Destination: Korea

Things to Know Before Traveling to South Korea

Destination: Korea

Things to Know Before Traveling to South Korea

What can I expect from South Korea?

South Korea is probably one of the most underrated countries in East Asia. However, despite its small size, South Korea has a lot to offer: history, UNESCO heritage sites, beaches, islands, modern cities – and delicious food.

There are 9 provinces in South Korea: North Chungcheong, South Chungcheong, Gangwon, Gyeonggi, North Gyeongsang, South Gyeongsang, North Jeolla, South Jeolla, and Jeju Special Self-Governing Province.

South korea visitor information

South Korea welcomes many nationalities with visa-free entry. However, travelers from 112 visa-free countries now need K-ETA (Korea Electronic Travel Authorization) before visiting.

The permitted stay duration varies per country, ranging from 6 months for Canada to 30 days for countries like Albania and Andorra.

K-ETA acts as a pre-travel permission slip, allowing multiple trips over 2 years at a cost of 10,000KRW per person.

In case of K-ETA rejection, travelers have the option to apply for a visa instead. For specific details and eligibility, visit the official K-ETA website or contact the listed authorities for assistance.

Other Visa Options

  1. Temporary Visitor (C-3) Visa: This is a standard tourist visa that allows for short-term stays for tourism, visiting friends or relatives, or participating in conferences, cultural events, or short-term courses.

  2. Working Holiday Visa: Available for young adults (usually aged 18-30 or 18-35, depending on the agreement) from countries that have a working holiday agreement with South Korea. It allows travelers to explore the country and work temporarily.

  3. Medical Tourist Visa: For individuals seeking medical treatment in South Korea, this visa may be required. It's advisable to check with the specific medical institution or hospital for assistance in obtaining this visa.

  4. Visa for Visiting Relatives (F-1): For individuals who have immediate family members residing in South Korea and wish to visit them.

  5. Student Visa (D-4): This visa is for individuals enrolled in Korean language courses at accredited language institutions or universities in South Korea. It allows for longer-term stays to study the language intensively. The D-4 visa is typically valid for the duration of the language program and may allow for part-time work under certain conditions.

  6. Language Study and Cultural Exchange Visa: Some programs or scholarships specifically focus on language studies and cultural exchange. These programs might have their own specific visa arrangements, often falling under the D-4 category.

  7. Digital Nomad Visa: Introduced from January 1, 2024, it offers remote workers a chance to live and work in South Korea for up to 2 years. The eligibility criteria include being 18 or older, having one year of professional experience, an annual income of around $65,860 USD, and a clean criminal record. The visa allows for an initial one-year stay, extendable for an additional year. Spouses and children under 18 can accompany visa holders. Applications must be submitted to the Korean embassy in the applicant's home country, including proof of income, employment verification, criminal record check, and health insurance coverage.

Things to See and Do in South Korea

  • Explore Gyeongbokgung Palace
  • Shop in Myeongdong
  • Walk through Bukchon Hanok Village
  • Swim at Haeundae Beach
  • Do a Templestay
  • Wander through a green tea field
  • Have Korean BBQ
  • Sleep in a Hanok in Jeonju
  • Explore Jeju Island

Typical Costs When Traveling

Accommodation – Traveling in South Korea isn’t as expensive as Japan but also not as cheap as China, for example. Hotels in Seoul are especially pricey in the most popular areas. However, you can find some incredible budget rooms at so-called “love motels” (yes, they are targeted at couples…) with jacuzzi bathtubs and themed rooms.

Food – Korean food is extremely popular around the world right now – so be sure to try as much as possibl! Some of the best dishes include: bibimbap, BBQ, jeon, jjiggae, kimbap and the liquor soju.

Transportation – Because Korea is a relatively small country, you can easily get around using express inter-city buses and the high-speed train KTX. Big cities usually have a subway system and you can purchase a T-money card that allows you to use transportation more conveniently.

Suggested daily budget

35-50 EUR / 40-56 USD

(Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation.

Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)

Money Saving Tips

  • Don’t Exchange Money at Incheon Airport. Conversion rates and fees are generally higher at the airport. Instead of converting your money at the airport, head to a bank in the downtown district of your destination city.
  • Ditch the taxi. Most large cities in Korea have a great public transit system. Buses and subways run super frequently and won't cost you nearly as much as a taxi ride.
  • Get a city pass. The Discover Seoul Pass was created by the Seoul Tourism Organization and Seoul Metropolitan Government with the aim to provide visitors with a complete experience of Seoul, including access to the most prominent landmarks and tourist attractions with ease and flexibility.
  • Take advantage of Lunch Time Deals. Many restaurants in Korea offer discounts on selected items or all of their menu during lunchtime saving you up to 20%.

Recommended Travel Guides for Korea

If you want to learn more about South Korea and have a handy travel guide in your pocket, check out these three options below:

DK Eyewitness Top 10 Seoul

This Top 10 Seoul guide is a great pocket guide that breaks down the best of Seoul into helpful lists of ten - from selected highlights to the best museums and galleries, and the most authentic restaurants, tearooms, bars, shops, and markets. I personally helped update the most recent version of this guide. Buy this book.

Lonely Planet Korea

You really can't go wrong with a lonely planet guide in your hand luggage! I'm a huge fan of Lonely Planet and own this guide myself. What I love is the brand-new pull-out, passport-size 'Just Landed' card with wi-fi, ATM and transport info - all you need for a smooth journey from airport to hotel! Buy this book.

South Korea: The Solo Girl's Travel Guide

Calling all my solo female travel ladies out there - this guide is amazing! Part of the #1 Travel Guidebook Series for Women (and couples), this take on South Korea will help you avoid the scams, creeps, and tourist traps and skip ahead to the cities and adventures that are worth your time (and money)! Buy this book.

Travel Insurance for South Korea

I’m always surprised how many people travel without travel insurance. For me, it’s as essential to travel as buying a plane ticket, backpack or accommodation, and I never go without it.

Although South Korea is relatively safe, unexpected natural disasters can always happen and I’ve witnessed people getting laptops and phones pickpocketed first hand.

Adequate insurance not only provides you with medical coverage (if you get sick or break your leg), but also covers things like your camera full of epic shots getting damaged or stolen, your flights getting cancelled, or you getting caught up in a natural disaster.

In short, it’s an insurance against potential issues that arise when you’re traveling and can save your life (or at the very least, a lifetime of debt).

BOOK | I recommend booking World Nomads travel insurance

World Nomads provides travel insurance for travelers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.

Teaching English in South Korea

Do you want to stay in Korea permanently? South Korea is a great destination for those interested in teaching English abroad.

With a strong economy and an increasing demand for English language skills, South Korea offers a wealth of opportunities for teachers to gain valuable experience and contribute to students' language development.

To begin your teaching journey in South Korea, it's recommended to obtain a TEFL/TESOL certification. There are various course options available, both online and in-class, that can help prepare you for teaching in South Korea.

Teaching English in Asia has been an enriching experience for me, offering a chance to explore new cultures and meet new people. In South Korea, you'll have the opportunity to work in modern cities, traditional villages, and rural areas, each with its own unique charm.

For those seeking a reliable provider for TEFL/TESOL certification, consider ITTT for the following reasons:

  1. Experience: ITTT has been providing high-quality TEFL training courses since 1998, making it a well-established provider.
  2. Inclusive: ITTT courses are open to all fluent English speakers, regardless of nationality or teaching experience.
  3. Transparent: ITTT offers transparent pricing with no hidden costs, covering all necessary materials and certification.
  4. Support: ITTT provides 24/7 customer care, lifetime job assistance to course graduates, and access to teaching materials and lesson plans.
  5. Additional Resources: ITTT offers supplementary resources to support its graduates, such as teaching videos, an online blog, and partnerships with leading recruitment companies in the EFL industry.

Sign up through my link and receive a 20% discount off your TEFL/TESOL course to start your teaching journey in South Korea today!

For more details, check out my complete guide for teaching English in South Korea.

What can I expect from South Korea?

Be prepared to get your mind blown. Serioulsy, because not many people consider Korea a travel destination, it isn’t much talked about. That’s why you’ll be even more impressed once you explore the vibrant local culture and visit Korea’s many fascinating attractions and natural wonders.