Apps you must download before travelling to Korea
Apps are an awesome resource to have when travelling to a different country. They can help you save money, time & multiple headaches. Don't underestimate the power of a simple app that may bring you up from first time visitor level to living like a local level. Damnnnnn listen to the alliteration I've got goin' on here. Anyway! Here is my top list of apps you must download before going to South Korea.
Ok so you've just hopped off the plane (or the boat in my case) & you're about to open Google maps to find your hotel. Oops! As you start to zoom in closer to your destination you realise the entire map has gone grey. You can see all the directions for local public transport fine but you can't see more details. This is because South Korea has prohibited the exchange of geographical data outside the country to a third party. They don't want their security breached by their Northern neighbours.
You can still use google maps to some degree, but since the data has not been updated since 2009 the information will be outdated (many places I've looked up no longer exist). In addition, the quality & exact locations might be distorted, so you might become frustrated when looking for walking directions. The solution to this is to use South Korea's own map software called Kakao maps.
Kakao maps are up to date & even offers directions on local transport, by foot, car & even gives you estimates for taxi fares.
Kakao is a huge deal in Korea and is a major player in the digital sphere that makes South Korea run smoothly. Kakao Subway is an app that shows you all the subway lines & their stops on one page. They are colour coded to help you visually. So if you're ever stuck wondering in which direction you need to take the subway you can work it out manually with this app.
Likewise, Kakao bus shows you the bus stops near you, their arrival & departure time. It makes catching buses in Korea a lot smoother.
Before you step on the plane from your own country I advise that you set these two apps up while you still have a working sim card as you need a phone number to make an account. Once you're set up with Kakao talk you can access different parts of Kakao maps & Kakao Subway. "Line" & "Kakao talk" are the two major messaging companies in Korea & Japan (only LINE in Japan). A lot of stores, restaurants, pubs & hotels use Line or Kakao talk to communicate with customers. Downloading these two apps makes messaging & calling companies/people so much easier as it uses wifi not a sim card.
If you have been watching the news or are environmentally conscious you might have seen the pollution problems on the Asian continent. Air pollution is a real concern in South Korea, as yellow dust & factory pollution blows over from China on a regular basis. If you suffer from health conditions, are travelling with infants or you just want to be aware of the air you're breathing in then I highly recommend you download this app. Air Visual gives you up to date data on the amount of pollution in the air with recommendations on how to react. Investing in some face masks is also a good idea. Don't worry you won't look weird, infact you'll more than likely blend in with the general population on any given day.
Naver has a very long & exciting history in the world of search engine development & online platforms. It even came into fruition before Google! WOW! Naver is an app that is probably only going to be useful if you can read Hangul. It is completely in Korean but it is a good tool to use if you want to find something that might not be coming up on Kakao maps in English. Likewise; If you are studying Korean or living in South Korea then this app might be a valuable resource in that it forces you to read & understand Hangul.