Here is some valuable information that you may find useful during your time in Korea.
South Korea has an extremely efficient, safe, and clean system of public transportation. The bus, subway, and rail systems are integrated in a single network, and you can access nearly any part of the country via this network. Many parts of Songdo are pedestrian friendly, and many people also get around using bicycles. See below for information on how to navigate the transit system!
Maps & Apps
It’s important to know that Google Maps does not work for most things in Korea and will not be able to give you walking, driving, or public transportation directions. The most commonly used map service is through Naver (Korea’s equivalent of Google) and is available at map.naver.com. However, Naver is only available in Korean (another reason to start making Korean friends early!).
Other popular transportation apps include:
Uber/Lyft are not available in Korea. However, there is a similar app called Kakao Taxi which can hail taxis that are nearby. Payment is not embedded in the app, however, and you will still need to carry cash, a credit card, or a transportation (T-Money) card. Korean only. Android iOS
While the buses and subway accept cash, it is cheaper and more convenient to purchase a refillable T-Money transportation card, which can be used on the transit system throughout the country. After you purchase your T-Money card (see below), you can re-fill it at any subway station as well as most convenience stores. Using this card generally entitles you to a free transfer between buses, subway lines, or bus to subway (provided the base fare is the same).
As an alternative, certain debit cards issued by Korean banks can also be used like a T-money card. Instead of pre-charging the card with money, it will directly deduct funds from your account. Make sure to request a debit card with such capabilities from the bank if this interests you.
Songdo is a very international area, and many international residents get by without speaking Korean. However learnig the Hangul alphabet is easy to do and can prove extremely useful. This Hangul alphabet has been used to write the Korean language since the 15th century and can be learned in a few hours. Since many words used in Korea are adapted from English, being able to pronounce a word in Hangul may mean the difference between going hungry or realizing that the word on the menu actually is pronounced “pizza”!
South Korea ranks among the safest countries in the world and has an extremely low crime rate. You can read more about safety in Korea by reviewing the US Department of State’s South Korea 2015 Crime and Safety Report.
The standard voltage in Korea is 220 volts (and 60 Hertz, or cycles), and the outlet is European-style with two round holes. If you are coming from a country that uses higher voltage, you may want to leave some electronics (such as hair dryers) at home and purchase new ones here. Other electronics such as laptops are often equipped to handle dual voltage and only require an outlet adapter (which can be purchased at most convenience stores or stationary shops in Korea).
Korea has four distinct seasons—spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Officially, the country is classified as having a temperate climate, but the temperature varies widely between summer and winter. Korean summers are hot and humid, and temperatures can occasionally reach 35˚ C (95˚ F), while in winter temperatures can sometimes get as low as -20˚ C (-4˚ F). Since we are at sea level and close to the water, Songdo is also especially windy in the winter. While those are the extreme ends of the temperature spectrum, we recommend being prepared for very cold, windy winters and very hot, humid summers.
Korea gets the majority of its precipitation during the monsoon season, in July and August. However, precipitation is generally light. Though winters can get very cold, it doesn’t snow often.
Click here for current weather information in Songdo.
Living in a foreign country is an exciting opportunity—you’ll have a chance to experience a new culture, food, and language—but it also comes with challenges. Fortunately, there are several fantastic resources for non-Koreans living in Korea that you may find useful.
Tourism Help Line – 1330
Do you need English language assistance or travel information? In Seoul, dial 1330 (outside of Seoul dial area code + 1330) to connect to the travel information hotline. They can offer detailed transportation information, directions, translation help, and answer any questions that you might need help with when out and about in Korea.
Immigration Contact Center – 1345
Have questions about your visa or anything else pertaining to immigration? Our staff is here to help, but if you need to speak with Korean Immigration directly, just dial 1345. Services are available in 20 different languages.
IFEZ Global Center
Run by the Incheon Free Economic Zone Authority, the IFEZ Global Center provides support services for foreign residents of Songdo. They can be extremely helpful if you have questions or concerns about daily living such as legal services, banking, cell phones, or transportation. They also offer free Korean language classes and support groups. Read more about their services, see their location, and get in touch with them on their website.
Songdo Community Facebook Group
Residents of Songdo have created a fantastic online resource in the form of a community Facebook group. This site is extremely popular for expats. The group is open to both Koreans and foreigners living in Songdo and welcomes residents of any age to learn about things happening in the neighborhood.
Songdo Community Wiki
In conjunction with the Songdo Community Facebook Group, the IFEZ Foreign Advisory Board maintains a wiki of resources in Songdo. Though not entirely comprehensive, this provides a great way to locate restaurants, goods, and services in the neighborhood. Visit the Songdo Community Wiki to learn more!