Reduce your roaming rates by using a local SIM.
If you’re planning a trip to South Korea, a top tip for keeping down costs is to switch to a local SIM card. Take advantage of better tariffs, plans and deals to dramatically reduce your roaming rates while traveling abroad. You can get 1GB of data from South Korea’s top telco provider for about KRW16,500 ($16.50). So, whether you’re a short or long-term traveler, you can save money by comparing your SIM card options.
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Telco providers in South Korea
There are three main telco providers in South Korea: SK Telecom, kt olleh and LG U+, which doesn’t provide prepaid SIM cards, so we’ll just focus on the other two providers. Both locals and travelers use SIM cards from the networks, and they can be trusted whatever plan you choose. According to OpenSignal’s coverage map, South Korea has a great signal all around the country. They offer 3G and 4G/LTE services, and prepaid SIM cards can be picked up from official retailers or approved resellers. Credit can be purchased from almost anywhere.
About South Korea’s operators
It can be quite difficult to set up a prepaid SIM card in South Korea, so we advise you to go to one of the official stores to register the SIM card there and ask the shop assistant to set up and register the number for you. You will need your passport as proof of ID. Be aware that it can take up to three working days for the SIM card to be approved and activated. Below, we have highlighted both providers and exactly what they can offer you during your visit to South Korea.
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SK Telecom is the largest provider in South Korea. It offers services on the 3G and 4G/LTE platforms, and the signal is good. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores or approved resellers and credit can also be picked up from the same retailers, or online by using your credit card. Prepaid SIM cards are available which are specifically aimed at travelers and there are often deals and promotions for short-term plans. SK Telecom’s prepaid PPS plan is designed for tourists and the following options are on sale:
|Valid for 30 days|
|Valid for 90 days|
The best place to purchase the SIM card is at the service center at Incheon International Airport. You’ll find the service centre in the arrivals hall and it’s open between 8am and 6pm. The staff there are very helpful and will be able to register the SIM card for you in super-quick time.
For an extra KRW110 per day, you can use their T-Zone Wi-Fi service which is very good throughout the country.
SK Telecom also has a short-term smartphone and router rental service for foreigners. You can pick up good two-week, one-month and three-month device rental deals from the official store. Check stores at time of purchase for the latest offers.
SK Telecom’s APN: web.sktelecom.com, website: www.sktelecom.com
kt olleh (Korea Telecom)
kt olleh is run by Korea Telecom and is the second largest provider in the country. It has good coverage and offers customers 3G and 4G/LTE services, each having a different prepaid SIM card. kt olleh prepaid SIM cards are cheaper than SK Telecom and offer better options. The signal and speeds are also better .
There are many English-speaking "Global Stores" dotted round the country, and they can also be found at airports and key areas in the main towns and cities. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores or approved resellers; credit can also be picked up from the same locations. Handset rentals are available for tourists on short-term rentals.
In addition, there are Wi-Fi hotspots all around the country, and the service has recently been voted the best in the country. Wi-Fi vouchers can be picked up from almost any retailer in South Korea.
Korea Telecom’s prepaid SIM card is called “olleh”, hence kt olleh, or as it’s known locally: “선불”. Credit or data packs can be added for varying amounts between KRW4,000 and KRW50,000. The standard default data rate is charged at KRW0.28 per 0.5 KB., or the following data packs can be added to the 3G SIM card:
The following data packs can also be added to the 4G/LTE prepaid SIM card only:
kt olleh also provides an extensive Wi-Fi network with more than 100,000 Wi-Fi hotspots dotted throughout the country. Wi-Fi vouchers can be picked up in the following amounts:
Prepaid SIM cards also allow users to pick from several different data plans. The following plans are available, valid for 30 days:
Call 080-770-0114 and speak to customer services to choose a plan and check your balance.
|Valid for 5 days||KRW27,500|
|Valid for 10 days||KRW38,500|
|Valid for 30 days||KRW71,500|
The standard default data rate is charged at KRW1.5 per 0.5 KB, but unlimited data for both the 3G and 4G SIM cards can be purchased for KRW5,000 per day.
kt olleh’s APN: alwayson.ktfwing.com, website:http://krsim.net/
- The official language is Korean, but people learn English from a young age and it is spoken widely.
- Locals call a SIM card a “SIM Kaa” or “SIM”.
- Ask the sellers to set up the SIM for you, because they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions we have highlighted above or go to the official operator website to seek advice.
- We advise you to purchase your SIM cards from official stores to get the best assistance.
- Get to the shops early to avoid the crowds.
TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them
While it’s best known for reviews, booking hotels, flights and holidays, TripAdvisor also has many user comments that can help guide you through what SIM cards have been tried and tested in South Korea.
“Now you can buy SIM cards in the first arrival floor in Incheon Airport. There are 3 phone shops that are opened for 24 hours, so you can buy the SIM card which is called KT M mobile anytime. If you cannot insert the card, they have staff over there, so don't worry and have a good trip!”
“SK is the #1 provider in the country, with KT a close second. Both of their SIM cards and prices and services will be identical”
“I got the Olleh KT sim card (data only) for KRW34,500 for 10 days. They also have KRW24,500 for 5 days. But that is a discounted price if you purchase it via the Seoul Pass website. Unlike other prepaid SIM cards, this one offer unlimited 4G data”
Pros and cons of South Korea’s top telco providers
- Good value for money
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- No phone devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Complicated rules and regulations make buying a SIM card difficult
More questions about finding the best SIM card?
Q: What about other providers in South Korea?
A: There are two more mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), including EG SIM and NeoKOSIM which offer good deals. Check the latest options before purchasing your SIM card.