From planning your trip to getting the K-ETA, the latest travel requirement to enter South Korea, we’ve got all the essential information for first-time visitors!
- As of September 1, 2021, travelers from select countries with a visa-free entry policy with South Korea, such as the US, UK, and Mexico, should apply for the Korea Electronic Travel Authorization or K-ETA.
- The K-ETA allows eligible travelers to enter and stay in South Korea for a period of up to 90 days for tourism, business, or visiting relatives.
- Applications are online and must be submitted at least 24 hours before you depart.
- Before traveling to Korea, some of the things you need to consider include booking an airport transfer and installing apps that you can use for navigation and translation.
Explore more: Say Goodbye to Korean Visa Labels Starting July 1
5 Korea Travel Tips that First-Time Visitors Must Know
Traveling in the time of COVID-19 may seem difficult and confusing, but it’s not exactly impossible. If you want to travel to South Korea, whether to experience the flavorful food and rich culture that it’s known for, attend an important business meeting, or visit your friends and family, all you have to do is apply for the K-ETA and arrange the things you need in advance for a safe and smooth travel experience.
Below are some guidelines to help you prepare for your upcoming visit:
To make travel more efficient and convenient, the government of South Korea introduced a new requirement called the Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA). This is a digital pass that will allow entry and stay in South Korea for a period of 30 or 90 days for any of the following purposes: tourism, business (meetings or conferences), or visiting family. Those who are currently eligible to apply are citizens of visa-exempt countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, France, Germany, and more.
The K-ETA was implemented on September 1, 2021, and all travelers intending to visit South Korea must apply for this travel authorization at least 24 hours before their flight. The process is quite simple and only takes a couple of steps, as outlined in this very useful resource (contains information on eligibility criteria, list of select countries, fees, processing period, and more!)
2. Book a safe and comfortable airport transfer
After preparing for your K-ETA, the next step to consider is booking an airport transfer. If you’ll be landing at Incheon Airport, getting to Seoul may not be as easy as it was before the pandemic. To book a comfortable pick-up service that undergoes regular COVID-19 disinfection, check out this option.
3. See how much money you’ll need
While Seoul has a reputation for having a high cost of living, travelers need not worry about spending a fortune while in South Korea. To help you manage your expenses, here are some budget-friendly tips:
- Accommodation. If you want to spend less on lodging, you can book a nice 3-star hotel or a fully-equipped hostel in a cheap and popular place like Hongdae. (This vibrant district is loved by foreigners and connects to the airport and major subway lines.) For a room for 2 people, the average price is about $50 per night.
- Food. For three full meals per day, we recommend a daily budget of at least $30. If you love coffee, there are many cafes in Seoul that sell large Iced Americano for only $1.5.
- Transportation. In Seoul, a one-way subway ticket costs around $1.3, while a bus ride will only cost you $1.2.
4. Download useful apps in English
To help you find your way to various places in South Korea or translate signs and menu options easily, we recommend installing these essential apps on your phone:
- Translator: Google Translate or Papago
- Subway Map: KakaoMetro
- Navigation: Naver or Google Maps
- Communication: KakaoTalk (free text messaging and call)
- Taxi: Kakao T (pay in cash or card)
- Food delivery: Coupang Eats
- Travel: WAUG
5. Prepare your Seoul travel bucket list
To make the most of your stay in South Korea, whether that’s 30 or 90 days as specified in your K-ETA, make sure to visit the most popular attractions in Seoul! Here are some of them:
- Dongdaemun History and Culture Park
- Gyeongbok Palace
- Itaewon (Global Village)
- Insadong Traditional Village
- N Seoul Tower
- Myeongdong Shopping Area
- Han River Park in Yeouido
- Hongik University District (Hongdae)
- World Cup Park
- COEX Aquarium
- Digital Media City
In terms of the major areas to explore, you can consider going to Hongdae, Edae, or Kondae, which are youthful college districts with cheap eats and vibrant nightlife. Areas like Itaewon and Gangnam showcase the global side of Seoul and have a great selection of local and international food. Of course, if you’re looking to immerse yourself in more traditional and cultural places, you can also spend a day or two in Gwanghwamun, Jongno-gu, and Insadong.
Enjoy your trip to South Korea!
Before you leave, make sure to stay updated with the latest travel requirements, such as the Korea Electronic Travel Authorization. For a smooth and fulfilling trip, don’t forget to visit one or a couple of the most popular attractions in Seoul, book your airport transfer, budget for your trip well, and install the essential English apps for travelers.
We hope to welcome you to Korea soon!