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Seoul Travel Information

The Basics

Time

GMT +9

Electricity

Electrical current is 110 or 220 volts, 60Hz. Most hotels operate on 220 volts. Two-pin round plugs are standard.

Language

The official language is Korean.

Travel Health

There are no required vaccinations for entry to South Korea and standards of medical care are high. Payment for treatment is usually expected in advance. Medical insurance with provision for repatriation is recommended. Vaccinations for hepatitis A and hepatitis B should be considered for all travellers, and typhoid inoculations are recommended for those who plan to spend prolonged periods in rural areas. There is a small risk of malaria is some areas. Tap water is chlorinated but may cause stomach upsets, therefore it is preferable to drink bottled water. Food should be well cooked and milk boiled.

Tipping

Tipping is not customary in Korea. Sometimes, expensive restaurants and luxury hotels may add a service charge of 10 percent. Taxi drivers are usually tipped small amounts if they assist with baggage.

Safety Information

Most visits to South Korea are trouble-free. The crime rate against foreigners is low, but it is still advisable to use sensible precautions, particularly in safeguarding passports, money and credit cards in crowded areas, and travellers should be cautious, particularly at night, travelling only in legitimate taxis or public transport. The political situation is generally stable but since the Korean peninsula was divided by a demilitarised zone in 1953, tensions have risen and fallen on occasion. It is wise to be informed about current conditions. You should carry some form of identification at all times.

Local Customs

English is not widely spoken or understood, so if you plan to use taxis or other local services it is wise to have instructions written down in Korean. It is advisable to carry some form of identification at all times. Social harmony is crucial, and public anger or criticism that causes an individual to 'lose face' or dignity is a serious breach of etiquette. Koreans will go out of their way to maintain a comfortable situation.

Business

The increase in trade with Western countries has meant that Koreans do not expect visitors to understand all the nuances of their culture; however, attempts to respect traditions are appreciated. Koreans dress conservatively and formally and it is important to do the same. Koreans like to do business with people whom they know and often introductions via a third known party are necessary. Greetings often consist of a bow, followed by a handshake. Introductions are very important and ascertain the hierarchy, often according to age, which is to be observed and respected. Usually the most important person will be introduced first. Greetings and pleasantries in Korean will be appreciated, including 'an-yong-ha-say-yo' (hello), and 'kam-sa-ham-ni-da' (thank you). Business card etiquette is vital: cards should be given and received with both hands, with the details translated from English into Korean or Chinese on the alternate side, and must be treated with the utmost respect. Each one is to be read carefully and the name acknowledged. It is important, when issuing cards, not to stack them or keep them in one's wallet or purse. Koreans are referred to by their surnames or family names first and then their given names second and it is best to ask in advance how to address the person. The giving of gifts is appreciated and often reciprocated. Business hours are generally 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday.

Communications

The international dialling code for South Korea is +82, and the outgoing code is 001 or 002 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 00144 for the UK). The outgoing code when using some mobile phones is 00700. City or area codes are in use, e.g. (0)2 for Seoul. Telecommunications are well developed and internet cafes are widely available.

Duty Free

Travellers (over the age of 19) arriving in South Korea may bring in the following items free of customs duty: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco products; 57g perfume; 1 litre of alcohol (only those over 20 years old); and gifts valued at not more than 400,000 won. Products from communist countries are prohibited, as are fruit, seeds and any published or recorded material deemed to be subversive or obscene.

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