Flying into Incheon Airport? Get your Korean won from an ATM or a money changer at the Arrivals Hall. Also book this private airport transfer for a safe journey to Seoul!
- Get your Korean Won from any ATM or money changer in South Korea. You will almost always get a better exchange rate if you do.
- Withdrawing from a global ATM is the most convenient way of getting your Korean Won (KRW or 원).
- You can also go to a currency exchange, which are found inside the airport and in popular tourist spots like Myeongdong, Gangnam, Hongdae, or Itaewon.
- Card acceptance is high! You may use your foreign-issued credit or debit cards in local establishments.
- Finally, if you haven’t booked a SIM card for your trip yet, you can do so here.
Get to Know South Korea’s Currency
Getting Cash from ATM in South Korea
Getting your Korean won (원) from ATMs in South Korea is your best bet for two reasons: convenience and competitive rates.
You will easily spot an ATM when you walk towards the Customs gate in Incheon International Airport. The machine accepts foreign-issued cards and can operate in English.
If you run out of cash in the middle of your trip, you can easily find an ATM in a subway station or some convenience stores like 7-Eleven or CU. Just look for the ‘Global ATM’ sign and your card’s logo before making the transaction.
You can also withdraw your Korean Won from cash machines operated by Korea Exchange Bank, Shinhan Bank, Citibank, Hana Bank, and Woori Bank. Most are available to use 24/7, but do note that some ATMs in Korea stop servicing after midnight.
‘Error Message’ from Korean ATM
Some might get an error message while trying to withdraw money from a Global ATM in Korea. In this rare occasion, just try another machine. (This happened to me once, and I had to try three ATMs).
If you still get the same ATM error message, worry not and call your bank’s 24/7 hotline. Fixes or authorizations should happen in less than an hour.
As a general rule, if you’re unsure whether your card’s activated for international use, call or visit your branch ahead of your Korea trip to have your card activated.
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Currency Exchange in South Korea
The second best way to get Korean Won is by going to a money changer. You will find bank booths offering foreign currency exchange services in the airport and downtown Seoul.
If you’ll be coming from Incheon International Airport, you will find the following money changers:
- Shinhan Bank in B1/F – Transportation Center
- KEB Hana Bank in B1/F – Passenger Terminal West
- Woori Bank in B1/F – Passenger Terminal East.
If you’re entering via Gimpo International Airport, you will see a Shinhan Bank and a Woori Bank in the Domestic Terminal 1/F.
Most money changers in Korea officially follow the standard 9am-4pm business hours, though you might find some of them open 24/7 to accommodate travelers arriving in the wee hours of the night, i.e. Woori Bank near the Arrivals area in Incheon International Airport.
You will not have a hard time converting your local money in the airport. Simply prepare your passport and cash, and you’ll have your Korean Won in no time.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to exchange all your money in Incheon International Airport, there are also several FOREX stations found in Myeongdong (near Chinese Embassy), Dongdaemun, and Itaewon (Some bank outlets can be found right outside the areas’ respective subway stations). These money changers can easily be spotted in these touristy places, so you need not worry about finding one online. (They usually bear the No Commission or Best Price sign.)
Based on experience, I can say that transacting with standalone money changers in Korea is very convenient. Most of them are open from 8am through 8pm, though some operate 24/7 too to cater to late-night shoppers. Furthermore, some would not require you to present your passport, which makes transactions faster (and hassle-free if you actually forgot to bring yours while touring!).
Bringing in Some Korean Won
If you feel the need to have some KRW in your pocket even before flying to Korea, that’s understandable. Just make sure to reserve ahead from your bank, trusted money changers, or business service centers.
If you’ll go this route, I would suggest to get an amount somewhere around ₩40,000 (around ₱1,900 or $37). This should be enough to get you an all-stop train ticket and an unlimited data SIM card. Convert the rest of your pocket money in South Korea to get more value.
If you’ll bring in bank notes and traveler’s cheque worth at least $10,000 (around ₱500,000), you are required to make a customs declaration.
Credit & Debit Card Acceptance in Korea
Going cashless? Major establishments like hotels, supermarkets, retail outlets, malls, CVS, and restaurants accept credit and debit cards. Visa, Mastercard, and AMEX are widely accepted in Korea, as well as cards bearing the Plus and Cirrus Logos.
When in doubt, always check with the clerk if you can pay by card.
Korea Trip Essentials to Book
Travel smart! Aside from knowing how to convert your money to Korean won, also consider getting the following essentials:
- [Transport] Incheon Airport Private Pick-Up Service
- [Travel Service] SAFEX Luggage Delivery Service
- [Travel Service] Luggage Storage