This next installment of Tourist Tips should be much shorter and simpler! As always, I’m tailoring this series to answer common questions from TripAdvisor and other social media travel groups in which I participate.
Today’s topic: Apps. Must download, must have apps! Let’s get to it. Short and sweet today and I did this post in one sweep! Didn’t take a week, aren’t you proud?!?!?! Each heading is a link you can click to get to the appropriate webpage for download.
**NOTICE: Some Korean apps will require a Korean phone number to register. A Korean phone number is actually used as a form of legal verification matched to your ID to prove that it is you. You must request a code by SMS and then enter that on the page when you create an account.
This is not necessary for Kakao Talk, Naver Map, Kakao Map, Kakao Metro, Kakao Bus.
Every country and even region has their own free messaging app. Kakao Talk is Korea’s. Literally EVERYONE (and I mean literally – 97% of Koreans have a smart phone) use this app.
It’s a messaging app to use between friends, but also you can do things (if you have Korean ID and phone number) like buy movie tickets, send gifts to friends, pay at stores, make reservations at hair shops, online shopping…literally EVERYTHING.
For you the visitor it’s most important because EVERYONE will have it. The hotel staff, the tour guide…and you won’t need to use your phone to call anyone. The app features free voice and video chat.
Naver Map is a Korean map service that again, everyone uses. As I’ve said over and over and over (I swear it’s like beating a dead horse) – Google Maps is not reliable. Google and the government don’t play nice together, so they have limited access. Google Maps will only work for basic transportation directions. Walking directions do NOT work on Google, but you can still follow around the little blue dot.
Naver Map is my go to map service. The app now features English support after the Olympics. Naver Map is VERY detailed down to the exact address and subway exit to use and is always trusted.
Kakao Map is, as you’d guess, owned and operated by Kakao, the company that owns Kakao Talk. I use this map service sometimes, and it’s just as good as Naver….but Naver is my go to choice. Works just as well as Naver Maps.
Kakao Metro is a standalone subway app (again designed by…you guessed it….Kakao). It is EXCELLENT and above and beyond better than any other subway app.
The subways in Korea are marked by car and door number. So if you look on the ground (or the screen door) you will see a number like 7-2, 2-3, etc. Say it’s 7-3, that means Car 7 Door 3.
The car and door number are VERRRRRY VALUABLE info for finding your exit and transfer points. Some stations are huge, have 15 exits, etc. This will tell you exactly where to stand so you can be right at the appropriate stairwell closest to your exit.
I RELIGIOUSLY follow these directions and always stand at the proper door.
When you transfer, some stations only have transfer access in one way. Meaning that the transfer to a different subway line in one direction can be at the opposite end of the other direction. So the car number and door is vital to putting yourself in the right direction and place for your transfer.
Tip: If you stand at the exact door for transfers/exits, it can often be VERY crowded. Just go down one door or two over from that to have a bit more space.
Kakao Bus is an app that is designed in basic English, BUT you must be able to decipher/follow the Korean for bus stops.
This app is very useful as it tells you the bus stop information and when the bus is coming, and the direction that it is going.
It’s very popular for Koreans, but again, without Korean ability – bring your patience.
Now this is a popular app for taxi hailing, and I only write about it because everyone always asks about Uber or similar services. In Korea, there is no Uber. There are literally 5 which are registered taxis that drive black cars. They are literally about 5 times more expensive than a regular taxi.
You can generally find a taxi on the street no problem. If it is late at night in popular nightlife areas like Gangnam or Itaewon, it will be VERY hard to get a taxi. Even then, Kakao Taxi doesn’t always work.
The main catch with Kakao Taxi is that, no matter if your location is exact, drivers always ALWAYS call you. So, if you can’t speak Korean or don’t have a working phone number, you might have your taxi cancelled because the driver doesn’t want the difficulties or hassle. It’s lazy and annoying, but sadly, it’s just how it is.
The app is in English, but again, don’t expect the drivers to speak it. They’re just regular taxis with this hooked up to a phone in their car.
There are lots of requests for info about bus and train tickets. BUT the apps only work if you have a Korean credit card, not a foreign one.
**Train tickets are ONLY available for purchase 30 days before departure.
SRT Rail (Gangnam Area High Speed Train To Busan, Gyeongju Etc.) does not offer any English support online at this time. The app is said to have Korean, but still requires a Korean credit card. Best to purchase at an SRT station. 99% of tourists will only use KTX as it’s closer to Hongdae/Myeongdong. SRT is only good for those staying in Gangnam as the main station is Suseo….which is a bit far out of the way.
This is one of two bus websites. This website features most of the routes from Express Bus Terminal (Gangnam) and a few from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal and Nambu Bus.
This is the original bus ticketing website that features several lines. There are sooo many buses and lines that it’s even hard to explain to Koreans. They just know which apps to use and where to go 🙂
*With Korea bus apps – enter your phone number 010-555-5555. You don’t need a number to register, but they just want a number to send a text with the reservation.
There are many many many Korean delivery apps. However, these don’t offer English support AND you typically need a phone number to confirm delivery in case of problems (or to register for service).
Feeling adventurous and want to try them out? The main one is:
Baemin – App Store OR Google Play
The easiest way to use this:
Set your address by copying and pasting the Korean from your accomodation email.
Scroll on the main page to 맛집 랭킹. This means Ranking of Restaurants in your neighborhood based on reviews and overall popularity. It’s literally how I order all the time.
After you play around with delivery – be sure to hit the button 만나서 결제. This means pay when the driver comes.
English Speaking Korean Help Apps/Sites
There are several services that exist to help foreigners with things like online shopping, baseball tickets, and food delivery. They are:
English speaking concierge service that operates roughly 9 AM – 6 PM. They’ll help with concert tickets that don’t have an English site, online shopping, food orders, train tickets, etc.
This is a delivery assistance site for Korean food delivery. Must have Kakao to communicate with them for your order. Easiest way to get regular Korean favorites delivered to you!
This is a popular delivery app for foreigners that want to have their favorite foreign restaurants. As most of these places are in Itaewon, be warned that there can be hefty fees the further away from Itaewon that you are.
There are several Korean hotel apps that offer cheap “love motels” for a night at 30-50,000W. Unfortunately, you need a Korean number to register for these. That being said, I’m offering them purely as info for you to try them.
That’s all for today’s tourist tips! I did this one so fast I can’t even think of what I’m gonna do next….it’s Saturday night and time to go out :-)!