Can You Visit South Korea Without Knowing Any Korean?

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If you’re planning to visit South Korea, one of the first things that you might wonder is whether or not you’ll be able to get around and do anything without knowing any Korean.

Most interactions in shops, restaurants, etc., are, however, simple, so employees can usually communicate what is needed in English just fine.

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Therefore, the answer is yes. You can definitely visit South Korea without being able to speak or read any Korean. I personally did not know any when I visited the country for more than 4 months and was able to do everything I wanted. Even if there is an issue with communicating, some pointing and simple hand gestures go a long way.

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Can you travel to South Korea without speaking Korean?

South Korea is an amazing country with lots of things to explore and experience.

The general level of English among the Korean population is, however, not the greatest compared to some other countries that don’t have it as their native language either. Some people, mostly the younger generation, are able to speak a decent amount of English, though.

Therefore, you might have wondered whether or not it is possible to visit the country without being able to speak or read any Korean.

You can definitely visit South Korea without knowing any Korean at all. You do not need to be able to either speak or read Korean to visit the country, as most basic things are set up so they are easy to do if you only speak English.

Furthermore, most interactions that you’re going to have with restaurants, shops, or other attractions and establishments are going to be simple ones, where the employee usually is able to communicate what’s needed in English.

Only if they need to explain something more advanced to you can some communication difficulties occur. It also depends on where you’re visiting.

Larger cities like Seoul have many more people who can speak more English than those in rural cities.

I have personally visited South Korea for more than 6 months in total and have been able to get around and do whatever I wanted without many difficulties. Only for special things that foreign people or tourists don’t usually do in South Korea did I have to bring a Korean friend to do the communication.

When I was hanging out with and going to various places around Seoul only with other exchange students who didn’t know any Korean either, we were also just fine.

I recommend also using the Papago app, a great translation app for Korean, which allows you to take a picture of something and translate the Korean letters in it. It is one of the great apps you need in South Korea.

In regards to how much English you’ll find written around the cities, all subway stations have English signs and translations for stations, etc., and many shops and popular establishments have English writing as well.

Station sign with English translation in South Korea

Quite a few restaurants do not, however, have English translation, but in such cases, the Papago app comes in handy.

If you’re planning to stay in South Korea for a longer period of time, I recommend learning a few basic phrases like how to order. With them, basic interactions become quite a bit easier if the employee isn’t comfortable with English.

I also recommend learning to read the Korean alphabet. While it may seem difficult at first to read Korean, you can quickly learn how to read it.

After learning how to read the Korean alphabet, you won’t understand what most writing means, only the sound. But that comes in handy as well, as many things are English words written in Korean letters.

Also, if you know the name of a Korean dish, etc., you’ll also be able to recognize it in Korean letters after you’ve read it a few times.

That’s what you need to know about whether or not you can visit South Korea without knowing Korean!

Have any input or suggestions for this guide? Let us know in the comment section below.

Tim Stadel Clausen

Tim Stadel Clausen is the owner of Timzer Travels. He has been fortunate to be able to travel around the world because of his work, and he now shares guides and travel tips to help others.

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