“We could have bought six more packs of Honey Butter Almond,” my father said sadly 😀 when I told him, after doing the math, that we would have been better off exchanging our Philippine pesos to Korean won elsewhere.
We were just too eager to have all our ducks in a row and, soon after learning our Korean visa applications were approved, went to our suki money changer in Ayala to have our pocket money converted to South Korean won. We realized soon after that we had paid much more than we’d thought we would. (I didn’t seem to have learned my lesson from when I also changed my Philippine pesos to New Taiwan dollars at the same place.) Anyway, that’s the reason I made sure to take note of the exchange rates I saw during our trip, to figure out where we could have gotten more
Tom’s Honey Butter Almond Korean bang for our Pinoy buck.
Here’s what I learned.
PHP to KRW: At Core Pacific Money Exchange
I said Core Pacific was my suki money changer because I usually buy euros — for which they have okay exchange rates — from them. That said, I really regret turning to them this year for Korean won.
Their exchange rate was 1 KRW = 0.051.
To make it easier to compare with the exchange rate at other places, let’s imagine I have ₱10,000 I needed changed to Korean won.
At Core Pacific, 10,000 PHP would have gotten us 196,078 KRW.
PHP to KRW: At Incheon Airport
After we discouraged them from having their pesos changed to won where we did, the rest of our travel group — my two godmothers, my cousin, and my two nieces — decided to just bring pesos to Korea and have them exchanged upon arrival.
That turned out to be a good decision. We basically just went to the first money changer we saw coming out of the arrival area — before the lobby — and their exchange rate was 1 PHP = 20.8 KRW.
There 10,000 PHP would have yielded 208,000 KRW — a full 6% more than it would have at Core Pacific.
PHP to KRW: At Mactan (Cebu) Airport — The Surprising Winner
Well, it’s not that surprising when you consider that old bit of travel wisdom that your currency is always worth more in your own country. But I certainly didn’t expect it this time and it was a pleasant surprise.
In this case, I’m talking about the money changer in the Arrivals area of Mactan Cebu International Airport. It was the end of a long day and I wasn’t able to take a pic, but I did note that their exchange rate was 1 KRW = 0.0476 PHP.
That means that, for 10,000 PHP, you can get 210,084 KRW — a bit higher than at Incheon airport and much higher than at Core Pacific Money Exchange.
How about if you change your PHP to USD first, then have your USD changed to KRW when you get to Korea?
This was the advice given to my cousin by one of her friends who had been to Korea. I didn’t get the chance to personally try this out because my sister already had US dollars on hand — she gets paid in USD — and that’s what she got changed to KRW at Incheon Airport.
I did take note of the following exchange rates:
- 1 USD = 54.72 PHP at the Cebu airport
- 1 USD = 1,141 KRW at Incheon airport
Doing the calculations, 10,000 PHP would have bought 182.74 USD when exchanged at the Cebu airport, which in turn would have netted 208,516 KRW at Incheon airport. This is only 516 KRW higher (₱22 or $0.44) than if you exchange pesos to won directly at Incheon.
What I Didn’t Try: ATM Withdrawals, Buying Foreign Currency at the Bank, Myeongdong
We wanted to try withdrawing money from an ATM machine in Seoul and see what the exchange rate would have been, just for comparison, but we never got around to it. 🙁 Too bad because withdrawing money from the ATM turned out to give me the best exchange rate during my Bali trip and it would have been nice to see if it was the same for Korea. A mission for next time, then?
Another thing that some people do is buy foreign currency at a Philippine bank, whether it’s the actual currency of the place they’re going to, or US dollars which they intend to exchange at their country of destination. If the latter, 10,000 PHP would have bought roughly 196 USD at BPI, which would then have bought 223,636 KRW at Incheon Airport — better than any of the methods described above. If you’re going to the bank anyway, you should definitely give this a shot, especially if you’re exchanging a huge amount of money where the difference between what you get at the bank and at the airport would be quite significant. The days leading up to our trip were so busy that I didn’t even think of allotting precious time for a trip to the bank…but perhaps I should have.
I’ve also been told that money changers at Myeongdong give better exchange rates than others. I didn’t see money changers while I was walking around there but maybe I just didn’t look hard enough or it was just because I wasn’t really looking out for them. What I don’t like about this is having to spend the time to look for a money changer — and then if you realize that the money changer at the airport gave better rates, you won’t be able to go back. 😀 But this is actually worth a try in the future.
There you have it, then: a comparison of some of the best places to exchange your Philippine pesos (PHP) to Korean won (KRW). For future trips to Korea, I would definitely consider going to my bank and buying US dollars, which I would then exchange to Korean won at Incheon airport. If I don’t get the opportunity to do that, what I would do instead would be to have my Philippine pesos changed at either Cebu or Incheon airport, or maybe even at Myeongdong. What I would not do — please, God, let me not forget next time! — would be to buy Korean won from money changers at the mall.
I hope this helps you prepare for your trip to Korea. You might also find the following helpful:
- Where we stayed in Seoul
- Where to stay in Myeongdong
- Where to stay in Yongpyong
- Where to stay in/near Nami Island
TRANSPORTATION (The private cars are great for groups)
- Tmoney cards for trains, buses, convenience store purchases, etc.
- AREX Incheon Airport Express tickets
- Private car tour (with driver, good for 10 people)
- Private airport transfer (good for 7 people)