While Seoul can be a comfortable place to live once understanding the lay of the land, it can just as easily appear confusing and intimidating to those new to the city and country.
For those bringing a smartphone with them, below is a list of apps that can make acclimating to life in Korea much easier:
1. Seoul Subway App
Once you understand how the subway system works, it’s very clear how to navigate almost anywhere. To further simplify navigation, I recommend downloading the Seoul Subway app.
Just enter your starting location and your destination (easily clickable on the map or searchable), and you’ll be given route options that will tell you which subway line to ride, where to transfer, and how long the trip will be.
2. Google Maps
Google maps isn’t the native map to Korea (see Naver Maps app for the native Korean map app), so I’ve sometimes found that some locations are missing, but it’s the most user-friendly map app if you feel more comfortable using an app that’s in English.
3. MAPS.ME – Offline Map
This mostly applies to situations where I know I will be without wifi, or I have limited access. Using an offline map app such as by MAPS.ME allows you to download the map of your location (Seoul in this case) to your phone, and drop a pin on your destination. I recommend doing this before you arrive, so you know that you have one fail safe option that you can use to find your location, or show it to someone like a taxi driver.
4. Air Matters – Air Quality App
The air quality in Korea can be polluted to unhealthy levels. The level of pollution is determined by wind patterns and how much pollution from Mainland China makes its way to South Korea, so if you are particularly sensitive to or conscious of air pollution and its affect on your health, I recommend checking this on a daily basis.
I use the “Air Matters” app, which automatically notifies you on a daily basis to the levels of pollution in Seoul, and how unhealthy it is for you. There are days where the app will actually recommend that you stay indoors or wear a mask, so it just helps to be educated so you can make the decisions that are best for you.
5. iTranslate – Language Translation App
If you’re new to South Korea, then it’s likely that you’re also new to communicating with people in the Korean language. The iTranslate app not only allows you to type in words and sentences, but also has a voice feature, and cool sign reading feature that translates text in real-time.
6. GlobeConvert – Currency (and other metrics) Conversion
The US Dollar to Korean Won conversion rate makes estimating costs a bit easier, but for those who are coming from countries with less straightforward conversion rates, it’s helpful to have something on-hand, especially when you need to make quick and accurate conversions. It’s also useful for Americans who want to convert their weight from kilograms to pounds (which may or may not have been me at one point).
If you live in Korea, you will likely end up using KakaoTalk without me saying it in this blog. KakaoTalk appears to be, by far, the most common method of communicating with people. I have friends who I communicate with frequently, where only a year or so later did I realize that I never had their phone number, as we’ve communicated exclusively through Kakao.
It has a map function and a call function as well, so you can pin your locations and call people for free (using data or wifi).
8. FoodFly – Food Delivery
I remember the first time I called a food delivery company on my own, after having learned enough Korean to hold a simple conversion. Given my newness to the language, it was by far one of the more nerve wracking calls I’ve made.
I’m glad I pushed myself to practice my Korean on that kind of call, but for those who want to avoid that entirely just to order some food, with apps like FoodFly, you now have the option to place orders and request deliveries directly through apps and websites.
The app is in Korean, but if you learn how to use it once, you should be able to order in the same way for any future orders.
9. Simple Spaces (website; not an app yet :)) – Housing
Ensuring you have a nice place to live in Seoul, in a nice neighborhood, with like-minded people, can make or break your experience in Seoul. For those who want to make sure their housing needs are covered BEFORE they land in Seoul, I encourage you to contact us about what you’re looking for — we may have your perfect place.