Advice levelsWhat does this mean?
- South Korea and North Korea are technically at war. Military exchanges are rare, but tensions are still high. The situation could worsen with little warning. North Korea sometimes conducts missile tests or other provocations. Monitor developments. Consider downloading the South Korean Government's 'Emergency Ready' app.
- Large-scale public gatherings and protests are common, particularly in Seoul. These can turn violent. Avoid large public gatherings.
- The crime rate in South Korea is low. However, petty crime happens, especially in major cities such as Seoul and Busan. Watch your belongings.
- Travellers have reported sexual assaults, drink spiking and other violent crimes. Don't accept food, drink, gum or cigarettes from strangers. Take care when walking alone at night.
- The monsoon season is from late June to late August. Typhoons can happen in August and September. Flooding and mudslides may happen. Identify your local shelter (identified by the word 대피소). Follow the advice of local officials.
- Earthquakes and tsunamis are a risk. Know the tsunami warning signs and move to high ground straight away. Don't wait for official alerts, warnings or sirens.
Full travel advice: Safety
- COVID-19 remains a risk in South Korea. Please keep up to date with the current social distancing rules. This information can be found on the Ministry of Health and Welfare website.
- South Korea is susceptible to high levels of pollution from March to May. During this time, strong winds from Mongolia and China also carry yellow dust to the Korean Peninsula. This can cause eye, nose, mouth and throat irritations. Get medical advice if you have heart or breathing problems.
- The standard of medical facilities in South Korea is usually good, but few staff speak English. You'll probably have to pay up-front. Ensure your travel insurance covers all medical costs.
- South Korea is a popular destination for medical tourism. If you're travelling for a procedure, research and choose your medical service providers carefully. Don’t use discount or uncertified providers. Ensure your travel insurance covers complications from surgery.
Full travel advice: Health
- Follow local media for updates on current social distancing rules. Full details of the current restrictions and requirements can be found on the Korea Disease Control and Prevent Agency (KDCA) and the Ministry of Health and Welfare websites.
- You're required to wear a mask in indoor public places or on public transport. Penalties of up to 100,000 KRW apply. You're also required to wear a mask in outdoor areas if you are unable to maintain a 2-metre distance from others. Exceptions for mask wearing are made for children under 24 months or people with disabilities or those who may have difficulty wearing a face mask for medical reasons.
- The use of shared electric scooters in South Korea is increasing. A driver’s license is not required, but you must wear a helmet while riding. Make sure you have adequate health and liability insurance before riding. Riders must be aged 13 years or older.
- It's illegal to work or volunteer in South Korea if it's not specified in your visa. If you plan to work, arrange a work visa through a South Korean embassy or consulate before you travel.
- Disputes over expected working and living conditions for Australians teaching English in South Korea are common. Research your employer and employment agent. Get legal advice before you sign a contract.
- Be careful when taking photos. It's illegal to photograph military zones, assets or personnel and official buildings.
- South Korea recognises dual nationality in certain circumstances. If you're a male Australian-South Korean dual national, you may have to do military service when you arrive. This could happen even if you travel on your Australian passport. Get advice from an embassy or consulate of the Republic of Korea before you travel.
Full travel advice: Local laws
- You must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 (PCR) test (in English or Korean) to enter South Korea. The negative test must be issued within 72 hours from departure. You're not required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result to transit South Korea.
- You may be required to take a COVID-19 test on arrival. If you’re not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you'll be required to quarantine for 10 days. If you don't have accommodation, you'll stay in a government run facility at your expense. Breaking self-quarantine could lead to significant fines, deportation or imprisonment.
- If you're a foreign national on a long-term visa, apply for a re-entry permit before departing South Korea. Holders of A1, A2, A3 and F4 visas are exempt from these requirements.
- The visa on arrival program is no longer available to Australian travellers. You are still able to apply for visas for travel to South Korea but the South Korean authorities may not approve visas for non-essential travel. You can still transit for up to 24 hrs without a visa. Contact the nearest South Korean embassy or consulate before you travel.
- Don't attend public demonstrations or other areas where large numbers of people are likely to gather.
Full travel advice: Travel
South Korea and North Korea are technically at war. However, military exchanges are rare.
Tensions are still high. However, peace is maintained under a truce agreed at the practical end of the Korean War in 1953.
The Korean Peninsula is divided by a demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating:
- North Korea or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
- South Korea or the Republic of Korea
North Korea has conducted several underground nuclear tests and ballistic missile tests. These have increased tension in the region.
North Korea may conduct more tests or other 'provocations'. This could lead to responses from its neighbours and their allies.
Tensions in the region could further increase with little warning.
Low-level military clashes sometimes occur.
North Korea's weapons tests and defensive statements increase tensions in the region. Usually, North Korea increases its rhetoric against other countries during annual South Korea–US military exercises.
These routine exercises usually take place in:
- February or March
- August or September
The South Korean government has released a free smartphone 'Emergency Ready' app. The app has information on local emergency services, including:
- shelter locations
The app is available for both Apple and Android devices.
To protect yourself from threats in the region:
- monitor developments
- consider downloading the 'Emergency Ready' app
- take official warnings seriously
- follow the instructions of local authorities
Authorities control access to Yeonpyeong Island and other islands near the Northern Limit Line. This is due to their proximity to a disputed sea boundary.
Civil unrest and political tension
Public protests and events that draw large groups of people can turn violent.
Large-scale public gatherings and demonstrations are common, particularly in Seoul.
To protect yourself during periods of unrest:
- avoid protests and demonstrations
- monitor the media for information
- follow the instructions of local authorities
Be prepared to change your travel plans in case of disruptions.
The crime rate in South Korea is low. However, petty crime happens, especially in major cities such as Seoul and Busan.
Travellers have reported sexual assaults, drink spiking and other violent crimes.
To protect yourself from crime:
- keep your belongings close
- don't accept drinks, food, gum or cigarettes from strangers
- don't leave food or drinks unattended
- take care when walking alone at night
Terrorism is a threat worldwide.
Climate and natural disasters
Get familiar with the advice of local authorities on preparing for a natural disaster or other emergency.
If there's a natural disaster:
- know your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans
- secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location
- take official warnings seriously
- follow the advice of local authorities
- closely monitor the media
- keep in touch with friends and family
Register with the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System to receive alerts on major disasters.
Typhoons and severe weather
The monsoon season is from late June to late August.
Typhoons can happen in August and September. Flooding and mudslides may occur.
If there's a typhoon approaching, identify your local shelter. The direction and strength of typhoons can change with little warning.
Severe weather may also affect:
- access to ports
- road travel and transport
- essential services, such as water and power
If there's a typhoon or severe storm:
- you may get stuck in the area
- flights could be delayed or suspended
- available flights may fill quickly
- adequate shelter may not be available
Check with tour operators before travelling to affected areas.
Contact your airline for the latest flight information.
Earthquakes and tsunamis
Earthquake activity happens on the Korean Peninsula, though less than in Japan and other countries in the region.
Tsunamis are also a risk.
If you are in a coastal region after a major earthquake, move to higher ground straight away.
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.
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 1000s 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. Consider whether you may be in a vulnerable category for COVID-19.
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.
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.
Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:
- what the medicine is
- how much you'll take
- that it's for personal use
Before you travel:
- ask your doctor about alternative medicines
- contact the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (email@example.com) to check whether your medication is a controlled substance in South Korea
You may need to apply for a 'bring in' permit. Provide the generic name of the medication. This may not be the name that's used in Australia or Korea.
It may take authorities more than 2 weeks to process your application.
Take enough legal medicine for your trip.
COVID-19 remains a risk in South Korea.
Follow local media for updates on current social distancing rules. Full details of the current restrictions and requirements can be found on the Korea Disease Control and Prevent Agency (KDCA) and the Ministry of Health and Welfare websites.
If you have flu like symptoms, you'll need to contact the KDCA's 24-hour call centre on 1339 for advice. The KCDC will determine whether you will need to visit the nearest screening clinic for the COVID-19 test. The service is available in foreign languages (including English) .
For information on South Korea's COVID−19 vaccination program, refer to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency website (Korean) or phone the call centre on 1339 (English). You should consult your local health professional for advice on vaccine options, including assistance that may be available locally. The Australian Government cannot provide advice on the safety, quality and efficacy of vaccines that have been approved for use outside of Australia's regulatory process.
Malaria is a risk in:
- the demilitarised zone
- rural areas in the northern parts of Gyonggi and Gangwon provinces
Japanese encephalitis also occurs.
To protect yourself from disease:
- make sure your accommodation is insect-proof
- use insect repellent
- wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing
- get vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis before you travel
- consider taking medicine to prevent malaria
Other health risks
Waterborne, foodborne, and other infectious diseases occur, including:
Use normal hygiene precautions, including:
- careful and frequent hand washing
- boil tap water before drinking or cooking
- avoid uncooked and undercooked food.
- seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea
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.
When outside major cities:
- drink boiled water, filtered water or bottled water with sealed lids
- avoid ice cubes
- avoid uncooked and undercooked food, such as salads
Get medical advice if you have a fever or diarrhoea.
Yellow dust is carried to the Korean Peninsula by strong winds from Mongolia and China from March to May. High levels of airborne pollution occur during this time.
The dust can:
- cause eye, nose, mouth and throat irritations
- make breathing and heart problems worse
If you're concerned about the effects of dust, speak to your doctor before leaving Australia.
Get medical advice if you have allergies or breathing difficulties.
The standard of medical facilities in South Korea is usually good, but few staff speak English.
Medical services can be expensive. Hospitals usually require an up-front deposit or confirmation of insurance before they'll treat you.
South Korea is a popular destination for medical tourism.
To protect yourself:
- research and choose your medical service providers carefully
- avoid discounted or uncertified medical service providers
Check whether your travel insurance covers you if things go wrong with your surgery. Most insurers don't.
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.
You're required to wear a mask in indoor public places or on public transport. Penalties of up to 100,000 KRW apply. You're also required to wear a mask in outdoor areas if you are unable to maintain a 2-metre distance from others. Exceptions for mask wearing are made for children under 24 months or people with disabilities or those who may have difficulty wearing a face mask for medical reasons.
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.
Don't carry or consume illegal drugs.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs include:
- long jail sentences
- heavy fines
It's illegal to work in South Korea if it's not specified in your visa. This includes paid and unpaid work.
Authorities have fined, detained and deported Australians for breaching their visa conditions.
It's difficult to change your visa type once you're in South Korea.
If you plan to work, arrange a work visa through a South Korean embassy or consulate before you travel.
Disputes over expected working and living conditions for Australians teaching English in South Korea are common.
Some Australians planning to teach English have faced penalties after they or their employment agent gave false documents to Korean immigration authorities.
If you're employed without the right visa, your options will be limited under Korean law.
If you're considering teaching English in South Korea:
- research your employer and employment agent
- consider getting legal advice before you sign a contract
- make sure your visa application is truthful and accurate
Serious crimes, such as murder, may attract the death penalty.
It's illegal to take photos of and around:
- military zones, assets or personnel
- official buildings
South Korea has strict anti-corruption laws for public officials. Public officials and their spouses can't accept meals, gifts or other benefits above set limits.
'Public officials' include:
- employees of government-owned or funded companies
Get legal advice to make sure you don't breach these laws.
If you're involved in a commercial or legal dispute, authorities could stop you from leaving.
Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you're overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.
South Korea recognises dual nationality in certain circumstances.
It's possible that by applying for Australian Citizenship by Descent or by Conferral, you may lose your Korean citizenship.
If you've been arrested or detained and have Korean citizenship, we may only be able to provide limited consular help.
If you were born in South Korea or have Korean citizenship, you will continue to be a Korean citizen unless you both:
- formally renounce it
- remove your name from the Korean family register
Military service is compulsory for male citizens of South Korea, including dual nationals.
The South Korean government may require you to complete military service if you both:
- are male
- have your name on the Korean family register
This is the case even if you're travelling on your Australian passport.
The government may not allow you to renounce your Korean nationality or leave the country until you either:
- complete your military service, or
- receive a special exemption from serving
If you're an Australian-South Korean dual national, get advice from an embassy or consulate of the Republic of Korea before you travel.
Contact the Korean Immigration Service for information on Korea’s law on dual citizenship.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the visa on arrival program is no longer available to Australian travellers. You are still able to apply for visas to travel to South Korea but then South Korean authorities may not approve visas for non-essential travel. You can still transit for up to 24 hours without a visa. You can't leave the airport during this time.
All visa applicants (including A-1 and A-2 visit visas) must submit a negative COVID-19 (PCR) test result as a part of the visa application process.
Further information about how COVID-19 has affected visa applications and relevant forms can be found on the South Korean embassy's website.
Long-term visa holders residing in South Korea must apply for a re-entry permit before leaving South Korea. If you leave South Korea without a re-entry permit, your Alien Registration Card may be cancelled and you'll need to apply for a new long-term visa to enter. If you hold A1, A2, A3 and F4 visas, you're exempt from requiring a re-entry permit.
To apply for a re-entry permit, visit a local immigration office, including airport and port offices. If you apply at an airport immigration office on your way out, ensure you arrive earlier than usual to the airport.
If you're granted a re-entry permit, you'll still need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 (PCR) test issued within 72 hours in order to board your flight back to South Korea.
Further information about re-entry permits and medical examination requirements is available from the Korean Ministry of Justice.
Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. Contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the Republic of Korea for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.
Entry to South Korea
To enter South Korea you must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 (PCR) test (in English or Korean). You'll not be permitted to enter if you don't provide a test. You must have taken the test within 72 hours of boarding your flight to South Korea.
You must present the test result to airline personnel when boarding the flight bound for South Korea. The test result should also be submitted to authorities upon arrival in South Korea.
You're not required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result to transit South Korea.
There are transit hotels available in both Terminal One and Two at Incheon Airport.
You may be required to take a COVID-19 test on arrival. You may be required to quarantine for 10 days. If you don't have accommodation, you'll need to stay in a government run facility at your expense. You can be fined 10,000,000 KRW, be deported or face one year imprisonment if you breach quarantine requirements.
If you have flu like symptoms you'll need to stay at the airport until the test results are known. Those who test positive will be taken to designated treatment facilities.
All travellers arriving in South Korea must:
- complete a health status document on arrival
- provide contact details (mobile phone number and address). Your phone number will be verified at the arrival point and you won’t be able to enter Korea with invalid contact details
- install a smartphone application and report your health condition daily through the app
- be screened for high body temperature
- quarantine for 14 days, at your expense, unless you have received an exemption.
If you're a Korean national that has been fully vaccinated in Korea, you do not have to quarantine upon returning to South Korea.
Foreigners who have been fully vaccinated may also be exempt from quarantine. This also applies to those who have received vaccinations outside of Korea. Contact the Korean Embassy or Consulate in Australia for more information on quarantine exemptions.
Staying in South Korea
Follow local media for updates on current social distancing rules. See the Korea Disease Control and Prevent Agency (KDCA) and the Ministry of Health and Welfare websites for current restrictions and requirements.
Don't attend public demonstrations or other areas where large numbers of people are likely to gather.
If authorities suspect you have COVID-19, you may need to stay in hospital or quarantine. Follow the advice of local authorities.
You'll be fingerprinted when you arrive.
All passengers arriving at South Korean airports are screened for infectious diseases, including:
Extra quarantine checks are in place for flights from high-risk areas.
Korean Government Agencies
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 does not 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:
The local currency is the Korean Won (KRW).
You can change Australian dollars for KRW at local banks and money changers.
Declare all local currency over 8 million KRW or $US10,000 or equivalent in foreign currency on arrival. This includes all forms of currency, not just cash.
ATMs are available in cities and larger towns, but may not accept some debit cards.
Credit cards are usually accepted in hotels, restaurants and high-end shops, particularly in cities and larger towns.
Be aware of card skimming. See Safety
To drive, you'll need either:
- a valid local licence, or
- an International Driver's Permit (IDP) and a valid Australian driver's licence
Get your IDP before your leave Australia.
You need a Korean driver's licence to drive if you'll stay 90 days or more.
Local authorities will normally keep your Australian driver's licence. They'll give it back if you can show a departure ticket.
South Korea has one of the highest rates of traffic deaths for a developed country, especially for pedestrians.
You're 2 times as likely to die in a motor vehicle accident in South Korea as in Australia.
Speeding, running red lights and other risky behaviour is common, especially by buses, taxis and motorcyclists.
Motorcyclists often travel on footpaths and pedestrian crossings.
If you're involved in an accident, whether or not you're at fault, you could face criminal charges. You may need to pay compensation to the injured person.
The blood alcohol limit for drivers is 0.03%. Heavy penalties apply for exceeding the limit. Don't drink drive.
If you're walking:
- look out for motorcyclists, even on footpaths and pedestrian crossings
- don't expect traffic to stop at pedestrian crossings
- check carefully before stepping onto the road
Before travelling by road, learn local road rules and practices.
Check if your travel insurance policy covers you when riding a motorbike. Most policies won't cover you if you don't follow local laws or wear a helmet.
Always wear a helmet.
There are restrictions on riding motorcycles on highways and other major roads.
Use only authorised taxis, preferably those arranged through your hotel.
Always insist the driver uses the meter.
Rideshare apps are available in South Korea. These aren't widely used due to the large number of available taxis.
International taxi services are available and may have English-speaking drivers.
Public transportation in and between major urban areas is good.
Most major transportation systems have signs in English.
South Korea has a large high-speed rail network (KTX).
Stations are usually located in major urban areas. They usually have signs in English.
They're often linked to local taxi or public transport networks.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Korean authorities are preventing some cruise ships from docking at Korean ports. Check with your cruise operator if you have concerns.
Ferry services operate between most large coastal cities and other domestic and international ports.
Busan is a regular stopover location for cruises.
Many airlines and travel providers don't allow you to pay for flights online within South Korea with a foreign credit card.
DFAT doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.
Check South Korea's air safety profile with the Aviation Safety Network.
Depending on what you need, contact your:
- family and friends
- travel agent
- insurance provider
Fire and rescue services
Call 119 or go to the hospital.
Call 112 or go to the nearest police station.
Always get a police report when you report a crime.
Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
Korean Government Agencies
Contact your provider with any complaints about tourist services or products.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
For consular help, contact 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
Facebook: Australia in the Republic of Korea
Check the Embassy website for details about opening hours and any temporary closures.
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