If you’ve just arrived in Korea you’re probably getting used to a lot of things. Getting settled in to your apartment is important, but so is getting settled in with your phone. Which apps are the best Android apps? Which ones are just wasting space on my phone? Below is a list of free Android apps that I found invaluable as I got used to life in Seoul. And many of them I still use on a daily basis. From food to transport to just playing games, I’ve got you covered. And did I mention they’re all free?
1. Kakao Talk
Kakao Talk is quickly becoming a worldwide phenomenon, but Korea is way ahead of the game on this one: a free chat and call app that is used more widely here than texting. To be honest, you can’t even text people in Korea. I wouldn’t even answer a text from my husband if it wasn’t on Kakao. And we all know nobody makes phone calls anymore. Tip: load up on hilarious Asian emojis and impress your new Korean friends with how Korean you can be. I guess it’s not free if you include the countless won I spend buying fresh emojis. But so worth it.
If you’ve been in Seoul for five minutes, you’ve probably already been on the subway three times. One of the cleanest and most efficient systems in the whole world, this app is no different. Easy to use Korean or English interface (rare for Korean apps), options for quickest route or fewest transfers (this is a lifesaver), and the best part is the trains are so punctual, you can accurately time your ride to the minute. Suck it, American public transportation!
3. Learn Korean by Bravolol
The perfect app for beginners, Learn Korean is colorful and user-friendly with loads of helpful phrases to get you through when the only Korean you know is…wait, you don’t know any Korean yet. So get this app and avoid looking like one of those foreign assholes who just speaks English extra loud until someone understands. Special bonus: it works offline so even if you’re living on wifi, you’re good.
4. Hangul (Korean Alphabet) by TenguLogi
Ok, your Learn Korean app has done enough for you. It’s time you learn how to read already. Korean may be difficult to speak, but it’s probably the easiest alphabet to read. Actually, it was designed specifically to be easy! Spend a few minutes a day with this app, and you’ll be reading authentic Korean words in a week! Like this one for pizza: 피자. It literally reads, “pee-ja.” See, wasn’t that easy?
Not just for Seoul, this app has become a staple on my travel list to anywhere. Download city maps and guides while connected to wifi, mark restaurants and attractions you’re interested in checking out, and access them offline while you wander in an unfamiliar place. You can create your own guide or check out their recommendations. The best part is, it works for hundreds of cities around the world! Downside: the subway lines and exits in Seoul aren’t shown on the map as they are in Google Maps or on the amazing Naver. Side note: they did not pay me to write this, I actually just really love this app.
6. Cookie Run (쿠키런) for Kakao
To be honest I don’t even know what I’m doing when I play this game. There are no English instructions. I just know I’m a cookie, I really like candy and shiny things, and I cannot stop playing it. Perfect way to pass the time on those long train rides and make the people next to you think you speak Korean. Bonus: if your students see you have it on your phone, they will literally flip out. And then ask to play it during class.
7. Seoul Bus
Soooo…this app kinda sucks. Unfortunately, it’s the best of all the Seoul bus apps out there. It’s kinda like the Seoul subway app pooped out all its terrible features, and this is what happened. Bonus because at least some of it is in English, though not the names of the stops. It’s great to see when the next bus is coming to the stop that you’re at, and as long as you know the stop numbers, you can get by without knowing any Korean. Unfortunately it’s not useful to figure out what bus you need to take, or when you will arrive. But trust me, if there were a bus app as amazing as the Jihachul subway app, I’d be taking the bus a lot more in Seoul. For more advanced learners, Naver is perfect for finding route guidance, but again you need the power of Hangeul to use it.
This app is nowhere near as good as DineInKorea (available only for iPhone), but it offers an attractive intro to some basic Korean dishes. Bonus because the pictures are pretty. I don’t miss using an iPod touch as my only phone, but I certainly miss having that app in restaurants without English menus. Which is basically all of the good ones. Downside: it doesn’t feature ppyeo haejangguk, the best soup in Korea. Still a great beginner’s guide to some common dishes you’ll find.
I had really planned on making a top ten list, but unfortunately most of the best apps in Korea haven’t caught up to the whole English is the world language thing. So, if you happen to speak and read Korean, here are two more must-haves for your list:
I know this app is amazing even though I can only sort of use it a little after 18 months here. It has the most accurate maps of Korea and lots of useful info like bus stops and post offices too. It’s basically Korean Google. But if you can’t put your search terms in Korean, it’s not gonna do you too much good.
If you’ve been to a Korean restaurant you know that instead of waiting for a server to come over, you yell a quick “yogiyo!” and there they are ready to bring you whatever you need. The Yogiyo app is pretty much the same concept, except in your underwear: delivery food from anywhere at your door. Search by food type, then restaurant, and then BAM! FOOD! Except for I never could get to the BAM! part without being able to know what the app wanted. Is this asking for my address or what toppings I want on my pizza? I am patiently waiting for this be English-ized for all us idiots who haven’t learned Korean yet. Anyway, I used it once when a Korean friend was over and it was awesome.
So there you have it. If you think I missed any crucial apps or you just think I’m stupid and this list is terrible, leave it in the comments below! Except don’t call me stupid because that is mean.