What to Prepare When Traveling to Korea

Sissi
June 10, 2022

What to Prepare When Traveling to Korea

Not sure what to expect when traveling to South Korea? Don’t worry, we got you! I went through the same scary process myself and here is the absolute complete guide you need to arrive safely.

There are 3 basic things you need to understand before traveling: COVID-19 in Korea, the K-ETA process, and showing the Q-Code at immigration. I’m going to break each one down for you now.

COVID-19

COVID in Korea is still very much a thing so be prepared to show a lot of documents and go through different testing processes in order to travel. This process may seem daunting but I got you. Here is some information you should know. First of all, you have to get tested 2 times in total:

  1. Before flying, get tested for COVID either on an antigen test 24 hours prior to the departure date of your flight or on a PCR 48 hours prior to the departure date.

I recommend booking at CVS if you are located in the USA for either one of the tests ahead of time because it’s free and it’s convenient. You can also search up other options through Google but make sure you make an appointment at least one week before you fly so you are not scrambling to find a clinic last minute!

  1. Upon arrival, you have to get tested for COVID through the PCR and the PCR only within 3 days of your arrival date.

I recommend getting tested at the airport because it’s convenient and because it’s accessible. You can make an appointment ahead of time through Safe2GO or you can also simply do a walk-in. They have 3 locations that are in the airport and are all within walkable distance. It costs $80,000 KRW to test (about $80 USD) but price may vary depending if you are testing during the weekend or if it’s during the nighttime.

Another option for you if you don’t want to get tested at the airport is to go to the public health center of your district. Each district and neighborhood has its own public health center (search 보건소 on Naver Maps or Kakao Maps). Their opening hours may vary depending on where you live so I would highly recommend just getting tested at the airport since it’s right there!

A map of the Safe2GO testing locations at the airport so you don’t get lost

A question I have often been asked is: What happens if I recently had COVID and am still positive on the PCR?

Well, I have the answer for you because I had COVID right before I traveled and was super stressed about having to quarantine. Here are some tips so that you don’t have to be quarantined even if you test positive!

  • First off, if you test positive on the PCR upon arrival, the government requires you to quarantine and isolate for 7 days. If you do test positive for COVID for the first time in Korea, you just need to follow the public health center’s instructions and be quarantined for 7 days. But hopefully that will not be the case for anyone!
  • Now here comes the question of what happens if you recently tested positive for COVID, and the PCR still comes out as positive even if you are no longer infectious.
  • In my own experience I prepared various documents before traveling to prove that I no longer had the virus to be exempt from the quarantine rule upon arrival: I had a doctor’s note proving that I didn’t have COVID, I had a file of the first negative antigen test of when I first tested negative after getting COVID, and I had the negative antigen test that I used to board my flight.
  • As soon as I arrived in Korea and went to get tested at the airport, I told the cashier that was helping accept my payment at the testing site that I previously had COVID (tip: make sure you translate certain keywords beforehand so that you are not struggling to communicate with the workers). He told me I would still have to get tested and after the results came out, I would just have to email them back with the documents to prove that I no longer had COVID: doctor’s note and negative antigen tests.
  • And that was pretty much it! My results sadly came out positive that night but I emailed them back with every document I mentioned and I was cleared from quarantine the following morning.
  • As long as you prepare all the documents before traveling, there is nothing you should worry about!

K-ETA

A K-ETA is the abbreviation of a Korean Electronic Travel Authorization. In other words, it’s kind of like a survey that you need to complete in order to enter the country. The K-ETA does not equate to a visa and is only applicable to certain countries that have been offered the option of entering Korea with just the K-ETA form. Some countries such as China, Japan, Taiwan, and amongst others instead will need to apply for some type of visa in order to enter the country. You are allowed to stay in Korea for a certain amount of days with just the K-ETA as a tourist depending on your nationality so make sure you check how many days you can stay in Korea before purchasing your tickets here.

You can complete the K-ETA through this link!

Things you need to know before completing the form so that the process can be quick and smooth are:

  1. Passport number
  2. Flight information (such as your flight number that can probably be found in your reservation email and the date of your arrival)
  3. Your accommodation address that you will be staying at in Korea (tip: if you are staying at various locations, just write down the one you will be staying at for most of the time)
  4. Your point of contact number in Korea (tip: write down a Korean number such as a friend’s number, and if not just write down the number you will be using in Korea even if it’s a foreign number)

Make sure you complete your K-ETA at least 24 hours before your flight so that you can accommodate enough time for it to process. It only costs $10,300 KRW (around $10 USD) to complete the form.

Q-CODE

Last but not least, remember to do your health declaration form with your negative COVID test in hand right before you board your flight to travel to Korea.

The Q-Code is a health declaration form where you upload either your negative PCR test or your negative antigen test. It basically is a form that exempts you from quarantining in Korea. After completing it, the website will generate a QR code that you need to present upon arrival at the Incheon airport. Remember to screenshot or save the QR code in your phone to make the process faster.

If you happen to forget to do this, you can still travel to Korea but you will have to go through a long waiting line. Filling out the Q-Code will save you time and the hassle of waiting in line!

And that’s the first step in beginning your journey to Korea! Make sure you follow all the steps and tips in order to travel to and enter Korea safely and smoothly. If you’re wondering how to survive and thrive during your stay in Seoul, make sure you check out my next blog on ‘4 Essential Apps You Need 4 Korea’ that can help you navigate your way around.

Check out our TikTok or our Instagram for more tips during your stay in Korea. We constantly update our feed with more interesting info for you!

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