South Korea opens to EU and Schengen Area travellers

South Korea has lifted entry restrictions on people from EU and Schengen Area countries. The majority of inbound medical tourists are however from China, Russia and Asian countries where the borders are not yet open. While the new rules may help, the number of medical tourists will remain low.

A visa-waiver and visa free entry programme on these countries resumed from September 1. Travellers from visa-waiver agreement countries must also sign up for the Korea Electronic Travel Authorisation (K-ETA) to visit the country without a visa.

Countries with an open visa-waiver agreement include:

  • 24 EU countries: Greece, The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Latvia, Romania, Luxemburg, Lithuania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cypress, Sweden, Spain, Slovakia, Estonia, Austria, Italy, Czech Republic, Croatia, Portugal, Poland, France, Finland, Hungary.
  • 4 Schengen countries: Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland.

For K-ETA, people must register at least 24 hours prior to boarding, there is a KRW10,000 (US$8.64), and it is valid for two years, with multiple entry allowed.

All those who enter South Korea by sea or air, regardless of nationality, must provide a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure. All are again tested on arrival and again on day 6 or 7.

Only those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can apply for a quarantine exemption that allows them to bypass quarantine when entering South Korea.

Quarantine is mandatory if people do not have a quarantine exemption. Korean nationals and long-term foreign visitors with an Alien Registration Card and Korean residence may self-quarantine at home for 14 days. All other foreign short-term travellers must quarantine at a government-designated facility for 14 days. Individuals are required to pay a daily charge of 120,000KRW (US$103) while in government quarantine facilities.

Most medical tourists go to Seoul, South Korea’s capital and seek cosmetic or cosmetic dental surgery at very low prices.