughout the year.
  • Friendly locals and a safe country to travel around.
  • Modern, high-tech cities that are clean and efficient.
  • Welcoming Buddhist temples and temple stays.
  • Cheaper than most other developed countries.
  • A shopper’s paradise with many markets and malls .
  • Korea really wants you to come and visit.

Korea wants you to visit so much that they declared 2023-2024 the Visit Korea Year . This two-year period, confusingly referred to as a single year, is set to feature loads of events and activities to draw tourists to Korea, and includes promotions for discounted flights, accommodation, and food.

Some of the events you can expect to see during the Visit Korea Year(s) include K-Pop concerts, e-sports competitions, food festivals, and cultural celebrations. There’ll be K-Cultural stars involved, too, including your favourite K-Pop and K-Drama stars. Get ready to travel to Korea soon!

Want to know what you can do in Korea that you can’t do in other countries? Check out these amazing unique Korean experiences that should definitely be on your Korean bucket list.

The Best Time To Visit Korea

Beautiful Korean Pagoda At Royal Palace In Seoul In Autumn

The best time to visit Korea is in spring (late-March to May) or autumn (mid-September until mid-November). These seasons have the most comfortable weather, ranging from 10 to 30 degrees Celsius, an average amount of rain, and also have the most festivals and events.

My favourite months to travel in Korea are April and October . Early-April is when cherry blossoms come out and the weather warms up enough to stop wearing a jacket. October in Korea is a beautiful month when autumn foliage sweeps across the country and the weather is warm and calm.

When you travel to Korea, the season you travel in can have a big impact on what you can see, eat, and do. This section of the South Korea travel guide is one of the most important and if you want to travel to Korea in the future, I recommend learning about Korea’s seasons before making plans.

What Can You See In Korea Each Season?

Although spring and autumn are undoubtedly the best time to visit Korea, there are plenty of reasons to visit in other seasons, too. Visitors to Korea who are restricted to travelling during certain times, such as during school or work holidays, needn’t be put off by travelling in summer or winter.

Here’s a summary of what you can see and do in each season in Korea:

Spring In Korea Gyeongbokgung Palace

Spring: Cherry Blossoms, Blooming Nature, Culture Festivals

Spring is an amazing season to travel in Korea as you can see colourful plum blossoms (Mar), cherry blossoms (Mar-Apr), and many other bright sights. The warm weather allows people go out more to enjoy cultural activities and spring festivals , such as the Lotus Lantern Festival and Jindo Sea-Parting Festival, and also trekking, hiking, and cycling. Spring is one of the most popular times to travel in Korea for locals, so expect places to be busy, especially around cherry blossom season.

Check out my cherry blossom guide for the best places to see cherry blossoms in Korea.

Summer In Korea Boseong Green Tea Fields

Summer: Beaches, Korean Desserts, Water Sports, Camping

Summer is a difficult season for travellers due to the high humidity and heat. June and July are rainy season in Korea and it may rain for days on end, causing people to change travel plans to indoor activities. In late July and August it gets very hot, which is good for going to the beach and enjoying water sports or water parks, which Korea has many of. Evening activities like hiking, drinking in rooftop bars, and visiting night markets are great ways to get out in summer when it’s not as hot.

Check out my guide to Korean summer activities for the best places to have fun during summer and rainy day activities in Busan in case the weather isn’t so good.

Autumn In Korea Temple Wall Autumn Foliage

Autumn: Foliage, Festivals, Fresh Foods, Harvest Festivals

Autumn is another incredibly popular time to travel in Korea, especially in October when the autumn foliage is at its best. The foliage really brings everything to life, adding shades of colour to plain palace walls, mountains, and parks. The calm weather is warm with clear skies, making it perfect for going into nature to see the fresh fruits and other harvest goods, as well as join in harvest and cultural festivals. Enjoy local Korean dishes, fresh from the farm to your table.

Check out my guide to autumn foliage in Korea for the best places to see the leaves.

Winter In Korea Snowy Temples

Winter: Snow, Winter Sports, Ice Fishing, Light Festivals

Winter in Korea is often neglected due to the cold weather, but is actually a very nice time to travel with delicious winter foods to try. It’s the driest time of year with blue skies making everything bright and beautiful. When it snows, sights look even more incredible. Jeju Island is a great place to visit during winter as it has fresh citrus and colourful camellia flowers to see. You can enjoy winter sports, festivals and activities, such as ice fishing, ice skating, sledding, and more.

Check out my guide to Korean winter activities for the best places to have fun during winter.

What Is The Weather Like In Korea?

The weather in Korea follows a similar pattern each year, spread over five distinct seasons. As well as spring, summer, autumn, and winter, Korea also has a rainy season, which starts around mid-June and finishes mid-July. It doesn’t constantly rain during rainy season, but may do for several days.

There’s always something to do in Korea, no matter what the season. Even rainy season in Korea is fine for travelling, as long as you plan lots of indoor activities and can be flexible with your schedule. Don’t let the weather in Korea put you off visiting, you’ll find plenty to do in each season.

Here’s a summary of the weather in Korea each season:

The graph below shows you the average temperature each month in Seoul. This is an average temperature, so some days will be much hotter and others much colder. I’ve experienced summer temperatures of over 35 degrees and winter nights of -20, so be prepared for both.

Average monthly temperatures in Seoul Korea

The table below shows the average rainfall for each month in Korea, based on records from climate-data.org . The summer months have the most, while winter in Korea is very dry. The rainfall in the winter months can turn to snow when it’s cold enough, too.

There will be more information about the sights, festivals, and events you can enjoy in Korea in later parts of this South Korea travel guide. Check them out for travel ideas for your trip to Korea.

How To Book Flights To Korea

Person looking at flight times

Flying to Korea in 2024 is getting easier with more airlines offering direct or connecting flights to Korea and budget airlines adding more routes to Korea from other parts of Asia and as far away as the USA. There aren’t as many routes as there were in 2019, but they are returning month by month.

Booking a flight to Korea is one of the first things most people do and finding the right flight can really affect your travels. Choosing the right flight not only affects how much money you need to spend, but also when you’ll arrive, how you’ll get to your hotel, and where you’ll arrive in Korea.

Check out my guide to booking flights to Korea to discover the best ways to book a flight to Korea, including the best time to book (21 to 127 days before travel), where to get cheap flights, the various airlines that offer flights to Korea, and lots more.

Arriving At Incheon Airport

Most flights to Korea arrive at Incheon Airport, which is near Seoul. It takes about an hour to get to the centre of Seoul from Incheon Airport and there are various transportation options including a high-speed train, subway, limo buses, taxis, and private transfers.

The best option for transferring from Incheon Airport to your hotel is usually a limo bus as these run to popular areas of Seoul, such as Myeongdong, Hongdae, Gangnam, and Insadong. There’s also a direct train to Seoul Station and a subway that goes to Seoul Station via Hongdae.

Arriving during the daytime gives you the best options for getting from Incheon Airport into Seoul, while nighttime flights will leave you fewer options. There are a few night buses that run, but late arrivals will either need to stay at the airport or book a private transfer or taxi instead. More details about taking a taxi from Incheon Airport can be found in my guide to taxis in Korea .

If you want to book a private transfer direct to your hotel from Incheon Airport, contact Jerry Heng , a freelance driver. I want to recommend Jerry as he has years of experience organising airport pick-ups and drop-offs, as well as personalised tours around Korea. He’s also a friendly guy.

Recommended Flight Comparison Sites

I suggest checking at least one flight comparison website before booking any flights. You can alter the arrival and departure times, flight duration, choose direct or indirect flights, and sort by price to find the perfect flight for you. Skyscanner is my preferred comparison site, but they’re all useful.

Take time to change the dates and flight times to find the most suitable flights for you. Cheaper flights often have inconvenient arrival times, so you should decide whether it’s worth the hassle to save a bit of money. Sometimes spending more for the right flight is worth it, especially when time is limited.

I try to go for a balance of convenience and savings and avoid flights that arrive late at night or leave too early in the morning. These flights require you to book an extra night at the airport or make you lose time when you could be travelling and doing more interesting things.

Here are 4 of the best flight comparison sites for booking flights to Korea:

Skyscanner Flight Comparison Site

Skyscanner is one of the most popular flight aggregators and offers flights, hotels, and other travel bookings for all major destinations. Skyscanner shows airline environmental ratings and which flights are practical or difficult.

Expedia Flight Comparison Site

Expedia is a large US travel company that offers tours, flights, hotels, and other services around the world. You can book hotel and flights together, to save you time and effort when travelling. A good place to start your flight search.

Kayak Flight Comparison Website

Kayak is great for people looking for cheap flights to Korea. You can see price trends for your flight to Korea to see when the best prices are available. There are also lots of budget travel options on the site that can save you more.

Wayaway Flight Comparison Site

WayAway is a flight comparison site for the modern generation, with Instagram tips & travel advice as well as a good selection of cheap flights. You can get cashback on bookings with their premium service.

Where To Stay In Seoul

Popular neighbourhood to stay in Seoul

Incheon Airport is the main arrival destination for most travellers visiting Korea, with more than 71 million travellers passing through the airport in 2019, making it the world’s 14th busiest airport . It’s close to Seoul and has lots of transportation options to get into Korea’s capital.

Seoul is the first place people visit, not only because it’s close to Incheon Airport, but because it’s undeniably the heart and soul of Korea. The greater Seoul area includes about 50% of Korea’s population (25 million people) and is by far the biggest, most vibrant, and fun city in Korea.

To travel to Korea you need either a K-ETA or tourist visa . One of the requirements to apply for these is the address of the first place you’ll be staying in Korea. Therefore, you should book at least your first hotel in Korea so you can begin those applications. Seoul is an ideal first place to stay.

Best Neighbourhoods To Stay In Seoul

Deciding where to stay in Seoul can be difficult because there are so many unique neighbourhoods, each offering something interesting for travellers to experience. Knowing which has the best sights, entertainment, culture, shopping, transport, markets, restaurants, cafes, etc., is useful.

Seoul’s neighbourhoods typically contain a mixture of several of these elements and will appeal to different types of travellers. Below is a very rough guide for which neighbourhood each type of traveller might enjoy. Of course, there are plenty of other things to do in each area.

As you can see from the list above, both Hongdae and Myeongdong have a lot to offer and I would definitely recommend either of these neighbourhoods for first time travellers to Seoul. Even people who have travelled to Korea before will find lots of reasons to stay there. They’re where I usually stay.

I have detailed guides to hotels in the two best districts for staying in Seoul – Hongdae and Myeongdong. My guide to hotels in Hongdae includes a range of hotels for all types of travellers, while my guide to hotels in Myeongdong highlights Myeongdong’s best budget to mid-range hotels.

Each neighbourhood feels unique and offers something to discover, from traditional markets and eateries, modern Insta-worthy cafe districts, peaceful parks and lakes, world-class skyscrapers, and many fun activities. Wherever you choose to stay, you’re sure to find something you enjoy.

I’ve included the 8 best neighbourhoods in Seoul in this South Korea travel guide, along with a small summary about what you can expect in each area. These are the most popular areas for tourists to stay in, but certainly not the only places to stay. There are also links to hotels in these areas.

Here are the 8 best neighbourhoods in Seoul:

Myeongdong shopping sights and traditional markets

Myeongdong is arguably one of the best places to stay in Seoul for any traveller. It has the best range of budget and mid-range hotels in Seoul and is conveniently located for sights, activities, and public transport. It’s close to popular tourist sites, such as the N Seoul Tower and royal palaces. There are traditional markets and Myeongdong’s famous street food alley to check out. As Myeongdong is popular with tourists, you’ll find more people that can speak English and places to exchange money.

Hongdae youth culture shopping and dining area

Hongdae is one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Seoul and a must-see for any traveller to the city. This area has emerged as a creative hotbed for the latest Korean fashion, art, food, and culture, thanks to innovations from students of nearby universities. Youth culture is on display in Hongdae’s main and side streets, with boutique shops, trendy bars and cafes, inventive restaurants, street art, and live performances. If you want to see a vibrant, colourful side of Seoul, then Hongdae is the place for you.

Gangnam luxury shopping and modern k-culture

Gangnam is an upscale area of Seoul that’s home to some of Korea’s biggest stars. This area was where K-Pop was invented, as can be seen by the golden Gangnam Style statue outside COEX Mall. Gangnam is a lot more than that, and is a powerful business area with Seoul’s best shopping and dining experiences, as well as some of the city’s finest cafes and bars. Gangnam has a host of upmarket hotels that provide outstanding luxury, but also has a selection of budget and mid-range hotels making it accessible for all travellers.

Jongno Neighbourhood in Seoul traditional sights and hanok houses

Jongno is the area north of Myeongdong that includes Insadong, Bukchon Hanok Village, Ikseongdong Hanok Village, Jogyesa Temple, 4 of Seoul’s royal palaces, the presidential Blue House, and lots more. This area is packed full of interesting sights and traditional restaurants and tea houses to explore. You can find a good range of hotels in Insadong, Seoul’s artistic area that is home to artists and tourist-friendly attractions. There are also guesthouses and apartments to rent in the residential areas of Jongno that offer a more homely stay.

Jamsil luxury shopping theme parks and nature

Jamsil is an upmarket residential neigbourhood close to Gangnam that’s home to one of Korea’s largest companies, Lotte. You’ll find the Lotte World Tower, Lotte World Theme Park, and Lotte Aquarium in this area, as well as the beautiful Seokchon Lake and leafy Olympic Park. Jamsil is a great base for people visiting for cherry blossoms in spring as the Seokchon Lake Cherry Blossom Festival is one of Seoul’s best. There are lots of trendy cafes and bars near the lake and it’s a relaxed part of the city to stay in.

Dongdaemun neighbourhood traditional markets and modern culture

Dongdaemun is known for both its traditional markets, where you can buy a range of goods, as well as the futuristic Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). The area is an unusual mix of traditional Seoul, with Gwangjang Market offering some of Seoul’s best Korean street food, and modern culture, displayed by the night markets and art installations at the DDP. There are lots of cheap eats and bargain markets and malls in this area, making it a great place to stay if you plan to do a lot of bargain shopping in Seoul.

Yongsan International culture and Korean history

Yongsan is the area encompassing the N Seoul Tower, the popular international area of Itaewon, the trendy hilltop area of Haebangchon (HBC), Seoul Station, the National Museum of Seoul, and many riverside parks. Yongsan has a busy train station with towering skyscrapers and hotels around it catering to business and luxury travellers, as well as shoppers. This quiet business and residential area has good transport links and fewer crowds than other parts of Seoul, as well as interesting cultural attractions.

Yeoudio riverside parks and business district

Yeouido is a large island that rests in the Han River, overlooking Hongdae and Yongsan. It has some of the best parks in Seoul and is a popular place for locals to walk along the river on weekends and at night. These parks are home to Seoul’s biggest cherry blossom festivals, as well as summer night markets, fireworks performances, live music, and people enjoying life outside of work. Yeouido is the upmarket financial centre of Seoul, making it an ideal base for business, luxury, and family travellers.

Seoul’s neighbourhoods are informal designations, not necessarily the official district name. For example, Hongdae is a neighbourhood in the Mapo-gu district and Myeongdong a neighbourhood in the Jung-gu district. Whereas Jongno is both the neighbourhood and district name (Jongno-gu).

You might see some areas referred to differently. However, the terms I’ve used in this section are the names most commonly used to describe these areas by tourists and expats. Koreans will certainly know which area of Seoul you’re talking about when you use these names.

Learn more : If you want to know more about Seoul’s best districts and figure out where the best place to stay for your trip to Korea, then check out my detailed guide about where to stay in Seoul . It’s packed with useful info about each neighbourhood, hotel recommendations for different budgets, and tips about booking accommodation in Seoul. Also learn more about the Han River Boat Service launching in 2024 to connect Yeoudio, Jamsil and other riverside destinations.

Hotel Recommendations For Seoul

Hotel room in Seoul for travellers

There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of hotels in Seoul to choose from ranging from multi-person dorm rooms to the height of luxury looking down over Seoul from a 5-star hotel room in the Lotte World Tower . Whatever your budget or requirements, there’ll be somewhere to stay in Seoul for you.

To save you time searching for the best places to stay in Seoul, I’ve created a list of the 9 best luxury, mid-range, and budget hotels in Seoul, as well as 6 long-stay serviced apartments. This list has been created based on customer reviews, location, facilities, amenities, reputation, and quality.

I live outside of Seoul, so often book hotels when I’m visiting Seoul for the weekend . I’ve stayed at quite a few of these, so can personally recommend them based on my own experience. I’ve had both good and bad hotel experiences in Seoul and only want to recommend the best to you.

Recommended Luxury Hotels

Seoul has some incredible luxury hotels to enjoy, each with a true 5-star service, excellent amenities, and delectable restaurants. Many of Seoul’s best luxury hotels are located in Gangnam, Seoul’s wealthiest district, where you can find top restaurants and designer brand shopping.

Recommended Mid-Range Hotels

If you want to experience a luxurious stay in Seoul without breaking the bank, then these mid-range hotels will be perfect for you. These unique, 4-star hotels are reasonably priced and provide stylish, comfortable rooms that you’ll sleep easily in after a busy day exploring Seoul.

Recommended Budget Hotels

Seoul has a wide range of excellent budget hotels with prices that might surprise you for a large city. These are some of my favourite places to stay in Seoul when I visit for the weekend and are popular with travellers due to their convenient location, facilities, and comfortable beds.

Recommended Serviced Apartments

If you plan to stay in Seoul for a month or more, these serviced apartments will provide you all the comforts of home with the benefits of staying at a hotel. These excellent serviced apartments come with cleaning services, health facilities, cooking facilities, and are value for money.

Cost To Travel In South Korea In 2024

Korean won Korean money

This part of the South Korea travel guide will help you understand some of your expected costs to travel to Korea. The costs to travel to Korea include flights, accommodation, food, drinks, transportation, activities, sim cards, visas, souvenirs, travel insurance, and lots more.

The costs you will pay when you travel vary massively depending on what type of traveller you are and what style of travel you can afford. If you want 5-star luxury and fine-dining, your budget will be very different from someone eating ramyeon from 7-11 and staying in a budget guesthouse.

Therefore, I will try to provide expected costs for 3 different types of traveller – budget , mid-range , and luxury . These aren’t exact figures, but should give you a rough idea of how much you’ll spend.

Daily Costs To Travel In Korea

There are costs that you will pay each day when travelling in Korea that can be averaged out to give you a daily cost. Knowing these figures will help you plan your budget for Korea and to see where you can afford to spend more for the one-off costs to travel, which will be covered next.

The daily costs are accommodation, food & drinks, transportation, attractions & tours, and miscellaneous expenses that can pop up unexpectedly. These miscellaneous costs might include getting a street food snack, an unexpected entrance fee, or a few extra drinks in the evening.

Transportation will be covered later in this South Korea travel guide and there are some useful tips to reduce your transportation costs. You will also be able to see some of the best attractions, tours, and activities in Korea and you’ll be able to work out how much you’ll spend on those.

Here are the daily costs per person to travel in Korea:

Please note : These are costs per day, per person . Couples and families sharing a room will have lower costs as double rooms aren’t much more expensive than single rooms. Some days will be cheaper, some much more expensive, especially if you take day trips or visit premium attractions.

There are also one-off costs not included in these daily costs. These can be pre-travel costs, such as flights and a K-ETA or tourist visa (already covered), travel insurance, vaccinations, and such like. Pre-travel costs are different for each traveller and depend on your country of residence.

Other one-off costs during travel in Korea may include day tours, souvenirs, shopping, celebrations, medical costs, and expenses that you don’t normally pay each day. Again, these vary for each traveller and are difficult to calculate as people’s budgets are so different.

Is Korea A Cheap Country To Travel In?

cost to travel in Korea

Korea is relatively cheap country to visit, but certainly isn’t always a budget destination. The cost to travel to Korea has risen over the last few years and might be more expensive than you think, even if you’ve previously visited Korea. Flying to Korea is certainly more expensive now.

Food costs rose by 7.5% in 2022 alone and these costs have been passed on to restaurants, which now charge higher prices for meals. Transportation costs rose by about 20% in 2023 for buses and subways, although these are still relatively cheap compared to some countries.

Despite these price increases, travelling in Korea is still cheaper than travelling in most other high-income industrialised countries such as Japan, the USA, and Western Europe. If you’re from countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, or Malaysia, Korea may seem expensive.

City Passes That Save You Money In Seoul

There are a number of city passes that can save you money when visiting Seoul by offering free or discounted entry to some of the best attractions in the city for a single price. The original city pass for Seoul is the Discover Seoul Pass, but now there is also the Go City Pass and Klook Pass Seoul.

Here’s a summary of each of these Seoul city passes:

Discover Seoul Pass : Available in 24 | 48 | 72 hour periods, allows entry to top attractions in Seoul such as Lotte World Adventure, N Seoul Tower, COEX Aquarium, Alive Museum, Zoolung Zoolung, Sealala Sauna, Gyeongbokgung Palace, and more. Prices start at 50,000 KRW .

Go City Seoul Pass : Available as 1 – 5 day passes or a flexible pass for up to 7 attractions. Covers a wider amount of attractions than the DSP, including a DMZ Tour, Nanta Cookin’ Musical, Seoul Land, Seoul Pub Crawl, Seoul Ghost Tour, and more. Prices start at 68,000 KRW .

Klook Pass Seoul : Available for use 2 – 5 attractions, including Everland or Lotte World Adventure theme parks. The Klook Pass Seoul allows free entry to selected attractions within a 30 day period. Attractions include the N Seoul Tower and Lotte World Aquarium. Prices start at 44,000 KRW .

If you’d like to know more about these passes, be sure to check out my article about the Klook Pass Seoul , as well as my suggested Discover Seoul Pass itineraries . I’ll have a review article of the Go City Seoul Pass soon, too.

How To Save Money In Korea

How to save money in Korean won

There are always ways to save money and spend less in Korea. Budget options exist for travellers and you can travel in Korea for less than 150,000 KRW per day, even as little as 50,000 KRW per day. Here are some of the ways you can save money in Korea and travel more for less:

Eat like a local : Visit the traditional markets, food stalls, and traditional Korean restaurants. These are much cheaper than eating foreign foods in Korea. University areas are usually cheap, too.

Spend less on coffee : Coffee in Korea can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. A latte could cost you 5,000 KRW in a chain store, but there are cheap hole-in-the-wall cafes where it’s half that.

Shop in the markets : From designer goods (possibly fake) to souvenirs, the markets of Seoul and other cities usually have the best prices. Don’t be afraid to haggle.

Use public transport : Korea has a fantastic public transport network both in cities and between cities. Don’t waste money on taxis and private transfers when you can use a bus or subway.

Book everything online : You can find discounted entry and tour tickets online that are much cheaper than the regular price. Use Klook , Get Your Guide , and Viator for the best prices.

Stay in guesthouses and hostels : You can find rooms for as little as 10,000 KRW per night in shared dorms and 20,000 KRW in guesthouses. Book ahead to find the best prices.

Take advantage of free things : There are lots of places you can visit for free in Seoul and free services, such as walking tours in Seoul, 30-minute hanbok rentals, and even free entry to the palaces.

Get your tax back : Korea makes it really easy to recover tax you’ve paid when shopping. Stores in Seoul will process tax returns for you or you can claim a refund at the airport when you leave.

You will see tips and links in this South Korea travel guide that are designed to help you save money when you visit Korea. Booking tours, attractions, and sim cards in advance can save you a lot of money, as can using a T-Money card and Wise travel card. Keep reading for more money-saving tips.

Travel Money And Money Exchanges In Korea

Korean won travel money

If you follow the tips in this section of this South Korea travel guide, you can certainly save yourself a lot of money and avoid unnecessary fees when spending in Korea. Learn where and how to exchange money, how to avoid ATM and card fees, and how to get tax back before you leave.

Because this section covers a lot of the common questions people ask about travel money in Korea, it will be broken down into a question and answer format. This should make it easier for you to find the information you’re looking for and discover answers you didn’t know you were looking for.

Can You Use A Foreign Card In Korea?

Almost all foreign credit cards with Visa or Mastercard will be accepted in Korea and it is possible to use these cards to pay across the country. American Express is also accepted in popular tourist areas, but not as widely as Visa or Mastercard and may have problems outside of big cities.

Foreign debit cards should work if they use Visa or Mastercard, but there may be restrictions in place with your bank when using them abroad. It is recommended that you call your bank to check before travelling. For both credit and debit cards, check your bank for any fees you’ll pay overseas.

Can You Withdraw Cash From An ATM In Korea?

Foreign Currency Global ATM in Korea

You can withdraw cash from ATMs in Korea using a debit card, but not all ATMs will accept international cards. Look for a sign saying ‘Global ATM’ or ‘Foreign Currency ATM’ to withdraw cash in Korea with a debit card. You can also withdraw cash using a credit card, but it’s more expensive.

Whether you use a debit or credit card, an ATM is likely to charge a fee to withdraw money using a foreign card. Your bank or credit card company may also charge a fee or give a bad exchange rate. These costs can add up a lot if you withdraw regularly, so try to make fewer withdrawals.

Learn more : Should you use cash or card when you visit Korea? This article about the how to pay in Korea has lots of useful information about payment methods in Korea, including alternatives to the usual mix of cash and a credit card.

How Can You Save Money When Paying By Card In Korea?

Instead of using a foreign debit or credit card in Korea, which might have expensive fees or not work in places, here are two better options. The first is the WOWPASS travel card , which offers tourist-friendly card services in Korea. The other is to apply for a travel card that can be used globally.

Both the WOWPASS and the two other travel cards offer the ability to pay by card in Korea and to withdraw cash in Korean won. They also offer better exchange rates than you’ll find in airport or local money exchanges in Korea. They each have some unique features, which will be illustrated below.

Pay Like A Local With WOWPASS

The WOWPASS is a new way to pay in Korea that combines the essential functions of a T-Money transportation card with the benefits of a local debit card. This is a prepaid card you can top up at more than 90 locations in KRW or your own currency. Just look for the bright orange WOW machines.

WOWPASS Money Exchange Machine In Seoul

The T-Money function in the WOWPASS means it’s more useful than other travel cards as you don’t need to carry two separate cards when you travel. Please note, you still need to charge the T-Money balance of WOWPASS with cash, just like a regular T-Money card.

The WOWPASS travel card allows you to add up to 1,000,000 KRW to your card and can be used to pay for almost anything in Korea without any fees. The card is issued by a Korean company, so you can use it to withdraw cash at any WOWPASS machine located in Seoul & other cities in Korea.

Paying with a WOWPASS card in Korea

Thanks to the user-friendly WOWPASS app, users can freeze or replace their card, check their spending, add funds, and check exchange rates. Because the WOWPASS isn’t tied to your home bank account, it also reduces the damage by card fraud, in case the worst was to happen.

As well as a regular WOWPASS, you can also reserve the All-In-One Airport Package , which includes the WOWPASS, 10,000 KRW T-Money balance, and a discounted Korean sim card. This is really useful for those who want to get connected and travelling as soon as they arrive in Korea. Get the WOWPASS app for Android or Apple .

Tip : Use the invitation code INMYKOR1 to get cashback on WOWPASS top-ups in foreign currency.

Overseas Travel Cards You Can Use In Korea

Overseas travel cards are another option for spending in Korea and I use them myself to spend money from my UK bank account in Korea, as well as when travelling in other countries. They’re really simple to use and are much cheaper than paying with my foreign card or exchanging money.

Two of the leading travel card companies are Wise and Revolut . I use both of these to pay for things in Korea and have written an article about how to use the Wise card in Korea . You can use them to pay for hotels, food, drinks, transportation, taxis, attractions, and lots more. They’re really useful.

Here’s a summary of the main features of these travel cards:

Wise Travel Card for spending in Korea

The Wise travel card allows you to easily transfer and convert money from your home bank account into dozens of other currencies and use this money to pay when you’re travelling. You only need to transfer as much as you plan to spend and can easily transfer back anything you haven’t. The exchange rate will be better than your bank or a money exchange offers, too.

A versatile, easy to use app breaks down what you’ve spent by category so you can track your travel spending. You can withdraw cash from ATMs, pay by QR code, use it for Google Pay, and pay by contactless. Even if you lose your card, you can still spend money. It’s also really safe as you can freeze your card, set spending limits, and limit how much money you transfer.

Revolut Travel Card for spending in Korea

The Revolut travel card can be used in Korea to pay for a wide range of goods and services without expensive fees for spending your home currency overseas. Unlike the Wise travel card, which lets you transfer money into different currencies and then spend in a local currency, such as Korean won, the Revolut travel card lets you pay fee-free with your home currency.

The Revolut travel card comes with an easy to use app that can be used to manage your money both at home and when travelling in Korea. You can check your spending with categories and reports and set budgets for your spending. The Revolut travel card also offers cashback in the US, stock and crypto investments, and the same security features as the Wise travel card.

Can You Use Apple Pay In Korea?

Apple Pay wasn’t previously available in Korea due to a lack of approval by Korea’s financial regulator. However, in February 2023, Apple Pay received approval to begin operating in Korea through the Hyundai Card Co., allowing payments with Apple devices from March 2023 onwards.

The Apple Pay payment system has been available in Korea since March 21st , 2023 and allows Apple Pay members to pay for goods and services at NFC-enabled payment terminals. However, on the launch date of Apple Pay, there were only 70,000 NFC-enabled payment terminals in Korea.

The lack of NFC-enabled payment terminals will be a big issue for Apple Pay users in Korea as there are around 2,900,000 shops in Korea and most won’t accept Apple Pay. Franchises like Starbucks can’t accept Apple Pay and it can’t be used to pay for public transport. You’ll need a T-Money card.

Samsung Pay, which uses MST technology, not NFC, currently dominates the Korean market. NFC-enabled terminals should grow, especially in tourist areas and city-centres from 2023 onwards. This will be good news for Google Pay, which also uses NFC technology and also isn’t in use in Korea yet.

Should You Exchange Money Before Travelling To Korea?

It is not necessary to exchange money into Korean won before travelling to Korea, but it can certainly be useful to have a small amount of money. Exchange rates for Korean won outside Korea may not be as good as within Korea and changing large amounts of cash before you travel isn’t essential.

It might be hard to get Korean won from your local bank or money exchange as it’s not one of the most commonly exchanged currencies. Therefore, you might find exchange rates less favourable and extra fees applied to exchange money. Using travel cards like Wise or Revolut is a better option.

Should You Change Money At Incheon Airport?

Foreign Currency Exchange at Incheon Airport

I’ve travelled around the world and always avoid exchanging money at the airport if I can help it. Airports often have the worst rates for money exchange as they know people need to get local cash, there aren’t many other options, and you need at least a bit of money to travel to your hotel.

Incheon Airport is an exception to this rule and I’ve compared travel exchange rates at several times when flying into and out of the airport. The foreign currency exchange rates at Incheon Airport aren’t that bad and are just slightly higher than what you’d find in Seoul. Not the best, but not bad.

There are also Global ATMs at Incheon Airport, so you can withdraw cash here. If you have a Wise or Revolut travel card, you can withdraw up to $200 fee-free from an ATM in Korea. However, Korean banks will charge a withdrawal fee (about 3,000 KRW), which applies to any foreign card used.

Where Can You Exchange Money In Seoul?

Seoul is the first destination for most travellers to Korea and if you want to save money on exchange rate fees, I recommend exchanging money in the capital. There are two main options for exchanging money easily and quickly in Seoul – WOW money exchange machines and money exchanges.

Here’s a summary about the two main ways to exchange money in Seoul:

WOWPASS Logo

The cheapest and most convenient option for exchanging money in Seoul is through a WOW money exchange machine. This automated machine gives the best exchange rates and can quickly and easily exchange foreign cash for Korean won. It doesn’t accept card payments, only cash. All you need to do is scan your passport and deposit your cash and it will convert it into Korean won immediately. There are dozens of these machines in Seoul, as well as in other cities like Busan and Daejeon.

Money Exchanges In Seoul

The traditional way to exchange foreign currency in Seoul was through a money exchange. You can find these in Myeongdong, where many tourists stay and visit in Seoul. There are also money exchanges inside banks and in other tourist hotspots. These used to be the best place to exchange money, until the WOW money exchanges were introduced and travel cards like Wise and Revolut made it easier to use a card. If you want to use a money exchange in Seoul, Myeongdong is the best place to do it.

Can You Get Tax Back When Shopping In Korea?

Travellers to Korea can claim tax back on eligible purchases during their trip. This can be done immediately after you purchase an item (if the shop offers the service) or at Incheon Airport or other airports in Korea before you depart.

Instant tax refunds are available at certain locations in Seoul and other big cities. These are usually department stores and large chain stores. You are able to claim tax refunds for goods up to a total value of 2,500,000 KRW (incl. tax). There is a tax refund limit of 500,000 KRW per transaction.

2024 Tax Refund Changes : From 2024, the tax refund limits will be doubled, so you will be able to claim up to 5,000,000 KRW of tax back and claim up to 1,000,000 KRW back per transaction. Source: Korea Herald .

To claim a tax refund you need:

  • To show your passport
  • To be a tourist in Korea
  • To spend between 30,000 to 300,000 KRW in one place
  • To be leaving Korea within 3 months

Tax isn’t refundable on all purchases, so be sure to check when shopping. Tax refunds can also be claimed at the airport as long as you have the receipt and the goods you’ve purchased.

Mobile Phones And Internet In Korea

Using a phone while travelling in Korea

Staying connected to the Internet when visiting Korea is becoming more and more essential these days. Keeping your mobile phone, tablet, or computer connected to the web is useful not only to stay in touch with people back home, but also to help you save money and travel Korea more easily.

There are several options to stay connected in Korea when you travel. The main options for travellers are tourist SIM cards, either physical or eSIMs, portable WiFi routers, and relying on free WiFi provided in public places and hotels. All of these are good options, but there are other considerations, too.

This South Korea travel guide will cover the main differences between Korean SIM cards and portable WiFi routers and which will be most suitable for you. There are also details about why you might want a Korean phone number and which apps to use to help you travel in Korea.

Don’t forget, if you bring your phone or other mobile devices to Korea, you’ll need a travel adapter .

Should You Get A Korean SIM Card Or WiFi Router?

Both a Korean SIM card or portable WiFi router will provide access to Korea’s high-speed mobile networks and keep you connected to the Internet. They provide a secure internet connection, but do so in a different way and with different available features. Find out about the best Korean SIM card for tourists in this SK SIM card review .

Here are the main features of Korean SIM cards and WiFi routers:

Costs : SIM cards and WiFi routers are similarly priced when using them for a two week period, but they are charged in different ways. SIM cards are fixed-price and can be bought for set time periods, whereas WiFi routers are charged daily. WiFi routers are cheaper in the short-term.

Ease of use : If you purchase or pre-order a SIM card or portable WiFi router at Incheon Airport, which I highly recommend, the staff will install or setup everything for you. Once they’re activated, it’s very simple to use either one. Cancelling and returning them at the airport is also easy for both.

Here are the reasons you should get a Korean SIM card or portable WiFi router in Korea:

Korean sim cards to make phone calls

You should get a Korean SIM card when visiting Korea to get a Korean phone number. The benefits of having a Korean phone number are mainly to make calls and use Korean apps. SIM cards are also useful if you want a secure connection everywhere you go and plan to make calls or send texts. When you have a SIM card, you can tether your network connection to connect other devices you own. Korean phone coverage is amazing and you’ll get service everywhere. SIM cards don’t require you to carry any extra devices and are cheaper over the long-run than WiFi routers.

portable wifi routers in Korea

You should get a portable WiFi router if you’re travelling in a group or as a family as you can connect multiple devices to one router. This is much cheaper than getting separate SIM cards for all travellers, but also requires people stay close together. WiFi routers are charged per day and if you need additional days, they’ll be automatically added and charged when you return the router. This means you’ll never have to worry about your service suddenly ending. The main downside to using a WiFi router is the lack of Korean phone number, but that might not be an issue if you don’t need one.

Where Can You Get Korean SIM Cards Or WiFi Routers?

Sim card and wifi routers at Incheon Airport Korea

You can get a Korean SIM card or portable WiFi router in several ways. The easiest way, and one that I definitely recommend, is to purchase online through a tour company such as Klook , Viator , or Get Your Guide , and get a SIM card at Incheon Airport or other entry point into Korea when you arrive..

The main reason I recommend this method is that you can guarantee you will get a SIM card or router and it will be waiting for you when you arrive. The collection desks at Incheon Airport are open 24-hours a day and they will help you install everything you need to get started immediately.

You can also get SIM cards and WiFi routers when you arrive at the airport and you should find similar rates. However, you won’t be guaranteed a device and you will need to pay in person. When you book online, you can pay in your home currency and avoid those issues.

I don’t recommend getting a SIM card or WiFi router in Seoul or other cities. It is possible, but you may run into language issues and find less tourist-friendly options. Phone shops outside the airport usually cater to Koreans, not tourists. Airport rentals are the easiest options for visitors to Korea.

What’s The Benefit Of A Korean Phone Number For Tourists?

There are two main benefits of having a Korean phone number for tourists. The first benefit is the ability to call people when you’re in Korea. This can be useful for making reservations, keeping in touch with people, and in case of emergencies.

The second benefit of having a Korean phone number is the ability to use Korean apps . It isn’t mandatory to have a Korean phone number to use Korean apps, but most won’t let you use their services unless you sign up with a phone number. Using Korean apps makes travelling easier.

A phone number is like a form of identity in Korea, which is why you need your passport to register a SIM card. Once you have a phone number, many more services are available, including food delivery, ordering taxis, making reservations (such as for the Busan Sky Capsule ), and online messaging.

What Apps Do I Need For Travelling In Korea?

If you have a Korean phone number, you can use Korean apps. Even without a Korean number, you can still download these apps and use some of their services. Full features typically require a phone number though. There are other, non-Korean apps that will help you when travelling, too.

Here are the most useful apps to use when travelling in Korea:

Papago : This is the essential translation tool for visiting Korea. Papago’s translation services are the best and you can use the app to take pictures and translate Korean signs, menus, and other pictures.

Naver Maps : To find your way around Korea, use Naver Maps or Kakao Maps. Their systems are much more accurate in Korea than Google Maps. Use them to plan travel routes and transport times.

Kakao Taxi : Uber and Grab don’t really exist in Korea, so if you plan to take a taxi, you’ll need to use Kakao Taxi. Simple to use and takes the hassle out of trying to use Korean to give directions.

Kakao Talk : This is Korea’s most popular messaging app and is useful for keeping in touch with Korean friends, contacting businesses in Korea, and even calling abroad.

Seoul Subway : Use this app to travel around Seoul’s underground more easily. Plan your route, see when the next train is due to arrive, check connections, and see how late the trains run.

Korail Talk : This app allows you to book trains on Korea’s high-speed train network and regular train routes. This app has an English setting, so you can check train times and prices easily.

Coupang Eats : This is a food-delivery app that allows you to order almost anything edible and get it sent directly to you. You can even order convenience store goods. Useful for rainy days.

Mango Plate : Find restaurants in Korea with this app and discover the best places to go out and eat. You can also see restaurant details and get directions in Naver Maps and Kakao Maps.

WOWPASS : To use the WOWPASS to pay like a local in Korea and for T-Money functions, you’ll need the WOWPASS app. This will let you check your balances and spending and control your card.

Wise & Revolut : As mentioned in this South Korea travel guide, using a travel card to pay for items in Korea will save you money when you travel. If you use Wise or Revolut, make sure you have the app.

Klook : This company provides some of the best tours in Korea and if you make bookings through their website, you can easily manage them with the Klook app.

Intercity Bus by T-Money : This app is great for booking buses between cities in Korea. There is an English version that allows you to book tickets, check times, and see available seats.

These apps should be available on both Android and Apple. Some of these apps might default to Korean, but you should be able to change them to English in the side menu.

Is There Free WiFi In Korea?

Travellers in Korea have the option to not get a sim card or portable WiFi but still stay connected. This is thanks to the excellent Free Wifi in Korea that is provided in public transport, government buildings, restaurants, cafes, and many other places. This is mostly in the cities, however.

Hotels also provide free WiFi in most cities in Korea. If you plan to rely on free WiFi, I recommend using the hotel’s WiFi to plan routes, check opening times, and research places you want to visit. Take screenshots of these details so you can see them later, even if you don’t have Internet access.

The only warning I would give about relying on free WiFi when travelling in Korea is the increased use of mobile-dependent apps and passes in Korea. Physical tickets and passes are being phased out in favour of digital versions, which often need an active Internet connection to use.

I’ve noticed in recent years that services that impact travellers have moved to digital versions. This includes the T-Money card, Discover Seoul Pass, train and coach tickets, attraction tickets and event tickets. I believe that having a reliable net connection will be a must for most travellers soon.

Using Public Transport In Korea In 2024

Public transport in Korea ITX train

This section of the South Korea travel guide looks at Korea’s public transport system and how to navigate it as a traveller. Korea has arguably one of the best public transport systems in the world. It’s cheap, well-connected, frequent, and runs on time. Other countries could learn a lot from Korea.

The great news for tourists is that Korea’s public transport is very foreigner friendly and information is provided in English in almost all places, as well as Chinese and Japanese in popular areas such as Seoul and Busan. Travelling by public transport in Korea is cheap, easy, and convenient.

How Much Does Public Transport Cost In Korea?

The cost of public transportation in Korea is fixed, no matter what day you purchase tickets on. If you buy one month in advance, or last minute, you will pay the same price for the journey. Journeys within a city are a single price and not dependent on how far you travel, unless you leave the city limits.

All journeys are single fares and you can’t buy return tickets. You will need to buy two singles when you want to travel somewhere and back again. The cost of a single fare depends on how you pay for the ticket – by cash or with a transportation card.

Here are the costs for public transport in Korea by payment method, type and user:

Please note : The cost of subway rides is set to rise to 1,400 / 1,500 KRW in October 2023. These prices will be adjusted when this occurs.

How Do You Pay For Public Transport In Korea?

The cost of public transport in Korea depends on whether you pay with a transportation card, such as T-Money, a Korea Tour Card , or Cashbee, or in cash. This applies to both subways and buses. If you use a transportation card, you should add credit to it, then touch it to the card reader at the subway or bus to pay.

To use cash to buy a subway ticket, you will need to buy a ticket at the station. For buses, you should pay the correct fare to the driver when boarding the bus. However, since 2022, buses across Korea have started to end the use of cash and some will insist on payment by transportation card only.

In the future, bus payments are expected to become simpler with fares deducted via bluetooth-enabled phones that have the relevant app downloaded. This system has already been in place in Gyeonggi Province since March 2022 and is likely to spread to more bus routes in the future.

I highly recommend getting a T-Money card when you travel to Korea. You can use it to pay for public transportation (at a discounted rate), and it will work almost everywhere in Korea. It can also be used to buy goods from shops, cafes, and restaurants. It’s really convenient and a must-have for Korea.

Using T-Money To Pay For Public Transport In Korea

T-Money card machine to pay for public transport in Korea

A T-Money card is the essential transportation card for using public transport in Korea. You can purchase one at Incheon Airport, subway and train stations, and convenience stores across Korea. The card can be used in many places. It never expires, so you can use it on different trips, too.

Here is how to use a T-Money card in Korea:

  • Purchase a T-Money card (2,500 KRW)
  • Add money to the card (cash top-up only)
  • Enter the bus or subway station
  • Tap the T-Money card against the card reader (see pic above)
  • Tap the T-Money card again when you get off (for transfer discount)
  • Recharge when necessary

I recommend adding about 10,000 KRW for each day you plan to travel in Korea. That means about 70,000 KRW for a week. You can add more money later if necessary. You can top up at convenience stores and transport stations. There is also an app version of T-Money, but the card version is better.

How Do You Use Trains In Korea?

Korean high speed trains KTX

The train network in Korea is divided into high-speed trains (KTX) and regular trains (ITX and Mugunghwa). The KTX network connects major cities in Korea and is convenient for travelling around Korea quickly and cheaply. The carriages are comfortable and come with modern facilities.

Unlike other forms of public transport in Korea, transportation cards like T-Money aren’t accepted for trains. You will need to buy a train ticket to travel and all tickets are single tickets. The price to buy a ticket doesn’t change and you can refund a ticket up to the last minute for only a small fee.

You can book tickets within 30 days of travel through the official Korail website or app, or at a train station in Korea. Unfortunately, buying a train ticket online in Korea can be difficult as Korean payment systems often reject cards issued outside of Korea. Buying in person is recommended.

How To Book Korean Rail Tickets Outside Of Korea

If you want to book Korean train tickets outside of Korea, you can do it online with Trip.com , which is Korail’s exclusive overseas distributor. The price is slightly higher (about 5%) than the price you’ll pay in Korea, but it will allow you to book tickets online and secure your seat in advance.

If you plan to travel on the main KTX route between Seoul and Busan, I highly recommend booking tickets in advance. There are three types of tickets available – first class, regular, and standing. The journey takes 2:34 and you don’t want to be standing for all that time. Book ahead for comfort.

Is The Korea Rail Pass Worth The Price?

The Korea Rail Pass is a good option for tourists who plan to travel long distances by train in Korea, such as between Seoul and Busan or Seoul and Jeonju. The pass has two main options – flexible and consecutive. These mean you can use it any time (flexible) or within consecutive days.

The flexible pass is more expensive, but offers more freedom to travel around Korea over a longer period. You can use the pass to only cover big journeys and won’t feel pressured to use it again until you’re ready. The extra cost is more than worth the inconvenience of having to rush travel plans.

Will you save money with the Korea Rail Pass? That depends on your travel plans, how often you’ll be travelling by train, and how many people are travelling. If there are 2 people or more, purchase the group saver pass and save 10,000 KRW each on the pass. Group tours make it better value.

The Korea Rail Pass does not allow you to ride on the subway for free, which would make it better value. It can also be complicated to reserve tickets online using the pass and buying tickets in the regular way is more convenient. Overall, the pass isn’t essential, but might save you money.

How Do You Use Taxis In Korea?

People using a taxi in Korea

Taxis in Korea can be hailed from the street or called directly to you using apps such as Kakao Taxi . Companies like Uber and Grab don’t have a large presence in Korea and operate the same way as Kakao Taxi, by helping you find an official taxi driver. Private taxi services aren’t common.

The big issue facing the Korean taxi industry in 2024 is the lack of taxi drivers. This can make it hard to get a taxi, even when using an app like Kakao Taxi. Late night taxis are particularly difficult to find. Read this guide about how to use Kakao Taxi to help you learn how to call a taxi in Korea.

Taxi prices in Korea are reasonable, especially compared to countries like Japan and the UK. Although base taxi fares rose in 2023 to 4,800 KRW, the price is still low and relatively affordable to travel by taxi if you need to. It’s a good option if there are no direct public transport routes.

Taking a taxi to and from Incheon Airport is a convenient option if you have a lot of bags or you are travelling in a group. For solo travellers or couples, I would recommend using public transport or a limo bus, as it’s significantly cheaper and won’t take much longer than a taxi.

How Do You Use Intercity Buses In Korea?

Intercity buses in Korea operate in a similar way to trains. You can only book tickets within 30 days of travel and can only buy single tickets. Book tickets online through websites such as T-Money Bus or Bustago , through app versions of these sites, or at the bus terminal you will depart from.

You can’t walk onto intercity buses without a ticket, nor can you use transportation cards like T-Money to pay on entry. You will need to pay for and receive your ticket (physical or digital) before you can enter the bus. Ticket machines usually (but not always) have English options for buying tickets.

There are no return bus tickets in Korea and you can only buy tickets from your point of departure, unless you book online or via an app. If you’re travelling from Seoul to Gangneung, for example, you will need to buy a ticket in Seoul and then a ticket in Gangneung. You can’t buy both in Seoul.

How Can You Hire A Car In Korea?

Renting a car is a great way to see parts of Korea that aren’t covered by the train network and gives you the freedom to explore at your leisure. If you plan to travel to Jeju Island, which doesn’t have any trains, hiring a car will be a lot more convenient and is almost a must if you plan to travel inland.

Car rental in Korea isn’t that expensive and you can rent a modern car for as little as 75,000 KRW per day. I recommend booking car rentals through Klook , they will deal with the Korean car rental companies and reserve a car for you. This is easier than trying to do it in Korean.

To hire a car in Korea, you will need:

  • Driver’s license (must have had it for at least 1 or 2 years)
  • International Driving Permit (in some cases)
  • Credit card (in the name of the main driver)
  • Valid photo ID (passport)
  • Printed voucher for rental (if booked online)

Here’s some more information about the International Driving Permit and rules you should follow when driving in Korea, such as the legal requirement to wear seatbelts, booster seats for under 6s, and not using your phone while driving. Be sure to read up on local rules before driving in Korea.

Best Places To Visit In Korea In 2024

Bukchon Hanok Village is one of the best places to visit in Korea

The next few sections of this South Korea travel guide will help you figure out what you want to do and see on your travels. This first section will give you a brief introduction to the best places to visit in Korea, including the major cities, tourist hotspots, and unique areas that you’re sure to love.

Here are the best places to visit in Korea:

Seoul Korea's Capital City

Seoul: Korea’s Capital

Seoul is Korea’s vibrant, bustling capital and truly a must-see for any first-time visitor to Korea. There is so much to see and do in Seoul that you could easily spend a week or more exploring the city and not get bored. You will find yourself falling in love with the city for different reasons. Maybe it’s the friendly people, the deliciously cheap street eats, the way things just work, the hidden murals on old buildings down side streets, the feeling of safety even in a big city, or the historic sights creeping out from modern buildings. Seoul includes everything Korea has to offer, plus a lot more you won’t find elsewhere.

What To See In Seoul

Here are 10 great places to visit in Seoul:

  • Gyeongbokgung Palace
  • Bukchon Hanok Village
  • Myeongdong Street Markets
  • Lotte World Tower & Seokchon Lake
  • Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Markets
  • Yeouido Han River Park & Cruise
  • Secret Garden (Changdeokgung Palace)
  • N Seoul Tower & Namsan Mountain
  • COEX Mall & Bongeunsa Temple
  • Bukhansan National Park

Gamcheon Culture Village In Busan Korea (1)

Busan: Big Coastal City

While Seoul is a showcase of all things Korean, Busan is unashamedly its own city and a celebration of coastal life and local culture. Busan is famous for fresh seafood, traditional markets, great beaches, big festivals, movies, temples, and places to explore the coast. Beaches are popular places to visit in Busan, along with cliff-side walkways with views over the ocean. Central Busan is a lively spot with lots of entertainment and markets to enjoy, including a famous fish market where you can choose your own lunch and then eat it. Busan is spread out and deserves several days to explore it properly.

What To See In Busan

Here are 10 great places to visit in Busan:

  • Haeundae Beach & Beach Train
  • Jagalchi Fish Market
  • Gamcheon Culture Village
  • Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
  • Songdo Beach & Cable Car
  • Huinnyeoul Culture Village
  • BIFF Square & Centum City Mall
  • Oryukdo Skywalk & Coastal Paths
  • Lotte World Busan
  • Busan X The Sky Observatory

Jeju Islands famous attraction Seongsan Ilchulbong

Jeju Island: Natural Wonder

Jeju Island is a gorgeous island created from a volcano rising out of the ocean 2 million years ago. Today it’s one of the New 7 Natural Wonders of Nature and deservedly so. The lush island is packed with pine trees, tangerines, rolling hills and fields, cacti, and jet black volcanic rock tumbled all around. You can relax on a beach, go horse riding, explore ancient lava tubes, scuba dive, climb to the volcano’s peak, chill in a beach-side cafe, explore traditional markets, learn about local culture, and lots more. The island has two main cities, but the attractions are spread out along the coast.

What to See On Jeju Island

Here are 10 great places to visit on Jeju Island:

  • Hallasan Mountain (Volcano)
  • Seongsan Ilchulbong Sunrise Peak
  • Hyeopjae & Hamdeok Beaches
  • Seogwipo Maeil Olle Market
  • Jeju Folk Village
  • Yakcheonsa Coastal Buddhist Temple
  • Jungmun Beach & Jusangjeolli Cliff
  • O’Sulloc Green Tea Museum
  • Cheonjiyeon & Jeongbang Waterfalls

Bulguksa Temple Gyeongju Historic City

Gyeongju: Historic Capital

Gyeongju , the former capital of the Shilla Kingdom in ancient Korea, is a true treasure trove of UNESCO World Heritage sites, as well as local culture, history, and natural beauty. Described as an outdoor museum, you can see many of the big attractions in the Gyeongju Historic Area, including the 1,400 year Cheomseongdae Observatory . There’s so much to see in Gyeongju outside this area though, including the impressive Bulguksa Temple, one of the best Buddhist temples in Korea. There’s also the Bomun Lake Tourist District, a dreamy sight during cherry blossom season.

What To See In Gyeongju

Here are 10 great places to visit in Gyeongju:

  • Bulguksa Temple & Seokguram Shrine
  • Cheomseongdae Observatory
  • Donggung Palace & Wolji Pond
  • Yangdong Folk Village
  • Hwangnidangil Hanok Street
  • Daereungwon Tomb Complex
  • Bomun Lake Tourist Complex
  • Woljeonggyo Bridge
  • Gyeongju National Museum
  • Gyochon Traditional Hanok Village

Jeonju Hanok Village Korea

Jeonju: Traditional Views & Food

Jeonju is the perfect destination for a day trip from Seoul and has most of its main attractions in one area of the city. What can you see in Jeonju? The main attraction is the gigantic Jeonju Hanok Village , featuring more than 700 traditional hanok houses. You can dress up in Korean hanbok, dine on Jeonju’s famous bibimbap in an old restaurant, and see how life in Korea used to be. There are plenty of other sights nearby, including a traditional market, pretty river, and the rather unusual Jaman Mural Village.

What To See In Jeonju

Here are 5 great places to visit in Jeonju:

  • Jeonju Hanok Village
  • Jeongdong Catholic Church
  • Gyeonggijeon Shrine
  • Nambu Traditional Market
  • Jaman Mural Village

Suwon Historic Fortress City

Suwon: Fortress City

Suwon is another city close to Seoul that you can visit in a day and see many interesting and unique sights. The main draw of Suwon is the Hwaseong Fortress and the fortress walls, which are still intact and run for 6km around the city. Inside this fortress you’ll find lots of museums, historic buildings, parks, and activities, such as archery. There are often cultural festivals in this area, too. Surprisingly, Suwon is the best place to get KFC (Korean Fried Chicken). There’s a whole street dedicated to making it.

What to See In Suwon

Here are 5 great places to visit in Suwon:

  • Hwaseong Fortress & Fortress Walls
  • Hwaseong Haenggung & Haengridan Gil
  • Fried Chicken Street
  • Korean Folk Village
  • Gwanggyo Lake Park

Incheon Modern City in Korea

Incheon: Modern City With Islands

Incheon is one of Korea’s largest cities, but is sadly ignored as it’s right next to Seoul and most people think it’s just there for the airport. That’s not true at all and there’s plenty to see and do in Incheon. Described as a futuristic city, Incheon is at the front of Korea’s push to become an ultra-modern country and nowhere shows that more than Songdo Central Park . The traditional side of Incheon is also worth exploring, including the Chinatown, which is home to Korea’s most popular student food – jajangmyeon . If you want to explore a lesser-seen side of Korea, check out the islands near Incheon to see ancient fortresses, temples, and charming sights.

What to See In Incheon

Here are 5 great places to visit in Incheon:

  • Songdo Central Park
  • Incheon Chinatown
  • Wolmido Island
  • Incheon Grand Park
  • Ganghwa Jeondeungsa Temple

Nami Island women in hanbok Korea

Gapyeong County: Tourists Treats

Gapyeong County is a rural part of Korea just outside Seoul that is one of the most popular day trip destinations for visitors and locals alike. Inside Gapyeong County is the lovely Garden of Morning Calm , a beautiful sculpted garden that showcases traditional Korean buildings set amongst thousands of different plants and trees. There’s also Nami Island , an ever-popular attraction that has long tree-lined streets to explore, woodland animals, bike paths, and even a zip line to the island. You can also visit Petite France, a recreation of a French village, Gapyeong Rail Bike Park, and Cheongpyeong Lake, and many other attractions in Gapyeong.

What To See In Gapyeong

Here are 5 great places to visit in Gapyeong:

  • Nami Island
  • Garden of Morning Calm
  • Petite France
  • Gapyeong Rail Bike Park
  • Cheongpyeong Lake

Beach in Gangneung Korea

North-East Coast: Amazing Beaches

The north-east coastal region of Korea, spreading between Sokcho and Gangneung , features some of Korea’s most popular summer seaside resorts and beaches. The wide, sandy beaches are perfect for water sports, working on your tan, and sitting at night listening to local musicians perform BTS covers and their own tunes. Sokcho deserves at least two days to explore, more if you plan to visit nearby Seoraksan National Park , one of Korea’s best places to see autumn foliage. Gangneung is where to see cherry blossoms in spring, sit and relax at a seaside cafe at Gangneung Coffee Street , and enjoy beach life.

What To See On The North-East

Here are 5 great places in north-east Korea:

  • Sokcho Beach
  • Gangneung Beach
  • Seoraksan National Park
  • Yangyang Surfyy Beach
  • Gangneung Coffee Street

Famous bridge in Ulsan Korea

East Coast: Harbour Cities

Ulsan and Pohang are two industrial cities that don’t get enough attention, but are ideal for a weekend visit once you’ve explored other top sights. These coastal cities both have good beaches, coastal walks, and green spots, including a pretty bamboo forest in Ulsan. In Pohang, you can see the dizzying Space Walk , which looks out over the city and ocean. There’s also a former Japanese district with old buildings, and the famous Homigot Sunrise Square where you can watch the first sunrise of the year. Ulsan is famous for whaling and visitors should check out the charming Jangsaengpo Whale Museum and Daewangam Park.

What To See On The East Coast

Here are 5 great places on Korea’s East Coast:

  • Yeongildae Beach & Space Walk
  • Ilsan Beach & Daewangam Park
  • Jangsaengpo Whale Museum
  • Homigot Sunrise Square
  • Taehwagang National Garden

Damyang Bamboo Forest in Southern Korea

South-West: Iconic Rural Destinations

South-west Korea is a long way from most travellers’ typical route, but this area is worth visiting if you have time. Gwangju , one of Korea’s largest cities, is hidden away down here and surrounded by natural beauty, including the Juknokwon Bamboo Forest , Boseong Green Tea Fields, and Suncheon Bay Nature Reserve. If you plan to hire a car , these spots will show you a completely different side to Korea. Gwangju, too, which is a fun city and the birthplace of Korean democracy. Hidden in the far corner of Korea is Mokpo, a lovely coastal city that has a new cable car carrying you over the ocean.

What to See In The South-West

Here are 5 great places in south-west Korea:

  • Damyang Juknokwon Bamboo Forest
  • Boseong Green Tea Fields
  • Gwangju Culture Park & Penguin Village
  • Suncheon Bay Nature Reserve
  • Mokpo Marine Cable Car

Namhae Island in South Korea

South Coast Islands: Summer Getaways

Best explored during the hot summer months and early autumn, the south coast islands in Korea, which span from Busan to Mokpo, are where Koreans spend their summer holidays. The most popular destinations here are Geoje, Tongyeong, Yeosu, Namhae, and Goheung and each offers winding coastal paths, beaches, natural beauty, and fun summer activities. The best way to see these islands is with a rented car or by bike, riding around the coast visiting a few different beaches and attractions. Don’t expect too many cultural sights, instead you’ll find luges, gardens, water sports, and lots of fun.

What to See On The South Coast

Here are 5 great places on Korea’s South Coast:

  • Dolsan Park & Cable Car
  • Namhae Geumsan Boriam Hermitage
  • Hallyeohaesang National Park
  • Oedo-Botania Botanical Garden
  • Skyline Luge Tongyeong

As you can see, there are many great places to visit in Korea. Korea is truly a country of undiscovered wonders that people aren’t aware of. Seoul is an incredible place to visit, but there’s so much more to see. That’s why I try to include lesser-known places in this South Korea travel guide.

The list above covers a lot of the most popular or tour-worthy destinations in Korea, but there are still more places I could recommend, such as Andong (home to the mask dance festival), Gunsan (port town with a retro vibe), Daegu (big city with historic sights), Daejeon , and many more.

Besides cities and towns in Korea, there are also 18 national parks to explore, thousands of mountains, Buddhist temples, beaches, bike routes, campsites, and so much more. I’ll include a few of each of these in the next few sections of this South Korea travel guide.

Best Day Tours From Seoul In 2024

DMZ Peace Village In South Korea

Taking a day tour while you’re staying in Seoul is a great way to see more of Korea’s top attractions without the hassle of moving hotels to somewhere new. The 10 day tours from Seoul below can all be done in a day or less and can even be combined with other activities in the same day.

I don’t want to include every day tour available in this South Korea travel guide as there isn’t enough room to talk about them all. If you want to find more day tours, I recommend looking at the options available through tour providers such as Klook , Viator , and Get Your Guide .

Please note : There are many day tours from Seoul and they come with various prices. I recommend avoiding the very cheapest as these will often waste your time by taking you to some overpriced gift shop area and pressuring you to buy souvenirs or rushing you through too many attractions.

Here are 10 great day tours from Seoul:

DMZ between North and South Korea

Why Visit The DMZ

The DMZ, the demilitarised zone between North & South Korea is a truly unique place to visit when you’re in Korea. There are several different locations to see in this area, each reflecting the bitter struggle between the two Korea’s in the ongoing Korean War. Some of the highlights are the 3rd Tunnel, Dora Observatory, Dorasan Station, Gamaksan Suspension Bridge, and the Imjingak Park. There’s also the Panmunjom Truce Village where you can walk into North Korea, but this is currently closed. Tours are required to travel to certain parts of the DMZ.

Heart statue at Nami Island Korea

Why Visit Gapyeong County

Gapyeong County is home to Nami Island, the Garden of Morning Calm, Petite France, Gapyeong Rail Bike Park, and several other fun attractions. Nami Island and the Garden of Morning Calm are the most popular and can both be visited in a day. You can witness beautiful scenes at these destinations, especially during cherry blossom season (April) and autumn foliage season (October). Tours from Seoul to Gapyeong County are convenient and can take you to multiple places in one day without the hassle of buses and finding your own way.

Hwaseong fortress and walls in Suwon Korea

Why Visit Hwaseong Fortress

Hwaseong Fortress and its fortress walls offer a unique chance to see what life was like in Korea 200 years ago. Not only can you walk the full length of the walls around the city, you can also try archery and other traditional activities in the fortress grounds. There are many museums, fortress buildings, and exhibitions showing how people lived in this period. You can also enjoy the beautiful ponds and streams that run through the palace with traditional Korean restaurants and cafes looking out over these areas.

Korean Folk Village traditional sights and culture

Why Visit Korean Folk Village

Discover traditional Korean life at the Korean Folk Village in Yongin during a day trip from Seoul. Walk through dozens of recreated farm buildings, government offices, academies, shops, smiths, schools, and other traditional buildings from Korea’s past to get a feel for how people lived at this time. Actors dressed in traditional Joseon-era costumes bring the scenes to life. You can try fun activities, such as mask carving, horse riding, and archery. Witness exciting festivals and cultural performances, too.

Jeonju Hanok Village In Korea

Why Visit Jeonju Hanok Village

A day trip to the Jeonju Hanok Village in Jeonju is a great way to experience various traditional Korean cultural activities in a beautiful setting. This sprawling hanok village has over 700 traditional buildings for you to explore, dine in, or even stay in. Make sure you rent hanbok in Jeonju so you look like Korean royalty and make memorable photos during your trip. Whilst you’re in Jeonju Hanok Village, you can try local delights such as Jeonju bibimbap and PNB chocopies. Also check out the traditional Nambu Market and Jeongdong Catholic Church.

Alpaca world attraction in Korea

Why Visit Alpaca World

When you travel to Korea, you may not think about seeing alpacas, which are from an entirely different continent. But Korea’s love of all things cute means that these furry friends have become very popular in Korea and have their own theme park a few hours from Seoul. There are dozens of cuddly alpacas to see, feed, and play with at Alpaca World , as well as hundreds of other cute critters such as ponies, rabbits, deer, goats, fennec foxes, and more. There are 17 separate areas to explore in Alpaca World and it’ll provide hours of fun for the whole family.

Seoraksan National Park with clouds

Why Visit Seoraksan

Seoraksan National Park on Korea’s east coast is a great day trip from Seoul for those who want to see mountain peaks, leafy valleys, stony rivers, and a gigantic Buddha. Even if you’re not a keen hiker, you can explore lots of the park’s valley pathways easily, or reach the top thanks to the convenient cable car. See the sights from the observatory and check out the small temple in the clouds. Make sure you try haemul pajeon (seafood pancake) and makgeolli (rice wine). It’s the traditional meal Koreans enjoy after hiking.

Everland Theme Park in Korea

Why Visit Everland

Everland is Korea’s biggest theme park and is packed with attractions for everyone to enjoy. Thrill seekers will love the rollercoasters, such as T Express (the world’s 4th steepest rollercoaster) and many more exciting rides. Check out the Zootopia section to see wild animals and wild rides, or the Plantopia section for floral beauty, romantic walkways, and seasonal delights. There are plenty of attractions, cultural performances, entertainments, and seasonal events to keep you amused all day long.

Paragliding in Korea

Why Visit Danyang

A great way to see Korea’s countryside is with a day trip to Danyang to enjoy the rush of sailing over valleys and beside mountains while tandem paragliding. Feel the wind in your face and the sensation of riding the air currents as you pass over the many delightful views of Danyang. You can enjoy other activities in this area, such as the Mancheonha Skywalk , a clifftop lookout with incredible views, riding an alpine coaster, and zooming along a zip line. The perfect day tour from Seoul for thrill seekers.

Dae Jang Geum Park In Korea

Why Visit Dae Jang Geum Park

Fans of Korean period dramas and movies will love a day trip to Dae Jang Geum Park in Yongin. This is the largest historical drama filming set in Korea and was used to film MBC productions such as ‘Wind in the Palace’ and ‘The Great Queen Seondeok’, as well as K-Pop videos including Daechwita by Suga from BTS. If you’re lucky, you may see filming going on here. But even if you don’t, it’s a fun place for those who want to learn more about Korea’s history and take some cool pictures in a real movie set.

I’ve linked to tours provided by reliable tour companies in Korea. If you would rather book a tour through a local guide, contact Jerry Heng or Andrew Chung Hanbyul . They’re freelance guides with years of experience offering tours in Korea and both offer amazing service.

These places are accessible by public transport, but may take much longer than a tour would do, wasting your precious time. Check out my guide for getting to Nami Island to help you navigate Gapyeong County. For other destinations, I would recommend a tour – it’s more practical.

Best Sights To See In Korea In 2024

Bongeunsa Temple in Gangnam Seoul Korea

South Korea truly has something for everyone. There’s so much I want to include in this South Korea travel guide, which is why this section is full of different sights to see and explore. However, to keep things short and simple, I’ll just list them, not give full details about each one.

Whether you’re travelling to Korea to learn about Korean culture or history, to see Korea’s impressive landmarks, to enjoy family fun attractions, to hop from cafe to cafe, to immerse yourself in nature, or simply to eat and shop, then you’ll definitely find something for you in this section.

N Seoul Tower is an unmissable landmark in Seoul

Famous Landmarks In Korea

Landmarks and iconic buildings are often top of a traveller’s bucket list for Korea as they provide great photo opportunities, showcase the best of the country, and offer fantastic views. Seoul has many top landmarks, but you can see plenty of other sights outside of the capital, too.

Here are 10 famous landmarks in Korea:

  • Lotte World Tower (Seoul)
  • N Seoul Tower (Seoul)
  • Dongdaemun Design Plaza (Seoul)
  • Cheonggyecheon Stream (Seoul)
  • DMZ Area (near Seoul)
  • Nami Island (Gapyeong County)
  • Gamcheon Culture Village (Busan)
  • Seongsan Ilchulbong (Jeju)
  • Homigot Sunrise Square (Pohang)
  • Banwol Purple Island (West Coast)

Bukchon Hanok Village in Seoul Korea

Historic Sights In Korea

Discover life in the Joseon period and before in Korea’s many captivating historic sights, including royal palaces, Buddhist temples, fortresses, and hanok villages. There are so many amazing historic sights to see in Korea, with each city having something to see.

Here are 10 historic sights in Korea:

  • Bukchon Hanok Village (Seoul)
  • Gyeongbokgung Palace (Seoul)
  • The Secret Garden (Seoul)
  • Seoul Fortress Walls (Seoul)
  • Hwaseong Fortress (Suwon)
  • Bulguksa Temple (Gyeongju)
  • Gyeongju Historic Area (Gyeongju)
  • Jeonju Hanok Village (Jeonju)
  • Haedong Yonggungsa Temple (Busan)
  • Andong Hahoe Village (Andong)

K Star Road in Gangnam Seoul

Korean Modern Cultural Sights

Fans of BTS, K-Dramas, Korean movies, and modern Korean culture in general have a lot to see and do in Korea. As well as famous filming locations across the country, these modern cultural sights will entertain, inform, and provide great destinations to visit.

Here are 10 modern cultural sights in Korea:

  • Hallyu K Star Road (Seoul)
  • K-Style Hub (Seoul)
  • Hongik Uni. Station Area (Seoul)
  • COEX Artium (Seoul)
  • Asia Culture Centre (Gwangju)
  • BIFF Square (Busan)
  • Dae Jang Geum Park (Yongin)
  • Sunshine Studio (Nonsan)
  • Kim Gwang-Seok Street (Daegu)

Lotte World Adventure Theme Park In Seoul

Family Fun Attractions In Korea

Families travelling to Korea have plenty of things to see and do and ways to enjoy spending time together. There’s no Disneyworld or Universal Studios in Korea, but there are plenty of great alternatives, as well as places for children to explore, learn, and discover.

Here are 10 family fun attractions in Korea:

  • Lotte World Adventure (Seoul)
  • Everland Theme Park (Yongin)
  • Seoul Grand Park & Zoo (Seoul)
  • Alive Museum & Dynamic Maze (Seoul)
  • Seoul Children’s Museum (Seoul)
  • Zoolung Zoolung (Seoul)
  • Sea Life Busan Aquarium (Busan)
  • Jeju Dinosaur Island (Jeju Island)
  • Alpaca World (Gangwon Province)
  • Skyline Luge & Lotte World (Busan)

Soldier statues at the War Memorial In Korea

Korean Museums & Galleries

Travellers to Korea who want to learn about Korea’s history, culture, and art will love Korea’s impressive museums and galleries. These are great places to visit when the weather is bad and you might be surprised at how much there is to learn about Korea’s past.

Here are 10 museums & galleries in Korea:

  • National Museum of Korea (Seoul)
  • War Memorial of Korea (Seoul)
  • Seoul Museum of Art (Seoul)
  • Seoul Museum of History (Seoul)
  • Seodaemun Prison Museum (Seoul)
  • Museum Kimchikan (Seoul)
  • National Folk Museum of Korea (Seoul)
  • Gyeongju National Museum (Gyeongju)
  • National Maritime Museum (Busan)
  • Daegu Art Museum (Daegu)

Barista making coffee in Ikseongdong Seoul

Cafe Areas In Korea

When you need a break from travelling in Korea, visit one of these cosy cafe areas and take time to relax and recharge. Although Korea was traditionally a tea drinking country, cafes are now everywhere and you’ll find photogenic cafes everywhere these days.

Here are 10 cafe areas to visit in Korea:

  • Ikseondong Hanok Village (Seoul)
  • Gyeongui Line Parks (Seoul)
  • Samcheondong Cafe Street (Seoul)
  • Sinsa-dong / Garosugil Road (Seoul)
  • Jukjeon Cafe Street (Seoul)
  • Jeonpo Cafe Street (Busan)
  • Haeridangil (Busan)
  • Hwangnidangil (Gyeongju)
  • Hwaseong Haenggung Area (Suwon)
  • Gangneung Coffee Street (Gangneung)

Korean woman preparing food at Gwangjang Market Seoul

Korean Markets & Malls

If you want the best selection of street food, souvenirs, and bargain shopping options, be sure to visit Korea’s many traditional markets. It’s a cultural experience itself. Korea also has some of the world’s largest malls with a wide variety of Korean and international goods.

Here are 10 markets & malls in Korea:

  • Gwangjang Market (Seoul)
  • Dongaemun Market (Seoul)
  • Hongdae Shopping Street (Seoul)
  • Starfield COEX Mall (Seoul)
  • Jagalchi Fish Market (Busan)
  • Seomyeon Underground Mall (Busan)
  • Centum City Mall (Busan)
  • Seogwipo Maeil Olle Market (Jeju)
  • Nambu Market (Jeonju)
  • Paju Premium Outlets (Paju)

Bear statue at Seoraksan National Park Korea

Korean Natural Wonders

Korea is a country covered in mountains, waterfalls, valleys, rice terraces, and beautiful natural sights. Make time to visit some of these natural wonders when you visit Korea and you’ll be amazed at the incredible views you can find. The national parks are truly breathtaking.

Here are 10 natural wonders to see in Korea:

  • Hallasan Mountain (Jeju)
  • Jirisan National Park (Southern Korea)
  • Seoraksan National Park (Gyeonggi)
  • Garden of Morning Calm (Gapyeong)
  • Juknokwon Bamboo Forest (Damyang)
  • Boseong Green Tea Fields (Boseong)
  • Udo Island (Jeju Island)
  • Seongsan Ilchulbong Sunrise Peak (Jeju)
  • Hyeopjae Beach (Jeju)
  • Suncheon Bay National Park (Suncheon)

These 100 ideas are just the tip of the iceberg for what you can enjoy when travelling to Korea. There’s so much more to discover and I recommend you add some time to your travel plans to explore without a plan. Sometimes the best travel memories come from unexpected discoveries.

Best Activities To Try In Korea In 2024

Often the most memorable moments when travelling come from the experiences we have, not just the places we visit. Visiting a palace is interesting, but visiting a palace while dressed in traditional Korean hanbok , pretending you’re Joseon-era royalty with your friends or family is much more fun.

This section of the South Korea travel guide offers 10 fun activities you can try when you visit Korea. These will give you a good introduction to Korean culture, food, history, and nature. If you want more ideas, check out my list of 50 unique Korean experiences you can only do in Korea.

People wearing Korean traditional hanbok dresses

One of the top experiences to try in Korea has to be wearing Korean hanbok. It is available for all members of the family (even pets) and you can rent hanbok near most palaces or hanok villages. The hanbok easily fit over your regular clothes and come in a variety of colourful or traditional designs. You can get hair styling, accessories, and even have a hanbok photoshoot . Rentals can be as short as one hour or up to a full day.

Korean Street Food in Seoul

Travellers to Korea can’t say they’ve truly tried Korean cuisine until they’ve eaten Korean street food from a market stall or street vendor. There are many types of Korean street food to sample in Korea, such as savoury snacks like tteokbokki and eomuk , to sweet treats like hotteok and bungeo-ppang . Korean street food is cheap and delicious. It’s usually not that healthy, but always leaves you feeling great. Give it a try.

Hanok House In Seoul

Experience life as a Korean would have in the Joseon-era with a night in a traditional hanok house. A hanok stay is very different from sleeping in a hotel and allows you to try a night on a futon (with underground heating keeping you warm in winter). Slide the doors aside in the morning and walk out onto the wooden decking to enjoy traditional Korean tea at a low table and the sight of the ornately decorated garden. Don’t forget to take your shoes off before you enter.

Korean fortress walls with white plants

Seoul and other cities in Korea still have fortress walls you can walk or hike along that will offer incredible views of cities and mountains. As you walk along the fortress walls, you begin to imagine what life would have been like as a soldier keeping the city safe from invaders. Nowadays, you can enjoy exercise and sightseeing at the same time. Seoul’s fortress walls are a good place to start, but you can find fortress walls in many other places.

Korean Sauna

Visiting a Korean sauna might be a bit shocking for first-time travellers to Korea, but it’s a great way to relax and is especially good in winter. When you enter a Korean sauna, you should take off all your clothes, have a shower, and then enter one of the hot baths. Being naked in front of others can be scary for some, but you soon overcome that fear. Korean saunas sometimes have a communal resting area called a jjimjjilbang . These areas require pyjamas and offer snacks, drinks, and places to rest.

Korean Buddhist Temple Musical Performance

The Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism have set up a templestay program at dozens of temples across Korea where you spend a day or two at the temple and join in various activities. This is truly a unique experience that you should try in Korea as you get to see customs performed by the monks that aren’t normally shown to the public. You also get to stay overnight at the temple and experience a hanok stay at the same time. Guests can also eat healthy vegan temple food, learn a lot, and chat with the monks.

Korean Karaoke Noraebang Sign

A noraebang is the Korean version of a karaoke room, but is more popular in Korea and is commonly visited by locals and tourists alike. This is a great place to visit in the evening after a big Korean bbq meal and a few drinks. Everyone can relax and belt out their favourite Korean or international tunes together (or alone), shake some tambourines in support, or just watch and enjoy the atmosphere with some drinks. You can find these in every town and city in Korea and they provide a cheap night of fun and drinks.

Sky Bridge On Lotte World Tower

Open since 2020, the Sky Bridge at Lotte World Tower offers unbeatable views of Seoul and a nerve-racking trip above the city. Walk between the two towers at the top of the Lotte World Tower and peer down the 541 metre drop to the city streets below. It’s actually very safe and you’re strapped into a harness as you walk from one side to the other, but this definitely isn’t for the faint-hearted. If you’re not sure you can handle the height, check out the Seoul Sky Observatory on the 117th floor instead.

Sheep Cafe in Seoul Korea

Koreans love to drink coffee and also love cute, unusual things, which is probably why theme cafes have become so popular in Korea. Besides the many cat cafes, there are theme cafes where you can stroke sheep, pet dogs, and see other animals. There’s more to Korea’s theme cafes than just drinking coffee with animals, you can also try drinking from a toilet at the Poop Cafe , paint pictures, build lego, go camping, practice being a wizard, and more. Hongdae in Seoul is the best place to find theme cafes.

Boseong Green Tea Fields In Korea

Although cafes are replacing Korean tea houses, Korea still grows and drinks lots of tea, especially green tea. You can visit these tea fields in areas such as Boseong and on Jeju Island, both of which have visitor centres and attractions to teach you about the wonderful world of Korean tea. The Daehan Dawon Tea Plantation in Boseong has lush green fields all year round and has been used as a filming location for several Korean shows. The O’sulloc Tea Museum on Jeju Island also has lovely views.

I recommend trying at least a few of these unique activities, they’ll really make your trip to Korea more memorable and offer insights into Korean culture and life. My advice is to be brave when visiting Korea and try new things, even if they seem a bit unusual at first. The same applies to Korean foods.

Best Korean Festivals To Join In 2024

There are dozens of festivals held in Korea each year celebrating the seasons, local products, traditions, culture, and often just for the sake of having fun. Visiting a festival in Korea will offer you a glimpse of how locals celebrate life, culture, and nature and let you join in the fun.

Whenever you visit Korea, there’ll be festivals going on. However, the biggest festivals occur in spring or autumn. As mentioned previously in this South Korea travel guide, these are the best seasons to visit Korea as the weather is pleasant and people are celebrating the end of summer or winter.

Cherry blossom viewing in Korea

Cherry Blossom Festivals

The cherry blossom festivals in Korea occur in late March and early April and are some of the biggest festivals in Korea. People flock to forests, lakes, and rivers to see the pretty blossoms. The Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival has over 2 million visitors each year, and even more people visit Seokchon Lake and Yeouido Hangang Park in Seoul. There are many festivals and tours to see cherry blossoms in Korea so you should be able to find a quiet place to enjoy the view.

Light Festival In Korea

Winter Light Festivals

During the cold, dark days of winter, attractions such as Nami Island, the Garden of Morning Calm, and Herb Island transform into sparkling winter wonderlands with millions of bright lights illuminating them. There are also winter illumination festivals in Korean cities, such as the Haeundae Lighting Festival in Busan, Cheonggyecheon Stream Winter Lights in Seoul, and the Busan Christmas Tree Cultural Festival. When it snows in Korea, these festivals look even more magical.

Summer Music Festival Concert In Korea

Summer Music Festivals

Summer in Korea is hot, but that doesn’t stop people enjoying day-long music festivals across the country. From chilled jazz festivals like the Seoul Jazz Festival , to action-packed concerts like Psy’s Summer Swag , there are music festivals to suit everyone. This is a popular summer activity in Korea , so be sure to book in advance for ticketed events. If you can’t get tickets, just go to a popular beach in the evening and you’ll usually find musicians performing.

New Year Festivals In Korea

New Year Festivals

There are various festivals in Korea to celebrate the solar new year. New Year’s Eve festivals involve a bell-ringing ceremony where a giant bell is rung at midnight to welcome in the new year. Fireworks festivals are common events in cities across Korea, starting at midnight, too. Koreans celebrate the start of the new year by visiting the East Coast to see the first sunrise of the year at places like Homigot Sunrise Square or Seongsan Ilchulbong on Jeju Island.

Buddhist lanterns for Buddha's Birthday In Korea

Buddha’s Birthday Festivals

Buddha’s Birthday is like Christmas for the Buddhist world, but celebrated very differently. It also falls on changing dates each year as it follows the lunar calendar, just like Korean New Year. Korean Buddhist temples across Korea will celebrate by putting up colourful lanterns and decorations for at least a month before the actual date. The biggest festival celebrating Buddha’s Birthday is the Yeon Deung Hoe Lantern Festival , which features thousands of lanterns and a lantern parade through central Seoul.

Boryeong Mud Festival in Korea

Boryeong Mud Festival

The Boryeong Mud Festival is one of Korea’s largest festivals and attracts visitors from around the world. Running for 2 weeks during rainy season, this is the best way to see a Korean festival even when the weather is bad. There’s a lot to see and do at this festival, including getting dirty in the mud with mud sports, mud wrestling, mud tug-of-war, and other mud-filled events. Boryeong is famous for the high-quality mud found in nearby waters and, by joining this festival, you’re getting a free mud facial.

Jinju Lantern Festival In Korea

Jinju Lantern Festival

The visually stunning Jinju Lantern Festival is held in October each year in Jinju City and runs for several weeks. During the day, watch cultural performances and enjoy exploring the central fortress grounds of Jinju. Once it gets dark, see the city transform as thousands of lanterns, some as big as trees, come to life. There are so many weird and wonderful lanterns to discover at this festival. You can also set your own lanterns to float down the river with your wish inside.

Andong Mask Dance Festival In Korea (1)

Andong Mask Dance Festival

The Andong Mask Dance Festival in Andong, home of the Andong Hahoe Village, is a great opportunity to witness traditional Korean dance and music performances. Not only can you see traditional Korean performances during this 4 day festival, there are also international performers displaying their own culture’s dancing. Get hands-on with traditional Korean culture at this festival. Explore Andong and learn about its contributions to Korea’s cultural development.

Cat statues at Goyang Flower Festival

Goyang Flower Festival

The Goyang International Flower Festival runs twice per year, once in spring and once in autumn. It’s a beautiful celebration of floral beauty mixed with Korean cuteness and creativity. At this flower festival you can stroll through a maze of different displays, with each section focusing on certain flowers and plants. There are indoor displays with vividly coloured roses, nature-based outdoor photo zones, and the lovely Ilsan Lake Park in the background.

Baekje Culture Festival In Gongju

Baekje Culture Festival

The Baekje Culture Festival probably isn’t one that first-time travellers to Korea would know about. Held in Gongju and Buyeo, the two former capitals of the ancient Baekje Kingdom, this 10-day long festival held around Chuseok (Korean mid-autumn harvest festival), is packed with unique events and sights and is set in historic locations in each city. There’s local food to try, musical & cultural performances, fun photo zones, lantern displays, and much more.

Knowing when you plan to visit Korea will help you research what festivals are on and what the weather will be like. There are certainly a lot more than just the ones mentioned above, including some others mentioned previously in the seasons part of this South Korea travel guide.

I recommend using a tour company to see out of the way festivals like the Jinju Lantern Festival and the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival. These are often far from typical tourist destinations and can take hours to get to by public transport. Tours are worth the cost to save you time and avoid hassle.

Recommended Itinerary For Korea In 2024

In this section of this South Korea travel guide is my recommended first-timer itinerary for South Korea. This introduces you to two of Korea’s biggest cities, as well as a couple of day trips to highly rated destinations in Korea. There’s a mix of history, culture, nature, sights, and experiences.

This itinerary starts in Seoul as that’s where most people arrive to Korea after flying into Incheon Airport. If you arrive in Busan, you can change the route to start and end there instead. For travellers to Korea with only 2 or 3 days, I recommend using the first few days of this itinerary instead.

The itinerary lasts for one week, which isn’t enough time to see all of Korea, but enough time to get a feel for the country. If you have more time, use this itinerary and add in or replace extra destinations as you like. Jeju Island is certainly worth visiting if you have an extra 2 or 3 days.

Classic Sights Of Korea Itinerary

N Seoul Tower In Seoul At Night

This itinerary covers a few must-see sights in Korea, including the two largest cities, the history city of Gyeongju, and some popular day trip destinations from Seoul.

Day 1 : Arrive in Seoul and explore Gyeongbokgung Palace, Bukchon Hanok Village, Insadong Art Street, Jogyesa Temple, and Cheonggyecheon Stream. Get dinner at the Jonggak Avenue of Youth for authentic Korean food that’s better than the touristy places in Myeongdong.

Day 2 : Learn about Korean history at the War Memorial of Korea or National Museum of Korea, explore Seoul’s traditional Gwangjang market in Dongdaemun, take the cable car to the N Seoul Tower for sunset & night views, then head down to Itaewon or Myeongdong for dinner & drinks.

Day 3 : Take a day trip to Gapyeong and visit Nami Island, the Garden of Morning Calm, and the Gapyeong Rail Bike Park. Return to Seoul for dinner and rooftop drinks in Myeongdong and then walk along the fortress walls from Dongdaemun Station if the weather is good.

Day 4 : Take the KTX to Busan, drop your bags, and take the subway to Nampo-dong for Jagalchi Fish Market, Bosu-dong Book Alley, and traditional sights. Take a taxi to Huinnyeoul Culture Village. End the day in Haeundae for evening dinner & drinks and a walk along the beach at night.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple In Busan

Day 5 : Take the bus to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, then a taxi to Songjeong Beach. Relax in a beachside cafe, then take the Haeundae Beach Train to Cheongsapo, change to the Sky Capsule, and end up in Haeundae. Take a bus to Gamcheon Culture Village and get dinner at Songdo Beach.

Day 6 : Take a day trip from Busan to the UNESCO World Heritage City of Gyeongju. Visit the Gyeongju Historic Area, then Gyeongju Gyochon Traditional Village for traditional food and sights of Woljeonggyo Bridge. See tranquil night views of Wolji Pond before getting dinner at Hwangnidangil.

Day 7 : Head back to Seoul on the KTX for a final day of shopping and sightseeing in Hongdae. Walk along the Gyeongui Line Forest Park or Book Street or visit a theme cafe. Take the subway directly to Incheon Airport from Hongdae or spend a night here and check out the lively night scene.

Gyeongui Line Book Street In Seoul

Please note : I recommend trying not to cram too much into your itinerary. You may want to see as much as possible, but people often end up rushing past sights and not appreciating them. Plan for less and see more if you have time. It gives you a chance to be spontaneous.

To plan a realistic itinerary for South Korea, it is important to factor in transportation, meal breaks, and rest times. Use Naver Maps to plan your route and work out travel times. A short journey on the map might take much longer if there’s no direct route. Also consider breaks if you plan to walk a lot.

Cultural Issues When Visiting Korea

People eating a Korean BBQ meal on the street

The next few sections of this South Korea travel guide will provide answers to some of the most common questions first-time travellers to Korea have in regards to cultural, language, and safety issues. Korea is a culturally unique country with customs and traditions you might not be aware of.

Korea is a society that places a strong emphasis on social image, respect for others, and social harmony. This means Koreans will often try to avoid conflict, especially in public. To show respect for Korean culture and to avoid being rude, try to respect social harmony and always avoid conflict.

If you follow these tips, you’ll find it easier to avoid accidentally upsetting someone in Korea. There’s far too much to cover in this South Korea travel guide, so if you’d like to know more, check out my detailed guide to Korean etiquette and culture , it’s packed with tips and insights to understand Korea.

What is considered rude in Korea? It is considered rude to point with one finger or with chopsticks, give and receive with one hand, cross your legs when sitting, and to walk inside with your shoes on. Things considered rude in other countries such as swearing and spitting are also rude in Korea.

What is considered unlucky in Korea? It is considered unlucky to write someone’s name in red ink and to stand chopsticks upright in rice. Both are used in rituals for deceased people. The number 4 is also unlucky as the word is the same as the word for ‘death’.

Do you need to tip in Korea? It’s not necessary to tip in Korea and most restaurants and cafes won’t expect or allow you to tip. There is no service charge added to bills in Korea, with the exception of some upmarket restaurants, bars, and hotels in touristy areas of Seoul. Tipping guides is okay.

Sign to take off your shoes in Korea

Do you need to take off shoes when going inside? If you enter someone’s house in Korea, you should take off your shoes. This rule also applies to temples, traditional restaurants, and other places in traditional buildings. Most cafes, shops, and restaurants won’t ask you to take off your shoes.

When should you use two hands in Korea? You should use two hands when giving and receiving things in Korea, such as money, a gift, a business card, or food. When you shake hands, use both hands, not just one. The same applies to pouring drinks, both pouring and holding a glass.

Do I have to act like a Korean in Korea? You don’t have to follow Korean customs and traditions when you visit Korea. You are a guest in the country and Koreans won’t expect you to know every rule. However, showing cultural awareness in Korea will help you make friends and impress locals.

The best tip for being culturally sensitive in Korea is to first consider all the things that you’d consider rude in your own country – spitting, swearing, shouting, physical violence, etc. Show the same acts of kindness you’d show at home – help others, give up your seat for those in need, be polite, etc.

Furthermore, remember that social harmony is really important in Korea and try not to cause a scene. Keep your voice down in public, don’t talk or act aggressively, be polite, and don’t force things when people are reluctant. Koreans may feel obliged to do things, even when they don’t want to.

Language Issues When Travelling Korea

Korean and English on a sign in Seoul

Language issues can be a big concern for first-time travellers to Korea as Korean is a very different language from English and has a unique alphabet. Korean is also one of the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers, ranked alongside Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic.

However, as a tourist to Korea, you don’t need to worry about mastering the language. English is used for signs and announcements in most places that you’ll need it, such as on public transport, at the airport, at attractions & tourist sites, on menus, and most other places. It’s common across Korea.

If there is a sign or notice that isn’t in Korean, I recommend using the Papago app to take translate it. Use the image translation function in the app to scan the sign and Papago will translate it into English for you. It’s really convenient and the way I translate things I can’t read in Korean.

Do Korean People Speak English?

Speaking in English to Korean people is different from being able to read and translate signs. English is taught from elementary school until the end of high school. That doesn’t mean everyone will remember it, but there’s a good chance some people will know English, especially younger Koreans.

It is best to ask if someone speaks English before trying to have a conversation. You can do this in Korean by asking “영어 할 수 있어요?” (Yong-oh hal su iss-o-yo?) or just ask it in English. Tour guides and people in the tourism industry will probably be able to speak English, but it’s not guaranteed.

Shyness is an issue in Korea and locals may be reluctant to speak English at first for fear of making a mistake. As an English teacher in Korea, I know that Korean students are usually quite competent in English, but lack confidence to use it. Be patient and encouraging when talking in English.

Although some Koreans may be too shy to use English, other people may be enthusiastic about speaking English to you and want to practice it. I’ve been asked random questions in English by strangers in the street in Korea who want to practice English and find out about my life.

Ticket prices for Lotte World Adventure In Seoul

Should You Learn Korean Before Visiting Korea?

If you do want to learn some Korean before you travel, I recommend you start by learning the Korean alphabet , or at least learning some basic Korean travel phrases . Knowing how to introduce yourself, discuss prices, ask for directions, and ask for help will make your trip to Korea a lot easier.

You can learn Korean online through courses such as 90 Day Korean and Korean Class 101 , or with self-study textbooks like the excellent Talk To Me In Korean series. There are lots of resources on YouTube, too. I particularly like Learn Korean with GO! Korean Billy as he explains things clearly.

Another way to prepare to move to Korea is to read some Korean novels in English . Although these books won’t teach you any Korean, they’ll offer up valuable insights into Korean culture, both traditional and hidden under the surface. Literature is a good way to gain an understanding of a culture.

Nonsensical English sign in Korea

A warning about Konglish : Although Korea uses English in many useful ways, there’s also a lot of Konglish. The sign above is a good example of random English words being used to look cool, but ending up being confusing. There’s a lot of this in Korea and it’s mostly harmless, so don’t worry.

Health And Safety Issues In Korea

Person washing their hands at a temple in Korea

First-time travellers to Korea may be worried about health and hygiene issues, such as if certain foods are available and if they’re safe to eat. Other issues include vaccinations, personal safety, and how easy it is to contact emergency services. These issues are addressed below.

Is Korean Street Food Safe To Eat?

Korean street food is generally safe to eat and won’t give you any health issues unless you have an intolerance to the food. Korean street food can be spicy or contain a lot of salt, be aware of your own personal tolerances and dietary requirements before trying it.

Also be careful when ordering food with meat or seafood and check that it is cooked thoroughly. Korean street food that has been left out for a long time is more likely to cause food poisoning problems, so ask for freshly cooked food if you’re concerned.

Flame cooked Korean street food

Is It Easy To Find Vegan-Friendly Food In Korea?

There are many vegan-friendly Korean dishes , such as gimbap , japchae , pajeon , bibimbap , ramyeon , and tteokbokki . However, some restaurants may use non vegan-friendly ingredients when preparing these foods, so be careful. Kimchi isn’t vegan-friendly due to its seafood ingredients & sauces.

Vegetarianism and veganism aren’t common in Korea with fewer people following these diets than in countries such as the USA or UK. Vegetarians in Korea account for 3% of the population, while vegans in Korea are only 0.2% of the population as of 2022. The UK is 10% and 2% respectively.

However, the number of vegan-friendly restaurants and bakeries is increasing each year in Korea, especially in areas such as Hongdae and Itaewon. Korean Buddhist temple food is vegan-friendly and a good option for vegans who want to enjoy vegan food while learning about local Korean culture.

If you’re concerned about accidentally ordering non vegan-friendly food, or want to know how to tell someone about food allergies or requirements, check out my guide to Korean phrases for ordering food . This has a whole section about special requests when ordering food in Korean.

Is It Safe To Drink Tap Water In Korea?

Korean tap water is potable and safe to drink. Korea ranks 23rd for water hygiene, which is above the USA, Canada, and Australia. However, many Koreans don’t drink tap water , preferring to use water purifiers and bottled water instead, claiming that tap water smells strange or water pipes are bad.

Personally, I don’t like drinking tap water in Korea as it tastes a bit stale, but it’s perfectly fine to drink and doesn’t cause any problems. Bottled water is very cheap in Korea and costs 600 KRW for a 500ml bottle from a convenience store. Buying water from a supermarket is a cheaper option though.

Person giving a vaccination

Do You Need Any Vaccinations To Travel To South Korea?

There are no mandatory vaccinations required to travel to Korea , but it is suggested you should have at least routine vaccinations such as tetanus, MMR, and polio. Hepatitis A & B, typhoid, and Japanese encephalitis vaccinations are also recommended.

Is Korea Friendly To Tourists?

Korea is generally friendly and welcoming to tourists. The Korean government spends a lot of money and effort to promote Korean tourism to the world and there are many incentives to bring people to the country. Korean people are also mostly polite and welcoming, especially in the tourism sector.

Is Korea A Dangerous Country To Travel In?

South Korea is a safe country to travel in and the crime rate in Korea is low, comparable to Norway or the Netherlands. Public crimes, such as theft and assault, are rare. Pickpocketing and purse snatching aren’t common and unattended goods are generally left alone or reported to the police.

How safe is Korea? I regularly see people leave their phone or handbag on a cafe table to reserve it before going up to order a drink. People even leave their laptops open while they pop out for lunch or go to the toilet. Stealing disturbs social harmony and is one of the reasons it’s rare in Korea.

Physical violence is also rare, but still occurs in Korea, as it does in all countries. This is most often found in areas with lots of bars and when people are drunk. However, visiting bars in Korea is a lot safer than I’ve experienced in other countries and trouble is not common, even in busy places.

Seoul Tourist Police in Korea

How Do You Contact Tourist Information Services In Korea?

Call 1330 in Korea to contact the Travel Helpline . The Korean Travel Helpline provides the following services free of charge to tourists in Korea.

  • Tourist Information : Find out about attractions, opening hours, prices, and other information.
  • Tourist Interpretation : Access travel information in several languages.
  • Tourist Complaints : Report rip-offs and problems you encounter when travelling in Korea.
  • Tourist Police : Report minor crimes in English and other languanges.

There are tourist police patrolling the streets of Seoul, dressed in purple uniforms as shown in the picture above. In popular tourist locations like Myeongdong and Bukchon Hanok Village, you’ll also find friendly tourist information staff dressed in red shirts with matching red cowboy hats.

What Should You Do If You Have An Emergency In Korea?

If you need to report a fire or medical emergency in Korea, you should call 119 from any phone. To contact the police in Korea, call 112. You will need to select an option to report an emergency in English or another language. It may take some time to be redirected to an English speaker.

  • 119 – Medical Emergency & Fire Rescue
  • 112 – Police

When you use medical services in Korea, you have to pay the cost of treatment, but there is no fee for the ambulance ride as this is covered by the Korean government. Travel insurance should cover the cost of medical bills, so if you’re worried about a large medical bill, insurance is recommended.

Fortunately, the cost of treatment in Korea is quite reasonable and Korea has advanced medical facilities, which is why it’s a popular medical tourism destination . Many people travel to Korea for minor and major surgery, including laser eye surgery, cosmetic surgery, and internal medicine.

Is Air Pollution A Problem In Korea?

Air pollution is an issue in Korea, especially in spring & summer. Winds blow yellow dust from Central Asia, field burning spreads fumes across Asia, and fossil-fuel burning contributes to higher levels of air pollution. Some days there’ll be very low visibility and health risks for people with lung problems.

My Personal Travel Tips For Korea

Man with ginkgo trees at Nami Island

This South Korea travel guide is a collection of information I’ve researched and learned since moving to Korea in 2015 and blogging about Korean travel since 2019. I hope the provided information and insights are useful and assist you plan your dream first-time, or even tenth-time, trip to Korea.

This section includes my personal tips that didn’t really fit anywhere else and reflections built from travelling all over Korea in all seasons. These are tips I would offer to first-time travellers to Korea and people who might have some worries about visiting the Land of Morning Calm. I hope they help.

The Real Korea Isn’t What You See On TV

Korea is a developed country that went from being a 3rd world country in the mid 20th Century to a high-tech country in a short time. Despite the many high-rises and modern K-Pop stars, there are still shadows of the former Korea seen in both run-down slums and people with ‘traditional’ values.

The image created by selective K-Culture can distort people’s reality when dreaming of a trip to Korea in the same way Korean people can suffer from Paris Syndrome when visiting France. There are many wonderful things about Korea, but don’t travel thinking that everything is as shown on TV.

Be Prepared For Culture Shock

One of the best things about travelling is seeing a country and people that act and behave differently to how you do in your own country. This is known as culture shock and can be both a blessing and a challenge for first-time travellers to Korea. Things you might be used to can be different in Korea.

Some examples of culture shock in Korea include the way age determines hierarchy in Korea and how older people can be rather pushy, especially on the subway. Younger people also typically don’t question the decisions of older people in Korea as it is considered rude and disrespectful.

Less extreme cultural differences that might confuse some first-time visitors to Korea include having to shout to call someone to take your order in a Korean restaurant or not giving a tip. Koreans might similarly look at you strangely if you do something culturally different, such as walking while drinking.

Don’t Overpack When You Travel To Korea

First-time travellers to Korea may be worried about visiting a country like Korea without taking everything they need from home, even the kitchen sink. My advice is to pack as light as possible and leave yourself some space in your suitcase. There are two reasons for this.

  • You can buy most things you need in Korea . This includes sun cream, heat packs, clothes, shoes, cosmetics, travel accessories, etc. They’re also probably cheaper in Korea, too.
  • You will want to take home lots of things . From weird Korean snacks to beautiful hand-crafted pottery and woodwork, there are so many things to buy in Korea.

(1) The only exception is if you might have a problem finding correct-fitting items. Korean shoes and clothes are slightly smaller than what you’d find in Western countries and the sizes are also differently labelled. I’m a medium in the UK but a large (sometimes XL!) in Korea. Be careful when shopping.

(2) It’s hard to fit everything you buy in Korea into an already full suitcase. Fortunately, you can buy extra suitcases at low prices. Check out Namdaemun Market for cheap luggage options, as well as shops like the one pictured below (this is in Busan) in places like Hongdae and Dongdaemun.

Luggage shop in Busan Korea

Electricity In South Korea

Be careful with electric items when travelling to Korea. Korea uses type C and F plugs , which are used in Europe, Russia, and other parts of Asia. The standard voltage is 220V with 60Hz frequency. Anything designed for a standard voltage between 220V and 240V should be fine in Korea.

Laptops, mobile phones, and other portable devices will be fine when you travel in Korea as long as you use a travel adapter with a USB or socket connection. Hairdryers, shavers, curlers, and similar devices might have problems charging in Korea and run out of power very soon. My shaver did.

Go With The Flow And Go Quickly

Korea is a very busy country and you might hear people mutter ‘빨리빨리’ ( ppalli ppalli ) if you walk slowly, especially in the subway. Koreans work long hours and are eager to get home or go out for dinner. Don’t take it personally if people push past you and don’t feel like you have to rush.

Know Where To Throw Away Rubbish

It can be difficult to find a bin to throw away rubbish in Korea, even in urban areas. The best place to dispose of rubbish in Korea is at a convenience store. You can find recycling and trash bins in these shops. If you go hiking or explore the countryside, expect to carry your rubbish home with you.

South Korea Travel Guide FAQs

Finally, here’s a few FAQs about this South Korea travel guide, in case the above information didn’t cover enough for you.

What is the best month to visit South Korea?

The best months to visit South Korea are April and October. April is warm and you can see cherry blossoms in Seoul at the start of the month. October is warm with clear skies. During October you can see autumn foliage across Korea.

How much money is enough for South Korea?

The amount of money you need to travel in South Korea depends on your travel style and desired level of comfort. A rough budget for South Korea is 50-100,000 KRW per day for budget travellers, 100-200,000 KRW per day for mid-range travellers, and 200,000+ KRW per day for luxury travellers.

Is South Korea friendly to tourists?

South Korea is a welcoming country and friendly to tourists. There are many services to welcome tourists to South Korea, including free transit tours from Incheon Airport, cultural performances in tourist destinations, low entry fees to traditional attractions like Gyeongbokgung Palace, and tourist information and signs in multiple languages.

What do I need to know before travelling to South Korea?

It’s important to know about the weather before travelling to South Korea as this can impact your day to day travel and affect what clothes you’ll need. You should also research what festivals are on before you travel, what seasonal events are happening, such as cherry blossom viewing, and also how to use public transport and get connected to the net.

What is the cheapest month to visit South Korea?

January and February are two of the cheapest months to visit South Korea and are considered low season as the weather is cold. Hotel prices and flights to Korea will be lower in these months. Winter is a good time to travel to Korea to see snow and enjoy winter sports and festivals, however, some attractions will be closed during this time of year.

Do I need a South Korea travel guide?

It is good to check a South Korea travel guide to research your trip, especially for first-time travellers to Korea. Korea has a unique culture, language, and customs that might be confusing for new travellers. A South Korea travel guide will help you prepare for these factors and give you ideas to create your perfect trip to Korea.

Can you drink tap water in Korea?

Korean tap water is potable and safe to drink. You can drink water from hotels and apartments in Korea. Restaurants and cafes will provide you with free drinking water, which usually comes from a water cooler. Bottled water is available from convenience stores and is reasonably priced.

Is South Korea safe for first-time travellers?

South Korea is a safe country for first-time travellers to visit. Personal crimes, such as theft, mugging, and physical violence are rare in Korea and it is safe to walk the streets of Seoul, even at night. First-time travellers can prepare for a trip to South Korea by being aware of potential scams, such as taxi drivers over charging them or being ripped off in the traditional markets.

What are the best apps for travelling in South Korea?

The best apps for travelling to South Korea are Papago, Kakao Taxi, Naver Maps, and Seoul Subway. These apps will allow you to translate between Korean and English, hail taxis, and navigate as you travel. All of these apps have English language options and are free to use.

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Hi! My name is Joel, I'm the author of In My Korea and writer of this article. I've lived, worked and travelled in Korea since 2015 and want to share my insights, stories and tips to help you have the best experience during your trip to Korea.

I love learning more about Korean culture, hiking the many mountains, and visiting all the coolest places in Korea, both modern and traditional. If you want to know more about my story, check out the ' about me ' section to learn why I love living in Korea.

4 thoughts on “Complete South Korea Travel Guide 2024: Korean Travel Tips”

This South Korea travel guide is a comprehensive resource for anyone planning a trip to Korea. It covers everything from entry requirements and travel tips to accommodation options and places to visit. Whether you’re a first-time traveler or have been to Korea before, this guide has something for everyone. The inclusion of the latest travel news and COVID-related updates adds to its relevance and usefulness. I appreciate the detailed breakdown of sections and the inclusion of quick links for easy navigation. Overall, this guide is a valuable tool for anyone looking to explore the wonders of South Korea.

Moderator – Nice Article! In My Korea

Thank for the great info! Could you please recommend any tours agency for a few day trips around Korea? I found a few , but they are pretty pricey!

Hi, thanks for reading. Klook and Viator have a good selection of tours in Korea with some of the best prices on the market. I’m not sure which tours you’re looking for, but they usually do day trips for less than $100 per day that cover popular tourist sights.

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How to Apply for K-ETA (Korean Visa & Exemption Info)

Updated: Feb 23, 2024 by Max · This post may contain affiliate links · Leave a Comment

One crucial aspect of preparing for a trip to Korea is understanding the K-ETA requirements. The K-ETA (Korea Electronic Travel Authorization) is an electronic travel authorization that visa-free eligible foreign visitors need to obtain before entering the Republic of Korea.

By submitting an application online, directly to the Korean government, you can ensure a smooth entry into the country or through Incheon Airport on a layover . As you plan your visit, you may run into questions about the relatively new K-ETA, only introduced in 2021, and how to apply for it.

Fortunately, the process is relatively simple and can be completed online through the official K-ETA website or the mobile application. Keep in mind that the K-ETA is valid for two years from the date of authorization, but a re-application is required if there are any changes in important information, such as passport details.

travel requirements south korea

Basics of Visiting South Korea in 2024

What is k-eta, k-eta vs. south korea visa, k-eta eligibility requirements & application, countries eligible for k-eta, information needed for application, b2 tourist visa entry & exemptions, fees and refunds, validity and approval (or re-application), travel information, what are the eligibility criteria for k-eta, what documents are needed to apply for k-eta, how long does it take to get k-eta approval, can the k-eta application be denied.

Those of you looking to visit South Korea are probably as confused by all the changes as I was before I visited again post-covid. But as of March 20th, 2024, masks are still required in medical settings like hospitals but are NO LONGER REQUIRED in all other indoor public places, including public transport.

Here are what document you need to visit Korea as a tourist:

  • K-ETA ( Korean Electronic Travel Authorization , applied for at least 72 hours before departure) OR Visa to visit Korea (countries which previously had a visa exemption now need to apply for a K-ETA). From April 1, 2023 to December 31, 2024, passport holders from 22 countries will also temporarily NOT need a K-ETA or visa to visit Korea (includes: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Macao, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, UK, US (including Guam)). If you're a valid ABTC card holder (APEC card), you are not required to apply for a K-ETA [excluding Americans & Canadians].
  • Q-Code (can also be filled out upon arrival) : visitors need to fill out information for the Korean quarantine system, known as Q-Code . Note that all travelers are now allowed in regardless of vaccination status, but you do need to have filled out your Q-Code before going through immigration.

If for some reason you need to take a covid test in a South Korea airport, the cost of a covid test in Incheon Airport is currently ₩80,000 ($60USD), with some options within Seoul as inexpensive as ₩65,000 ($50USD). There's no testing requirement to leave South Korea.

travel requirements south korea

The Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) is a digital travel authorization required for foreign visitors who previously did not need a visa to enter South Korea . This electronic system aims to save time for travelers upon arrival by reducing paperwork at the airport, though if you used to get an automatic e-visa, it may feel like just another hassle.

It was originally introduced in summer 2021 in anticipation of inreased travel once the pandemic ended, also stemming from a desire by the Korean government to be able to keep better track of anticipated visitor numbers. If your purpose of travel is tourism, visiting family members, or participating in events or meetings, you'll need a K-ETA before entering the country.

Note that from April 1, 2023, to December 31, 2024, the K-ETA is temporarily not required for U.S. citizens visiting Korea for 90 days or less for business or tourism. However, it is still necessary for travelers aged 18 to 65 from 112 countries to apply for K-ETA.

travel requirements south korea

When planning your trip to South Korea, you need to determine whether you require a K-ETA or a visa to enter Korea. The K-ETA (Korea Electronic Travel Authorization) is an online pre-authorization issued for travelers from 112 countries, aged between 18 and 65, for short-term stays in South Korea.

You can apply for a K-ETA by visiting the official K-ETA website at least 72 hours before your departure. The cost of K-ETA is 10,000 KRW (~$9) plus a 300 KRW service fee, and it remains valid for two years from the date of authorization (usually within a day or two).

On the other hand, a South Korea visa is required for a longer stay or if you need to engage in activities like work, study, or joining a family member living in South Korea . The type of visa you need depends on the purpose of your visit and your nationality.

To apply for a South Korea visa, you must visit a South Korean consulate or embassy in your home country and provide the necessary documents and fees, generally with months of lead time. Here are some key differences between K-ETA and a South Korea visa:

  • Purpose of Visit : K-ETA is for short-term stays like tourism, business meetings, conferences, visiting friends and family, while a visa is required for work, study, long-term stays, or other specific purposes. When I taught English in Korea, I had to apply for a work visa several months before moving there.
  • Application Process : a K-ETA can be applied for online, whereas a visa application must be submitted in person to a South Korean consulate or embassy in your home country, and may even involve an in-person interview.
  • Processing Time : K-ETA processing takes around 24-48 hours, while visa processing times can be longer and vary depending on the type of visa. During busier times, it can take 1-2 months for a work visa to arrive to you or be ready for in-person pick-up if you live near a consulate.
  • Cost : a K-ETA costs 10,000 KRW (~$9) plus a 300 KRW fee, while visa fees vary widely depending on the type of visa and your nationality.

travel requirements south korea

To apply for K-ETA, you must be a national of one of the visa waiver countries , which are a group of 50 countries/regions (i.e. you must be a citizen of the country or territory). Remember that even if you previously entered Korea visa-free, you've needed a K-ETA to enter since September 1, 2021.

To apply for a K-ETA, follow these steps:

  • Visit the official K-ETA website or use the mobile app : Access the K-ETA homepage or download the K-ETA mobile app to start your application.
  • Fill out your personal information : Prepare to provide accurate details, including your passport information and other essential data. Be cautious about making any mistakes or modifications, as you may need to reapply if there are errors, or even be prevented form boarding your flight.
  • Submit your application : Submit your K-ETA application at least 72 hours before your departure date to ensure sufficient processing time.
  • Pay the fee : A fee of 10,000 KRW, along with an additional 300 KRW for separate charges, is required for the application upon submission.
  • Receive your authorization : If approved, your K-ETA will be valid for two years from the issue date ( not your travel date). However, if important information like passport details change, you must reapply.

K-ETA Application Guide

If you're planning to travel to South Korea , you must first check if you belong to one of the 112 countries eligible for K-ETA rather than visas. This includes the United States, Canada, Australia , Singapore and many European countries.

Check the full list for your country of citizenship before starting your application process. A family or tour representative can apply for up to 30 people at once, which is why you'll see companies offering to apply for you for an extra fee.

When applying for a K-ETA, you'll need to provide some personal information, including your full name, date of birth, contact details, and passport details. Make sure to have all these details ready before starting your application, especially if filling it out for multiple family members in a row.

travel requirements south korea

Some travelers may be eligible for visa exemptions or entry under the B2 transit visa rather than a K-ETA. Review South Korea's visa policies to determine if you can benefit from these exemptions, but generally permanent residents and green card holders in K-ETA-applicable countries may be eligible.

To apply for a K-ETA, you'll need to pay a fee, usually no more than $10USD (paid in Korean won). The fee may vary slightly depending on your nationality and other factors, so be sure to check the exact amount on the official K-ETA website. Unfortunately, refunds are not available for unsuccessful applications.

Once your K-ETA application is approved, it will generally remain valid for up to two years. If your application is unsuccessful, any of your info is wrong, or your K-ETA expires, you'll need to reapply. Make sure you allow enough time for the new application to be processed before your planned travel dates.

After receiving your K-ETA, you can enter South Korea multiple times for leisure, business, or other short-term purposes; there's no limit to the number of entries, though individual nationalities may have other limits on how long they can stay.

Keep in mind that you should always have a valid K-ETA with you when entering the country, and follow any special entry procedures during your stay.

travel requirements south korea

Frequently Asked Questions

To apply for K-ETA, you must be a citizen of one of the countries and regions eligible to enter the Republic of Korea visa-free. The list of eligible countries for K-ETA was limited in this initial roll-out period, so please refer to the official K-ETA FAQ for the most current list of eligible countries/regions.

To apply for K-ETA you need a valid passport and an email address. In some cases, you may also be required to submit additional documents, such as proof of travel arrangements or an invitation from a Korean organization, so just ensure that your passport is valid and up-to-date before beginning the application.

K-ETA approval typically takes between 24 to 72 hours from the time of application. However, I recommend you apply for a K-ETA at least 72 hours before departure to ensure you have enough time to receive your electronic authorization.

Yes, K-ETA applications can be denied. If your application is rejected, you may need to apply for a visa through the Korean Consulate or Embassy in your country. Reasons for denial may include providing incorrect or incomplete information on the application, improper photo choice, or really any other factors the government deems reasonable.

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travel requirements south korea

South Korea (Republic of Korea)

Latest update.

Exercise normal safety precautions in South Korea.

South Korea

South Korea (PDF 255.07 KB)

Asia (PDF 2.21 MB)

Local emergency contacts

Fire and rescue services, medical emergencies.

Call 119 or go to the hospital.

Call 112 or go to the nearest police station.

Advice levels

  • South Korea and North Korea are technically still at war, and tensions on the Peninsula can increase with little warning. North Korea regularly conducts missile launches and other provocations. Monitor developments. Consider downloading the South Korean Government's 'Emergency Ready' app.
  • Civil emergency drills are held a few times a year for fire, earthquakes, other disasters and civil defence training. Nationwide exercises take place at least twice a year. Regional drills may also be run a few times a year. 
  • Large-scale public gatherings and protests are common, particularly in Seoul. Protests are generally peaceful and policed but can sometimes turn violent. 
  • Avoid large public gatherings if possible, and exercise caution in crowded areas. South Korea remains safe for most travellers, with a relatively low crime rate. However, petty crimes happen, especially in major cities such as Seoul and Busan. Watch your belongings.
  • Sexual assault and harassment, drink spiking and other violent crimes occur, particularly around bars and nightlife areas, such as Itaewon and Hongdae. Don't accept food, drink, gum or cigarettes from strangers. Remain vigilant, take care when walking at night, and travel in groups if possible.
  • The rainy season is from late June to late August. Typhoons can happen in August and September. Heavy rainfall during summer can cause flooding, landslides, and damage to housing and infrastructure. Identify your local shelter (identified by the word 대피소). Follow the advice of local officials.
  • Tsunamis caused by earthquakes in the surrounding region are a risk. Know the tsunami warning signs and move to high ground straight away. Don't wait for official alerts, warnings or sirens.

Full travel advice:  Safety

  • There are high levels of pollution, particularly between March to May. During this time, strong winds from Mongolia and China also carry yellow dust to the Korean Peninsula. This can cause eye, nose, mouth, and throat irritations. Get medical advice if you have heart or breathing problems.
  • The standard of medical facilities in South Korea is usually good, but few staff speak English. You'll probably have to pay up-front. Ensure your travel insurance covers all medical costs.
  • South Korea is popular for medical tourism. If you're travelling for a procedure, research and choose your medical service providers carefully. Don’t use discount or uncertified providers. Ensure your travel insurance covers complications from surgery.

Full travel advice:  Health

  • You're required to wear a mask  in hospitals. Fines of KRW100,000 apply. Exceptions for mask-wearing are made for minors under 14 years of age, people with disabilities, or those who have difficulty wearing a face mask for medical reasons.
  • Using shared electric kickboards (electric scooters) in South Korea is increasing. A driver's licence is required, and you must wear a helmet while riding. Make sure you have adequate health and liability insurance before riding. 
  • It's illegal to work or volunteer in South Korea if it's not specified in your visa. If you plan to work, arrange a work visa through a  South Korean embassy or consulate  before you travel.
  • Disputes over working and living conditions for Australians teaching English in South Korea are common. Research your employer and employment agency. Get legal advice before you sign a contract.
  • Be careful when taking photos and videos. It's illegal to photograph military zones, assets, personnel, and official buildings.
  • South Korea recognises dual nationality only in certain circumstances. If you're a male Australian-South Korean dual national, you may have to do military service before you're permitted to depart. This could happen even if you travel to South Korea on your Australian passport. Get advice through a  South Korean embassy or consulate  before travelling.

Full travel advice:  Local laws

Australian passport holders can visit South Korea as tourists for stays of up to 90 days without applying for a K-ETA (or visa waiver). Previously approved K-ETA applications will remain valid up to the granted expiry date. Visit the official  K-ETA website  for more information.

  • You may be required to register on the  Korean Q-code system  prior to arrival or to complete a health questionnaire on arrival. Further information on 'Quarantine Inspection Required Areas' is available on the ' Notices ' page. Check with the South Korean embassy or consulate for the latest requirements for Australians. 
  • Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. You should contact the nearest South Korean embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Full travel advice:  Travel

Local contacts

  • The  Consular Services Charter  details what we can and can't do to help you overseas.
  • For consular help, contact the  Australian Embassy in Seoul .
  • To stay up to date with local information, follow the Embassy’s social media accounts.

Full travel advice:  Local contacts

Full advice

Regional threats.

South Korea and North Korea are technically still at war, and peace is maintained under a truce agreed at the practical end of the Korean War in 1953. Tensions have on the Korean Peninsula can increase with little warning.

The Korean Peninsula is divided by a demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating:

  • North Korea or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  • South Korea or the Republic of Korea

North Korea regularly takes provocative actions, including conducting ballistic missile launches and underground nuclear tests. Low-level military clashes have occurred. 

In the event of such threats in the region:

  • monitor developments
  • take official warnings seriously
  • follow the instructions of local authorities

The South Korean Government has also released a free smartphone ' Emergency Ready ' app. The app has information on local emergency services, including:

  • shelter locations

The app is available for both Apple and Android devices.

Authorities control access to Yeonpyeong Island and other islands near the Northern Limit Line. This is due to their proximity to a sea boundary disputed by North Korea.

More information:

  • Planning for emergencies

Public Safety

Parts of Seoul, particularly Itaewon and Hongdae, and on public transport, can become extremely crowded. In October 2022, more than 150 people were killed in a crowd crush during Halloween festivities in Itaewon. Exercise caution in crowded areas. 

Civil Emergency Drills

Nationwide civil emergency drills are held regularly throughout the year, with regional or local drills also undertaken. 

Depending on the drill, sirens may sound, transport may stop, and authorities may ask people to take shelter in subway stations or basements. 

Follow the advice of local authorities. The South Korean Government has released a free smartphone 'Emergency Ready' app. The app has information on civil defence drills, including shelters and safety guides.

  • Civil Defence Drills

Civil unrest and political tension

Public protests and events that draw large groups of people are common and can sometimes turn violent. Avoid large public gatherings, if possible, and exercise caution in crowded areas.

To protect yourself:

  • avoid protests and demonstrations
  • monitor the media for information

Be prepared to change your travel plans in case of disruptions.

  • Demonstrations and civil unrest

For most travellers, South Korea is safe and has a relatively low crime rate. However, petty crime happens, especially in major cities such as Seoul and Busan.

Sexual assault, drink spiking, and other violent crimes occur, particularly around bars and nightlife areas, such as Itaewon and Hongdae. 

To protect yourself from crime:

  • keep your belongings close
  • don't accept drinks, food, gum or cigarettes from strangers
  • don't leave food or drinks unattended
  • remain vigilant and take care when walking at night
  • travel in groups if possible

Local authorities may not always respond adequately or consistently to reports of sexual violence and harassment. If you're sexually assaulted, you should report it immediately to the local authorities and the Australian Embassy in Seoul. 

In general, sex-related crimes are not punished as harshly in South Korea as in Australia, and the prosecution process can be challenging for victims. 

You can report crimes, including sexual assault, to the police by calling 112. This is a 24/7 service with English interpreters available. 

  • Partying safely

Cyber security 

You may be at risk of cyber-based threats during overseas travel to any country. Digital identity theft is a growing concern. Your devices and personal data can be compromised, especially if you’re connecting to Wi-Fi, using or connecting to shared or public computers or to Bluetooth.

Social media can also be risky in destinations where there are social or political tensions, or laws that may seem unreasonable by Australian standards. Travellers have been arrested for things they have said on social media. Don't comment on local or political events on your social media.

More information: 

Cyber security when travelling overseas

Terrorism is a threat worldwide. Although there is no recent history of terrorism in South Korea, attacks can't be ruled out. 

You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public areas, including those visited by foreigners.  

  • Terrorist threats

Climate and natural disasters

South Korea experiences  natural disasters  and  severe weather , including:

  • flooding and landslides
  • earthquakes

Get familiar with the advice of local authorities on preparing for a natural disaster or other emergency.

If there's a natural disaster:

  • know your accommodation's evacuation plans
  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • closely monitor the media
  • keep in touch with friends and family

Register with the  Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System  to receive alerts on major disasters.

Typhoons and severe weather

The monsoon season is usually from late June to late August.

Excessive rainfall during summer can cause severe flooding and landslides and damage to housing and infrastructure. Flash flooding can occur.

The typhoon season is usually during the period August to September. 

If there's a typhoon approaching, stay inside. The direction and strength of typhoons can change with little warning.

Identify your closest local shelter if required and follow the directions of local authorities. 

Severe weather may also affect:

  • access to ports
  • road travel and transport
  • essential services, such as water and power

If there's a typhoon or severe storm:

  • exercise caution
  • stay away from affected areas
  • you may get stuck in the area
  • flights could be delayed or suspended

Monitor weather forecasts and follow instructions of local authorities.

Check with tour operators before travelling to affected areas.

Contact your airline for the latest flight information.

  • Korean Meteorological Administration
  • Severe Weather Information Centre
  • Special weather report – KMA
  • Real-time disaster alert – National Disaster and Safety Portal

Earthquakes and tsunamis

Earthquake activity happens on the Korean Peninsula, though less than in Japan and other countries in the region.

Tsunamis are also a risk.

Large earthquakes, which predominantly tend to occur in neighbouring countries, can cause destructive tsunamis that may affect the Korean Peninsula. If you are in a coastal region after a major earthquake, move to higher ground immediately.

  • Pacific Warning Center
  • Korea Meteorological Administration

Travel insurance

Get comprehensive  travel insurance  before you leave.

Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won't pay for these costs.

If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.

If you're not insured, you may have to pay many thousands of dollars up-front for medical care.

  • what activities and care your policy covers
  • that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition. Treatment for mental health is not widely available in South Korea and is not comparable to services in Australia. There are very few hospitals that have mental health or psychiatric wards attached, and of those available, many will not accept foreigners. 

Admission to a mental health or psychiatric ward usually requires proof of a prior mental health diagnosis. Many facilities are reluctant to admit foreigners. For involuntary admissions, 2 family members present in Korea will be required to sign consent. 

See your doctor or travel clinic to:

  • have a basic health check-up
  • ask if your travel plans may affect your health
  • plan any vaccinations you need

Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.

If you have immediate concerns for your welfare, or the welfare of another Australian, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or contact your  nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate  to discuss counselling hotlines and services available in your location.

  • General health advice
  • Healthy holiday tips  (Healthdirect Australia)

Medications

If you plan to travel with medication, check if it's legal in  South Korea . Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in Korean pharmacies. Some medications may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance in South Korea, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor. 

Before you travel:

  • contact the South Korean  Ministry of Food and Drug Safety  or email  [email protected]  to check whether your medication is a controlled or illegal substance in South Korea
  • Check with the  Korea Customs Service  for information on restricted or prohibited items that may not be brought into the country
  • ask your doctor about alternative medicines

You may need to apply for a 'bring in' permit. When applying, provide the generic name of the medication, as the brand name in South Korea may be different in Australia.

It may take authorities more than 2 weeks to process your application.

Take enough medications for your trip.

Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:

  • what the medication is
  • your required dosage
  • that it's for personal use

Health risks

Insect-borne diseases.

Malaria  is a risk in:

  • the demilitarised zone at the border between South and North Korea
  • rural areas in the northern parts of Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces

Japanese encephalitis  also occurs throughout the Korean countryside.

To protect yourself from disease:

  • make sure your accommodation is insect-proof
  • use insect repellent
  • wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing
  • get vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis before you travel
  • consider taking medicine to prevent malaria

Other health risks

Waterborne, foodborne, and other  infectious diseases  occur, including:

  • tuberculosis
  • COVID-19  

If you test positive for COVID-19 while in South Korea, you may need to follow local isolation guidelines.

Use normal hygiene precautions, including:

  • careful and frequent hand washing
  • boil tap water before drinking or cooking
  • avoid uncooked and undercooked food
  • seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea

Hand, foot and mouth disease

Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD)  is common.

Serious outbreaks sometimes occur.

Outbreaks usually start in March and peak in May but can continue until October each year.

The disease mostly affects children aged under 10 years. Adult cases, especially in young adults, are not unusual.

When outside major cities:

  • drink boiled water, filtered water or bottled water with sealed lids
  • avoid ice cubes
  • avoid uncooked and undercooked food, such as salads

Get medical advice if you have a fever or diarrhoea.

Yellow dust

Yellow dust is carried to the Korean Peninsula by strong winds from Mongolia and China from March to May. High levels of airborne pollution occur during this time.

The dust can:

  • cause eye, nose, mouth and throat irritations
  • make breathing and heart problems worse

If you're concerned about the effects of dust, speak to your doctor before leaving Australia. 

Get medical advice if you have allergies or respiratory difficulties.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities in South Korea is usually good, but few staff speak English.

Medical services can be expensive. Hospitals usually require an up-front deposit or confirmation of insurance before they'll treat you.

You can request ambulance and emergency medical assistance by calling 119. This is a 24/7 service with English interpreters available.

  • Medical tourism

South Korea is a popular destination for medical tourism.

  • research and choose your medical service providers carefully
  • avoid discounted or uncertified medical service providers

Check whether your travel insurance covers you if things go wrong with your surgery. Most insurers don't.

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.

You're required to wear a mask  in hospitals. Fines of KRW100,000 apply. Exceptions for mask-wearing are made for minors under 14 years of age, people with disabilities, or those who may have difficulty wearing a face mask for medical reasons.

The use of electric kickboard (electric scooter) rentals in South Korea is increasing. You must be 16 years or older to ride an electric scooter. Riders must have a driver's licence, wear a helmet, and use bicycle paths or, if there are no bicycle paths, car lanes while adhering to road traffic rules. Fines can apply for riding while inebriated, failing to wear helmets, or exceeding passenger limits. 

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our  Consular Services Charter . But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Don't carry or consume illegal drugs.

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs include:

  • long jail sentences
  • heavy fines
  • deportation
  • Carrying or using drugs

It's illegal to work in South Korea if it's not specified in your visa. This includes paid and unpaid work.

Authorities have fined, detained and deported Australians for breaching their visa conditions.

It's difficult to change your visa type once you're in South Korea.

If you plan to work, arrange a work visa through a South Korean embassy or consulate before you travel.

Disputes over expected working and living conditions for Australians teaching English in South Korea are common.

Some Australians planning to teach English have faced penalties after they or their employment agent gave false documents to Korean immigration authorities.

If you're employed without the right visa, your options will be limited under Korean law.

If you're considering teaching English in South Korea:

  • research your employer and employment agent
  • consider getting legal advice before you sign a contract
  • make sure your visa application is truthful and accurate

Serious crimes, such as murder, may attract the death penalty.

It's illegal to take photos of and around:

  • military zones, assets or personnel
  • official buildings

South Korea has strict anti-corruption laws for public officials. Public officials and their spouses can't accept meals, gifts or other benefits above set limits.

'Public officials' include:

  • journalists
  • employees of government-owned or funded companies

Get legal advice to make sure you don't breach these laws.

If you're involved in a commercial or legal dispute, authorities can stop you from leaving until the dispute is resolved.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you're overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.

  • Staying within the law

Dual citizenship

South Korea  recognises dual nationality only in certain circumstances.

It's possible that by applying for Australian Citizenship by Descent or by Conferral, you may lose your Korean citizenship.

There are some differences between the Australian and Korean citizenship requirements. This has caused some difficulties, particularly for children born in South Korea to South Korean and Australian parents. Expectant parents should make themselves aware of these differences and contact the Australian and South Korean immigration authorities in advance of giving birth.

If you've been arrested or detained and have Korean citizenship, we may only be able to provide limited consular help.

If you were born in South Korea or have Korean citizenship, you will continue to be a Korean citizen unless you:

  • formally renounce it; and
  • remove your name from the Korean family register

Military service is compulsory for male citizens of South Korea, including dual nationals.

The South Korean Government may require you to undertake military service if you:

  • are male; and
  • are listed on the Korean family register

This is the case even if you have travelled to South Korea on your Australian passport.

The Government may not allow you to renounce your Korean nationality or leave the country until you either:

  • complete your military service, or
  • receive a special exemption from serving

If you're an Australian-South Korean dual national, get advice from a  South Korean embassy or consulate  before you travel.

Contact the Korean Immigration Service for information on Korea’s law on dual citizenship.

  • Dual nationals

Visas and border measures

Every country or territory decides who can enter or leave through its borders. For specific information about the evidence you'll need to enter a foreign destination, check with the nearest embassy, consulate or immigration department of the destination you're entering. 

Long-term visa holders residing in South Korea must apply for a re-entry permit before leaving South Korea. If you leave South Korea without a re-entry permit, your Alien Registration Card may be cancelled and you'll need to apply for a new long-term visa to enter. If you hold an A1, A2, A3 or F4 visa, you're exempt from requiring a re-entry permit.

To apply for a re-entry permit, visit a local immigration office, including at an airport or seaport. If you intend to apply at an airport immigration office on your way out of South Korea, ensure you allow sufficient time to complete the required formalities.

Further information about re-entry permits and medical examination requirements is available from the Korean Ministry of Justice .

Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. Contact the nearest  South Korean embassy or consulate  for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.

Border measures

If you're travelling to South Korea, you may be required to register your information on the  Korean Q-code registration system  to receive a generated QR code for your arrival or complete a health questionnaire on arrival if you haven't registered online. 

You should also check the  Korean Q-code registration system  prior to travelling to South Korea, as countries listed as 'Quarantine Inspection Required Areas' may change without notice. Further information on 'Quarantine Inspection Required Areas' is available on the ' Notices ' page.

Arriving passengers could be screened for high body temperature and as necessary might be subject to further health questions.

Contact the  South Korean embassy or consulate  in Australia for more information when planning your travel and to confirm requirements.  

Other formalities

You'll be fingerprinted when you arrive.

Passengers arriving at South Korean airports from particular countries could be screened for infectious diseases, including:

  • Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

Extra quarantine checks are in place for flights from high-risk areas.

Korean Government Agencies

  • Korea Disease Control & Prevention Agency (KDCA)
  • Ministry of Health and Welfare
  • Ministry of Employment and Labor
  • Ministry of Education
  • Ministry of Gender Equality and Family
  • Ministry of the Interior and Safety
  • Ministry of Economy and Finance

Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you're just transiting or stopping over.

Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.

You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.

The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport's expiry date before you travel. If you're not sure it'll be valid for long enough, consider getting  a new passport .

Lost or stolen passport

Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.

Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.

If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:

  • In Australia, contact the  Australian Passport Information Service .
  • If you're overseas, contact the nearest  Australian embassy or consulate.

Passport with ‘X’ gender identifier 

Although Australian passports comply with international standards for sex and gender, we can’t guarantee that a passport showing 'X' in the sex field will be accepted for entry or transit by another country. Contact the nearest  embassy, high commission or consulate of your destination  before you arrive at the border to confirm if authorities will accept passports with 'X' gender markers.

  • LGBTQIA+ travellers

The local currency is the Korean Won (KRW).

You can change Australian dollars for KRW at local banks and money changers.

On arrival, declare all means of  international payment , including KRW notes, cashier's checks, or foreign currency over $US10,000 or equivalent. 

ATMs are available in cities and larger towns, but these might not accept some foreign debit cards.

Credit cards are usually accepted in hotels, restaurants, shops, and taxis, particularly in cities and larger towns.

Be aware of card skimming. See  Safety

Local travel

Driving permit.

To drive, you'll need either:

  • a valid local licence, or
  • an International Driver's Permit (IDP) and a valid Australian driver's licence

Get your IDP before your leave Australia.

You need a Korean driver's licence to drive if you intend to stay in South Korea for 90 days or more.

You will need a certified copy of your Australian licence to apply for a Korean driver's licence. 

When issuing you with a Korean driver's licence, the local authorities will normally keep your Australian driver's licence. They will return your Australian licence to you in exchange for your Korean driver's licence before you depart Korea.  

  • Safe Driving - KOROAD

Road travel

South Korea has a high rate of traffic deaths, especially for pedestrians. While the South Korean police have been more strictly reinforcing traffic rules, in recent years, speeding, running red lights, and other risky behaviour are still common, especially by buses, taxis, and motorcyclists.

If you're involved in an accident, whether or not you're at fault, you could face criminal charges. You may need to pay compensation to the injured person.

The blood alcohol limit for drivers is 0.03%. Heavy penalties apply for exceeding the limit. Don't drink and drive.

If you're walking:

  • look out for motorcyclists, even on footpaths and pedestrian crossings
  • don't expect traffic to stop at pedestrian crossings
  • check carefully before stepping onto the road

Before travelling by road, learn local road rules and practices. 

  • Driving or riding

Motorcycles

Check if your travel insurance policy covers you when riding a motorbike. Most policies won't cover you if you don't follow local laws or wear a helmet.

Always wear a helmet.

There are restrictions on riding motorcycles on highways and other major roads.

Use only authorised taxis, preferably those arranged through your hotel.

Always insist the driver uses the meter. Most taxis accept credit cards.

Rideshare apps are also available in South Korea. 

International taxi services are available and may have English-speaking drivers.

Public transport

Public transportation (including buses and metropolitan subway networks) in and between major urban areas is good.

Most major transportation systems have signs and make announcements in English.

  • Visit Korea
  • Transport and getting around safely

Rail travel

South Korea has a large high-speed rail network (KTX).

Stations are usually located in major urban areas. They have signs in English.

They're often linked to local taxi or public transport networks.

Ferry services operate between most large coastal cities and other domestic and international ports.

Busan, Incheon, and Jeju Island are regular stopover locations for cruise ships.

  • Going on a cruise
  • Travelling by boat

Some airlines and travel providers don't allow you to pay for flights online within South Korea with a foreign credit card.

DFAT doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.

Check  South Korea's air safety profile  with the Aviation Safety Network.

Emergencies

Depending on what you need, contact your:

  • family and friends
  • travel agent
  • insurance provider

To report a crime, call 112 or go to the nearest police station. This is a 24/7 service with English interpreters available. 

Always get a police report when you report a crime.

If you have lost any property, visit the  Lost112 website  for more information. 

  • Korea Disease Control & Prevention (KDCA)

Consular contacts

Read the  Consular Services Charter  for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

For consular help, contact the Australian Embassy in Seoul.

Australian Embassy, Seoul

19th Floor, Kyobo Building 1, Jong-ro Jongno-gu Seoul 03154, Republic of Korea Phone: (+82 2) 2003 0100 Fax: (+82 2) 2003 0196 Website:  southkorea.embassy.gov.au Facebook:  Australia in the Republic of Korea Instagram:  @AusEmbKor

Check the Embassy website for details about opening hours and any temporary closures. 

24-hour Consular Emergency Centre

In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:

  • +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas
  • 1300 555 135 in Australia

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Is The Antigen Test Accepted For Travel To South Korea?

  • Last updated May 26, 2024
  • Difficulty Advanced

Susan Meyers

  • Category Travel

is antigen test accepted for travel to south korea

As international travel restrictions continue to evolve in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world are implementing various measures to ensure the safety and health of their citizens and visitors. One such measure is the requirement for a negative COVID-19 test result prior to travel. In the case of South Korea, there has been a question surrounding the acceptance of antigen tests for travelers. In this article, we will explore the current status of the antigen test and its acceptance for travel to South Korea.

What You'll Learn

Introduction to antigen testing and travel requirements in south korea, current acceptance of antigen tests for travel to south korea, comparison between antigen and pcr tests for travel to south korea, future implications and updates on acceptance of antigen tests for travel to south korea.

quartzmountain

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect global travel, it is important to stay up-to-date with the latest testing requirements for different countries. If you are planning to travel to South Korea, it is crucial to understand the testing procedures and requirements in place.

Antigen testing, also known as rapid testing, has gained popularity as an effective method for detecting COVID-19 infections. In South Korea, antigen testing is accepted as a valid option for travelers who wish to enter the country. This type of testing offers quick results and is relatively easier to administer, making it a practical choice for travelers.

To ensure a smooth travel experience, it is essential to follow the specific guidelines set by the South Korean government. Here are the key procedures and requirements for antigen testing when traveling to South Korea:

  • Check the Validity of Antigen Tests: Before proceeding with an antigen test, it is important to ensure that the test you are taking is accepted by the South Korean authorities. The test should be from a recognized and approved laboratory or testing center. Check the list of approved testing centers on the official website of South Korea's embassy or consulate in your country.
  • Timing of Antigen Test: The timing of the antigen test is critical. South Korea requires travelers to take the test within 48 hours before departure. Make sure to schedule your test accordingly to meet this requirement.
  • Documentation: When you get tested, make sure to obtain a printed or electronic certificate that includes your name, date of birth, test result, and the details of the testing center. This document will serve as proof of your test result and will be required during the travel process.
  • QR Code Registration: Before traveling to South Korea, you need to register a QR code through the Korea Ministry of Health and Welfare's online platform. This QR code serves as your health declaration and will be checked upon arrival.
  • Mandatory Quarantine: Regardless of the test result, all travelers arriving in South Korea must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine. This quarantine can be done at a government-designated facility or at your place of residence, depending on your visa and accommodation arrangements.
  • Additional Testing: In some cases, you may be required to take an additional COVID-19 test upon arrival in South Korea. This is determined by the health authorities based on specific criteria, such as the country you are traveling from or any potential exposure risks.
  • Compliance with Public Health Measures: It is important to follow all public health measures and guidelines while in South Korea, including wearing face masks, practicing social distancing, and adhering to any local restrictions.

Remember, the situation regarding travel requirements and testing procedures can change rapidly, so it is vital to stay updated with the latest information from official sources. Be sure to check the official websites of the South Korean government, embassy, or consulate in your country for the most accurate and up-to-date guidance.

By familiarizing yourself with the antigen testing requirements and following the necessary procedures, you can ensure a smoother travel experience to South Korea while prioritizing the health and safety of yourself and others.

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact global travel, it is crucial to stay informed about the current requirements and guidelines for traveling to different countries. South Korea, known for its efficient response to the health crisis, has implemented specific protocols for travelers entering its borders. One of the main concerns for travelers is whether an antigen test is accepted for entry into South Korea. Here, we will provide you with the most up-to-date information regarding the current acceptance of antigen tests for travel to South Korea.

It is important to note that the guidelines and requirements for traveling to South Korea are subject to frequent changes due to the evolving nature of the pandemic. It is essential to stay updated by checking the official websites of the South Korean embassy or consulates in your country of residence, as well as the website of the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As of (insert current date), antigen tests are accepted for travel to South Korea under certain conditions. However, it is crucial to understand the specific requirements and limitations associated with antigen testing for travel.

Firstly, it is worth mentioning that South Korea recognizes both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and antigen tests for the purposes of detecting COVID-19 infection. Antigen tests, also known as rapid tests, are generally quicker and less expensive than PCR tests. They can provide results within a shorter time frame, usually within 15-30 minutes.

To be eligible for entry into South Korea, travelers must obtain a negative COVID-19 test result from a test conducted within 72 hours before their departure. However, not all antigen tests are accepted. They must be approved by the Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) and have a specificity rate of 97% or higher and a sensitivity rate of 80% or higher.

It is important to note that the MFDS maintains a list of approved antigen test kits on its website. It is recommended to consult the list and ensure that the test kit used meets the required criteria. The list is regularly updated, so it is essential to check for any changes before traveling.

Travelers must also take note of the format in which the test results should be presented. The test certificate or document must be in English or Korean and should include the tester's name, the test taker's name and passport number, the name and contact information of the testing institution, the test method (antigen test), the test result, and the date of the test.

Additionally, it is advisable to carry multiple copies of the test results, as they may be required at various stages of the journey, such as during check-in, immigration, and quarantine procedures.

Lastly, it is important to remember that these requirements may vary depending on the traveler's nationality, purpose of visit, and other factors. Some travelers, such as diplomatic passport holders or those traveling for specific official purposes, may be subject to different regulations.

In conclusion, antigen tests are currently accepted for travel to South Korea, subject to specific conditions and requirements. It is crucial to ensure that the test kit used is approved by the Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and meets the required specificity and sensitivity rates. Travelers should also carefully follow the guidelines regarding the format of the test results and carry multiple copies. It is highly recommended to regularly check for any updates and consult the official sources mentioned earlier for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

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If you're planning to travel to South Korea, it's vital to understand the testing requirements to ensure a smooth journey. As of now, South Korea accepts both antigen and PCR tests for entry into the country. However, there are some differences between these two types of tests that you should be aware of.

  • PCR Test: PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests are considered the gold standard for detecting COVID-19. They have a high accuracy rate and can detect even small amounts of the virus in the body. The results usually take longer, typically within 24 to 72 hours.
  • Antigen Test: Antigen tests are rapid tests that can provide results within minutes. However, they are generally less accurate compared to PCR tests. Antigen tests are designed to identify specific proteins on the surface of the virus, and may not detect the virus in its early stages or in individuals with low viral loads.

Testing requirements:

  • PCR Test: South Korea requires a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours before departure. The test must be conducted in a certified laboratory or medical facility, and the result should be presented in English or Korean.
  • Antigen Test: As of now, South Korea accepts antigen tests for entry. However, it's important to note that some airlines or countries may not recognize antigen tests for travel purposes. It's always recommended to check with your airline and the specific entry requirements of your destination.

Cost and availability:

  • PCR Test: PCR tests are generally more expensive compared to antigen tests due to the laboratory processing involved. Additionally, PCR tests may have longer wait times for results during peak travel periods.
  • Antigen Test: Antigen tests are usually less expensive than PCR tests and are readily available at many testing centers or clinics. The rapid results make antigen tests a convenient option for travelers on a tight schedule.

Travel restrictions:

  • PCR Test: Some countries may have specific requirements regarding PCR tests, such as the need for a specific test version (e.g., RT-PCR) or additional documentation. It's crucial to check the entry requirements of your destination country before traveling.
  • Antigen Test: While South Korea currently accepts antigen tests, it's essential to check if your airline and destination country recognize antigen tests for travel purposes. Some countries may still require PCR tests for entry.

In conclusion, both antigen and PCR tests are accepted for travel to South Korea. However, it's important to consider the accuracy and potential restrictions associated with each test. If you have ample time and want a higher level of accuracy, a PCR test might be the preferable choice. On the other hand, if you need quick results and your airline and destination country accept antigen tests, they can be a convenient and cost-effective option. Always stay updated with the latest travel requirements and guidelines from the relevant authorities to ensure a hassle-free journey.

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact global travel, many countries have implemented strict measures to prevent the spread of the virus. South Korea, known for its proactive approach in managing the pandemic, has been at the forefront of implementing various testing requirements for incoming travelers. One question that frequently arises is whether antigen tests are accepted for travel to South Korea.

Initially, South Korea only accepted polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for entry into the country. PCR tests are considered the gold standard for COVID-19 testing, as they detect the presence of the virus's genetic material. However, as the demand for travel increases and testing capabilities evolve, South Korea has started to accept antigen tests as an alternative.

Antigen tests, also known as rapid tests, detect specific proteins from the virus in respiratory samples. These tests are convenient because they provide results within a shorter amount of time compared to PCR tests. While PCR tests can take several hours or even days for results, antigen tests offer results in as little as 15 minutes. This makes them attractive to individuals who need quick and reliable testing before traveling.

It's important to note that South Korea has specific requirements for antigen tests to be accepted for travel. Primarily, the tests must meet the standards set forth by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. These standards ensure that the tests have a high level of accuracy and reliability in detecting COVID-19 infections.

To be accepted, antigen tests must have a sensitivity of at least 80% and a specificity of at least 97%. This means that the test should correctly identify 80% of positive cases and 97% of negative cases. Additionally, the tests should be able to detect the presence of the virus in respiratory samples, typically collected through a nasal or throat swab.

It's also worth mentioning that some airlines and airports may have their specific requirements regarding the type of test accepted. Therefore, it's important to check with your airline and the airport you will be departing from to ensure compliance with their guidelines.

Moreover, it's crucial to keep in mind that travel requirements and regulations can change rapidly. While antigen tests are currently accepted for travel to South Korea, it's highly advisable to stay updated on any changes announced by the government or health authorities. This includes checking the official website of the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) regularly.

In conclusion, antigen tests are now accepted for travel to South Korea, provided they meet the standards set by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety. However, it's essential to stay informed about any changes in regulations, as requirements can change rapidly. Be sure to check with your airline and the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most up-to-date information before traveling to South Korea.

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Frequently asked questions.

No, South Korea does not accept antigen tests for entry into the country. Only polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are accepted.

Yes, PCR tests are available at some airports in South Korea. However, it is recommended to take the test before your departure to ensure smooth travel.

The PCR test for travel to South Korea should be taken within 72 hours of departure. It is important to check the specific requirements of your airline and destination.

Yes, children, including infants, are required to take a PCR test for travel to South Korea. The same rules apply to all passengers regardless of age.

No, South Korea does not accept rapid PCR tests for entry into the country. Only standard PCR tests are accepted.

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