Fire and rescue services
Call 119 or go to the hospital.
Call 112 or go to the nearest police station.
Exercise normal safety precautions in South Korea.
Exercise normal safety precautions in South Korea.
Full travel advice: Safety
Full travel advice: Health
Full travel advice: Local laws
Full travel advice: Travel
South Korea and North Korea are technically still at war, and peace is maintained under a truce agreed at the practical end of the Korean War in 1953. Tensions have increased in recent times.
The Korean Peninsula is divided by a demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating:
North Korea regularly conducts ballistic missile launches and has conducted underground nuclear tests. Low-level military clashes have occurred.
Tensions in the region could further increase without warning.
North Korea may conduct more serious provocations, which could lead to responses from its neighbours and their allies.
The South Korean government has released a free smartphone 'Emergency Ready' app. The app has information on local emergency services, including:
The app is available for both Apple and Android devices.
To protect yourself from threats in the region:
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.
Parts of Seoul, particularly Itaewon and Hongdae, and on public transport, can become extremely crowded. In October 2022, more than 150 people were killed in a crowd crush during Halloween festivities in Itaewon. Take extra care in any crowded space. Consider leaving the area if you can.
Civil emergency drills are held a few times a year for fire, earthquakes, other disasters and civil defence training.
Nationwide exercises take place at least twice a year. Regional drills may also be run a few times a year.
Depending on the drill, sirens may sound, transport may stop, and authorities may ask people to take shelter in subway stations or basements.
Follow the advice of local authorities. The South Korean government has released a free smartphone 'Emergency Ready' app. The app has information on civil defence drills, including shelters and safety guides.
Public protests and events that draw large groups of people can turn violent. Avoid large public gatherings and take extra care in any crowded space.
Large-scale public gatherings and demonstrations are common, particularly in Seoul.
To protect yourself during periods of unrest:
Be prepared to change your travel plans in case of disruptions.
For most travellers, South Korea is safe and has a relatively low crime rate. However, petty crime happens, especially in major cities such as Seoul and Busan.
Sexual assault, drink spiking, and other violent crimes occur, particularly around bars and nightlife areas, such as Itaewon and Hongdae.
To protect yourself from crime:
Local authorities may not always respond adequately or consistently to reports of sexual violence and harassment. If you're sexually assaulted, you should report it immediately to the local authorities and the Australian Embassy in Seoul.
In general, sex-related crimes are not punished as harshly in South Korea as in Australia, and the prosecution process can be challenging for victims.
You can report crimes, including sexual assault, to the police by calling 112. This is a 24/7 service with English interpreters available.
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.
Terrorism is a threat worldwide. Although there is no recent history of terrorism in South Korea, attacks can't be ruled out.
You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public areas, including those visited by foreigners.
Get familiar with the advice of local authorities on preparing for a natural disaster or other emergency.
If there's a natural disaster:
Register with the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System to receive alerts on major disasters.
The rainy season is from late June to late August.
Excessive rainfall during summer can cause severe flooding and landslides and damage to housing and infrastructure. Flash flooding can occur after short periods of rain.
Typhoons can happen in August and September.
If there's a typhoon approaching, stay inside. The direction and strength of typhoons can change with little warning.
Identify your closest local shelter if required and follow the directions of local authorities.
Severe weather may also affect:
If there's a typhoon or severe storm:
Monitor forecasts and follow instructions of local authorities.
Check with tour operators before travelling to affected areas.
Contact your airline for the latest flight information.
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 thousands of dollars up-front for medical care.
Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition. Treatment for mental health is not widely available in South Korea and is not comparable to services in Australia. There are very few hospitals that have mental health or psychiatric wards attached, and of those available, many will not accept foreigners.
Admission to a mental health or psychiatric ward usually requires proof of a prior mental health diagnosis. For involuntary admissions, 2 family members present in Korea will be required to sign consent. Please consider this when planning your trip.
See your doctor or travel clinic to:
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.
If you plan to travel with medication, check if it's legal in South Korea. Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available. Some medications may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance in South Korea, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor. Please check with Korean authorities whether your medication is a controlled or illegal substance in South Korea.
Before you travel:
You may need to apply for a 'bring in' permit. When applying, provide the generic name of the medication, as the brand name may be different in Australia or Korea.
It may take authorities more than 2 weeks to process your application.
Take enough legal medicine for your trip.
Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:
Malaria is a risk in:
Japanese encephalitis also occurs.
To protect yourself from disease:
Waterborne, foodborne, and other infectious diseases occur, including:
If you test positive for COVID-19 while in South Korea, local authorities recommend isolating for 5 days.
Use normal hygiene precautions, including:
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:
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:
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:
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 hospitals. Penalties of up to KRW100,000 apply. 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:
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:
Serious crimes, such as murder, may attract the death penalty.
It's illegal to take photos of and around:
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:
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 only 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:
Military service is compulsory for male citizens of South Korea, including dual nationals.
The South Korean government may require you to undertake military service if you:
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:
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.
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.
Australian passport holders can visit South Korea as a tourist for stays of up to 90 days without applying for a K-ETA (or visa waiver). Previously approved K-ETA applications will remain valid up to the granted expiry date. Visit the official K-ETA website for more information.
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 an A1, A2, A3 or F4 visa, you're exempt from requiring a re-entry permit.
To apply for a re-entry permit, visit a local immigration office, including at an airport sea port. If you apply at an airport immigration office on your way out of South Korea, ensure you arrive earlier than usual to the airport.
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.
If you're entering South Korea from Australia, you are no longer required to register your personal information in Korea's Advance COVID-19 Defence (Q-code) system.
If you're entering Korea after staying or passing through a designated 'Quarantine Inspection Required Area'(검역관리지역) within the past 21 days, you are still required to register your personal information in the Korean Q-code registration system before you travel to South Korea. You'll then receive a generated QR code for your arrival.
See the Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency's website for the list of affected countries, noting the list may change without notice (look for 검역관리지역).
When you arrive in South Korea you may need to:
Contact the Korean Embassy or Consulate in Australia for more information when planning your travel and to confirm requirements.
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.
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:
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 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, shops, and taxis, particularly in cities and larger towns.
Be aware of card skimming. See Safety
To drive, you'll need either:
Get your IDP before your leave Australia.
You need a Korean driver's licence to drive if you'll stay 90 days or more.
You will need a certified copy of your Australian licence to apply for a Korean driver's licence.
When issuing you with a Korean driver's licence, the local authorities will normally keep your Australian driver's licence. They will return your Australian licence to you in exchange for your Korean driver's licence before you depart Korea.
South Korea has one of the highest rates of traffic deaths for a developed country, especially for pedestrians.
You're more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident in South Korea than 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:
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. Most taxis accept credit cards.
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 (including buses and metropolitan subway networks) in and between major urban areas is good.
Most major transportation systems have signs and make announcements 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.
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:
Call 119 or go to the hospital.
To report a crime, call 112 or go to the nearest police station. This is a 24/7 service with English interpreters available.
Always get a police report when you report a crime.
If you have lost any property, visit the Lost112 website for more information.
Korean Government Agencies
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.
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.
In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:
Be the first to know official government advice when travelling.