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South Korea Travel Costs: How Much Money You Need

korean currency won

Visiting South Korea is generally an affordable experience. How much it costs to travel to South Korea depends on the level of luxury desired.

South Korea travel costs can vary significantly, from budget food and accommodation options to top-end hotels and restaurants.

The local currency, the South Korean won (₩) is worth around US$0.0008, which means that for each US dollar, a visitor can obtain around ₩1200.

This guide outlines the average costs of hotels, restaurants, and transport options to help visitors work out how much money they need to travel to South Korea.

How Much Does a Trip to Korea Cost?

When planning a South Korea travel budget, there are various things to take into consideration, mainly:

  • Accommodation
  • Food
  • Transport
  • Activities

Foreigners also need to consider the cost of the entry permit they require. Visitors from visa-exempt countries need to apply online for a Korean Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA). The processing fee is lower than that of a traditional South Korean visa.

After arriving in South Korea, visitors from overseas can expect to spend $50-150 per person per day to enjoy a stay with a relative level of comfort.

Some travelers will prefer to spend more than this for more luxurious accommodation and dining options, while others may choose to spend less than this on more affordable dorm rooms and typical Korean street food.

How much does it cost to stay in South Korea?

Accommodation in South Korea can range from ₩20,000 (around US$16.00) per night for a dorm bed in a budget hostel to ₩200,000 (approximately US$160.00) for a high-end hotel room.

Mid-range guesthouses can cost around ₩70000 (roughly US$57).

Average prices for accommodation are approximately as follows:

  • Hotel or hostel for one person: ₩90,000-100,000
  • Room for 2 persons: ₩180,000

The accommodation type selected has a significant impact on overall South Korea travel costs.

Is Food Expensive in South Korea?

Food in South Korea is generally affordable. The cost of eating can vary depending on whether the visitor is sampling the famous yet modestly-priced Korean street food or dining at upmarket restaurants.

On average, food for a day costs around ₩29,500 (around US$24). The range of food options and the corresponding prices can be seen in the following examples:

  • South Korean street food prices can cost ₩1000–5000 per day (approximately US$0.82-$4.00).
  • A mid-range barbequed pork meal can cost about ₩40,000 (around US$33).
  • A Royal Korean banquet at a top-end restaurant can cost around ₩80,000 (roughly US$66).

Travelers on a budget will find that in South Korea, convenience store prices tend to be reasonable, with most items being less than US$2 and many costing less than US$1.

South Korean Transport Prices

How much it costs to travel around South Korea depends on where the visitor plans to visit and the modes of transport selected.

Transport costs in South Korea depend on where the visitor plans to visit and how they prefer to travel.

Subway tickets typically cost ₩1,300 (around US$1) per journey. Bus fares are similarly priced.

Taxi fares vary by region and the size of the vehicle, but the base rate is typically between ₩2,800 and ₩6,500 (approximately US$2-5) with increments of ₩100 according to time or distance traveled.

Transport between cities can cost around ₩43,918 (approximately US$36) for a ticket.

Flight prices to South Korea can vary depending on the country of origin, airline, and whether the passenger chooses to fly first class or economy.

Cost of Tourist Activities in South Korea

Travelers with a lower budget can make the most of free or inexpensive tourist attractions and activities in Seoul and other areas of the country.

Some of the country’s museums and important buildings offer entry free of charge. This includes the National Museum of Korea and the Seoul Museum of History (fees apply for certain exhibitions).

Visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace, on the other hand, costs ₩3000 (about US$2.50) to visit.

Other activities, such as a scrub and massage at a jjimjilbang (luxury sauna) can cost around ₩60,000 (US$50).

Do You Need Cash in South Korea?

Many businesses in South Korea accept credit and debit cards.

However, various places, particularly market stalls, small restaurants, and low-cost accommodation may not have the facility to conduct transactions via card and will only accept cash.

It is recommendable that international travelers keep some ₩10,000 notes on their person at all times to be on the safe side.

Withdrawing cash is generally not a problem. ATMs that accept foreign credit and debit cards are widespread in South Korea. Overseas visitors should look for ATMs that have the logo of their card company or the “Global “sign”.

Banks, particularly in big South Korean cities, can also exchange currency for foreign travelers.

Tipping in South Korea

Leaving a tip is not expected in South Korea as a rule. In fact, the staff at certain establishments may refuse to accept a tip if one is offered.

High-end hotel restaurants may add a service charge and tips for hotel staff are generally only given in the most luxurious hotels.

Even in these cases, travelers are not obliged to tip. This can help reduce South Korea vacation costs compared to visiting other countries where tips are expected. If they feel the service was good, they may tip however much they see fit.

How to Minimize South Korea Vacation Costs

Travelers can take the following steps to limit how much they spend on a trip to South Korea:

  • Travel out of peak season—when deciding the time of year to visit South Korea, choosing a month less popular amongst tourists can help save on accommodation costs.
  • Make an itinerary—this can help reduce unnecessary transport costs by planning to visit places close to each other on the same days. Planning where to eat is also a good idea to get the best value meals.
  • Shop at markets—visitors can haggle at South Korean markets to get the best prices for souvenirs and other goods
  • Take advantage of free activities—some of the country’s museums and important buildings, such as the National Museum of Korea, have free entry

In general, research and planning ahead can help travelers avoid unexpected expenses and reduce how much they spend on their South Korea vacation.

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The Best Ways to Fly to South Korea With Points and Miles [Step-by-Step]

South Korea

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South Korea is a small peninsula that’s full of fantastic culture, delicious street food, and beautiful nature.

A dense country, South Korea is known for K-pop, Korean barbecue, economic growth, and legendary gamers. If South Korea is not already on your bucket list, be sure to add this amazing country right to the top!

In this guide, we’ll be diving into the best ways to fly to Korea with points and miles. There are 7 airlines that fly nonstop to South Korea from North America, including 6 from the U.S.

With so many options, it’s important to focus on the best value for your points.

Since South Korea is such an accessible country from North America, we’ll talk about nonstop flight options only. Let’s get to it!

Table of contents

Table of Contents

Nonstop Flights Between the U.S. and South Korea

South Korea is the second-closest Asian country to America, behind only Japan. Furthermore, South Korea represents an important business hub for many Americans. Luckily, there are many ways to fly to South Korea with points and miles.

Generally speaking, award availability on Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, the 2 largest airlines headquartered in South Korea, is generous both with far-in-advance and close-in booking.

We’re going to be analyzing other nonstop options, too, including Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines, and even Hawaiian Airlines. Award availability on these U.S. airlines is difficult to come by, but is not impossible, especially when booking near your departure date.

All 3 of the main alliances are represented in this guide: Star Alliance, Oneworld, and SkyTeam. There’s going to be more representation from Star Alliance and SkyTeam, due to the fact that Asiana is a member of Star Alliance and Korean Air is a member of SkyTeam.

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Check out all of the airlines offering nonstop flights between the U.S. and Incheon International Airport (ICN) in Seoul, South Korea:

American Airlines

  • Dallas (DFW) – Seoul (ICN)

Asiana Airlines

  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Seoul (ICN)
  • Honolulu (HNL) – Seoul (ICN)
  • New York (JFK) – Seoul (ICN)
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Seoul (ICN)
  • Seattle (SEA) – Seoul (ICN)

Delta Air Lines

  • Atlanta (ATL) – Seoul (ICN)
  • Detroit (DTW) – Seoul (ICN)
  • Minneapolis (MSP) – Seoul (ICN)
  • Portland (PDX) – Seoul (ICN)
  • Seattle (SEA) – Seoul (ICN)

Hawaiian Airlines

  • Honolulu (HNL) – Seoul (ICN)

Korean Air

  • Atlanta (ATL) – Seoul (ICN)
  • Boston (BOS) – Seoul (ICN)
  • Chicago (ORD) – Seoul (ICN)
  • Honolulu (HNL) – Seoul (ICN)
  • Las Vegas (LAS) – Seoul (ICN)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Seoul (ICN)
  • New York (JFK) – Seoul (ICN)
  • Seattle (SEA) – Seoul (ICN)
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Seoul (ICN)
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Seoul (ICN)

United Airlines

  • San Francisco (SFO) – Seoul (ICN)

Best Programs for Booking Flights to South Korea

Now that we’re familiar with the nonstop routes available, let’s get down to the analysis.

4 major U.S. airlines have at least 1 nonstop flight to Korea, while the 2 major Korean airlines both offer plenty of nonstop routes!

All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club

Asiana Airlines business class

Enjoy Asiana Airlines business class’ “honeymoon” seats! Image Credit: Stephen Au

It’s no secret that ANA Mileage Club is arguably the best frequent flyer program in the world. The plentiful airline partners, stellar redemption rates, and awesome open-jaw/stopover allowances make this our first place winner.

With ANA, you have the option to fly Asiana or United to South Korea. While both of these options are great, you’ll generally want to stick with Asiana due to its superior soft product. That’s because United has chosen to offer its inferior 787-9 aircraft with seats in a 2-2-2 setup. These seats don’t have direct aisle access at every seat and are generally not as spacious as Asiana’s product.

Asiana Airlines flies from a variety of different cities. Its best business class product is known as Smartium, which we recommend choosing if it’s available.

While there are some restrictions with using ANA miles, it may be worth it if you can get the best deals. ANA doesn’t allow one-way redemptions and it generally passes on fuel surcharges. However, its round-trip award prices are phenomenal, particularly in economy and business class.

That being said, ANA employs 2 separate award charts:

In our case, we’re going to be looking primarily at award chart number 1, since Asiana and United are ANA partners. Here’s how much ANA charges for round-trip flights between the U.S. and South Korea on airline partners:

Cabin ClassANA Mileage CostTaxes & Fees
Economy60,000~$397
Business95,000
First180,000

The value of ANA miles is optimized primarily with business class redemptions. A lot of the value in economy class is diminished by the cost of taxes and fees.

Hot Tip: Want to get a better idea of taxes and fees? Check out our guide to airline fuel surcharges.

Here are some examples of routes you can take:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Seoul (ICN) round-trip for 95,000 ANA miles + ~$397 in taxes and fees for Asiana Smartium business class
  • New York (JFK) – Seoul (ICN) round-trip for 95,000 ANA miles + ~$397 in taxes and fees for Asiana Smartium business class
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Seoul (ICN) round-trip for 95,000 ANA miles + ~$397 in taxes and fees for Asiana Smartium business class

Your only nonstop option flying on United to Korea is the San Francisco (SFO) – Seoul (ICN) service.

ANA’s website enables award bookings to be completed online. Follow these steps to do so:

  1. Go to ANA’s website.
  2. Click ANA Mileage Club on the top-right side of the homepage.
  3. Click International then Award Reservation. Log in with your ANA Mileage Club number and password.
  4. Type in the desired cities, dates of travel, number of passengers, and cabin class. After that information is filled out, click Search.
    • ANA transfer times are not instant. Be sure to account for this when booking award flights.
  5. Finish your booking by paying for any taxes and fees.

Earning ANA Mileage Club Miles

Amex is a 1:1 transfer partner with ANA and is one of the easiest ways to earn a lot of ANA miles. Keep in mind that transfers aren’t instant, as it typically takes 2 to 3 business days for transfers to execute.

Marriott Bonvoy transfers at a 3:1 ratio in up to 7 business days. You’ll also receive an additional 5,000 ANA miles for every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points transferred, which brings your total up to 25,000 ANA miles.

Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)

Recommended Amex Cards (Business)

Bottom Line: There are a ton of ways to use ANA miles for loads of value. The best sweet spot, in our opinion, is business class redemptions. You can book round-trip business class on any partner for 95,000 ANA miles and ~$300 in taxes and fees. There are 2 transfer partners in Amex and Marriott Bonvoy, making it easy to earn ANA miles.

Emirates Skywards

Korean Air Business Class

With direct aisle access and a lie-flat bed, you can rest peacefully when flying business class on Korean Air. Image Credit: Korean Air

The following award redemption method is one that’s not well known, but extremely effective. If you want to book Korean Air business class and have a ton of flexibility, but you don’t have a lot of Marriott Bonvoy points, utilizing Emirates can be your saving grace.

Korean Air and Emirates are partners, which means that you can use Emirates Skywards miles to book flights on Korean Air.

In addition to Emirates being known for offering a phenomenal first class product, its frequent flyer program actually has a few niche partnerships like with Korean Air and JetBlue. If you want to fly to South Korea, Emirates Skywards can offer a great redemption opportunity.

Currently, Emirates Skywards charges these prices for one-way flights between North America and Korea aboard Korean Air:

One-Way Flight Distance (Miles)Economy ClassBusiness ClassTaxes & Fees
0 to 2508,00016,000~$92 to $185
251 to 50010,00020,000
501 to 1,00014,00028,000
1,001 to 2,00020,00040,000
2,001 to 3,00026,00052,000
3,001 to ,00032,00064,000
4,001 to 5,00038,00076,000
5,001 to 6,00044,00088,000
6,001 to 7,00052,000104,000
7,001 to 15,00060,000120,000

For travel on Korean Air, this is one of the ways to attain business class awards using miles that can be earned in many ways, as long as you’re open to paying for fuel surcharges.

Hot Tip: Need some ideas of cities to fly out of with Korean Air? Check out our definitive guide to Korean Air U.S. routes.

The best way to book this type of award flight is to search availability on Delta Air Lines and call Emirates to confirm the booking:

  1. Visit the Delta website.
  2. On the top banner, fill in the search box and find partner-level availability on Korean Air.
  3. Call Emirates Skywards at 800-777-3999 and feed the flight information to the representative.
  4. Complete the award booking by providing your credit card information to pay for taxes and fees and pay the appropriate mileage cost.

Here are some examples of routes you can take:

  • Boston (BOS) – Seoul (ICN) one-way for 104,000 Emirates miles and $92 in taxes and fees for Korean Air business class
  • Chicago (ORD) – Seoul (ICN) one-way for 88,000 Emirates miles and $92 in taxes and fees for Korean Air business class
  • Honolulu (HNL) – Seoul (ICN) one-way for 76,000 Emirates miles and $92 in taxes and fees for Korean Air business class
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Seoul (ICN) one-way for 88,000 Emirates miles and $92 in taxes and fees for Korean Air business class
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD) – Seoul (ICN) one-way for 104,000 Emirates miles and $92 in taxes and fees for Korean Air business class

Earning Emirates Skywards Miles

This is a crucial strength for booking Korean Air awards. Korean Air is transfer partners with only Marriott Bonvoy, so the ability to earn Emirates miles further boosts the strength of this redemption.

Amex, Chase, Citi, and Brex are 1:1 transfer partners, while Capital One is a 2:1 transfer partner. Transfers are typically instant.

Marriott Bonvoy is a 3:1 transfer partner. Transfers typically usually take around 3 days. For every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points you transfer to Emirates, you’ll receive 20,000 Emirates miles plus a 5,000-mile bonus.

American Express and Capital One have both been known to offer transfer bonuses, so be sure to hold out for those to make your points go further.

Recommended Chase Cards

Etihad Guest

American Airlines 787-9 Flagship Business Class rear cabin view

American Airlines 787-9 Flagship business class rear cabin view. Image Credit: Stephen Au

Etihad Guest is yet another unexpected frequent flyer program for flights to South Korea. And while Etihad isn’t in any alliance, it partners with American Airlines.

Etihad Guest’s award chart for American Airlines is better than American Airlines’ own award chart. Round-trip economy tickets cost 50,000 miles, while business class tickets cost 100,000 miles. One-way tickets are half the cost.

If 50,000 miles for a one-way business class flight sounds good to you, you’ll be pleased to find out it gets even better. American Airlines operates the 787-9 Dreamliner, which is a great product.

Unfortunately, it only operates 1 route to Korea:

Award availability is difficult to find, but those who want to fly on American Airlines and save a bundle on points may be willing to put in the extra effort to get this outsized value.

Here’s the process you’ll need to follow to book AA business class using Etihad Guest miles:

  1. Go to British Airways’ website and log in with your Executive Club ID and Password.
  2. Type in the desired route, dates of travel, and business or economy class.
  3. Once you’ve located availability, write down your flight numbers, dates, and times.
  4. Etihad Guest’s Serbia call center (877-690-0767) is the best for booking flight awards. Press 1 for English, and then press 4 (don’t press 2 for “first and business class”). Press 1 to book or change a flight. Then press 1 again to book or change a flight with Etihad Guest miles.
  5. Feed the representatives your flight information.
  6. Ticket the reservation and pay for taxes and fees.

Earning Etihad Guest Miles

Etihad Guest is transfer partners with 4 award currencies: American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One Miles, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Amex, Capital One, and Citi transfer at a 1:1 ratio. Marriott Bonvoy transfers at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000 Etihad Guest mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred.

American Express transfers are instant, Capital One transfers take up to 36 hours, Citi transfers take up to 7 days, and Marriott Bonvoy takes around 5 days.

Hot Tip: For more ideas to get miles, check out our best ways to earn lots of Etihad Guest miles.

Recommended Capital One Cards (Personal)

Korean Air SKYPASS

Korean Air Kosmo Suite 2.0 First Class

Want huge, private suites in first class? Check out Korean Air. Image Credit: Korean Air

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Korean Air’s frequent flyer program is called SKYPASS. Korean Air SKYPASS is great because it offers the only way to book Korean Air first class with points and miles.

Additionally, one-way flights on Korean Air are bookable when spending Korean Air miles, instead of just round-trip.

Keep in mind that Korean Air redemptions with SKYPASS are subject to seasonality. Korean Air charges the following mileage prices for one-way flights between the U.S. and South Korea:

Cabin ClassKorean Air Mileage CostTaxes & Fees
Economy (off-peak)35,000~$92 to $185
Economy (peak)52,500
Business (off-peak)62,500
Business (peak)92,500
First (off-peak)80,000
First (peak)120,000

Round-trip flights are simply double the mileage and fees. Korean Air first class is an excellent product, and using SKYPASS is the only way to book it on points.

Best of all, you can book Korean Air first class completely online. If you’re open to booking over the phone, you can actually request an award hold of up to 30 days while transferring Marriott Bonvoy points to Korean Air.

Hot Tip: Need help booking? Check out our step-by-step guide on booking Korean Air first class.

Here are some great redemptions you can make:

  • Atlanta (ATL) – Seoul (ICN) one-way, during off-peak season in Korean Air business class for 62,500 Korean Air miles and $92 in taxes and fees
  • Boston (BOS) – Seoul (ICN) one-way, during off-peak season in Korean Air business class for 62,500 Korean Air miles and $92 in taxes and fees
  • Las Vegas (LAS) – Seoul (ICN) one-way, during off-peak season in Korean Air business class for 62,500 Korean Air miles and $92 in taxes and fees
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Seoul (ICN) one-way, during off-peak season, in Korean Air first class for 80,000 Korean Air miles and $92 in taxes and fees
  • New York (JFK) – Seoul (ICN) round-trip, during off-peak season, in Korean Air first class for 160,000 Korean Air miles and $277 in taxes and fees
  • Seattle (SEA) – Seoul (ICN) one-way, during off-peak season in Korean Air business class for 62,500 Korean Air miles and $92 in taxes and fees

Earning Korean Air SKYPASS Miles

The only transfer partner of Korean Air is Marriott Bonvoy. As a result, the best way to earn Korean Air SKYPASS miles is by transferring Marriott Bonvoy points.

Marriott Bonvoy points transfer at a 3:1 ratio. If you transfer 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to Korean Air, you’ll earn another 5,000 bonus miles to bring your total up to 25,000 miles. Transfer times could take as few as 2 days, or quite a while — sometimes as long as 3 weeks.

Recommended Marriott Bonvoy Cards

Hot Tip: Need some more inspiration on earning miles? Check out our guide on the best ways to earn lots of Korean Air miles.

Avianca LifeMiles

Asiana A330 Business Class

Asiana A330 business class. Image Credit: Asiana

Avianca LifeMiles is one of the most underrated booking programs. Avianca LifeMiles enable you to book on any Star Alliance airline, which means you can leverage both Asiana and United flights.

Best of all, LifeMiles doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges on award flights. It recently removed its award chart, but it still uses a region-based award chart.

Here’s how much awards cost on one-way flights to South Korea:

Cabin ClassAvianca LifeMiles Cost (Continental U.S.)Avianca LifeMiles Cost (Hawaii)Taxes & Fees
Economy35,00027,500~$51
Business75,00048,000
First90,00066,000

On the surface, this might not seem terribly attractive. However, LifeMiles is known to offer promos of up to 20% off! This could bring a one-way business class flight down to 60,000 LifeMiles.

Additionally, there are often transfer bonuses from American Express and Citi of 15% to 30%. If you’re able to stack these transfer bonuses with the LifeMiles promos, you can secure business class for as little as 42,000 miles. To make things even better, fuel surcharges aren’t charged.

To book award travel on Avianca LifeMiles, follow these directions:

  1. Visit LifeMiles.
  2. Log into your LifeMiles account by entering your LifeMiles number and password.
  3. Change the language as necessary by clicking the flag icon in the top-right corner.
  4. Click Fly on the top banner of the landing page.
  5. Type in your flight information, including airports, number of passengers, and class of booking.
  6. Select your flights and pay with your miles along with any taxes and fees to complete your reservation. A $25 award booking fee is charged for each way. This means round-trip flights are charged a $50 award booking fee.

Here are a few great redemptions you can make:

  • Honolulu (HNL) – Seoul (ICN) one-way in Asiana Airlines business class for 48,000 LifeMiles + $51 in taxes and fees
  • Seattle (SEA) – Seoul (ICN) one-way in Asiana Airlines business class for 75,000 LifeMiles + $51 in taxes and fees

Earning Avianca LifeMiles

Avianca LifeMiles are very easy to earn. In fact, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Brex Rewards, Capital One Miles, Citi ThankYou Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio, and transfers process instantly. Sometimes, LifeMiles even offers generous transfer bonuses of up to 30%, particularly from Amex and Citi.

If you have a bunch of Marriott Bonvoy points, you can transfer at a 3:1 ratio, which takes 3 business days.

Lastly, LifeMiles routinely offers huge sales of up to 125% to 200% more miles. Buying LifeMiles outright can make for some cheap first and business class redemptions.

Recommended Citi Cards

United MileagePlus

United Airlines Polaris Business Class

United business class to Korea is not true Polaris, but it’s a solid option. Image Credit: United

United offers some decent opportunities to fly to Korea with points and miles. Specifically, the most attractive redemptions are on United’s own flights, as they’re slightly cheaper than partner flights.

The main strengths of United MileagePlus are the extremely easy award booking process, no fuel surcharges, and the ability to transfer from Chase Ultimate Rewards or Marriott Bonvoy.

United uses dynamic award pricing, but here’s an estimate of how much it would cost to redeem for one-way United flights to South Korea:

Cabin ClassUnited Miles CostTaxes & Fees
EconomyFrom 35,000$5.60 to $81
BusinessFrom 70,000
FirstN/A

Here’s an estimate of how much it would cost to redeem for one-way partner flights to South Korea:

Cabin ClassUnited Miles CostTaxes & Fees
EconomyFrom 38,500$5.60 to $81
BusinessFrom 88,000
FirstFrom 132,000

As you can see, using United miles for partner flights is significantly more expensive in business and first class, so you may want to avoid that unless you have a bunch of United miles sitting around.

We give mention to United because the booking process is extremely easy. The search engine on United.com is excellent and you can take care of your booking completely online.

To do so, follow this process:

  1. Go to United’s website.
  2. Click either One-way or Roundtrip.
  3. Check Book with miles.
  4. Enter your flight information, which includes booking class, number of travelers, flight dates, and origin and destination cities.
  5. Pick your flights and ticket the reservation.

Hot Tip: If you’re a United elite member, you may have access to additional award availability for United flights.

Earning United MileagePlus Miles

United Airlines is transfer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy.

Chase transfers at a 1:1 ratio instantly while Marriott Bonvoy transfers at a 3:1.1 ratio in 3 business days. Furthermore, you’ll receive a 15,000 Marriott Bonvoy point transfer bonus if 60,000 Marriott points are transferred.

This will bring the miles up to 27,500 miles for every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

Recommended United Cards

Delta SkyMiles

Delta One Suites A350-900 rear view

Delta One Suites on the A350-900. Image Credit: Stephen Au

Delta SkyMiles is the frequent flyer program used by Delta, and it has been ruthlessly devalued over the years.

It has different types of award space and enjoys the explicit benefit of being able to access more award space that isn’t given to partners like Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and Air France/KLM Flying Blue.

Delta charges anywhere from 120,000 to 300,000 miles for a one-way, international business class flight. Most of the time, the business class award availability costs 120,000, 150,000, or 180,000 miles one-way.

You can book Delta One Suites on the following A350 and A330-900neo routes between the U.S. and Korea:

  • Atlanta (ATL) – Seoul (ICN)
  • Detroit (DTW) – Seoul (ICN)
  • Minneapolis (MSP) – Seoul (ICN)
  • Seattle (SEA) – Seoul (ICN)

There’s also a Delta One route, which does not offer the newest Delta One Suites offering:

Here’s how you can book Delta One Suites to Korea with Delta SkyMiles:

  1. Visit Delta Air Lines.
  2. Enter your travel dates, airports, and number of passengers. Click Advanced Search right under the number of passengers.
  3. Select Show Price in Miles. Choose Best Fares for Delta One if flying in business class or Main Cabin if in economy.
  4. Click on the red return arrow.
  5. Confirm award availability and complete your award reservation.

Bottom Line: Practically speaking, Delta SkyMiles will be the best program to book Delta One awards to Korea. Other partners like Virgin Atlantic and Flying Blue exist, but they don’t have access to any award space besides the lowest-level Saver awards, which are almost impossible to find. Expect mileage prices to start at 120,000 Delta SkyMiles one-way.

Earning Delta SkyMiles

You can earn Delta SkyMiles by transferring from American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy.

Amex transfers instantly at a 1:1 ratio, while Marriott Bonvoy transfers at a 3:1 ratio in 1 business day.

Other Options To Fly to Korea

We analyzed a slew of different booking options for award flights to Korea. However, we didn’t include them due to unfavorable redemption rates, convoluted booking processes, or even a lack of viable transfer partners.

Final Thoughts

There are tons of ways to book award travel to South Korea as there are many airlines that operate nonstop flights to Korea due to its geographic location near the U.S.

We went over a variety of booking options for the 3 major alliances. In addition, we discussed the pros and cons of each method, so now you have the inside scoop on the best ways to fly to South Korea with points and miles.

The information regarding the Capital One Venture Rewards Card, Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, and Capital One Venture X Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
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Frequently asked questions

Which airlines include carrier-imposed surcharges on award flights to South Korea?

Pretty much all of the airlines levy a fuel surcharge.

Asiana, United, American, Delta, and Korean Air all levy around $92 to $185 for one-way flights, regardless of cabin class.

The booking programs that don’t pass on fuel surcharges on flights to Korea are Avianca LifeMiles, United MileagePlus, and Delta SkyMiles.

What is the fewest number of miles you can use to book an economy class award flight to South Korea?

ANA is one of the best frequent flyer programs in the world, and for good reason. For 60,000 ANA miles, you can book a round-trip economy ticket on any Star Alliance partner, which includes Asiana and United.

Otherwise, United charges 70,000 miles and Avianca charges 70,000 miles. Delta and American both charge 70,000 miles for round-trip flights.

What is the fewest number of miles you can use to book a business class award flight to South Korea?

One of the best deals is using 95,000 ANA miles for round-trip business class. Your options would be either Asiana or United.

If you can find MileSAAver availability on American Airlines, Etihad Guest only charges 50,000 miles each way to fly on AA business class. Etihad Guest is transfer partners with American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy, and Capital One Miles, so there are tons of opportunities to earn miles.

To fly on Korean Air business class, you can spend 76,000 to 104,000 Emirates miles or 62,500 Korean Air miles for one-way flights.

What is the fewest number of miles you can use to book a first class award flight to South Korea?

Korean Air charges as little as 80,000 miles for one-way first class. Unfortunately, the lack of transfer partners may be a deal-breaker for these particular redemptions.

Asiana doesn’t offer first class anymore, making it impossible to book Asiana first class.

What U.S. airlines fly nonstop to Gimpo Airport?

No U.S. airlines fly nonstop from the U.S. to Gimpo International Airport (GMP) in Seoul.

What U.S. airlines fly nonstop to Busan?

No U.S. airlines fly nonstop from the U.S. to Gimhae International Airport (PUS) in Busan.

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About Stephen Au

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephen has been privileged to enjoy many premium cabin products and 5-star hotels. As one of the foremost experts in credit cards, over the past 4 years, he has amassed a portfolio of over 70 credit cards, both personal and business. Stephen has personally tested, first-hand, almost every major rewards credit card on the market today, spanning banks such as American Express, Bank of America, Barclays, Brex, Capital One, Chase, Citi, City National Bank, U.S. Bank, and more.

Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.

28 comments

I looked into booking via ANA and Alaska for May 2020 and they both came back with nothing available.

Award availability is subject to the inventory of airlines, and this is something that is out of our control. Keep looking and trying! Thanks for reading.

Hi Stephen – is it possible for me to use Chase ultimate rewards to book ANA flights on ANA’s website? The only star alliance travel partner is United, but Mileageplus points can’t be transferred at all. I was wondering how I could take advantage of the Mileageplus points to book directly on ANA for the 95k business flight from North America to Korea.

There’s no easy or cost-effective way to do so. Unless you transfer Amex to Marriott and then to United, you won’t be ale to transfer Amex points directly to United.

This is very helpful as I have quite a bit of both Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards points. I’m leaning towards ANA business or Delta One suite to fly to ICN later this year. However, availability is very tough find. One quick question though: when searching for a Delta One flight to Korea (on Delta’s website) from either Detroit, Seattle or Atlanta, do I need to pick the dates that has 100,000 miles (lowest cost) one way? Or is it possible to pick dates with maybe 125,000 miles and still use 60,000 Virgin Atlantic miles to book that exact flight?

Thanks in advance,

Hey Sam, good question!

We’ve found that Delta’s award pricing and the saver award space (bookable by Virgin Atlantic, etc) it releases to partners do not go hand-in-hand. This means that an expensive Delta SkyMiles award ticket may still be bookable for 60,000 Virgin Atlantic miles. With this in mind, we recommend calling Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and working with a representative to find dates bookable with Virgin Atlantic miles. Hope this helps—thanks!

I thought I’d just follow up to provide what happened when I called the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club customer service. Good thing I hadn’t transferred the points in advance because I almost did so that I didn’t lose Amex 30% transfer bonus to flying club miles which ended back in June 30th? or July 31st.

Virgin Atlantic representative was actually very delight to work with and helpful. However, there were pretty much 0 availability from August to December 2019 from all four airports that fly to ICN (Seattle, Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis) in delta one suite. It looked like delta really doesn’t allocate any delta one seats to Virgin Atlantic. However, I was able to locate very spotty economy seats (even these weren’t very available) which may have been a great deal for someone looking to fly economy who’s also flexible with travel time.

Anyhow, I was determined to fly first class or at least business SEP/OCT/NOV time frame! looked at every single method listed on this blog post and came to a conclusion that availability is just not an easy find. You really have to do your due diligence and search way in advance to score business/first class seats. (tip: Asiana’s 777 no longer has first class seats)

Ended up transferring points to ANA and found Asiana business class going at an awkward date mid November and coming back on late Nov (wanted to get 3 weekends with 2 weeks of vacation, i.e. leave friday, come back sunday two weeks later). Oh and it definitely wasn’t fun looking for availability too because ANA’s website is the worst for finding business availability!

At this point, I’m tempted to open korean air’s skypass credit card because they dropped chase as their transfer partner. It was nice flying first class back in 2017.

I was just checking Chase Ultimate rewards and I see that you can transfer points to Emirates Skywards now?

South Korea Travel and Entry Restrictions 2022: COVID-19 Update

south korea travel covid restrictions

The South Korea entry restrictions determine who can enter the country and under what conditions.

Foreigners must meet the South Korea visa requirements for their nationality and obtain the relevant permit before traveling.

Most COVID-19 restrictions have been removed. Travelers can now apply for a South Korea visa or K-ETA to visit the countryContinue reading to find out about the remaining travel restrictions in place due to COVID-19.

Can I Travel to South Korea Visa-Free During Coronavirus?

South Korea has lifted the ban on visa-free travel from eligible countries. From November 1, 2022 citizens of these countries can apply for the K-ETA to travel visa-free:

  • Kiribati
  • Japan
  • Macau
  • Micronesia
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • Taiwan
  • Tonga

These 8 countries have been added to the list of 104 countries already eligible for the K-ETA.

With the electronic travel authorization, foreign visitors can stay in South Korea without a visa for between 30 and 180 days, depending on nationality.

All visa-exempt travelers will need to apply for the K-ETA for South Korea.

south korea visa application

Temporary Health Measures for South Korea

Passengers are no longer required to take a COVID-19 PCR test before traveling to South Korea. From September 3, 2022 international visitors can enter without proof of a negative pre-departure test result.

Health requirements are subject to change at short notice. Travelers should ensure they have all the latest information before arranging a trip to South Korea.

Do I Need a Coronavirus Vaccine to Travel to South Korea?

A coronavirus vaccine is no longer required to travel to South Korea.

Travelers should stay updated with the latest developments and ensure they have vaccinations needed to travel to South Korea before departure.

Is It Mandatory to Quarantine on Arrival in South Korea?

Quarantine requirements were lifted on June 8, 2022, for all passengers arriving in South Korea, whether they have been vaccinated or not.

All travelers to South Korea should follow the same COVID-19 entry rules, regardless of vaccination status.

Previously, only fully vaccinated travelers were eligible for quarantine exemption.

On-arrival questionnaire and QR-code

Travelers need to submit a health questionnaire on arrival in South Korea.

This can be done online in advance. Passengers are advised to use the Q-code system to save time on arrival.

Can I Transit through South Korea During COVID-19?

Transit passengers can now travel without pre-departure testing or a vaccination certificate.

To transit to China, passengers must enter Korea to obtain a green QR code with an HDC mark.

Is It Safe to Travel to South Korea during COVID-19?

Some passengers are questioning whether it is safe to go to South Korea now.

Stores, educational facilities, stores, and other businesses are now open and operating as normal.

Face masks must be worn indoors and on public transport.

There may be some regional differences in the safety measures being implemented. Travelers should check the specific rules and regulations for their destination.

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