So, you’re going to Jamboree, and you want to use your mobile phone abroad. And there are some things you should think about. Before we go any further please remember this page is suggestions/tips and you should make your own decisions.
Using your normal UK sim card abroad can be prohibitively expensive when roaming in Asian countries. Some sims that seem fine in Europe are just no use in Asia, and you can easily end up wracking up hundreds to thousands of £££ in bills!!!. An hour of Tik Tok use (a video app the younger people like), can mean easily using over 1GB of data. That’s 1024 MB per GB. and 1MB roaming with a popular provider such as Three Mobile in Korea will cost £6 per MB. So 1 GB would cost you an eye-watering £6,144. Phone calls on top of that can cost £2 per minute plus.
That is much more than your UK plan which likely includes unlimited calls and a reasonable amount of data for a much lower monthly fee. So what is the solution?
There are generally two options, a local or travelers SIM card, or an E-Sim card. Both will give you the desired effect of a package that costs similar to the UK for a reasonable amount of data. The best options for these sim cards are usually Data only sims, which don’t come with a phone number for calls, which is generally ok as it is much cheaper to make an internet call with WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger if you have good data or free wifi. Internet will also be very important to help you get around Seoul and help you with translations.
So what is the difference between a physical sim and an E-sim? A physical card is currently the most common sim in the UK, you get a card from the mobile provider, and stick it in your phone, but some phones now support E-Sims. You buy a package online and are sent a QR code download link to scan with your phone to add a “virtual” sim card to your phone immediately.
E-sims can be one of the better options. You won’t need to get a sim card shipped to you, and you won’t have to go looking around the airport or local shops in Seoul for a card, you can activate it just before you leave or as you land! But you should pay attention to what make/model your phone is, as not all phones are E-Sim compatible, and some E-Sim Compatible phones will only work with certain providers. So while this may be one of the better routes, you should make sure to check the provider’s list of compatible phones!
Next, I will give you some example sim providers to look at, but do read to the bottom of the page, as there are also some travel tips for your phone to reduce data and unsightly accidental bills!!
There are multiple suppliers, some local to Korea, and some worldwide. Here are some to think about. Some are bought in KRW or USD, so think about using the travel money card you got to buy it at better rates. Info on cards here… Note some of these are limited by day, and you cannot top up, you may have to purchase a new plan and activate it when he first runs out.
If you get an E-Sim, make sure to print out the QR code you get sent. Sims will usually activate when the QR code is scanned, and the phone taking the sim needs to scan the QR code through the E-Sim menu. This means you will struggle to scan a QR code that is located on the phone itself.
10 days of unlimited data $32 or 30 days of unlimited data $62. Note that while unlimited, speeds are capped each day after your first 3GB usage per day to 5mbps (still usable for most people). If you are an IST traveling afterward, then they also do a regional sim for East Asia covering multiple countries. Get $3 credit using my referral code ERIK9278 https://ref.airalo.com/b1gu
Airalo has a useful app you download, you can view packages and see your usage. Good for IST that have trips afterwards and want to get a regional sim to cover multiple countries (doesn’t currently include Singapore)
10 days unlimited $36. They also do 30 day plans with limited data ($36 for 15GB, $28 for 10GB, $14 for 5GB). If you consume more than 2 GB per day, you will find that your speed will be throttled to 512 kbps for up to 24 hours.
Also listed below in physical sims. SK Telecom does have E-Sims that are comparable or even slightly cheaper than the packages above. Most South Korean packages come with unlimited data, so you are mainly looking at the number of days you need the package for.
This company is what Airalo ports its data through for its South Korean plans. A 30-day unlimited plan will set you back 65,000 KRW (South Korean Won), which is about $50 USD if bought in advance. You could also get a shorter 20-day plan for 55,000 KRW which is $43. https://www.lguplus.com/ib-roaming/pc/eng/product/esim-data
Make sure to check your phone is compatible with your chosen provider before buying a package! This is why multiple providers are listed here at varying prices.
You can buy some of these in advance for international providers. Or for Korean sims you either have to buy in the airport or neat the hotel (may be hard if everyone is doing this).
KT South Korea and SK Telecom
These South Korean providers do both E-sims and physical sims. A Physical sim may cost approx 8800 KRW (6.70 USD) before adding any credit/data. Costs are advertised at between 5.90 USD (1 day) to 384 USD (6 months). (Usually unlimited data). These can be got at the airport.
You can use sites like Korea Sim (https://www.krsim.ne) to order a sim in advance for the providers listed above. Packages may be cheaper, and you pick them up at the airport or have them delivered to your hotel. 20 days unlimited will cost about $42.70. But remember that picking up at the airport may be chaotic with so many scouts arriving.
They have both data and voice packages. Get the sim before you leave. 20GB of date over 30 days will set you back $68.00. Or you get a sim with them and add credit (sim may cost). I do find the site unclear on the cost of data for Korea when using pre-paid credit instead of a data plan.
There are some things I do when I am traveling abroad to ensure I don’t get any unsightly bills! and to make sure I get the best use out of my foreign sim.
- Put a spending limit on your UK sim. This one helps any accidental usage of your phone but still allows for some emergency use. You can turn of roaming and limit spending, so if you turn your phone on in Korea for the first time and still have your UK sim active, you don’t wrack up too many charges as it connects to the network.
- When you arrive in Korea, keep your phone in flight mode as long as possible to ensure you have switched your sim over, or deactivated your UK sim from using data. (check the sim card settings of your phone, but you can usually route calls to your UK sim, and data to your new sim if it allows multiple sims). Before you turn on flight mode, turn off mobile data as a separate setting, you sometimes cannot edit this while flight mode is on, and you may want to turn flight mode off before you’re ready to use your new sim for data. Switch the data back on when you are ready. The number one accidental charge to your UK sim, before you use your new sim, is at the point you arrive and start setting up to use your new sim. You turn on your phone after a long flight and take it off airplane mode, and if you are not careful you wrack up charges as it tries to update all your apps, emails, etc.
- Check your phone’s data-saving mode and turn it on. This usually stops apps from using data in the background unless you have them open. This can be quite important to reduce unnecessary data usage. You can usually allow some apps to bypass this such as WhatsApp and email which you may want to work in the background to receive messages from your unit/ist/leaders.
- Check if you have Dual Wifi / Mobile Data on. Some phones allow for the usage of mobile data and Wifi at the same time to increase your phone’s internet speed. If you are on free wifi you probably don’t want to use up your data allowance.
- Don’t make calls! and avoid accepting any if you have your UK sim still activated for calls. This costs money! Instead talk to your family through the internet by calling on WhatsApp or Facebook, either with your included data or on free wifi.
- Whatsapp. Make sure it is signed in before you leave and do not sign out. This way you can keep your UK number even if you have a different sim card in your phone. If you accidentally sign out or do anything that then makes WhatsApp ask you to verify your number you won’t be able to do this with your travel sim inserted.