|Planning a trip to Korea? Preparing for a longer stay? There are many things to think about when planning your Korean adventure. Here are a few things to think about before you start packing your suitcases.|
|Before anything else|
|The key to enjoying your time in Korea is to arrive with a clear state of mind. Korea is not a heavenly peaceful place where your problems will just disappear magically. There is a pretty good chance that what bugs you at home, will still be bugging you in Korea, so stop dreaming and start living. Whether you make your stay wonderful or not, is totally up to you. Try to keep an open-mind and not to judge people but to understand and accept Korean culture.|
|Foreign visitors to South Korea must have a valid passport and obtain a Korean visa before entering the country. People from certain countries, however, may visit Korea temporarily without a visa. For more information about tourist, student and employment visas, please visit the Visas section.|
|Many airlines with international routes have flights available to Korea. Local carriers Korean Air and Asiana Airlines also have flights from locations around the globe. For more information, visit the Transportation section.|
|Korean currency is the 'won' (￦).The denomination of bills are 1,000￦, 5,000￦, 10,000￦, and 50,000￦ and coins are 10￦, 50￦, 100￦, and 500￦.
Foreign currencies can be exchanged into and from Korean won at banks, exchange service centers, or at authorized currency exchange shops. Rates vary from bank to bank, and are sometimes better at currency exchange shops.
It is important to note that with the exception of Citibank bank accounts, only Korean bank accounts are recognized when making ATM withdrawals in Korea. Some ATMs at major banks, however, can make cash advances on international credit cards.
Cash dispenser machines (CDs) are commonly found in convenience stores, subways, railway stations, bus terminals and department stores. Machines that have the Plus and Cirrus logos also allow access to funds from international bank accounts, when using international debit cards with those logos on the back.
For more information, visit the Banking and Money section.
|A number of transportation options are available between Korea's airports and destinations throughout the country. For more information about specific options, visit the Transportation section.|
|Taxis – Although convenient, taxis are among the most expensive modes of transportation to and from Korea's airports. According to the Incheon International Airport website, http://www.airport.kr, a cab ride between Seoul's City Hall and the airport would cost approximately 44,000 won for a standard taxi, and 80,000 for a deluxe taxi and take about an hour.
Buses – A number of bus services are available from Korea's airports, including airport limousines, local and cross-country buses.
Subway – The Seoul Metropolitan Subway serves both Incheon and Gimpo airports. KTX offers a package that combines a premium limousine service to Seoul Station with a subway ride for a discounted fare. Subway lines 5 and 9 both serve Gimpo Airport. The Airport Railroad Express also provides service between Incheon and Gimpo airports. More information is available at the Incheon International Airport website, http://www.airport.kr.
Rental Cars – Rental cars are available in Korea to holders of international driver's licenses. Rentals are available at international and provincial airports, major railway stations, and express bus terminals throughout Korea.
|Voltage and Frequency|
|Electricity in Korea is 220 volts at 60 hertz. Plugs in Korea have two round pins. Depending on the voltage of your appliance and the shape of your plug, you may need a voltage converter or a plug adapter. Both may be purchased at large discount retailers like E-MART and Home plus or electronics stores.|
|Culture and Etiquette|
|Here's a short introduction to Korean culture and etiquette, to help you to better understand life in Korea.|
The bow is the most common form of greeting with Koreans. The most casual form of bow resembles a nod, while a deep bow is considered the politest greeting. Koreans perform deep bows to their seniors as they are seated cross-legged on the floor. To Perform a Typical Form of Bow: Step 1. Stand up straight, 1 or 2 meters in front of the person you intend to bow to. Step 2. Bend at the waist, while keeping your neck straight. Step 3. Straighten yourself. Step 4. Give your greeting '안녕하십니까 [Annyeong hasimnikka]?' It's helpful to practice this whole procedure until it feels natural. Bowing and saying ' 안녕하십니까 [Annyeong hasimnikka]?' would please most Koreans, as it shows respect and a humble nature. It's also important to note that eye contact is considered disrespectful with speaking with elders.
Shaking hands is not a traditional part of Korean culture, although it is done more frequently in recent years. Koreans do understand that this is a part of Western culture, and often do expect to shake hands with foreigners. It probably would be best to let your new Korean acquaintance initiate this gesture. When shaking hands with a person older or of a higher position than yourself, place your left hand on your right forearm while performing a slight bow. A very firm handshake, while a sign of confidence and respect in the West, would make a Korean feel uncomfortable.
Respect for Elders
Age is very important in Korean society. Any man a year or more older than a person is called 'sir' and treated with a greater respect. Younger people are always expected to greet older people first. Males refer to older ladies as 'nuna' and females refer to them as 'unni.' Males will say 'hyung' for older men and females will say 'oppa.' If the person is over 40 or if there is about a10-year age gap, men are referred to as 'ajossi' and women 'ajumma.'
Koreans consider it a personal violation to be touched by someone who is not a relative or close friend. Avoid touching, patting or back-slapping a Korean adult. Always pass and receive objects with your right hand (supported by the left hand at the wrist or forearm) or with two hands. To beckon someone, extend your arm, palm down, and move your fingers in a scratching motion. Never point with your index finger. When seated, do not cross your legs or stretch them out in front of you. Keep your feet on the floor, and never on a desk or chair.
Female friends and relatives can be seen walking hand-in-hand or linking arms, as a symbol of a close relationship. Close Korean male friends also tend to exhibit less personal space from each other than their Western counterparts, and show a close relationship through friendly physical gestures. Koreans, however, tend to hug friends as a greeting less often than Westerners do. Kissing and overly-intimate displays of affection in public are considered inappropriate.
There are designated seats at the end of subway cars and in the front of buses that are exclusively for the elderly, disabled people and pregnant women. Seats in the general area of the bus or train are also yielded to these groups when priority seats are unavailable. Older people often adamantly refuse an offered seat, but the offering person will usually insist. Korean women often opt to stand and let their male companions sit when there is only one seat available, but social norms are changing. Those seated are usually expected to hold the bags and packages of their standing companions.
Not all public facilities (bars, restaurants, etc.) have restrooms, but some do utilize a shared restroom within the building. It's wise to always carry tissues with you, as not all Korean restrooms provide them. Bus and train stations often have vending machines in or near restrooms that sell packets of tissues. Some stations and other public locations will have Asian-style toilets which the user should 'squat' over and dispose used tissues in a waste receptacle instead of flushing them. Most Western-style restaurants and coffee shops (such as Outback Steakhouse, McDonald's, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and Starbucks) will have Western-style restrooms.
Koreans tend to walk on the left side of the sidewalk and stairs, opposite to the flow of vehicle traffic. Pedestrians don't often eat food while walking down the street. Many neighborhoods do have street vendors that sell snacks and light meals that are eaten while standing in front of the stand. It's important to realize that cars, not people, usually have the right-of-way in Korea. Also be aware that deliverymen ride scooters on the sidewalk, and will often seem to come out of nowhere.
|Safety and Security|
|South Korea is a relatively safe country, compared to other nations with similar population sizes and densities. People in large cities and rural areas alike can be spotted walking down the streets late into the night. It's always important, no matter where you are, to be aware of your surroundings and to take the necessary precautions. For a list of emergency numbers, please visit the Help Services page.|
|Bring your pets with you|
|To bring your pets with you to Korea, you need a certificate of quarantine or rabies vaccine issued by a veterinary clinic or your government. Also, you must turn in an animal quarantine certificate from your country to the National Veterinary Research and Quarantine Service.|