Some detailed instructions on how to rent a Korean phone with internet data plan (3G) for KRW6,500/day (about EUR4.30/day).
Even if you do not need internet, renting a local phone (only KRW1,500/day) will allow you to make cheap local calls and SMS. Good for contacting each other if your group splits up for shopping etc. IDD calls for calling home are cheaper using a local phone too(vs. auto roaming).
This is meant for people who are in Seoul for a short holiday and not long-term stay. Convenient collection/return at Incheon airport.
By the way, people say that wifi is everywhere in Seoul but I found this not to be true. You have to go to a cafe or something if your hotel doesn’t provide free wifi. And although there are wifi hotspots everywhere these are paid wifi. Furthermore free wifi is hard to find outside of Seoul (I went to Daemyuung Vivaldi resort to ski, no free wifi even at the Starbucks there).
For those who do not already know why you cannot easily get a prepaid sim card in Korea, please read the discussions here.
1. Reserve a phone online at least 3 days prior to your trip. You will receive an email confirmation.
- For iPhone rental (I used this because I’m using iPhone 4S in Singapore) :
- For Samsung phone rental:
2. At Incheon airport (Arrivals, 1st floor, after you collect your baggage and pass customs), look for the rental counters. For iPhone rental, this is the “Olleh” counter near Exit 6-7 (opposite door “C”).
3. Show your reservation email to the staff at the counter (the Olleh counter staff speak English). I forgot to print mine out so I just showed them the email on my Singapore iPhone and it was fine. You will also need a credit card and your passport (they will make a copy of it).
4. The iPhone rental costs KRW3000/day (EUR2/day) but you can ask them for a 50% discount voucher that brings it down to KRW1500/day. They gave me an iPhone 3GS (if you are lucky you may get an iPhone 4) which was on iOS4.
5. If you need 3G internet, sign up for the KRW5000/day data plan (c.EUR3.30/day). They were having a promotion when I was there last week (Dec 2011) so the data plan was unlimited :))) But normally (according to the website) it’s 16MB data per day for the KRW5000/day data plan, which should be enough for your daily dose of facebook, whatsapp, normal emails (i.e. no big attachments), basic surfing etc.
6. The phone comes with only the basic iPhone apps so you have to download all the other apps you need using the app store (whatsapp, viber, tango, facebook, skype etc) with your own itunes ID and password. Of course, you would need to manually transfer some of your contacts over for whatsapp and viber. If your data plan is limited, use the free airport wifi to download your apps before your leave the airport.
7. Return your phone at Incheon airport on your departure day. I went to the original counter on the Arrivals floor to return my phone. Later I realised that there is another Olleh counter on the Departure floor, near Gate 2 (International Departures – before customs screening). Not sure if you can return at a different counter though. You can pay the bill in cash.
I really struggled to find detailed information on this topic so hope that this guide is helpful to those who absolutely must have internet on-the-go like me!