In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine going a second without our smartphones. The good news is, there are some simple and convenient-to-use phone apps for productivity created in Korea! Here are 5 apps that make life in Korea easier for travellers and should help you feel more at ease in a brand new place!
If you’re a fan of WhatsApp or GroupMe, get ready for Korea’s version! Just about every Korean person you meet will be on KakaoTalk, so this is a great one to have while you’re there. The app features built-in emoticons, hilarious notification sound effects, calling, and various theme options. In addition to just the messaging app, Kakao offers KakaoTaxi, KakaoPay (similar to Venmo), and KakaoMap. These services are all great to have at your disposal, especially the add-ons for real-time train arrival updates and timetable information. Kakao apps are available for iPhone and Android.
Let’s face it: the masks we all see our favorite K-pop idols sporting on their way to the airport aren’t just for looks. Korea has a real issue when it comes to air quality, and a lot of weather apps just don’t cut it when it comes to predicting the quality of air. AirVisual provides an easy to use and easily customizable forecast for specific cities, including additional resources like updated news, global rankings, and resources to learn more about the causes and effects of air pollution. AirVisual is set up to display several different cities on the home screen, which is helpful in comparing Korea’s levels with cities you are more familiar with. This is definitely a must if you plan to spend any time outdoors on your trip to Korea (Spoiler: You should!). AirVisual is available on both iPhone and Android.
Although KakaoMap is a great option for planning out a route that involves different modes of transportation, sometimes you just need a solid resource for subway information. This is where Subway Korea comes in—one of the best and most cohesive apps for navigating the Korean subway system. Subway Korea allows you to use various different languages, so it’s a great option if you’re not ready to dive in and start using your Korean. It’s available for most of the major cities in Korea, and also gives you the option to view map information in meters or miles. Subway Korea makes it easy to bookmark specific trains and keep track of how late you can stay out if you plan to take the train home. The app also includes a tab with useful train station info, such as contact info, lost and found, exit door information, restrooms, and so much more. If you are at all worried about navigating the subway system during your travels, Subway Korea is a great way to learn the ropes and keep all of the information you need in one place. Subway Korea is available for both iPhone and Android.
Similar to the way Kakao seems to be an all-encompassing paradise of convenience, Naver Apps provide an easy way to search up current events, music charts, translations, and directions in just a few taps. Naver dictionary is one of the most accurate and comprehensive Korean dictionaries, and although it was designed specifically for English-Korean (making it an extremely good resource for English speakers), it supports many additional languages as well. Convenient customization options include daily grammar tips, Korean conversations and quizzes, an English-Korean dictionary, and a regular Korean dictionary. Naver search is similar to Google, but adds on a Top 100 chart of the most common searches, giving a pretty good idea of what Koreans are actually talking about at the moment. Naver is definitely a must-have for keeping up with Korea’s current events and trends, and is available for both iPhone and Android.
You may be thinking “This is great and all, but what if I want an app that is both entertaining and useful before I get to Korea?” That is where these guys come in: Duolingo and Memrise! We’ve all seen the dreaded Duolingo notification memes, but it actually is extremely useful and a great way to brush up on your Korean before you arrive. Both Duolingo and Memrise are specifically incredible apps for beginners, as they walk you through the basics of the alphabet, grammar, and daily phrases before moving on to more difficult topics. Duolingo is streamlined and quick to use, while Memrise is a bit more interactive and complex. The apps have several different levels of activities and daily review sessions that help you to make sure you have mastered each concept before moving on to the next. These apps are great for between classes or while waiting at the airport and are both available for iPhone (Duolingo, Memrise) and Android (Duolingo, Memrise).
We hope that downloading these apps will make navigating daily life in Korea easier and more fun! Make sure not to miss your daily Duolingo practice (but if you do, know you can always reference Naver Dictionary in a pinch!). If you have any apps you use to prepare for time in Korea or to help you out in country, let us know down in the comments! Happy downloading!
Written by Abby Kotar