This is another hot topic that comes up alllll the time on TripAdvisor. Everyone wants to know where to get them, which ones you can trust, which one is the best value, etc. So today’s post will be quick and painless, too! My two cents on having phone/internet service on your trip.
These tips are for short term tourist visits. Visiting more than one month (and less than three) – check out KT Prepaid Services. You have to go to a Global Store and set these prepaid cards up. Tourist options are unlimited. Prepaid are standard pay and top up SIM cards.
Do I Really Need It? Can’t I Just Use Free WiFi?
At my age, 34, I have done my share of backpacker traveler, penny pinching travel, budget hostels, etc. Now, by no means am I a luxury traveler. I just prefer to be prepared and comfortable.
I always recommend visitors use AirBnB as these are often cheaper than hotels, similar quality, in local buildings AND include a wifi router (egg) included in the price.
IMO, you do need it. If you’re out on the streets, yes, you can find a cafe. Yes, they do have free wifi. But if you’re stressed, stranded, hot and sweaty (or freezing)…..it’s REALLY more annoying to find a cafe. If you have your own data connection, you can just pull out your phone, step to the side of the street (TIP: bank ATM lobbies are both heated and cooled year round and serve as great waiting areas) and find the map/directions and what you need.
99.9999% of cafes will offer wifi, and it’s often on the receipt or the wall, so you will usually have to buy something…..and an ice coffee at most is around 3-4,000W…which is the cost of the device anyway.
The cost of these devices are honestly cheap, maximum 4,000W a day. And personally, I feel that if you can afford a plane ticket, can come all the way here, you should be able to afford the 4,000W a day for peace of mind. And it’s just simply worth it.
Also, there is wifi in tourist areas like “Seoul Free WiFi.” And while it’s trustworthy, it could be overloaded or slow as hell when you need it the most.
What are the Options? What’s the Difference?
The main choice is SIM card and portable pocket wifi device (WiFi egg).
Traveling alone? You can use either SIM card or Egg. Egg is better if you’re worried about your phone battery. Your phone stays on airplane mode so it lasts longer. But it’s one more thing to carry around.
Traveling with anyone else (2,3+++ people)? Absolutely get an Egg. You can share it among the entire group. If you have more than 5 people, you will need two eggs.
SIM card has two options: Prepaid SIM (Voice for Fee) and Prepaid Data SIM. The Prepaid SIM allows voice calls and you will be charged at the end of your rental. The data SIM just allows, well, data.
I always recommend you get the Data SIM. When you use Kakao Talk, Line or any of the other Messengers (including Facebook) – you can call anyone for free using those.
Instead of paying local rates for SIM (and I know many travel to other countries) – I always get 10$ worth of Skype credit and it lasts me 1-2 years. I RARELY make any calls to local businesss when I am in the country.
Which Company Do I Choose?
There are seemingly hundreds out there.
I recommend KT Roaming . KT Roaming is part of KT, one of the largest mobile companies here. BUT the best about KT is their superior foreign language support. They offer excellent phone support AND also feature Global Stores throughout Seoul with staff fluent in several languages.
You can pick up at any airport and return at other airports (even some ferry terminals). Fly into Seoul and out of Busan? No problem.
There are other smaller companies that offer WiFi and SIM rentals, but they still all use KT. They might be cheaper, but in my experience, everyone that has problems with the other companies says that they are not responsive and nowhere to be found.
SKT and LG are other companies in Korea that offer SIM and WiFi Egg rentals directly, but I don’t have any experience with them. I used to be an SKT Customer, and was happy with the service, but they didn’t have much English support then.
What’s the Cost?
It’s very important to pre-reserve. You receive a 50% discount. You do not pay anything until you arrive at the airport. It’s literally just typing your name in a box and your arrival date.
You will absolutely need a CREDIT CARD (NOT debit card) to pay a deposit for the WiFi Egg Device in case of damage.
And while a 30 day unlimited SIM card may seem expensive, know that those of us that live here with a phone pay around 65,000W per month for unlimited LTE data anyway :-). So you’re not getting massively ripped off or cheated.
What to Do with Problems?
That’s the good news about booking directly with the source. You can walk into any KT Store and get service resolved….but just know that they might not speak English. That’s why, as I said above, there are many Global Stores where they do speak your language.
Well, that’s a short write up today, but it’s class time so it’s a perfect place to stop.
Next time I’ll start on a LONG post: an overview of Korea’s other cities (and how long to stay, etc.)