Phone, Money, and SIM Card

Programs for this blog post

Arts + Sciences

Authored By:

Caroline R.


I just wanted to provide some info about what I chose to do regarding my phone and getting a Korean number/data plan, as well as money, what I budgeted, and the types of cards I brought. Please know you do not have to do the same thing as me. This is based on what I found worked for me based on my experiences!

Phone: This was really hard to figure out. My family and I discussed it and thought we would do an international plan for my phone. So, we ended up requesting a global plan through my phone company, Verizon. The worker at Verizon guaranteed that I would be able to contact Korean numbers and that Korean numbers would be able to contact me. So I thought I was 100% golden. The plan was about $80 a month. 

However, after getting to Korea, I quickly realized something that none of my family had thought about. Though I could contact Korean numbers, theoretically, Korean numbers would not be able to contact me or receive my calls/texts unless they also had international plans. Many, many, many people and businesses don't have plans like that. So I talked to my family and canceled my Verizon plan. Which meant I had to shut my U.S. number off for four months.

Korean Number & Data: I went to KT, a telephone and data provider in Korea. During orientation, CIEE connects you with a local provider that is located about 10 a min walk away from campus and into Sinchon. The worker knew English and gave me a discount for being a CIEE student. We took out my U.S. sim card, and I got a Korean sim card with a Korean phone number. You will need a Korean phone number to do things like get a concert ticket, order food, or order a taxi, and sometimes cafes will require you to put your phone number in when ordering so they can contact you when your purchase is ready. You will also need to put a phone number with your ARC (Alien Registration Card). There are so many other things that would be beneficial for you to have a Korean number, such as the CIEE Emergency Information Notification System.

The KT phone and data plan was bout 40,000 a month for a number and unlimited data coverage. You go back to the physical store in Sinchon to refill your plan each month. When you get your ARC, you can go back and get longer plans, such as 2 or 3 months, depending on when you get your card. I would recommend this as it is much cheaper than an international plan. ***However, I had an iPhone 12 Pro Max, so I still have a physical sim card, so taking it out was no problem at all. However, my friend had an iPhone 14 that did not have a physical sim card, so she just had to buy an eSim plan and kept her U.S. number as you need both a Korean bank account and ARC number for KT to give you an eSim with a verified number. Unfortunately, you cannot get a Korean bank account as a foreigner unless you will be in South Korea for 6 months or longer. Please double and triple check if you have a sim card and if your phone company can unlock your phone to allow for another sim card and data. Verizon's are automatically already unlocked.*** 

Money: Everyone's favorite topic! This was also a little challenging to figure out. As I said, I couldn't get a Korean Bank account unless I had an ARC and was going to be registered in the country for 6 months or more. So, instead, I checked with my bank and found that my card could work overseas without international service fees. I use a small town bank in my hometown, so I was really surprised and happy to find that out! I also opened a Discover Student credit card to use as well as they did not have international service fees either. The credit card gave me a little more flexibility if I needed it. However, my Discover Card did not work everywhere I tried to use it. I would recommend getting a Visa Credit Card of some kind or a different one that is more widely accepted. PLEASE LET YOUR BANKS KNOW THAT YOU WILL BE USING THE CARD ABROAD IN SOUTH KOREA (and other countries if you visit them)!!!! If banks see foreign transactions, they will freeze your accounts and report possible fraud!

Cash & Budgeting: I also brought about $500 to exchange for Korean Won once I got to South Korea. CIEE events, T-Money cards (public transportation), and other places of business will only accept cash (won), so make sure to have some handy when you need it! I was able to go to a global ATM on Yonsei's campus to take money out when I needed it, however. I budgeted about $4,000 for this trip. Planning for about $1,000 a month. But you can pretty much make do with less than that or, of course, more than that as well! Always be aware of how much you are spending so you do not go over your limits or be left with little to no money! I hope all this information helps!


Talk Soon, 

Caroline :)