My son has been wanting to visit Korea and we never got the chance since the COVID pandemic derailed our plans. Since South Korea just opened up recently, we decided to take the plunge and make a visit. If you are going soon and the requirements are similar, this information may help you. But hopefully, it will be even easier by the time you go!
In addition to the normal international trip details to plan for, there were a few other items to take care of. In no particular order, here are some things I did.
- At the time of our trip, a negative COVID test result was required to board the plane and get the proper QR code to enter South Korea and not be required to quarantine. Once you get your test results, you submit your information and results online and get the QR code for entry into Korea. (**Actual experience that hopefully won’t relate to you. Despite all the preparations and care we took — even asking people to take a COVID test prior to socializing with them, we found that we had two separate possible exposures to COVID on the crucial days that might cause us to test positive on the day we needed to take our test. It is just the life we live these days but it became a little stressful to realize that we didn’t know whether we would be able to board our flight until we took our COVID test. We had all kinds of backup scenarios played out in our minds in case someone (hopefully at most only one person) tested positive. The whole week, we blasted our body with EmergenC and Zicam, diffused Doterra essential oils, drank so much water, ate healthily, and made sure to be well-rested, and tried to be as positive as possible and not think that every little cough or sneeze was the beginning of COVID symptoms!!!! Finally, two days before our flight we went to Urgent Care Hilo and took a PCR test and got negative results. At this point, I finally felt confident enough to bring out the suitcase without feeling like I was giving myself bad luck for doing so. Yay! Next stop—South Korea on Hawaiian Airlines!
- Another, much easier thing we needed to do was to apply for Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) approval. This was done online and was pretty easy. I did have to take photos of our passports and upload those to the site. Additionally, there is a fee (less than $10) a person for this application. The K-ETA approval is good for 2 years so you can take care of this early on. Keep in mind that the application must be completed at least 72 hours prior to boarding so don’t wait until the last minute. Once I submitted the application, the approval came pretty quickly. I think when I did it, I got the approval email in about 1-2 hours.
- The website for the U.S. Embassy & Consulate in the Republic of Korea says a PCR test is required within 72 hours after we arrive. However, someone I know shared her experience testing in Korea (and paying for it) and trying to submit the results and was told that she didn’t have to submit the test results anywhere so this information may not be accurate.
- Now — here are some normal things I did to prep for international travel.
- I got South Korean currency from Hawaii National Bank. I also confirmed that there are places to easily get more cash in Seoul in case I run out. I also confirmed that the credit cards I plan to use have no foreign transaction fees.
- I confirmed that my cellphone international plan option was still active on our phones.
- I was researching how to take the subway from the airport to the hotel but my husband preferred to have the convenience of door-to-door service with a taxi. I heard that it isn’t that easy to get a taxi so I booked one in advance. It is probably a good idea that I did since even the company I booked with (International Taxi) was sold out on some car options.
- I wanted to efficiently introduce South Korea to my son so I made a few tour reservations to take us to the main sights as well as show us the ropes for going out and about at night to get KBBQ, chicken, soju, and beer. Viator was a great resource with a variety of tours. I’ll share the tours we took in subsequent blog posts.
Since it is summer and the weather is warm, it was easy to pack more lightly. I expect to walk a lot so I will plan to use sneakers often. As usual, I’m packing duffle bags so that we can shop without worrying about fitting everything in the 3 suitcases we are bringing over. According to the weather report, it will be pretty rainy the whole time we are in South Korea, so I’m also packing an umbrella.
Another normal travel prep thing was to download some entertainment. I had the following ready to go:
- Disney +: Hamilton
- Amazon Prime: Kimchi Chronicles that I haven’t watched for years, Train to Busan, Korean Food Made Simple
- HBO Max: Tokyo Vice
- Apple TV: Pachinko
- Hulu: Deep Water, Yakuza Princess
We are excited about our first international trip since the pandemic began. I’ll post updates on our adventures. Living Hilo Style in South Korea.