Wondering what best apps for Korea travel are? These are the ones I actually use while I’m in the country.
Anyone who’s been or lived in Korea knows that most of the apps and sites you’re used to using won’t work well or at all here. Want to try calling a Lyft or Uber? Good luck! You won’t see a car pop up ever. Google Maps? As far as I know, it hasn’t been updated since 2009.
You basically need to download a whole set of new apps when you visit just to navigate and get around. I thought I’d share the ones I actually use, some general or fun ones, and tell you why I don’t bother with a bunch I’ve seen listed on the web.
(PS don’t judge my battery life on these screenshots!)
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When I’m really lazy, I’ll sometimes use a butchered translation on Google Translate, and when I’m studying Korean, I reference Naver’s dictionary. However, while I was trying to Google translate something once, one of my students told me I should try downloading Papago, which is much more accurate for Korean translations.
And he was right! Papago works much more smoothly with Korean-English, so if you want something to help you communicate with locals, this is the app you want instead of any other translation app you’ve been using!
I’ll live and die by Kakao Map, and I’m sure if you’ve read any of my other posts here, you’ve seen me mention it multiple times! Don’t even bother with Google Maps (Google hasn’t been allowed to map the country since 2009), and Naver Maps is far less detailed from my experience.
Now, Uber and Lyft are actually totally illegal here because the taxi game is so strong. Instead, if you want to get a taxi ASAP, use KakaoTaxi to find one. It basically works the same as Uber or Lyft, but you’ll still deal with a meter vs. knowing how much you’re paying upfront.
The easiest way to get around Seoul! It’ll even tell you which car is the best to get in and out of the subway.
If you’re planning on using Airbnb or doing any sort of tour, every single Korean I’ve met has and prefers to communicate via Kakao Talk. I’d have it downloaded just in case you need it for communication. It’s more useful that WhatsApp here!
You can also use it for Wonderful and Butler Korea, which are sort of courier type services, but I’ve never used either of them, so I can’t speak to their usefulness or value.
Before there was GrubHub and Uber Eats, there was Yogiyo (I think). Korean delivery has always been lightyears ahead of the US in terms of ease and cost, and Yogiyo is the best. You can literally pin your place on a map, so if you’re in a park or something, the delivery guy can still find you! I used this too many times for fried chicken.
Other General Travel Ones:
- XE Currency Calculator – Good if you’re trying to figure out your budget in different currencies. I hardly ever used it because the US Dollar is roughly 1,000 KRW, so the conversion is easy for me.
- Trail Wallet – If you’re the kind of person who’s good at tracking your budget, then something like Trail Wallet is best for you. I am not that kind of person, so I rely on my credit card statements. *cough*
- Apps for your booking sites – Booking.com, Airbnb, etc. I always like having them downloaded because it’s easier to see your accommodation laid out vs. trying to track things down via email.
- WhatsApp Messenger – Or Facebook Messenger. Something to keep in touch with friends and family at home while you’re traveling.
- Line Webtoon – I have this one webtoon that is still being translated into English, called “Cheese in the Trap.” If you like a good manga, you might like Korea’s take on webtoons. I haven’t tried any other besides that one, and I love it.
- Viki – For you K-drama lovers ;)
Apps that Exist but I’ve Never Used:
- Mangoplate (망고플레이트) – I think this is for restaurant reviews? But I just skim reviews and look at photos on KakaoMap.
- CGV – You can use these for movie times, but I feel like this is more for expats and locals, not travelers. Plus any time I’ve wanted to look up the time, I just looked it up on their website.
- AirVisual Air Quality– This is for seeing air quality outside because sometimes the dust is bad. However, this is another one that I feel is more for locals and expats than travelers. Plus, I like to think a little ignorance goes a long way. I lived through the yellow dust three times over, and while it sucks some days, you’ll be fine. Get one of those face masks if it really bothers you.
- Waze – My friend used this for driving in Korea because she can’t read Hangul, but for most rental cars, you can use their built-in navigation which is in English
- Visit Korea App – A general travel app that I didn’t know existed until I looked up apps to make sure I could cover everything here! I’m not sure how useful it is, but I’ll try it out next time I visit. Mostly, I just figure things out on KakaoMap or I’ll use Visit Korea’s actual site.
- NAVER Korean Dictionary – You won’t use it unless you’re, like, hardcore studying Korean. I barely used it even when I was! Instead, Papago is much easier, especially if you’re just traveling.
- Naver Map – I like Kakao’s better. It’s more detailed with street names and such. I know because when I had my students do a mini-project on giving me directions using the maps on their phone, the ones with Naver struggled way more than the ones with Kakao
- Line – I feel like the Line app was Naver’s attempt at competing with Kakaotalk. Of every Korean, I’ve ever talked to from friends to coworkers to random BnB hosts… I’ve met maybe one person who uses it semi-regularly. And even with her, we just texted normally since she didn’t like Kakaotalk
- Korail/Bustago/Etc – I mean, it’s kind of extra. You can just use the browser in English to book your tickets, use the desktop version, or get them in person.
And there you have it! All the apps I use and don’t use for travel to Korea. Next time I visit, I’ll keep my eye on any new ones that might be helpful.
Let me know what apps you think I’m missing!
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