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Traveling to South Korea in 2021: What You Should Know

Traveling to South Korea has become much more popular in recent years, especially with the Hallyu wave. Whether you are traveling there for tourism, school, teaching English, or something else, there is a lot to prepare for. With the pandemic also underway, travel in 2021 is bound to complicate matters, so we made this comprehensive guide.

Traveling to South Korea and Requirements

An image of an open passport book, which you need as a requirement for traveling to South Korea..

Photo by ConvertKit on UnSplash.

Before traveling to South Korea, or any country, you should always check out the requirements for that country before jumping on a plane. This should be number one on your to-do list. So, be sure to check for travel advisories on the government website, your country’s embassy in that country, and that country’s embassy in your country. Check to see if you need a visa for travel or any other required documents. If you don’t have the proper requirements or documents then you may not be admitted into the country or fined depending on the requirement. Also, if there are any emergencies that happen abroad, always contact your embassy!

Visas for Traveling to South Korea

South Korea has several visas for all of your potential situations. If you want to enter the country, you should check out the Korean visa portal and immigration site to apply. You can request an application or even be invited to apply by another party in the country through the immigration office or branch office.

Important things to remember:

  • If you have requested approval for the payment of a visa and enter the country before it’s approved, your application will be considered null and void.
  • If you get a visa three months after you have been notified of the date of your request for issuance or the date you receive your issuance by the Minister of Justice, then you must apply for new visa issuance. So get your visa before three months is up.

All of this can be seen on the immigration site.

  • Here are visas you can apply for:
    • Short-term Employee (C-4)
    • Culture and Arts (D-1)
    • Study Abroad (D-2)
    • Technical Training (D-3)
    • General Training (D-4)
    • Religion (D-6)
    • Corporate Investment (D-8)
    • Trade Management (D-9)
    • Professor (E-1)
    • Foreign Language Instructor (E-2)
    • Research (E-3)
    • Technical Instructor/Technician (E-4)
    • Professional (E-5)
    • Arts/Athlete (E-6)
    • Foreign National of Special Ability (E-7)
    • Non-Professional (E-9)
    • Maritime Crew (E-10)
    • Foreign Affairs/Diplomat (A-1)
    • Public Affairs/Government Official (A-2)
    • Eligible for Visa system (B-1)
    • Tourism (B-2)
    • Eligible for employment (D-10)
    • Eligible for residency (F-2)
    • Overseas Korean (F-4)
    • Permanent Resident (F-5)
    • Marriage Migrant (F-6)
    • Working Holiday (H-1)
    • Work and Visit (H-2)

For entry into Korea, you need a valid passport and visa, and you must enter before your visa expires. You can enter without a visa if you fall under the specified categories listed on the visa portal. Any other visas can be seen on the portal and immigration site, and for more information about the requirements and customs click here.

Coronavirus Restrictions for Traveling to South Korea

A Korean woman wearing a mask in public, which you should do when traveling to South Korea..

Photo by Portuguese Gravity on Unsplash.

Since the entire world is in the middle of a pandemic, there are current restrictions and travel advisories set in place for Coronavirus.

Here are some travel restrictions to consider before leaving:

  • Since June 1, 2020, Korea temporarily suspended the waiver for Re-entry Permits for long-term visa holders. If you fall under this category, click here to view the notice.
  • All foreigners entering Korea must have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of their departure.
  • All inbound travelers from the U.S. (regardless of nationality) must go through intensive screening. This involves temperature checks, a submitted health questionnaire, and travel record declarations.
  • After the intensive screening, travelers will be split into two groups: one group with Coronavirus symptoms who will be sent to a quarantine facility for testing and diagnostics. The other group will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days if they reside in Korea. If they are in Korea temporarily, they will be escorted to a testing facility and will receive results in 6-24 hours. Those with positive results will be sent to treatment centers, while those with negative results will be actively monitored through the Self-Diagnosis App. Travelers must answer phone calls from health authorities daily and during their stay in Korea.
  • Those who break self-quarantine will be put in jail for up to one year or fined 8,100 USD.

In other words, you MUST follow the rules. For more information from the notice, click here. For more tips on self-quarantine and using the Self-Diagnosis App, click here.

Some basic tips to keep in mind are:

  • Wash your hands and wear a mask.
  • Avoid gatherings.
  • Take designated taxis and buses when you can, and avoid public transportation.
  • Open windows for ventilation.
  • Seek out medical help if you develop symptoms.

Costs and Planning Before the Trip

An image of someone using a laptop and notebook, which you should use when preparing to travel to South Korea..

Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash.

As you can see, there is already a lot to keep in mind when traveling to a different country. In order to have a smooth trip, you should make a checklist and do research before you go.

Here are some questions you should ask before traveling:

  • Do I have a valid visa and passport?
  • What are all of the required documents?
  • Have I tested for Coronavirus within 72 hours of departure?
  • Do I have a plane ticket, and which airport am I flying into?
  • Does my health insurance work in Korea, or do I need supplemental insurance?
  • Should I insure my plane ticket?
  • Will I be driving in Korea, or taking other transportation?
  • Do I need an International Driving Permit if I choose to drive?
  • Can I get my medications in Korea?
  • Do I have my embassy’s contact information on my phone for easy access?
  • What are my living arrangements when I get to Korea?
  • Is someone picking me up at the airport?

These are important questions that you should have answered before leaving your country. For more resources, check out this Traveler’s Checklist from the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs, or check out your own country’s government websites for traveling abroad.

Alongside your checklist, you should also calculate the costs for actually traveling to South Korea. Here are some ballpark prices you can expect:

  • Visas: $40-$90 (depends on type)
  • Passport: $145 total for a first-time passport/$110 for a renewal
  • International Driving Permit: $15 (at AAA or NAC)
  • One-way Plane Ticket: $560-$1,600 depending on location and travel website (From U.S. to South Korea)
  • In-country purchases depend on each personal situation (housing, transportation, etc.) and should be calculated on top of travel costs.

Other Tips and Considerations

After getting everything in order, you should also make sure you personally are prepared. You have the required documents, you tested negative for Coronavirus, you are financially ready for the trip, and your checklist is completed. It’s always smart to then triple-check your bags and personal items to make sure you have everything for your adventure. You should also do research on the language, culture, and mannerisms before going to Korea to make sure you know how to get around the country well enough. If there are any last-minute jitters, then meditate and think over all the great things you get to do and see in Korea!

Traveling in a pandemic can be scary, but as long as you follow the rules you can still have a great time. Don’t be afraid to make connections, take several pictures, and learn as much as you can. No matter the reason, it’s always fun experiencing another country.

If you need ideas for great things to do in South Korea, also look at KWorldNow!