South Korea Travel Restrictions: What to Know Before Visiting

South Korea Travel Restrictions: What to Know Before Visiting

Fully vaccinated travellers must present a negative RT-PCR test result instead.

South Korea travel restrictions have been strictly enforced since the onset of the pandemic. But recently, the country has begun to pave way for quarantine-free trips for vaccinated travellers through the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) with Singapore. If you’re planning to travel to South Korea, here’s what you should know.

South Korea travel overview

Vaccination status

As of 18 Oct 2021, 78.44% of South Korean citizens have been vaccinated against COVID-19, proving that the country has certainly sped up its vaccination roll-out in recent months.

Citizens and nationals allowed entry without quarantine

south korea quarantine

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South Korea remains largely closed to the rest of the world during the pandemic; but starting 15 Nov 2021, vaccinated travellers will be allowed to travel between Singapore and South Korea quarantine-free through the VTL.

Outside of the VTL, the following travellers may be eligible for monitoring in lieu of the mandatory quarantine:

  • Travellers fully vaccinated in Korea and whose vaccinations are registered in the Korean health care system;
  • Travellers who received their first vaccination dose in Korea and whose second dose is registered in the Korean health care system;
  • Unvaccinated children under six years old who are travelling with fully vaccinated parents; and,
  • Unvaccinated visitors attending a funeral of an immediate family member in South Korea

Eligibility for quarantine exemption of the abovementioned visitors will be at the discretion of Korean authorities at the point of entry.

Travellers with quarantine requirements

travel to south korea

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As of writing, South Korea mandates all foreigners travelling outside of the Singapore-South Korea VTL to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. However, the country maintains strict limitations for foreign travellers to date. Most countries are still waiting for South Korea to reopen its borders to them. This said, we advise you to contact your respective Korean Embassy or Consulate to ensure your eligibility to travel to South Korea.

Pre-arrival required documents for travel to South Korea

Before you travel to South Korea, here are the documents you must secure.

1. Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) or Korean visa

With the pandemic, South Korea has temporarily suspended their visa-free travel arrangements. 

If you’re a visa-free foreign traveller, you’re now required to obtain an approved Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) before you travel to South Korea. The K-ETA is valid for two years from the date of approval. Each application cost 10,000 KRW (US$8.42) and is non-refundable even when declined. You may see the list of countries eligible to apply for K-ETA here.

Foreigners who are not covered by K-ETA may apply for a Korean visa instead. ​Tourism visas will be issued in single-entry and are valid for three months. 

2. Digitally certifiable vaccination certificate

Bring a digitally certifiable vaccination certificate to present prior to your departure. South Korea recognises any vaccine in the WHO EUL, including:

  • Moderna
  • Pfizer/BioNTech
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Oxford/AstraZeneca
  • Covishield 
  • Sinopharm
  • Sinovac

Singaporeans travelling via the VTL can obtain their certificate via the Notarise website.

3. Negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test results

All travellers regardless of nationality will be required to present a negative RT-PCR test result issued within 72 hours of departure. Only children under six years old, airline crew, and Korean nationals with quarantine exemption certificates are exempt from this. You must also bring along a booking confirmation for your on-arrival PCR test (more info below). 

4. Travel insurance

All travellers to South Korea will be required to purchase travel insurance with a minimum coverage of 30,000,000 KRW (US$25,284.47). The policy must cover COVID-19 related medical expenses. Bring along a physical copy of said insurance. 

5. Clear 14-day travel history (for VTL travellers)

Since South Korea currently prohibits leisure travellers from countries other than Singapore, travellers must take a non-stop flight to ensure a clear 14-day travel history.

Arrival

south korea travel

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All arriving passengers can expect to undergo health screening tests, including temperature scanning, questionnaires, and COVID-19 tests. Travellers may also be required to download a Self-Diagnosis Mobile App, which would serve as their daily health status record for 14 days. 

For VTL tourists:

Those travelling through the VTL may enjoy a quarantine-free trip. However, they will be required to take an RT-PCR test at the Incheon Airport upon arrival. You must pre-book a test via the Safe2GO pass website and bring your booking confirmation with you to Korea. 

After taking the RT-PCR test, you may take a taxi cab or a private vehicle going to your accommodation. Wait for your results via the Self-Check Mobile App. Once receiving the negative result, you may start travelling around South Korea. If you’re going to remain in South Korea for more than eight days, you will need to take another PCR test on the sixth or seventh day of arrival. This must also be pre-booked via the Safe2GO Pass website. You do not need to quarantine while waiting for the result of the second test. 

For non-VTL tourists:

Short-term foreign travellers must undergo a 14-day quarantine at a designated government facility. These facilities are assigned at random and may not be changed. Travellers will be provided with transportation from the airport to the quarantine facility.

A quarantine facility costs 1,680,000 KRW (US$1,415.37) per person or 120,000 KRW (US$101.10) per day for 14 days. The fee includes accommodation and meals.

For residents of South Korea:

Korean nationals — including foreigners who reside in South Korea — may self-quarantine in their own homes. However, if their residences are not suitable for quarantining, then they must check into a designated government facility at their own cost. 

For spouses and lineal descendants of South Korean citizens:

Spouses and lineal descendants of Korean citizens may also self-quarantine in their family’s place of residence, as long as they can present official family relations documents. Lineal descendants are limited to grandparents, parents, and children. These do not include siblings.

During the stay

south korea open for tourism

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While South Korea remains strict when it comes to tourists entering its borders from abroad, the country is laxer when it comes to interstate travel. As of writing, there are no restrictions on domestic travel in South Korea. Once you’re in the country, you’ll find most places in South Korea open for tourism.

South Korea requires everyone to wear face masks in public spaces, enclosed environments, and public transportation. Those who fail to properly wear a face mask to cover both nose and mouth will be fined up to 100,000 KRW (US$84.28). Social distancing is also expected.

Restaurants, bars, and other entertainment facilities in South Korea are open with restrictions. These establishments make use of QR code-based access for contact tracing. South Korea has no curfew during the pandemic.

Those who are suspected of having COVID-19 and refuse to get tested will be fined up to 10 million KRW (US$8,428.16) or one year of prison. If you need to get tested for COVID-19 during your stay in Korea, refer to this list of medical institutions.

Also read: UK Travel Restrictions: All You Need to Know Before Visiting

Return travel

South Korea travel requirements for those exiting the country vary depending on the country of origin. 

If you are flying back to Singapore via VTL, then you must present a negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours prior to departure. However, if you get COVID-19 symptoms in the last 14 days or had close contact with a COVID-19 positive person in the last 10 days, then you must defer your flight.

For more information on travelling to Singapore via VTL, visit the official website of the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority.


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Danielle Uy
Danielle Uy

If Disney were creative enough to let Mulan and Melody (The Little Mermaid 2) have a baby, Danielle is convinced that that baby would be her spirit animal. From an early age, Danielle’s ultimate goal has been to become a bad-ass female hero and a mermaid. While she hasn't held a sword in her lifetime, she feels powerful enough with her pen. Her creative energy is fueled by many things: the quiet right before the rest of the world wakes up, the orange sky as the sun rises during an uncrowded morning surf, the beautiful bitter taste of black coffee, and the threatening reminder of a pending deadline.

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