Getting a Cell Phone in Korea

There are a shitload of sources out there and I wanted to briefly summarize what you’ll need to know.

Quick Tips:

  1. Shit happens all the time – Korea is a fast-paced economy and has the same kind of lifestyle so changes happen very frequently so the specifics may vary when you’re reading this
  2. You need your ARC (Alien Registration Card), or at least the print-out receipt from the office when you applied, and a bank account
  3. There are about 3 major providers – KT (Olleh), SKT (TWorld), and LG
  4. The whole process takes at least 20 minutes
  5. You’ll need to pay 25,000 KRW (may vary) since you’re a foreigner and they need some assurance

Cell Phones

You’ve got a lot to choose from if you’re thinking of purchasing a new phone.  Used phones depends on the store’s inventory.  You can purchase used phones from some stores and/or online in Korea, but I took a look and they’re not quite up-to-date; I was looking for a used iPhone 6 but there were none out – however I’m sure you can find some in America’s used market.  One thing you should know is that just like in Japan, the camera’s shutter is designed to display the shutter sound and there’s no option to turn it off, not even in silent mode is it off, but you can download an application to get rid of the annoying sound once and for all so I’ve heard.

Phone Plans

From the stores that I’ve checked-out, the posters displaying their options of phone plans are just a piece of what is available.  I spent maybe an hour or more at one store looking at plans and more than half-way through he realized that there were more options that better suit my interests; see I was interested in a low-minute and high-data plan for cheap.  In the end I settled for 100 minutes and 6GB of data per month.  It’s running me about $80/month, including the phone’s price.  Now, this is on a two-year contract.  I heard and saw something briefly on one-year contracts, but they’re rare and limited to my belief.  I think they’re only available for certain phones.  You may be able to get a one-year contract if you already have an unlocked phone.  Also, I was hoping to only get an unlimited 3G plan but they told me that it was unavailable – I don’t know if it’s because it’s paired up with an iPhone 6 or if they got rid of their 3G plans when LTE started to become prominent.  I read a couple of articles on it but they were a bit confusing to be honest; yeah, they were in English too – maybe it’s me… Best bet is to find someone who can speak English to review all your options, if you’re trying to be smart that is.  One other thing I should mention is that since it is a two-year contract, if you cancel after only one year you will have to pay the rest of your phone off.  And based on your phone plan, the price of the phone varies; the more expensive your plan, the more expensive your phone is.  This is because they give you some sort of discount based on how much your plan is and every month you’re paying off your phone for a total of 24 months – so if you cancel after 12, you have half left.

Bank Account

I confirmed that they will automatically withdraw the monthly bill from your bank account on the 21st starting from the following month.  Remember the “foreigner assurance” fee I mentioned before?  That’s all you have to pay for a brand new phone and contract, for the moment that is.  As for opening a bank account, you’ll also need the ARC or the number at least, and your passport.  I went with a co-teacher and they did all the talking while the teller kept marking signature locations on a bunch of documents all in Korean.  I must’ve signed at least 15 times in 20 minutes – awfully a lot in my opinion.  The pattern I see is that they like confirmation for each significant section of a contract, and not just the full contract where you sign at the bottom.

Providers

KT seems to be #1 in Korea and you’ll see the Olleh wifi spots everywhere.  I asked around to see which was the best in my area and they told me SKT so I just went with them.

Have fun navigating Korea’s wonders!

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TT – How to plan a trip

Quick review on how to plan a trip!

  1. Who are you going with?  Why go with anyone, go solo!  If you can’t go solo, make sure you pick people that you can travel with; people who are like you when you travel.  So that means if you’re like me on vacations and like to rise early and make the most out of your day, sleeping late too, make sure your travel partner(s) does too!  This also entails activities, sights, capabilities and whatnot.
  2. When are you going?  Peak or non-peak season?  Make sure you research the climates, weather, activities, seasonal differences, prices, natural disasters, and limitations.  This is very important because if you decide to go during non-peak season to save money or whatnot, you may be expecting paradise but it could actually be a nightmare thus being the non-peak season; not always the case though, but it can be!  Also, activities and sights may be unavailable during non-peak seasons so be wise and research thoroughly!
  3. Where are you going?  By the way, these are not in any particular order!  I usually start with one and move onto another.  If you’re like me and want to go everywhere, then just pick a spot and start planning!  Of course during your research if it’s not the best idea, you can always switch and continue to do so until you find the perfect trip for your preferred time period.  Pay attention to location, climate, culture, environment and customs!
  4. Why are you going?  This is quite essential to any trip, especially if it isn’t open-ended!  I think that only open-ended trips can have an open-ended reason for going!  Try to match your location and activities with your purpose, if that wasn’t obvious enough.
  5. What are you going to do?  Kick back on the beach, drink/smoke all night long and party, outdoor activities like rafting and hiking, or maybe just sightseeing?  These should be match everyone’s tastes in your group, unless sometimes you split up; which is completely fine and actually preferable if you know each other well enough!
  6. How? How will you pay for the trip?  How will you get to your destination/what form of transportation suits your needs?  How will you get to the airport or station?  How will you get around your destination?
  7. Book the trip!  Use several sights to look at flights like Hipmunk, BookingBuddy, Expedia, Orbitz, CheapTickets, Priceline, etc.  Same goes for accommodation, there are many options like Couchsurfing, House Sitting, Pet Sitting, renting apartments from others like on Airbnb, hostels, hotels, motels, friends and family.  Think about your trip purpose, group and activities as everything should complement one another.
  8. Post-booking preparation entails little significant details like:
  • Whether or not to use cash or credit cards
  • Getting your passport, papers and documents required to leave (your country and enter another).  Make sure your passport doesn’t expire during your trip, you may not be allowed to even leave.
  • Take off from work!
  • Do you know how much you’ll be charged, if any, if you use your card internationally?  Can you even use your cards internationally?  Tell your bank/institution of your trip and make sure that they’re capable of being used, even if you don’t need them; you never know what may happen!
  • Also, as mentioned above make sure to look into tips, customs, culture of the destination so you’re not an ignorant tourist pissing off locals; you want to be friends with the locals as you get the best tips from them on food, activities, locations, etc.

Hopefully you found something you didn’t know about earlier or maybe the whole thing is useful for you!  This post more or less represents what goes through my mind when thinking or planning a trip of any sort.

Is there anything that I missed?  Maybe you plan your trips a bit differently?  If so, let me know! 🙂