Nowadays, it has become almost an indispensable part of any travel to stay connected. This is not just to remain reachable by people back home but also to be able to be contacted by your tour-mates especially when traveling in a group. It appears that renting a pocket WiFi is the most economical and convenient option when traveling in a group because it can be used by up to 5 people sometimes and then you get to share the cost. But what if your group splits up because you have different areas to visit? In my case, I will be going ahead and then my family will just follow. Then, is a pocket WiFi still the best option? Should we get separate WiFi eggs or separate SIM cards instead?
I am an Affiliate of Trazy and also very lucky to be chosen for their Blogger Sponsorship program. I will tell you more about it in due time. But meanwhile, allow me to say that Trazy has been such a huge help to me. Aside from reviews and recommendations from fellow affiliates, Trazy also offers affordable and really great tour options or packages that will make your trip more memorable.
So while browsing my way through the ever-helpful Trazy website, I stumbled upon an article that talks about which mobile internet option should you choose when you travel to South Korea. It was very timely that I was also researching on the subject. This is why I decided to do this post to combine the results of my research and in the process, help myself decide which one to get for my upcoming travel (or maybe I should not get one at all?).
There are many WiFi free zones in Seoul and Seoul’s broadband connectivity is probably the fastest you can ever experience anywhere else in the world. There’s a plan by the Mayor of Seoul Metropolitan Government to make every single public space in Seoul a free WiFi zone this year, 2017, which includes moving transportation like buses and subways. But then again, you will still somehow find yourself stepping outside of these free WiFi zones and if being connected all the time is important to you, then you will have to find ways to be connected either by getting a SIM card or renting a pocket WiFi or what they call a WiFi egg.
GETTING A LOCAL SIM CARD
If your concept of “being connected” means making local and international calls and then also being able to use mobile data and text while on a trip in South Korea, then the better option would be to get a local prepaid SIM card. This way, you will always be connected to the internet and then you can also make calls and send texts. However, this presupposes that your phone will work in Korea as I talked about in my previous post.
You would also need to change SIM cards and if you only have slot for that, you need to make sure that your home SIM card won’t get misplaced. In case you have an extra slot for your home SIM, you have the option to keep the line open but since you are traveling and have gotten a local SIM card in South Korea, your tendency may be to get more focused on the Korean SIM card and you may potentially miss a call from your home country. Or on the reverse, you may end up having more cost by keeping two lines open because answering home calls will mean paying roaming charges.
In case you still decide that a prepaid SIM card is your choice, then let me share with you the different options available.
EG SIM CARD
EG SIM Card is one of the more popular prepaid choices for foreign visitors. You can buy the card offline at several locations or you can purchase it online before you fly. Just arrange to pick it up at the airport when you arrive. Since you’re buying a SIM card, you need to check what type of SIM card does your phone have a slot for because there are different charges depending on that. It usually is 20,000KRW for the SIM card but you need to pay an extra 9,900KRW for a Nano card, or an extra 5,500KRW for a micro SIM card. To illustrate, if you are getting a micro SIM card, you would have to pay a total of 25,500KRW.
The 20,000KRW acts as a balance for your initial voice or data usage. What foreigners usually do is they get either the 500MB or 1GB data plan because along with that comes a free access to KT Olleh WiFi service. This one is available virtually in all of Seoul. This means that you won’t need to use up your data plan every time you’re at a KT Olleh WiFi zone. The 500MB data plan costs 10,000KRW while the 1GB plan costs 15,000KRW. You can use the remaining 5,000-10,000KRW for voice calls or texts.
You can collect your SIM card at Counter 45 between exits 8 and 9 at level 1 of the airport (it’s no longer at “K Books” as of 2016). Once you have the SIM, put it inside your smartphone and wait until you connect to the KT Olleh network and you’re good to go. You can recharge your SIM by choosing what to top up, i.e., voice or data. For more information, visit EG SIM Card’s website.
KT (OLLEH) UNLI DATA SIM CARD
If you want to be able to make texts occasionally but that your priority is really unlimited data, then you may want to take a look at KT (Olleh) Unlimited Data SIM card. Trazy is offering that at a really good price. You can pick it up at Incheon, Jeju, Gimhae, Gimpo, and Hongdae. I’ve seen several websites selling the same unli data SIM card but Trazy has the best offer.
Aside from cost, there’s another good reason to get it from Trazy. The KT Olleh unli data SIM is only available offline which means it is something that you cannot book online in advance. The downside to this is that you will still need to wait for 2-3 days for your immigration record to be entered into the system. You can only use your SIM card after that period. But if you book it from Trazy, they will get all the necessary information from you so that when you pick up your SIM upon your arrival, it is good to go.
RENTING A WIFI EGG
If you are the type who won’t need to make voice calls or send text messages but will need mobile data for surfing or connecting with family and friends through Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Viber, Whatsapp, Skype, etc., the best option is to get a WiFi router or a WiFi egg. They say that the average daily use of mobile data by travelers is about 150MB per day. The EG Sim Card will provide up to 1GB of mobile data for up to 30 days. This means that at 150MB per day, you’ll be able to use up your allocation in about 9 days. The WiFi egg, however, will provide you 1GB a day and that’s a LOT! Like 28,000 emails, 2,000 Instagram posts, or 6,000 posts in Facebook.
Depending on which WiFi egg you get, it can connect 3-5 gadgets simultaneously which, as I said at the start, is a great deal for family or friends who travel together. The only downside is the quick drainage of the battery life. For a single full charge, a WiFi egg can last up to 5 hours. This means that you will need to bring a battery pack or a charger whenever you travel.
The best deal for WiFi egg rental is the one from Klook. I have purchased several discounted vouchers from Klook before including the WiFi gadget that I used in Hong Kong. Right now and until May 2017, there’s an ongoing promotion where a WiFi egg rental costs only P133 per day. That’s the cheapest I have found from among several providers. With Klook, you just need to follow the instructions for claiming which will be emailed to you. Just a heads up though, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to give a credit card deposit worth 200,000KRW when you claim your gadget. This is similar practice to what we experienced in Hong Kong and in Taiwan. Don’t worry, the amount will be returned to you when you return the gadget.
OLLEH PREPAID WIFI CARD
If your itinerary will mostly just take you to Olleh WiFi zones which pretty much can be found in all universities, malls, attractions, banks, public offices, and public places across South Korea, then your option is to buy a prepaid WiFi. You can buy it from any convenience store in South Korea like GS25, 7-11, CU, Buy The Way, or Mini Stop. The PIN that you need to register is written on the receipt so make sure that you throw away the receipt only after your trip.
The cost is 3,300KRW per day. So once you have your PIN, you can activate it by connecting to “olleh WiFi” SSID. When you open your browser, a registration page will pop out. Register your WiFi prepaid card by entering your 12-digit PIN as stated in the receipt. And that activates your prepaid WiFi.
Finally, if you’re the type of traveler who’s fine without having to be connected all the time or who can wait until you’re at the hotel or guesthouse where free Internet is provided anyways, you can still get connected by staying at free WiFi hot spots in South Korea. And the kicker word here is FREE. South Korea is probably the most wired country in the whole world which means that you won’t need logins or passwords at free WiFi zones. Just be on the lookout for the sign “Seoul Wi-Fi” as shown above.
Here are some of the notable locations with Seoul Wi-Fi:
Screenshot from http://seoulistic.com
Of course, you don’t want to look crazy having to look up and down and all around in search for the Seoul Wi-Fi sign! There is an app that will help you locate for nearby Seoul Wi-Fi spots but it is in Korean. It’s pretty handy nonetheless.
Even outside Seoul Wi-Fi spots, you can still score some free connection by checking out the list below. Common routers in Korea have preset factory passwords and many people keep the factory password intact. While it is not guaranteed to work 100% of the time, there’s still a great chance that you’ll be able to get some free connection from those in the list below. I have compiled the passwords from a total of four websites/blogs so the list is pretty comprehensive. You’re welcome 🙂
After considering all of the above, I have decided to get a pocket WiFi from Klook for all of the 10 days that I’ll be in South Korea. My husband, on the other hand, will be connecting through free WiFi zones from the airport until they reach my hotel in Myeongdong. From then on, we can share the pocket WiFi together and if there’s a rare chance that we’ll split our ways, we’ll make sure that either of us is connected through free WiFi or in the absence of a hot spot, we’ll probably grab the one-day prepaid WiFi from any convenience store.
Hope this helps. Let me know your thoughts or experience. Happy trip! Annyeong!
*Note: I lost the websites from which I copied the photos. I just Googled my way into getting them. I have actually entered the websites as photo captions but for some weird reason, they did not show up. Apologies for this.