Korea has amazing public transport systems which are cheap, run on time, and run regularly. However, for tourists in Korea it’s often easier (and sometimes cheaper) to take a taxi between destinations. The good news for foreigners in Korea is that there’s a taxi-booking app in Korea called Kakao Taxi that will let you book taxis in English and with no added fees. With Kakao T, you can call a taxi directly to your location, ride to your destination, and pay by cash or card.
Kakao Taxi (카카오 택시) is Korea’s main taxi-hailing app and is available in English, which makes it really convenient for tourists in Seoul and other cities. To use Kakao Taxi, you need to setup a Kakao account or Kakao ID. I’ll cover how to do that (it’s easy) and how to use Kakao Taxi in this article.
The only small problem with using Kakao Taxi to book taxis in Korea is the payment screen where the app will ask you to register a card and register a Korean phone number. Fortunately, you can get past this and pay directly to the driver. This article also shows you a quick hack to get past that screen.
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How To Use Kakao Taxi: Quick Guide
To be able to use Kakao Taxi, you’ll need a Kakao ID. If you don’t have a Kakao ID, start with How To Create a Kakao ID. If you already have a Kakao ID, and have logged in to Kakao Taxi, then follow these steps to book a taxi with Kakao Taxi. You can install Kakao Taxi on Android and Apple.
This 7-step guide will show you how to use Kakao Taxi in Korea and how to pay with cash, credit card, or T-Money instead of registering a card with the app. This will allow you to use Kakao Taxi as a foreigner or expat in Korea without a Korean phone number, which is needed to register a card.
Step 1: Open The Kakao Taxi App & Select Taxi Booking
Open the Kakao Taxi application and click on the taxi symbol on the top left. It’s the first option on the screen. This will take you through to the taxi booking section. The app is listed in English as ‘Kakao Taxi’ and if you’re using a Korean phone, should be listed as ‘카카오 택시’
Step 2: Choose Your Start Location
Enter the name of the place you want to start from. This will default to your current location if you have enabled location tracking. If you want to change the start location, type in the name or address of the location or click on the map symbol to choose from a location on the map.
Tip: Using the map search function is the best option as you can choose which side of the street the taxi will arrive on as well as correct problems from inexact positioning by your phone.
Step 3: Choose Your End Location Or Destination
Select the end location of your journey in the same way as you chose the start location. Either type in the name or address of the place you want to visit, or select the location on a map.
Tip: If you’re not sure of the end location’s address, or can’t find it with the Kakao Taxi search function, use Google Maps and search for the address using English. Google Maps will show you the address in Korean, which you can copy and paste into Kakao Taxi.
Step 4: Choose Your Taxi Type
Choose the type of taxi you want to use to travel to your location. A standard taxi is labelled as ‘General Request‘ and this will be the same as the taxis you can hail on the street. There are also larger taxis and premium taxis. These offer a larger or more luxurious taxi than the standard taxis, but cost more money.
Tip: Always search for a ‘General Request‘ taxi first of all. However, if you can’t find a taxi, try selecting the ‘Blue’ taxi instead. This pays a higher fee to the taxi driver and is supposed to increase your chance of finding an available taxi. Unfortunately, you need to register a card to use the ‘Blue’ taxis, so this won’t work unless you have a Korean phone number.
Step 5: Select Your Payment Method
After selecting which type of taxi you want to take, the next screen will ask you to select your payment method. This is the step that causes problems for foreigners in Korea as the default option is to register a card, which requires a Korean phone number.
To use Kakao Taxi without a Korean phone number, swipe left on the payment screen to the second option, which is ‘Pay to the driver‘. Further details about how to do this will be explained after Step 7.
Step 6: Confirm Your Taxi Booking
After selecting the payment method, click ‘Apply‘ and you will be taken back to the taxi request screen you were at previously. Click ‘Request‘ to call the taxi.
The taxi will now travel to your destination to collect you. It will have a blue sign in the window to show that it’s reserved. The taxi driver may call or message to tell you when they’re close to your location.
Step 7: Travel To Your Destination In The Taxi
Once your taxi arrives at your location, enter the taxi and the taxi driver will take you to your destination. Once you arrive at your destination, pay the taxi driver in the method you chose and then get out of the taxi. The app will ask you to rate your ride and give feedback about the route, driver, cleanliness of the taxi, etc.
If you registered a card with Kakao Taxi, your payment will be made automatically. If you chose ‘Pay to driver‘, then you will have to pay with cash, credit card, or T-Money. More details about how to pay directly to the driver are in the next section.
Another way to pay for taxis in Korea and other services in Korea without having to carry lots of cash or use your credit card is by using a WOWPASS card for local payments in Korea. This is a Korean debit card and can be used to pay for taxis, shopping, meals out, and everything else.
Check out my article about how to get a taxi in Korea for full details about hailing a cab in Seoul or booking taxis using apps like Kakao Taxi. It covers taxi prices, different types of taxis, where to get a taxi, and some useful Korean phrases for ordering taxis in Korea.
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.
Using Kakao Taxi Without A Korean Phone Number
To use Kakao Taxi without a Korean phone number, you need to book a taxi as normal in the app and in the payment section change the option from ‘Pay by card‘ or ‘Register a convenient payment method‘ to ‘Pay to the driver‘.
Swipe left on the payment screen to change to ‘Pay to the driver‘. This will bring you to the screen that allows you to use Kakao Taxi without registering a card. You can pay for your taxi journey in person with cash or card.
After swiping left on the screen to select ‘Pay to the driver’, you should press the ‘Apply‘ button to confirm your changes. You will be asked to confirm your taxi journey one more time and then Kakao Taxi will begin the search for a taxi driver.
The fare for the taxi journey won’t change based on the payment method and will be the same whether you pay the taxi driver by card or cash. Make sure the meter is running when you start your journey.
Registering a card to automatically pay for your taxi journey in Kakao Taxi is only possible if you have a Korean phone number. If you’re an expat living in Korea, registering a card in Kakao Taxi is convenient, but it’s not really necessary for short-term travellers and tourists.
It’s impossible to register a card in Kakao Taxi without a Korean phone number and even if you have a Korean phone number, I would still recommend using the ‘Pay to the driver’ option as it’s simpler.
Should You Get A Korean SIM Card
If you plan to use Korean apps like Coupang Eats, Kakao Talk, or Kakao Taxi, I recommend getting a Korean SIM card. A Korean SIM card allows you to use apps and make online bookings. Order one for collection at Incheon Airport or to collect in Seoul or Busan. It makes visiting Korea easier. Check out my review of the SK tourist SIM to see how reliable and convenient Koreans SIM cards are.
How To Create A Kakao ID To Use Kakao Taxi
Before you try to use Kakao Taxi to hail a cab in Korea, you need to have a Kakao ID. To get a Kakao ID, you need to create an account with Kakao, complete the registration process, and then choose your Kakao ID.
To create a Kakao account you need to have a phone number. You don’t need a Korean phone number, but you will need to be able to receive a text message to activate a new Kakao account. If you’re in Korea, this could be difficult to do without a Korean SIM card and phone number.
However, as long as you have access to a phone number (Korean or international), you will be able to create a Kakao ID. You’ll also need your email address, personal details and Internet access.
Here are the steps to create a Kakao ID so you can use Kakao Taxi and other Kakao services:
Step 1: Create a Kakao Account
Enter your email address, personal details, agree to the terms and then continue. Your Kakao account is tied to this email address and will be used to log in. You can’t change it later.
Please note: You can only install Kakao Talk on a mobile device, not a desktop computer.
Step 2: Enter Your Mobile Phone Number
You must enter a phone number to create a Kakao account. It doesn’t have to be a Korean phone number. Select your country’s dialling code and then enter your phone number.
You’ll be sent a 4 digit security code to confirm that you’re the owner of the phone. Once you’ve received the confirmation code, enter it and move on with your account setup.
Please note: if you apply with a foreign number, it can take a few days for the approval process to be completed. Korean phone numbers should only take a minute or two to activate.
Step 3: Complete Kakao Account Setup
Once you’ve received the security code and your phone number has been verified, complete the account setup by choosing a password (use lower case letters, capital letters, numbers and a special symbol).
Next, add in your personal information, such as date of birth, gender, nickname and an avatar. Some of these are optional and not necessary.
Step 4: Create Your Kakao ID
Once the account is setup, you can create a personal ID for the Kakao Talk app. Go to your profile and select ‘Edit Profile’ and then ‘Create Kakao ID’. Enter a unique ID with a combination of letters and numbers. If the ID has been chosen, try another one.
Step 5: Start Using Kakao Taxi
Finally, download the Kakao Taxi app and log in using the email address and password. After logging in to Kakao Taxi, you can start booking taxis in Korea without a Korean phone number. Click this link for instructions about how to use Kakao Taxi without a Korean phone number,
Tips For Using Kakao Taxi In Korea
Travelling to Korea and want to know how to use Kakao Taxi and how to get around Seoul and other cities in Korea? Here are some of my personal tips to help you travel more conveniently and safely.
Go to the nearest taxi rank: If you are trying to hail a taxi in Korea and they keep driving past you, it’s probably because you’re close to a taxi rank. Taxis won’t stop to pick you up near taxi ranks – you should go there and wait with everyone else.
Check the colour of the light in the taxi: Korean taxis have colour-coded light systems to show if they are available or not. These lights are attached to the rear view mirror and can be seen when a taxi drives towards you. Red means the taxi is available for hire. Blue means it has been reserved by a Kakao Taxi call. If you reserved a taxi with Kakao Taxi, look for the blue lights.
Check the licence plate number: When you order a taxi through Kakao Taxi, you will be shown the driver’s licence plate and name. Check the licence plate before getting in the taxi to make sure it’s the right one, especially if many people are waiting for taxis in the same area.
Always use the meter: If you hail a taxi from the street (or with Kakao Taxi), and they offer you a price without using the meter, refuse and get another taxi. This is how foreigners, especially arrivals at Incheon Airport, commonly get scammed and end up paying many times the typical cost of the fare. Taxi drivers must use the meter by law. Kakao Taxi shows you the estimated fare for the journey and the final fare should be close to this.
Be prepared for long waits at night: During the pandemic, many taxi drivers changed jobs and became delivery drivers instead, lured by better wages and fewer night shifts. There is now a shortage of late-night taxi drivers in Korea, especially in Seoul. The government has raised taxi fares at night in a bid to get more taxi drivers back, but it hasn’t been that successful so far.
Get a T-Money Card: The T-Money Card is a prepaid transportation card that can be used for buses, subways and taxis. When you use a taxi, you can pay for it with the T-Money Card. Check out my guide to using T-Money in Korea.
Buy a SIM card or rent portable WiFi: Even if you don’t need a Korean phone number to register a card with Kakao Taxi, having a Korean SIM card or portable WiFi router will offer you amazing coverage across Korea’s advanced phone network. You need a network connection to use Kakao Taxi, too.
Learn some basic Korean phrases: A few simple phrases will go a long way when you travel in Korea, especially when you want to ask for and understand directions. If you want to learn a few phrases, including ones for getting around by taxi, here are 60 Korean travel phrases to start with.
How To Change Kakao Taxi To English
Kakao Taxi should default to the language settings of your mobile device. If your phone is in English, Kakao Taxi should be, too. If your Kakao Taxi language settings are in Korean, here’s how to change them to English in three simple steps.
Step 1: Select Your Profile
Open the Kakao Taxi application and click on the profile settings tab at the bottom of the screen. This is the image of a person and hosts all of your account settings.
Step 2: Select The Language Settings
Scroll down the page on the account settings tab until you see the icon shaped like a globe. In Korean, this says ‘언어 설정’ (Language Settings). Click on this option.
Step 3: Change Language To English
There are four language options in Kakao Taxi. The first is to use the language your phone is set to (as long as it’s one of the 3 languages provided). The second option is Korean. The third option is English. The final option is Japanese.
Select English and, after a quick app refresh, all the options in the Kakao Taxi app will now be in English.
Alternatives To Kakao Taxi In Korea
In South Korea, there are several ride-hailing services available. The most popular one is Kakao T, which was launched as Kakao Taxi in 2015 and has dominated the market for call taxis in Korea since then. However, since 2022, alternatives to Kakao Taxi have started to appear in Korea.
Uber, which has recently re-entered the Korean market with a new joint venture with SK Telecom’s TMAP, offers taxi-hailing services through a service called UT. You can also book taxis in advance using the app or website, but these are only really available in Seoul and to major airports nearby.
Additionally, Viva Republica, which operates the online payment service provider Toss, bought one of the major local mobility startups TADA and plans to offer a new service to provide taxi rides in Korea.
These services have been legally allowed in the city since January 2022, when the Seoul government changed its four-decades-old taxi industry development law.
How Do These Taxi Apps Differ?
Kakao T and Uber are both popular ride-hailing services, but they operate differently, especially in South Korea. Kakao T is an online mobility service in South Korea that was launched as Kakao Taxi in 2015. It allows users to book and pay for taxis through the Kakao T app.
The Kakao Taxi service hires licensed taxi drivers in accordance with local regulations, and the rate is in line with regular taxis. This ensures a more standardised service and passenger safety through rigorous driver and vehicle checks.
On the other hand, Uber operates with independent drivers who use their own vehicles. In many countries, Uber’s model has faced regulatory challenges. However, Uber has recently re-entered the Korean market with a new joint venture with SK Telecom’s TMAP, called UT, which also hires licensed taxi drivers.
Personally, I use Kakao Taxi when I travel in Korea and have found it very useful and simple to use. However, in recent times there have been fewer taxis available late at night, which is partly due to fewer taxi drivers working those hours. It can sometimes be necessary to go to a taxi rank instead.
FAQs About Using Kakao Taxi In Korea
Finally, here are a few FAQs about how to use Kakao Taxi without a Korean phone number, 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.
Are there any alternatives to Kakao Taxi in Korea?
Yes, there are alternatives to Kakao Taxi in Korea such as UT (Uber Taxi), Tada, i.M, Banban Taxi, Papa, and Macaron M. They are all much smaller than Kakao Taxi and aren’t guaranteed to work outside major cities.
Does Uber exist in Korea?
Uber exists in Korea but as a taxi hailing service similar to Kakao Taxi. It is called UT and uses existing taxis rather than freelance drivers like in other countries. Some taxis in Korea have UT branding to show they cater to this app.
How much does a taxi cost in Korea?
The starting fare for a taxi in Korea is 4,800 won in Seoul and 3,800 won for other areas. Night time taxi fares can be higher. Prices may rise with inflation at later dates.
Is Kakao Taxi in English?
You can use Kakao Taxi in English, Korean, and Japanese. To change the settings in the Kakao Taxi app, click on the profile settings, scroll down to the language option, and then choose English.
Can you use Kakao Taxi without a Korean phone number?
You can use Kakao Taxi without a Korean phone number by selecting ‘Pay to the driver’ in the payment options. This allows you to skip registering a credit card, which requires a Korean phone number.
Can you use Kakao Taxi on Jeju Island?
Kakao Taxi is available across the whole of mainland South Korea, as well as Jeju Island. It might be difficult to call a taxi with Kakao Taxi in more rural areas of Jeju Island and also in rural areas on the mainland.
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