Are you planning your trip to South Korea and looking for the best e-sim card to stay connected and avoid high roaming charges? This is a complete guide with everything you need to know about using an e-sim card when traveling to South Korea and a comparison of the best South Korea e-sim cards in 2024.

Don’t waste money on high roaming charges, read my recommendations below and order an e-sim card for South Korea on the internet and get connected in just a couple minutes. Below you will find a South Korea e-sim comparison, up to date prices as per April 2024, all specifications and my recommendations.

This guide will also show you where and when to order an e-sim card for South Korea, answer all your FAQ’s about using e-sim cards, a comparison with local prepaid sim cards for South Korea and of course links to directly order your e-sim card for traveling to South Korea online.

Since 2012 I am already traveling the world full time and throughout the years I turned my passion for traveling into a lifestyle and became a full time nomadic travel blogger. That is why I constantly get to a different country and pretty much every week I need to look for a new sim card to stay connected.

In 2023 I visited for example 34 different countries so imagine how many different prepaid and e-sim cards I used throughout the year.

In the past I used to buy a local prepaid sim card on arrival in every country, but nowadays I mostly use e-sim cards to stay connected when traveling abroad. On my latest trip to South Korea I tested the below recommended South Korea e-sim cards for tourists.

Helping other travelers to save money while traveling the world is one of the reasons I started this travel blog. Providing essential travel tips is what made me start writing sim card guides from every country I visited and now on Traveltomtom you can already find more than 200 sim card guides from all over the world.

Traveltomtom also wrote e-sim card guides for: Japan, SwitzerlandMoroccoMexicoVietnamSingaporePhilippinesMalaysia, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Asia, Turkey, Egypt, Dubai, BrazilEurope, United Kingdom, Italy, USA, international e-sim cards and many more.

So next time you are planning your adventure abroad come check out Traveltomtom for the latest prepaid sim card and e-sim card advice for your holiday destination. Bookmark Traveltomtom and let me help you save money!

Let me start with giving you my e-sim card recommendation for South Korea in 2024. These are my favorite e-sim cards for traveling to South Korea in 2024.

My recommendation

Traveltomtom recommends the following two e-sim cards for traveling to South Korea:

1. SimOptions e-sim with unlimited data - $44.90 USD

  • unlimited data
  • valid for 30 days
  • 4G/LTE
  • operates on the SK Telecom network
  • data-only e-sim
  • valid in South Korea only
  • $1.5 USD per day unlimited data

2. Airalo e-sim with unlimited data - $32 USD 

  • unlimited data-only e-sim
  • valid for 10 days 
  • 4G/LTE
  • Operates on the LG U+ network
  • data-only e-sim
  • valid in South Korea only
  • $3.2 USD per day unlimited data

The simple reason why Traveltomtom recommends the SimOptions e-sim card for South Korea is that it is the best value e-sim with the lowest cost per day including unlimited data. You can order this e-sim card for South Korea with unlimited data via SimOptions.

The rate of only $1.5 USD per day for unlimited data is the cheapest available for South Korea e-sims.

This SimOptions e-sim card plan for South Korea only supports 4G/LTE. These are data-only e-sims and do not come with a phone number. Which means incoming and outgoing calls and sms are not supported.

SimOptions has more e-sim card plans with unlimited data for South Korea. Some are even 5G ready and their e-sim plans start from $5.90 USD. More about it in my comparison below.

The other recommendation is an Airalo e-sim card for South Korea. Traveltomtom has been using Airalo e-sim cards for nearly 5 years now and never had an issue.

Airalo also has e-sim cards for South Korea with unlimited data, but they are slight more expensive than SimOptions.

The Airalo e-sim cards for South Korea also only support 4G/LTE, are data-only and do not come with a phone number. Incoming and outgoing calls and sms are not supported with Airalo e-sims for South Korea.

Is South Korea one of your stops on a trip around the world then you can also look into getting an e-sim card for world travelers. There are a bunch of e-sim cards that cover multiple countries and some are great for traveling to Europe, Asia and America.

There are 2 very important things to check before ordering an e-sim card for South Korea or in general before using an e-sim card.

Unlocked phones only

Make sure your phone is unlocked. E-sim cards for tourists only work in unlocked phones. If you are not sure if your phone is unlocked then contact your mobile internet provider in your home country.

In general phones from Europe, Asia and the Middle East tend to be unlocked. Phones from North America are often locked.

If your smartphone is locked that means it does not allow another prepaid sim card or e-sim card to operate in the device. You can easily unlock your phone, but depending on your mobile internet provider you will be charged a fee for unlocking your phone.

E-sim compatible phones only

Second, and equally important: e-sim cards only work if your smartphone supports e-sim cards, also called e-sim compatible. All newer smartphones support e-sim cards. If you are not sure if your phone is e-sim compatible then simply go to Google and type in your mobile phone model in the search bar and ask if it is e-sim compatible. You will get the answer instantly. 

If your phone is NOT e-sim compatible then there is no other solution and you can NOT use an e-sim card for traveling to South Korea.

However, you can still order a sim card for South Korea on the internet before your trip. Find out everything you need to know about international sim cards for traveling abroad in 2024.

Comparison of the best e-sim cards for South Korea

Buying an e-sim card on arrival in South Korea is still not possible. None of the mobile internet providers in South Korea offer e-sim cards for tourists, only physical prepaid sim cards for tourists.

Incheon Airport is the main international airport in South Korea and there are places to buy a tourist sim card, but there are only physical prepaid sim cards available, no e-sims for tourists.

This also counts for the international airports of Jeju, Busan, Daegu and Gimpo Airport, the other international airport in Seoul.

The only way to get a tourist e-sim card for South Korea is ordering one on the internet!

Luckily there are multiple e-sim providers that sell South Korea e-sim cards for tourists. Traveltomtom recommends ordering an e-sim card for traveling in South Korea from one of the well-known e-sim card providers that have proven to be reliable operators. 

Traveltomtom has tested and reviewed multiple e-sim providers. Here are Traveltomtom's trusted favorites that have proven to be reliable:

  1. SimOptions
  2. Airalo
  3. Nomad

Nowadays, you can buy an e-sim card for pretty much every country around the world. Order directly from one of the above e-sim card providers and instantly receive your e-sim card in your email. But before you buy an e-sim card first read all my tips below.

SimOptions is the only e-sim provider that also offers international prepaid sim cards for South Korea. These are pre-activated physical prepaid sim cards that will be delivered to your door step before your trip and it is plug and play when you arrive in South Korea.

Airalo and Nomad only sell e-sim cards for South Korea.

SimOptions

SimOptions is a reputable e-sim card provider that is very much recommended by Traveltomtom. Ordering your tourist e-sim card for South Korea through SimOptions is done fast and easy.

Traveltomtom has used SimOptions uncountable times for staying connected when traveling abroad. Very reliable, never an issue and often some of the cheapest e-sim card deals.

SimOptions is specialized in international e-sim cards valid in multiple countries however, for South Korea they only have e-sim cards that are valid in South Korea only.

simoptions esim card plans for south korea 2024

These are the SimOptions e-sim card plans for South Korea:

  • 1 GB data (5G ready) for 7 days = $5.9 USD
  • unlimited data for 3 days = $14.90 USD
  • unlimited data for 5 days = $19.90 USD
  • unlimited data for 10 days = $29.90 USD
  • unlimited data for 20 days = $39.90 USD
  • unlimited data for 30 days = $44.90 USD

These SimOptions e-sim cards for South Korea are only valid in South Korea and are data-only. Incoming and outgoing calls/sms are not supported and these e-sim cards do not come with a phone number.

Click here to order an SimOptions e-sim cards for traveling in South Korea.

The best value South Korea e-sim card from SimOptions gives you unlimited data for 30 days for $44.90 USD, which comes down to $1.5 USD per day unlimited internet. This rate makes SimOptions the best value e-sim card for traveling to South Korea in 2024.

Apart from the 1 GB data plan e-sim all the SimOptions e-sim cards for South Korea only support 4G/LTE. The only plan that supports 5G is only valid for 7 days and gives you only 1 GB data.

According to the SimOptions helpdesk the e-sim cards are truly unlimited and there is NO speed cap on their South Korea e-sim cards.

Traveltomtom will be very honest and does not directly believe the answers the SimOptions live chat / help desk give. In the past they have proven to be very unknown about their own products. But as for now we have to believe that 'unlimited data" means truly unlimited and no speed cap.

Unfortunately SimOptions also doesn’t specify exactly which mobile network these e-sim cards use in South Korea. But I found this out for you and the e-sim cards from SimOptions operate on the 4G/LTE network of SK Telecom in South Korea.

The validity of these e-sim cards is 60 days and the credit validity starts instantly after installing the e-sim card, even if you are not in South Korea. Therefore please only instal the e-sim on the day of departure. For more info check the SimOptions website.

Airalo

Airalo is a very reliable e-sim card provider and Traveltomtom has used Airalo uncountable times in more than 50 countries around the world. I can totally recommend using Airalo for ordering an e-sim card for South Korea.

Why using Airalo? Airalo is one of the most recommended e-sim providers and very reliable. Airalo has e-sim cards for pretty much every country in the world. However, the Airalo e-sim cards for South Korea are a little more expensive compared to the SimOptions e-sims I showed you above.

airalo esim cards for south korea 2024

Here are the Airalo e-sim card plans for South Korea for 2024: 

  • unlimited data for 10 days = $32 USD
  • unlimited data for 30 days = $62 USD

Click here to order an e-sim card for South Korea from Airalo.

The best value South Korea e-sim card from Airalo gives you unlimited data for 30 days for $62 USD, which comes down to $2.1 USD per day unlimited internet. Not a bad rate at all but much higher than the e-sims from SimOptions.

Airalo specifies that there is a speed cap of 5 Mbps if you use more than 3 GB per day. 5 Mbps is actually pretty decent data speed, so it is not the end of the world.

The Airalo e-sim cards for South Korea are from LG U+, one of the main mobile internet operators in South Korea. These e-sims obviously operate on the 4G/LTE network of LG U+. Although LG U+ has an extensive 5G network, the Airalo e-sims are not 5G ready.

All the Airalo e-sim cards are data-only sim cards without a phone number, so any phone/sms service is NOT supported. An Airalo e-sim card has to be installed within 1 month and after activation the credit validity starts when it connects the first time to a supported network. For more info check out the Airalo website.

Nomad

Lately Traveltomtom started recommending Nomad e-sim cards as they sometimes have cheap tourist e-sims for a lot of countries.

Although they have some good e-sim card plans for South Korea, I must add that Traveltomtom had some issues with the performance as well as the installing of Nomad e-sim cards, so it is not Traveltomtom's first recommended e-sim for traveling to South Korea in 2024.

Nomad has two different kind of e-sims for South Korea regular plans and daily plans.

Daily plans ('unlimited' data plans)

nomad esim card plans for south korea unlimited data

Let me first explain the daily plans and why I do not recommend them.

Technically these daily plans are e-sim cards for South Korea with unlimited, but in reality it can be a nightmare.

You can select the number of days of your trip to South Korea and how many GB of high-speed data you wish per day. They only have a 1 GB data plan:

  • 1 GB data per day = $4 USD

After you used your daily data plan, your speed is reduced to 512 Kbps, which means this Nomad e-sim card for South Korea is technically unlimited. But have you ever tried to use your phone with a speed of 512 Kbps? That means only WhatsApp will work and you might be able to send an email.

It is completely useless and therefore Traveltomtom does not recommend this Nomad e-sim card for South Korea with unlimited data.

On top of that it does not make any sense, because let me show you the prices for the regular South Korea e-sims from Nomad.

Regular plans

nomad esim card plans for south korea 2024

Here are the Nomad e-sim card plans for South Korea for 2024:

  • 1 GB data for 7 days = $5 USD
  • 3 GB data for 30 days = $11 USD
  • 5 GB data for 30 days = $14 USD
  • 10 GB data for 30 days = $20 USD
  • 15 GB data for 30 days = $24 USD
  • 20 GB data for 45 days = $30 USD

Click here to order an e-sim card for South Korea from Nomad.

The Nomad website is a little less user friendly for finding the best e-sim card for your trip to South Korea. Depending on your device you can't see all e-sim card plans in one overview, you have to click a little here and there depending on the size of your screen.

The best value Nomad e-sim card for South Korea is the one with 20 GB data for $30 USD, which comes down to $1.5 USD per Gigabyte.

The regular Nomad e-sim cards are different than the Airalo and SimOptions as they are not with unlimited data.

The Nomad e-sim cards are from SingTel and they are data-only. Incoming and outgoing calls and sms are NOT supported. The SingTel e-sim cards from Nomad operate on the 4G/LTE network of KT in South Korea and are not 5G ready.

nomad south korea esim card specifications

The Nomad South Korea e-sim cards have to be installed on your phone within 60 days and after installation its validity starts when it connects for the first time to a supported network in South Korea or automatically after 60 days. Basically when the plane lands you are online. For more info check the Nomad website.

What is the cheapest e-sim card for South Korea?

The cheapest e-sim card for South Korea is a Nomad e-sim card for $5 USD. This 5G ready e-sim gives you 1 GB data for 7 days, is only valid in South Korea and does not support calling and texting. SimOptions sells the exact same e-sim for $5.90 USD.

Why ordering an e-sim card for traveling in South Korea

E-sim cards are the easiest way to stay connected when traveling to South Korea in 2024 and you can arrange everything online in just a couple clicks. No more visiting a sim card shop and swapping physical sim cards. Order online, scan the QR code, follow the steps and you are connected in less than 2 minutes. 

The most important reason to get an e-sim card is because we would like to stay connected on our trip to South Korea without wasting money on high roaming costs. Our smartphones are pretty useless without a working data connection. Think about ordering a taxi through an app, finding nearby friends, restaurants and bars. Get directions from Google Maps or simply staying in touch with family back home, check your social media apps on long bus rides or your banking apps when paying contactless. 

One of the best things about arriving in South Korea with an activated e-sim card is that you are online as soon as the plane lands. More about when to instal your e-sim card later.

There are so many reasons to stay connected when traveling to South Korea, but the most important reason is that it makes your trip to South Korea so much more convenient and fun!

At the same time we don’t want to waste money on high roaming charges. Many mobile internet operators still charge $3 USD per MB for data roaming, that means just opening the Instagram app will already cost you 20 MB * $3 USD = $60 USD! Not kidding… it still is very common in 2024.

E-sim cards are the easiest way to avoid high data roaming charges!

Overseas data roaming plans

So what about overseas data roaming plans? Well, not recommended! Why? Did you read the small letters at what data speed you can use data roaming? Pretty much all mobile internet operators limit the data speed for overseas data roaming plans, which means you end up with 3G data speed. Do you have the patience to handle 3G? It is frustrating when all around you in pretty much all of the amazing tourist destinations in South Korea there is at least 4G/LTE available and even a 5G signal.

And price-wise it should be a no brainer since you have seen how affordable the e-sim cards for South Korea are. Why would you pay $5 to $10 USD per day on an overseas data roaming plan that limits your data speed.

Uncountable times travel friends have asked me: “Tom, can I use your hotspot? My data roaming plan is so slow, it is barely working!” Trust me, invest a couple dollars in an e-sim card or an international prepaid sim card for traveling to South Korea if you want a physical prepaid sim card.

Stay connected all the time instead of begging for WiFi or a hotspot from friends. 

Where to buy an e-sim card for South Korea? 

Online

You can only buy an e-sim card for South Korea through an e-sim card provider on the internet. There are multiple e-sim card providers for South Korea. Traveltomtom compared around 7 different e-sim card providers and concluded that the above mentioned ones (SimOptionsNomad and Airalo) are the best and most reliable e-sim card providers in 2024.

When buying an e-sim card for South Korea through one of the above recommended e-sim providers you only need your email address and the e-sim card is instantly ready to use after installation. There is no ID registration needed.

On arrival in South Korea

There are 3 main mobile internet providers in South Korea: KT, LG U+ and SK Telecom. Unfortunately as per April 2024 none of the mobile internet operators in South Korea offer e-sim cards for tourists. 

Tourist sim cards in South Korea are sold in convenience stores as well as phone stores from KT, LG U+ and SK Telecom.

If you decide to buy a tourist sim card in South Korea then only a physical prepaid sim card is available, a chip that you put in your phone. On airports in South Korea there are also sim card shops, but also here there are no e-sims available for tourists.

Traveltomtom researched the best South Korea prepaid sim cards for tourists in 2024 and also compared all the 4G/5G data networks of the mobile internet operators in South Korea, more about it later.

When to order/activate an e-sim card for South Korea?

You can order an e-sim card for South Korea pretty much any time you want. Most e-sim cards have to be installed on a phone within 1 or 2 months after purchasing, some even within 1 year, so you have time.

More important therefore is when do you instal/activate the e-sim card. The validity of some e-sims start straight after the installation, other e-sim cards only start their validity when they connect the first time to a supported network.

Traveltomtom advices to instal your e-sim card on the day of departure to South Korea or a day before. You will need a stable internet connection to instal your e-sim card. Pretty much all the international airports in South Korea have free public WiFi which works ok most of the time, so you could use that to install your e-sim card on arrival.

Very important is to make sure you have a stable internet connection or you might run into issues with your e-sim. Therefore just to make sure Traveltomtom advices you to install/activate your e-sim card in your home country.

My personal advice is to instal your tourist e-sim card for South Korea before you get into the plane, because then as soon as the plane lands in South Korea you will be connected to the internet and you can enjoy data on your phone instantly.

How do I know all this info about e-sims? Traveltomtom uses on average more than 30 e-sim cards per year because of my nomadic lifestyle of constantly traveling the world, 365 days a year, since 2012.

How to activate an e-sim card

Installing and activating an e-sim card is made as simple as possible. Everyone can activate an e-sim card and the instructions on how to are very detailed and will be send to you instantly by email after you ordered your e-sim.

But wait, forget about the instructions, it gets even easier. Just scan the QR code!

When you order an e-sim card plan for South Korea you instantly receive a summary of your order including a QR-code after the payment is processed.

You will see a summary of your e-sim card order including a QR code on your screen and at the same time you will also receive an email with the same QR code. The email contains instructions on how to instal and activate your South Korea e-sim card. Regardless where you order your e-sim card, all e-sim providers send you detailed instructions.

But installing an activating an e-sim card is as easy as scanning the QR code with the same phone where you want to activate the e-sim card on. The QR code contains all the information about your South Korea e-sim card. 

Once you scan the QR code you will be guided through a couple simple steps and within less than 1 minute your e-sim card is successfully installed.

Very important is that you are connected to the internet when installing your e-sim card otherwise you will get an error and issues can occur.

Tip: if you order an e-sim card with the same phone where you want to instal the e-sim card on then ask a friend or someone nearby to take a photo of the QR code and then you scan the QR code from his/her phone and start the installation.

Things to know before ordering an e-sim card for South Korea 

Here are some general tips and FAQ’s for using e-sim cards when traveling abroad. These tips do not only apply for South Korea e-sim cards, but are things you have to know before buying an e-sim card in general.

Make sure your phone is unlocked

To make sure you didn’t miss this, let me say this again: e-sim cards only work in UNLOCKED phones. If your phone is unlocked then you can use any e-sim card without any problems.

If your phone is locked then ask your mobile internet provider from your home country to unlock your phone before your trip to South Korea. It is likely that your mobile internet provider will charge you a fee for unlocking your smartphone.

If you are unable to unlock your phone you can look into getting a portable WiFi for staying connected when traveling to South Korea or better… bring a second unlocked phone on your trip to South Korea and use it as a portable WiFi device.

Which smartphones support e-sim cards?

Another very important thing you have to check before buying an e-sim card is if your smartphone supports e-sim cards. If you have any of the latest smartphones then there is no need to worry, all new smartphones of the well known brands support e-sim cards.

The fastest way to find out if your phone is e-sim compatible is by asking Google the question: is my (your phone model) e-sim compatible? Simple as that!

Can I trust these e-sim card providers?

All the e-sim card providers for South Korea recommended above (SimOptions, Nomad and Airalo) are reputable e-sim card providers reviewed and tested by Traveltomtom. All of them are licensed third party companies and resellers that partner or work directly with the mobile internet providers in South Korea.

Traveltomtom has successfully used prepaid and e-sim cards from SimOptions and Airalo or more than 5 years. Nomad is fairly new to Traveltomtom, but Nomad has so far proven to be a reliable e-sim card provider as well.

That said, Traveltomtom has faced some issues with installing Nomad e-sim card which was a bit disappointing and therefore it is recommended to follow all steps exactly as described and make sure you are connected to a stable internet connection.

All e-sim card providers have their own Helpdesk which you can contact may you encounter any problems with your purchased e-sim or in case you want to claim a refund.

Traveltomtom does NOT sell South Korea e-sim cards, I only RECOMMEND you to use e-sim cards for your next trip to South Korea instead of buying a local prepaid sim card.

Can I keep my phone number from home with a South Korea e-sim card?

Yes, you can and this is for many people a reason to order an e-sim card to stay connected when traveling to South Korea. An e-sim card can be used next to your physical or e-sim card from your home country at the same time. You do not need a dual-sim phone for using an e-sim card.

So you can have multiple e-sim cards installed on your phone? Yes, no problem at all!

For example: you can turn off the mobile data from your sim card from home but still use it for texting and calling. Your new South Korea e-sim card you can be used at the same time just for data to ensure you are not wasting money on high roaming costs.

This is also the trick to keep receiving sms for example for OTP (one time password) sms to login to applications.

Switching between physical and e-sim cards is a matter of turning them on/off in the settings. Just always make sure your sim card from home is switched off for data roaming.

Can I make phone calls with a South Korea e-sim card?

No, unfortunately all the tourist e-sim cards for South Korea available on the internet do NOT include calling and texting. The e-sim cards from SimOptions, Nomad and Airalo are data-only e-sim cards and any outgoing calls/sms are not supported. 

If you buy a local prepaid sim card for tourists on arrival in South Korea you can get a sim card with calling and texting included.

But pretty much all hotels, restaurants, guides and tour companies in South Korea have WhatsApp services, so you can easily give them a call through WhatsApp. There is no direct need for local calling minutes.

Does a South Korea e-sim card come with a phone number?

No, none of the South Korea e-sim cards you can buy on the internet come with a phone number, which also means you can not receive any phone calls or sms.

In the above South Korea e-sim card comparison you can find all the specifications per e-sim card.

Can I use 5G on an South Korea e-sim card?

5G esim cards for south korea 2024

None of the Airalo e-sim cards for South Korea are 5G ready as of April 2024. SimOptions also only has one South Korea e-sim card plan that is 5G ready and that is their smallest e-sim with just 1 GB data for 7 days. Nomad also offers this 5G ready e-sim with just 1 GB data for 7 days.

All the best places to visit in South Korea offer an excellent 4G/LTE signal and the data speed is very good even on 4G/LTE. Later more about the best mobile data network in South Korea.

Are there e-sim cards for South Korea with unlimited data?

Pretty much of the Airalo and SimOptions e-sim cards for South Korea are with unlimited data.

Technically the Nomad daily plans for South Korea are also with unlimited data e-sims, but not at high speed. After you used up your daily plan of high-speed data your data speed will be reduced to 512kbps. High-speed data will reset every 24 hours from the time you activate the data.

Is Traveltomtom a fan of e-sim cards with unlimited data? No!

Why not?

There are always restrictions on e-sim cards with unlimited data and in reality it is never unlimited! There is always a so-called Fair Use Policy (FUP).

Pretty much all unlimited data e-sims reduce the data speed after you used X amount of Gigabytes per day.

Another e-sim provider that offers e-sim cards for South Korea with unlimited data is Holafly. I once experienced a reduce in data speed after using more than 2 GB per day. When I contacted support they explained me that I had to wait for 24 hours until my data speed was restored to normal.

Holafly and SimOptions sells e-sim cards with unlimited data for South Korea, but do NOT specify what is the exact so-called Fair Use Policy (FUP).

At least Airalo specifies that after you use 3 GB in one day your data speed will be reduced to 5 Mbps. In fact, 5 Mbps is not terrible, you can still use heavy data apps like Instagram, TikTok, etc. May be streaming at 5 Mbps will be a bit more challenging.

Traveltomtom is not a fan of these 'unlimited data' e-sims, but on the other 3 GB data per day is quite a lot and 5 Mbps is still doable for the rest of the day.

The Nomad e-sim cards with unlimited data will reduce your data speed to 512 Kbps after you used 1 GB per day. Trust me 512 Kbps data speed is completely useless and therefore thes Nomad e-sim cards for South Korea with a daily plan are not recommended.

That said Nomad has South Korea e-sim cards with 20 GB data for $30 USD which for most travelers is also more than enough Gigabytes for their trip to South Korea.

There are a lot of different specifications per e-sim card. Another reason why I advice you to take a close look at my comparison of the best e-sim cards for traveling to South Korea in 2024 before choosing your favorite.

Are e-sim cards the best way to stay connected when traveling to South Korea?

E-sim cards are the easiest and fastest way to get data on your phone when traveling to South Korea, but what is the best way?

There are 3 ways to stay connected when traveling to South Korea:

  • Local prepaid sim cards
  • International prepaid sim cards
  • E-sim cards

Let’s compare e-sim cards, local prepaid sim cards and international prepaid sim cards, for you to find out what is your preferred way of staying connected.  

Local prepaid sim cards

In general if you use a lot of data then local prepaid sim cards are a cheaper way to stay connected, depending on the length of your trip. However, this does not count for South Korea.

The South Korea prepaid sim cards for tourists from LG U+, TK and SK Telecom are more expensive than the sim cards you order on the internet.

When buying a local prepaid sim card in South Korea you get a physical sim card and you need to swap this one with your existing sim card from home.

You can only buy these local prepaid sim cards for tourists on arrival in South Korea in a convenience store or at phone stores in the city or at the international airports in South Korea.

International prepaid sim cards

If your smartphone is not e-sim compatible you can order an international prepaid sim card for traveling to South Korea. These are physical prepaid sim cards you order on the internet and will be delivered to your home address.

Some of these are great for visiting South Korea and they are valid in up to 141 countries around the world and you can easily order them online.

If after visiting South Korea you are traveling onwards in America, Asia or in Europe then check Traveltomtom’s list of the best sim cards for traveling internationally in 2024.

international prepaid sim card for south korea

As I mentioned before SimOptions is the only sim card provider that also sells physical prepaid sim cards for traveling internationally.

A pre-activated physical sim card will be delivered to your door step before your trip to South Korea. You put this physical sim card in your phone and as soon as the plane touches the ground in South Korea and the sim card connects to a supported network you are online. Plug and play!

If you look at the international prepaid sim card above you see that the physical sim card version of the Orange Holiday World is also a good option for traveling to South Korea.

A physical prepaid sim card with 10 GB data only costs $49.90 USD, which is $4.99 USD per Gigabyte.

Click here to order a physical prepaid sim card for South Korea via SimOptions.

E-sim cards

As explained throughout the article there are two different e-sim cards for traveling in South Korea:

  • E-sim cards that you buy on the internet through a third party
  • E-sim cards that you buy in South Korea in a mobile internet provider store

However, as of April 2024 the mobile internet providers in South Korea do NOT offer e-sim cards for tourists. They only provide physical prepaid sim cards for tourists.

E-sim cards vs. local prepaid sim cards

Getting an e-sim card on the internet is the easiest way to stay connected when traveling to South Korea, no doubt! You arrange everything online within just a couple clicks. Right here, right now and you are all set for your trip to South Korea.

You arrive prepared and there is no need to visit a sim card shop on arrival in South Korea. As soon as the plane lands, you are online!

But what is cheaper? An e-sim card or a local prepaid sim card for tourists?

When we compare the prices for South Korea e-sim cards with the prices for local prepaid sim cards in South Korea Traveltomtom comes to the conclusion that in fact the e-sim cards you buy on the internet are cheaper.

E-sim cards for South Korea are very affordable and there are some amazing e-sim card deals for South Korea available on the internet.

Remember that SimOptions e-sim card plans for South Korea go down to only $1.5 USD for 'unlimited' data per day.

If you buy a prepaid sim card in South Korea from for example KT you get a physical prepaid sim card for around $35 USD which gets you 100 minutes + 100 sms but only 15 GB high speed data, then after the data speed will be reduced to 3 Mbps only.

Local prepaid sim cards can only be bought in South Korea on arrival in a convenience store, phone store or at the airport in a sim card shop.

Trust me buying a local prepaid sim card in South Korea takes more time, is more expensive and much more hassle than ordering an e-sim card for South Korea on the internet.

An e-sim card for South Korea can be bought in just 2 minutes on the internet at any time of day without any form of identification and as soon as the plane touches the ground you are online and can enjoy a data connection on your phone.

After a long flight you just want to get to your hotel and it is often a big task to find a place where you can buy a local prepaid sim card. With an e-sim card that you order on the internet you are connected as soon as the plane lands.

Simply because of this convenience Traveltomtom recommends ordering an e-sim cards for South Korea from either SimOptions or Airalo.

There are many reasons why a lot of travelers simply get an e-sim card for visiting South Korea: faster, easier, less stress and even cheaper depending on how much data you need.

Data speed

Another difference between a local prepaid sim card and an e-sim card is that e-sim cards are in general through a third party, a so called MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator). These MVNO’s operate on the network of one of the main mobile internet operators and basically buy bandwidth.

This may sound a little bit too technical, but what it means is that e-sim cards through an MVNO are the last ones in line when the line is busy. Especially during peak times, the performance of an e-sim cards could be less compared to a local prepaid sim card from a mobile internet operator you bought in South Korea.

Bottomline: the data speed of e-sim cards can be less compared to a local prepaid South Korea sim card.

In reality you won't really notice the difference much because yes it may occur that your data speed is a little slower for a couple minutes, but it is still fast enough to roam the internet without any problems.

Best 4G/5G network in South Korea

sk telecom 4g 5g network coverage map south korea 2024

Traveltomtom researched the 4G/5G network of all the mobile internet providers in South Korea and compared the mobile internet coverage maps of LG U+, KT and SK Telecom.

Although the above mobile data network coverage map is updated for 2024 they are not 100% accurate. However, they are a great reference to compare the 4G/5G networks of the mobile internet providers in South Korea in 2024.

Conclusion is that SK Telecom the best 4G/5G mobile data network in South Korea in 2024.

The Nomad e-sim cards operate on the 4G/LTE network of KT.

The Airalo e-sim cards operate on the 4G/LTE network of LG U+.

The SimOptions e-sim cards operate on the 4G/LTE network of SK Telecom.

I am sure some of the above tips for finding the best e-sim card for your trip to South Korea were helpful. I hope that after reading through my comparison and all my tips and tricks it was easier to make a decision and order your preferred e-sim card for South Korea.

If you still have any questions about e-sim cards then please leave me a comment below and I am more than happy to help you out.

Curious what the life of a full time nomadic traveler looks like? Go check out my 610K Instagram account or 1.2 Million TikTok account both called @traveltomtom. Follow along with daily updates from around the world about the good, the bad and the ugly about traveling.

Traveltomtom is on the road to 197, meaning I would like to travel to every country in the world. As of April 2024 I have visited more than 155 countries, still about 40 to go, but no rush.

Enjoy your trip to South Korea!

Some links in this article about the best e-sim cards for South Korea are affiliate links. If you buy any product after clicking on an affiliate link I will earn a small commission. Don’t worry this is at absolutely no extra cost to you!