So, you’ve just moved to South Korea and you’ve finally got your Alien Registration Card (ARC) in hand! Now, you’re ready for the next step---getting a phone.
In South Korea, you’re options are limited when it comes to your phone plan. You can get a prepaid phone, but have no use of apps unless you’re in an area with free wifi. Luckily, Korea is loaded with free wifi spots—but not always.
If you’re one of those people that likes the constant availability of wifi, regardless of your location or proximity to a hotspot you have several options.
Option 1: Buy a Phone Plan.
Phone plans in Korea vary. You can buy a used phone off of someone and change the name on their previous owner’s contract to your own or you can buy your own contract. Phone contracts in Korea must be signed for a minimum of a 2 year commitment. Prices vary, but I would say an average is about $75-80 USD a month for full data coverage, not including the purchase of the device itself. It’s quite expensive in my opinion. However, I am not here to talk about phone plans. A useful site you can look at about phone plans is The Arrival Store’s blog, which has a nice article on phones.
The greatest and inexpensive alternative is….
Option 2: Buy an Olleh Egg
If you already have a smart phone and don’t want to pay the costs of a phone plan, the Olleh Egg is a perfect alternative! The only thing you must make sure of is that your phone is unlocked and can support the 2.1Ghz 3G WCDMA network. What does that mean? No idea. But, I can tell you what I did: I contacted my cellphone providers back home and asked them to unlock my phone so I could use it abroad, which they did with no hassle.
The Olleh Egg is about the size of a credit card, but thicker. It’s really easy to carry around.
But…what exactly is an Olleh Egg? The Egg allows you to have access to the internet wherever you are (as long as Olleh offers service in that area---some very rural places or the tops of mountains will not give you service) The Egg is essentially a hotspot that you physically carry around with you.
Why is it so great? Its primary appeal is the cost. You pay a one-time fee for the device itself, I paid $80 USD, but I have also heard prices vary depending on the store you buy it at, and then you only pay $10 USD a month after.
Is there a contract? Yes, there is a contract. You must sign a 2 year contract for the device.
What if I only want to stay a year? Well, you can cancel the contract. The cancellation fee is only $30 USD, so you are still saving a bunch of money had you purchased an actual phone plan.
How much data do you get? The plan I have gives me 10GB a month, which is plenty, for $10 USD a month. I use it all the time, too, but have never gone over. Once you use your 10GB your Egg will simply stop working until the next month. There are other plans that you can buy that will give you more data, but at a higher price.
What if I need to call someone? You’re right. What do you do, indeed? The Egg only gives you wifi so it does not have calling or texting abilities. However, in Korea, everyone, and I mean everyone uses an app called KakaoTalk. Kakao is a messaging app that uses wifi. You can also call using the app. However, you can only call and text people who have the app. So, tell all of your friends to get it. There are also many other free calling or texting apps out there you can use, such as Viber and Skype.
If you need to contact someone who does not have one of these apps, then I’m afraid you’re out of luck. Maybe the Egg isn’t for you. However, I haven’t come across a single situation where I needed to call someone that didn’t have a free messaging app. If you need to make doctor appointments, use your work’s phone or stop a random person in the street. Most people in Korea are extremely happy to help you.
Now, picture this:
If you bought a new phone, say $100 USD with a new phone plan, about $80 USD a month, plus let’s say you only stayed for a year so you had to pay a cancellation fee which we will guess is maybe $30 USD, then your total plan cost is about $1,090 for the year. Now, the Egg: $80 for the device plus $10 a month plus a $30 cancellation fee if you stay less than two years is a total of $230.
Do you think you can live without calling a few people for one year? If so, buy the Egg. If not, buy a plan or a SIM card or the occasional Skype credits to compensate for the Eggs lack of calling abilities.
I am very happy with my Egg. I have been using it for the past 7 or 8 months now with no problem and it’s saved me a ton of money. Everyone I meet that is coming to South Korea or has just arrived I always recommend that they buy the Egg.