Republic of Korea Travel Information

Last modified: July 25, 2023
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No airport tax is levied on passengers upon embarkation at the airport.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Visa

South Korean diplomatic missions in the UK suspended the issuing of visas on 29 December 2020. Exceptions to this will only be made in limited circumstances. You should check visa requirements with the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, London.

Transiting in South Korea

All transit passengers receive a temperature check on arrival in Korea. Symptomatic individuals will be subject to a COVID-19 test and hospitalisation if found positive. Passengers who do not show symptoms and/or test negative may continue their journey. Transit passengers at Seoul Incheon Airport require a ticket/boarding pass for their onward flight to their final destination. They should confirm with the airline(s) before departure that their bags have been checked through to their final destination (as transit passengers are not able to collect and re-check in baggage on arrival in Incheon Airport).

Transit hotels are available in both Terminals 1 and 2 at Incheon Airport.

Testing / screening on arrival

All foreign nationals arriving in South Korea are required to provide a negative PCR test declaration, issued within 72 hours of departure. More details can be found on the Republic of Korea Embassy in London website.

All arrivals – regardless of nationality and length of stay – are also required to be tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) after entering South Korea. Arrivals will be taken for testing and must remain at the testing facility until a negative result has been secured. All must then quarantine for 14 days. Anyone who tests positive will be isolated and treated at a hospital or community treatment centre. Those not showing symptoms on arrival, Korean nationals, and long term foreign visitors with an Alien Registration Card and Korean residence, may self-quarantine at home for 14 days.

All other foreign short-term travellers must quarantine at a government-designated facility for 14 days. Individuals are required to pay a daily charge of 120,000KRW (approximately £81) while in government quarantine facilities.

There is currently no charge for hospital/community centre treatment for British nationals testing positive. It is worth noting that individuals testing positive on arrival may spend over a month in hospital/community treatment centres before testing negative and being discharged.

If you display symptoms or return a positive test result for COVID-19, you must comply with self-quarantine and treatment instructions issued by the Korean authorities. Failure to do so could result in imprisonment, deportation, the revocation of visas or residence permits and an entry ban, and you may be held liable for economic losses incurred by further transmission of the virus. The Ministry of Justice has made clear that this policy applies to foreign residents as well as short-term visitors.

You can find more information on Korean arrival procedures on the Government of the Republic of Korea website.

Data collection

Individuals from the UK will be tested for COVID-19 on arrival, and will need to participate with an active monitoring system via regular calls with a health expert and a specialised mobile App.

Make sure you have with you a mobile telephone with the roaming function enabled, and/or the telephone number of a friend, relative or contact who can update the authorities daily on your state of health. A hotel telephone number will not be accepted. Immigration authorities will undertake a test call before travellers leave the airport, and any individual unable to verify their contact details may be denied entry to South Korea.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

If you have a British Citizen passport you can enter South Korea as a tourist for up to 90 days without a visa. You must also have an onward or return ticket. It’s illegal to work on a tourist visa, whether as a teacher or in any other capacity.

If you have a different type of British nationality, or are travelling for any purpose other than tourism, you should check visa requirements with the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, London.

Long-term visa holders

Foreign nationals residing in South Korea on most types of long-term visa need to apply for a re-entry permit at a local immigration office or at the airport before undertaking any travel out of South Korea. You should engage early with the Immigration Authorities and apply for a re-entry permit in good time ahead of any planned travel.

Long-term visa holders leaving South Korea without a re-entry permit will have their visa and Alien Registration Card cancelled and will need to obtain a new long-term visa before they can re-enter South Korea. There is no longer a requirement for re-entry permit holders to obtain a medical certificate before returning to South Korea, but all travellers require a negative COVID test certificate as detailed above.

Exceptions to the re-entry permit requirement include holders of A-1, A-2, A-3 and F-4 visas, or those issued with an Isolation Exemption Certificate by a Korean Embassy or consulate overseas. The issue of Isolation Exemption Certificates has also been temporarily suspended by the South Korean Embassy in London.

For further information, call the Korean Immigration Contact Centre (Tel: 1345) or see the official announcement here.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 3 months from the date of entry into South Korea.

All foreigners living in South Korea are required to report any changes in their passport information (such as when receiving a new passport) either online using the Korean Immigration Office website or by visiting a local immigration office in South Korea. For further information, call the Korean Immigration Contact Centre (Tel: +82 1345).

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from South Korea.

Customs declarations

Check the website of the Korea Customs Service for information on restricted or prohibited items that may not be brought into the country. If you are in any doubt about the legality of any items – including medications – you should declare them on entry.

South Korean customs authorities allow you to bring small amounts of medication for your personal use, provided that it is kept in carry-on baggage. It is advised to take an English language prescription from your doctor at home for both your prescription drugs and non-prescription medicines. It is also a good idea to consult the website of the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety before you travel to South Korea.

British males of Korean origin

If you are a British male of Korean origin whose name appears on the Korean family register, you may be liable for military service even if you are travelling on your British passport.

Employment

To get a visa to teach English in South Korea, you must have a 3-year university degree. A TEFL qualification alone is not sufficient. If you are found to have obtained a teaching visa by deception, you will be detained and deported.

British nationals teaching English in South Korea have sometimes found living and working conditions to be below expectations, and have encountered difficulties getting the correct visas and residence permits. There have also been complaints of breach of contract, confiscation of passports, payment being withheld and inadequate or no medical insurance. Check all terms and conditions of your employment carefully and if possible speak to other teachers from the place where you plan to work before accepting any offer.

For those in possession of a work visa, all employment changes must be authorised by Korean Immigration.

Safety and security

Political situation

In April 2018, North Korea announced a halt to nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile testing. However, there has been no senior-level engagement since the meetings held between US President Trump and DPRK leader Kim Jong Un in February and June 2019, and both the level of tension and the security situation on the Korean Peninsula can still change with little notice. Tensions can rise during the regular South Korean-US military exercises, which take place throughout the year. You should follow the advice of local authorities and keep up to date with developments, including via news broadcasts and this travel advice.

Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the Korean Peninsula has been divided by a demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating the DPRK and the Republic of Korea. Peace has been maintained under an armistice agreement but no formal peace treaty has ever been signed. If you’re in the area of the DMZ, you should exercise caution and follow the advice of the local authorities.

Contingency planning

At times of increased tensions, you should make yourself familiar with local procedures and preparations, including civil emergency exercises and advice (see below). You can also stay up to date with our travel advice for South Korea by subscribing to our email alert service to be notified of future updates, and by following our Twitter and Facebook channels.

As part of your own contingency plans, you should make sure you have easy access to your passport and other important documents such as nationality documents and birth and marriage certificates, as well as any essential medication. You can read our crisis overseas page for further information and advice, including sections on what you can do to prepare effectively, what you should do in the event of a crisis abroad, and how we can help you.

If the situation were to deteriorate, the British Embassy would pass information via this travel advice page and via Embassy Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Civil emergency exercises and advice

The South Korean authorities sometimes hold civil emergency exercises. Sirens are sounded, transport stopped and some people are asked to take shelter indoors, including in designated metro stations or basements. Shelters in Seoul are marked with a special symbol. Participation by foreign nationals in these exercises isn’t obligatory but you should follow any instructions by local authorities during any exercises.

The South Korean government has developed a smartphone application with civil emergency advice, including shelter locations, different types of alarms, medical facilities and emergency services. Search for ‘emergency ready app’ on Android or Apple app stores.

Crime

Crime against foreigners is rare but there are occasional isolated incidents. While most reported crimes are thefts, there have been cases of assaults, including sexual assaults, particularly around bars and nightlife areas. You should remain vigilant and take sensible precautions.

Take extra care of passports, credit cards and money in crowded areas and be careful in areas visited by foreigners, like Itaewon. Take care when travelling alone at night and only use legitimate taxis or public transport.

For emergency assistance, or to report a crime, call 112 for police (a 24 hour interpretation service is available) and 119 for ambulance and fire.

Demonstrations

Public demonstrations in South Korea are common. These gatherings are mostly peaceful and well-policed, but you should take extra care as in any crowded place. You should also be aware that under Korean law, foreign nationals are prohibited from engaging in political activities in South Korea.

Road travel

Under Korean traffic law the maximum blood alcohol content threshold permitted when driving or in charge of a vehicle is 0.03%). This differs to the legal threshold in the UK, which is 0.035%.

All passengers in vehicles must wear seat belts including in rear seats. City buses that are not fitted with seat belts are exempt from this regulation. From 27 May 2020, government COVID-19 procedures include mandatory wearing of masks in public areas and on all public transport.

Drivers are required to take precautionary measures when parking on hills/slopes (such as placing stops behind each wheel, or turning the steering wheel to ensure that the front wheels of the vehicle are angled towards the kerb).

Further information can be found in the Korean Road Traffic Act, though there is currently no official English translation. If you need additional advice, contact the Korean police authority.

You’ll need an International Driving Permit to drive in South Korea. Make sure you have fully comprehensive insurance.

Car and motorbike drivers are presumed to be at fault in accidents involving bicycles or pedestrians. Criminal charges and heavy penalties are common when accidents result in injury, even if guilt is not proved. Watch out for motorcycles travelling at speed on pavements.

Taxi drivers tend to speak little or no English. Although translation services are available, have your destination written in Korean, if possible with a map.

In 2019 there were 3,349 road deaths in the South Korea (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 6.5 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.6 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2019.

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