Covid- & Quarantine-Process in South Korea | 15 Tips for stress free traveling

A few days ago I finally arrived in South Korea to study Korean at Sogang University here for a year… Because I spent a lot of time researching and preparing before I left and got an incredible amount of valuable tips from friends, I would like to share them with you here. I also put everything in a Youtube-Video here.

Important Disclaimer: The following tips, procedures and regulations can change quickly in the current situation and also depend on your visa type and home country. So please always check again the current travel & immigration regulations for your specific case. For me in November 2021 with a single-entry, D4 long-term visa (Korean Language Trainee) it went as follows.

1 Be careful!

So the best place to start is in your home country…. The first thing you need to prepare there is a negative PCR test result. This should not be older than 72 hours when you arrive in Korea.

I know this is obvious…But in the time before you leave – no actually any time – but ESPECIALLY in the time before your departure you should be very careful not to get infected with COVID19. Because if this test result is positive, you can forget your whole plan and all bookings and reservation and have to stay at home.

2 Print the test result!

Okay well… This might be a bit too obvious for some people again… But in Germany you get the result only digitally as a PDF via mail or download, so for me it wasnt that obvious. But since you have to show it quite often, I recommend you to bring it printed.

3 Bring spare masks!

Then you are finally at the airport… And the first thing you have to do: wear a mask!
In fact, you have to wear a mask from that second on for the whole trip to your accommodation… except for eating or drinking, of course.
That’s why I strongly recommend you to bring spare masks… It also gives you a refreshing feeling once in a while 😉

4 Bring a lot of entertainment!

As soon as you arrive in the plane and the first excitement and the farewell pain settles, you realize that there is now a 12-hour flight ahead of you. Since I always have trouble sleeping on planes, I’ve already thought about how I’m going to keep myself busy during this time. Video games, books, downloaded movies, series and songs… Of course, most airlines offer enough of these, but I prefer my own stuff…. Animal Crossing actually saved my life 😀

5 Bring a pen & offline data!

Somewhere in my suitcase or backpack I always have a pen…. Somewhere for sure… 😀
For the last 20-30 minutes of your flight, I recommend knowing exactly where that pen is. Because then you will get some papers and forms from the stewardesses and stewards that you have to fill out. You will also need the phone number of your contact person and the address of your quarantine accommodation. Ideally, you have already downloaded these, because on the plane you have no Internet as you know.

6 Use the restroom & calm down!

And then you land at Incheon Airport, about an hour away from Seoul. I was so excited at that moment and just wanted to get out and see everything. But now the hard part really starts and you have to wait a lot.
That’s why I’m so glad that I went to the restroom before I got in line. When you’re waiting in the line, try to calm down a bit, have a drink and a snack.

If you arrive with a lot of Koreans like I did, you’re quite happy and don’t have to wait very long. But if you arrive with a lot of foreigners and maybe at the same time as another flight, expect a long waiting time….

7 Organize your documents!

Then you go to the first station: the document screening. Here they only check if you have all the necessary documents, that your test is not older than 72 hours and if you have a Quarantine-Exemption.
By the way, you get this only if you have been vaccinated in Korea, have Korean family, enter Korea on business, or because of necessary health treatments.

From this first station you have to show documents continuously, then walk a bit and then show the next documents again. But at the same time you have your jacket, your backpack, your carry-on suitcase, your passport, and your cell phone in your hand… That’s why – if I were to enter again now – I would bring a document organizer. No plan what exactly, but something to keep everything together and not drop it all the time 😀

8 Download the Quarantine App!

Holders of a Korean passport are now separated from those with a foreign passport before downloading the quarantine app with a person at the next station and entering all the data together. By the way, the app is available in all countries, so you can save time by downloading it in advance.

9 Prepare your Korean contact person!

At the next stop, the authorities will call a Korean contact person together with you, whom you have to give them. So ask a friend in South Korea or your Airbnb host if they can help you with this and take a call in the first two hours after your arrival. The person must have a Korean phone number, should also be able to speak Korean and must then answer a few questions about you: Who you are, what you want to do in Korea and where you will stay during the quarantine.
At best, you should also have an emergency number of another person handy, if this first one is not available.

10 Print out your Visa Grant Notice!

As in any other country, the visa and passport checks will follow. Here it is necessary that you bring the new digital Visa Grant Notice printed out. Acutally… It is best to bring everything printed out 😀
Otherwise, they only take a photo of you at this station and take your fingerprints.

After that you can get your suitcases from the baggage claim and you have to declare food like meat and dairy products. It’s best not to bring such things at all, but only shrink-wrapped food.

11 Know your district and take a cab!

Before you can leave the airport, you will be asked two questions:

Where are you going?
So keep your address handy and know your district to shorten it a bit.

How do you want to get there?
You can choose between a bus, a minivan or a cab.

The bus is quite cheap, but you have to take care of the route and your luggage yourself, and they leave very irregularly.
The mini-van is like a bigger and therefore more expensive cab, so it’s good for people with a lot of luggage.
So I chose the cab and really had a great time. For only 80000 Korean Won or 80 USD or 60€ the cab driver takes you first to the test station, waits for you there and then drives you to your accommodation. You don’t have to worry about your suitcase and the route at all.
My driver even took me on a mini city tour, showed me some sights we passed and tried to tell me a few things about Korea and give me tips with his limited knowledge of English.

But: before you get into the taxi, you have to do the following two things, which are clearly visible right at the exit.

12 Exchange money!

Even though you can pay for almost EVERYTHING in Korea with a credit card, it is always good to have some emergency cash in your pocket. If you exchange your home currency into Korean won in South Korea, it’s usually a bit cheaper.

13 Get a Korean phone number!

This is actually one of the most important tips here. Make sure you get a Korean phone number at the airport. For the planners among us: You can also book this online beforehand and then just have to pick up the sim card.
This number is so important for so many things!
You will receive your test result by SMS on this number. The Public Health Centre calls this number regularly to make sure you are following the quarantine rules and that you are okay.
And you need a Korean phone number to open any accounts for online shopping or food delivery, or to book a taxi for the second PCR test.

14 Remember your test station!

Once you have all this, you can have the driver take you to the PCR test. In fact, you would have 24 hours after your arrival to do this, but I highly recommend doing it right away if it’s not already too late.
The test is actually the same as in any other country, I think… and before you know it, you can leave and are handed a bag with sanitizer, masks, paper temperature meters and a rubbish bag.
At best, you remember where this test station was or what it’s called, so that you can get your test result in an emergency, should there be any problems with your number. And then it’s off to quarantine!

15 Plan how to get food & drinks!

If you’re coming on a long-stay visa like me, you can usually choose to stay in a government facility or an Airbnb. I can’t tell you much about the government facility, but I know that you can either be very lucky and get a great hotel room or very unlucky and get a shitty one.
I preferred Airbnb because it’s much cheaper and you can choose where you want to stay. One problem with Airbnb quarantine: no one will automatically bring you food or prepare anything for you. So you should definitely ask a friend or your host if they can prepare that. If necessary, there are also a few providers that offer food or grocery delivery without a Korean credit card, such as trazy.com or Shuttle Delivery.

During your 10-Day-Quarantine-stay, you have to answer a few questions (including your body temperature) twice a day in the quarantine app and on the phone, and of course you are not allowed to leave your flat.

One day before your quarantine ends, you have to take another PCR test and if this is negative, you are finally allowed to leave the apartment again on the 11th day at noon. (Status in November 2021)

And then you can FINALLY go out and explore Seoul!

Here you can download the Checklist & Tips:

5 Comments

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