Entry restrictions determine who can enter South Korea and under what conditions. Foreigners must meet the South Korea visa requirements for their nationality and obtain the relevant permit before traveling.
Visitors should also be aware of the restrictions on importing certain items and duty-free limits, as explained below.
In exceptional circumstances, additional controls may be introduced. The Republic of Korea Korea has temporarily suspended visa exemptions due to coronavirus and anyone entering the country during the pandemic must follow all safety protocol.
Continue reading to find out about current South Korea travel restrictions and travel bans.
- Quarantine requirements
- Transiting in South Korea
- Entry procedures
- Suspension of visa-free travel to South Korea
- Internal and movement restrictions
- Korean flights affected by coronavirus
- South Korea cruise ports currency closed
- Is it safe to travel to South Korea during COVID-19
- Health advice for travelers in South Korea
Travel Bans: Coronavirus Entry Restrictions for South Korea
Although there are no outright travel bans in place due to coronavirus. There have been several changes to the South Korean visa policy and entry requirements.
Because of this, even those who visit South Korea regularly should check under what conditions they are currently permitted to enter.
The most important temporary measures to be taken into account are:
- Suspension of visa waiver agreements
- Quarantine on arrival
- Restrictions on movement inside South Korea
South Korea travel bans and entry restrictions are subject to change, visitors should ensure they consult the latest travel advisories before making any arrangements.
All travelers will spend the mandatory 14-day quarantine period at a government-designated facility at their own expense.
During quarantine, individuals must be contactable by telephone and download a mobile tracking app.
Individuals with an Isolation Exemption Certificate issued by a Korean Embassy or consulate are not required to self-isolate for 14 days. They must instead have a test on arrival and spend 1 or 2 days in quarantine until the results are available.
Isolation exemptions may be granted to those on important business, attending conferences, or on humanitarian grounds.
Korean nationals and long-term foreign visitors with an Alien Registration Card and Korean Residence may self-isolate at home.
Fines for non-compliance
Visitors are reminded of the importance of following the quarantine procedures. Anyone caught breaking the rules may be fined up to KRW 3 million (USD 3,000).
Transiting in South Korea
During the coronavirus pandemic, passengers are allowed to transit for a maximum of 24 hours. They must have a confirmed connecting ticket.
Nationals of Mongolia cannot transit if they depart from Mongolia or travel onwards to Mongolia, except for airline crew.
Thai nationals returning to Thailand must have a certificate of entry issued by the Thai Embassy plus a Fit to Fly certificate in order to transit in Korea.
Passengers traveling from China to a third country via Korea have been able to transit at Incheon International Airport since August 31st.
Passengers in transit will undergo health screening at the airport and should complete the health questionnaire.
Entry procedures: what to expect on arrival in South Korea during COVID-19
- Foreigners who do need to go to South Korea during the pandemic should be prepared for additional health and safety measures that are currently in place onboard flights and at international airports.
- Most foreigners will arrive at Incheon International Airport in Seoul, which remains open.
- All visitors arriving from overseas, regardless of their nationality and how long they will be staying in the country, will undergo a PCR COVID-19 test within 3 days of arrival. Anyone who tests positive will be treated at a hospital or community treatment center.
- A completed Health Declaration Form and a Special Quarantine Declaration Form are to be presented to the quarantine desk on arrival in South Korea. Travelers displaying symptoms will at this point be taken to a clinic for additional assessment.
Suspension of visa-free travel to South Korea
Visa waiver agreements have been temporarily suspended due to COVID-19. Under normal circumstances, passport holders from almost 90 countries can stay in South Korea without a visa for between 30 and 180 days depending on their nationality.
Visa-free access will resume as soon as the South Korean government considers the outbreak to be under control.
Foreigners who need to travel to South Korea during the pandemic for essential reasons should contact their nearest Embassy and obtain the relevant visa for their trip.
The suspension of visa-free travel does not apply to the following categories of foreign citizen:
- Diplomatic, official, or service passport holders
- Airline crew
- Passengers with an APEC Business Travel Card
Short term visas (types C-1 and C-3) issued on or before April 5th are no longer valid.
Internal and movement restrictions
There is no curfew in place and interstate and intercity transportation in South Korea is fully operational.
- Domestic flights: resumed with full capacity
- Trains: fully operational with some changes to timetables. Hygiene measures in place at stations and onboard
- Buses: inter-regional bus journeys are now permitted
- Local transport: taxis, metro, tram, and bus running at limited capacity and frequency
Visitors should bear in mind that they will not be able to board a domestic flight until completing the 14-day quarantine.
Korean flights affected by coronavirus
Some airlines have canceled flights to and from South Korea, largely due to a decline in demand as globally people are flying less.
International and national routes are affected, although South Korea remains well-served by some services. Passengers with plane tickets in the coming days should check with the airline to ensure that the flight is to go ahead as scheduled.
South Korea cruise ports currency closed
Many countries have limited or stopped cruise ships from docking, most ports in South Korea remain closed to international cruises.
Like the reduction in flights, limitations on cruise ships accessing the Republic of Korea are expected to be short term, implemented to reduce new cases in the country. The constraints will be removed as soon as possible.
Is it safe to travel to South Korea during COVID-19?
Some passengers are questioning whether it is safe to go to South Korea now.
The U.S. Department of State has downgraded South Korea to a level 2 advisory: exercise increased caution. The travel warning remains in place as there is still community-based transmission of COVID-19.
Most stores, educational facilities, stores, and other businesses are now open and operating. Provided travelers take the necessary precautions and maintain a social distance, such facilities can be used safely.
The South Korean government may introduce new rules to regulate gatherings and other activities.
Health advice for travelers in South Korea
Foreigners currently in South Korea are asked to follow health advice which is being issued internationally.
- Do not travel if experiencing any symptoms
- Regularly wash hands with soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available
- Cover the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
- Stay at least 6 feet away from other people
- Wear a mask when taking public transportation
Foreigners in South Korea who show any COVID-19 can call 1339 for 24-hour advice.
As always, foreigners should consult the latest health information and vaccination requirements for South Korea well ahead of departure.
Regular Travel Restrictions
To enter South Korea, foreign citizens must have the relevant travel documents and abide by all entry rules and regulations.
As when entering any foreign country, there are limits on goods and people considered to pose a risk.
Travel restrictions for criminal record reasons
Visitors with a criminal record for minor crimes are unlikely to have difficulties entering South Korea. There are 2 cases in which a criminal conviction may cause issues when traveling to Korea:
- Foreign with an outstanding felony warrant
- Foreign nationals whose name appears on the Transportation System Administration (TSA) no-list
The TSA list mainly contains the names of individuals suspected of terrorism and other dangerous crimes. In most cases, tourism is possible despite having a criminal record.
Nevertheless, concerned individuals can seek the advice of a lawyer who will be able to offer more detailed guidance depending on the specific set of circumstances.
Banned and restricted items
When packing for a trip to South Korea, it is important to take into consideration limits and bans on importing certain goods.
Items including weapons, drugs and medication, and certain foods are all goods subject to restrictions in South Korea.
On arrival, such items must be declared and may be confiscated by customs officials.
Air passengers may take their dog or cat to the Republic of Korea provided it is accompanied by a health certificate issued by a veterinary authority in the country of origin.
Pets older than 90 days that come from certain countries also need to show the results of a rabies antibody test carried out within 2 years of travel.
Dogs and cats should have an ISO-compliant microchip.
Birds may only be imported from the following nations: Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, United Kingdom, and the USA.
All travelers considering taking a domestic animal to South Korea should speak with a veterinarian beforehand.
Carrying animal products
To prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), and Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, raw, meat, sausage, and other products are banned.
Anyone carrying such items should declare them on the Customs Declaration Form and report to the Quarantines Office on arrival. Failure to do so could result in a fine of up to KRW 10 million.
Other items subject to quarantine include dairy products, egg and egg products, and pet food. Full details can be found on the South Korean Plant Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency website.
How much cash can I carry into South Korea?
Non-residents can take up to 8,000,000 Korean Won into the country. There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency that can be carried, provided it is declared on arrival.
Visitors with foreign currency over the value of USD 10,000 should complete a Declaration of Foreign Currencies form.
Diplomats and US military personnel on official duty do not need to declare foreign currency.
Passengers aged 19 or older can take the following products into South Korea duty-free:
- Tobacco: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of other tobacco products or 20 milligrams of E-cigarettes
- Alcohol: 1 liter (1 bottle) of alcoholic beverage with a value of up to USD 400
60 milliliters of perfume plus goods and gifts up to a value of USD 600 per person are permitted.