Staying Connected During Your South Korea Trip (2023)

Traveling to South Korea with mobile devices is easier to share your travel story and, more importantly, keep in touch with friends and family back home. To ease the hassle, here are 6 solutions to help you better pick up what suits your need when it comes to getting online in South Korea.

1. Bring your phone and get a prepaid SIM card

Though the only inconvenience is informing your contacts of your new number, this remains a very economical way to use your own phone to surf the Internet or make calls in South Korea for a temporary stay. To make a local SIM card work, your device must satisfy these requirements:

l Be unlocked/SIM-free before coming. Many GSM phones have SIM lock or network lock built into by manufacturers to restrict the use of them to specific network providers. If you can’t make sure whether your phone is unlocked, call your home service provider and let them know you need it be SIM-free because you are traveling.

l SIM card slot available. Very much like the reason of locking a phone, certain phones of unique versions using CDMA networks in the US and Canada don’t have SIM card slot.

l Support WCDMA 2100 MHz frequencies. WCDMA (also referred to UTMS) is a third-generation (3G) technology used in most newer models of smartphones and all iPhones 3G and up. Find out more about your phone’s specifications at phonearena.com.

l SupportWindows,AndroidandiOS.

There are numerous types of SIM card providers in the Korean market. Based on reviews and experience I would personally recommend EG (Evergreen) SIM card, which aims mostly to tourists and visitors so helpful English-speaking staff are always available.

Recommended to those who want to: Use their own phone; stay connected all the time; share Internet connection with the hotspot of the phone to use a Wi-Fi-support tablet or other mobile devices.

How to get an EG SIM card: To save the efforts of going through registration process, it’s advised purchase a prepaid SIM card online, then pick it up at the collection places in Incheon International Airport and Seoul city with your passport as well as a printed copy of your order confirmation email in case of wrong passport number.

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Pricing: A hybrid SIM charges 25,500 KRW (approx.21 USD) while a Nano SIM 29,900 KRW (approx.24 USD) set to use for 30 days from the day of activation. With the SIM card value, which is 20,000 KRW, you are able to dial or check into Facebook after you have chosen a date plan as follows.

Note:

-EG SIM card is not transferable to others, according to the Telecommunication Business Act. Service will stop working when the user and device information is changed.

-Voice credit and data credit must have certain amount of balance to use data.

-Balance is non-refundable nor will be carried forward to next month.

-Users can top up the SIM card online, through apps or at local convenient stores. For longer use, you have to exchange to a long-term SIM card at EG office in Seoul city.

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2. Rent a portable Wi-Fi

It is true that South Korea is blanketed with free Wi-Fi, but if you want to have guaranteed connection then a portal device would be the way to go. Any kinds of pocket Wi-Fi router or pocket modem are called “egg”, which is pretty small in size and convenient to carry in your pocket. The cost for an egg remains inexpensive - some Wi-Fi renters claim that price is cheaper than a cup of coffee. Depending on the specific version of eggs, battery hours vary from 5~9 hours on a single full charge, and normally 3~5 people can use an egg simultaneously, except that it will drain battery life quicker, thus a power bank would come in handy. WiFi Korea, Pocket WiFi Korea, KT WiFi router and LTE router are the most popular egg amongst travelers.

Recommended to those who: Want a lot of daily data; have travel buddies to share the cost; stay longer than 20 days in South Korea.

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How to rent a portable Wi-Fi: Rent on the spot or make pre-booking online then collect the egg/return at a specific service counter located in major International airports, including those in Incheon and Busan, or demand a free delivery at the hotel when you process the booking.

Pricing: From 5,900 KRW (5 USD)/day with or without some refundable deposit. In most cases, the longer you rent, the cheaper the cost is.

Note:

-Not every Wi-Fi provider accepts return of the egg at hotels. Read through conditions on how to drop off the device very carefully before confirming a booking.

-Eggs of lower rate may have very poor connection outside the city center. Invest a bit more in eggs that have nationwide coverage.

3. Buy a prepaid Wi-Fi ID

The alternative to an egg is to buy a prepaid Wi-Fi ID: it’s cheaper and more flexible. Buy the account whenever you feel like using at convenience stores and ditch the receipt after your trip is finished. Olleh Wi-Fi hotspots can be found at shopping centers, attractions, universities and many other places across the country. To visualize the coverage, here is a map showing Olleh hotspot zones in Seoul city.

Recommended to those who: Look for temporary Wi-Fi access; stay in main city places.

How to use a prepaid Wi-Fi ID: buy at convenience stores such as 7-11, GS25, Buy the Way and CU, then connect your phone to the Wi-Fi provider and register through a web browser with the password on the card/receipt.

Pricing: 3 USD/day (including VAT).

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4. Rent a local phone

If you want to skip all the trouble and don’t mind using a second-hand phone, rent a smartphone from SK Telecom or KT Global Roaming. Itself a highly tech-savvy country, South Korea produces some of world’s best mobile phones, widely famous for whose excellent call quality and the convenient service. The two companies offer both feature phones and smartphones to meet different demands. For smartphones, daily rates offered by the two companies include free domestic incoming calls, call charge, SMS and at least 1 GB of 3G data.

Recommend to those who: Need to have a high call usage at a lower cost.

How to rent a local phone: Rent instantly by visiting service center located at main airports or book online 3 days ahead. Passport is mandatory for collecting the phone.

Pricing: From 3,000 KRW/day, 10% VAT not included. Long-term use enjoys the benefit of discounted rental fees. Payment can be settled with cash or a major credit card when you return the phone.

5. Leech off of ubiquitous free Wi-Fi

Just as praised all the time, South Korea is not called the super-wired nation on earth for nothing. The moment when you land in Incheon Airport, you are well connected. In public areas, many telecom giants offer free Wi-Fi hotspots: SK, myLGnet, Olleh, to name a few. Cafes, malls, accommodations, buses are equipped with Wi-Fi, everywhere you go, you are able to get online easily. Technically there would be no problem updating your travel path or chatting on instant message apps, but you will have very poor or zero connection in the countryside as it is out of coverage of free Wi-Fi. That said, I’d suggest picking up a SIM card beforehand if your itinerary includes a rural visit. Fancy hotels, however, is another story. Wired Internet access is available in the rooms, but there may be situations that you have to pay for wireless access. It’s not just happening in South Korea.

Recommend to those who: Travel on a shoestring; occasionally need internet access; not have a cyber addiction.

How to get free Wi-Fi: Literally every public area in the city.

6. Activate International roaming plan

Your phone or mobile devices must use 3G technology to roam in South Korea. This method tops the most expensive in terms of charge, according to many service providers in the US and Europe. There might be exceptions though.

Recommend to those who: are frequent international travelers with high budget; need to handle business on the go.

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How to activate international roaming plan: Ask your service provider for relevant plan and the best solution.

Pricing: Take AT&T for example, from 2.5 USD/min per calls placed/received, 0.0195 USD/KB of data use.

Share and spread the ways to let people know how they can enjoy guaranteed connection in South Korea! You’re welcome to contact me at Staying Connected During Your South Korea Trip (1)should you have any questions regarding South Korea travel or want to tailor-make an itinerary.

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FAQs

Will my cell phone work in Korea? ›

International plans from most US Cell Phone providers are not practical while stationed in Korea. Many current cellular or smart phones, if unlocked, will work on a Korea Cellular network. There are several ways to acquire a local Korean SIM card.

Can I use my tmobile phone in Korea? ›

Assuming you have a modern phone and a current postpaid plan, you should have great international roaming service in S. Korea. Depending on your plan an needs you may want to pick up an international data pass. You can do this via the T-Mobile app after you arrive.

Is there free wifi in South Korea? ›

There is no city-wide wifi network, and you can only connect to wifi in Seoul at restaurants, cafés, hotels, and some tourist attractions. Renting pocket wifi in Seoul is affordable and a great alternative to relying on public wifi infrastructure.

Which SIM card is best in Korea? ›

The KT Olleh card offered by Klook is the best for all stays of 30 days or less where a data connection is all you need. The SIM comes with unlimited data and has no fair usage policy. For longer than 30 stays, the SIM from KT Olleh is the best option. It can be used for up to 90 days.

Does WhatsApp work in South Korea? ›

Short answer: Yes. WhatsApp is allowed in South Korea, and most of its population uses this app to communicate with friends and family and even with their colleagues. If you didn't know, South Korea is a nation with a high population dependent on technology, and WhatsApp is no different.

What kind of adapter do I need for Korea? ›

For South Korea the associated plug type is F, which is the plug that has two round pins with two earth clips on the side. South Korea operates on a 220V supply voltage and 60Hz.

What do I do with my phone when I go to Korea? ›

Staying Connected During Your South Korea Trip
  1. Bring your phone and get a prepaid SIM card. ...
  2. Rent a portable Wi-Fi. ...
  3. Buy a prepaid Wi-Fi ID. ...
  4. Rent a local phone. ...
  5. Leech off of ubiquitous free Wi-Fi. ...
  6. Activate International roaming plan.

Does my iPhone work in Korea? ›

Update (10/14/2015): All Apple phones released since the iPhone 5c are compatible with Korea's network.

Do I get charged for using data roaming? ›

Your operator must tell you how much data is in your roaming allowance. If you go over your allowance while roaming, you will be charged extra. However, this surcharge will be limited to the wholesale data cap (€2 / GB + VAT in 2022).

What things are free in Korea? ›

Things to do in Seoul, South Korea which are free
  • Walk around the Seoul City Wall. ...
  • Visit Bukchon Hanok Village. ...
  • Spend time at the Jeongdong Observatory. ...
  • Walk from the Namsan Park to Seoul Tower. ...
  • Explore the Yun Dong-ju Literature Museum. ...
  • Experience theatre, music and more at Oil Tank Culture Park.
12 Sept 2022

Do I need a VPN in South Korea? ›

South Korea's Internet Is Censored by the Government

But many other “indecent” websites are also blocked. These include gambling sites, games without maturity ratings and all pornography websites. If you want to view any of these sites in South Korea, you'll need a VPN.

Do I need a SIM card in South Korea? ›

No need to purchase a physical SIM card or carry around a pocket WiFi (WiFi Egg)! All you need to do is purchase the eSIM product and activate the QR code. No need to line up in the airport or wait for deliveries, just enjoy unlimited 4G/LTE data the moment you arrived in Korea.

Is WiFi good in South Korea? ›

South Korea has 3 networks, LG U+, SK Telecom, and KT. All three have excellent coverage of the country. SK Telecom and KT have a 4G coverage of 95%, LG U+ scores best with 99,5%. SK Telecom scores best in terms of download speed, their 4G LTE network has an average download speed of 65 Mbps.

Can foreigners buy SIM card in Korea? ›

Anyone living in or visiting South Korea can buy a South Korean SIM card from the mobile network operators (SK Telecom (also known as T World), KT South Korea (formerly Korea Telekom & Olleh) & LG U+) with some restrictions.

What phone is famous in South Korea? ›

Best Selling Smartphones in South Korea
RankModelsSales Share
1Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G11%
2Apple iPhone 1311%
3Samsung Galaxy A3210%
4Samsung Galaxy A52s 5G8%
1 more row
22 Jun 2022

Which app is used in Korea for chatting? ›

As of August 2022, KakaoTalk had 53 million monthly active users, 47 million inside Korea. It is available in 15 languages. The app is also used by 93% of smartphone owners in South Korea, where it is the most widely used messaging app for smart phones and personal computers.

What social media is allowed in South Korea? ›

Korea has the second-highest rate of active social media users in the world. Users toggle between multiple platforms, such as KakaoTalk, Meta, Instagram, Naver LINE, and TikTok.

Is Instagram allowed in South Korea? ›

With over 16 million Instagram users in Korea, Instagram is the most popular lifestyle sharing site in the country.

Can I charge my phone in Korea? ›

Luckily, the Korea electrical outlet uses only one kind of plug, so with one Korea power adapter, you'll be able to charge your devices all over the country.

Can I use my iPhone charger in South Korea? ›

Re: Power adapter from US to South Korea? South Korea uses 220v power (vs 110v power in the US). Most power adapters will work on both voltages, check the power adapter before you plug it in, it will say something like 100-240V and if that range is at or over 220 you can use that adapter.

How do I charge my laptop in Korea? ›

You need a voltage converter in South Korea, when living in the United States of America! You can find voltage converters at Amazon. Because you also need a power plug adapter, you should consider a combined plug adapter/voltage converter. To be sure, check the label on the appliance.

What phones are allowed in Korea? ›

You can bring in any mobile phone. If it's new and shiny (such as an iPhone), expect to have it inspected. If it's old, no-one cares ;-) 4.

Do you take your shoes off in Korea? ›

Shoes off

When entering a Korean home, you must remove your shoes. To do any less is a sign of great disrespect. Koreans have a special relationship with their floor, on which they sit and often sleep.

Why iPhone is not used in Korea? ›

South Korea is not an "Apple country." Technology products from Korean companies like Samsung and LG are far more popular. That said, Apple products and accessories for them are readily available, both through Apple's online store for Korea at http://store.apple.com/kr and through resellers.

Can I use my Apple Card in South Korea? ›

Introduced in 2014 with the iPhone 6, Apple Pay can be used with cards issued in 72 countries. Korea is one of the few Asian countries without the service due in part to the extraordinarily low commissions in Korea. The rate ranges from 0.5 percent to 1.6 percent per transaction, depending on the size of the seller.

What phone plans work in South Korea? ›

Korea has a handful of popular carrier companies that are located all around the country. Your best and most available options are likely SK Telecom, KT (Olleh), or LG U+.

Should I turn off data roaming when abroad? ›

Roaming charges can get expensive, so if you're traveling outside your cellular plan's coverage area (which generally means international travel), you might want to turn off data roaming on your Android device. Don't worry about being left without internet.

How do I avoid roaming charges when traveling? ›

How do you stop your phone from roaming?
  1. Shut off your phone. It might be the relaxing vacation you need. ...
  2. Turn off data roaming. ...
  3. Turn off data and WiFi. ...
  4. Get a travel plan/add-on. ...
  5. Buy a local SIM card and prepaid plan before you go or when you arrive at your destination.
6 Jul 2022

Should I have my data roaming on or off? ›

Should You Keep It On or Off? Unless you are traveling abroad and need constant access to mobile data, there is no need for you to have data roaming turned on. It is in your best interest to work your way over to the settings option in your phone and toggle this feature off.

Is lunch free in Korea? ›

All kindergarteners and elementary, middle and high school students are subject to free school lunch in the city of Seoul. The city launched its free lunch program for students in 2011 and has since expanded it.

Is Korea cheap for tourists? ›

Between its vast and affordable transit system, wide range of dining options, and abundance of low-cost activities and attractions, South Korea can prove a relatively inexpensive travel destination.

How much cash should I carry in Korea? ›

For those on a mid range budget, 120 000 krw should be enough and for those on a luxury budget, a minimum of 200 000 krw should be ok. It is recommended to bring at least around 200$ in cash. You can use this in places that don't accept cash or in emergencies.

Can you use Spotify in Korea? ›

Spotify Premium is available in Individual and Duo plans in South Korea.

Is Google maps allowed in Korea? ›

Google Maps has a solid reputation for being pretty unreliable in Korea. It doesn't work well since the South Korean government requires that any mapping data be stored on local servers for national security purposes. So, you are going to want to download either KakaoMap or Naver Map.

Is Netflix allowed in South Korea? ›

Can I Watch Netflix in South Korea? If you are an American watching Netflix while living in South Korea, you won't see your American Netflix library. Instead, you'll see all Korean content. To unblock Netflix from another country, you'll have to connect to a VPN.

Can you put toilet paper in the toilet in South Korea? ›

If you flush your toilet paper in South Korea, you risk clogging the toilet. The best practice is to throw your used paper in the trash bin which will be provided near the toilet.

Do I need to carry cash in Korea? ›

South Korea is a modern and cosmopolitan country, with exciting culture and food. Credit cards, debit cards, and cash are all accepted without issue in South Korea, with cash becoming less common. According to the Bank of Korea, only about 20% of financial transactions in Korea are made with cash.

Is toilet paper used in South Korea? ›

The people of this culture use water to clean themselves when necessary. China, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, and Taiwan: In most Asian countries, it is very difficult to find toilet paper, even in stores. Some hotels may have it available in the guestrooms.

How do Koreans get WiFi in tourism? ›

Renting a Pocket WiFi in Korea

Most pocket Wi-Fi rentals in Korea can be paid for in advance online. After you book online, you can simply pick up the device at different locations, including airports (Incheon Intl. Airport/Gimhae Intl. Airport/Gimhae Intl.

Is internet restricted in Korea? ›

Internet censorship in South Korea is prevalent, and contains some unique elements such as the blocking of pro-North Korea websites, and to a lesser extent, Japanese websites, which led to it being categorized as "pervasive" in the conflict/security area by OpenNet Initiative.

Is internet expensive in Korea? ›

South Korea is now among the countries where consumers pay the highest rates for mobile data in the world. To give an idea, the average cost of 1GB of mobile data in South Korea is more than €12, whereas the European average (across all operators) is just €1.85.

Is healthcare free in Korea for foreigners? ›

Does South Korea have free public healthcare? No, it does not. Every resident in the country, whether you are a foreigner or a Korean national, must pay to use the public healthcare system.

Are black boxes mandatory in Korea? ›

"The installation of the black box will be mandatory in all vehicles in two to three years," said Kim Pil-soo, a professor at Daelim College. He serves as the chairman of a special government committee that supervises black box and related policies.

Can a 19 year old drink in Korea? ›

Alcohol. The legal drinking age in Korea is 19 years of age.

Do Koreans use Android or IPhone? ›

In fact, most South Koreans prefer Samsung smartphones for personal use, followed by LG and Apple respectively.
...
Share of leading smartphone models sold in South Korea during the month of October 2021, by model.
CharacteristicMarket share
--
4 more rows
27 Jul 2022

Why do Koreans use Samsung phones? ›

The age of the first smartphone user in Korea continues to be younger and younger. Now in Korea, it is vital to not only have a smartphone but a Samsung phone. This is because there is a huge benefit to having a Samsung smartphone that can be easily integrated into online shopping and payments.

Why do Koreans use Samsung? ›

Samsung has a solid and loyal customer base in its home country of South Korea. As it's the country's largest conglomerate, and one of the most innovative companies in the world, citizens rightly view it as a matter of pride to support this homegrown behemoth.

What cell phone service works in South Korea? ›

Korean Telecom Options

There are three large Telecom providers in South Korea: SK Telecom [T-world] KT Telecom [Olleh] LG Telecom [U+])

Can I use my Verizon phone in South Korea? ›

The agreement allows Verizon Wireless customers when in the Republic of Korea to roam on SK Telecom's network with their same handset and phone number.

Does WIFI calling work in Korea? ›

Bear in mind, too, that some countries (including China, Vietnam, North Korea, and Cuba) block the use of Wifi calling, so if you are traveling in these countries, you won't be able to use it, even if you have a Wifi connection.

What are you not allowed to bring to Korea? ›

Guns, narcotics, pornography, subversive material, treasonous material, and counterfeit goods are prohibited from entering Korea.

Does internet work in South Korea? ›

South Korea is known for having one of the fastest internet networks around the world. Paired with the high availability of high-speed internet, it is no surprise that 93 percent of South Koreans use the internet.

Can I use iPhone bought in US in Korea? ›

A phone purchased directly from Apple, either in an Apple store or https://apple.com/iphone and the phone is not subsidized by a carrier (that is, it is “SIM Free”) will work anywhere in the world.

Can I take a picture in Korea? ›

Unlike what many people believe, or what the media may suggest, it is perfectly fine to take pictures and videos in North Korea.

Can I charge my phone in South Korea? ›

In South Korea the standard voltage is 220 V and the frequency is 60 Hz. You cannot use your electric appliances in South Korea without a voltage converter, because the standard voltage in South Korea (220 V) is higher than in the United States of America (120 V).

Can I bring pills to Korea? ›

Visitors must bring the original prescriptions, a letter from your doctor specifying the medical condition, and a statement from your doctor on the medicines you are importing. The Korean Customs Service at Incheon Airport has authority over which medications will be allowed to be carried into the country.

How can I avoid Verizon charges when traveling internationally? ›

For shorter trips, you can use either Pay as You Go pricing or opt for TravelPass, which allows you to use your domestic plan abroad for a flat daily fee. For longer trips, the Verizon Monthly International Plan allows you to set a monthly allowance of talk, text and data for your account for international use.

What should I do with my phone when going abroad? ›

Heading overseas soon? Here are our top tips on using your phone abroad without breaking the bank.
  1. Turn data roaming off if you're outside of the EU. ...
  2. Alternatives to data roaming. ...
  3. Use SMS and VoIP instead of making normal calls. ...
  4. Disable your voicemail. ...
  5. Keep your phone secure.
2 Jul 2018

Can I use my ATT Iphone in South Korea? ›

Make sure your device works in the countries you'll visit

Most AT&T devices work on foreign frequencies of 1800MHz and 900MHz. In Japan or South Korea, you'll need a device that can use the 2100MHz frequency. All AT&T LTE devices support band 4.

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