South Korea travel advice

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South Korea - Take normal security precautions

Take normal security precautions in South Korea

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Safety and security

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula could escalate with little notice and the security situation could deteriorate suddenly. Tensions may increase before, during and after North Korean nuclear and missile tests, military exercises or as the result of incidents or military activities at or near the inter-Korean border.

Monitor developments, remain vigilant and follow the instructions of local authorities. We strongly recommend that Canadians register with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service to receive the latest updates.

Registration of Canadians Abroad

Crime

Crime against foreigners is generally low. Petty crime occurs in major metropolitan areas, tourist sites and public markets. Remain aware of your surroundings in crowded entertainment, nightlife and shopping districts.

Petty crime and sexual harassment can occur in public spaces including bars and restaurants, and on buses.

  • Avoid walking alone, especially after dark.
  • Ensure that your personal belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times.

You can report crimes, including a sexual assault, to the Korean National Police Agency by dialling 112. This is a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week service. For non-Korean speakers, the police will link an interpreter into the call.

Women’s safety

Women travelling alone may be subject to certain forms of harassment. Sexual assault and harassment do occur, particularly around bars and nightlife areas, such as Itaewon and Hongdae-Ipgu.

Local authorities may not always respond adequately to reports of sexual violence and harassment. If you are sexually assaulted, you should report it immediately to local authorities and to the nearest Canadian government office.

  • Avoid travelling alone, especially at night
  • Remain vigilant
  • Be careful when dealing with strangers or recent acquaintances

Advice for women travellers

Demonstrations

Political, labour and student demonstrations and marches may occur. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation.

  • Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities
  • Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations

Mass gatherings (large-scale events)

Civil emergency exercises

Civil emergency exercises are held for fires, earthquakes, other disasters and civil defence drills by the Ministry of the Interior and Safety.

In 2024, four exercises will take place in March, May, August and October. The exercise on August 21, 2024, will be a nationwide exercise. Depending on the exercise, sirens may sound, transport may stop and authorities may ask some people to take shelter in metro stations or basements. While visitor participation is not necessary, familiarize yourself with procedures and check local announcements for further exercises.

Useful links

Emergency assistance mobile application

The Ministry of the Interior and Safety offers a free emergency assistance mobile application called Emergency Ready (available on Google Play and iTunes). The app allows users to contact  emergency services, locate the closest medical centre or shelter and view first aid videos.

Road safety

The rate of fatal road accidents is very high. Check carefully before crossing the road. Vehicles may not stop at pedestrian crossings. Use underground or above-ground pedestrian crossings, where available.

Speeding, running red lights, lane changes without signalling and other risky driving behaviours are common, particularly by buses, taxis and motorcyclists. Motorcycles are sometimes driven on sidewalks.

Automobile drivers are presumed to be at fault in accidents involving motorcycles or pedestrians. Criminal charges and heavy penalties are common when accidents result in injury. Even if negligence is not proven, you may be subject to criminal charges.

Public transportation

The use of public transport after dark may be safer than using taxis when travelling alone. When subway and bus services end for the night, use officially marked taxis only. It is mandatory to fasten your seatbelt in a taxi. Drivers may speak some English, but have your destination written in Korean.

High-speed train services (KTX and SRT) link Seoul and major southern cities such as Busan, Gwangju and Mokpo.

Air travel

We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.

Information about foreign domestic airlines

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Entry and exit requirements

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.

We have obtained the information on this page from the South Korean authorities. It can, however, change at any time.

Verify this information with the Foreign Representatives in Canada.

Passport

Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.

Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.

Regular Canadian passport

Your passport must be valid beyond the date of expected departure from South Korea.

Passport for official travel

Different entry rules may apply.

Official travel

Passport with “X” gender identifier

While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.

Other travel documents

Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.

Useful links

Visas

Tourist visa: not required*
Business visa: not required*
Student visa: required (must be obtained outside South Korea)
Working visa: required (must be obtained outside South Korea)

*Canadians are exempt from the Korea Electronic Travel Authority (K-ETA) requirement to visit South Korea until December 31, 2024.

You can't change your visa status once you're in South Korea.

If you wish to extend the length of your visa, contact the Korea Immigration Service as soon as possible to apply for an extension. Authorities strictly enforce immigration laws and regulations.

Biometrics

Foreigners must register their biometrics (fingerprints and facial scan) at their port of entry. Children younger than 17 years and diplomats are exempt from this screening.

Screening measures

The Korea Immigration Service will screen your body temperature upon your arrival at the airport. They may test you for infectious diseases including cholera and Zika virus. In some cases, authorities may quarantine you for medical observation if you show flu-like symptoms or test positive for an infectious disease.

Children and travel

Learn more about travelling with children.

Yellow fever

Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).

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Health

Relevant Travel Health Notices

This section contains information on possible health risks and restrictions regularly found or ongoing in the destination. Follow this advice to lower your risk of becoming ill while travelling. Not all risks are listed below.

Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations.

Routine vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccinations, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date before travelling, regardless of your destination.

Some of these vaccinations include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.

Pre-travel vaccines and medications

You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines may be right for you, based on your destination and itinerary. 

Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements

Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

Risk

  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.

Country Entry Requirement*

  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.

Recommendation

  • Vaccination is not recommended.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.

About Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada

Hepatitis A

There is a risk of hepatitis A in this destination. It is a disease of the liver. People can get hepatitis A if they ingest contaminated food or water, eat foods prepared by an infectious person, or if they have close physical contact (such as oral-anal sex) with an infectious person, although casual contact among people does not spread the virus.

 

Practise safe food and water precautions and wash your hands often. Vaccination is recommended for all travellers to areas where hepatitis A is present.

Tick-borne encephalitis

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a risk in some areas of this destination. It is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It is spread to humans by the bite of infected ticks or occasionally when unpasteurized milk products are consumed.

Travellers to areas where TBE is found may be at higher risk  during April to November, and the risk is highest for people who hike or camp in forested areas.

Protect yourself from tick bites. The vaccine is not available in Canada. It may be available in the destination you are travelling to.

Measles

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.

Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.

Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.

Japanese encephalitis

Japanese encephalitis is a viral infection that can cause swelling of the brain.  It is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Risk is very low for most travellers. Travellers at relatively higher risk may want to consider vaccination for JE prior to travelling.

Travellers are at higher risk if they will be:

  • travelling long term (e.g. more than 30 days)
  • making multiple trips to endemic areas
  • staying for extended periods in rural areas
  • visiting an area suffering a JE outbreak
  • engaging in activities involving high contact with mosquitos (e.g., entomologists)
Hepatitis B

 Hepatitis B is a risk in every destination. It is a viral liver disease that is easily transmitted from one person to another through exposure to blood and body fluids containing the hepatitis B virus.  Travellers who may be exposed to blood or other bodily fluids (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) are at higher risk of getting hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all travellers. Prevent hepatitis B infection by practicing safe sex, only using new and sterile drug equipment, and only getting tattoos and piercings in settings that follow public health regulations and standards.

Influenza

 The best way to protect yourself from seasonal influenza (flu) is to get vaccinated every year. Get the flu shot at least 2 weeks before travelling.  

 The flu occurs worldwide. 

  •  In the Northern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs from November to   April.
  •  In the Southern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs between April and   October.
  •  In the tropics, there is flu activity year round. 

The flu vaccine available in one hemisphere may only offer partial protection against the flu in the other hemisphere.

The flu virus spreads from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Clean your hands often and wear a mask if you have a fever or respiratory symptoms.

COVID-19

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.

It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.

Before travelling, verify your destination’s COVID-19 vaccination entry/exit requirements. Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.

Malaria

Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease that is caused by parasites spread through the bites of mosquitoes.
 
Limited malaria transmission may occur in this destination, but risk to travellers is very low. 
 
Antimalarial medication is not recommended for most travellers. Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic before travelling to discuss your options. It is recommended to do this 6 weeks before travel, however, it is still a good idea any time before leaving. 
 
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times: 

  • Cover your skin and use an approved insect repellent on uncovered skin.
  • Exclude mosquitoes from your living area with screening and/or closed, well-sealed doors and windows.
  • Use insecticide-treated bed nets if mosquitoes cannot be excluded from your living area.
  • Wear permethrin-treated clothing. 

If you develop symptoms similar to malaria when you are travelling or up to a year after you return home, see a health care professional immediately. Tell them where you have been travelling or living. 

Rabies

In this destination, rabies may be present in some wildlife species, including bats. Rabies is a deadly disease that spreads to humans primarily through bites or scratches from an infected animal. 

If you are bitten or scratched by an animal while travelling, immediately wash the wound with soap and clean water and see a health care professional. 

Before travel, discuss rabies vaccination with a health care professional. It may be recommended for travellers who will be working directly with wildlife. 

Safe food and water precautions

Many illnesses can be caused by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by bacteria, parasites, toxins, or viruses, or by swimming or bathing in contaminated water.

  • Learn more about food and water precautions to take to avoid getting sick by visiting our eat and drink safely abroad page. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
  • Avoid getting water into your eyes, mouth or nose when swimming or participating in activities in freshwater (streams, canals, lakes), particularly after flooding or heavy rain. Water may look clean but could still be polluted or contaminated.
  • Avoid inhaling or swallowing water while bathing, showering, or swimming in pools or hot tubs. 

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.

Travellers visiting regions with a risk of typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation, should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.  

Insect bite prevention

Many diseases are spread by the bites of infected insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas or flies. When travelling to areas where infected insects may be present:

  • Use insect repellent (bug spray) on exposed skin
  • Cover up with light-coloured, loose clothes made of tightly woven materials such as nylon or polyester
  • Minimize exposure to insects
  • Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in buildings that are not fully enclosed

To learn more about how you can reduce your risk of infection and disease caused by bites, both at home and abroad, visit our insect bite prevention page.

Find out what types of insects are present where you’re travelling, when they’re most active, and the symptoms of the diseases they spread.

Chikungunya

There is a risk of chikungunya in this country.  The risk may vary between regions of a country.  Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.

Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.

Animal precautions

Some infections, such as rabies and influenza, can be shared between humans and animals. Certain types of activities may increase your chance of contact with animals, such as travelling in rural or forested areas, camping, hiking, and visiting wet markets (places where live animals are slaughtered and sold) or caves.

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, livestock (pigs, cows), monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats, and to avoid eating undercooked wild game.

Closely supervise children, as they are more likely to come in contact with animals.

Person-to-person infections

Stay home if you’re sick and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette, which includes coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand. Reduce your risk of colds, the flu and other illnesses by:

  •  washing your hands often
  • avoiding or limiting the amount of time spent in closed spaces, crowded places, or at large-scale events (concerts, sporting events, rallies)
  • avoiding close physical contact with people who may be showing symptoms of illness 

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, and mpox are spread through blood and bodily fluids; use condoms, practise safe sex, and limit your number of sexual partners. Check with your local public health authority pre-travel to determine your eligibility for mpox vaccine.  

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care professional.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.

Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities meet Canadian standards. Private hospitals and clinics located in cities are often better staffed and equipped than public or rural facilities. Payment is expected at time of service. Korean medical institutions will not charge insurance companies directly.

Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.

Travel health and safety

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

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Laws and culture

You must abide by local laws.

Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.

Police may confiscate your passport and/or detain you during an investigation.

Overview of the criminal law system in South Korea

Drugs

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines and deportation. Minor violations, including smoking small quantities of an illegal drug such as cannabis (even in a private home) can result in pre-trial detention.

Drugs, alcohol and travel

Support for anti-government organizations

South Korea’s National Security Law prohibits statements and materials that praise anti-government organizations.

Photography

Photography of military installations and government buildings is illegal.

Driving

You must carry an International Driving Permit or a South Korean driver’s licence.

Penalties for drinking and driving are severe. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.03%. If the police suspect you of drinking and driving, they could confiscate your driver’s licence on the spot. If you’re convicted, you can expect heavy fines and a jail sentence.

International Driving Permit

Teaching English

Carefully review any contract to teach English in South Korea before signing it, even when arranged by a Canadian recruiter. There have been reports that some contracts have been modified after the fact. Ensure that all terms and conditions of employment are clear before accepting an offer. Ensure that you meet all the necessary requirements.

The Korean government investigates the use of fraudulent documents, degrees and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) certificates. Penalties for using fraudulent documents include arrest, deportation and restrictions on re-entry. Be aware that written contracts may not be binding documents. Verbal agreements often take precedence over written agreements.

Guide for teaching English in Korea

Dual citizenship

South Korea legally recognizes dual citizenship. If you’re a citizen of Canada, but also a citizen of South Korea, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you’re there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements.

The South Korean government considers children born from a Korean and a non-Korean parent to be South Korean citizens until age 18, even if they weren’t born in South Korea. Former Koreans over 65 who wish to live their remaining years in South Korea may be granted citizenship.

A male dual citizen whose name appears on the Korean family relation certificate may be subject to compulsory military service, even when entering South Korea on a Canadian passport. Before travelling to South Korea, Canadian males of Korean origin may need to renounce their Korean citizenship or have their names removed from the Korean family relation certificate to avoid this requirement.

Korean authorities will only recognize you as a Canadian-South Korean citizen if you meet certain criteria. If you think you may have a claim to South Korean citizenship, contact the Embassy of the Republic of Korea or one of its consulates.

International Child Abduction

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. The convention applies between Canada and South Korea.

If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in South Korea, and if the applicable conditions are met, you may apply for the return of your child to the South Korean court.

If you are in this situation:

  • act as quickly as you can
  • contact the Central Authority for your province or territory of residence for information on starting an application under The Hague Convention
  • consult a lawyer in Canada and in South Korea to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
  • report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children’s Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre

If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.

Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country’s judicial affairs.

Useful links

2SLGBTQI+ travellers

Although the laws of South Korea do not prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex, homosexuality is not socially tolerated. Same sex marriages are not legally recognised in South Korea.

2SLGBTQI+ travellers should carefully consider the risks of travelling to South Korea.

Travel and your sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics

Money

The currency in South Korea is the won (KRW). Some major banks have ATMs that accept international debit or credit cards. The amount allowed per withdrawal may be quite low, making the service charge excessive. Most ATMs that allow withdrawal of money from Canadian bank accounts offer English instructions.

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Natural disasters and climate

Rainy and typhoon seasons

The rainy season extends from late June until August. July is usually the wettest month. Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and landslides.

Typhoons occur in August and September. These severe storms can cause significant loss of life and extensive damage to infrastructure. They can hamper the provision of essential services.

If you decide to travel to South Korea during the rainy or typhoon seasons:

  • know that you expose yourself to serious safety risks
  • be prepared to change your travel plans on short notice, including cutting short or cancelling your trip
  • stay informed of the latest regional weather forecasts
  • carry emergency contact information for your airline or tour operator
  • follow the advice and instructions of local authorities

Useful links

Air pollution

Air pollution, including yellow dust pollution, is common in South Korea throughout the year and especially in March, April and May.

Air pollution in South Korea - World Air Quality Index

Wildfires

Wildfires are common in the spring months, but are generally contained within inaccessible areas. The air quality in areas near active fires may deteriorate due to heavy smoke. In case of a major fire:

  • stay away from the affected area, particularly if you suffer from respiratory ailments
  • follow the instructions of local emergency services personnel
  • monitor local media for up-to-date information on the situation

Useful links

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Need help?

Local services

Emergency services

In case of emergency, dial:

  • police: 112
  • medical assistance: 119
  • firefighters: 119

An English interpretation service is available.

Consular assistance

Seoul - Embassy of Canada
Street Address21 Jeongdong-gil (Jeong-dong), Jung-gu, Seoul (04518), Republic of KoreaPostal Address21 Jeongdong-gil (Jeong-dong), Jung-gu, Seoul (04518), Republic of KoreaTelephone+82 2 3783 6000Fax+82 2 3783 6112Emailseoul-cs@international.gc.caInternethttps://www.Canada.ca/Canada-And-Republic-KoreaFacebookEmbassy of Canada to KoreaTwitter@CanEmbKoreaOther social media@CanadaKorea
Appointment Book your appointment online
Busan - Honorary consul of Canada
Street Addressc/o Dongsung Group, 2 Fl. 99 Sinsan-ro, Saha-gu, Busan, Republic of Korea, 49421Postal Addressc/o Dongsung Group, 2 Fl. 99 Sinsan-ro, Saha-gu, Busan, Republic of Korea, 49421Telephone+82 51 204 5581Fax+82 51 204 5580Emailseoul-cs@international.gc.caInternethttps://www.Canada.ca/Canada-And-Republic-KoreaFacebookEmbassy of Canada to KoreaTwitter@CanEmbKoreaOther social media@CanadaKorea

For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada to South Korea and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.

Disclaimer

The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.

The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.

If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.

Learn more about consular services.

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