Are you the same type of traveler as me that needs to have the internet on your smartphone otherwise your journey changes to a frustration because you get constantly lost?
Don’t worry, South Korea is one of the most advanced countries when it comes to a mobile connection.
The internet in Korea is amazingly fast and stable and you have quite a few options to obtain it for your smartphone.
EG Sim card
This is the most convenient way to buy a sim card in Korea when you’re a foreigner. I would strongly advise you to order the card online and in advance, as there is a 2-3 days period for immigration record to be entered into the system (this applies globally, not just for EG Sim card). You will only be able to use the card after this period.
Ordering online is really easy. All you need to do is to register at their site and then fill out this form. The initial price of the sim card is 20 000 KRW which acts as a balance to use for voice and/or data use.
You also have to pay an additional fee for your sim card type. A standard type (the largest one) and micro sim card both cost 5 500 KRW. If you have an iPhone 5 and later or a high-end Android phone you will need to pay 9 900 KRW for a nano sim card.
As I mentioned earlier you can use the initial fee for a data service. I would recommend you to choose either 500MB or 1GB as you will also get a free access to KT Olleh wifi service which is available virtually anywhere in Seoul. Then you don’t have to spend your data plan which is really easy to do as the internet is fast as hell. The 500MB option costs 10 000 KRW and for the latter, it’s 15 000 KRW.
A "credit" card (they also accept debit cards as well) is the only payment option that I’m aware of but don’t worry they accept all standard brands as VISA, MasterCard, JCB, and AMEX.
There are currently 8 options to collect your sim card, but as you probably arrive at Incheon Airport I would recommend to pick it right there (be sure to check "collection hours" under the form). The collection place is called "K Books" and it’s located on floor B1 right in front of the Exit 7 near the AREX entrance.
It’s a tiny books/magazine store with a cute cashier that can speak English. Just tell her what you’re up to (you can also tell her that you’d like to collect your sim card) and prepare your passport. You’ll have your sim card ready in a minute.
Because you’ve ordered the sim card at least 3 days in advance it’s already activated so all you need to do is just to put it on your smartphone, wait for a couple of seconds till it finds the KT Olleh network and you’re all set.
KT Olleh Sim card
I didn’t go for this method but I suppose it’s exactly the same card as EG Sim card because the EG one is just KT Olleh card with a different packaging. The only downside is you can’t order it online and therefore you have to wait up to 3 days for that immigration nonsense I’ve mentioned earlier.
It’s a portable wireless router in an "egg-like" shape small enough to carry with you. The data plan is unlimited and it’s really fast as it’s a 4G/LTE connection. You can connect up to 7 devices so it’s really great if you carry your smartphone and tablet with you all the time or you travel with other people. Before making a free reservation which I strongly advise you to do in case they run out of devices, be sure to check the coverage with your itinerary. It might not be suitable for you if you plan to travel outside touristy places.
As with EG Sim card, you can also pick up the egg right at Incheon Airport at different collection places. Rental price is 8 000 KRW a day, but you’ll get a 50% discount from the 11th day onwards. A deposit for the egg is 200 000 KRW and you can either pay in cash or they will make a reservation on your card. Don’t worry the deposit will be returned right as you return the device.
Tip: If you know that you’ll spend most of the days outside with no access to a wall socket, be sure to get an external battery as battery life of the Olleh egg is the real downside of this device.
If you only stay at Olleh WiFi zone, which is wireless internet hotspots at universities, malls, attractions, banks, public offices and other places across the country, one of the option is to buy a prepaid wifi.
Its price is 3 300 KRW a day and you can get it at convenience stores such as GS25, 7-11, CU, Buy the way and Mini Stop. The pin you need to register is written on the receipt so be sure to only throw it away after your trip is over.
Once you get your pin, activating the service is really straightforward:
- connect to "olleh WiFi" SSID
- open your browser with any website and a registration page will pop out
- click a “Register WiFi prepaid card” button and you’ll get to a registration form
- input your 12 digits PIN code and you’re connected
Traveling on a budget and having an internet connection might sound as a sci-fi, but Seoul is one of the most covered WiFi areas in the world. You can get a free WiFi in most places for free. And for those hotspots that are not available for free you can always try these SSIDs and passwords:
- KT SSID , KT_WLAN - 1234567890 | 123456789a | 1234567890c
- HellowD (헬로우 디), Hellowireless, SO070VOIP - 534f4b4354
- Tbroadnet - 123456789
- Egg 택시 (taxi) - SHOW3382
- KWI-B2200T, KWI-2200 - SHOW3382 | password
- myLGnet, myLG070 - 123456789a | 987654321a | 1234567890 | myLGNetfe07
- SK - a123456789
- Tbroadnet - a123456789
- 세븐일레븐 (7-Eleven) - 2127393302
- 맥도날드 (McDonalds) - 16005252 (McDonald’s delivery phone number)
- 스타벅스 (Starbucks) - Phone number of the starbucks you’re at (see receipt)
- tobis - 1234
- U+ Zone - lguplus100
As you can see there are many options (and I only mentioned a few of them) to get an internet connection for your smartphone while traveling Korea.
It might sound like a boring trip because of this convenience, but believe me, you’ll still experience tons of adventures even with your phone in your hand as you probably don’t speak Korean and can’t read their alphabet either :)