South Korea is a wonderful place to visit, as more and more people are discovering. The country is an enchanting blend of old and new, with green mountains and Buddhist temples together with ultra-modern cities. As if this wasn’t enough to have you booking your flights and packing your bags, South Korea’s safety ranking is outstanding, having been ranked the 14th safest country in the world (the safest in Asia)! It will soon be even easier for nationals of various countries to travel to South Korea when it launches its South Korea eVisa. The South Korean government has yet to announce which countries will be able to apply for this electronic visa for South Korea, but when it does they will be able to apply with the simple South Korea eVisa application form.
Nevertheless, as with anywhere on Earth, it’s good to go prepared and take some basic precautions regarding safety while traveling in South Korea.
Staying Safe in South Korea: Tips for a Hassle-Free Trip
Like any country, South Korea is not without its problems, despite being a very safe, modern and developed nation. Here are some tips so as to make the most of your time in the land of K-pop.
There are some health conditions in South Korea that travelers should be wary of. Main diseases in the country are malaria or Japanese encephalitis, and the users have to know the different vaccines that may be needed for your trip to South Korea.
Beware of Scammers
South Korea is not without its share of con artists, drawn to the chance of making easy money out of foreigners. This is more prevalent in places that draw large numbers of tourists. Here are some typical scams to watch out for:
- Teahouse scam: This involves an overly friendly Korean (usually a young woman) approaching a foreign tourist and claiming that they would like to practice their English. They will then take the foreigner to a nearby teahouse where they will be charged a large amount of money. The girl will then return later to take her share.
- One restaurant, two menus: Watch out for restaurants that charge one price for local customers and another much higher price for foreigners. Be clear about the cost of your food before ordering.
- Rip off taxi rides: If you plan on taking a taxi then try to use a reputable provider like Uber or find out how much your journey should cost before setting off.
Beware of Korean Drivers
Unfortunately, speeding is a serious problem on Korean roads and the country has one of the highest rates of traffic accidents in the developed world. You should be prepared for this if you plan to hire a car during your stay. If you take a taxi then be sure to fasten your seatbelt!
It is a good idea to take out insurance for your trip, whether or not you plan to drive.
The Neighbour to the North
As you will no doubt be aware, the Korean peninsula is divided into North and South Korea and the two countries don’t have the best of relationships. In fact, they are still technically at war. None of this has deterred tourists and in fact, the demilitarized zone on the border is a major tourist attraction.
The threat of conflict between the two Koreas is often reported on in the international media, but the latest news to come out of North Korea has been positive. The country has declared a halt to the testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles and, in the much-publicized summit with President Donald Trump, Kim Jong-Un repeated his commitment to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.
Despite all this, visitors are advised to follow updates on the situation from their governments. It is also strongly recommended that you do not mention the war as this is not something that locals will want to discuss.
Things Not to Do When in South Korea
Here is a list of things that you would be advised to refrain from doing when in South Korea. Abstaining from the following will help to ensure you stay out of trouble:
- Do not wear overly revealing clothing or be overly noisy when visiting temples or religious sites.
- Do not bring illegal drugs or try to use them during your stay. South Korea has a very strict anti-drugs policy and you could find yourself in considerable trouble if you do not follow it.
- Do not act irresponsibly when visiting the demilitarised zone. Even though visits to the zone are permitted, the country is on high alert and creating an incident in the DZ will not be welcomed.
- Do not worry about traveling alone in South Korea. As previously mentioned, it is one of the safest countries in the world (and the safest in Asia) and South Korea is safe to travel alone in. In the case of female visitors traveling alone, the country has one of the lowest rates of sexual assault in the world. Simply follow basic safety precautions and you will have a wonderful experience in this fascinating country.
Additionally, you can also check our visitor’s guide to South Korean customs and etiquette for further information on the do’s and don’ts in South Korea.