Cell Phones In Korea
When traveling abroad it seems like it’s just you and your cell phone against the world. You need it for navigation, transportation, translation, and so much more. It is essential to have a phone plan upon your arrival to Korea. There are a couple of options to consider and I am here to tell you all about cell phones in Korea!
Get a SIM Card
Before arriving in South Korea, it is best to switch from your current mobile provider to the South Korea SIM card provider. A SIM card allows you to utilize your mobile device to receive calls, send messages, or connect to mobile internet services. SIM cards are relatively cheap. The cost depends on how many days you would like the card to be activated. You can purchase these cards almost anywhere, including upon arrival at the Incheon airport in Korea. Just remember to have your passport on hand as it will be necessary to purchase a SIM card as a foreigner in Korea.
There are two main types of Korean SIM cards you will encounter, the traditional SIM card and the eSIM. The eSIM functions as a regular SIM, but you are not actually inserting anything into your phone. Because you don’t have to physically pick it up, the eSIM is extremely convenient. All you have to do is sign up online, scan a QR code, then BAM! You’re connected to the world. Be sure to click this link to read more on how to access an eSIM.
Do not worry about how well a SIM card will work. According to GSMarena, Korea’s LTE coverage is the highest in the world. Some of the top rated Korean SIM cards include eSIM Korea, Trazy, Klook, EG, and Woori Mobile. These cards are only meant to keep you afloat until you receive your Alien Registration Card, or ARC. Once you receive your ARC, you will be able to register for a permanent Korean number and phone plan.
Setting Up a Phone Plan
There are several phone companies to consider when applying for a phone plan. A few major ones include KT, SKT, and LG U+. It is best to stick with these big phone companies as a foreigner, because you are less likely to get scammed.
I was able to acquire a Korean phone number with LG U+ and paid about 30,000 KRW a month for a basic phone plan. The entire process was painless. The LG U+ employee and I both used Papago to communicate. I simply chose the plan I wanted, displayed my passport and ARC, paid the man, and was on my way out within 20 minutes.
Most US phone companies allow you to purchase an international service while you travel abroad. For an additional $50.00 USD a month, I was able to use my normal cellular data plan of 15 GB. Upon arrival, I was on a T-Mobile family plan with a displeasing phone balance. Because of this, I was unable to discontinue my payments.
Take it from me, pay your remaining phone balance & get off the family plan before arriving. I was paying for two phones, which felt very unnecessary when the only person in the world who ever tried contacting me, was my mother. Now, you might be asking yourself “Why did she continue to pay for both phones when you only need one?” The answer is, Korean bank accounts. In order to access direct deposit, receive/transfer money, you will need your own Korean number on file.
The Big Picture
I hope my personal experience and information have brought you a sense of clarity. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a phone when living abroad. Be sure to plan accordingly, but most importantly, enjoy the adventure. Safe travels!
Amber Ochoa is from Los Angeles, USA, and just recently moved to South Korea in May. She studied Biochemistry as an undergraduate. After graduation, she began venturing out and embracing her love for adventure. She finds that “nothing holds greater power in our life than the unknown.” One night while applying to random jobs on Indeed, she came across an English teaching position in Seoul, Korea. Flash forward, she is now teaching at CDI, Mokdong branch. She claims that Creverse found her and ended up becoming a blessing in disguise. Amber says giving knowledge to students & inspiring them for higher achievements in life is one of the greatest feelings in the world.