South Korea – known for Kpop, K-Beauty & insane fashion trends.
It is also the country of Samsung, which has a significant sway over South Korea in terms of politics.
While you may think that East Asia is always warm, it can snow in Seoul during winters.
One thing that South Korea is not known for being a cheap travel destination.
Especially compared to nearby East Asian countries and especially Southeast Asia.
So, what can you do in South Korea? A lot.
The Myeong-Dong shopping district is popular.
Nami Island is a must-see too; the same counts for Jeju Island.
And do not forget about the many palaces, like Gyeongbokgung Palace, and temples, like Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.
As you can see, there is no reason to be bored in South Korea, and there is a lot to share online on social media.
What you should not do, in many cases, is roam internationally in South Korea.
International roaming can be expensive, which is why using local and travel eSIMs is recommended to save money.
And if you get a travel eSIM, you do not have to deal with the SIM card registration bureaucracy and skip the queues in South Korea.
How much will a local or travel eSIM for South Korea cost you?
You can get an eSIM for South Korea for as little as 5 USD, with 1 GB of data for 7 days, up to 62 USD, with unlimited data for 30 days, from SK Telecom (through Korea eSIM Red) and LG U+ (through Korea eSIM Sky), Airalo (LG U+), Holafly & Nomad.
Those are some generous data allowances, right?
And you can even get unlimited data if you want.
In this guide, I will go over the eSIM options offered by the South Korean mobile operators (SK Telecom (through Korea eSIM Red) and LG U+ (through Korea eSIM Sky)), Airalo, Holafly & Nomad. Let's do this.
Original publication: 26th of August 2022. Last updated: 5th of January 2023.
Table of Contents
eSIMs offered by the South Korean Mobile Operators
To get the best service available, in terms of reception and speeds, you want to go with the local mobile operators directly instead of with a travel eSIM.
That is because you will have a higher priority on the network in case of network congestion.
However, that does not mean travel eSIMs will always be slow.
In fact, some mobile operators throttle (prepaid) on select plans or all plans for “optimization” reasons (read: we cannot be bothered to invest in our network).
Anyway, which South Korean mobile operators offer eSIMs to prepaid customers?
Currently, SK Telecom (through Korea eSIM Red) and LG U+ (through Korea eSIM Sky) offer eSIMs to prepaid customers.
You also have several other options for getting an eSIM for your trip to South Korea: You can choose travel eSIMs from Airalo (with LG U+), Holafly & Nomad.
Not only can you set up these eSIMs before arriving in South Korea and activate them upon landing, but you can also avoid South Korea's SIM card registration scheme, which is mandatory for anyone using South Korean SIM cards and eSIMs.
While mobile data is already affordable in South Korea, getting a travel eSIM will not break the bank – not at all.
Plus, I have plenty of experience with Airalo, Holafly & Nomad, and I can assure you they work well – and other Phone Travel Wiz readers also had pleasant experiences with them.
So let's see what these travel eSIM providers have to offer in South Korea, right?
Nomad eSIMs for South Korea
The first travel eSIM provider I recommend is Nomad because it is the most affordable option in South Korea.
I have been in close contact with Nomad as soon as I partnered up with them.
For example, upon my recommendation, it started offering the Nordics regional eSIM – an eSIM that can be used in Denmark, Finland, Sweden & Norway.
Yes, I really try to get the best offers and deals for you 🥰.
Another thing I have been pushing Nomad for, and Airalo and Holafly (to be discussed next) for that matter, is lowering its prices or increasing its data allowances.
In June, Nomad started offering a 2 GB eSIM variant upon my request for South Korea and various other Asian countries (because Phone Travel Wiz readers asked for such an eSIM) at competitive prices.
In August, Nomad dropped its prices again for its China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand & Vietnam eSIMs (which are even cheaper than Airalo – that is remarkable on its own!).
So yes, Nomad is looking out for you 👁👁.
Anyway, in South Korea, it uses the Truphone network, which uses a combination of local networks (SK Telecom, KT South Korea & LG U+), allowing your eSIM to switch to the network with the best reception automatically.
This way, you will always be connected!
You have the following eight options with Nomad for South Korea:
- South Korea 1 GB eSIM for 7 days (SKT – new), costing 5 USD/5 EUR/4.50 GBP/7 CAD – very popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
- South Korea 1 GB eSIM for 7 days (Truphone), costing 5 USD/5 EUR/4.50 GBP/7 CAD
- South Korea 2 GB eSIM for 30 days (Truphone), costing 10 USD/9.50 EUR/8.50 GBP/13.50 CAD – very popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
- South Korea 3 GB eSIM for 30 days (SKT – new), costing 9 USD/8.50 EUR/7.50 GBP/12.50 CAD
- South Korea 5 GB eSIM for 30 days (SKT – new), costing 15 USD/14 EUR/12.50 GBP/20.50 CAD – most popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
- South Korea 5 GB eSIM for 30 days (Truphone), costing 15 USD/14 EUR/12.50 GBP/20.50 CAD
- South Korea 10 GB eSIM for 30 days (SKT – new), costing 28 USD/26 EUR/23 GBP/37.50 CAD
- South Korea 15 GB eSIM for 30 days (SKT – new), costing 36 USD/33.50 EUR/29.50 GBP/48.50 CAD
Use code ADU123 for the best deals available when getting Nomad eSIMs (on the site or their apps) and get 3 USD/2.85 EUR/2.45 GBP/4.10 CAD off (even on top of current promotions)!
- Check out my Nomad reviews
Of course, going with Nomad has some pros and cons, so let's go over them.
Nomad South Korea eSIM Pros
So, why should you get a Nomad eSIM? Because:
- It is the most affordable option in this guide
- You can activate your Nomad South Korea eSIM as soon as you land in South Korea
- You do not have to worry about SIM card registration, saving you time
- You get full (up to 4G/LTE) access on all South Korean networks, allowing you to have the best reception at all times
- Nomad South Korea eSIMs are the cheapest eSIMs offered in this guide
- You can avoid expensive international roaming fees
- Out of data? You can simply top up online on the Nomad website and not worry about language barriers when dealing with local agents
But it is not all good news with Nomad though – there are some disadvantages.
Nomad South Korea eSIM Cons
So, why should you not get the Nomad South Korea eSIM?
- The South Korean mobile operators have much more generous data allowances and cheaper plans
- While you get access to nine networks, your speeds will not be as fast as going with the South Korean mobile operators themselves because you will be roaming on their networks (and not be a native customer)
- There is no 5G NR access with the Nomad South Korea eSIM
- You cannot call or text with the Nomad South Korea eSIM (nor can you receive them – you get no (local) phone number)
Nomad South Korea eSIM Overall Thoughts
Overall, the Nomad South Korea eSIM is a great premium eSIM offering with the lowest prices in this guide.
You will always have the best reception because the Nomad South Korea eSIM automatically switches to the best network at your location.
However, just like the other travel eSIMs mentioned in this guide, you do not get a (local) phone number with the Nomad South Korea eSIM.
Moreover, you can only get up to 5 GB of data.
Luckily, you can top up your Nomad South Korea eSIM with more data if you want.
Airalo eSIMs for South Korea (LG U+)
If I could only get a travel eSIM during my trip because I do not have the time or opportunity to buy a local SIM card or eSIM, then I would always get an eSIM from Airalo.
Airalo has eSIMs for around 190 countries, offers eSIMs at the lowest prices (on average compared to the competition) & has good service.
Airalo usually partners with the local mobile operator with the best coverage, the fastest speeds, or both.
In the case of South Korea, Airalo partnered directly with LG U+ to offer its eSIMs, allowing for more exclusive options.
You can get an LG U+ eSIM for as low as 32 USD, with “unlimited data” for 10 days, up to 62 USD, with “unlimited data” for 30 days.
Those prices and data allowances are not too bad, right – especially for “unlimited” data plans?
The following two South Korean LG U+ eSIM options are available:
- South Korea/LG U+ “unlimited data” (3 GB high-speed data/day and incoming calls) eSIM for 10 days, costing 32 USD
- South Korea/LG U+ “unlimited data” (3 GB high-speed data/day and incoming calls) eSIM for 30 days, costing 62 USD
Yes, this is one of the few (Airalo) eSIMs giving you a local phone number.
However, it can be used for incoming calls only – not making calls to other numbers.
Unfortunately, you cannot receive any text messages either.
The Airalo links will automatically get you the available Phone Travel Wiz exclusive offers – a code is unnecessary.
- Check out my Airalo eSIM reviews
Airalo LG U+ eSIM Pros
Are there any other reasons why you should get the LG U+ eSIM for your trip? For sure:
- You get a South Korean phone number for incoming calls
- You can activate your LG U+ eSIM as soon as you land in South Korea
- You get full (up to 4G/LTE) access to LG U+ network
- LG U+ eSIMs are affordable (especially compared to roaming) and have generous data allowances
- Out of data? You can simply top up online on the Airalo website and not worry about language barriers when dealing with local agents
There are many other small pros, but these are the major ones.
It would be disingenuous not to mention some cons, so here we go.
Airalo LG U+ eSIM Cons
So, why should you not get the LG U+ eSIM?
- Unlike most Airalo eSIMs, this eSIM requires you to verify your identity (through the Airalo website or app) because the eSIMs are issued in corperation with LG U+ (but this can be done before going to South Korea)
- While you get “unlimited” data, you speeds will be throttled to 5 Mbps after using more than 3 GB in a day (but it resets daily)
- There is no 5G NR access with the LG U+ eSIM (yet)
- While incoming calls are accepted, because you get a South Korean phone number, you cannot make calls or send/receive text message
- The LG U+ eSIMs are the most expensive in this guide
Airalo LG U+ eSIM Overall Thoughts
Honestly, the LG U+ eSIM is fantastic for heavy data use.
You get fast speeds (if you stay under 3 GB/day) and access to LG U+ network without standing in queues.
And everything, purchasing and topping up, can be done online on the Airalo website or Airalo app (downloading the app is recommended).
Holafly eSIMs for South Korea
The last travel eSIM provider I recommend is Holafly.
My relationship with Holafly is quite funny.
I knew they existed when they offered travel SIM cards for the Spanish market only.
Then they pivoted to the global market, still offering travel SIM cards.
Eventually, they started offering travel eSIMs for the Spanish market only again before going global.
There are many travel eSIM providers nowadays – new ones pop up every week like mushrooms, so I did not bat an eye.
Until they did something revolutionary.
In 2022, Holafly started offering unlimited data plans for its eSIMs.
And these unlimited data eSIMs can be used in various Asian countries, almost all European Union member states (except for Liechtenstein) & a few other countries, like Canada and the United States.
Unfortunately, unlimited data eSIMs are not available in South Korea… yet.
I say yet because Holafly's goal is to offer unlimited data plans for every country it covers: 100+ countries.
And I can tell you that I get positive emails multiple times a week from Phone Travel Wiz readers that have used the unlimited data plans in East- and Southeast Asia, Europe & North America; they love these eSIMs.
For now, you have only one Holafly South Korea eSIM (which uses the SK Telecom & KT South Korea networks – the two mobile operators with the best coverage and fastest speeds (SK Telecom only), by the way):
You have only one South Korea eSIM option with Holafly:
Not much choice, as you can see.
As I recently started my collaboration with Holafly, you can get 5% off each purchase whenever you use code PHONETRAVELWIZ – awesome, right?
- Check out my Holafly reviews
Of course, there are some pros and cons with going with Holafly, so let's go over them.
Holafly South Korea eSIM Pros
So, why should you get the Holafly eSIMs? Well, because of the following:
- Holafly South Korea eSIMs are affordable compared to roaming
- You get full (up to 4G/LTE) access to SK Telecom & KT South Korea's network – the best in South Korea
- Unlike going with SK Telecom & KT South Korea directly, you do not have to worry about SIM card registration because it is unnecessary
- You can activate your Holafly South Korea eSIM as soon as you land in South Korea
But it is not all good news with Holafly though – there are some disadvantages.
Holafly South Korea eSIM Cons
So, why should you not get a Holafly South Korea eSIM?
- You cannot call or text with the Holafly South Korea eSIM (nor can you receive them – you get no (local) phone number)
- South Korean mobile operators, SK Telecom & KT South Korea, have much more generous data allowances
- While you get full (4G/LTE) access to SK Telecom & KT South Korea networks, your speeds may not be as fast as going with SK Telecom & KT South Korea directly because you will be roaming on their networks (and not be a native customer)
- You cannot top up your Holafly South Korea eSIM – you would have to buy another eSIM if you need more data
- There is no 5G NR access with the Holafly South Korea eSIM (yet)
Holafly South Korea eSIM Overall Thoughts
While you have only one option for the Holafly South Korea eSIM, it is one of the most generous eSIM (in terms of data) in this guide.
And the price for the Holafly South Korea eSIM is low compared to expensive Pay As You Go roaming rates for South Korea.
But it still is not cheap.
Best eSIMs for in Asia (not just South Korea)
Unfortunately, you cannot use your Airalo LG U+, Holafly South Korea, or Nomad South Korea eSIMs in any country than South Korea.
However, the three eSIM providers have eSIMs covering several East Asian and Southeast Asian countries.
I highly recommend these Asia/APAC eSIMs if you plan to visit multiple East- and Southeast Asian countries to save money!
Airalo recently heavily improved its Asia eSIM, which used to offer a meager 4 GB of high-speed data before allowing for unlimited data at snail speeds, following the popular Eurolink eSIM for 39 European countries.
The Eurolink eSIM is the most popular eSIM for Phone Travel readers, and I have no doubt that the Asialink eSIM will be popular too.
Just like in Europe, many readers tend to visit multiple Asian countries, so they would rather have a travel eSIM covering multiple countries than just one (like South Korea).
The Asialink eSIM can be used in the following 14 countries:
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
Below is an overview of how much each Asialink eSIM costs:
- Asia/Asialink 1 GB eSIM for 1 day, costing 5 USD
- Asia/Asialink 3 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 13 USD – very popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
- Asia/Asialink 5 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 20 USD – most popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
- Asia/Asialink 10 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 37 USD – very popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
- Asia/Asialink 50 GB eSIM for 90 days, costing 100 USD
- Asia/Asialink 100 GB eSIM for 180 days, costing 185 USD
Holafly & Nomad eSIMs for South Korea
Because of Airalo's previous Asia eSIM, I used to recommend Nomad's APAC eSIMs instead (to be used in 8 countries).
This eSIM can be used in Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore & Thailand (1 GB/7 days/15 USD – 20 GB/30 days/69 USD).
As you can see, this eSIM cannot be used in South Korea, so it would be useless here but useful in the aforementioned countries.
The Holafly Asia eSIM has only one variant: 8 GB for 30 days, costing 47 USD/49 EUR/34 GBP.
This eSIM can be used in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand & Vietnam.
Basically, the same countries as the Airalo Asialink eSIM with just fewer options (1 variant (8 GB) vs. 6 variants (1 GB/3 GB/5 GB/10 GB/50 GB/100 GB)) and much more expensive.
So yeah, the Asialink eSIM is superior, I would say.
Remember, the Airalo links above will automatically offer you the best deals.
Overview of the Best eSIMs for South Korea (Airalo vs. Holafly vs. Nomad)
In this guide, I went over various eSIMs for South Korea: Airalo (LG U+), Holafly & Nomad.
Below is an overview of my recommendation order:
- Nomad South Korea eSIM (cheapest and excellent performance)
- Airalo's Asia Asialink eSIM (best value for money for South Korea itself and when also visiting other East- and Southeast Asian countries)
- Airalo's South Korea LG U+ eSIM (good value)
- Holafly South Korea eSIM (generous data plan)
- Holafly Asia eSIM (to be used in 13 countries)
Remember to use code PHONETRAVELWIZ for Holafly eSIMs and code ADU123 for Nomad eSIMs – a code is not necessary for Airalo eSIM purchases.
Buying a SIM Card in South Korea
Want to just use a SIM card but not your current one because roaming will be criminally expensive?
Consider getting a South Korean SIM card instead – local SIM cards are the cheapest way to stay connected abroad.
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