Getting to Korea


One of the best things about teaching English in Korea is that you get free flights here. The only problem is that in most cases you’ll have to fork out the cash to pay for the flight upfront, and you only get refunded after a couple of weeks in Korea. So finding a well-priced flight on a good airline becomes important. One-way flights are the way to go, since the schools in Korea have a habit of refunding the full price of a one-way ticket, but only half the price of a return ticket, EVEN IF IT WAS CHEAPER than a one-way flight. Bizarre, I know.

There are a number of airlines that offer flights to Korea from South Africa. I haven’t come across any direct flights, not that I would want to sit in an airplane for that long. If you are looking for flights, take a look at the following airlines (in alphabetical order):

Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific offers regular flights from Johannesburg to Seoul, via Hong Kong. This was the airline that I used, mostly because they offered the shortest flight and were also the cheapest I could find. I found the service to be very good, with the staff at Johannesburg airport (OR Tambo, or whatever they are calling it this week) going as far as to offer me and my wife a whole row to ourselves so we could stretch out and sleep.

I have flown with them before to China, so I had a chance to add some miles to their reward programme, Asia Miles. I now have enough miles for a free return flight between Seoul and Beijing. Very cool.


Emirates flies via Dubai, and I have some friends that are big fans of this airline. Emirates also had very reasonably priced tickets, and the prices in the weeks just before I left for Korea were very good. Their return flight prices were better than any of the other airlines that I looked at.

Malaysia Airlines

I struggled to find good prices on Malaysia Airlines for flights to Korea. All I can say is that they fly via Kuala Lumpur.

South African Airlines

Like Malaysia Airlines, I struggled to find well-priced flights with SAA. My experiences in the past with SAA have not been stellar, so I wouldn’t easily fly with them again, especially not at the prices they offer.

Singapore Airlines

I would have loved to fly Singapore Airlines to Korea, since my last experience with them, on a flight between SA and Shanghai, China, was fantastic. They are a little more pricey than Cathay Pacific, so I couldn’t justify the extra cost, but I will definitely look to see if they have any specials next time I want to fly.

Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways flies to Korea via Doha. When I started looking for flights, they had some of the best priced return flights, but their one-way flights were not that great. And the flight times were all a little long. However, I have heard some really good things about this airline, so I will also check it out for a return flight to SA.

Regional travel


A lot of people who come to teach in Korea make trips to China. It’s easily accessible from here, and you can buy a lot on your earnings in Korea.

Transport options

Depending on where you want to go in China, you can fly or take a ferry. While the ferries tend to be cheaper, they take WAY longer. The average trip is about 12 hours. You can take a look at the prices and journey times here and here.

If you are like me and don’t necessarily want to spend that much time on a boat, then flying is probably the way to go. A number of airlines fly between Seoul and destinations across China, including Beijing and Shanghai. The prices on the different airlines are pretty similar, but you can get some good deals, especially if you book early. For some of the airlines, you will need to book flights through a travel agency (see below), as their English websites are bloody useless. Also, strange as it sounds, it seems the travel agencies offer better prices than booking directly through the airlines.

The following airlines offer direct flights between Korea and China:

Visas for China

South Africans (and I think most nationalities) need a tourist visa to visit China. These aren’t too hard to come by, but from what I’ve heard the Chinese embassy in Seoul no longer takes tourist visa applications directly from the public. Instead you need to work through an approved travel agency. Since I’m not working in Seoul, I don’t mind this too much. The tourist visa (a L-type visa) should cost around 50,000 won, and take four working days to process.

I sent my passport, one photo, and a copy of my ARC to Jongho at Soho Travel. I used the Korean post office – I phoned them up (well, one of my colleagues did), they collected the envelope in the afternoon and delivered it to Jongho the next day. Only cost me 4,000 won. The processing took 4 working days, and I had the passport with visa included back in my hand a week later. Very efficient, and a lot less hassle than the last time I had to get a visa for China back in Cape Town.

English-speaking Travel Agencies

Life is made much easier by having a travel agency organise parts (or the whole) of your trip to destinations close to Korea. I have found them good for arranging flight tickets, visas and sometimes accommodation, though I prefer not to go on organised tours. They freak me out. Normally I’d arrange flights and visas on my own, but I have been finding this hard going in Korea, with the airline websites not particularly user-friendly (or cheap), and visas a hassle to arrange.

Below are some of the English-speaking travel agencies that I’ve worked with or which have been recommended by other South Africans. This is not in any particular order.

Soho Travel

Contact: Jongho
Tel: 02 322 1713/4

Xanadu Travel

Tel: 02 795 7771

Shin Wha Travel Service

Contact: Sancho (Yonghun Kwon)
Tel: 02 773 5091

Local travel


One of the best local trips to do is a day visit to the DMZ. Several tours are available, but the USO tour is by far the best, and also one of the least expensive.

You can arrange to go on one of these tours by contacting the Camp Kim USO office in Seoul. The best way is to phone them. Try (02) 795 3063 or (02) 795 3028. It costs US$44 for civilians, and you’ll need to take your SA passport along when you go.


12 responses to “Travel

  1. Pingback: Will work for travel money « SafKorea - For South Africans in Korea

  2. Anybody been or going to Japan – what’s up in that line? I hope to make a turn there but must still do all the research and planning needed to make it fit my budget – this wrtit therefore just to maybe open a line of discussion in that direction in the meantime.

  3. My wife and I are also planning to go to Japan, probably on our way home next year. I’d also like to hear how other people went about this, and where they went. Any comments are welcome!

  4. Japan

    I’ve been there twice, once on a visa run and once as a tourist.

    I was planning to go in December again, but with the exchange rate now it has moved up to one of the top three most expensive places to travel to, so rethinking that at the moment.

    The most important thing to know about Japan is that South Africans need a visa to travel there. Most other nationalities (or at least those of our fellow English teachers) don’t need a visa.

    Unfortunately they are not so straight forward and easy to get as other visas.

    Firstly you need all the right documents:
    Application form
    Airplane ticket
    Proof of Accommodation
    ARC card (Korean ID)
    A letter from your school stating that you work for them
    A copy of your bankbook showing you have sufficient funds
    Money (think its around 20 000)

    Then you cannot ask any travel agent in Korea to get a Japanese visa for you. Firstly they may not according to the Embassy, you have to come in person. And secondly even if you ask an agency none of them have licenses to apply for Japanese visas for clients, since Koreans and Americans and most Nationalities don’t need visas.

    The only time you can apply for a visa at the Embassy is before 11am and you can pick it up the same day after 3pm.

    So you have two choices, you either go to the Embassy yourself during a work day or you get someone else to do it for you, giving them a letter of power of attorney.

    Once you are at the Embassy you just take a number and give your documents. But they will also ask you to fill out a form about what you will do every single day in your stay in Japan with contact numbers and the places you will stay. I don’t think it has to be too much detailed, just take the lonely planet and write a few tourist sites of where you will go.

    So to go to Japan, get your airplane ticket (or ferry ticket) and organise your accommodation (20 000 to 30 000 yen per night in backpackers) and then apply for your visa.

    Once that is all done and you’ve arrived in Japan and made it through immigration the rest is a breeze and your trip will be amazing and super easy and safe.

    Japan is one of the easiest and safest places to travel I think in the world. The transport is amazing! The people really nice and they will always help you if you just ask. They also speak more English than in Korea or China, they will not run away when you utter English sounds but reply in English and help you.

    The sights are great, the tourist not too many, the food also really good etc.

    I guess the only other down side is it can be quite expensive. If you are going for 7 or more days it would be advisable to buy a JR pass, this lets you ride almost any train as many times as you want during 7 days. These passes are very expensive (23000 yen for 7 days) and if the exchange rates are bad then it just goes up. But so are single train tickets. Train tickets are really expensive in Japan, since they have state of the art trains. So be prepared for that. Otherwise the food and accommodation is not much more than in Korea (not that Korea is cheap).

    If you have any questions about going to Japan, China or Mongolia just send me a mail

    Marie (luthien)

  5. Pingback: Back from Japan « SafKorea - For South Africans in Korea

  6. Hola Todos

    I need help. Anyone whos going to South Africa very soon?

  7. Okay this might sound like a rather blond question.

    I’m looking into booking a flight from Cape town (preferably) or Johannesburg and when I click on the above mentioned airlines to get a quote it only indicates one price.

    Now the question is it clearly indicates two planes and I’m assuming if I book as an example with Malaysia air and I fly from S.A to Kuala Lumpur and from there to Seoul. I will need to pay for both of those tickets? I’m just confused as to why wouldn’t the website include both airfares into my quote?

    If it isn’t clear yet, yes this will be my first time flying that is if I do secure a position.

  8. Hi TB

    Thanks for the great info – I am also a South African checking for flights to Korea. I will most likely book with Cathay Pacific as they are the cheapest and their service is apparently great. The flight is also pretty short.

    I have flown from Korea to SA with Malaysian Airlines and if you have the chance to avoid them, you should. Their seats weren’t so comfortable and their service was below par.

  9. hi i need help..could i secure a japanese visa here in Japanese embassy in Seoul? i’m a filipino passport holder and i’m having my vacation here in Seoul..i had already my US visa and still valid till 2019 and 2 shchengen visas already..hope with those visas i’d acquired , i could easily get a japanese visa. pls help me what to do. thanks!

  10. Charanjeet Singh

    My petition is in the favor of a common man who is going to visit or work in Dubai (or any gulf country) and gets cheated by their health authorities claiming that he is sick without any written certificate.
    When he returns to his home country and do all necessary checkups he was found perfect certified by Asia’s biggest hospital in New Delhi, India.
    This man was deported by Dubai because of their personal and outdated laws.
    Dear Brother and sisters, let’s make the CHANGE, PLEASE SIGN IN YOUR SUPPORT AT MY BELOW MENTIONED LINK.
    Thank you so much.
    With Gratitude
    Charanjeet Singh

  11. Charanjeet Singh


  12. hi!when you apply for your visa to China do you need 6 months on your ARC when you apply or from the date that you want to enter the country?

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