Practical information


Currency and Money Exchange

money exchange The Korean currency is the South Korean Won (KRW).

ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) accept foreign credit cards and are available 24 hours a day. Remember to bring cash or travelerscheques, which are widely accepted. Payment by credit card is not overly common; it is largely accepted in department stores, larger hotels and international restaurants but less likely to be accepted in small local shops. Banks are generally open from 9:30am to 4:30pm during the week and from 9:30am to 1:30pm on Saturdays.

Go to www.keb.co.kr for current exchange rates.

(*)
1 Euro = 1471.3100 Won
1 Won = 0.0007 Euro
1 US Dollars= 1130.2988 Won
1 Won = 0.0009 US Dollars
*Exchange rate 24th January 2012

Banks in most high streets offer foreign exchange services, although changing money can take some time. Tourist shops and hotels exchange money, but compare their rates and commissions with the banks before using their services. US dollars are the easiest to exchange but any major currency is accepted. Travellerscheques have a slightly better exchange rate than cash.

Credit Card

credit cardsBanking is a simple and convenient process in South Korea. Many bank employees in larger cities speak English, and a few in smaller towns will speak a bit of English as well. ATMs are prominent, and accept Visa, MasterCard and Cirrus, among others.

Korean ATMs are a little strange. If you have a foreign credit card, you need to find an ATM with a “Global” sign or the logo of your credit card company.

NICE ATMs often accept foreign cards. Most Global ATMs have basic instructions in English and operate in units of W10,000. ATMs can be found outside banks and post offices and inside deluxe hotels, subway stations and department stores.

Time zone in Korea

time zone Korea

Korean Standard Time (UTC/GTM + 9), no DST (Daylight Saving Time - Summer Time).

Average temperature in May

natureKorea has well-defined seasons. Winters are cold (average -3°C in Seoul; +3°C in Busan), clear and snowy in the Gangwon-do province near Seoul. Autumn is mild and less humid. The mild spring brings cherry blossoms.

During the spring months from March to May you can expect pleasant warm weather conditions in South Korea.

Summer is warm (average 25°C) and humid, with frequent rainfall in July. The southern islands enjoy tropical summers.

Situated in the eastern part of Asia, South Korea has a temperate climate and four distinct seasons.

The eastern zone of South Korea is protected by the T’aebaeksan Mountain ranges from experiencing the harsh effects of the monsoons, whereas the western parts experience the winter monsoon fully.

Public holidays

Koreans officially follow the Gregorian calendar, even though there are a few holidays that are based on the lunar calendar. During the official holidays, offices and banks are closed but palaces, museums, most restaurants, department stores, and amusement facilities are open.

Seollal (January 22 - 24, 2012) and Chuseok (September 29 - October 1, 2012) are the most important traditional holidays for Koreans, so millions of people visit their hometowns to celebrate with their families during these times.

seollalOn Seollal, Koreans hold a memorial service for their ancestors and perform sebae, a formal bow of respect to their elders as a New Year’s greeting.

Follow the link to view a current list of public holidays in South Korea.

Official language

korea_flag.jpgKorean is the official language.

Anyway many Koreans speak foreign languages and the young generations are currently learning English en masse.

Religion

buddhaKoreans are mostly Buddhist (46%), however Christian religions are quite deeply rooted, (which is uncommon for an Asian country) with 39% Protestants and 13% Catholics.

There is a marginal but significant persistence of shamanic practices, originating from Siberia.

Hours of work/business/shopping

Banks
Weekdays: 09:00 – 16:00
Weekends and National Holidays: Closed

Government Offices and Organizations
Weekdays: 09:00 – 18:00
Weekends and National Holidays: Closed

Post Offices
Weekdays: 09:00 – 18:00
Saturdays: 09:00 – 13:00
Sundays & National Holidays: Closed

* Only 79 post offices nationwide remain open on Saturdays.

Please click on one of the links below for specific locations.

Nationwide list: www.koreapost.go.kr (Korean)
List of post offices in Seoul: english.seoul.go.kr (English)

Foreign Diplomatic Missions
Weekdays: Hours vary, please see the following link for more information: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (English)
Weekends and National Holidays: Closed

Department Stores
10:30 – 20:00
* Typically one day a month (usually a Monday) department stores are closed to the public. However, closings will vary according to each store.

Health/Emergencies in South Korea

In South Korea, the standards of medical facility are high and comparable withthe standard of medical care offered by the other developed countries. Advance payment for treatment is generally expected. Subscribe to good medical insurance, because in the event of a health problem the cost of medical care in the country can be relatively high.

No particular vaccine is required to enter Korea. The country does not show any specific sanitary risk.

Normally, tap water is drinkable without any problem. Avoid consuming raw or half-cooked food, in particular meat and eggs.

Phone services

Apart from the various South Korea Emergency Phone Numbers that are present for both locals and tourists to contact local emergency services for assistance, there is a tourism info desk present in South Korea as well. You can contact this for any travel information you need about South Korea, just by calling 1330!

The telephone code for South Korea is +82. The country's different regions have a specific local code. Seoul's is 02, however, you take off the initial 0 if you are calling from abroad.

The mobile phone is extremely advanced in Korea. Most mobile phone numbers begin with 011, 016, 017, 018 or 019; when you want to reach someone on a mobile, these codes replace the regional codes, wherever they are.

To get the police: 112

For the firemen: 119

To get an operator: 0077

Electricity

Voltage is 110V and 220V, but the latter tends to be found more frequently. Most hotels are equipped with a voltage of 220 V.

Electrical outlets are usually compatible with the pins of your appliances, but there are exceptions.

Bring an adapter, just in case.

Shopping

shoppingKorea is a shopper’s paradise! Great prices can be found for shoes, clothes, handbags, suitcases, leather goods, silk, antiques, reproductions, and all kinds of souvenirs.

You can easily find makers of custom-made clothes and shoes of varying quality.

Although department stores and most shops have fixed prices for items, bargaining can usually get a lower price with street vendors and in the major open air markets such as Namdaemun and Dongdaemun.

However, do not expect the same level of haggling conditions that exist in other Asian countries as for example Thailand.

Food & Drink

kimchiAt some point in your trip, be sure to try the national dish, kimchi. Kimchi is a spiced pickled cabbage that is served with every meal. Other local specialties include bibimbop (rice mixed with vegetables and chili peppers), bulgogi (marinated beef barbecue) and bundaegi (silkworm larvae).

With their meals, Korean rarely drink anything but a little water or poricha (barley tea). However, when they drink, they drink a wide variety of beverages. Tea and coffee shops abound.

In addition to beer (several domestic and imported brands are readily available), Korea has many different types of traditional alcoholic drinks, with soju being the most popular.

Other common drinks include makgeolli and dong-dong-ju (both whitish colored drinks made from rice or potatoes).