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As you probably already know, the Korean money system is called the Won.  But how do you know how much Won you’ll need for your trip?  What if you are concerned about getting ripped off because you cannot communicate in Korean?  Here are some tips for using money in South Korea.

Korean Number System

Where countries like the United States use a number system based on 3’s, the Republic of Korea uses a system based on 4’s.  This is important to know so you won’t feel cheated when you see something that cost over 1,000 Won.  Knowing this will also help you to understand why things are numbered differently in Korea than they are in the west.  Understanding the number system, and knowing how to read numbers in Korean will help you to see what something cost and not be charged more money for it.

Korean Money Has a Different Value

You may freak out if someone tells you that you need to pay 1,000 Won for a bottle of water.  But you need to remember that the Korean Won does not have the same value as a U.S. or Canadian Dollar.  To check the how many Won equal a U.S. Dollar, or any other currency for that matter, you can use currency converter like the one found via Reuters or any other financial site that you frequent.

Use Credit/Debit Cards

Unless you are shopping at a street market, many businesses will take a Visa or MasterCard.  This will allow you to spend money without figuring out a conversion rate.  But you still will want to know how much something cost before handing over your card so you don’t get ripped off.  You will also want to know how much of a fee you card company will charge you.  Also, you will need to make sure you contact your card company to let them know you will be using your card overseas as well to avoid having your card denied while you are overseas.

Check Money Exchange Rates

While a major hotel may be able to exchange your money from your home country into Korean money, you may be ripped off doing it that way.  The same goes for getting Korean money from your bank before you go to Korea.  Check the fees that you will be charged for getting money from your bank, the airport you will be traveling from and from Incheon International Airport.  Also, check with your bank to see if you can use your debit card to withdraw money while overseas.  If so, it may be cheaper to get cash from an ATM.  ATM’s at major banks, major hotels and even some convenience stores will take certain foreign debit cards and will give you an English menu option.  You will want to check the fee the ATM will charge for getting money using a foreign debit card.

The more you educate yourself about money and how it works in another country, the better protected you will be.  Most businesses in Korea are not looking to rip people off, so you don’t have to stress too much about being taken advantage of if you don’t speak Korean.  Also, many tourist areas have people working there that speak fluent English, so you can ask them for help.  As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to #askthewaygookin.