Despite experiencing its worst coronavirus surge, South Korea is getting set to ease border restrictions for travellers.
From April 1, fully vaccinated tourists will be able to fly to the country quarantine-free.
South Korea will also recognise more vaccinations, including those administered outside of the country, said the Ministry of the Interior and Safety. This will allow more people to apply for quarantine-free travel.
The easing of restrictions is set to increase the number of incoming tourists. Last year, the country recorded a huge drop in arriving visitor numbers with less than a million tourists, according to the Korea Tourism Organisation.
Exemptions to quarantine rules still apply to visitors from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Myanmar, who are required to isolate for seven days on arrival, regardless of vaccination status.
If you’re planning a trip to South Korea as it eases restrictions, here’s what you need to know.
Who can travel to South Korea?
Travel to South Korea will be quarantine free for most fully vaccinated tourists
To be considered fully vaccinated, travellers must have had their second dose of a Covid-19 jab more than 14 days ago but fewer than 180 days ago — or have taken a booster shot within the same time frame.
Travellers who fit this criteria can travel to the country without quarantine from April 1, but must complete all their travel details on the Q-Code website before departure.
Passengers from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Myanmar cannot apply for entry under this exemption category, even if they are fully vaccinated and must continue to isolate on arrival.
Unvaccinated tourists can still travel to the country, but will have to quarantine in a government appointed isolation facility for seven days.
Do I need a PCR test to travel to South Korea?
All travellers need a PCR test result taken no more than 48 hours before departure.
Children aged 5 and under do not need to have a negative test result to enter, but all passengers regardless of nationality, vaccination status and length of stay will be tested on arrival, or within the first 24 hours of entering South Korea.
Tourists will be tested at the airport upon arrival and must remain there until they receive their negative test results.
Do I need to quarantine?
If you’re fully vaccinated and not coming from one of the countries banned from quarantine exemption then you won’t need to isolate when you arrive in South Korea.
Once an on-arrival negative test result has been issued at the airport testing facility, travellers are free to travel around the country.
What restrictions are in place in South Korea
Face masks remain compulsory in South Korea in all public places and on public transport, with fines for people who do not comply.
There are also local variations in Covid-19 restrictions in different parts of the country, so you should check the website of the relevant local authorities to find out more about social distancing and restrictions on groups and gatherings.
What’s the best time to visit South Korea?
Spring is the best time to visit South Korea if you want to get a glimpse of the country’s blooming cherry blossoms. Autumn is another popular time — with September to November typically having dry days and giving tourists a chance to see changing shades of orange and red throughout the country's National Parks such as Songnisan, Jirisan and Seoraksan.
August is the hottest and most humid month while winter is cold and snowy — and when winter sports enthusiasts flock to the Gyeonggi-do Province and Gangwon-do.
Which airlines are flying to South Korea?
Emirates flies direct to Seoul from Dubai and Etihad Airways operates the same route from Abu Dhabi. Flight times are a little more than eight hours to South Korea, and around 10 hours on the return trip. Korean Air also flies between South Korea and the UAE, with flights to both Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
What can you see and do in South Korea?
South Korea fascinates with something for everyone including an intriguing history, fantastic food, a wonderful culture and first-rate tourism attractions. Visit grand palaces such as Seoul’s Changdeokgung Palace built by the Joseon Dynasty, explore ancient history in Jeonju or soak up the culture in the country’s Hanok villages,
Tourists can also hit the beach at Busan, South Korea’s second largest city or climb to the top of N Seoul Tower, the capital’s iconic observation tower. For those interested in history, a visit to no-mans land allows you to see part of a military border between two opposed countries.