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Do I need cash in Korea?


In recent years, South Korea has become a popular destination for tourists from all over the world. However, with the rise of electronic payments and credit cards, it’s natural to wonder whether cash is still necessary when traveling to Korea. In this article, we’ll explore the question of whether you need cash in Korea and examine the most common payment methods available.

Using Cash in Korea

While it’s true that electronic payments have become more popular in Korea, cash is still widely used. Many small businesses and street vendors prefer cash payments, and some places such as traditional markets and street food stalls may not accept credit cards. Additionally, taxis and public transportation tend to only accept cash payments.

Currency Exchange

If you’re planning to use cash while in Korea, it’s important to know where and how to exchange your currency. Most banks and airport currency exchange booths offer competitive rates, while hotels and convenience stores may offer less favorable rates. It’s also worth noting that many ATMs in Korea only accept local bank cards or international cards with specific agreements.

Using Credit Cards in Korea

Credit cards are widely accepted in Korea, especially at larger businesses such as department stores and restaurants. Visa and Mastercard are the most commonly accepted cards, while American Express and Discover may have more limited acceptance. It’s also worth noting that some businesses may charge an additional fee for credit card transactions.

Using Debit Cards in Korea

Debit cards linked to international networks such as Plus or Cirrus are generally accepted at most ATMs in Korea. However, it’s important to check with your bank to ensure that your card will work abroad and to verify any associated fees.

Mobile Payment Options

Mobile payment options such as Samsung Pay and Apple Pay have become increasingly popular in Korea. These options allow for easy and secure payments using a smartphone, and are widely accepted at many retailers and restaurants.

Transportation Costs

While cash is necessary for taxis and some public transportation such as buses, the Seoul Metro system accepts T-money cards. These rechargeable cards can be used on buses and subways, making it easy to get around without carrying cash.

Tipping in Korea

Tipping is not customary in Korea, and leaving a tip may even be seen as rude. Instead, it’s common to round up the bill or offer a small gift as a token of appreciation.

Shopping in Korea

Many businesses in Korea offer tax refunds for purchases made by foreign visitors. To take advantage of this, make sure to bring your passport with you when shopping and ask for a tax refund receipt. You can then claim your refund at the airport before departing.

Emergency Cash in Korea

In case of emergency, it may be helpful to have some cash on hand. ATMs may be unavailable during power outages or other unforeseen circumstances, so having a small amount of local currency can be useful.


While electronic payment methods are becoming more popular in Korea, cash is still widely used and may be necessary in certain situations. It’s important to plan ahead and research the best payment methods for your needs before traveling to Korea. With careful planning, you can enjoy all that Korea has to offer without worrying about payment options.

Should I take cash to Korea?

Korea has low crime rates, but it’s still important to be cautious. Carrying extra cash is typically safer than it is in one’s own country. Major hotels, department stores, and upscale restaurants usually accept credit cards, but they should not be solely relied upon.

Is it better to use cash or card in Korea?

Although card payments are widely accepted, some merchants won’t accept cards for purchases under ₩10,000. Also, only some ATMs will accept foreign credit/debit cards.So it’s handy to have cash on you at all times to avoid a sticky situation.

How much cash should I have in Korea?

It is advisable to carry at least 200 dollars in cash as a precautionary measure or to use for purchases at places that do not accept cards as payment or in case of emergencies. Although most businesses accept cards, street vendors and small markets may only accept cash payments.

Is cash used a lot in Korea?

There are a lot of stores and business establishments that accept card in Korea. However, some merchants still prefer to use cash. This is actually one of things that I wish I knew when I first came to Korea. Specially if you are planning to go to countryside and other provinces, make sure to bring cash with you.

Is $100 usd a lot in Korea?

From my personal experience in Itaewon, I found that it is more costly than other areas of Seoul, and bargaining is necessary. However, a budget of US$100 per day should be sufficient.

How much cash do I need for 2 weeks in Korea?

Your budget for a 10-day solo trip to South Korea will depend on your travel preferences, but a mid-range option would be around $65USD per day. However, if you are willing to stay in inexpensive hostels, explore free activities in Seoul, and try local cuisine, you could potentially bring your daily expenses down to $40USD.

Language Barrier

One thing to keep in mind when using cash or other payment methods in Korea is the language barrier. While many businesses and shops may have English signage or menus, not all employees may be able to speak English. It can be helpful to learn some basic Korean phrases for transactions, or carry a translation app on your phone to help communicate with locals.

Safety Tips

As with any destination, it’s important to take precautions when carrying cash in Korea. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash on your person, and consider using a money belt or hidden pouch to keep your money safe. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid flashing cash in public areas.

Online Shopping

If you plan on doing any online shopping while in Korea, be aware that some websites may only accept local credit cards or require a Korean address for delivery. Consider using a virtual credit card or a third-party payment service like PayPal to make online purchases.

Exchange Rates

Exchange rates can fluctuate daily, so it’s important to keep an eye on the rate when exchanging currency. While it may be tempting to exchange money at the airport or a hotel for convenience, these locations may have less favorable rates than banks or currency exchange booths in the city.

Budgeting for Your Trip

Before traveling to Korea, it’s important to budget for your trip and consider all expenses including transportation, accommodations, food, and activities. Researching prices ahead of time can help you better plan your budget and ensure you have enough cash or available credit for your trip.


In summary, while cash is still widely used in Korea, electronic payment methods are becoming more popular and accepted at many businesses. It’s important to research the best payment methods for your needs before traveling and take precautions to ensure the safety of your money. With careful planning and budgeting, you can enjoy all that Korea has to offer without worrying about payment options.

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