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Can I travel to South Korea from Australia?
Most visitors from Australia, regardless of vaccination status, can enter South Korea.
Can I travel to South Korea if I am vaccinated?
Fully vaccinated visitors from Australia can enter South Korea without restrictions.
Can I travel to South Korea without being vaccinated?
Unvaccinated visitors from Australia can enter South Korea without restrictions.
Do I need a COVID test to enter South Korea?
Visitors from Australia are not required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test or antigen result upon entering South Korea.
Can I travel to South Korea without quarantine?
Travellers from Australia are not required to quarantine.
Do I need to wear a mask in South Korea?
Mask usage in South Korea is not required in public spaces and public transportation.
Are the restaurants and bars open in South Korea?
Restaurants in South Korea are open. Bars in South Korea are .
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All you need to know before you go: South Korea entry requirements
Latest information of entry requirements
1. pre-departure negative pcr test certificate will no longer be required to enter korea from september 3, 2022, 2. all nationals entering korea will not be required to do a 7-day mandatory quarantine., 3. mandatory for entry: k-eta or valid visa, 4. q-code system, 5. after-entry covid test will not be required from october 1, what requirements do i need to travel to south korea, q: do i need to apply visa to enter south korea, q: what are the necessary documents for entering south korea, q: what are the entry regulations for those who have not been vaccinated, top 5 best instagram-worthy hotels in seoul, 😉read more:.
Visitors who already completed the COVID-19 vaccinations have been exempt from mandatory quarantine as of April 1 , according to South Korea’s Ministry of the Interior and Safety.
And the exemptions expanded to include overseas vaccinations that have not registered for vaccination status in Korea as well.
For international travelers, that is definitely good news! With beautiful mountains and oceans, colorful cities and nightscapes, dynamic culture and delicious K-food, South Korea is one of the best destinations for global travelers. Trip.com has offered you the latest entry requirements and essential travel information before your trip to South Korea!
Visitors are not required to provide a pre-departure COVID-19 test or to have a PCR test on arrival to enter South Korea. It's recommended you register your personal information in the Korean Q-code registration system before you travel to South Korea at the Q-code website.
Checklist for foreigners entering South Korea
- From September 3 2022 , pre-departure PCR (RAT) test and negative certificate will not be required to enter Korea, for all Koreans and Foreigners.
From April 2022, nationals of visa waiver countries or designated visa-free countries must obtain ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) before entering The Republic of Korea.
For entry to Korea, all foreigners must have a K-ETA (for visa-free visitors) or a valid visa (for visa-required visitors) to enter Korea. The K-ETA process will take up to 72 hours and the result will be sent to your email address directly. Visitors need to have the printed hard copy ready.
Irish nationals are eligible to enter and stay in Korea for up to 90 days with a K-ETA for tourist purpose.
Using the Q-code system is recommended for all people entering South Korea to upload their health condition and after entry COVID-19 test results.
Day 1 PCR test will not be mandatory from people entering South Korea from October 1. Korean and foreigners who wish to get a COVID test, may visit the Public Health center of their resident area to get a test free of charge.
Here is a helpful checklist of South Korea travel documents that you will need to present before you enter the country:
- A valid Q-Code. Foreign tourists are required to register their vaccination history through the Quarantine COVID-19 Defence (Q-Code) System before your trip.
- A valid visa (for visa-required visitors) or K-ETA (for visa-free visitors). Since the visa-free and visa-waiver program is temporarily suspended, visa-free passport holders must check for their eligibility and apply for a K-ETA in advance to be able to enter South Korea.
Frequently asked questions for travel to South Korea
Passengers can enter the country without a visa as long as they apply for an electronic travel permit K-ETA 72 hours before the departure! At present, South Korea has also announced an indefinite extension of the visa-free entry measures, so that any passenger can easily enter South Korea.
From September 3 2022, pre-departure PCR (RAT) test and negative certificate will not be required to enter Korea, for all Koreans and Foreigners.
Tips: Remember to register your personal information in the Korean Q-code registration system before you travel to South Korea at the Q-code website.
From June 8, no matter whether you have been vaccinated or not, you no longer need to be quarantined when entering South Korea!
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South Korea vacations 2024 & 2025
Buddhist temples, imperial palaces, futuristic architecture and markets so vast they take up whole city blocks…South Korea is a multifaceted destination. Our specialists know the country well and can introduce you to its many attractions, from Seoul’s 14th-century palaces and Gyeongju’s tombs to the volcanic landscape of Jeju Island .
Along with seeing the country’s main highlights , we’ll help you explore Korean culture which sees ancient traditions, customs and craftsmanship sit side by side with cutting-edge technology, karaoke bars and quirky cat cafés.
Take a trip to the North Korean border zone for a better understanding of the region’s complex politics, explore the markets with a local for a taste of the country’s finest specialities, or hike to mountainside grottoes for views of the rugged coast. Whatever you decide to do, our specialists will ensure you make the most of your South Korea vacation.
- Make an inquiry
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Suggested tours for South Korea
These tours give you a starting point for what your vacation to South Korea could entail. Treat them as inspiration, as each trip is created uniquely for you.
Luxury South Korea
9 days from $5,735pp
Classic South Korea tour
12 days from $6,950pp
South Korea in a snapshot
9 days from $3,810pp
A family adventure in South Korea
10 days from $6,650pp
Suggested activities for South Korea
Whatever your interests, our specialists will build activities into your trip that connect to how you want to experience South Korea.
Tour to the North Korean border zone
A buffer zone between North and South Korea, the Demilitarized Zone can only be visited on a guided tour which offers the chance to see its observation posts and tunnels and learn about the history of the Korean War.
Street food tour of Seoul
Eat like a local as you discover Korean foods with a local guide. This tour takes in Seoul’s markets as you try classic dishes, learn about local ingredients, side dishes and sauces, and understand the importance of food in Korean culture.
Tour of Eastern Jeju Island
Explore the volcanic cones, crater rims and lava tubes of east Jeju on a private guided tour to learn about the region’s geological history. See languid Udo Island and take in some of Jeju Island’s best views.
Why travel with Audley?
- 100% tailor-made tours
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- Established for over 25 years
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Best time to visit
Our specialists advise on the best months to visit South Korea, including information about climate, events and festivals.
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Covering all seven continents, The world your way shows you how you can see the world with us. It features trip ideas from our specialists alongside hand-picked stays and experiences, and introduces our approach to creating meaningful travel experiences.
Useful information for planning your vacation in South Korea
South Korea’s fresh, complex, spicy food is a trip highlight, and you should try Korean barbecue, the national staple kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), and the country’s signature fried chicken while here. Fish is another mainstay and is often served raw, and you’ll also find plenty of dishes made from beef, pork, and chicken, with almost everything served with kimchi and gochujang (red chili paste).
For a culinary treat, seek out temple food. A food movement with its roots in the country’s Buddhist temples, it champions a vegan, slow-food ethic and is often made with foraged ingredients lovingly formed into healthy dishes with rich layers of vegetables, herbs, and spices.
The national drink, soju, is a strong rice wine with a widely variable alcoholic content. You’ll also find beer served throughout the country, especially alongside fried chicken.
The official language of South Korea is Korean. English is often spoken in Seoul, but the further from the city you go, the less likely you are to encounter English.
The currency of South Korea is the won (KRW). You’ll find ATMs in cities and larger towns, and credit cards are accepted in hotels, and in larger restaurants and stores. In small businesses, markets, and in rural areas you’ll need to pay in cash.
Tipping isn’t expected in South Korea.
For the latest travel advice for South Korea, including entry requirements, health information, and the safety and security situation, please refer to the State Department website .
Royal palaces and temples, volcanic peaks, avant-garde cities, traditional markets, a poignant history, and lively contemporary culture collide in South Korea. It’s a country where ancient traditions sit alongside cutting-edge technology, and temple visits are as popular as karaoke bars and cat cafes.
You could wander city markets for a taste of everyday life, take a tour of Seoul’s street food stalls , or explore K-pop culture on a tour of modern Seoul. Learn about the Korean War and its lasting legacy on a tour of the North Korean border zone , or hike up volcanic cones, around basalt cliffs, and through lava tubes on eastern Jeju island .
You can learn about ancient history in the Bulguksa Royal Temple Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, explore a whole town dedicated to art and crafts, or simply relax on the beach in designer style.
South Korea’s hotels have a sleek design and lofty standards and range from themed boutique hotels to modern, minimalist retreats, and international chains. For example, you could stay in a stylish, five-star hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant in Seoul, a high-rise, high-tech tower on the waterfront in Busan, a large, international-style hotel with spa, gym, and pool, or a boutique hotel with a silver-screen theme.
You’ll also find large waterfront resorts on the coast with contemporary design and pools, spas, and often water sports. For more ideas take a look at our places to stay in South Korea .
South Korea’s highlights include the dynamic capital Seoul, beachfront Busan, imperial Gyeongju, and volcanic Jeju island. Most visitors arrive in Seoul , a multi-faceted city where 14th-century palaces butt up against massive malls, traditional markets, karaoke bars, and gleaming skyscrapers.
From here, you can take a trip to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the no-man’s land that separates North and South Korea, to learn about the region’s complex history. Head to Gyeongju , the imperial capital for almost 1,000 years, to visit palaces, pagodas, and temples, or Busan for markets, hot springs, and time on the beach.
For more outdoor activities, Jeju island offers the chance to hike up South Korea’s highest peak, explore volcanic craters and lava caves, or watch the island’s female free divers harvest oysters, abalone, and clams right off the beach.
It takes around 16 hours to fly from the East Coast of the US to South Korea, and around 13 hours from the West Coast.
The time zone in South Korea is UTC+9 hours. Daylight Savings Time isn’t observed.
The best way to get around in South Korea is by high-speed train. The high-speed rail network links major cities and is efficient and comfortable. Combined with a private driver and guide to take you to regional destinations, you’ll be able to get to all the main attractions with ease.
US citizens don’t need a visa to enter South Korea for stays up to 90 days, but you may be asked for evidence of an onward or return ticket. Citizens of other countries should check their visa requirements. We recommend our partner Visa Central .
US citizens are currently exempt from the requirement for a Korean Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) and will be until December 2024. Prior to this, electronic travel authorisations could be obtained cheaply and easily online. You can check up-to-date requirements on the K-ETA website .
Your doctor can give you immunization advice for travel to South Korea, but you should also ensure you’re up to date with the recommended vaccinations at home. You can also check the suggested vaccinations on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website .
Your passport should be valid for a minimum of six months from the date you arrive in South Korea and have at least two blank pages.
South Korea in pictures
Our expert guides to traveling in South Korea
Written by our specialists from the viewpoint of their own travels, these guides will help you decide on the shape of your own trip to South Korea. Aiming to inspire and inform, we share our recommendations for how to appreciate South Korea at its best.
What to do in South Korea: our highlights guide
Having explored the country in detail, our South Korea specialist Rory has compiled his trip highlights, from Seoul’s modern metropolis to Gyeongju’s Silla-dynasty temples and palaces.
A brief introduction to Korean food
Spicy kimchi, steaming pots of soup, and DIY barbecue joints — South Korean cuisine is as bold and complex as the country’s culture. South Korea specialist Rebecca offers a brief introduction to the dishes and eateries you’re likely to find.
Discover more about South Korea on our blog
Surfing the Hallyu: a guide to South Korea’s pop culture
Top 9 under-the-radar destinations
4 travel trends for 2023
Other popular destinations.
Still looking for ideas? If South Korea has captured your interest, we think you might also like these destinations.
North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea)
Do not travel to North Korea due to the very different laws affecting visitors and the uncertain security situation.
North Korea (PDF 247.16 KB)
Asia (PDF 2.31 MB)
Do not travel to North Korea.
Do not travel to North Korea due to the very different laws affecting visitors and the uncertain security situation.
- North Korea and South Korea are technically still at war, and tensions have increased in recent times. North Korea frequently conducts missile tests or other provocations, raising regional tensions. Monitor developments.
- The North Korean Government restricts information, especially about domestic politics and international relations. You can usually access international satellite TV channels at tourist hotels. However, if the government shuts these down in a crisis, you may not know what's happening. If, despite our advice, you travel to North Korea, don't stay long. Monitor state broadcasts and, if possible, international media for signs of increasing tensions.
- Crime against travellers is rare. However, some travellers have reported petty crimes. Keep your passport and belongings close, especially at Pyongyang Airport and in public markets.
- The rainy season is from late June to late August. Typhoons can happen in August and September. Excessive rain can cause flooding and landslides, damage housing and infrastructure, and may disrupt essential services. Know your hotel's evacuation plan.
- Some countries near North Korea experience large earthquakes. This makes destructive tsunamis more likely. Don't wait for official warnings, alarms or sirens. Know the tsunami warning signs and move to high ground straight away if you're on the coast.
Full travel advice: Safety
- Medical facilities are basic, including in Pyongyang, and hygiene is poor. Avoid surgery unless you need it to leave North Korea. If you're seriously ill or injured, you'll need medical evacuation to China for treatment. Contact the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang or the Australian Embassy in Seoul for assistance. Medical evacuations are very expensive and difficult to organise. Ensure your travel insurance covers this.
- Insect-borne, waterborne, foodborne, and other infectious diseases are risks in North Korea. Ensure you have the appropriate vaccinations and bring preventative medication. Practice good personal hygiene, avoid raw or undercooked foods and drink only boiled or bottled water.
- Medications can be very hard to get in North Korea. If you plan to bring medication, check if it's legal. Take enough legal medicine for your trip.
- From March to May, strong winds carry yellow dust to the Korean Peninsula from Mongolia and China. This can cause eye, nose, mouth and throat irritations. Get medical advice if you have heart or breathing problems.
Full travel advice: Health
- Travelling as part of a tour or with a guide doesn't give you special protection from North Korean laws. Authorities may arrest, detain or expel you for activities that aren't crimes in Australia. They may also search your belongings and monitor your communications.
- Don't use or carry illegal drugs. Penalties for drug offences are severe and parole is unlikely. Drug traffickers can get indefinite jail sentences.
- Authorities may judge many activities as spying. Be very careful when taking photos. It's illegal to photograph anything other than designated public tourist sites. Always ask your North Korean guide for permission before taking photos.
- North Korea has strict laws about what you can bring into the country. It's illegal to bring in religious, pornographic or political items. Declare all published material and electronic devices when you arrive. It's also illegal to knowingly or unknowingly possess items that breach North Korean law.
- Be careful who you talk to and what you say. It's illegal to show disrespect or make jokes about North Korea, current or former leaders or their families. It's also illegal to talk to North Koreans without authorisation. Authorities may consider it spying if you do. Only shop at stores designated for foreigners.
- North Korea doesn't recognise dual nationality. If you're an Australian-North Korean dual national and you're detained, we may not be able to help you. This includes Australians of Korean heritage, including those originally from South Korea. Australian-South Korean dual nationals may need permission from South Korean authorities to travel to North Korea.
Full travel advice: Local laws
- If despite our advice, you travel to North Korea, you'll need a visa for all types of travel. North Korea doesn't have an embassy or consulate in Australia. This means you need to travel to another country, such as China, to get your visa. If you're travelling for business, you'll need a North Korean sponsor and permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Journalists must get a special visa. Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. You should contact the nearest embassy or consulate of North Korea for the latest details.
- Tours have been suspended until further notice. If it becomes safe to travel to North Korea, you'll probably have to travel via Beijing. Get a double-or multiple-entry visa for China. Otherwise, you won't be able to re-enter China when you leave North Korea. Contact the Embassy or Consulate of the People's Republic of China for details.
- Travellers must register with government authorities within 24 hours of arriving. Do this through your host organisation or hotel.
- The local currency is the North Korean Won. Foreigners can't use it. The Euro is the most widely accepted foreign currency. US dollars and Chinese yuan are also widely accepted. Exchanging currencies is difficult. You can't use ATMs, traveller’s cheques, or debit and credit cards. Take enough foreign currency for your trip, in small denominations.
- You can only travel on an official tour. An official guide must always accompany you. Charges for travel can be high, including for taxis, guides, tolls and permits.
Full travel advice: Travel
- The Consular Services Charter details what we can and can't do to help you overseas.
- Australia doesn't have an embassy in North Korea. We aren't able to provide regular consular services to Australian citizens in North Korea. Our ability to provide consular services in North Korea is extremely limited. The Australian Embassy in Seoul may be able to provide limited consular assistance to Australians in North Korea. If you're arrested or detained, North Korean authorities may deny you consular access to Australian officials.
- The Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang serves as the 'protecting power' for Australia and provides limited emergency consular services. There may be reduced capacity from the Swedish Embassy to offer consular assistance due to the current COVID environment.
- If despite our advice, you travel to North Korea, consider registering your travel to North Korea with the Australian Embassy in Seoul.
- To stay up-to-date with local information, follow the Australian Embassy in Seoul's social media accounts.
If you require consular assistance, please contact the Australian Embassy in Seoul or the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang.
Full travel advice: Local contacts
Civil unrest and political tension.
Since the practical end of the Korean War in 1953, the Korean Peninsula has been divided by a demilitarised zone (DMZ), which separates:
- North Korea or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)
- South Korea or the Republic of Korea (ROK)
An armistice agreement helps to maintain peace. However, North and South Korea are still technically at war and relations are tense. Tensions have increased in recent times.
South Korean and North Korean militaries sometimes exchange artillery fire across lines of control.
Security and tension
The security situation on the Korean Peninsula could worsen with little warning.
North Korea regularly conducts ballistic missile launches and has conducted underground nuclear tests. These activities increase tension in the region.
Further military action and political statements by North Korea are likely to continue. This may lead to responses from other countries.
North Korea regularly makes assertive statements about other countries, including Australia.
North Korea says it can't guarantee the safety of embassies and international organisations in the country if there's conflict.
Access to information
North Korea is a closed society.
Authorities restrict access to information. What's available is unreliable. There's very little, if any, information about internal politics.
You can usually access international satellite TV channels at hotels travellers use. However, this could change if there's a crisis.
Civil unrest, internal instability or tension on the Korean Peninsula could rise quickly. If news channels are shut down, you won't have access to information on any developments.
If, despite the risks, you travel to North Korea:
- don't stay long
- only do the activities you need to do
- pay close attention to your personal security
- monitor state broadcasts and other local sources for signs of rising tension, civil unrest or internal instability
- if possible, monitor South Korean and other media for security risks
- consider notifying the Australian Embassy in Seoul of your travel plans
Crime against travellers is rare. However, some travellers have reported petty crimes.
Keep your passport and belongings close:
- at Pyongyang airport
- in public markets
You may be at risk of cyber-based threats during overseas travel to any country. Digital identity theft is a growing concern. Your devices and personal data can be compromised, especially if you’re connecting to Wi-Fi, using or connecting to shared or public computers, or to Bluetooth.
Social media can also be risky in destinations where there are social or political tensions, or laws that may seem unreasonable by Australian standards. Travellers have been arrested for things they have said on social media. Don't comment on local or political events on your social media.
- Cyber security when travelling overseas
Terrorism is a threat throughout the world.
Climate and natural disasters
North Korea experiences natural disasters and severe weather , including:
- flooding and landslides
In an emergency, we may only be able to give you limited consular help.
If a natural disaster occurs:
- exercise caution
- stay away from affected areas
- secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location
- follow the advice of local authorities
- monitor local media and other sources
- keep in contact with friends and family
Check with tour operators before travelling to affected areas.
Register with the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System to receive alerts on major disasters.
Typhoons and severe weather
The rainy season is from late June to late August.
Excessive rainfall can cause flooding and landslides, damage housing and infrastructure, and may disrupt essential services. Flash flooding can occur after short periods of rain.
Typhoons can happen in August and September.
Flooding is common during the rainy season and may disrupt transport and other essential services. Check if severe weather has affected the areas where you plan to travel.
The direction and strength of typhoons can change with little warning.
If a typhoon approaches:
- know your hotel evacuation plans
- identify your local shelter
If you stay:
- adequate shelter might not be available
- flights could be delayed, suspended or fill quickly
- ports may close
Contact your airline for flight updates.
World Meteorological Organisation Severe Weather Information Centre
Earthquakes and tsunamis
Earthquake activity on the Korean Peninsula is low for the region.
Some countries near North Korea experience large earthquakes. This makes destructive tsunamis more likely.
Get updates on earthquakes and tsunamis from the US Tsunami Warning Center .
If there's an earthquake or tsunami:
- follow our advice for natural disasters
- move to higher ground right away if you're on the coast
Don't wait for official warnings, such as alarms or sirens. Once on high ground, check local media.
Get comprehensive travel insurance before you leave.
Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won't pay for these costs.
You'll probably need a specialised insurance policy that covers travel to high-risk destinations. Most Australian policies won't cover you for travel to North Korea.
If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.
If you're not insured, you may have to pay many thousands of dollars up-front for medical care.
- what activities and care your policy covers
- that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away
Physical and mental health
Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
See your doctor or travel clinic to:
- have a basic health check-up
- ask if your travel plans may affect your health
- plan any vaccinations you need
Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.
If you have immediate concerns for your welfare or the welfare of another Australian, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or contact your nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate to discuss counselling hotlines and services available in your location.
- General health advice
- Healthy holiday tips (Healthdirect Australia)
Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.
Medications can be very hard to get in North Korea.
If you plan to bring medication, check if it's legal in North Korea. Take enough legal medicine for your trip.
Carry a copy of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating:
- what the medication is
- the required dosage
- that it's for personal use
Malaria is a risk, especially in the south of the country from May to September.
Japanese encephalitis is also a risk.
To protect yourself from disease:
- make sure your accommodation is insect-proof
- use insect repellent
- wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing
- consider taking medicine to prevent malaria
- get vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis before you travel
Other health risks
- Waterborne, foodborne and other infectious diseases occur, including:
Intestinal worm infections, such as roundworm, are common. These can affect travellers.
Get advice on preventative medicine for intestinal worms.
Hand, foot and mouth disease
Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) is common.
Serious outbreaks sometimes occur. Outbreaks usually start in March and peak in May but can continue until October each year.
The disease mostly affects children aged under 10 years. Adult cases, especially in young adults, are not unusual.
Signs of HFMD include fever and blisters and rashes on the hands, feet and buttocks.
The disease is spread by direct contact with nose and throat discharges and faeces of infected people.
To protect yourself from illness:
- boil drinking water or drink bottled water from bottles with sealed lids
- avoid ice cubes
- avoid raw and undercooked food, such as salads
- wash your hands frequently and thoroughly
Yellow dust is carried to the Korean Peninsula by strong winds from Mongolia and China from March to May.
The dust can:
- cause eye, nose, mouth and throat irritations
- make breathing and heart problems worse
To protect yourself:
- stay indoors as much as possible
- avoid exercising outdoors on days of high yellow dust concentration
- speak to a doctor if you're concerned about symptoms
The standard of medical facilities is basic and hygiene is poor. This includes in Pyongyang.
Avoid surgery unless you need it to leave North Korea.
The Friendship Hospital has English-speaking doctors for travellers. The hospital is in the Munsudong District of Pyongyang. Like other hospitals in North Korea, it may:
- lack heating and medical supplies
- have power outages and other difficulties
The Friendship Hospital may not have strong infection control capabilities. Healthcare standards in North Korea mean that adequate care could not be provided to both residents and travellers in the event of a mass casualty incident or epidemic.
The cost of medical treatment is high.
You may need to pay cash up-front, usually in euros, before a hospital will treat you.
Travel from rural areas to Pyongyang for medical emergencies can be long and difficult.
In January 2020, North Korean authorities severely restricted flights in and out of North Korea. This makes medical evacuation even more difficult than usual.
If you become seriously ill or injured, you'll need to be evacuated to China for treatment. Contact the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang or the Australian Embassy in Seoul for assistance.
Medical evacuation can be very expensive. It can also be difficult to arrange quickly. You may face delays getting the required approvals or booking flights. There are few regular flights from North Korea.
You and your medical escorts will also need visas for China for evacuation.
Authorities don't allow evacuation across the demilitarised zone to South Korea.
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.
If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter . But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. If you are arrested or detained, ask North Korean officials to notify the Embassy of Sweden immediately.
Travelling as part of a tour or with a guide offers no special protection from North Korean laws.
Arbitrary arrest and detention
Authorities have arrested and detained foreigners, including Australians.
Culture and politics influence authorities when they're making arrests, not just the law.
You may be arrested, detained or expelled for activities that aren't crimes in Australia.
Authorities closely watch travellers. They may search belongings in your hotel room or monitor your email, internet, phone and fax usage.
Penalties for drug offences are severe. Trafficking can result in an indefinite jail sentence.
Parole is rare in drug-related cases.
Carrying or using drugs
Authorities make arrests and detain people for many activities. Penalties can be very harsh.
Many seemingly innocent activities may be perceived as spying.
It's illegal to take photos of anything other than designated public tourist sites. This includes:
- roads and bridges
- rail stations
- government buildings
- scenes of poverty
- anything that may give a negative impression of North Korea
Always ask your North Korean guide for permission before taking photos.
It's illegal to:
- bring items that may be seen as religious, pornographic or political
- not declare published material or electronic devices when you enter
- knowingly or unknowingly possess items that breach North Korean law
- show disrespect or make jokes about North Korea, current or former leaders or their families
- engage in an unauthorised currency transaction
- shop at stores not designated for foreigners
It's also illegal to talk to North Koreans without authorisation. This may be perceived as spying.
If you're involved in a civil or commercial dispute, authorities can stop you leaving the country.
Australia has sanctions against North Korea . These rules prohibit the transfer of luxury goods to North Korea.
Australians travelling to North Korea can carry items on the luxury goods lists for personal use only. You must not sell or give these items to others.
Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you're overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.
Staying within the law and respecting customs
North Korea doesn't recognise dual nationality.
If you're a dual citizen, this limits the consular services we can give if you're arrested or detained. This includes if you're an Australian of Korean heritage, including if you're originally from South Korea.
If you're a South Korean-Australian dual citizen, you may need to get approval from South Korean authorities to travel to North Korea.
Get advice from a South Korean embassy or consulate before you travel.
Same-sex relationships are not illegal in North Korea. However, authorities don't find them acceptable. Be discrete.
- LGBTI travellers
Visas and border measures
Every country or territory decides who can enter or leave through its borders. For specific information about the evidence you'll need to enter a foreign destination, check with the nearest embassy, consulate or immigration department of the destination you're entering.
If despite our advice, you travel to North Korea, you need a visa for all types of travel.
If you arrive without a valid visa, you may be:
- denied entry
There is no longer a North Korean embassy or consulate in Australia. This means you need to travel to another country, such as China, to get your visa for North Korea.
You may need to provide recent international travel itineraries to apply for a visa. You may also have to show these when you arrive in North Korea.
Business travellers generally need:
- sponsorship by a North Korean organisation
- permission from the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Professional journalists must apply for special permission to visit. Authorities won't let journalists enter the country on a tourist visa.
Entry and exit conditions change regularly. Contact the Embassy of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in Indonesia for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.
If it becomes safe to travel to North Korea, you may need a double- or multiple-entry visa for China. Otherwise, you won't be able to re-enter China when you leave North Korea. Contact the Embassy or Consulate of the People's Republic of China for details.
Travel advice for China
Australia has sanctions against North Korea that limit what you can take with you. See Local laws .
When entering North Korea, you need to declare all:
- published material, such as books, academic papers and pamphlets
- communications devices, such as mobile phones, satellite phones, GPS receivers and radios
Assume that authorities will inspect published material and electronic devices and possibly confiscate them. Speak to your tour operator if you have concerns.
If authorities don't confiscate your controlled items, you may need to leave them at the customs checkpoints. You may be able to collect them when you leave.
You may be quarantined if you show medical symptoms of a serious communicable disease.
Embassy or consulate of North Korea
Register on arrival
Travellers must register with government authorities within 24 hours of arrival in North Korea. You can do this through your host organisation.
If you stay in a hotel, confirm at check-in that your hotel will take care of your registration.
Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you're just transiting or stopping over.
Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.
You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.
The Australian Government doesn't set these rules. Check your passport's expiry date before you travel. If you're not sure it'll be valid for long enough, consider getting a new passport .
Lost or stolen passport
Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.
Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.
If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:
- In Australia, contact the Australian Passport Information Service .
- If you're overseas, contact the nearest Australian embassy or consulate .
Passport with 'X' gender identifier
Although Australian passports comply with international standards for sex and gender, we can’t guarantee that a passport showing 'X' in the sex field will be accepted for entry or transit by another country. Contact the nearest embassy, high commission or consulate of your destination before you arrive at the border to confirm if authorities will accept passports with 'X' gender markers.
The local currency is the North Korean Won (KPW). Foreigners are not allowed to use the Won.
The Euro is the most widely accepted foreign currency. US dollars and Chinese yuan are also widely accepted.
Changing currencies in North Korea is difficult.
Banking facilities are limited and traveller's cheques aren't accepted.
ATMs are not available.
You can't use a debit or credit card to withdraw cash from a bank.
Some shops and restaurants catering to travellers might convert foreign currency so you can pay.
Use cash. Take small denominations of foreign currency, as you may not be able to get change from large denominations.
North Korea doesn't allow independent tourism. Authorities restrict travel within the country.
Authorities only allow tourism in groups organised by North Korean officials or by approved travel agencies.
An official guide must always accompany travellers.
You may have to show your identity documents at police checkpoints when entering and leaving towns.
Travellers often report that charges for travel can be high and arbitrary, including charges for:
- hire vehicles
Assume that authorities are monitoring all your phone conversations. This includes your mobile if it wasn't confiscated when you arrived.
International phone lines may be disconnected without notice.
Some hotels in Pyongyang allow direct dial international phone calls. Charges are high.
Internet access is severely restricted.
Communications are unreliable.
Direct telephone calls with South Korea are not possible.
You can buy food and clean water with hard currency at some hotels and restaurants.
Energy and pharmaceutical shortages are common.
Tour operators or sponsors usually provide road transportation.
Expect regular delays with vehicles and passengers needing to clear through checkpoints.
Highways are relatively good. Rural and some suburban roads can be in a poor state.
Tourists are generally not allowed to drive.
Vehicles may be old and break down.
Authorities restrict the use of public transport , including the rail network.
Ask your tour operator or guide about public transport or rail travel.
If you're travelling by train, expect long delays due to power outages.
Many coastal areas are sensitive.
If you travel to North Korea by sea, your vessel could be detained or fired on.
Flights to and from North Korea are regularly cancelled or delayed.
Sanctions are in place that affect North Korean service providers, including airlines. Check with your tour operator or airline before you travel.
DFAT doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.
Check North Korea's air safety profile with the Aviation Safety Network.
Research and carry contact information for local police, medical facilities and your host organisation.
Depending on what you need, contact your:
- family and friends
- travel agent
- insurance provider
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
Australia doesn't have an embassy in North Korea. The Australian Embassy in Seoul provides consular assistance to Australians in North Korea but our ability to provide this assistance is limited.
If you're arrested or detained, North Korean authorities may deny you consular access to Australian officials.
The Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang serves as the 'protecting power' for Australia and provides limited emergency consular services. There may be reduced capacity from the Swedish Embassy to offer consular assistance due to the current COVID environment.
If despite our advice, you travel to North Korea, consider registering your travel to North Korea by advising the Australian Embassy in Seoul.
Australian Embassy, Seoul
19th floor, Kyobo Building
Seoul 03154, Republic of Korea
Phone: +82 2 2003 0100
Fax: +82 2 2003 0196
Check the Embassy website for details about opening hours and any temporary closures.
South Korean phone numbers can't be called from within North Korea.
Swedish Embassy, Pyongyang
Democratic People's Republic of Korea
Phone: (+850) 2 381 7485
Fax: (+850) 2 381 7663
Email: [email protected]
24-hour Consular Emergency Centre
In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:
- +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas
- 1300 555 135 in Australia
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30 South Korea Travel Tips To Know Before Going!
Table of Contents
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South Korea is a place you’ll benefit from researching before visiting. If you’re reading my South Korea travel tips, you’re already doing a good job! Saying this, I went in fairly blind and didn’t do much research before I arrived. Nothing went majorly wrong but there were a few things that floored me, such as why Google Maps wasn’t working and why no one would sell me an aff ordable SIM card!
KOREA ESSENTIALS Accommodation: Booking.com / Hostelworld Activities: Viator / GetYourGuide Getting there: air ( Skyscanner ) Getting around: Train ( Trip.com ) / bus Pre-book private airport to hotel transfer Travel insurance: True Traveller (European travellers) / Hey Mundo (other nationalities) / Safety Wing (digital nomads)
South Korea tips
After spending three weeks in South Korea , I feel confident to share my Korea tips and advice. I can’t promise I know absolutely everything about the culture and history (although I did my best) but I’m certainly clued up when it comes to Korea travel tips. The following 30 tips for visiting South Korea are designed to share practical advice and cultural know-how, making your trip easier and more meaningful. Here are some things to know before going to South Korea:
Psst – looking for Seoul travel tips? Check out my Seoul itinerary and guide!
1. Data is expensive
My first Korea travel tip relates to the internet. I assumed I’d buy a local SIM like I do everywhere but this turned out to be more complicated than I’d realised . Without a residency card, you can’t access the deals the locals get. I tried asking in countless stores and phone shops but to no avail.
2. But Wi-Fi is everywhere
When visiting South Korea, ask yourself if you actually need a SIM card. I’ve never been anywhere with quite so many Wi-Fi hotspots. Every subway station has Wi-Fi access as well as many trains and local buses. Whenever I was out sightseeing, I’d nip into a station to download directions to my next location even if I wasn’t catching a train. I got by fine without data so you might want to disregard my South Korea travel tip #1 and use Wi-Fi instead.
3. Rent your SIM/hotspot at the airport
If you do decide you’d rather get a SIM card than rely on Wi-Fi, a good option is to pre-order one and collect it at the airport. I started my SIM card hunt by asking my hostel owner where to get one. She answered ‘the airport’ which wasn’t ideal since I’d just spent an hour coming from there. Yep, it’s hard to find tourist SIM cards anywhere but the airport so this is definitely a helpful thing to know before visiting South Korea. B ook your 4g SIM to collect at Seoul airport . The other option is renting a portable Wi-Fi device. This often works out a bit cheaper than a SIM card and they also can be collected at the airport. Reserve your pocket Wi-fi device here.
4. Tipping isn’t necessary
Worried about the cost of travelling in South Korea ? I’ll touch on this later but there’s one thing you don’t need to worry about: tipping. The price you see on a restaurant menu or at the bar is exactly what you’ll pay. In fact, tipping can appear quite rude, just like in Japan. Giving a tip might suggest you think a waiter is below you hierarchically which is obviously to be avoided. Save those pennies for dessert!
5. Google Maps doesn’t really work
I’d never been somewhere without Google Maps so I was very surprised when I arrived in South Korea. It’s not that Maps doesn’t work at all but it’s not regularly updated and the maps won’t load to a close level. Public transport directions work but walking and driving ones do not. South Korea prefers to rely on its own system rather than global companies which explains its reluctance to partner with Google. Some apps for travelling in Korea are Naver Maps and KakaoMap.
6. South Korea gets COLD
A tip for visiting South Korea in the winter is to prepare for the weathe r. Unlike other places in Asia that stay warm all year round, South Korea has severe winters. This means you’ll want to look at the seasons and weather before planning your trip, or at least dress accordingly. As a lover of the sun (and a backpacker with too many sarongs and summer dresses), I waited for spring to visit. But if you have a woolly wardrobe ready to be packed, winter might be a beautiful time to visit South Korea.
Of all the things to know before going to Korea, the weather may be the most impactful. Here’s a rundown of the seasons.
- Spring (March to May) – the best time for cool temperatures and seeing cherry blossoms
- Summer (June to August) – hot and humid in the cities but generally manageable
- Autumn (September to November) – this season is short with cool temperatures of 10-20 degrees. Note this is typhoon season.
- Winter (December to March) – temperatures go down to -3 degrees.
7. It’s amazing for hiking
One thing that South Korea isn’t overly famous for is hiking . I hope this changes because this green and glorious island is the perfect place for long and short hikes for all abilities. I took some excellent day trips from Busan that nature lovers will enjoy. Most are super easy to reach from the city thanks to efficient public transport.
Worthwhile hikes include:
- Bukhansan National Park from Seoul
- Seoraksan National Park (2.5 hours from Seoul, stay over in Sokcho city)
- Apsan Park and observation deck from Daegu
- Palgongsan Mountain from Daegu
- Igidae Coastal Walk from Busan
- Taejongdae Resort island hike from Busan.
8. The Korean alphabet is easy
Apparently! I can’t say I learnt it but many travellers claim it’s pretty easy, plus it would be a fun activity for your South Korea bucket list . Of course, I’m not saying that learning fluent spoken Korean is easy, but knowing the alphabet will enable you to recognise dishes on menus and place names. If you’re good with languages, this could be a worthwhile tip for visiting South Korea.
9. Get a Tmoney card
My top South Korea tip for getting from a to b? Purchase a travel card. Tmoney cards only cost 500 won when you consider that you get back 3,500 of the 4,000 deposit you pay. They make travelling South Korea so much easier because you don’t need to queue for ticket machines and you can quickly tap onto any bus or subway train. You can buy them at subway stations and convenience stores.
10. The subway is efficient but don’t overlook the buses
Jumping on buses in foreign countries can be nerve-wracking but don’t worry in South Korea. The buses are safe, efficient and regular. For certain routes, they’ll even be quicker than catching the subway. Personally, I much prefer to get my bearings and watch the world go by from the window of a bus than sit underground so I always take the bus when I can. In smaller cities like Daegu, Gyeongju and Jeonju , buses are the only option as there’s no subway. This South Korea travel tip is to embrace them!
11. Use Trip.com to book trains
You can book trains on Trip.com , the official partner of Korail (the railway network of Korea). This is the only train website that will take foreign payment card.
12. For buses, just show up
Unfortunately, for buses, you can’t use Trip.com and other booking websites only take Korean payment cards. Don’t worry because buses rarely book up so you can just turn up on the day. This is what I did and never had any problems. As a general rule, before moving to a new place I checked out bus and train prices then took whichever was cheapest or quickest, depending on how much time I had.
13. You can only visit the DMZ with a tour
Visiting the DMZ is a fascinating addition to your South Korea trip. However, the only way to visit is with an official guide and organised tour group. Check out my tips for taking a DMZ tour from Seoul .
The second thing to know about visiting the DMZ is that tours can book up during busy months. Book a couple of days in advance if possible. An additional South Korea tip: bring your passport to the DMZ with you otherwise you’ll be refused entry to the area. Imagine coming all that way and not being allowed in!
14. There are lots of affordable tours
Despite the fact that general costs are higher in South Korea than many other Asian countries, the price of tours a r e pretty similar. Trips and day tours on GetYourGuide and Klook start at $15, a useful Korea tip if travelling on a budget without your own vehicle.
15. Bank cards are widely accepted
Before arriving in South Korea I’d been in Southeast Asia, somewhere you can rarely pay on card. While I’d recommend having some cash on you in South Korea, most restaurants and shops do allow card transactions. However if you’re having street food for dinner, it’s cash payment or going hungry.
16. The currency is the South Korean won
The South Korean currency might make you feel wealthy but soz, it’s an illusion! The rate at the time of writing (Jan ‘22) is 1,600 to the pound or 1,200 to the dollar. You’ll be dropping at least 5,000 for dinner and 20,000 for hostel beds.
17. Prices are fairly high
I’d put South Korea between Southeast Asia and the West in terms of costs. You’ll certainly find it expensive if you’re used to Vietnam or Thailand but it won’t seem so bad if you’re arriving from the UK or US.
Read next: Korea on a budget
Hostel dorms cost around 20,000 won (£15 / $18) per night; street food meals cost between 2-5,000 won; cheap restaurant meals cost between 5,000-10,000 won; and train journeys are between 5-000-25,000 won. If you’re looking for South Korea tips for travelling on a budget, you need to get familiar with market food and dorms!
Read next: guide to Seoul street food
18. The beauty culture is something else
Get ready to be bombarded with beauty products left right and centre ! The South Korean beauty industry is one of the biggest in the world worth over $10 billion US. It’s also impossible to avoid. South Koreans are often super glamorous and rely heavily on whitening p roducts. Areas of Seoul like Myeondong are packed with beauty stores selling everything you never knew you needed. They’re a lot of fun to browse.
19. Get ready to feel scruffy!
On that note, I’ve never felt scruffier than in South Korea. My backpack wardrobe was passable in other Asian countries but felt oh-so-crumpled and faded compared to what the locals wore. Particularly in Seoul! If you’re looking for Seoul travel tips, I would suggest you pack a few smart outfits if you want to visit nice restaurants and bars. They aren’t mandatory but might make you blend in better!
20. Go hard or go home
I was surprised to learn that South Koreans are big social drinkers and love to party. Previously I’d been in Taiwan where the drinking culture was virtually nonexistent so I’d expected more of the same. How wrong I was! In Seoul’s Hongdae, local partygoers stay out until 6am. You’ll also see businessmen pretty tipsy after post-work drinks. It was a side I’d not seen before in Asia and liked – after all, how often do you get to party with the locals?
21. Soju is life
If you’re headed to South Korea and don’t yet know Soju, you’ll want to remember this Korea travel tip. Soju is a fermented spirit and the national drink of South Korea. Apparently, it’s considered offensive to refuse a shot. And we wouldn’t want to cause offence now, would we? 😉 If you’re backpacking Korea on a budget, there’s a second reason to know about soju. It’s very cheap. Drinking soju at home is a fraction of the cost of drinking at a bar. Visit the 7-Eleven for apple, grape and grapefruit flavoured soju that can be drunk neat (it’s nowhere near as strong as the flavourless version).
22. There’s nowhere as crazy as Seoul
Seoul is different from anywhere in the country. It reminded me of London in that way. If you try and compare anywhere else in South Korea to Seoul, you’ll end up surprised or even disappointed. While I’d recommend around 3 days in Busan , I’d suggest at least 5 days in Seoul. Nowhere rivals Seoul in size, quirkiness or diversity of the things to do. For a real taste of what makes Seoul special, visit Hongdae in the evenings. You’ll find live music, street food, bizarre cafes where you can pet sheep and racoons, street art, and locals dining out and drinking coffee ‘til 4am . And partying ‘til even later!
23. Buddy up for dinner
Something I didn’t anticipate in South Korea was not being to dine solo. Sure, sometimes newbie solo travellers might feel uncomfortable dining solo anywhere but that’s usually down to fear of being judged rather than actual restaurant restrictions. For Korean barbecues and dak galbi meals (a chicken and cheese hotplate dish), there’s often a minimum of 2 diners required. Super annoying right? My best South Korea travel tip is to always ask. I found a barbecue restaurant that were happy to seat me but charged me an extra 5,000 won (£3). Irritating but better than not being able to try a Korean barbecue while in Korea. The other option is to stay in a hostel where they offer shared dinner trips to counteract this problem.
24. Veggies & vegans may struggle
South Korean food is meat-heavy, from barbecues to Korean fried chicken and street food. Even bibimbap usually contains beef although you can usually ask for it without. Use HappyCow to seek out veggie and vegan cafes and restaurants. You can also check out this Seoul vegan guide .
25. Fresh veggies are hard to find
This follows on from the last point. I’m not vegetarian but that doesn’t mean I want to eat fried meat three times a day and never see a vegetable! Of all the places I’ve been (apart from maybe the P hilippines), South Korea is the most challenging for finding fresh food. The best you’ll get in a 7-Eleven is a lone banana wrapped in plastic and strapped to polystyrene. Supermarkets aren’t prevalent so unless you know where the local markets are and manage to haggle in Korean (or with a bit of pointing and gesturing) it can be tricky. My best Korea travel tip for staying healthy is to have a Korean barbeque meal and go easy on the meat and heavy on the salad bar. Otherwise, get your miming skills on and pick up some sweet potatoes and peppers at a local market.
26. South Korea is safe for solo females
Super safe! South Korea has a low crime rate and you’ll feel perfectly safe during your trip. The locals can be shy when talking to foreigners but they’ll certainly help you out if they can. Whenever I asked for directions, they went out of their way to help even if they clearly had no idea! Check out my solo female travel archives for travel tips around the world.
Finally, some tips around etiquette and society…
27. South Korea only became wealthy recently
South Korea today is thriving, especially in the cities. Locals have money for leisure and socialising which means there are great cafes, restaurants and theme parks. However this hasn’t always been the case. The Korean War lasted until 1953, destroying the economy and ripping the country in two quite literally. For many years, people struggled and the average family had very little to live on. Nowadays things have drastically improved. Young people may not remember the dark days but the older generation do. Many traditional professions are dying because young people prefer to work in offices or within the tourist industry. I can’t say I blame them but it’s a sad situation to consider.
28. South Koreans are very romantic
When you arrive in South Korea, you might notice the couples behaving very… coupley. Although not quite how they would in the West. Rather than openly kissing, young couples in South Korea like to play fight in a cutesy way. They’ll tickle each other’s arms, pinch ears, lovingly caress elbows. Well, each to their own right? Apparently, showing public affection wasn’t considered acceptable until a couple of decades ago. In fact, it was frowned upon to even hold hands. Nowadays, young people are enjoying their newfound freedom – elbows and all! The other thing to know? There’s a huge pressure to couple up. Single shaming is way worse than the West and I’m sure some of us can vouch for how bad it is there!
29. Respect the elders
Most Asian societies have strong respect for their elders but Korea has a whole language to honour theirs! The Korean language takes into consideration the relationship between the speaker and their subject. So if you’re addressing someone of hierarchal superiority (like a boss, customer or teacher) or an elder, you’ll use different nouns and word endings. You’ll only use informal versions if someone is younger than you or an employee/student. And getting it wrong is considered very rude. Eek. It’s unlikely to affect you as a tourist but you should always try to be extra polite and respectful to older Koreans.
30. South Korean society is stressful for young people
This point is more of a cultural one than a tip for visiting South Korea. However I think it’s an interesting point to consider while travelling around. South Korea is a wealthy nation with good education and career opportunities for young people. Perhaps because of recent improvement in these areas, the older generation are keen to ensure their children and grandchildren do as well as possible and therefore sometimes put tremendous pressure on them, in terms of getting good grades and then high-flying jobs. Despite being modernised, South Korea is still a conservative country. Gay rights are poor and sex before marriage is still frowned upon. People are expected to get married young and feel they are ‘left on the shelf’ otherwise. Combine that with unrealistic beauty standards (remember all those products I mentioned) and I’m sure you can imagine the stress on young South Koreans. With all the above considered, it’s little wonder mental illness and suicide rates are at an all-time high for South Koreans. With a long life expectancy and ageing population, the problem even extends to older people who don’t want to be a burden on their families. You’ll unlikely see any evidence of this travelling around but it’s something to think about, plus we should all practise kindness wherever we go!
Thanks for reading my South Korea travel tips!
Check out my other South Korea blogs:
- South Korea 2 week itinerary
- The perfect 5 days in Seoul
- Korea travel budget guide
- A guide to visiting Jeju Island without a car
- Best things to do in Busan + 3 day itinerary
- Tips for visiting the DMZ from Seoul
- Jeonju travel guide & 1 day itinerary
- The ultimate South Korea bucket list
- 20 best South Korean foods to try
- The best day trips from Busan
See you next time for more adventures,
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VISITING SOUTH KOREA? These are my trusted resources: Getting around by air – I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going. Buses – buses are comfy and efficient. It’s tricky for foreigners to book online so it’s best to turn up on the day. Trains – use Trip.com , partner of Korail (the official railway network of Korea) to book your tickets in advance. The website accepts international payment options, unlike Korean rail websites. Click the three stripes in the top right corner then the flag to change it to English. Driving in Korea – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals. Hiring a car will be especially useful on Jeju Island. For hotels in Korea, I use Booking.com – they also have self-catering apartments. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld . To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters , a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets. Browse South Korea tours and activities on GetYourGuide . I also check Viator and Klook in case they have a better price. For food tours with passionate local chefs and foodies, check out EatWith . Need travel insurance ? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote . For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing . Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and tips!
Rose is a solo traveller from the UK who has been on the road since 2015. She wants to show other women that solo travel isn't scary and doesn't have to be expensive! Rose has lived in Mexico, Canada and all over Asia, seeking out food, bubble tea and street art wherever she goes!
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Exercise normal safety and security precautions
Exercise normal safety and security precautions in South Korea (level 1 of 4).
Political tensions Relations between South and North Korea can be tense. North Korea has conducted several nuclear tests (the most recent in 2017) and regular ballistic missile tests, leading to further tensions. Future tests cannot be ruled out. In the past, heightened tensions haven’t affected daily life.
There have been occasional exchanges of live fire (warning shots) between North and South Korean border forces. These incidents occurred in areas along the Demilitarised Zone and the north-western islands (including Yeonpyeong-do, Daecheong-do and Baengnyeong-do) and surrounding waters. The most recent incident was in October 2022 when the two Koreas exchanged warning shots off the western coast, accusing each other of breaching their maritime border. In November 2010, the North Korean military shelled the north-western island of Yeonpyeong-do, resulting in loss of life. Tensions in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) have de-escalated since the Panmunjom Declaration was signed in April 2017. However, further provocations or reactions cannot be ruled out. On 18 July, a US serviceman willfully crossed the border into North Korea without authorisation and is currently in North Korean custody. As a result, all tours to the DMZ have been postponed indefinitely.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula could escalate with little warning and New Zealanders are advised to monitor the media to stay informed of any developments and follow any instructions issued by the local authorities. Remain vigilant and take official warnings seriously.
Civil unrest Public protests and demonstrations take place regularly, particularly in central Seoul and can cause disruptions to traffic and public transport. While the protests and demonstrations are generally peaceful, we advise New Zealanders in South Korea to avoid them, as there have been sporadic instances of escalation where protesters and police clash. We recommend you monitor the media to keep up to date with local events and follow instructions issued by the local authorities. You should also be aware that under Korean law, foreign nationals are prohibited from engaging in political activities in South Korea.
Crime Generally speaking Korea has a very low crime rate, and foreigners are rarely targeted. However, petty crime is always possible and we advise New Zealanders to be alert to their surroundings at all times and to take steps to keep themselves safe and to secure their personal belongings. There have been sporadic instances of sexual harassment and sexual violence against foreigners.
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.
General travel advice 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.
South Korean authorities hold national civil emergency exercises from time to time. These may include sirens and requests for people to take shelter in metro stations or basements. While visitor participation is not necessary, we recommend that you familiarise yourself with the procedures and keep an eye on local media.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe and can include lengthy imprisonment or fines.
The blood alcohol concentration limit for drivers is 0.03%. Heavy penalties apply for exceeding the limit.
South Korea has one of the highest traffic fatality rates for a developed country. Speeding, running red lights and other risky behaviour is common, particularly by buses, taxis and motorcyclists. Automobile drivers are presumed to be at fault in accidents involving bicycles or pedestrians, although most vehicles have blackbox cameras installed and the recordings are used by police and insurance companies to determine actual fault. If you are involved in an accident or a physical altercation following an accident, whether you are at fault or not, you could face criminal charges and heavy penalties, especially if it results in injury. Watch out for motorcyclists travelling on footpaths.
Air pollution, including yellow dust pollution, is common throughout the year and especially during spring months. Yellow dust is carried to the Korean peninsula by strong winds from Mongolia and China. It can cause eye, nose, mouth, and throat irritations as well as make breathing and heart problems worse. When the concentration levels are high, residents and visitors are advised to stay indoors as much as possible and drink plenty of water, Follow local media reporting and the Korean Meteorological Service website for the latest advice.
The monsoon season is from late June to late August, and flash floods causing a number of drowning deaths have occurred in the last two years. Typhoons can occur in August and September. You should monitor approaching storms on the Korean Meterological Administration website, identify your nearest shelter if required and follow any advice given by local authorities. If you decide to travel to South Korea during the rainy or typhoon seasons, be aware of the risks to your safety and be prepared to change or cancel your travel plans at short notice.
New Zealanders travelling or living in South Korea should have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place. All foreigners living in South Korea for six months or longer must subscribe to South Korea’s state health insurance scheme.
New Zealanders in South Korea are encouraged to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
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The New Zealand Embassy Seoul, South Korea
Street Address Jeong-Dong Building, Level 8 (West Tower), 15-5 Jeong-Dong, Jung-Gu, Seoul 110-784, Republic of Korea Postal Address KPO Box 2258, Seoul, 110-110, Republic of Korea Telephone +82 2 3701 7700 Fax +82 2 3701 7701 Email [email protected] Web Site http://www.mfat.govt.nz/korea Hours Mon - Fri 0900 - 1230, 1330 - 1730 hrs
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South Korea Travel Tips – Things to know before visiting Korea
South Korea is an up-and-coming country that’s gained its popularity from K-pop, trendy hipster fashion and of course, its delicious Korean BBQ! Its capital, Seoul, is the number one hotspot for tourists, due to it bustling atmosphere and attractions. With endless amounts of things to see and do, places to visit, cool and quirky foods and drinks to try, no wonder many travellers pick South Korea as their top destination.
Having spent a lot of time in Korea, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of tips for visiting South Korea, highlighting pretty much everything you need to know, so you can plan ahead of your trip to this futuristic country. Whether you’re planning on visiting the capital for a few days or travelling the entire country, we hope our South Korea travel tips and tricks come in handy 😊
- The first South Korea travel tip on our list is to check that your passport is valid for the entire duration of your stay in South Korea. If visiting for over 90 days, make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months.
- If you’re visiting for 90 days or less, your passport may allow you to apply or what’s known as a K-ETA, or Travel Entry Authorisation. This simple online application form is available to passport holders from almost 100 countries. For longer stays, you can apply for an extended Visa when you’re in South Korea. If you have a passport that isn’t on South Korea’s K-ETA list, be sure to check entry information on your local government travel website well in advance of arrival. Find out more about the K-ETA visa here .
Note: Visitors from some countries don’t need to apply for a K-ETA Visa if arriving before the end of December 2024. Simply show your passport on arrival. Check if your country is included on the E-KTA exclusion list on your local government website.
- Make sure you have travel insurance cover for the full duration of your trip. We recommend getting a quote from various companies online and getting the best deal to suit you and your travel needs. We personally use Compare The Market to find the best deal (in the UK).
- Depending on where you’re visiting in South Korea, you may want to buy a data package to help you get around and stay connected. Wi-Fi is readily available in most places, but if you’re heading out of the cities, a data SIM can come in handy. We recommend SK Telecom. If you have an E-SIM compatible smart phone, sign up to one of their E-SIMs. You can also buy a SIM card in the airport on arrival or in any Korean shopping mall.
- Card payment is accepted in a lot of places, but it isn’t as commonly accepted as credit/debit cards in North America, Australia and Europe. Many market stalls and smaller restaurants will only accept cash. We recommend bringing some of your own currency with you and exchanging it at a bank or currency exchange booth in South Korea. You’ll get a much better rate than you would exchanging in your home country.
- South Korea is a place with extreme seasons. It gets very warm in the summer months and very colder in winter. It also gets its fair share of rain and temperatures can vary quickly no matter the month. We recommend packing a selection of clothes for all seasons. Pack for cold weather from October – February and a light raincoat and jacket for other months.
Planning your trip
- Visiting the capital, Seoul, is a must for any first time visitor. It’s the heart of the country and is a city like non other we’ve visited. We recommend allocating at least 5 full days to see Seoul. Many people visit South Korea and spend their whole time in this city!
- Consider visiting two or three places in South Korea to get a different experience of the country. Busan, Jeju Island and Seoul are must-sees. It’s easy to get around using the high speed trains or short internal flights.
- Consider visiting a city away from the beaten trail. Daejeon and Gwanju are areas where you won’t see many tourists. There’s a lot to see and do in addition to the likes of Seoul, Busan and Jeju. This is a South Korea travel tip that you probably haven’t considered. Most people spend the entirety of their trip in only a couple of city destinations.
- South Korea’s sprawling cities are the most common stops on tourist itineraries. However, we encourage you to head away from the city and into the countryside during your visit. Remote temples, national parks, rice fields and villages are areas of the country that many people don’t see. South Korea’s rural attractions are just as good as any city.
- Booking accommodation in advance is a must in Korea, especially during peak times. If you book ahead of time, you’ll be able to get better deals and will a wider selection of hotel options. South Korea is densely populated and hotels can fill up fast if you leave it until the last minute. As a rule of thumb, always try to book accommodation at least 1 month before you arrive.
- Think about the type of holiday you want. Unlike the relaxing nature of the likes of Thailand and the Philippines, South Korea is an adventurous place with a city-break appeal. Seoul offers endless amounts of things to see and do. You’ll be out and about pretty much the entire day, exploring the cultural side of South Korea. If you’re looking for beach holiday vibes, Busan or Jeju Island are the places to be. Warm weather, beautiful beaches and lots of leisure activities provides a different type of holiday.
CHECK OUT OUR TRAVEL VIDEO ON 50 THINGS YOU MUST DO WHEN VISITING SOUTH KOREA
When’s the best time to visit South Korea?
South Korea has four very distinct seasons. The summertime is hot, humid and sticky and the winter can be surprisingly harsh. Whilst there isn’t a right or wrong time to visit, we recommend visiting either during spring (March – early May) or autumn (September – October). South Korea is known for its beautiful cherry blossoms that bloom during the month of April. Meanwhile, autumn provides crisp and cooler weather, which is perfect for sightseeing.
Top tip: South Korea weather can be unpredictable at times, so be sure you’re prepared for all weather scenarios. Read more about this in our ‘clothing to pack’ South Korea travel tips section below.
- South Korea may have a reputation for being a little expensive, but contrary to this, we found it fairly affordable. It’s more expensive than South East Asia, but expect cheaper hotel prices compared to North America, Europe, Japan and Australia.
- Airbnb’s aren’t a thing in Korea, so expect to book hotels, hotels, and more hotels!
- This is probably one of our most important South Korea travel tips. Book accommodation in advance! We’ve mentioned this above, but it’s so important to get your accommodation booked a few months in advance. It’ll save you time, money and stress!
- Location is key, especially when visiting a city such as Seoul. You’ll want to be as central as possible, right in the middle of the hustle and bustle. Be sure to do your research on potential areas and cross check it against the things you want to see and do. Public transport in Korea is excellent, but you can’t beat the convenience of walking.
- Always check hotel reviews before booking. In general, the standard of hotels is very good and rooms are very clean. However, as with any destination, you’ll find some poor quality hotels that have the potential to ruin your trip.
- If you’re staying in a few different hotels during your visit, consider booking a traditional Korean hotel where you sleep on the floor. The unique décor and design of a traditional Hanbok home is an experience you’ll remember.
For tips on finding the best price for your hotel room, check out our accommodation booking guide .
Getting around in South Korea
- South Korea’s transport system is second to none, especially in Seoul. The metro is the best way to get around in most cities; it’s quick, affordable and convenient. Buses are also a good option, but the language barrier can make things difficult.
- Uber is available in some cities but it can be more expensive than standard street taxis. Therefore, for cost savings and ease, we recommend simply hailing available taxis on the street. You’ll also have taxi queues at popular attractions.
- South Korea is one of the few countries that doesn’t use Google Maps, but don’t worry, you won’t get lost! Download Kakao Maps ahead of your trip and pinpoint attractions/ places you want to visit. Google Maps still has a lot of useful information, it’s just less accurate than most other countries. We personally used a combination of Google and Kakao Maps.
- The very best method of transport for getting between cities is the KTX high speed rail network. Also known as the ‘bullet train’, these trains can reach up to 300mph and make inter-city travel a breeze. Journeys are fairly affordable if you book in advance.
- We don’t recommend renting a car, especially if only staying in cities. The public transport is very good and driving in South Korea can be challenging if you’re not used to driving in busy Asian cities. You may need to hire a car if visiting a rural attraction.
- Most public transport requires you to buy and top up a special transport card. You can’t use contactless with the machines directly. Each city has its own unique transport card, which can be topped up at convenient stores or metro stations.
Food and drink
- Korea is known as the land of kimchi, fried chicken and BBQ. All jokes aside, it’s much more than that! Korean cuisine is known for its spice, tender meat, delicious noodles and all things red bean. There are so many delicious dishes to try, so be sure to check out our article on the top 20 dishes . Our favourites are Japchae, Bulgogi, Dakdoritang and Korean BBQ. Be open to trying new things and your taste buds will awaken to flavours you’ve never tried before.
- Like many Asian countries, weird and wonderful drinks are hugely popular in Korea. From bubble teas to fruit drinks and sodas, there’s something for all tastes. It’s uncommon to see someone without their favourite drink in hand! Try as many drinks as you can at cafes, restaurants and even 7/11 stores. By the time you leave you’ll probably have a new favourite beverage.
- There’s at least one bakery at every corner you turn in Korea. Korean’s love to have a coffee and a sweet treat on the go, for a mid-morning or afternoon snack. Live like the locals and try at least a few bakeries during your visit. Many of the bakeries in Korea rival the finest spots in Paris.
- Street food is a must in Korea, and in our opinion, it’s the best type of Korean food you can try. It’s a great way to sample a variety of different dishes at a low cost. Just be sure to have cash with you as most food vendors don’t accept credit/debit card. This South Korea travel tip is great for your budget too! Most dishes cost only a few dollars/pounds/euros.
- South Korea has a lot of unusual foods that you might find weird if you’re not used to eating raw seafood, delicacies and other unique dishes. You can easily avoid this type of food if it isn’t to your taste, but we encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and try a little bit.
- There aren’t a lot of vegan and vegetarian restaurants outside of Seoul and Busan. Meat and seafood is huge in South Korea and whilst you can find lots of veggie dishes, the language barrier can cause confusion. We recommend researching Vegan or Vegetarian Korean dishes and writing them down for reference. You’ll find some excellent vegan/vegetarian restaurants in the main tourist areas, but be sure to do research before heading out. There aren’t readily available.
- The local currency is known as ‘Won’.
- Bring cash from your own country and exchange it at a currency exchange booth or a bank on arrival. You’ll often get a better exchange rate for Korean Won compared to your home country.
- Many attractions in South Korea are free of charge or have a small cost. It’s surprisingly affordable to sightsee compared to other countries and some of the country’s best tourist attractions have no cost. If you’re on a budget, add as many free attractions to your itinerary as possible.
- Whilst most places accept card payment, be sure to always carry cash with you to pay for entrance fees for attractions and other small charges. Whilst in South Korea, we use cash and card equally.
- One great positive about Korea, unlike many other tourist places in the world, is that they don’t rip you off for being a foreigner. You won’t feel taken advantage of (in most cases) and you’ll often feel like you’re getting good value for money. Let your guard down and enjoy this rare experience!
- Following on from the above point, when heading to a local market, try to haggle for clothing, accessories and other apparel. It’s common practice and you can get a good bargain. Haggling for food and other incidentals isn’t a thing.
- Eating out costs vary wildly. You can eat for less than $10 per day. However, you can also eat at some extremely expensive fine dining restaurants. There’s something for all budgets.
- Our final South Korea travel tip on the money side is to only keep a little bit of your money with you and leave the rest in the hotel safe. It’s unlikely you’ll get pickpocketed or robbed. However, it’s easy to lose money when out and about.
- Respecting the elderly is a huge thing in Korea. Even if they aren’t your relatives, be sure to show respect to those older than you.
- In most countries, it may seem rude to slurp and eat with your mouth open, but not in Korea! In South Korea, eating loudly is a sign that you’re enjoying your delicious meal. The louder, the better, so try not to let it bother you.
- Family is a huge part of Korean culture. Families are often really close and they get together on a regular basis, either to have a Korean BBQ or a home cooked meal. Take time to meet the locals and they’ll often introduce you to their family and friends.
- Koreans can sometimes be impatient and don’t like to be kept waiting – especially when it comes to eating out. There are often buzzers or bells to press in restaurants, so you can alert the staff when you need more food, water, or want to pay the bill. Don’t be scared to make your presence known if you want service. Just do it in a polite way.
- When entering someone’s home in South Korea, be sure to take your shoes off at the front entrance of the porch. They’ll have slippers for you to put on. This is the case not only in homes, but in some restaurants too.
- Koreans eat with a pair of metal chopsticks for pretty much every dish you can think of. They’re tricky to get the hang of, but if you need to, you can ask for a fork and spoon.
- You’ll see Koreans greet you with a gentle bow. If you forget the word for, ‘hello’ and want to be polite, you can bow as a greeting. It’s a common form of respect.
- Koreans are very friendly and will often go out of their way to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions. In general, we’ve found that younger people have a higher chance of speaking English.
The local language
- ‘Hangukmal’ is the language spoken in South Korea.
- English isn’t widely spoken in South Korea, and even in the capital, English is only spoken amongst the younger generation. Keep this in mind when asking for directions.
- Hello: an-nyeong ha-se-yoThank you: gam-sa-ham-ni-daGoodbye: an-nyeong-hi gye-se-yoNice to meet you: mannaseo bangawoyoA table for two: salam du-myeongYes: neNo: a-ni-yoDelicious: masisseoyo
- No sugar: saltang mal-gu
- Take note of the above phrases on a Notepad or on your smartphone. They’ll come in Handy throughout your trip.
- If you’re at a shop, café, or restaurant, you can simply say ‘igor’, which means this/that, and point to the food or object you want. It isn’t the most accurate thing to say, but it’s easy to remember and can help you beat the language barrier.
- Download Google Translate on your phone and use it’s intelligent translation features. You can take a photo of Korean writing and it’ll instantly convert it to your own language. You can also use its handy voice translate feature.
- Making friends with the locals is a great way to immerse yourself in the language. If you’re in doubt, just ask, and they’ll be more than happy to teach you. Asking friendly locals how to say something in Korean is a great way to learn on the go.
- South Korea is generally a really safe country. It has a respectful culture where most people are considerate and aware of others. So much so, locals often leave their phone, handbags and other expensive items on a table without any worry of them being stolen.
- When visiting larger cities such as Seoul and Busan, traffic is wild. Be sure to have your wits about you when navigating the busy streets. Always use the designated crossings where you can.
- At a crosswalk, it’s illegal to cross the road on a red light in South Korea. Even if there are no cars on the road and you think it’s safe to cross – don’t.
- Whilst crime is extremely low, you still need to keep a watchful eye on pick pocketers in busy streets, especially within tourist areas. For women, we recommend carrying a cross over strap bag so you have your valuables within close reach.
- South Korea is one of the safest countries we’ve ever visited. It’s fine to go out to explore by yourself without any worries, even at night. Be aware of your surroundings and you shouldn’t run into any issues.
Medication to pack
Whilst you’ll be able to get hold of all the medication essentials in South Korea, it’s always a good idea to have your must-haves with you, in case of an emergency. South Korea is a well developed country with excellent healthcare, so if you need to head to your local store or pharmacy for a top up, you won’t have any issues. Here are a few of the essential items to consider packing:
- Travel sickness tablets
- Ginger tablets – these are great for jet lag or when you’ve eaten something dodgy. It’s a natural herb that can be taken to sooth the stomach.
- Diarrhoea tablets
- Paracetamol and Ibuprofen
- Antibacterial gel
- Any medication you take on a regular basis
- Contact lenses. If you’re travelling for a long period of time, make sure you have enough lenses to cover you for your stay.
- Bug spray – there aren’t many mosquitos in South Korea, but it’s always worth taking a bottle that contains deet, just to be on the safe side. Cities are less of a problem in the cities but you may encounter them in rural areas.
Clothing to pack
The weather in South Korea can be unpredictable at times, and even if you visit during dry season, it may decide to rain heavily for a few days on end (trust us, we’ve been there). No matter when you visit South Korea, we recommend packing extra items of clothing/ gear for all weather.
- Light jacket/ cardigan
- Trousers/ jeans
- Trainers / hiking shoes (waterproof if possible)
- Mini umbrella
- Tops/ vests
- Light jacket
- Rain jacket
- Gloves / Mittens
- Non-slip boots/ shoes
Our final South Korea travel tips
- South Korea has a very unique culture. If you’ve visited other Asian countries, you may be in for a shock as Korea is completely different. It’s such a modern, high-tech and thriving country that has developed very quickly in recent decades. You’ll come across lots of unique cultural phenomenon that you wouldn’t have seen anywhere else, so take it all in and enjoy it!
- If you’re visiting for a few weeks or more, we recommend getting away from big cities such as Seoul and Busan and exploring some of the lesser-known areas. We visited Daejeon to see family. Whilst it doesn’t have as many things to see and do as in Seoul, it still had some excellent attractions, many of which were unique to the area.
- If you only have a limited amount of time in South Korea, try not to squeeze too much into your itinerary. This will only tire you out and ruin your trip. Pinpoint a few places and things you want to try ahead of your visit, plus some ‘nice to haves’ for when you have spare time. Seeing one place fully is better than only getting a short glimpse of many places.
- Plan in plenty of rest breaks when you’re out and about sightseeing. Koreans work hard but they know how to relax, too. Stop by a coffee shop, grab a drink and sit on a park bench or indulge in a unique Korean spa.
- Immerse yourself into the food culture on day one of your trip. The cuisine is amazing and you won’t want to regret not trying more. We personally regret not eating more Korean Fried Chicken. It’s out of this world!
- Our very last South Korea travel tip is to speak a bit of Korean. The locals will love it and will appreciate the effort! Don’t worry about making a mistake.
We hope you enjoyed reading our top tips for visiting South Korea. It’s a special place for me and it was not only great to visit family and explore my Korean roots, but to also see a different side of Korea that I hadn’t experienced before. If you have any other South Korea travel tips or have any questions for us, please leave a comment below. 😊
I’m a passionate traveller that loves a sunny beach holiday, but also appreciate the cultural side to a trip and checking out undiscovered destinations. I’m the go-to Toucan Traveller for great holiday stories, cool photos and foodie recommendations.
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Nov 10, 2023 • 8 min read
Stretch your budget further in Australia with these money-saving tips © Belinda Howell / Getty Images
Australia – with its wallpaper-worthy landscapes, vibrant cities, and unique wildlife – is a dream destination for many.
Unfortunately, while Australia is known to be laid-back, it is not known as a budget destination. Even locals find the cost of living a hard pill to swallow. Ultimately, how expensive Australia feels will depend on the exchange rate of the Australian dollar with your home currency.
Whether you’re in Sydney , Perth or an outback location in between, food, activities and especially accommodation can add up quickly. However with careful planning it is possible to keep costs reasonable on a trip to Australia. Here are our top money-saving tips along with a guide to daily costs.
A guide to daily costs
- Shared bunk room in a hostel: $40–80
- Basic room for two: $180–250
- Single fare on public transport: $2–4
- Bacon and egg roll for breakfast: $8–12
- Meat pie: $6
- Dinner per person, excluding drinks: $30–60
- Beer in pub: $5–9,
- Cocktails: $15–25
Total average daily cost: $200 – 300
1. Plan your trip during the off-peak season
Australia's peak tourist season falls during the southern hemisphere's summer. This makes December to February the most expensive time to visit Australia.
Instead, consider traveling during the shoulder seasons of spring (September to November) or autumn (March to May), when you're more likely to score a deal on accommodation, domestic flights and even tours. As most accommodation providers – particularly in urban centers – rely on dynamic pricing, these months are when you’ll be more likely to snag a room for a reasonable price. The same is true of seats on internal flights and tour buses.
It’s also a great opportunity to discover offbeat festivals timed to coincide with the seasons, such as Tasmania ’s winter solstice celebration, Dark Mofo, or cherry-picking in Victoria’s Yarra Valley .
2. Sydney is not always the cheapest city to fly into
Sydney is considered the gateway to Australia, but it’s not the country’s only international airport. You might be able to save a chunk of change if you fly directly into Melbourne , Brisbane or Perth instead.
You'll find that domestic airfares within Australia are surprisingly budget-friendly, although their high environmental cost bears careful consideration. One-way flights between Melbourne and Sydney retail for as little as $59. You can expect a slightly higher level of service and more inclusions when flying with Australia’s budget airlines (including Bonza and Jetstar ) than you may have experienced with low-cost carriers in other regions.
Another money-saving option is to consider a flight package. Qantas , Australia's largest airline, often has travel deals that include airfare, hotels and car hire . You can use its multi-city trip planner to budget domestic travel within Australia.
3. The cheapest places to eat are markets and pubs
Australia's big cities have top-notch restaurants , but they can be pricey and are likely to be a stretch too far for budget travelers. Instead, opt for the lively markets in laneways, parks, and historic sites. Savor street food, like Thai and Greek delights, at Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market or explore Sydney's Chinatown night markets on Fridays, with dishes starting at just $5.
If you're in regional areas, weekends are a treat with farmers' markets offering everything from freshly baked pastries and picnic supplies to souvenirs to take home.
For more wallet-friendly dining, keep an eye out for food trucks – they're everywhere. In Darwin , Parap Village Markets serves up some of the best laksa (Malaysian noodle soup) in Australia, while Sydney and Brisbane have a variety of options from Texas BBQ to Filipino fare.
And if you're in the mood for a classic Aussie meal, check out the local pubs. Most will offer a daily special, like a $12 chicken parmigiana or a $10 burger with chips. Finally, before you balk at prices for mains, remember that they include tax and tipping isn't customary; what you see on the menu is what you'll pay.
4. Australia's best attractions are free
In Australia, the real treasures lie outdoors on captivating beaches, coastal walks, and mountain trails. There are over 600 national parks and while a handful charge an entrance fee, most are free to explore.
There are also hundreds of cost-free museums and attractions across the country, including the Australian Museum in Sydney and the National Gallery of Victoria . Some may request donations or provide free entry only during specific hours, typically outlined on their websites.
Another option is to join a free walking tour that delves into local history and iconic landmarks. In Brisbane, volunteers spend two to three hours guiding visitors through the city; the Sydney Sights tour leads you around neighborhoods and to famous places, like the Opera House ; and in Melbourne, a Culture Capital tour takes you deep into the city’s labyrinth of laneways and arcades. While these tours may advertise themselves as "free," they often run on a tips basis or "pay what you think it's worth", so bear in mind that the guides are usually expecting a financial contribution.
If you’re having trouble finding a tour online, ask at an information center or chat with the booking desk or concierge where you're staying. Just remember to book your spot for these tours in advance.
For popular tourist attractions, consider investing in a multi-attraction combo pass. Sightseeing Pass Australia , for example, offers discounts for attractions in South Australia and Western Australia, while Sea Life Sydney ’s Pass will save you up to 50% on other nearby sights. Alternatively, scout for discounts on platforms like Klook , Red Balloon and Adrenaline to make the most of your sightseeing adventures.
5. Hire an RV or campervan for cheap accommodation and travel
Whether it's a road trip through the outback or along the coast , the best and sometimes only way to see Australia is by car. To explore efficiently, consider hiring a camper instead of a traditional car rental. Campervans provide affordable accommodation on wheels, with nightly fees at caravan parks averaging around $30 for unpowered sites, and upwards of $40 for powered spots (although you may find even better deals on private land through Hipcamp ).
There are also free campsites available throughout the country, offering an authentic, off-the-beaten-path experience. These can be found using apps such as WikiCamps Australia and CamperMate . If you go this route, prepare for minimal amenities; some spots lack toilet facilities or access to clean water.
Van rental costs start at approximately $40 per day, depending on the model. Camplify (which is like Airbnb for motorhomes and vans) has an under $100 section, making it easy to pick your next home on wheels within budget. Jucy Rentals is another option, best suited to road trippers on a backpacker budget.
While you’ll save on accommodation, bear in mind that petrol (gas) is expensive in Australia. Prices fluctuate, but at the end of 2023 a liter of fuel was between $1.80 and $2.10.
6. Consider a farm stay for a different perspective
Australia is witnessing a rise in the popularity of rural farm stays among travelers. Whether visiting a region for a month or a weekend, you can book a tiny house on a cattle station or sleep in a chic converted shearing shed. They can sometimes be cheaper than hotels, with a breakfast typically included. Most importantly, they double as a free attraction for the whole family, as many farm stays encourage guests to pet the horses and feed the cows.
To find them, use Hipcamp or Booking.com 's "farm stay" filter. While some farm stays can be upwards of $600 for a luxe glamping experience, some cost less than $250 per night for an entire cottage to yourself. Many tourist-facing farmstays, such as the Tweed's Hosanna Farmstay , double as campgrounds with sites from $21 a night and huts from $125.
7. Work or volunteer while you travel
A working holiday visa in Australia can be a savvy move to explore Australia's culture and breathtaking scenery while padding your wallet. Available for visitors between the ages of 18 and 30 (and up to 35 in some cases) from eligible countries, these visas allow you to work as a tourist in Australia.
Housesitting is another option for travelers. You get to stay for free in great homes across Australia, in exchange for looking after the house, and possibly pets too, while the owners are away. Aussie House Sitters and Mindahome.com both list available house sits; there is a small membership fee to join, but it’ll pay off in accommodation savings if you land a housesitting gig.
8. Bring your own wine to dinner
Australia has steep taxes on alcohol, resulting in high prices. Expect to pay $13 for a glass of house wine. To lessen the blow on your budget, opt for happy hour drinks when cocktails are just $15 and tap beers will start at $5. Many places also offer food deals like $10 nachos and $5 fries.
For a budget-friendly dinner with drinks, some restaurants – particularly Chinese, Italian, and Mediterranean ones – will allow you to bring your own bottle of wine. This will typically be advertised in the restaurant’s front window, with a nominal corkage fee of around $3. Although if you walk in with a “goon” bag (a four-liter bag of wine, which will set you back about $12) you might turn some heads.
9. Join a group tour
A common oversight among travelers is underestimating Australia's vast size. With a population of just 25 million, its landmass rivals that of the United States. Travel times – particularly to remote regions – aren’t just critical to your itinerary; they’ll also affect your bottom line.
This is when group tours – which cover lodging, food, transportation, and experiences – can be particularly good value, especially for destinations such as Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and K’gari (Fraser Island) . Tour operators are typically able to negotiate lower group rates for their guests, saving you not just time and effort in planning, but money as well.
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- Travel Advice
Richard Branson gifts Virgin passengers on a domestic flight a free cruise
More than 150 passengers on a flight from Melbourne to Hobart were left in complete and utter shock after a wild gesture from Sir Richard Branson himself.
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Passengers on-board a Virgin Australia flight were left in complete shock when founder Sir Richard Branson dialled in via Facetime and offered them a free holiday worth up to $7,000 each.
The more than 150 passengers were on flight VA 1316, heading from Melbourne to Hobart on Thursday morning when the man himself gifted them a free Virgin Voyages sail to celebrate the cruise line’s arrival in Australia.
It will head to Australia for the first time ever next month with the Resilient Lady (Virgin Voyages’ Australian ship) calling Melbourne its home port.
It’s also why that particular flight was chosen as it represents the same route Resilient Lady will sail on her Mermaiden Voyage, leaving her homeport, Melbourne’s Station Pier, on December 11.
News.com.au understands Branson was in the middle of a tennis tournament on his private island — Necker — when he Facetimed cabin crew who then put him on the plane’s PA system.
Passengers had no idea what was happening, or that he was about to gift them a free trip.
“We’re counting down to Virgin Voyages’ arrival Down Under – setting sail the Virgin way with adults-only itineraries across Australia and New Zealand. Sorry kids, you’ll have to sit this one out,” Branson told passengers.
“Well, today, you happen to be travelling on the same route as our Aussie MerMaiden Voyage. “To celebrate this milestone, I’m pleased to gift each adult on-board a free Virgin Voyages cruise the excited passengers.
“The foundations of Virgin Australia were about keeping the air fair and we’re proud to be taking that same mantra to the sea with Virgin Voyages.”
He said he wanted to give Aussies the opportunity to have an “affordable, stress-free holiday” where they could take a well-earned break, have fun and get a dose of vitamin sea.
A Virgin Australia spokesperson told news.com.au the feeling on-board was “electric” with passengers left stunned.
“We are committed to creating wonderful moments on-board so it was a real pleasure to see so many surprised faces when Sir Richard finally made the announcement all guests had won a free cruise,” the spokesperson said.
“The operating crew were in on the secret and stayed tight-lipped until Sir Richard’s call came through.”
In an unexpected twist, just before the door was closed on the plane, Branson also surprised the cabin crew, ground crew, baggage handlers and pilots on the flight by gifting them a free cruise. In total he gave away more than $1 million in free holidays.
He said it was for their efforts in bringing joy to the loyal Virgin Australia passengers.
Virgin Australia chief marketing officer, Libby Minogue, also described the feeling in the gate lounge and on-board the flight as “electric”.
“We are laser focused on creating wonderful experiences for our guests and today is a great example of the Virgin brands joining forces to deliver Australians new experiences in the air or at sea,” she said.
The reason kids can’t go on the cruise, is because it’s adults-only and not even Branson’s grandkids could convince him to let them on-board .
The Resilient Lady is Virgin Voyages’ newest ship that only started sailing this year.
The ship has sailed Athens, Greece and in October began its 45 day journey to Dubai, Singapore and in Sydney where he will then head to her new home port in Melbourne.
Some of the most interesting features on board include a tattoo parlour – that news.com.au is told almost always has a waitlist – and an on-demand champagne delivery service, where you can shake your phone to have champagne delivered anywhere on the ship.
There is also a catamaran net 14 decks above the water and the highest running track at sea at 17 decks above the water.
Virgin Voyages has also announced new pricing for the inaugural sailing season in Australia with cabins starting from $149 per person, per night and up to $1000 in inclusions.
“There will never, ever be better prices to experience our award-winning dining, entertainment and wellness on-board the luxurious Resilient Lady. This is a new way of cruising Down Under and we can’t wait for Aussies to sail with us,” Virgin Voyages CEO, Nirmal Saverimuttu said.
The budget carrier is offering travellers new direct flights to two of Australia’s most spectacular tourist destinations for just $59.
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A video of this longtime pilot’s emotional speech on his final flight after 32 years of flying has brought people to tears.