I’ve been in South Korea for approximately a month now, and throughout this time I haven’t had a cell phone Sim card; therefore don’t have a cell phone number either. However, when in Korea not having a Sim card is not that much of big deal (as long as you stay out of trouble). There’s public Wi-Fi on almost every street corner, restaurant and I have Wi-Fi in my apartment. Here are six apps that have not only made my stay in Korea smooth but have also made it possible for me to go for this long without a Korean sim card.
- Kakaotalk – This is the Korean version of WhatsApp (my opinion). I haven’t met a single person who has asked for my number, but I’ve met a lot who have asked for Kakao ID. Kakao can be used to make voice calls, video calls, texting, etc. However, if you know you won’t have a cell phone number for some time, then download Kakao before coming to Korea because you need a cell phone number to register on the app. I got mine while I was still in South Africa.
- KakaoMap – Google Maps is pretty much useless when it comes to navigating Korean streets. When I first arrived, I was using Google and would always get “No route found” every time I wanted directions. To find your way to many places then you need to get KakaoMap. Although the app uses Hangul, you can use English (or Roman alphabet) to search for places and it’ll not only show you how far you are from the place but it’ll also show you what bus to take, nearest subway stations and their exists.
- KakaoMetro or Subway app – This is one app I can’t function without at the moment because I am still getting used to everything. The subway is the most convenient, reliable form of transportation in South Korea. It’s fast and easy, but this app makes it easier. KakaoMetro has the subway map of every city in Korea, so you can choose your default city; mine is Busan. The app shows you all the subway lines (in your city), subway stops, schedules for each of the subway lines and how long it’ll take from one stop to another. All the subway stations and trains have maps, but sometimes you don’t want to make it obvious that you’re lost so you can check your phone to see if you’re going in the right direction.
- Google Translate – One thing that makes it tough to live in Korea is the language barrier. People here are friendly and will attempt to talk to you, however not being able to speak, read or hear Hangul makes it difficult to communicate. The ability to speak Korean becomes mandatory especially when you are trying to buy something or direct a taxi driver to where you are going. I can’t read Hangul and can only say a few things, so I rely heavily on Google Translate. When shopping, I use Google Translate to understand what’s written on the items and use it to communicate with shop assistants when I’m searching for products. It’s not always accurate, but it does make communication a bit easy. Google translate also has other languages.
- Korean Dictionary and Translate – Similar but much more precise than Google Translate. However, it can be very slow and sometimes malfunctions (or maybe it’s my phone). I use this app to translate and learn Korean; I try to learn at least one phrase a day. When shopping and in need of assistance, I alternate between it and Google Translate because Google translate is much faster.
- Imo – Skype is probably the most popular video app but not the most convenient. My family stays in a town with a very slow internet speed, so Skype is a no-no for me. Whatsapp video calls are also very slow and shaky so imo has been my go to app. It’s a very straightforward and reliable video app. It doesn’t take much space and is apparently (I don’t know how accurate this is) very cheap when using data, so I use this app to call my parents back home.