The currency of Seoul is the South Korean won, or won for short. The currency sign for the won is
The South Korean won comes in coins of 10, 50, 100, 500 and bills or banknotes of 1000, 5000, 10,000, 50,000.
When first arriving at the airport in South Korea and you need to get cash, you have two options, either convert your home country cash into won at the airport or use an ATM to withdraw money.
Converting your cash to Korean won in your home country is usually not a good idea. Many international banks have a small amount of Korean won to exchange or even do not carry any at all. Exchange rates could also be high, so it is better to wait.
Converting cash at Incheon International Airport may be better than at overseas bank, but it is also not a good idea. The conversion rates are usually horrible or there is a large commission fee. If you need to convert a small amount of money to be able to get to your hotel, then that should be fine, but do not convert a large amount of cash. You will feel cheated if you do.
It is generally a good idea for all travelers to bring at least $100 USD on them when they arrive in Seoul, more if you do not have credit or debt cards. Cash is essential to carry in case there are issues with your credit or debt cards.
ATMs In Seoul
The best way to get money at the airport, and all over Seoul, is by ATM. You can find ATMs in each terminal at Incheon International Airport and Gimpo International Airport and at most subway stations. ATMs in the city are safe, just use them the same way as you would at home.
Unless you have an ATM card from South Korea, you will most likely have to pay a transaction fee for using the ATM along with another fee by your bank at home. These fees are usually $3-$5 each. Each time you use an ATM, you will be charged a fee so try to pull out as much cash as you can that you think you will use. Even with ATM fees, you will be charged less than converting cash.
Always call your credit card or debit card company prior to arriving in Seoul to notify them that you will be using the card in another country. If you fail to do this, your card might be declined.
At a time, it seemed like restaurants and shops in Seoul only accepted cash. Today, credit cards are accepted almost everywhere including more and more small restaurants.
MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted. American Express is rarely accepted. To be safe, bring as many different types of credit cards as you have.
When you are ready to pay your check at a restaurant, most often you will walk to the cashier by the front door where you hand them your credit card and pay your bill. After your card is swiped, the cashier will ask for your electronic signature and then hand you a receipt. Tax and any service charge or tip are usually already included in the total bill.