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Currency and Cost of Living

South Korea - Currency and Cost of Living

The currency of South Korea is the won (₩). As of November 2007, the exchange rate was approximately US$1:KRW910. Thus a single won is worth approximately 1/9th of one US cent. The simplest method of calculating exchange on the run is to divide by 1000 for US$ and then adding 10%. The largest bill currently in circulation is W10,000 (roughly US$10), which makes carrying around large sums of currency a bit of a chore. 100,000 won "checks" are frequently used, and some of the checks go up to 10,000,000 won in value. These checks are privately produced (by banks, etc.) which can be used as "c-notes".

A new series of notes was released in 2006/2007, so expect to see several versions floating around, and be prepared for hassles with vending machines which may not accept the new or old versions.

ATM are ubiquitous, but most Korean ATMs don't accept foreign cards, only special Global ATMs do. These can be found at airports and some subway stations in major cities, as well as in many Family Mart convenience stores, so stock up before heading to the countryside. Credit card acceptance, on the other hand, is very good, and all but the very cheapest restaurants and motels will take Visa and Mastercard. (It is illegal to refuse credit cards unless it's a very small shop)

Cost of living

Korea is fairly expensive for an Asian country, if still notably cheaper than Japan. A frugal backpacker willing to eat, live and travel Korean-style can squeeze by on under W60,000 per day, but if you want top-class hotels and Western food even W200,000/day will not suffice.


Tipping is not necessary anywhere in Korea, except maybe bellhops in high-end hotels. Tipping is not the norm, and is a foreign concept.

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