Once primarily just the domain of English teachers, military families, and business travelers, South Korea travel can be both interesting and exciting. Many flights to Southeast Asia from the US pass through Seoul, why not add a few extra days to your ticket for a stopover in Seoul?
What to Expect From South Korea Travel
- Great food: Your life is lacking if you haven't tried Korean bibimbop with a spicy bowl of kimchi. Food can be enjoyed around the clock in Seoul.
- A Tech-Savvy Culture: An estimated 90% of South Koreans own a mobile phone. Internet gaming and culture is ubiquitous here, and robotic English teachers will soon be deployed to kindergartens!
- Crowds: While tourism is relatively low, South Korea's population density is 10 times the global average. Seoul's population of 9.8 million makes the city one of the most densely populated metropolitan areas in the world.
- Compulsory Military: All South Korean males between the ages of 18 and 35 are required to serve in the military.
Read more about travel to Seoul, Korea, on a budget.
South Korea Visa Requirements
American citizens can enter and stay in South Korea for 90 days (free) without first applying for a visa. If you remain in South Korea for more than 90 days, you must visit a consulate and apply for an Alien Registration Card.
People wishing to teach English in South Korea must apply for an E-2 visa before arriving. Applicants must pass an HIV test and submit a copy of their academic diplomas and transcripts.
- Read about how to get a visa for an introduction.
- Visa rules can change. Check the South Korea embassy website for the latest.
South Korea Travel Customs
Travelers can bring up to US $400 worth of goods into South Korea without paying duties or taxes. This includes one liter of alcohol, 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco products. Note: You must be at least 19 years old to be in possession of tobacco.
All food items and plant materials are prohibited; avoid bringing sunflower seeds, peanuts, or other snacks with you from the plane.
Just in case, carry a copy of your prescription or a doctor's note for all prescription drugs that you bring inside of South Korea.
Weather in South Korea
The monsoon season runs from June to September. Typhoons and hurricanes can disrupt travel between May and November. July and August are by far the wettest months.
Winters in Seoul can be especially bitter; temperatures can dip well below 19 degrees Fahrenheit in January! The ideal time for travel to South Korea is in the cooler Fall after temperatures have dropped and the rain has stopped.
South Korea Holidays
In addition to New Year's and Christmas, travel to South Korea may be affected during these public holidays:
- March 1: Independence Movement Day
- June 6: Memorial Day
- August 15: Liberation Day
- September ?: Korea also celebrates the Mid-Autum Festival. Read more about the Chinese Moon Festival.
- October 3: National Foundation Day
Learn about more holidays and festivals in Asia.
Currency in South Korea
South Korea uses the won (KRW). The symbol appears as a “W” with two horizontal lines drawn through.
Notes are typically seen in denominations of 1,000; 5,000; 10,000; and 50,000, although older, smaller bills are still in circulation. Coins are available in 10, 50, 100, and 500 won denominations.
Don't get scammed while changing money! Check the current exchange rate before you arrive in South Korea.
- Read more about scams in Asia.
Cheap Flights to Korea
Excellent flight deals can be found to Seoul, particularly from Los Angeles and New York.
While you will find quite a few English speakers in Seoul, many signs, booking websites, and services are only available in the Korean language. Seoul maintains a hotline to help travelers with translation and language issues.
Contact the Seoul Global Centre by calling 02-1688-0120, or simply dial 120 from within Korea. The SGC is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
South Korea Embassy
For specifics about South Korea travel, contact the consulate in Washington DC:
Embassy of the Republic of Korea
2320 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
Washington DC 20008
The Korea Tourism Organization
The KTO can answer questions and help with your planning for South Korea travel:
The Korea Tourism Organization can also be reached from within Korea by dialing: 1330 or 02-1330 from a mobile phone.
The KTO helpline is open 24 hours / 365 days a year.