Things I Wish I’d Known When Arriving in Korea

26th January 2015

It’s getting close to the time of year when lots of new recruits will be arriving through the gates at Seoul airport, so I thought i’d share with you all some of the things that would have really helped us when we first arrived. Hopefully it will make your transition into Korean society go that little bit smoother.


Banking in Korea is HARD. It is a complicated mission made up of no English and endless signatures, all just to get a tiny task done. I am currently with NH and although I have had a lot of problems with them, like them leaving me stranded in Bangkok with a overseas card that doesn’t work, they have overall been helpful.

If you are going to be able to choose I would always go with KEB or KB. KEB is the best bank for transferring money home by far, their online system doesn’t charge a lot of the fee’s most banks do and there is a myth that it’s open on weekends. I am going to find out if this myth is true this weekend.*edit it is true and it is even open on some Sundays of the month but this changes*  KB is worth joining because your card can be used on all subway systems in Korea. You just swipe it when you get on or off any transport and on the 15th and 30th of the month it deducts it from your bill. Lee has one of these and it’s the most helpful things to have when traveling.

The internet system on all Korean banks is abysmal and requires you to download about 5 security packages every time. Also be aware that it will download a file to your computer when you first sign up to internet banking. You will then only be able to use that computer to sign in, unless you get the file onto a USB and carry it with you. Also it will only work with internet explorer.

When you get a new account be sure to ask for:

. A card you can use in shops and at an ATM (I was given a card only for ATM’s which baffled me)

. A card you can use online to buy things (this requires a VISA or MASTERCARD)

. Internet banking

. And internet banking password (I kid you not, if you don’t ask for the password you will have to return to the bank and get one even though you’ve signed up and received authorization codes, also be aware that after you sign up you must log in within 48 hours or you will have to go back to the bank)

. Ability to transfer money abroad

. Ability to transfer money abroad on the internet

. A card that will work over seas. (this is the card I paid for and was reassured would work only to arrive in Bangkok and be as worthless as a Kit Kat wrapper.)

. The English phone line number.

. How to use the bill paying machine. (very simple luckily)

That’s all I can think of now but after a year there were still some of these things I needed to get sorted. Each of these bullet points is unfortunately a different bank trip for me. If you can sit down and get them all done at once your arm will hurt from the 20 signatures for every bullet point but you will be ready to go.

*In regards to using your cards outside of Korea. I believe the way it works is Korean VISA will let you take money out of the ATM’s and Korean Mastercards will allow you to charge money to it in shops, but this may only be my bank NH….just make sure that the card they gave you is also registered for abroad use.

blogger-image-919191957 Travel

A travel card is really helpful and will save you a lot of money over time. You can get these from the tiny (and I mean tiny) stalls next to bus stops and subways. They normally look like they only sell drinks, cigarettes and candy but you can top up and buy travel cards here.

The name of the cards are:

대경교통카드 or Dae-kyeong gyo-tong card-uh

You can use the blue machines in subways or these stall to top them up but they require cash. I have an awful memory but I think it was 2,000 won to get the card.

If you spend a little extra and get a ‘T’ mobile travel card or a ‘cash-bee’ card which is small enough to attach to your keys (they can be found in the small stalls or 7-11’s) then you can also use these in Seoul and Busan….it’s important to know that cash-bee is a lot more popular in Daegu than the t-mobile cards and easier to top up.


Bus stations

If you want to travel by bus somewhere, it is really easy and really cheap. The amazing leg room and space found on the luxury buses that go on long journeys also make it a great way to travel. The main bus station for Seoul and Busan is at DongDaegu. You can get a subway here. Depending where you are headed will determine which station you go to . Currently we are still working out which is which but they are all very close together. You don’t seem to be able to buy these tickets online but you can check how many seats are left on coaches at this site: Here

IMG_2815 KTX

If you are trying to get to Seoul or Busan in a hurry then the KTX is for you. You may have already tried this great form of transport but if not its easy and simple to navigate.

You can order tickets for the KTX or slow trains here

The KTX will be booked up extremely fast on busy days and its always smart to pre-order.

As a Brit, trains come and go vaguely based on times listed. That is not the case here. The ktx will leave the station at the exact time listed. Make sure you have a seat and don’t let Ajummas (old Korean ladies) kick you out of them or confuse you as has been known to happen. I’ve heard many a tale of people getting off trains thinking it’s the wrong one but actually have been seat-jacked.

Don’t be tempted to treat yourself on the slow or fast trains to first class. There is no noticeable difference what so ever in these carriages apart from people aren’t allowed to stand in them.

*Important information*

Make sure to take your passport if you have booked tickets. The ticket desk uses your passport to confirm your order and you will need it to receive your purchase. You can also just make a note of the number and read it to them, they don’t normally need to see the actual passport.


Unfortunately I can’t help you too much with this one as I only obtained my phone after the 5th month of being here due to bringing an locked (thought it was unlocked) iPhone with me. What I will say is if you are bring one from home make sure you contact the provider it use to be with and you have it officially unlocked. I used many ones online that claimed to work but unfortunately none did. It costs about $40 to get an iPhone unlocked officially.

I currently pay 60,000 won a month which includes unlimited internet which is a savior in a country that does have great Wi-Fi but only if you already have a SK or Olleh account to enter a specific code.

You can find Wi-Fi in places such as Lotteria, Starbucks and Holly’s coffee but you normally only get about half hour with it. Smaller coffee shops normally have unlimited internet if you buy a coffee.

My biggest advice when getting a phone is find a Korean person to help you. The nuances of the contracts and the general information needed will leave you feeling a little over  whelmed. There are people that speak English but they are few and far between. In Daegu there is phone alley which has endless phone shops you can try near the main subway station Banwoldang.

To get to this street, leave Banwoldang from exit 10. Walk straight and make a left at the Burger bar in front of you. There will be a small alley, when you come out of the alley you will be on phone alley. (If you know the way to Traveler’s bar, it is the exact same way but the road you cross before turning left to Traveler’s street)


The internet in Korea comes on varying plans. I have free internet in my house but other people I know had to pay monthly. My boyfriend’s co-teacher set his up for him and it was about 30,000 won a month. Unfortunately when he left his flat this year they wanted 400,000 won disconnection fee. This was due to his co-teacher signing him up for a 3 year deal (?) she had very good intentions as it made it cheaper through out the year but over all was not worth it. Make sure to check the disconnection policy in case your school wants to cut it off before you leave or you change flats in your second year.

If you have any questions or more experiences to share please let me know.

Traveling is daunting and the only way we survived at the beginning was with helpful advice from people that had already dragged themselves up the mountain and made it to the top.

PLEASE note that all of this is just opinion and not 100% accurate, its just my experiences. I hope it helps just a little. Welcome to Daegu