South Korea travel advice
Latest updates: Removal of COVID-19 information
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- Safety and security
- Entry and exit requirements
- Laws and culture
- Natural disasters and climate
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South Korea - Take normal security precautions
Take normal security precautions in South Korea.
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.
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 and overnight trains.
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 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
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
Civil emergency exercises
Civil emergency exercises are held 8 times a year for fires, earthquakes, other disasters and civil defence drills. Nationwide exercises take place in March, May, August and September. Regional exercises occur each year in April, June, October and November. 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.
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.
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.
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. Taxis may not be equipped with seatbelts. 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.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
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.
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.
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.
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 must also be in possession of an Korea Electronic Travel Authority (K-ETA) to visit South Korea. Ensure that you travel with the same passport used to apply for your K-ETA.
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.
- Korea Electronic Travel Authority (K-ETA) – Ministry of Justice, Republic of Korea
- More information about visas - Korea Immigration Service
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.
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 about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines 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 are right for you.
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.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
- 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.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Tick-borne encephalitis is present in some areas of this country.
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 when you consume unpasteurized milk products.
Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to ticks during outdoor activities.
A vaccine against TBE does exist but is only available in countries where the disease is present.
Learn more on what you can do to prevent tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)
- There is a limited risk of malaria in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
- Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (e.g., are children, have an occupational risk, or in close contact with animals, including free roaming dogs in communities).
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 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 is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
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.
For destination entry and exit requirements, including for COVID-19 vaccination requirements, please check the Entry/exit requirements section.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in East Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in East Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
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.
Insects and Illness
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
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.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in Eastern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Hand, foot and mouth disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a common viral illness that mainly affects infants and children. Travellers are at increased risk if visiting or living in overcrowded conditions. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against this disease.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Support for anti-government organizations
South Korea’s National Security Law prohibits statements and materials that praise anti-government organizations.
Photography of military installations and government buildings is illegal.
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 0.05%. 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.
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.
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.
- Entry/exit requirements
- Foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada
- General information for travellers with dual citizenship
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.
- List of Canadian Central Authorities for the Hague Convention
- International Child Abduction: A Guidebook for Left-Behind Parents
- Travelling with children
- The Hague Convention - Hague Conference on Private International Law
- Canadian embassies and consulates by destination
- Emergency Watch and Response Centre
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.
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.
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
- Korea Meteorological Administration
- Hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones and monsoons
- Large-scale emergencies abroad
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 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
In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 112
- medical assistance: 119
- firefighters: 119
An English interpretation service is available.
Seoul - Embassy of Canada
Busan - Consulate of Canada
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.
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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