Author’s note: This is a categorical post, so it will be updated from time to time. Come back and check for further updates along the way.

Essential apps:

  1. KakaoT: Stands for Kakao transport, used mainly for booking taxi rides
  2. Naver Maps: South Korea bars export of mapping data to other countries because of the overt threat of their Northern neighbour. So Google maps doesn’t work in this country
  3. Kakao Maps: Similar to Naver maps, but between the two, I think Naver is easier to use. I keep in case Naver Maps doesn’t work.
  4. Kakao Talk: Primary messaging app that Koreans use. Fun fact, if you add anyone to a Kakao Talk group while using a non-Korean number they’ll get a warning that you’re probably a scammer. Doesn’t hurt actual consumption of the service but just amusing.
  5. AirVisual: Check for the days that you need to wear a mask out
  6. Google translate: If you can’t be fluent in Korean you can be fluent in Google translate instead.
  7. International SOS: An excellent app that gives you updates on dangerous events occurring around you. Kind of like SUTD’s DSBJ app (for free food in school) but for bad things.
  8. Visit Korea: Useful for checking out the opening hours for attractions.

Essential websites:

  1. Korail: Book train tickets online
  2. Coupang: Korean e-commerce store. Stuff here is cheaper than in some physical stores, even with the delivery fee included. No kidding, I’ve scoured almost all the cosmetics stores in Seoul on foot myself and have only 1 item that is marginally cheaper in a physical store than it is on Coupang (More of this in my other post, “A study of Korean skincare products: Applications, myths and purchasing”). The catch is you need a local bank card and Alien Registration Card (ARC) to buy stuff here. Note that you can’t pay using bank cards issues anywhere other than Korea. Oh everything is in Korean, but their machine learning similarity scoring is pretty good, so you can search in English and get the same results.
  3. Gmarket: More expensive than Coupang but cheaper than Qoo10 for some items. Comes in English and accepts MasterCard and Visa.

Essential items you need to buy in Singapore:

  1. Youtrip: A card that gives you flat out MasterCard exchange rates. So, you skip the merchant and transaction fees than what you would be paying otherwise if you were to use a credit card. You can withdraw money at a flat rate of 5SGD too at any ATM that supports Mastercard. While South Korea is known for its cashless payment system, it is not known for good MasterCard support. I’ve had my card rejected at some payment counters, so carrying cash or having a card from a local bank is handy.
  2. Common over the counter medicines: While South Korea has an excellent healthcare system, it is troublesome for exchange students to visit a doctor. Not to mention far away. Best to have Paracetamol for when you get that mild headache.

Essential stuff you can buy in KAIST/Daejeon:

  1. 5m Ethernet cable (5000KRW from convenience store): While South Korea has one of the fastest internet speeds in the world, in my experience, I wouldn’t say it has the best Wi-Fi coverage in the world. Wi-Fi speeds in the library and classrooms are passable, but Wi-Fi in the dormitories is spotty at best.
  2. Moisturizer: I met someone who had to visit the doctor regularly for his skin problems that were caused by not hydrating his skin on exchange in Korea. I’d like to think I have strong skin, but I’d rather play it safe with this one.


Gifts your Korean friends will love you for:

  1. Dried Mangoes: Some of the Koreans I’ve met really love them.
  2. Bak Kwa
  3. Kaya
  4. Hippo Chocolate
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