Electricity

Electric current is 220 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin, round plugs are standard.

Language

The official language is Korean.

Money

The official currency is the South Korean Won (KRW). Currency can be exchanged at most banks and at licensed moneychangers. Most merchants in the cities accept major credit cards but Koreans traditionally prefer cash.

ATMs that accept foreign cards are common and will generally have a 'Global' sign, or the names of credit-card companies on them. ATMs often operate from 7am to 11pm, though some are 24 hour. There may be restrictions on the amount users may withdraw in one transaction.

Tipping

Tipping is not customary in South Korea, though expensive restaurants and luxury hotels will add a service charge.

Health

There are no required vaccinations for entry to South Korea and standards of medical care are high. Payment for treatment can be expensive; travel insurance with provision for repatriation is recommended.

Typhoid inoculations are recommended for those who plan to spend prolonged periods in rural areas and there is a small risk of malaria in the same regions. Tick-borne disease is a risk across Korea during spring, and visitors taking part in leisure activities on grass are advised to wear long-sleeved tops and trousers.

Air pollution is common in South Korea throughout the year, though especially during spring. Residents and visitors are encouraged to stay indoors as much as possible, close windows and drink plenty of water when the concentration levels of dust particles are high.

Safety

Most visits to South Korea are trouble-free. The crime rate against foreigners is low but it is still advisable to use sensible precautions, particularly in safeguarding passports, money and credit cards in crowded areas.

The political situation is generally stable but visitors should exercise caution and follow the advice of local authorities around the demilitarised zone, which has been present since the Korean peninsula was divided in 1953. Peace is maintained under an armistice agreement, but no formal peace treaty has ever been signed.

Local customs

English is not widely spoken or understood, so it's best to have instructions written down in Korean when using taxis or other local services. It is advisable to carry some form of identification at all times. Social harmony is crucial and public anger or criticism that causes an individual to 'lose face' or dignity is a serious breach of etiquette. Koreans will go out of their way to maintain a comfortable situation. Guests should remove their shoes when entering a Korean home, guesthouse, temple or Korean-style restaurant.

Doing business

The increase in trade with Western countries has meant that Koreans do not expect visitors to understand all the nuances of their culture; however, attempts to respect traditions are appreciated. Koreans dress conservatively and formally and it is important to do the same. Koreans like to do business with people whom they know and often introductions via a third known party are necessary. Greetings often consist of a bow, followed by a handshake. Introductions are very important and establish the hierarchy, often according to age, which is to be observed and respected. Usually the most important person will be introduced first. Greetings and pleasantries in Korean will be appreciated, including 'an-yong-ha-say-yo' (hello), and 'kam-sa-ham-ni-da' (thank you). Business card etiquette is vital: cards should be given and received with both hands, with the details translated from English into Korean or Chinese on the alternate side, and must be treated with the utmost respect. Each one is to be read carefully and the name acknowledged. It is important, when issuing cards, not to stack them or keep them in one's wallet or purse. Koreans are referred to by their surnames or family names first and given names second, and it is best to ask in advance how to address the person. The giving of gifts is appreciated and often reciprocated. Business hours are generally 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday.

Duty free

Travellers (over the age of 19) arriving in South Korea may bring in the following items free of customs duty: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco products; 60ml perfume; 1 litre of alcohol; and gifts valued at not more than $600. Products from communist countries are prohibited, as are fruit, seeds and any published or recorded material deemed to be subversive or obscene.

Communications

The international dialling code for South Korea is +82. Telecommunications are well developed.

Passport & Visa

All visitors require a valid passport, a return or onward ticket, sufficient funds, all documents for the next destination and a contact address in South Korea. Those requiring a visa should obtain one from a Korean Embassy or Consulate before entering the country or, if they qualify, apply for an e-visa and carry their Electronic Visa Issuance Confirmation. Visas are not required for passengers holding APEC Business Travel Cards, provided the back of the card states validity for travel to South Korea. It is highly recommended that visitors' passports have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry requirements

A valid passport is required for entry. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days.

A valid passport is required for entry. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days.

A valid passport is required for entry. A visa is required.

A valid passport is required. A visa is required.

A valid passport is required. A visa is required.

A valid passport is required. A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days.

A valid passport is required. A visa is required.

Useful contacts

Korea National Tourism Organisation, Seoul: +82 33 738 3000 or www.knto.or.kr

112 (Police); 119 (Ambulance and Fire).

Embassies / consulates in other countries

South Korea Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 939 5600.

South Korea Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7227 5500.

South Korea Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 244 5010.

South Korea Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6270 4100.

South Korea Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 460 2508.

South Korea Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 660 8800.

South Korea Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 473 9073/4.

Embassies / consulates in South Korea

United States Embassy, Seoul: +82 (0)2 397 4114.

British Embassy, Seoul: +82 (0)2 3210 5500.

Canadian Embassy, Seoul: +82 (0)2 3783 6000.

Australian Embassy, Seoul: +82 (0)2 2003 0100.

South African Embassy, Seoul: +82 (0)2 792 4855.

Irish Embassy, Seoul: +82 (0)2 721 7200.

New Zealand Embassy, Seoul: +82 (0)2 3701 7700.

Send a link to this travel guide