Local Currency in South Korea

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Money and Currency in South Korea

The currency of South Korea is the won (₩), written 원 in hangul. As of September 2012, the exchange rate was approximately 1120 won to the US dollar.

Coins come in denominations of ₩10, ₩50, ₩100 and ₩500, while banknotes come in denominations of ₩1000 (blue), ₩5000 (red), ₩10,000 (green) and ₩50,000 (yellow). ₩1 and ₩5 coins, while they exist, are very rare. The largest bill currently in circulation is only ₩50,000 (US$45, €27) and somewhat uncommon in ATMs, which makes carrying around large sums of currency a bit of a chore. ₩100,000 "cheques" are frequently used, and some of the cheques go up to ₩10,000,000 in value. These cheques are privately produced (by banks, etc.) which can be used as "c-notes".

ATM are ubiquitous, but most Korean ATMs don't accept foreign cards, only Citibank ATMs and special Global ATMs do. These can be found at airports in some areas frequented by foreigners in major cities, including Hongdae, some subway stations, and in many Family Mart convenience stores. Sometimes however even the Global ATMs may not accept your foreign card so it's wise to have a second source of money for those times. Be sure to stock up on cash before heading to the countryside, and if you plan on staying in Korea for a longer time, you'll probably want to set up a local account at eg. Woori Bank, which can then be used at the bank's ATMs throughout the country (even some non-local accounts can do this- for example, Woori Bank accounts set up in China come with an ATM card that can be used with all its ATMs in Korea).

Credit card acceptance, on the other hand, is very good, and all but the very cheapest restaurants and motels will take Visa and Mastercard.

Costs

Korea is fairly expensive compared to most Asian countries, but is a little cheaper compared to other modern developed countries such as Japan and most Western countries. A frugal backpacker who enjoys eating, living and traveling Korean-style can easily squeeze by on under ₩60,000 per day, but if you want top-class hotels and Western food even ₩200,000/day will not suffice. Seoul has been particularly expensive in recent years, by some measures even more so than Tokyo, but the current financial crisis has caused a big decline for the Won against the U.S. Dollar and Yen, making South Korea considerably less expensive for Western and Japanese tourists.

Tipping

As a rule, tipping is not necessary anywhere in Korea, and is not practised by locals, although bellhops, hotel maids, taxi drivers and bars frequented by Westerners will not reject any tips you care to hand out.

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