If you’re planning a trip to South Korea, you’ve probably considered getting a Korean SIM card or an alternative, such as an eSIM, pocket WiFi router, or free WiFi. Learn how to get a tourist SIM card at Incheon Airport, what data and call plans are available, how much SIM cards cost, and lots more in this detailed guide. Discover how to stay connected wherever you go in Korea.
Navigating the vibrant streets of Seoul, ordering mouth-watering Korean dishes, and translating tricky Hangul signs, become a breeze if you can connect to the net. Use essential travel apps like Papago, Naver Map, Kakao Taxi, and Seoul Subway to communicate, navigate, and get around.
This article will guide you through the process of purchasing a Korean SIM card at Incheon Airport. It will explain about tourist SIM cards, including eSIMs, what the cheapest SIM card options are, and provide you with lots more really useful tips about connecting to the internet in Korea.
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Korean SIM Cards For Tourists: Summary
This detailed article to buying a Korean SIM card for tourists at Incheon Airport will cover lots of topics, including Korean mobile operators, Korean SIM card options, how to buy a SIM card, Korean eSIM cards, and alternatives to SIM cards, such as WiFi and roaming. There are also lots of my own tips.
If you don’t want to read through everything, this section of the article provides a short summary of why you should buy a tourist SIM card at Incheon Airport, how much tourist SIM cards cost, and whether you should book online or buy on arrival. I hope this summary helps you with your Korea trip planning.
Why Purchase A Korean SIM Card At Incheon Airport?
As a tourist traveling to South Korea, purchasing a SIM card at Incheon Airport can be a convenient and efficient way to ensure you stay connected during your trip. Most travellers to Korea arrive at Incheon Airport and having a SIM card from the moment you arrive can be really useful.
Here are some reasons why you might want to buy a SIM or eSIM card at Incheon Airport:
- Convenience: Upon arrival at Incheon Airport, you’ll find several telecom providers offering SIM cards with a variety of plans. This means you can start your trip with a working phone, without the need to search for a store in the city.
- Tourist Friendly: Incheon Airport sells tourist SIM cards, which are designed for travellers to Korea and are valid from 1 to 90 days. These are easier to get than regular Korean SIM cards.
- Language Issues: Staff at Incheon Airport are used to dealing with customers in English and a range of other languages. It’ll be much easier to ask questions and solve issues at the airport.
- Variety of Plans: Whether you need a data-only plan or one that includes voice calls and text messages, you’re likely to find a plan that suits your needs. All providers offer unlimited data plans, which can be very useful if you plan to use map or translation apps extensively.
- Ease of Use: Once you purchase a tourist SIM card, all you need to do is insert it into your phone, and you’re good to go. Most providers will offer assistance if you’re unsure how to install the SIM card. If you want an eSIM, the staff can also show you how to set up that.
However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:
- Phone Compatibility: Your phone needs to be unlocked in order to use a Korean SIM card. If your phone is locked to a specific carrier, you won’t be able to use the SIM card. It’s best to check your phone and provider before travelling to Korea.
- Cost: While buying a SIM card at the airport is convenient, it might not always be the most cost-effective option. It’s worth doing some research beforehand to compare prices and plans. You can often save money by ordering online and collecting at the airport.
- Duration of Stay: If you’re only staying for a few days, it might be more economical to use international roaming or rely on Wi-Fi hotspots or routers instead of buying a SIM card.
- Number of Travellers: SIM cards only allow one phone or tablet to connect to the internet, but if you’re travelling in a group, that means getting one for each person. A portable WiFi router might be more convenient in Korea for large groups vs. separate SIM cards.
These issues, and more, will be discussed in this article. Overall, there are many benefits of getting a SIM card or some other method of connecting to the internet. Planning ahead and being prepared, such as by reading this article, will help you get the best deal and avoid any headaches on arrival.
How Much Does A Korean SIM Card Or eSIM Cost?
Here’s a cost comparison of prepaid Korean SIM cards with unlimited data at Incheon Airport and from Klook, one of the best tour operators in Korea, as well as eSIM prices. The highlighted options are the best prices available for each period from any of the three major mobile operators in Korea.
As you can see from the information below, prepaid data SIM cards for 7 and 15 days are only available at Incheon Airport and can’t be purchased online. Prepaid data SIM cards and eSIMs are typically cheaper when bought online, but you might also consider getting a pocket WiFi router, too.
Please note: The cost of SIM cards and eSIM cards from the 3 major Korean mobile operators at Incheon Airport are the same. Both physical SIM cards and eSIM cards at Incheon Airport come with the same network and security guarantees, so you can use either one when visiting Korea.
All of the information regarding SIM card prices is based on research conducted at Incheon Airport and from online resources, including Klook and others. I will endeavour to keep prices updated so that you can make the right decision regarding the best Korean SIM card for you.
These prices are based on services offered by the 3 major mobile operators in Korea.There may be cheaper SIM card options available through smaller Korean mobile operators, but I can’t guarantee their quality and service. Therefore, I won’t discuss them in this article.
Should I Book Online Or Buy At Incheon Airport?
The simplest way to get a tourist SIM card in Korea is to buy one when you arrive at Incheon Airport. There are 24 hour desks run by all three major mobile operators in Korea who sell Korean SIM cards at similar prices and all with unlimited data as a standard option. ESIMs are available, too.
However, there are advantages to booking a SIM card online and collecting it at Incheon Airport from the same booths that sell tourist SIM cards. Booking online is usually cheaper, as SIM card resellers offer an incentive to book through them. Furthermore, you can research about which SIM you need.
Researching before you travel, such as by reading this article, will help you know which companies offer the best service, where to get the best price, which SIM card has the best reputation, and if there are any alternatives available. You might also want to get a global eSIM if you plan to travel more.
Therefore, I recommend researching online first, then booking online to save money and to choose the best tourist SIM card that’s right for you. For people who want to travel to other countries after Korea, such as Japan or Taiwan, I recommend looking into global eSIMs as these may save you more.
If you do want to book a Korean sim card online, here are some of the sites I recommend. You can order online and collect the sim card at Incheon Airport.
For those who want an eSIM instead, you can get those at Incheon Airport, or book local, roaming, and global eSIMs from these sites:
Whatever you choose, I’m sure you’ll be able to easily and conveniently connect to the internet in South Korea. Incheon Airport is a great place to get a SIM card or portable WiFi router and the helpful and friendly staff can assist you in many different languages.
Planning to visit Korea? These travel essentials will help you plan your trip, get the best deals, and save you time and money before and during your Korean adventure.
Korea Electronic Travel Authorisation (K-ETA): Most countries need a K-ETA to travel to Korea. Apply before you travel only with the Official K-ETA Site.
Staying Connected: Pre-order a Korean Sim Card or a Portable WiFi Router to collect on-arrival at Incheon Airport. Collection desks are open 24 hours. Alternatively, download a Korean eSIM for you travels.
Hotels In Korea: Staying in Seoul, I recommend Myeongdong (convenient), Hongdae (cool culture) or Gangnam (shopping). Find the best hotel prices across Korea with Agoda, Klook, or Hotels.com.
Incheon Airport To Seoul: Take the Airport Express (AREX) to Seoul Station or a limo bus across Seoul. Don’t like carrying heavy suitcases? Book an Incheon Airport Private Transfer and relax to or from the airport.
Korean Tours: Find the best tours in Korea with tour companies that have a big presence in Korea, including Klook, Trazy, Viator, and Get Your Guide. These sites also offer discounted entry tickets for top attractions.
Seoul City Passes: Visit Seoul’s top attractions for free with a Discover Seoul Pass or Go City Seoul Pass. These passes are especially good for families and couples visiting Seoul and can save you lots.
Transportation: Get a T-Money Card or WOWPASS to pay for public transport, including buses, subways, and taxis. For Korea’s high speed trains, save money and get unlimited rides with a Korea Rail Pass.
Travel Money: Exchange foreign currency in Myeongdong or Hongdae money exchanges. Pick up a Wise, Revolut, or WOWPASS travel money card for the best rates and convenient card payments in Korea.
Flights To Korea: I recommend using flight comparison sites such as Expedia and Skyscanner to find the best flights to Korea from any country. Air Asia is a good option for budget flights from Asia.
Learning Korean: Want to learn Korean? I recommend a complete language learning course from 90 Day Korean or Korean Class 101 – both have well-structured lessons and lots of useful resources.
Korean Tourist SIM Card Providers
In South Korea, there are three major mobile operators that provide SIM cards for tourists: KT, SK Telecom, and LG U+. These major mobile operators essentially offer the same service and have great coverage across the country. They also have similar plans with similar prices for tourists.
- KT (Olleh): Korea Telecom (KT) is one of the largest network companies in South Korea. They offer a variety of prepaid SIM cards that can be pre-ordered and picked up at the airport. They also offer a Voice & Text SIM card which can be topped up with credits for voice calls.
- SK Telecom: SK Telecom is ideal for customers with small usage amounts and short-term visitors to Korea. Their rate plans include basic charge, voice service fee, VAT, and subscription fee. Pre-paid additional services are charged on a daily basis.
- LG U+: LG U+ offers physical SIM cards and eSIMs for tourists. They provide unlimited data and phone calls, Wi-Fi and Phone rental services. Their eSIM can be used on any device that supports eSIM technology. LG U+ offers extensive network coverage across South Korea.
Mobile phone connections in Korea are always good (especially compared to my home country of England!). Whichever phone provider you choose, you’ll experience great connectivity and coverage wherever you are in Korea. That’s true even when hiking in Korea’s national parks!
If you want to know what the SK Telecom’s SIM card is like, check out my review of the SK 4G SIM card that you can buy at Incheon Airport. I talk about the SIM price, coverage, service, reliability and other factors that are all really important when considering which SIM card to buy in Korea.
Personally, I use KT mobile services in Korea and haven’t had problems with connecting to the internet or making calls. According to the 2022 mobile experience awards, SK Telecom was the clear winner with the best overall experience, 5G experience, and consistency, as shown in the image below.
Korean SIM Cards For Tourists In 2023
The type of SIM card plan you get as a tourist in Korea depends on what you want to use your phone for. As with any SIM card plan, there are a number of options you should consider when making your choice, such as if you get calls with data or just data, and whether you have unlimited usage or not.
Prepaid Korean SIM Cards With Unlimited Data
A SIM card with unlimited data is the standard option for tourists travelling to Korea and is an easy and convenient SIM card option that will allow you to connect to the internet whenever you like and for as long as you like. These SIM cards will allow you to receive calls for free, but you can’t make calls.
Prepaid Korean SIM cards with unlimited data are priced per day, with various fixed-period SIM card options available. Not all companies provide sims for the same number of days, but the prices for data-only SIM card plans for 30 days or fewer are the same for all phone companies in Korea.
These are the SIM & eSIM card prices you’ll pay if you buy them at Incheon Airport:
To show that these are the correct prices (at time of publishing this article), here are the pictures I took from Incheon Airport of the tourist SIM and eSIM prices by the 3 major mobile operators.
Prepaid Korean SIM Cards With Data, Calls & Texts
When you purchase a Korean SIM card with data from Incheon Airport or online, there is an option to add-on the ability to make outgoing calls and to send text messages. Unlimited data SIMs typically only allow incoming calls and text messages, but for a small fee you can add calls and texts.
To request the ability to make calls and to send texts with your Korean prepaid SIM card, you should top-up the SIM card. Please note: You must state that you want to get calls and text messages when you collect and install your sim card at Incheon Airport.
The cost to add-on calls and texts to your SIM card package for all mobile operators is as follows:
- ₩5,500 for 20 minutes of calls (some operators have a minimum add-on of ₩11,000)
Personally, I think most tourists to Korea won’t need call services and there are lots of ways to make calls without this add-on. You can download apps such as Kakao Talk, Messenger, What’s App, and other messaging services that allow you to talk using data instead. It’s much cheaper.
The main benefit of a Korean SIM card with calls is to use it to call Korean phone numbers, which could be useful to book meals out, reserve tickets, and use certain Korean apps. However, I believe the majority of tourists to Korea will be able to travel perfectly fine without this feature.
90 Day Korean SIM Card Plans
If you plan to stay in Korea for longer than a week or two, such as to study, visit friends or family, or travel across the country, then a 60 or 90 day Korean SIM card plan could be a good option for you. Purchasing a 60 or 90 day SIM card is cheaper and easier than buying multiple 30 day SIM card plans.
How To Extend Tourist SIM Plans
For those travellers to Korea who originally purchased a 30 day SIM card plan from one of the major mobile operators, but want to use these services for longer, it’s possible to extend tourist SIM plans beyond the original 30 days. Tourist SIMs can be used for a maximum of 90 days in total.
Extending a tourist SIM card is simple and can be done online through the relevant mobile operator’s website. All you need to do is enter your phone number and agree to pay for an extra 30 days of service. This renewal fee is typically cheaper than the cost of the original plan, up to 50% cheaper.
Please note: You must extend your SIM plan before your current plan has expired, otherwise you’ll need to sign up for a new SIM card and won’t get any discounts for extending. Monthly extensions aren’t available on tourist SIM cards that were originally valid for under 30 days.
How To Buy A Tourist SIM Card At Incheon Airport
Buying a tourist SIM card at Incheon Airport is really easy. Whether you preordered a SIM card before you travelled, or you want to buy one when you arrive, the process is more or less the same. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to purchase a tourist SIM card at Incheon Airport:
1. Arrival at Incheon Airport: Once you arrive at Incheon Airport, proceed to the arrival hall after clearing immigration and collecting your luggage. This is the same process for either terminal.
2. Locate SIM Card Booths: Look for the SIM card booths of the three major Korean mobile operators: SK Telecom, KT, and LG U+. These booths are located in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. You might need to take a waiting ticket if it’s busy when you arrive.
3. Choose a Plan: Review the different SIM card options available, including the length of the prepaid SIM contract and cost. All of the SIM card plans at Incheon Airport come with unlimited data allowance. If you’ve preordered a SIM card online, you can collect it at the relevant booth here, too.
4. Phone Compatibility: Before purchasing a SIM card, make sure your phone is completely unlocked with your mobile provider. This is especially important if your phone is from The United States, Canada, Japan, or The Philippines. Korean tourist SIM cards are Normal, Nano, and Micro sized.
5. Purchase: Once you’ve decided on a plan that suits your needs, you can purchase the SIM card at the booth. Some operators also offer the option to include a T-money Transportation Card, which is a public transportation card that you can charge and use to take subways and buses in Korea.
If you purchased a SIM card online before travelling to Korea, such as those from Klook, you will need to show your voucher to the staff at the relevant booth to collect your reserved SIM card. You will also need to show your passport in both situations to prove your identity and register the SIM.
6. Installation: After purchasing, you can ask the staff at the booth to help you install the SIM card in your phone. There is also a small table near the SIM card booth where you can eject your current SIM card using a small metal tool to release it from your phone.
7. Activation: Once the SIM card is installed, follow the instructions provided to activate it. You should now be able to use your phone to make calls and access the internet in Korea. If your phone doesn’t connect to the internet at first, try turning the power on and off and checking again.
Incheon Airport SIM Card Booth Opening Hours
There will be at least 1 SIM card booth at Incheon Airport for each Korean mobile operator that is open 24 hours a day from Monday to Sunday. No matter what time you arrive at Incheon Airport, you will be able to collect or purchase your SIM card and start using it straight away.
The SIM card booths near gate 10 on the 1st floor Arrivals Hall of Incheon Airport are open 24 hours. This is for KT, SK Telecom, and LG U+. Other booths are available from 6am until 10pm daily.
How To Preorder A Korean SIM Card Online
Preordering a Korean SIM card online through agencies such as Klook can not only save you money vs. SIM card prices at Incheon Airport, you can also get some added extras included, too. Here’s a step-by-step guide about how to purchase a tourist SIM card online for South Korea:
1. Choose a Provider: There are several websites where you can purchase a SIM card for South Korea, such as Klook, Get Your Guide, Trazy, and KK Day. I’ll provide more details about these later.
2. Select a Plan: Search for ‘Korean SIM card’ (or use my direct links) on your chosen site and you’ll see various options available. These may include unlimited data plans, plans with limited data, and plans that also include voice calls and text messages. Choose the one that best suits your needs.
3. Enter Your Details: After selecting a plan, you’ll need to provide some information. This includes your full name, passport number, and arrival date, as well as the location you want to collect the SIM card. Don’t forget, you’ll need your passport to collect and activate the SIM card when you arrive.
4. Make a Payment: Once you’ve entered all the necessary information, proceed to the payment section. Most websites accept international credit cards and PayPal and some, such as Klook, might offer reward points or discounts for using their services.
5. Confirmation: After payment, you’ll receive a confirmation email or voucher with details about your purchase. This email will also include instructions on where and how to pick up your SIM card at Incheon Airport. Show this voucher or email when you arrive to collect your SIM card.
6. Pick Up Your SIM Card: Upon arrival at Incheon Airport, head to the pick-up location mentioned in your confirmation email. Don’t forget to bring your passport and confirmation email for verification.
Remember, before you preorder a SIM card, it’s important to check if your phone is unlocked and compatible with the Korean network before purchasing a SIM card. You can find out more about that in the ‘What to check before you buy a SIM card‘ section later in this article.
Where To Preorder Korean SIM Cards Online
There are lots of websites that offer discounted SIM cards to use in Korea and it can be hard to know which ones to trust and which have the best prices. To make it easier to choose the right SIM card for you, here are 4 of the best SIM card resellers that I recommend when travelling to Korea:
Klook SIM Cards
Klook is one of the best tour operators in Korea and has a reputation for offering a wide selection of services, including tourist SIM cards and WiFi rental. Their easy-to-use website and booking system makes it fast and simple to preorder your SIM card for South Korea. You can reserve your must-do tours at the same time, too.
Get Your Guide SIM Cards
Get Your Guide are arguably one of the biggest and best global tour operators that has a significant presence in Korea. They offer a combined SIM and T-Money Card package that’s really useful for first time travellers to South Korea. If you’ve booked through Get Your Guide when travelling to other countries, you know you can trust their services.
KKDay SIM Cards
KKDay is a growing Asia-based tour operator that offers a range of SIM card options for travellers to Korea, including one SIM card plan with international delivery. If you want to try a Korean SIM card not from one of the 3 major Korean mobile operators, you can get them from KKDay. They’re usually cheaper than the SIM cards you’ll find at Incheon Airport.
Trazy SIM Cards
Trazy is a Korea-based travel booking site with lots of unique activities and experiences that you won’t find on other sites. There are lots of great SIM card options on Trazy, as well as packages that include transportation cards, that can be collected at Incheon Airport or in other parts of Seoul. You can also book SIM cards with voice and SMS credits included.
Preordering SIM Cards Vs. Buying At Incheon Airport
Whether you preorder a SIM card online or buy one at Incheon Airport, the service you receive from the 3 major Korean mobile operators will be the same. The main difference between these options is price, with preordering about 10% cheaper vs. tourist SIM card prices at Incheon Airport.
Here’s a quick overview of the main benefits of both processes, followed up by a comparison between the two options so you can see why you might want to consider preordering a Korean tourist SIM card when you travel to Korea instead of getting it at Incheon Airport.
Preordering Online: Preordering a SIM card online allows you to compare different plans and prices at your own pace, matching them to your own needs. You can also check out reviews from other customers and see what their experience was like, which will help to reassure you about your choice.
Once you’ve made a decision, you can make a purchase from the comfort of your home and in your own currency. Upon arrival in Korea, simply pick up your SIM card at the designated counter at Incheon Airport. This saves you time and potentially money, as online platforms often offer discounts.
Buying at Incheon Airport: Purchasing a SIM card directly at Incheon Airport is straightforward and convenient, especially if you didn’t have time to preorder online. There are several counters selling SIM cards, each offering different plans. You can ask the staff any questions and they will help you activate the SIM card on the spot. However, prices at Incheon airport are higher compared to online.
Here’s a comparison table to summarise the differences between preordering a SIM card and buying one at Incheon Airport when you arrive:
|Consideration||Preordering Online||Buying At Incheon Airport|
|Convenience||High (order from home)||High (purchase on arrival)|
|Price||Often cheaper (online discounts)||May be more expensive|
|Speed||Fast (just pick up)||Takes more time (choose plan, activation)|
|Plan Comparison||Easier (more time, access to reviews)||Harder (less time, no access to reviews)|
|Payment||Can pay in home currency||Should pay in Korean won|
Korean ESIM Cards At Incheon Airport
A popular alternative to physical SIM cards for travellers to Korea is an eSIM. An eSIM, or embedded SIM, is a relatively new technology that has the same benefits of a physical SIM, without needing one. Instead of inserting a physical SIM card, you download a “software SIM” from a network provider.
For tourists traveling to South Korea, using an eSIM can be a convenient option as you don’t need to remove (and risk losing) your home country’s SIM card. Depending on your eSIM, you can also use the service in other countries without the need for another SIM card.
The potential benefits of using an eSIM in Korea include:
- Convenience: No need to physically swap SIM cards when you travel.
- Cost: Some eSIMs offer cheaper rates than regular SIM cards, however, be sure to check the conditions, data limits, and reviews when booking a low-cost eSIM. Some plans allow you to pay only for the data you use, which could be cheaper than unlimited data plans.
- Environmentally Friendly: Less plastic waste is produced without physical SIM cards.
- Future Travel: Some eSIMs provide roaming services, so you can use the eSIM in other countries, which can save money when visiting multiple countries.
However, there are some potential disadvantages of eSIMs that you should consider:
- Compatibility: Not all devices support eSIM yet.
- Limited Data Allowance: Some eSIMs may throttle data speeds after a certain amount of data has been used. Be sure to check the daily allowance.
- Swapping Providers: If you frequently switch between carriers, using an eSIM can be more complex than simply swapping physical SIM cards.
- Activation: You may need to activate the eSIM as soon as it’s installed, which means you’ll either need to download and install it before you travel, or wait until you land at Incheon Airport.
Overall, there are many benefits to eSIMs and tech-savvy travellers will be fine using these alternatives to physical SIM cards. However, I recommend carefully checking the terms and conditions of eSIM plans to make sure you’re getting a good deal and can use an eSIM with your phone.
How To Use eSIMS In Korea
Using an eSIM in Korea isn’t really any different from using a physical SIM card, except for the installation. Once the eSIM is installed, you should be ready to browse the web and receive phone calls and texts. Here’s a basic overview of how to use an eSIM when you travel to Korea:
1. Check Device Compatibility: Ensure your device supports eSIM. Many newer smartphones and tablets have this feature, particularly those made after 2020. Check this list of eSIM compatible devices to see if your phone can accept an eSIM or not.
2. Choose a Provider: Search for providers in Korea that offer eSIM services. All 3 major mobile operators offer eSIM cards online and at Incheon Airport. Some international providers also offer global eSIM plans which can be used in other countries, too.
3. Purchase and Download: Once you’ve chosen a plan, you can purchase it online and download the eSIM right onto your device. However, check the conditions of your eSIM as it may be activated the moment it’s installed. Some eSIM providers might also require you to download an app.
4. Activation: Follow the provider’s instructions to activate your eSIM. This usually involves scanning a QR code or entering a confirmation code. Be sure to check the instructions carefully.
Each eSIM company will have their own rules and instructions for using an eSIM in Korea. I recommend thoroughly checking the instructions provided by your chosen provider before signing up
Physical SIM Cards Vs. ESIMs For Korea
Whether you choose to use a physical SIM card or eSIM card when you travel to Korea is really down to your own personal preference. The price for both physical SIM cards and eSIM cards from Korean mobile operators at Incheon Airport is the same and the data plan for both is unlimited.
However, there are more options for eSIM cards than just those offered by Korea’s mobile operators. Global eSIMs allow you to route through the phone networks of other countries, such as from Hong Kong, to access the internet in Korea. These typically won’t give you a phone number, though.
Global eSIMs can be cheaper to use in Korea than local (Korean) eSIMs and they can be used in other countries too. This can be really useful if you plan to travel to multiple countries and only want to get one phone plan. Again, check eSIM card reviews to find out which plans are the best for you.
Here’s a comparison between physical SIM cards and eSIM cards for travellers to Korea:
|Consideration||Physical Sim Card||eSIM Cards|
|Availability||Readily available at Incheon Airport from various telecom providers and also bookable online.||Readily available at Incheon Airport from various telecom providers and also bookable online.|
|Compatibility||Requires an unlocked phone.||Requires a phone that supports eSIM technology.|
|Phone Calls||Can add call and SMS options for an additional cost with a local eSIM.||Can receive calls with a local eSIM, but can’t make phone calls.|
|Convenience||Requires physically inserting the SIM card into your phone.||Can be activated by scanning a QR code or downloading a profile, even before arriving in Korea.|
|Plan Options||Offers a range of plans, including data-only plans and plans that include voice calls and text messages.||Plans can be local (Korean), regional (Asia), or global and come with unlimited data or pay-per-use data plans.|
Where To Buy Tourist ESIMs For Korea
The 3 major Korean mobile operations all offer eSIMs at Incheon Airport and the price for physical SIM cards and eSIM cards are the same. They offer unlimited data eSIMs for fixed periods that have the same coverage and reliability as a physical SIM card. The price for these eSIMs are as follows:
It is also possible to buy Korean and global eSIMs online before you travel to Korea. As with physical SIM cards, buying an eSIM online is often cheaper than buying it at Incheon Airport and you gain the benefits discussed previously, which you can see in the drop down box below:
|Consideration||Preordering Online||Buying At Incheon Airport|
|Convenience||High (order from home)||High (purchase on arrival)|
|Price||Often cheaper (online discounts)||May be more expensive|
|Speed||Fast (just pick up)||Takes more time (choose plan, activation)|
|Plan Comparison||Easier (more time, access to reviews)||Harder (less time, no access to reviews)|
|Payment||Can pay in home currency||Should pay in Korean won|
To save you time searching for the best Korean eSIMs from the many online companies offering local and global eSIMs, here are 4 companies that I recommend for reliable network connections, good prices, strong customer reviews, and availability in Korea and abroad.
Airalo is the world’s first eSIM store that solves the pain of high roaming bills by giving you access to 200+ eSIMs (digital SIM cards) globally at affordable prices. The Airalo Korean eSIM operates through the LG U+ network and is available in 10 or 30 day packages. They also offer Global eSIMs that can be used in 130 countries.
Ubigi offers eSIMs that you can use in your phone, tablet, laptop, and even connected cars. Simply get an Ubigi eSIM plan for mobile data and save money. Prices start at $5 for a 7-day eSIM that gives you up to 1GB of data. Perfect for people who don’t plan to use their phone a lot but still want to stay connected. Local, regional, and global eSIMs available with various levels of data.
The Nomad eSIM is designed for people who like to travel and stay connected. You can travel to over 165 countries with one Nomad eSIM and pay almost local rates in each. For travellers to Korea, there is a 5GB / 10GB data plan for 30 days which starts at $12 / $20 and gives you access to either KT or SK Telecom’s local mobile network. This eSIM would be ideal for tourists who want to use their phone a lot.
As mentioned, Klook is one of the best tour operators in Korea and have a reputation for offering a wide selection of services, including tourist eSIM cards. Their easy-to-use website and booking system makes it fast and simple to preorder your eSIM card for South Korea. They offer eSIMs from local mobile operators, as well as from other providers.
Alternatives To Buying A Korean SIM Card
There are several alternatives to buying a tourist SIM card when you visit Korea, including WiFi routers that connect to the same networks, free WiFi access from local access points, and using your home phone plan in roaming mode. Here’s a brief overview of each of those options.
Portable WiFi Routers
Renting a portable WiFi router from Incheon Airport is one of the most popular alternatives to buying a Korean tourist SIM card for several reasons.
First, portable WiFi routers can be used by multiple devices, which means families only need one router instead of multiple SIMs.
Also, a router has a lower cost for short-term travellers (under 2 weeks) with WiFi routers starting at ₩3,200 per day.
Furthermore, you can use routers for longer than planned and pay the excess when you return it at Incheon Airport.
Portable WiFi routers have near-perfect coverage across Korea and use the same secure networks as local SIM cards.
To rent a portable WiFi router from Incheon Airport, you will need to reserve and pay using a credit card with the following requirements:
- The card must have more than 3 months validity remaining.
- You can only use Visa or Mastercard.
- You must use the same card to reserve and collect the WiFi router.
- The card must be in the same name as the person booking and collecting.
- Debit cards are not accepted.
The credit card guarantees that you’ll return the WiFi router (or else you’ll be charged for the device) and allows you to extend the amount of time you use the router without having to renew your original contract. Simply pay the excess when you leave from Incheon Airport.
Free WiFi In Seoul & Korea
Korea, especially in cities like Seoul and Busan, has great public WiFi that is available for free and you can definitely travel Korea using only free WiFi. Most cafes, restaurants, public transport, and public places offer free WiFi that’s easy to connect to and has high-speed internet access. Subway stations, buses, and train stations all offer free WiFi, which makes them practical places to plan your day’s travelling and check your location. Hotels also offer free WiFi.
Home Mobile Service Provider
Many mobile operators offer roaming services that allow you to use your own phone plan overseas, such as in Korea. This may be a simpler and still cost-effective way of using data and making calls while you’re abroad, especially if you don’t want to deal with installing a new SIM card when travelling. The price and services will depend on your phone service provider, so you’ll need to contact them to see if it’s a good option for you.
Best Option For Staying Connected In Korea
What’s the best way to stay connected in South Korea? There are several options to get connected when you visit Korea, including SIM cards (physical and eSIM), WiFi routers, free WiFi, and roaming services from your home mobile operator. Each have their own benefits and disadvantages.
Based on my experience travelling in Korea and using SIM cards, WiFi routers, and free WiFi to connect the internet, I recommend a combination of SIM card and free WiFi. Having internet access while you walk around Seoul and other places is extremely useful, especially to check directions.
However, you’re not likely to use large amounts of data while you’re looking around palaces or seeing the sights like the Seoul Sky Observatory. The times when you’re likely to use lots of data are often in places where you can access free WiFi, such as in your hotel, in a cafe, or on a bus or train journey.
Therefore, I recommend a SIM or eSIM card that has enough data for apps like Naver Maps or Kakao Taxi, but not more than you need as you can use free WiFi to stream videos, download books, etc. When I travel to the UK, I get a SIM card with a couple of GB of data and use free WiFi for streaming.
This 2GB Global eSIM from Airola is only $17 and lasts for 15 days, covering 130 countries (including Japan), so you can use it even if you have a layover in another country or plan to visit other countries. It has 2GB of data, which is usually enough if you use free WiFi for big data demands.
What To Check Before Buying A SIM Card
Whether you plan to buy a Korean SIM card, eSIM card, or a global eSIM card, you should check if your phone is compatible or not. Korean tourist SIM cards work on the 4G network, so you should check your phone is capable of handling 4G, which most phones made in the last 5 years will do.
Before purchasing a Korean SIM card or eSIM card, there are several things you should check:
- Phone Compatibility: Ensure your phone is compatible with the SIM or eSIM. For eSIMs, this typically means having a latest-generation phone.
- Sim Card Size: Korean tourist SIM cards are available in Normal, Nano, and Micro sizes, which should fit most modern phones. Check your phone if you’re not sure of your SIM card size.
- Locked phones: Some operators lock phones so they only work with their own network, meaning you can’t add a Korean SIM. However, this is less common these days and was banned in the UK in 2021. If you’re not sure if your phone is locked, contact your operator.
- Data Speed: Some operators advertise unlimited 4G internet access, but the speed may drop to 128kbps after a certain amount of data is used. Make sure to check the details of the data plan.
- Duration of Stay: The duration of your stay in Korea will determine the best option for you. There are options available from 1 and 90 days. If you buy a plan for fewer days than you need, it’s not possible to extend the SIM contract, except for plans that are 30 days or more.
- Number of Devices: If you’re traveling in a group and need to connect multiple devices to the internet, a pocket WiFi might be a better option. Portable WiFi is often cheaper for groups vs. buying multiple SIM cards, but the downside is that everyone will need to be in the same area.
- Activation Process: For eSIMs, you’ll typically receive an activation QR code via email. You’ll need to scan this code and follow the on-screen instructions to activate the eSIM.
If you plan to use an eSIM card in Korea, you will need a more modern phone, typically something made since 2020, such as a Samsung Galaxy S20 or iPhone 11 or newer versions of these devices. Some phones with dual SIMs, such as the Chinese iPhone Max, can’t accept eSIMs.
To check if your phone can accept eSIM cards or not, this article about how to check if you phone supports eSIM lists all the models that accept eSIMs. It also details how to install an eSIM in different situations. Sites selling eSIMs, such as Klook, will also include detailed instructions.
Travel Tips For Visiting South Korea
This site has lots of useful practical, informative, and inspiring articles that I hope will help you discover the best that Korea has to offer. If you’re planning a trip to South Korea, here are a few of my personal tips to help you travel safely and easily around the Land of Morning Calm.
- Download useful apps to help you travel in Korea, including Naver Map (more reliable than Google Maps), Kakao Taxi (Korea’s Uber), Seoul Subway, Papago (Korean translation), Agoda (for hotel bookings) and Klook (for tours).
- Get a transportation card: Save money on buses and subways in Korea with a transportation card, such as a T-Money card or Korea Tour Card. Korean payment cards, such as WOWPASS, come with T-Money functions and some of the SIM cards mentioned include a T-Money card.
- Don’t exchange money at the airport: Exchanging money at Incheon Airport is one of the most expensive ways to get holiday money. There are much better ways to spend in Korea, such as by using a WISE travel money card or WOWPASS, a local debit card for tourists.
- Check the weather: Spring and autumn are lovely times to visit Korea, while summer (hot and wet) and winter (cold and dry) can be challenging. Read about Korea’s seasons to help you figure out the best time to visit Korea, as well as what to see, do, eat, and experience.
- Book ahead: This is especially true if you’re travelling in cherry blossom season or autumn foliage season, when tours, festivals, and hotels are often sold out in advance. It’s cheaper to book ahead, too, especially for flights to Korea and for hotels in Seoul and other cities.
- Eat local food: If you’re travelling all the way to Korea, you should definitely not miss the chance to try authentic Korean dishes such as samgyeopsal, kimchi jjigae, or tteokbokki. Discover the best Korean dishes and street foods in my articles about Korean food and drinks.
Above all, the best advice I can give you about travelling to Korea is to be open minded and try as much as you can, even if it looks a bit unusual or scary. There are a lot of unique experiences awaiting you in Korea, some you may miss out on if you don’t take a few chances. Travel safe and travel well.
Korean SIM Cards For Tourists FAQs
Finally, here are a few FAQs about buying a Korean sim card for tourists at Incheon Airport, in case the above information didn’t cover enough for you. If you have any other questions you’d like to ask, feel free to leave a comment.
Can I buy a Korean SIM card at Incheon Airport?
Travellers to Korea can buy a local SIM card or eSIM card at Incheon Airport in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. There are 24 hour booths run by the 3 major mobile operators in Korea and they all offer SIM and eSIM card plans with unlimited data for tourists with plans between 1 and 90 days in length.
Are Korean SIM cards expensive?
Korean SIM card costs for tourists to Korea are reasonable, starting at ₩6,600 for a 1-day SIM card and as little as ₩62,300 for a 30-day SIM card. The price of eSIM cards from Incheon Airport are the same as physical SIM cards and both come with unlimited data.
What is the best Korean SIM card for tourists?
The best Korean SIM card for tourists is the SK Telecom 4G SIM card as this mobile operator ranked highest overall in 2022 for cellular services in Korea. However, all 3 major mobile operators in Korea offer high-quality tourist SIM services for more-or-less the same price and with equally good connection and security levels.
Do I need to preorder a Korean SIM card?
It is not necessary to preorder a SIM card when you travel to Korea, however, buying a SIM card online is often cheaper, allows you to check reviews, and can be paid for in your home currency. Preordered Korean SIM cards can be collected at the same booths in Incheon Airport that sell tourist SIM cards.
Where can you buy Korean SIM cards at Incheon Airport?
You can buy SIM and eSIM cards at Incheon Airport in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. All 3 major mobile operators have booths inside the arrivals halls of Incheon Airport (both terminals) that are open 24 hours.
How much is a Korean SIM card Per Day?
Korean SIM cards start at ₩6,600 for a 1-day SIM card, but get cheaper when you book them for longer periods. A 10-day SIM card starts at ₩33,300 while a 30-day SIM card starts from ₩62,300.
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