Travelling to Seoul post-pandemic

Finally, after close to 3 years of pandemic life where most of us have not been travelling at all. The closest place I visited was Johor Bahru to visit my auntie who was very sick in mid-2022. When quarantine-free travel to Korea opened up via the VTL travels in mid-2022, I booked my first flight post-pandemic and the feeling was exhilarating. I’m writing this entry to share some of the post-pandemic travel hacks and rules for those planning to travel to Seoul soon

Firstly for the booking of flights, quarantine-free travel into Korea is no longer limited to VTL flights from Singapore. It is open to all flights from Singapore and PCR and ART tests are no longer required from 1 October 2022

However, all travellers MUST get a K-ETA ( electronic visa) for their travel in Korea at least ONE month before their arrival date. You can apply via their official website. Note that this can only be done on the official Korean government website. The entire approval process will take at least 72 hours and you should print out the approved email for your trip

3 days before your arrival in Korea, make sure to apply for the Q code at their official website. A QR code will be issued to your email and when you enter Korea, you will be required to scan and show this QR code at the counters just before passport clearance. However, if you missed applying for the Q code 3 days before arrival, you can fill in the manual yellow forms which are given out at the counters as well. There will be huge banners giving instructions about the manual Q code application.

Another document you should have on hand will be your vaccination certification or code, there was no request to see this when I entered Korea but I had to show the cert when I was doing my check-in at the airport returning to Singapore. E-copies of the certification are also fine

Masks are generally not mandated on all Singapore Airlines flights and the regulations depend strictly on the destination country or the country where the flight departs. In this case, Korea mandates that all passengers arriving and departing from Korea must wear a face mask for the entire duration of the flight. You will still be allowed to remove your mask during mealtimes

As of 30 Jan 2023, face masks are no longer required indoors except for hospitals, pharmacies and public transport. When I was in Seoul in November last year, many locals were still wearing masks outdoors even when it is no longer mandated so do consider bringing some face masks during your trip, especially in crowded areas

Popular tourist spots like Myeongdong and Dong Dae Mun are not as crowded as before as at least 40% of the skin care stores in Myeongdong have closed down during the pandemic. Many stores in Dong Dae Mun close much earlier now as well. Most of the malls like Doota and Migliore close at 9.30 pm or 10 pm latest. This was different from the 2 am or 3 am in the past. Although some stores are coming back to Myeongdong, it could take another 6 months or so to return to their full glory

You might find that many stores or restaurant you used to visit has either closed or shifted location. I used to travel to Seoul at least twice a year but on this trip, I ended up going in circles looking for some stores I used to visit. So either pre-search the location or address and do not depend on memory

These are some of the major changes I noticed on the recent trip. I will be writing a new itinerary for Seoul as well as individual reviews of restaurants but you can still refer to these old posts I wrote which are still relevant. You can read up 4D3N in Seoul – Itinerary Day 1 or 15 things you must eat in Seoul

Additional Hacks:

  1. You need Naver or Kakao maps in Korea as Google maps hardly works. This is also useful when you wish to get taxis to travel to the location
  2. Learn some basic Korean like Thank you, Sorry, Excuse me, Toilet. Most Koreans are not comfortable speaking in English, especially the older shop owners. When met with this situation, you can try google translate or simple point and signal. Younger Koreans are generally better with English but do speak slower for the locals to understand you
  3. Never take the black taxis as they are like the premium taxis in Singapore, the hail fare starts at a higher point and the meters run much faster. The only benefit is the drivers can speak English or Mandarin but this is still not recommended
  4. Get a T-money card which will act as a transport card for the train as well as a cash card for payment in taxis, buses, and convenience stores. You can get these at convenience stores.
  5. Comfortable shoes are recommended in Seoul as most areas in Seoul are on slopes and can get challenging to walk or climb

Author: elizbeartravel

A human bear who loves travelling, eating and cooking

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