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South Korea Quick Guide
- Banking Hours
- Local Telephone Codes
- International Airports
- International Departure Tax
- Domestic Airports
- Domestic Departure Tax
- Etiquette/Dress Code
- Diplomatic Missions
- Useful Sources of Information
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Visitors to South Korea must possess a passport valid for 6 months, an ongoing ticket and proof of sufficient funds for the duration of their stay. Citizens of many countries are permitted a visa free stay which is issued for a set length of time (depending on nationality) upon arrival. Other visas can be applied for from a Korean Embassy or Consulate abroad, where current information regarding visas should be confirmed as details can change.
Luxury items such as jewellery, cameras, electronic goods and cash in excess of US$10,000 must be declared on arrival. Certain luxury goods, such as jewellery and electronic goods that are purchased in the country may be liable to a duty tax.
Visitors may take the following into Korea duty free:
- Alcoholic beverages - 1 litre of alcohol
- Tobacco - 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco
Obscene/Pornographic material contained in any medium is prohibited and will be confiscated.
There are restrictions on items that may be exported from the country such as ginseng, antiques and items of cultural value. If planning to buy any of these goods, check with customs on arrival.
The penalties for carrying or trafficking illegal drugs can be severe, ranging from long prison sentences to the death penalty.
Korean time: GMT +9
- Won (W) - Check current exchange rates.
- Notes issued: W10,000, W5,000, W1,000 & W500
- Coins issued: W500, W100, W50, W10, W5, W1
Korean is the official language. Japanese is spoken amongst the older generation and Chinese within the resident Chinese community. English is used to a very limited extent and usually only amongst young professionals and students.
Tipping is not customary in South Korea, although many restaurants and hotels do add a service charge to the bill. As a polite form of behaviour, people give a slight bow and say thank you for services provided. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped unless they assist with carrying luggage.
Monday to Friday 9.30 am to 4.30 pm
The international dialling code for Korea is 82
When making international telephone calls from South Korea first dial 001 + country code + area code + telephone number.
Local Telephone Codes
Most of Korea is 110V, although some rural areas are 220V. Visitors should check the voltage before plugging anything in. Many different types of plugs are used and a universal adapter is an important travel item.
Water is considered unsafe for use directly from the tap and ice cubes should be avoided. Bottled water is widely available.
Medical professionals in Korea are highly trained and facilities are good, however health insurance that also covers evacuation is still recommended. Consider inoculations against typhoid, polio, hepatitis A, Japanese encephalitis and take advice regarding anti-malarials. It is always best to check the current situation and any vaccination requirements with your doctor when planning your trip.
- Cheju-do - Cheju
- Pusan - Kimhae
- Seoul - Incheon
International Departure Tax
Domestic Departure Tax
Casual clothes are acceptable everywhere, although smarter clothes gain more respect. A level of politeness should be maintained in public and whenever possible, any offer of hospitality should be accepted, since turning down an invitation may cause offence. Always remove shoes before entering a Korean home and use the right hand for giving and receiving.
As with many Asian countries, situations should be avoided which would cause a loss of "face". Try to steer clear of confrontation as it is not appreciated and will only worsen rather than resolve any situation.
Pay close attention to signs stating that photography is not allowed at places such as airports, harbours and military facilities, as these laws are strictly enforced.
Many countries have representative offices and consulates in Korea.
Useful Sources of Information
Further information onKorean culture and tourist attractions:
- Korea National Tourism Organization
|Season||Average temperature||Average rainfall|
|Spring (March - May)||8 - 13°C||114mm|
|Summer (June - August)||21 - 28°C||209mm|
|Autumn (September - November)||12 - 21°C||96mm|
|Winter (December - February)||-1 - 7°C||37mm|
|Season||Average temperature||Average rainfall|
|Spring (March - May)||5 - 16°C||65mm|
|Summer (June - August)||20 - 29°C||285mm|
|Autumn (September - November)||7 - 19°C||68mm|
|Winter (December - February)||-7 - 2°C||25mm|
Korea enjoys a temperate climate which can be divided into four seasons - spring, summer, autumn and winter.
The temperatures vary slightly across the landmass but it is only when altitude exceeds 1,700m that real changes are felt - especially in winter when snowfall is common and skiing is possible.
- Spring - warmer, milder weather edges its way from the south and slowly spreads across the rest of the country. Lightweight clothing is required, although some warmer layers are recommended as the wind can be cool and temperatures do fall away at night.
- Summer - is fairly hot, humid and wet. Lightweight clothes are a necessity and an umbrella is useful for those frequent downpours.
- Autumn - skies tend to be clear. Again, lightweight clothing is required along with a few layers for those cooler days and for the night-time.
- Winter - snow blows down from Siberia in December and winter can be bleak and harsh away from the coastal areas. The south coast and islands rarely see snow and even if they do, it tends to be only slight. At higher altitudes, along the northeast coast and the central mountainous region, snowfall can be high and South Korea becomes a popular ski destination.
Best time to visit: Mid-spring and early autumn are pleasantly mild with light rains. Winter months bring snow to higher ground and are the time to visit for skiing.
Carry a lightweight jumper as it can be chillingly cold inside air-conditioned buildings during summer.
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South Korea Travellers Tales
There are many historical sites in Incheon and Seoul. It is far more of a tourist destination than it advertises itself as. The windmill restaurant in Incheon (very close to the hotel) offers excellent service and very good food at good prices. The Galbi restaurants in Seoul are really worth a visit and the The Korean War museum had us returning 3 times!
We were in Seoul for four days during the week and were surprised at how easy it was to get around by local taxi. There were many around, easily hailed and quite cheap. The dreaded traffic jams were not obvious or they were good at avoiding them. We never did get to go on the subway.
The subway is relatively close by (7mins walk) and the hotel is right on Insadong''s heart. It''s nice to walk around the area except when it rains. Then getting to nearby tourist destinations is tricky. Taxis won''t take you because its too close and there''s no shade walking there so you get soaked. The Korail is much more affordable than the taxis though. Most Koreans in the shops speak basic english but if you need to find out a place, bring a map and show it to them, they pointed out to me all three times that I asked. Lots of korean restaurants in Insadong but if you are looking for more international fare at decent rates, go to Myeung dong.
Korea House is well worth a visit. We ordered the best menu, got a private room for two, SUPERB food and then the show in the theatre. 120 quid for two - not bad.
Gyeong-ju is a fantastic area! We rented bicycles and spent two days exploring the historic Shilla and Buddhist sites in the region, often using the bike paths that circulate for miles and miles along the highways. The endless rice fields were another beautiful riding area. We also hiked a lot, ate well (but not in our hotel!) and had a lot of fun in the city in the evenings. Staying near the lake was nice - quieter at night, and right on the bus route into town.
We only took one tour and that is the submarine tour. There are 3 of them but we just took the one that the hotel recommended which is good, fun, interesting and value for money. Commentary is all in Korean so do be prepared to feel left out in that aspect. The rest of the sights and attractions we did on our own, some by taxi or on foot which are close to the Hyatt Hotel. We rented a large cab for all 4 of us from 9am to 5pm and mapped out the places we wanted to visit and the driver did the rest. We managed to cover only all that was interesting to us, instead of a tour which would have cost much more and visiting alot of places that we did not want to go. For those who are willing to fork out some money this would probably be the best way to see alot within a day. Foodwise, where we are staying we are subjected to eateries within Hyatt or the other nearby hotels and a few restaurants around the area, which are all either very expensive or not value for money as the cuisine isn''t that good. You''d have to be adventurous and take a taxi to some better known restaurants about 20 minutes away to have really great bulgogi and black pork meat (the speciality: the pigs are black not the meat) - prices are then much more reasonable and the food good.
Destination to hotel was quite straightforward, abt 80 minutes from the Incheon International Airport, we took the subway to Lotte World and Everland although the latter was a bit of a hassle, having have to take a bus there, wasted abt 1-1/2 hrs. Italian Restaurant at Galleria Shopping Centre was excellent, Hyundai Department Store is a must go. Hard Rock Cafe is a little bit too far away from where we stay so we took the cab there. Most of the time, we got around the city using the subway, very convenient. The system was excellent.
Places we visited include the waterfalls, submarine ride and Halim park which offers gardens, caves, restaurants and a bird park. You can catch a buffet cum fountain show at the Lotte Hotel. Taxis are easily available and the people are generally very friendly.
For the transportation we used airport shuttle buses, taxis, metros and Seoul City Tour buses. We had railway passes - 3 day saver pass (great value for money) for trip to the south and we spent 2 days in Gyeongju. There we rented a car for sightseeing trip to Gulguksa, Tongdosa and Bulgkusa temples, Seokgulam Grotto and Underwater tomb of king Munmu. Next day we rented bikes to see sights in Gyeongju. We spent 2 nights in the Hyundai hotel on the lake near Gyeongju. That hotel was great - real 5 star hotel and we paid only 120 Canadian dollars (less than for 2 star hotel in Seoul). On the way back we slept in the New Airport hotel near new Seoul airport. The room was great. It had all gadgets you can imagine, from big flat screen TV, computer, Jacuzzi tub, Jacuzzi shower, fax machine, water purifier, and ultra violet device for disinfection. Koreans were very friendly and we haven''t had any problems. We really enjoyed being in Korea.
We visited Insadong which is good for souvenirs. Itaewon where a lot of foreigners hang out and Meyondong which had loads of street food stalls and stalls selling all kinds of different things. Many selling poor knock offs of brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes and so on. Jewellery, socks, bags, belts, wallets, cell phone trinkets, pyjamas, shoes etc etc. Of course there are a lot of regular stores there too. The best bargain we came across was glasses. They were very resonably priced. We walked there from the hotel but you can catch the subway too. It costs about $1 and was 3 stops away. Taxis are cheap too.