South Korea : Safety by City
South Korea, officially known as the Republic of Korea is a country located in East Asia. South Korea occupies the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, sharing borders with North Korea, obviously to the north, China across the sea to the west and Japan a short ferry ride to the southeast.
Seoul, South Korea’s capital and the powerhouse of Asia’s third-largest economy, is an attraction all by itself! This city that never sleeps is a heaven for those yearning to experience some adventure in contemporary Asian surroundings: on every corner you can find flawlessly reconstructed palaces that stand side by side with glowing night markets and latest technological wonders.
But South Korea isn’t just about exciting night life and breathtaking technologies. Since it’s not too large of a country, serenity can be found just around the corner from the urban noise. Just next to the densely forested national parks, you can found mountains that turn into amazing ski centers in winter. You can also go sailing to remote islands, go farming and fishing with the folk people and relax in tranquil villages surrounded by rice fields.
Warnings & Dangers in South Korea
OVERALL RISK : LOW
South Korea is overall, very safe and you will probably encounter no problems when traveling there. Still, do not let your guard down and be vigilant at all times.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
Tourists are exposed to risk whenever crossing the street, since in South Korea risky behavior is common when it comes to traffic. The Republic of Korea has one of the highest rates of traffic deaths for a developed country. Check the road twice before crossing the street. Also, watch out for taxi drivers trying to overcharge you: it is recommended to refrain from using unofficial taxes.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
Since South Korea is a somewhat popular tourist destination, it is expected that pickpockets operate in the larger cities. Petty theft is the most common form of crime in South Korea, but following basic precaution rules should take care of this issue.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : HIGH
When it comes to natural disasters, South Korea has had history with earthquakes, but most of them caused little damage. Another issue when it comes to natural disasters are typhoons that may occur in August and September, as well as tsunamis.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
South Korea is safe when it comes to mugging or kidnapping, though precaution is still advised. Avoid poorly lit streets and areas, and people offering you free drinks.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
Even though there haven't been any terrorist attacks in South Korea's recent history, there is a heightened tension between South and North Korea, so precaution is recommended.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
There is a risk of someone scamming you in South Korea, since there are a lot of scammers and con artists on the streets of this country. The most notable among them is the Teahouse scam with girls saying to tourists that they want to practice conversing in English, which usually ends in a teahouse with a huge bill. Other forms of scams are mostly overcharging in cafes and restaurants, with a separate menu just for tourists.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
South Korea is a safe destination for women traveling solo, but it is still advised that unaccompanied women take extra precaution measures, avoid poorly lit and secluded areas, etc.
So... How Safe Is South Korea Really?
South Korea is a very safe country to visit. Its crime rates are much lower than in the US and on par with most European countries, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. This mostly means that, for tourists and anyone else, it is perfectly safe to walk around at night, even in the larger cities. Violent crime is also rare. Only foreigners and tourists looking for trouble could end up in one, and this usually applies to drunker or intoxicated visitors, provoking fights in bars. However, if you do find yourself in a situation concerning anything police can help you with, they are mostly at every corner, and even though they don’t speak English, they have interpreters on-call that can help you.
Another issue in Korea is the problems that Korean motorists cause to its traffic. They sometimes speed through pedestrian crossings, go through red lights and have no problem passing within a hair-width distance from pedestrians and other cars. Traffic lights do not mean much to these drivers, so be careful when crossing the street as you never know where they can jump out from. Generally, the streets of South Korea and their traffic culture is not too safe, and it is safer to use underground passageways.
Also, keep in mind that even though an armistice was established between North and South Korea in the 1950’s, these two countries are, officially, still at war. In the light of recent events that made the tension between them very high, there is general fear that a new war might result in tragic consequences and casualties, so by all means get informed on current events in the region before traveling there.
- Visas - Regulations and conditions concerning visa and entry into the state of South Korea regularly change, so it is best to get informed at the moment of planning a trip to this country. Foreigners are finger-printed upon arrival in the Republic of Korea. Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your intended date of departure from South Korea. If you are not sure about your visa status, visit www.doyouneedvisa.com which will let you know whether or not you need visa based on your nationality and the country you want to visit.
- Currency - South Korean Won is the official currency of South Korea. It may not be the best idea to exchange money in the street exchange offices. Your best bet when exchanging money is either an official bank office or withdrawing money from an ATM.
- Weather - South Korea has a temperate climate characterized by four distinct seasons. Winters are usually long, cold and dry, summers are very short and hot, with lots of humidity, and spring is actually the most pleasant time to visit South Korea. Autumn is also pleasant but like spring and summer, short in duration.
- Airports - Incheon International Airport is the largest airport in South Korea and also one of the largest and busiest airports in the world. It is located west of Incheon's city center, on an artificially created piece of land between Yeongjong and Yongyu Islands.
- Travel Insurance - Just like anywhere else, we recommend getting travel insurance when traveling to South Korea, since it covers not only the costs of medical problems, but also theft and loss of valuables.