Mobile Phone While Travelling in South Korea
August 9, 2014 12:13 AM   Subscribe

My parents will be traveling in South Korea next week. They're going to be there for 11-12 days. What is their best option as far as their mobile phones go?

Is it worth them activating International Roaming (which could end up being ridiculously exorbitant!)? Or is there a way for them to easily (and preferably cheaply!) get themselves "burner" type SIM cards and prepaid phone credit? What would you recommend they do?

Bonus points if they can use the same handset as they would be using here at home in Australia.

Thanks a whole bunch, Metafilter! Truly, you are a suppository of wisdom.
posted by Philby to Travel & Transportation around South Korea (8 answers total)
Do they have unlocked phones?
posted by k8t at 12:51 AM on August 9, 2014

Assuming that their phones are unlocked,

I've had a good personal experience with EG SIM Card. The activation process requires you to upload a scan of your passport to their website with your IMEI and wifi MAC address, so it takes a few hours and a good ability to follow instructions. Otherwise, it was pretty painless, easy to recharge online, and not expensive (15000 krw or $15 for 1GB of data, for example).

If your parents are staying longer, then I'd recommend that they try out Olleh, which has a very helpful blog for English-speaking foreigners/expats.
posted by suedehead at 1:39 AM on August 9, 2014

I would rent a mobile egg (aka mobile data hotspot) at Incheon Airport. It's 8,000 won a day, with a 200,000 won security deposit. This is only data, and not mobile phone calls and SMS. So it does limit them to Skype/Kakao phone calls, and messages through Whatsapp/Line/Kakao.

Normally, SIM cards can only be issued after your third day in Korea. Places at the airport are sure to have ways of working around this limitation.
posted by Xere at 6:19 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Xere's right that most SIM cards have a three-day lag for SIM cards, but the EG SIM Card specifically doesn't have that restriction for holders of non-Korean passports. You can order it to pick up at the airport.

Per Xere's suggestion, you can also rent a mobile hotspot or even a phone, although the phone is pretty pricey.
posted by suedehead at 9:37 AM on August 9, 2014

I just came back from a month in South Korea, and Xere has the best option. Go to the LG+ store at Incheon Airport and rent a mobile hotspot. Works like a charm! Get the folks used to using Skype, although life is easier if they have iPhones since FaceTime Audio works like a CHAMP in South Korea.

Also, make sure they turn off 'cellular data' on their phones and go strictly wifi.
posted by matty at 9:42 AM on August 9, 2014

We also did a mobile wifi "egg" for use with our smartphones and paid 5,000 won (about $5 US) a day because we reserved in advance and used a stand that was not in the main terminal (it was on the way to the entrance to the airport express train).

I've also rented non-smartphone cellphones at the airport for relatively cheap daily base rates and per minute/per text rates. There are many prepaid phone cards (any convenience store will sell them) if you want to call abroad. The nice thing about cellphone service in Korea is that receiving calls is free.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:46 PM on August 9, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks guys- some useful info in there.

Sorry I didn't respond sooner- their phones are indeed unlocked.

posted by Philby at 12:09 AM on August 10, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks guys- they're over in Seoul now, happily connected- just using Skype and local wifi connections to keep in touch.

posted by Philby at 12:08 AM on August 17, 2014

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