This is the 4th of my South Korea blog series. Check the others here: Our itinerary for South Korea , CHEAP WINTER CLOTHES AND ACCESSORIES IN THE PHILIPPINES | Tips and other stuff and
Anyway, this is covering the basics and other tips for your trip to South Korea.
First things first: MONEY! If you didn’t already know, Korea’s currency is the Korean Won (/wʌn/; Korean: 원; symbol: ₩; code: KRW). Exchange rates change daily of course so better google that. When we were there, the rates were around Php 0.046-0.048 to ₩1 or US$0.93-0.96 to ₩1000.
There are many ways to get their currency and I will talk about 2 of those.
Money Exchange Counters
First would be exchanging your local currency to Won in your home country. Philippine peso is usually “weak” in other countries (as I would assume is because the demand isn’t high) so if you are a Filipino and is planning on having your Pesos exchanged to Won, I think (personally, for me lang ha?) better do so in the Philippines. Just look for a currency exchange counter with good rates. I can’t recommend one because I didn’t try it and the one my friend tried didn’t have good rates.
Withdrawing money from ATMs
Second would be the one I always do: withdraw money from ATMs abroad. My ATM card is a local one so I have to call the bank and activate its international access. Then I looked for an ATM with the Cirrus logo (since my bank is an affiliate). Here’s the thing: it’s not that easy withdrawing money using an international card in Korea. I had to look for an ATM with the Cirrus logo AND the “Global” ATM sign. Anyway, there are a few in Incheon Airport but they’re in the departure hall and not in the arrival hall something we didn’t realize til the day we had to go back to the Philippines.
Anyway, I still recommend doing this. I got a really good rate since banks usually have “wholesale” rates and the fees were better than I expected. I was told by the bank’s CSR that the fee is usually Php200 or 2% whichever is higher but I was surprised to see that they only charged Php 25 for Balance Inquiry and Php50 for the withdrawal transaction. My bank is BPI, if you wanted to know.
TIP: If you are already in Seoul and need to withdraw money using a foreign card, there’s a Citibank with Global ATMs. It’s where I withdrew money hehe
Here’s another tip: Try not to exchange your peso to USD then change USD to Won. You’ll be losing money every time you change currencies. However, if you know someone who has USD (like an OFW) then maybe you can ask them instead. It’s a win-win situation since both of you will be getting better rates.
Sometimes when paying with a credit card, the store might let you choose which currency to charge your card with. Always choose to pay in that country’s currency. If in South Korea, choose Won; in Hongkong, choose HKD, so on and so forth. As I mentioned, banks usually have better rates so NEVER choose to have the amount converted by the store in your currency.
I also heard people trading currency on the black market but I haven’t tried it and maybe it’s borderline illegal??? IDK.
Of course getting connected is very important. We need it to know our way around. There are a few options: renting a wifi egg or buying a sim card. If you have an unlocked phone, one that accepts any sim card, then you might consider buying a local sim card. There are websites where you can buy one and have it picked up at the airport. Here’s a blog that provides more information on that.
Eventually, we chose to rent a Wifi Egg/ Mobile broadband/Mobile Wifi/ etc. Since we were supposed to arrive at 11PM, we needed to look for one that had a pick up station other than the airport. (They charge day by day so keep that in mind. If we picked one up at 11pm we would have been charged another day for that.)
We rented one with Trazy that cost us $3 a day and we had it for 8 days bringing the fee to a total of $24. Renting it through their website was easy. I just had to choose which pick up location I prefer, when I’ll be picking it up and wrote in how many days I will rent it for. After that, I paid via Paypal. Picking it up was also easy as the confirmation email from Trazy included the complete address and a map of the office where I had to pick it up.
There was actually a problem because I counted the dates wrong so I had to pay for another day. I initially thought it would only be 7 days but it was actually supposed to be 8. The teller was able to explain the situation well and told us we can just pay the additional day when we return it in any of their stations. (Side note: they were all so professional, polite and courteous. I loved it.)
To make it more convenient for us, Trazy sent us an email about this and sent a payment request via Paypal. So I just sent them $3 more via Paypal’s app and that was it. I needn’t pay at the airport.
You can also reach them using KakaoTalk which (I did when I had no idea which Kiosk to return the wifi egg to) makes it really convenient especially when you have queries about their products. (This is not sponsored, I wish it was but it’s not LOL)
I will write more about these apps/websites but for now, I will say I do recommend them.
If you are planning on buying a sim card, renting a portable Wifi or booking an activity with Klook, you can use my invitation link so you can get ₱161.20 as soon as you sign up. (None of these are sponsored BTW. These are just their regular promos.)
Keep in mind to read the conditions like how much data you can use every day before getting capped and what the capped speed is. Also, consider the coverage of the telcom’s service especially if you are going to the countryside.
So to summarize, when it came to getting the local currency (Won) , I chose to withdraw in Korea using my local ATM card. For internet, we rented a Portable Wifi for 8 days from Trazy.
Next entry would be about transportation!
Have a wonderful day!