How It Started Vs. How It’s Going – A Korea Travel Update As Of July 2022

Well, well, welllllll this is my first blog post in four years. When I first started The Real Seoul, blogging wasn’t my thing. Still isn’t. To be blunt, I know that there is already TONS of info out there that everyone can find effortlessly, so I just added my two cents on the basic tourist apps and systems.

And then, well, fucking COVID happened. Funnily enough, I actually JUST caught it for the first time this week. Currently on Day 5 of 7 required home quarantine by the Korean govt. That’s all I’ll say about that haha.

So, here is the current status of things and daily life in Korea as of July 22, 2022.

***Currently, there is a spike of cases in Korea (and worldwide) due to BA.5 variant. The government has said they do not plan to re-introduce restrictions on daily life, but do know that they could very well make changes. Please be prepared and flexible.***

ENTRY RULES AND PROCESS

These rules can and do change often, so please check your local Korean embassy/consulate’s Notice section for updates. There are many, many Facebook groups, Reddit subs and more devoted to these questions, too.

  1. Unrelated to COVID, all visa free entrants to Korea now MUST complete a K-ETA background check 72 hours minimum before your departure.
  2. Travelers are required to do a PCR test two calendar days OR antigen test one calendar day before entry to Korea. The test must be TAKEN within these days before your flight departs. TEST RESULTS MUST BE PRINTED AND uploaded to Q CODE, a QR code passenger locator form. Q CODE cannot be completed until you have your test results. At the airport on arrival, the line splits into Q CODE and those without – if you have Q CODE, you just show your passport and scan the QR code, takes seconds. No Q CODE? You must show all your papers, do everything by hand, and it’s sloowwwwwwwwwwwww.
  3. On arrival, a PCR test must be done within one day of arrival. Meaning, the day you arrive OR the day after that. This MUST be done as it is the law to enter the country that you agree to when you enter Korea. Immigration shares your accodomation/contact info with the local district health office where you stay. If you don’t take the test, they will find out and they will come find you. Don’t fuck around and find out. Current penalty is 10,000,000W or worse. Do your test at the airport on arrival. Make your reservation at the airport testing center website and the price is 80,000W (around 60 USD). Set your appointment time for one hour after your arrival, and they’ll see you early or late if you get stuck in line it’s fine. You are free to leave after your test and go about your business. You can go to your hotel, go out to eat, whatever. If you don’t do your test at the airport, you’re going to have to find a private clinic in the city and they charge around 130,000W. Tourists used to be able to test at the public health centers for free, but now there are many reports of being denied since they are not legal residents. Don’t count on this option anymore.
  4. When COVID began, the Korean government had strict requirements for a local mobile number. Now, you don’t need this, but I strongly recommend it in case of issues with testing, etc. You can get a local number from http://roaming.kt.com
  5. If you test positive, you must expect to be sent to a government quarantine facility for seven nights. This is at your own expense, around 90,000W per night. If you recovered from COVID at any point, please bring an official letter of recovery from your government or your doctor. There have been reports that you can submit this at your airport arrival test in case of positive result. SOME health offices will accept this and not require you to quarantine. SOME do not accept it and SOME allow you to stay at your hotel. SOME do not and send you off. There is no exact rule except the national law that says “you will go to a facility.” Mentally prepare yourself to go to a facility for seven nights if positive.
  6. Vaccine status is currently irrelevant and no proof is required for anything (entry to the country, restaurants, etc.)

PUBLIC TRANSIT TO/FROM AIRPORT, AROUND SEOUL, ETC.

The AREX express train to Seoul Station is operating again. City Airport check in at Seoul Station is open, but not at Gwangmyeong or COEX.

Airport buses are on a VERY REDUCED schedule. You can check the schedule and what’s operating on the airport website.

A taxi is the easiest way to get into Seoul now, but be careful of rush hour into the city. Basically, from 7-9 AM and 6-8 PM, you’ll be stuck in nasty traffic and the subway will be faster (even though it seems long and far). You can catch a metered taxi in the taxi line outside the terminal, just follow signs and go to the stand for Seoul taxis. DO NOT ACCEPT ANY TAXI RIDES FROM ANYONE IN THE TERMINALS. A taxi should be around 50-60,000W (including tolls) depending on where you’re going and traffic.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS / RESTAURANT, CLUB OPERATIONS

As of writing, July 2022, everything is wide open. Clubs, bars, restaurants have no restriction capacities or curfews. Same for tourist attractions. Masks are optional outdoors, but 70-80% of people still wear them. Masks are REQUIRED INDOORS – subway, bus, transit, inside any building, etc.

That’s all for now – otherwise, Korea is very much wide open, full steam ahead, everyone living life. Come and enjoy k byeeeeeeee!!!

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