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Renting a phone in Korea

korean rental phones

Traveling to Korea and want to keep in touch with friends or have a backup phone?

 Rent a phone.

Firstly, Korea is a CDMA based network and most foreign phones won’t work here. If you’re able to use your phone, but are tethering it to your mobile server back home, then be prepared to suffer long-distance roaming fees.

It’s not worth it.

Korea rents cheap mobile phones, smartphones and WIFI eggs, that you can use as hotspots.

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How much does it cost?

Renting a basic phone can run around 6,000 won/day. If you’re returning to Korea and use the same account, you could get as much as 1,500 won per day (under $1.50) !

On a recent trip, my mom paid 18,000 won for 12 days!

Usually, locals calls cost around 600 won/minute, while text is 100 won/ text. Long distance charges range.

Smartphones with an unlimited data plan, a SIM card option and internet hotspot eggs will price higher.

Unless you’re doing business, a basic phone is all you need.

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Why get a phone?

In many cases, having a phone is nice to have as a safety backup. But here’s two reasons I’d recommend getting a phone:

1. You have friends you’re traveling with or want to  meet up with .
2. You need help getting around.

When I visit Korea, I have friends I want to meet up with.  Korean cities tend to be big and spaced out, addresses don’t run chronologically and subways can have multiple exits, letting out on different streets. Unless we know the neighborhood we’re meeting at, a phone comes in handy.

Secondly, the information hotline in Korea is 1330. If there’s a number you want to remember to call for train times, directions, restaurant information, or last-minute information,.. this is it. It directs you to the tourism office. While there are city prefix codes, 1330 is the number calls will route back to.

 

What are the major rental companies?

SK Telecomm, S-Roaming, Olleh KT . My preferred company is SK Telecomm . I have an account with them seeing as I’ve visited a lot.

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Where to get a rental phone?

There are rental stalls at the main airports, such as Incheon (not far outside the international  baggage claim),  Gimhae- Busan , Jeju International Airport, Gwangju rent them. Domestic airports in Korea, generally don’t have mobile rental shops.

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Where can you drop off your phone?

You can pick them up and drop them off at the main airports that rent them out. You can drop them off at different airport locations as long as the airport has a kiosk rental desk.

Some airports, such as Busan and Incheon have their rental shops placed in travel convenient spots. For instance,  downstairs (near ‘Baggage Claim and Arrivals’) is where you’d rent the phone and upstairs (‘Departure and Check in’) is the drop-off.

The mobile rental shops tend to be located side-by-side.

rental mobile phone companies in korea, where to rent a phone in korea, where to get a phone in korea, guide to traveling korea

Rental companies are side-by-side.

Can I reserve them in advance?

No.

You can rent your mobile phone on the spot as soon as you arrive into the airport. If you want to reserve them in advance, you can do so here.

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What you will need?

You’ll need a passport and a credit card.

 

More information about phones in Korea, click here.

 

16 Comments

  1. Nuno says:

    There’s prepaid phone rental service ‘Korea tour phone’. If you pay for the initial package once (it costs around $35), the local call costs 120 won per minute and international call is much cheaper than other services. You can pick up the phone at any address in Korea.

  2. Curiousboy says:

    Just to check, my gf is in Korea now, and apparently the rented phone have ‘stickers’ on them, and it will turn red when it is ‘wet’
    They are now trying to fine them a sum of money. My gf says that there is a sticker on the phone as well but it did’nt turn red. So probably this is a scam. They could have rented out the phones with the ‘red’ stickers in the first place.

    • Christine Kaaloa says:

      @Curiousboy: Hmmm…. she got her phone at the airport rental booths? I don’t know if there were stickers on my phone. I always rent with SK Telecomm and I’ve never had that problems with my phone getting wet. I’m wondering how wet she got it that it activated? I can’t imagine they activate too easily, but I can’t be sure. If she wasn’t told about the sticker when they rented the phone to her and if it’s not in the contract, she can try to argue the matter. I’d try that.

  3. expatseek says:

    Great article. Pretty much covers the basics.

  4. KoreaTraveler says:

    I forgot to mention that those phones usually dont have an internet conncection and can thus not receive or send mms messages (messages with more than 120 characters) or make online reservations with korail, cgv, etc. This was two years ago. Not sure about the second hand phones these days though.

  5. KoreaTraveler says:

    Renting is expensive. If u travel korea for more than a week u should buy a secondhand phone instead of renting one. Thats what i did when i went there for a month

    • @KoreaTraveler: Essentially, that works…if you have time to go to Itaewon and shop for one and manage to fine one with a SIM. I tried this when I was in Korea for the summer and my actual roadblock was getting the SIM. I either needed a working visa or to have bought a used phone off of an exapt, with a SIM already in it. If they’ve changed the rule on foreigners buying SIM cards that would be great news!

      • They’ve changed the rules as I was easily able to buy a 2nd hand phone that came with a pre-paid SIM with just my passport. I was in Seoul for the day so the trip to Itaewon wasn’t much of a hassle. Took about 20min at the store.

        Recharging the account proved to be much more of a hassle since I ended up with an SK Telink SIM instead of SK Telecom.

        • @Melissa: …a what? Telelink? Never heard of it. Are you sure they’ve changed the rules countrywide or is that an Itaewon black market bargain? ha ha… Itaewon is known for that. I have two used pay-per-go phones from people but really… it’s getting a clean working SIM that’s been hard, without a visa. With Itaewon, I never knew exactly what they were selling me in a SIM; they’re a little shady. I think it’s a great place for expats to go, but there’s a certain risk involved in buying their phones. I’m so glad for you that it’s working out though! =)

          • Hmm… could’ve been a black market thing. haha I had a number to call to recharge by credit card but it needed my alien registration number, which of course, I didn’t have. So for the last week of my stay I just gave up on it. ₩40000 (total) for a month of use wasn’t bad though.

            • @melissa: Thanks for following up and letting me know how it went. Seems Korea hasn’t changed it’s requirements for phone carriers to be residents in order to have a phone. That’s the catch about getting phones from Itaewon or buying one off of a foreigner who’s leaving. Eventually, the phone becomes null unless you can show proof you’re a resident. Glad you got a good deal for a while though. Always feels nice when you can buck the system. =)

  6. Agness says:

    That’s so cool. I’ve never heard of renting a phone in China, don’t think there is an option. It’s so cheap in Korea, but I would probably buy a local SIM card and use my own phone.

    • @Agness: Until now, there’s never been an SIM option for foreigners or travelers in Korea. Korea has been a locked CDMA country for a while. Or I would’ve definitely gotten a SIM for my world phone.The SIM option they have now, I’ve not tested or explored that option and dunno the conditions on it. But it’s not like one of those 7-11 deals you get at Thailand. Pretty sure you’re renting it.

  7. If you’re going to be staying more than 5 or 6 days it may be cheaper to just buy a second hand phone. I got my basic flip phone from a shop in Itaewon for ₩30,000 + a ₩10,000 pre-paid balance. I use my locked Canadian iPhone on wifi only but the cheapie phone is great for being able to text local friends.

    That phone accidentally took a trip through the washer and I was able to replace it at an SK store here in Gunsan with another ₩30,000 flip phone. Secondhand smart phones can be had for ₩70,000 and up. You’ll need your passport in order to have a phone number assigned to you.

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