Infrastructure and personal organization in Seoul

In this post I describe some organizational elements in the daily life of Seoul, like when to use a credit card, how to obtain the alien registration card, a SIM card or getting along with the public transporation.

Credit card and local bank account

Credit card preparations for Korea

Before your trip to Korea you better check for the following:

  • Give warrant to your local bank account to a domestic person. If any problems appear that can’t be solved abroad you’ll be happy if someone can ensure getting them solved in your home.
  • Raise credit limit. As I had to invest into an e-guitar I had to ask my domestic person two times to change the limit so I was still able to withdraw money.
  • Bring cash with you for safety. I was not able to withdraw money with my credit card at the Seoul Incheon Airport. If you’re living next to the Korea University you can take a bus from the airport to the Korea University Station for about 15.000 WON and withdraw money from a KEB Hana Bank ATM nearby.
  • If you’re using a MasterCard, activate it for the SecureCode to be able to do online-banking and booking (see next chapter).
  • Edit 28th August, 2017: Talk with your local bank contact about refund of charges for withdrawing money. Each time I withdrew money in Korea (but not in Japan!) I got charged a small fee. I documented each case by photographing the display of the ATMs with all the important information and once I returned to Germany, a made an excel sheet, calculated the costs, made an appointment with my bank contact, handed in the evidence and finally got a refund for these costs.

MasterCard SecureCode

As I was booking my flights at the end of my semester I encountered the problem that I have to activate my credit card for the SecureCode to be able to finish it. At the end of my bookings (right before the confirmation for payment) my card was not accepted and I followed a procedure that  transfered 0.01 € to my bank account with a confirmation code. Once the transaction was shown in the online access, I started again the registration process of the credit card where I finally had to use the confirmation code. Once my credit card was registered, a new number and QR code was generated that can be used to connect a device with the credit card. I had to install the S-ID-check app on my Android phone to be able to scan the QR code, but unfortunately it said that my phone is jailbreaked and the code can’t be used. If this happens, generate a new number and QR code and use a different device. Eventually, I could scan the QR code with my iPad and since then I get TANs for online transactions onto this device.

Cash exchange and withdrawal

Cash can be exchanged at the Seoul Incheon Airport, but usually with poor rates, so better order in advance if necessary. However, as mentioned above, I was not able to withdraw money with my MasterCard as only withdrawals at KEB Hana Banks worked. One of them can be found near Korea University. In general, if you might have to withdraw money you should consider before where to find KEB Hana Bank ATMs (e. g. in Seoul) as they’re not located in every district.

Local bank account (KEB Hana Bank)

On the orientation days at the Korea University each student had to register for a local KEB Hana Bank account. After the registration it takes some days until you’ll receive your banking card. While it might be helpful to avoid restrictions by the credit card, I actually didn’t use it. However, if you want to learn more about this topic and also how to open an account regularly and not by the instructions of the university, this blogpost might be a good source.

Moving along in Seoul

The public transportation system in Seoul, e. g. by the Seoul Metropolitan Subway and the Bus System, can be considered to be cheap and efficient. Here’s a comprehensive blogpost about how the Seoul Metropolitan Subway works in detail, especially regarding the different tickets. I just want to add a few more things.

  • As long as you travel only among a few stations (especially inside the center), you usually get only charged with 1.250 WON. This makes the general costs very low and predictable.
  • For lines that go outside the center of Seoul you pay a little more, depending on the exact route, but for a 2 h trip from the Korea University Station to Incheon Airport it is about 4.000 WON.
  • The KakaoMetro App allows to view the metro system even offline; as the delays between two trains on the same road is quite short you usually don’t need to check when the train arrives, it’s enough to check the route.


  • If you combine KakaoMetro with an offline Map in general (like MAPS.ME), you can navigate through the whole city offline.


  • You can obtain and recharge a T-Money-Card at nearly every small retail store and use it for several systems, not only public transportation. I’ve also seen a store in Japan that seemed to accept the T-Money-Card; however, I found no source on the internet that confirms this.


Getting the alien registration card

For several purposes it is necessary to obtain the alien registration card, e. g. if the stay exceeds 90 days. Here’s described how it works.

To aquire it, you have to go to the Immigration Office at the Seoul Global Center for the registration of the residence and finally to get the alien registration card. It is recommended to make an online appointment in advance and be on time with all required documents. Originally, I forget two document, but I had the chance to come a second time on the same day to finish the procedure. In sum, the following documents are required:

  • Passport
  • Copy of passport
  • Copy of contract with dormitory
  • Application form
  • One photo with a specific size
  • Fee: 30.000 WON (+ 3000 WON when alien registration card should be sent to home)

Afterwards, it takes a week or two until the card arrives via post.

Getting a SIM card

At my arrival in Seoul I bought a 30-day-SIM-card at the airport. Once it experied I had problems getting a new SIM card at the first run as an SK Telecom shop didn’t accept the form of my Korean visa; fortunately, a few days later (after about one and a half weeks after the appointment at the Immigration office) the alien registration card was sent to my dormitory and accepted by the mobile provider olleh (part of KT Corporation). However, the costs of mobile usage is quite high as the SIM card itself costs 30.000 WON; in sum I paid nearly 60.000 WON for having a 180-day-contract including one prepaid of 2 GB data. At least every public wifi provided by olleh can be accessed. Anyway, I recommend for a longer stay to try to buy this SIM card short after arrival instead of the 30 day-offers at the airport, at least if they accept the passport (which I didn’t test).

Finding an english-speaking hair cutter

This can be a serious issue, at least if severe damage can be done to your hairs if appropriate communication fails. Thus, I wanted to share at least my good experience with a Cosette salon, which I highly recommend as the cutting and shaving went very fast, the hairdresser speaks English and I paid 15.000 WON for it. Unfortunately, I can’t find the location on Google Maps anymore and my original link to the picture below is dead. However, there seem to exist several other branches, and you can contact the staff on their Facebook page.



Featured Image – / Korean Culture and Information Service (Photographer name) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons