Having worked in Gyeongju for over 5 years, all of my banking’s done in Korea, so it’s been a while since I’d had to deal with the trouble of changing money or withdrawing cash from an international account. A while that is, until this afternoon. My folks are currently visiting from the States, so we walked downtown with hopes of a hassle-free banking experience.
Now, most major Korean banks have branches in downtown Gyeongju, like Shinhan Bank, Woori Bank, Hana Bank, or Korean Exchange Bank. And to the city’s credit, all of these banks are lined up in row along Hwarang-ro, the big street running perpendicular to the Gyeongju Train Station. Being that Gyeongju is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular destination for international tourists, most of these banks have got at least one junior member on staff who speaks passable English. Plus they all come prepared to exchange currency and cash travelers’ checks.
Unfortunately, we were interested in neither. Instead we were trying to withdraw money from an international ATM card hooked in with the VISA network, which proved to be surprising difficult. We tried our luck with several cards the so-labeled “International” or “Global” cash machines at a number of banks, with absolutely no success (not only that, but the Shinhan ATM doesn’t even have an English option for international cards!). Luckily a teller steered us towards the K.E.B., or Korea Exchange Bank, just a block down from the train station. Not only did our cards work with out a hitch, their cash machines offer services in about a dozen different languages.
In the end, lesson learned: If you need to exchange money or cash travelers checks in Gyeongju, any of the major banks should do. And if you’ve got the time, it may not hurt to shop around a bit for the best rates as they’re all down the block from each other. But if you’re looking to withdraw cash on an international debit or credit card, go straight to the K.E.B. It’s a block down from the Gyeongju Train Station on Hwarang-ro Street, on the right, just past the market. The cash machines say that they’re open 365 days a year, from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm.
View Coffee Shops, Downtown Gyeongju in a larger map