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The 5 Best eSIM Plans for South Korea in 2024 (and Discounts)

The esims.io team compared 5 great value eSIM data plans for travelers to South Korea

Published: Apr 11, 2023

prepaid esim plans for south korea, compared

Last updated January 2nd, 2024

17.5 million people travel to South Korea every year. To date, it is rather easy for tourists to access connectivity, via WIFI or by purchasing a SIM card. But if you want to go further and need an eSIM (embedded SIM) for your trip to South Korea, you will now need to know which options to buy.

Communication costs in South Korea are generally quite affordable, but an eSIM should take you to the next level in terms of low prices and help you get really cheap data.

Some providers even go as high as $10 for 4GB of mobile data. It's quite interesting, isn't it?

Which devices are eSIM compatible?

eSIM technology is supported by a variety of devices.

Apple's iPhone series from XR to the latest models (iPhone 15 series) are eSIM enabled, except for specific Chinese and some Hong Kong and Macao versions.

Android side, Samsung's Galaxy S20 through S23 series, including Z Flip and Z Fold models, mostly support eSIM, but check for regional variations. Google Pixel models from Pixel 3a onwards are compatible. Other brands like Huawei (P40, P40 Pro), Motorola (Razr series), Oppo, and Sony Xperia also offer eSIM-enabled devices.

Note that eSIM compatibility varies by device model and region, so it's advisable to verify the specifics for your device.

You can access our frequently updated list of eSIM supported devices here.

What to consider when comparing eSIM options for South Korea

MVNO vs. Local Network eSIM Plans

In South Korea, you have options when it comes to purchasing an eSIM. You can either purchase plans from MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) like Airalo, Holafly, and Nomad, or purchase an eSIM plan from a local network providers.

MVNOs often provide flexible, cost-effective plans suitable for short trips and are available for instant purchase and activation. They offer various data plans and sometimes include features like being able to use the eSIM as a Wi-Fi hotspot (as in the case of Airalo).

Local Korean network providers may offer more comprehensive coverage and potentially more stable connections, especially in less urban areas.

What is the best mobile network in South Korea ?

Check the local networks the eSIM MVNOs partners with.

In South Korea, coverage in major cities like Seoul and Busan is generally excellent (you can expect to get 5G), but it's important to consider network quality if you're traveling to more rural or remote areas.

Feature/Provider

KT (Korea Telecom)

SK Telecom

LG U+

Service Options

State-owned, offers a range of telecom services

Leading service provider, part of SK Group

Competitive telecom services

5G Download Speeds

Competitive, specific numbers not detailed

Highest at 469.6 Mbps

Second highest at 429.6 Mbps

5G Upload Speeds

Competitive, specific numbers not detailed

19.0 Mbps

Highest at 19.7 Mbps

4G Availability

Near perfect at 98.6%

Near perfect at 99.3%

Leading at 99.8%

4G Coverage Experience

High score of 9.9 (out of 10)

High score of 9.9 (out of 10)

Slightly lower at 9.8 (out of 10)

Expat Accessibility

Requires Alien Registration Card, passport

Same, potential upfront costs

Same, potentially easier for short-term stays

Financial Performance

Increasing ARPU since 5G launch

Flat ARPU

Decreasing ARPU

Providers like Airalo or Nomad partner with local networks like KT to ensure good coverage.

Sources : The download and upload speeds, along with 4G stats, are from Opensignal's December 2021 - Mobile Network Experience Report

Plan Features and Limitations

  • Data Allowance : Assess your data needs based on your length of stay and usage. eSIM options for South Korea range from a few GBs to unlimited data plans. For instance, some so called "Unlimited" plans actually offer 3GB of high-speed data per day, then unlimited data at reduced speeds.

  • Voice and SMS Services : Many eSIM plans are data-only, so if you need to make traditional calls or send SMS, look for plans that include these services or consider using VoIP apps like Skype or WhatsApp or Kakaotalk.

  • Tethering/Hotspot Capability : If you plan to share your internet connection with other devices, check if the eSIM plan allows tethering. Some providers, like Airalo, offer this feature.

  • Fair Usage Policy (FUP) : Be cautious with plans labeled as "unlimited" as they may have a fair usage policy, which could result in reduced speeds after a certain data usage threshold.

Price and Flexibility

Prices can vary based on data allowance, plan duration, and other features. Some providers offer discounts for longer durations or additional features.

For example, eSIM plans for South Korea range from on day of validity to one year of validity, so price should not be the only consideration.

Activation and Installation

eSIMs are typically easy to activate and install. After purchasing, you'll receive a QR code via email. Scan this with your smartphone to install and activate the eSIM. Ensure your device is eSIM-compatible and unlocked for use in South Korea.

Instead of QA code setup, some providers will offer a "direct install" through their mobile app. This means you will need to download their app to setup your eSIM plan.

Long-Term Stays

If you're planning an extended stay, consider a monthly phone plan from a local provider, which might offer better value and more comprehensive services compared to short-term eSIM plans.

By considering these factors, you can select an eSIM plan that best suits your travel needs in South Korea. It's always advisable to research and compare different eSIM providers and plans before making a purchase to ensure you get the best possible deal and service for your trip

What are the best prepaid eSIM plans for South Korea?

That said, the team at esims.io recently spent two weeks in South Korea to test various eSIM providers, including Airhub, Nomad, Airalo, RedTeaGo and GigSky. During our stay, we examined the network speed and latency of each provider, as well as the purchase and installation processes and the various prices for their services.

Our goal was to provide an objective review of these eSIM providers to help others who may be considering them for their own travel needs. We believe that eSIM technology has the potential to revolutionize the way people travel, and we wanted to see how well it performed in a country known for its advanced telecommunications infrastructure.

Over the course of our testing, we were able to gather valuable data on each provider's network performance, ease of use, and overall value. We hope that our findings will be helpful to those looking for a reliable eSIM provider for their travels to South Korea or other countries around the world.

The best value for money: Nomad

We selected Regional APAC - 45 Days - 20 GB and Nomad's eSIM was the standout performer in our tests.

Data

20 GB

Validity45 day(s)

20 countries

Data only

$29.00

$1.45/GB
Learn more â€ș

While installation required to scan a QR code rather than using an in-app process like Airalo or RedTeaGo, it was still easy to set up. Nomad's network speed was exceptional, particularly in the city of Seoul where we achieved speeds of up to 80mbps in 4G, even when using the subway.

Nomad_metro_speed_test_screenshot

Nomad's app also proved to be user-friendly, allowing us to easily track how much data we had left in our bundle.

nomad_data_tracking_screenshot

Throughout our testing period, we relied heavily on Kakao Map and WhatsApp for calls and sending pictures to friends, as well as streaming Netflix and Disney Plus without any noticeable lag.

It's worth noting that Nomad's eSIM wasn't a local SIM, so we were routing through Hong Kong. However, we didn't experience any issues or delays due to this routing.

nomad_ip_location_screenshot

Additionally, Nomad's offer is also the cheapest per GB, with only $1.85/GB with our promo code ESIMS23 for 20GB, which is valid for 45 days at $37.

Overall, we highly recommend Nomad's eSIM for anyone traveling to South Korea who needs reliable, high-speed mobile data at an affordable price.

Unlimited, Fast and Easy to install: Airalo LG U+

Airalo's LG U+ Unlimited also proved to be a strong contender in our tests.

Data

Unlimited

Validity10 day(s)

đŸ‡°đŸ‡· South Korea

Data and Phone number*

Network(s) : LG U+ (LTE)

$32.00

Learn more â€ș

Their app is well-designed and the installation process for their eSIM is convenient, as it can be done entirely through the app.

airalo_in_app_install_button_screenshot

airalo_direct_install_screenshot

We achieved high speeds of around 50mbps for both download and upload, with no packet loss.

airalo_speed_test_south_korea_screenshot

As Airalo is providing a local eSIM, we didn't experience any routing issues. However, it's worth noting that eKYC was required, which means we had to upload a copy of our passport to purchase and install the eSIM. While this may not be an issue for some, it could be a concern for others who are hesitant to share sensitive information.

airalo_ip_location_south_korea_screenshot

airalo_kyc_south_korea_screenshot

Overall, we believe that Airalo offers a great user experience and reliable mobile data service in South Korea. However, due to the eKYC requirement, it did not rank as highly as Nomad in our comparison article. Nonetheless, we would still recommend Airalo to those who are comfortable with providing their passport information, as the validation process was almost instant.

Airalo's LG U+ Unlimited costs $32 for unlimited amount of data during 10 days!

Speed vs. User-Friendly: Testing Airhub and RedTeaGo's eSIM

We also tested Airhub and RedTeaGo during our time in South Korea. Airhub's network speed was impressive, with speeds of around 60mbps and even reaching up to 150mbps during a subway test.

Data

12 GB

Validity30 day(s)

đŸ‡°đŸ‡· South Korea

Data only

$16.00

$1.33/GB
Learn more â€ș
Data

5 GB

Validity30 day(s)

đŸ‡°đŸ‡· South Korea

Data only

Special Offer : $3 CREDIT

$17.99

$3.60/GB
Learn more â€ș

However, there were occasional packet loss issues, and we experienced some network disconnections when trying to order a taxi on Kakao T (Uber of South Korea) or load a web page.

Airhub crazy speed in the subway:

airhub_crazy_speed_screenshot

On the other hand, RedTeaGo's speed was on the lower end, maxing out at 44mbps.

RedTeaGo speed test:

redteago_speed_test_south_korea_screenshot

Both Airhub and RedTeaGo were providing roaming eSIMs, so we were routed through Hong Kong during our testing.

RedTeaGo IP location:

redteago_ip_location_screenshot

Airhub IP location:

airhub_ip_location_screenshot

However, where RedTeaGo stood out was with their user-friendly app. They have an in-app installation process and the app itself is simple to use, allowing us to track the data left in our bundle.

In contrast, Airhub's app is a bit confusing and lacks some features, such as top-up or data tracking.

Overall, while Airhub's network speed was impressive, the occasional packet loss and network disconnections prevented it from ranking higher in our comparison article. RedTeaGo's user-friendly app, on the other hand, made it a strong contender despite its lower network speeds.

Gigsky: Routing & roaming locations matters

We also tested GigSky's eSIM during our time in South Korea, and while the app and purchase experience were good, there were some significant issues with network routing and speed.

The GigSky app is simple and allows for payment with Apple Pay, which is convenient. In addition, the app also offers in-app installation.

However, during our testing, we experienced routing issues as the network was routed through Louisville, Colorado in the USA.

This resulted in complicated online navigation and limited app functionality. Despite speed tests showing up to 41mbps, using certain apps such as Kakao Map was difficult due to high latency.

While the app and purchase experience were positive, the issues with network routing and speed make it difficult to recommend GigSky as the primary eSIM provider for travel in South Korea.

gigsky_screenshot

Comparison summary

eSIM Provider

Network Speed

Installation

Roaming / Routing Location

Nomad

80mbps

QR Code

Hong Kong

Airalo

50mbps

In-app

South Korea

RedTeaGo

44mbps

In-app

Hong Kong

Airhub

150mbps

QR Code

Hong Kong

GigSky

42mbps

In-app

USA

Conclusion

After two weeks of testing various eSIM providers in South Korea, we can confidently say that these services offer a reliable and convenient way to stay connected while traveling. Each of the providers we tested had their strengths and weaknesses, making it important to consider your own needs and priorities when choosing an eSIM provider.

Nomad's eSIM stood out as the clear winner in our tests, offering exceptional network speed and a user-friendly experience at an affordable price. Airalo and RedTeaGo also performed well, with Airalo offering reliable mobile data and a convenient installation process, while RedTeaGo impressed us with their user-friendly app.

Airhub also provided fast network speeds, but occasional packet loss and network disconnections held it back. Additionally, their app was not as user-friendly as some of the other providers we tested.

If you are still not satisfied, you can check out many other eSIM plans for South Korea on esims.io.

Yesimlogo

South Korea

Yesim

$17.33

GoMoWorldlogo

Korea

GoMoWorld

$19.49

Yesimlogo

South Korea

Yesim

$26.00

Airhublogo

South Korea 12GB 30 Days

Airhub

$16.00

GoMoWorldlogo

Korea

GoMoWorld

$2.16

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