Travel to Korea

Intersection Near HK MainAre you considering, or already planning, a trip to Korea? For adoptive families and adoptees who wish to travel apart from an organized heritage tour, Holt offers basic information about the adoptee’s birth country. We would be happy to assist you in scheduling a visit to the Holt Children’s Services of Korea offices or other locations, if possible. In some situations, Holt may be able to assist with scheduling meetings with foster parents or visits to important sites.

To begin your adventure, please contact the Post Adoption Services department through the links below. When we respond, we will ask for your exact dates of travel, where you will be staying while in the country, and what you are hoping to accomplish during your visit. We will contact our partner agency on your behalf to schedule your appointment or other services.  Travel services do take time to coordinate, so please allow sufficient time prior to your departure.


Adult Adoptees Only

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If Holt International facilitated your adoption and you would like a copy of your file or are interested in our search services, please notify us immediately as these services must be started well in advance of your visit to Korea.

Because searches are tentative, time consuming, and can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, it may not be possible to complete a search before you travel. Please be aware that identifying information for birth parents, as well as adoptees, is confidential and cannot be released without written permission from all parties. When you review your file with the Holt Korea staff, there may be documents you are not allowed to view because they contain confidential information about your birth family. For more information on this topic, please see File Copies.

If your adoption was not facilitated by Holt International, we suggest you start by contacting your U.S. agency for services, especially related to search and background information.[/expand]

Travel Plans

Please be aware that our resources are limited, as are those in Korea.  Although we would like to assist you as much as possible, we are not a travel agency; our assistance will be limited to adoption-related services.  This may include reviewing the file with the Holt Korea staff, visiting the orphanage, or meeting former foster families, if possible.

In order to coordinate your visit with Holt Korea’s staff, you will be asked to provide the following information:

  • Your exact dates of arrival and departure.
  • The dates you are available within that time period to visit the offices and orphanage or meet foster/birth family.
  • The hotel and contact information of where you will be staying while in Korea. This will also be provided to the Holt Korea staff in case of emergency.
  • Adult adoptees only – you will be required to complete a form and provide copies of your U.S. passport.  We will review these requirements with you during the process.

Adoptees  If you want copies of your file or are interested in our search services, please let us know as these services must be started through us well in advance of your visit to Korea.  Also, identifying information for birth parents, as well as adoptees, is confidential and cannot be released without written permission from all parties.

Adoptive parents are welcome to visit the Holt Korea offices, discuss their minor child’s background, and meet foster parents when possible.  Holt Korea is very happy to meet both adoptees and their families.  However, adoptive parents are not able to obtain birth parent identifying information or begin a search for birth parents on behalf of an adult adoptee.

Adoptees – please click here for important information regarding your visit to Holt and reviewing your file.

Things to Consider When Traveling…

Seodaemun Police Guard StationCulture

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Should you have the opportunity to visit the Holt Korea offices, your orphanage or other care facilities, you will need to understand the Korean culture. Occasionally the staff at these locations may appear to be cool, overly factual or unsympathetic. This is simply a cultural difference, a perception based on the American cultural norms. In general, you will find the Korean people to be a warm, generous and understanding people. In a business setting, such as a visit to an office or tour of a facility, they may not show the warmth or concern you might expect. Again, this is simply a cultural difference.[/expand]

Getting Around

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If you are planning to visit a specific location without the aid of your travel agent or Korean guide, ask the front desk of your hotel to write the destination, address and phone number on a small card to provide to your taxi driver. Seoul, Busan, Daegu and other cities are quite large and not all taxi drivers speak English. Taxis are an easy, relatively inexpensive way to travel if the subway or bus system seems to be more than you want to tackle on this trip.[/expand]


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Although English is being taught in most schools or by tutors, most of the older generations do not speak it. Your restaurant server, taxi driver or shop owner may have very limited English, so be prepared for the language barrier. Koreans in general are a very warm and accommodating people, as long as you are patient and willing to work around the language issues. Learning to pronounce your hotel, your destination (such as a palace or shop name), and to say a few simple Korean phrases can go a long way in bridging the communication gap.

You may find the following phrases helpful during your visit:

안녕하세요 ‘ahn-nyung-ha-se-yo’ Hello

감사합니다 ‘gam-sa-ham-nee-da’ Thank you

이거주세요 ‘ee-guh-joo-se-yo’ This, please (selecting from a menu, etc.)

그거주세요 ‘geu-guh-joo-se-yo’ That, please (selecting an item to buy, etc.)

예 ‘ye’ Yes      아니요 ‘ah-ni-yo’ No[/expand]


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Culture Smart! by Kuperard Press – This wonderful series has books for many countries that are easily portable, informative and reasonably priced. Available in Kindle and paperback.

Is Your Family Ready for a Homeland Journey? by Colleen Calvani

Where They Once Called Home : Insights into Homeland ToursIf you’re considering, or planning, a trip to your child’s birth country, many factors other than just travel influence how the trip goes. Hear directly from adopted persons and parents who have experienced homeland tours. They will share their personal experiences and feelings from preparation to the lasting impact of their travels.

Planning a Homeland Visit: A Professional’s Perspective, Judy Stigger, LCSW

Discovery Channel’s Insight Guides – Another great series of books for multiple countries and regions around the world, from Innovative Language Learning Solutions – Learn essential travel phrases, cultural insights and travel tips for 20 different languages.

Tips for Traveling Abroad – The U.S. Department of State offers tips, programs and lists for anyone considering travel outside of the U.S. at[/expand]


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Even though you may not be traveling with an organized tour group, there are still a lot of tours available, such as the Seoul City Tour, DMZ Tour and Seoul City Bus Tours. To arrange one of these tours, please contact Holt for the contact information of the Holt Korea Travel Department.[/expand]


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It is appropriate to take small gifts when meeting birth or foster parents, staying with friends or visiting someone who has made special time just for you. Consider packing items made in your hometown, such as note cards by a local artist, candles, lotions or something that represents your family or town.[/expand]

Holt Korea 

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Holt Children’s Services of Korea (Holt Korea) has been a separate, independent agency since 1976. The post adoption department staff are dedicated to serving adoptees, adoptive families, and birth families. When visiting the offices please be aware the staff wants you have an enriching experience, but their time and resources are limited. Your consideration and understanding is greatly appreciated.[/expand]


After Returning Home

Let us know about your experience, including what went well and what didn’t. Did your trip meet your expectations? Did it raise questions you hadn’t considered before? Follow-up can be an important part of the experience, and will help you sort out everything you saw and heard, especially if you reviewed your file, met with birth or foster family, or visited your orphanage. Holt’s post adoption team is here to help you process your feelings, and to find answers to questions whenever possible. Please feel free to contact us any time before, during or after you trip.