Traveling to foreign countries you can see a lot of new interesting things, check in in many awesome locations, meet new great people, enjoy new kinds of food and gain a lot of new experiences. That’s why I really love traveling. But before you get to the destination of your trip, you need to organize many other things as well. This includes application for a visa, organizing money, purchasing a sim card and so on. In this post, I’m going share with you some good things to know upon your arrival in Korea, that might be helpful for your preparation.
1. Visa and Covid-19 regulations for Korea
The very first things to check before you plan anything is whether you need a Visa for Korea, as well as the current requirements to prevent Covid-19.
Before the pandemic, citizens of many countries in the world can travel to Korea without visa. However, many things have changed since then… At the moment, the Visa free entry program for some countries has been temporarily suspended, so that travelers need to apply for a Visa in advance. Moreover, short term tourist visa are very hard to get.
On the other hand, after the arrival in Korea, you also need to follow all the procedures to prevent the Corona virus in Korea, including quarantine or self-isolation.
The best way to get the latest information regarding Visa and Covid-19 restrictions is to contact the Embassy of ROK in your country or visit their homepage.
2. Your actual arrival in Korea
So, now everything is set, booked and you’re on the airplane ✈️ to Korea. Up to now, (May 2021) you will have to follow many steps at the airport because of the pandemic, such as checking the Covid test result and get tested again. But don’t worry, the airports in Korea are usually very well organized, the staffs are always friendly and helpful.
2.1 Filling the form for customs and immigration
Before landing, you may receive an Arrival card as well as a Traveler declaration form (one per family or group) from the flight attendants. They both need to be filled out and handed to officers when you pass the immigration.
In case you haven’t received any forms in the plane, you can grab one before you enter the passports control or pass the customs with your luggage.
The forms are available in English and quite easy to understand. In my experience, it would be quicker for you if you have your own pen 🖊, so take one with you. Also make sure that all information is correct and consistent, e.g. your purpose of visit should match to your visa type, etc.
2.2 Passport control
When you arrive, you will see two queues leading to the passport control, one for Korean citizens, the other for foreigners. The officers will check your passport, in case necessary other documents, take fingerprints and decide whether you can enter the country or not.
Once you pass the passport control, you’ll receive a piece of paper as “Entry Confirmation”, instead of a stamp. You will sometimes need this paper for example when you want to make a rental or internet contract. Hence, keep it carefully.
And now, you’ve officially arrived in South-Korea! Welcome!
2.3 Tax declaration
After getting your luggage, you’ll have to pass the customs. In case you bring anything above the allowance or products to sell in Korea, you may need to declare. So be aware and prepare all required documents in English, such as description, purposes, bill, etc.
In case you don’t have anything to declare, you can use the “Nothing to declare” lane. Sometimes they’ll send you to the x-ray to check once more. But if you follow the rules written on the back of the declaration from, there’s nothing to worry about. 😌
On the Korea customs service homepage you will find more relevant details.
3. Other things to be managed after your arrival in Korea
Please note that you may not be able to do everything listed below while Covid is still a risk.
3.1 Credit cards and cash ₩ 💳💶
Prior to your trip it’s advisable to check with your bank, whether your credit cards can be used in Korea and how much the fee for using the card abroad would be. If everything is clear, you can use credit cards to pay almost everywhere in Korea. If not, it would be better to exchange some money in advance.
However, it’s always a good idea to have some cash as well as back up, just in case you want to visit traditional markets or buy some street food 😊.
There are some ATMs and currency exchange booths right behind the customs exit that provides global services from where you can get cash easily right after your arrival in Korea. Remember that pin code is required for ATM cash withdraw and some banks will charge you withdraw fee.
If you’re in the city and need cash from your foreign account, I recommend using the global ATM of Hanabank, which supports foreign cards. I was trying to get cash from different ATMs, but none worked, except the one from Hana.
3.2 Rent a WIFI transmitter or buy SIM Card
It’s said that free WIFI is available everywhere in Korea, but it’s not really stable and fast. That’s why it’s more convenient to arrange your own WIFI transmitter or SIM card with data to use within your stay at right after your arrival.
A friend showed me last time the service of kkday.com, through which you can order SIM card before you arrive and pick it up at the airport after the arrival in Korea. It’s also a very convenient, inexpensive and fast way to get one.
3.3 Buy and load T-Money card
T-Money card is a RFID transportation card that you can load the money and use for subway, buses and taxi countrywide. It costs only ₩2.500 (~$2,5) and has a large usage areas. You can even pay at many stores using it.
At the airport you will find them at any convenient stores or T-money vending machine next to the train boarding area. In case you need to recharge it while traveling, come to any subway or train station, as well as convenient stores.
4. Transportation from Incheon Airport
There are many ways to leave the airport: by bus, Airport express (train), Taxi or rental car. During the pandemic period, only designated bus, taxi or pick up by family is allowed.
When you’re online with your smartphone, you can simply use Naver or Kakao Map to find the way to your hotel. All you need is to type in your address and search for it. Then just follow the signposts to get to your station.
4.1 Airport express bus 🚌
There are a lot of buses from Incheon or Gimpo International Airport to different destinations. From Incheon International Airport to Seoul center it takes approximately 1-1,5h and costs around ₩15.000 (~$15) per person. Tickets are available at the bus ticket counters.
If you already know which bus you should take and have the T-Money card loaded, you can directly go to the bus platform and pay the fee by T-Money card when enter the bus. Your luggage will be numbered and kept in the storage during the drive. You’ll get it back at your station.
4.2 Airport Railroad Express (AREX)
The AREX is the fastest option if you want to reach Seoul Station from Incheon International Airport. It only takes about 50 minutes to travel this 63km-long distance and costs only ₩9.000 (~9$).
You can buy tickets from the ticket counter or simply use the T-Money card.
Taxi is a bit more expensive than Bus and AREX, but more convenient if you have a lot of luggage or your destination is difficult to reach by public transportation.
There are two kinds of Taxi in Seoul: the normal one with orange color and luxury one in black (also called black taxi), which is more expensive but has better seat and free WIFI.
From the Incheon Airport to Seoul Center it may cost around ₩50.000 (~50$) with normal taxi, plus toll.
4.4 Rental car
With an international driver’s license you’re allowed to drive car in Korea. Through car rental companies such as Sixt, Avis, etc. you can rent and pick up a car directly from the Airport.
Carsharing such as SoCar and Greencar gets also more and more popular in Korea. If you know Korean, you can sign in, download their app and rent a car too.
However, it’s still a very expensive option if you stay in Seoul because of traffic jam, fuel costs and high parking fee.
Have a safe trip!