Government Quarantine in Korea was a very challenging experience, mentally. I found the whole experience difficult and there was no real support on what to expect, so read this guide for some tips to make it easier for you!
At the airport
Once you have arrived at Incheon Airport, you will disembark the aircraft. Immediately there will be queue for temperature checks and quarantine registration. This is before immigration and this is where you will hand in your Travel Declaration Form, (that you would have received and filled out on the plane). The queue is long and it is for everyone who has just arrived, regardless of where the plane has arrived from.
Initial Quarantine Desk
Once you get up to the desk, they will ask you where you are quarantining and you can tell them you are planning to quarantine in the government facility. Then they will give you a lanyard with a special colour to indicate that you are a foreigner and they will check your temperature. If you register a high temperature at this stage, they will bring you to be checked for symptoms. Thankfully, my temperature was normal, so I was sent to the next stage of the process; the app download station.
The App Download Station
At this station, staff will help you to download the correct app, that allows you to register your symptoms for the next 14 days. This app tracks the phone’s location at all times. The app has been developed and is ran by the Korean government. This may alarm sound alarming. Don’t worry! This is a necessary step in contact tracing if someone is to break quarantine. So please don’t be afraid of the location tracking.
Registering with Quarantine Officials
Once you’ve downloaded the app, you will move onto the next stage. Registering with the quarantine officials and they will validate who you are planning to visit or stay with, it must be a Korean phone number (in my case they rang my boyfriend). After they make the call, you will be asked to fill out more quarantine forms. And you can make your way to the immigration desk.
I was entering on a Visa Waiver or B1 visa exemption, so they just did the regular immigration protocols of fingerprints and a picture. Then they give another lanyard with a different colour that signifies government quarantine rather than quarantining at home. At this stage, I was able to collect my baggage from the luggage carousel. In my case, one of my bags was actually lost in transit. I couldn’t do anything about it at the time, so I just had to hope it would turn up. (It did!).
Once you walk into the Arrivals Hall, you will be ushered to get an immediate Covid Test. There was a very efficient testing station set up outside the doors of the airport. They check your temperature and take a swab of the nose and throat.
Transport to the Facility
After the COVID test is complete, you will walk straight onto a police bus. At this point, they will tell you the hotel or facility they are taking you to. My hotel was Marina Bay Hotel in Gimpo. It was a 30-minute drive from the airport. I know another hotel that a lot of people have been sent to is the Ramada in Gimpo. The allocation of places in each hotel is completely random and it also depends on the availability of rooms in each facility.
At the facility
Once we arrived at the hotel, we were brought to a boardroom where we were told to put on gloves and we signed the official agreement to facility quarantine form, which states that you agree to pay the facility fee and you agree to be held there for 14 days.
After this, you walk to the payment area and you pay for your stay. They take credit cards, debit cards, and cash. Once you pay, you receive your room key and you are instructed to walk to the elevator, which brings you to your room and you let yourself into the room.
Once that door closes, you will not walk outside again for another 14 days. In the room, there will be a care package, containing tea, coffee, a resistance band, masks, hand sanitizer, a thermometer, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and laundry soap. There are some print outs in the room instructing you about your stay.
Mealtimes are at 7.30 am, 12.20 pm, and 6:00 pm, an announcement goes off once meal delivery is complete. Only then can you open the door to get the food. The meals are Korean and the meals are also cold. Here is a sample of what breakfast, lunch, and dinner look like. To be honest, I found it pretty difficult to eat the food. If you are a picky eater, bring plenty of snacks. You are not allowed to receive packages containing food once you are inside the facility.
I had issues with the WiFi connection being unstable so I got a WiFi egg delivered to the facility. I got it delivered super fast with Pocket Wifi Korea. There were so many people using the open WiFi at the facility that the download speeds were awful, so I would suggest you organise something similar if this happens to you.
Daily Temperature Check
Every day at 4 pm there was a temperature check. You open the door, wearing a mask and you get your temperature taken. Every day I had a normal temperature and every day I also recorded no symptoms on the Self Check app. I wasn’t told the results of my Covid test until the second last day of my stay. But I had heard that if you hear nothing it means it’s negative. If you test positive they will contact you and remove you from the facility and take you to hospital.
No housekeeping is offered during your stay so you will use the same towels and bed linen for the duration of your stay. You have to dispose of your waste in a hazardous bag daily.
Leaving the Facility
Transport from the Facility
Three days prior to your release you will receive a form outside your door which you need to fill out. This will indicate when you can leave and how you would like to leave. It also allows you to state whether any items were damaged during your stay. I chose to go to Seoul Station and was instructed that I was only allowed to go down to the lobby at the instructed time.
Walking out of the room and down the corridor to leave was one of the greatest feelings in the world. I was so excited at the time that I accidentally locked my luggage into the room, so I had to ask for another room key as the room keys were only for single use. When I went down to ask for a new key, this had happened to three other people also!
Government quarantine in Korea is definitely not something I am suggesting that people do, but if you find yourself in a position where you need to do it, I hope this guide can be helpful.