Can I Use Google Maps in Korea?
Google map is the go-to app for navigation and mapping in most parts of the world. Every time you face any difficulties with navigation, you open Google Maps to get the best route to your target destination. Not only does it show you the best directions to the destination address, but Google maps tells you the estimated time by which you will arrive at the target destination. Of course, depending on the mode of transportation you choose. However, Google map is not one of the best navigation apps in Korea. South Korea is one region where Google Maps does not work. The country has strict security policies when it comes to mapping data. Google stores the direction details on a foreign server, but South Korea has not allowed Google access to its country’s map.
As a result, Google Maps cannot be used for navigating the Korean routes when you are driving, biking, or walking. It is believed that the country has implemented these restrictions since it is still at war with North Korea, technically speaking. If it allowed the citizens to use Google Maps for navigation, the country’s geographical data would be available on foreign servers. Due to the high risk involved in the process, the nation has restricted the use of Google Maps. Korea does allow certain mapping features, as long as the security protocols are followed and navigation does not compromise the privacy and security policies of South Korea.
That being said, South Korea does allow map data export features given that the satellite pictures of certain locations are blurred or edited out. These locations include certain government facilities and military locations. Google did not accept the condition and has, therefore, enabled only the basic mapping functionalities for South Koreans. It has not agreed to delete any information from the map. As a result, Google Maps does work in Korea, but it has limited information. And, you can’t rely on it for navigation, especially if you need directions for narrow streets and government facilities.
It has made it quite challenging for non-Korean speakers, especially tourists, to navigate around Korean cities. The problem is that Korea has only a few people familiar with English. So, a vast majority of tourists rely on maps for directions. Fortunately, Korea does have a few map applications for those facing difficulty navigating their way around Seoul and other Korean cities. These apps are available in English and other languages as well, making it easier for non-native speakers to get accurate directions.
Let’s check out a few best navigation apps (Google Maps Alternatives) in Korea. We have listed the features of each app, along with the uses and how you can use the app for navigation.
Read more about Best Apps for Korea Travel!
Naver is called the Google of South Korea, as it holds just about any information like Google. Not only does it have blogs, music, videos, society, and news, but Naver is known for offering a map app that helps you with navigation. It definitely is one of the best navigation apps in Korea.
You can navigate around any Korean city using its smart mapping features. The app also shows you the best restaurants, sightseeing locations, spas, and other places based on customer reviews. The map has detailed information about the addresses, public transport, best routes to reach a destination, and more.
The company has added real-time traffic data with the Clova voice command function for easy and smooth navigation. If you are walking or riding to the destination, rotate the map to 360 degrees to get a clear view of the place. You could also save your favorite places on Naver and find the best directions to these places on the Naver map app.
You can use the app in four languages – English, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.
Here’s how you can use the Naver map:
- Download the app on your Android and iOS
- The language of the map is set to the default language of your mobile, but if the data is in Korean or any language you can’t understand, switch the language to English.
- Right on the home screen, click in the search bar, and type the address, name, or contact number (whatever details you have)
- Enter your current location in the “from” field and the destination address in the “to” field.
- Pick the mode of transportation
If you choose public transportation, you can select from the intercity and intracity transportation options.
The app shows you the directions based on your transportation mode and your preference. You can choose a short-cut, toll-free route, or a traffic-free route. Zoom in on the map for the detailed directions.
Kakao Maps is another excellent choice for those looking for one of the best navigation apps in Korea. Like the Naver app, it has many features that make mapping super simple and convenient for tourists. The best part is that Kakao maps are compatible with KakaoTaxi and KakaoTalk, two of the most commonly used apps in South Korea.
The map detects your current location automatically given that you have your GPS on. You can enter the destination address and get detailed directions, including the fastest route to travel to the destination, the short-cuts, and the toll-free routes. You can get the best directions – whether you are traveling by car, bicycle, bus, train, on foot, by and other public or private transport.
The map also tells you the estimated time of the bus’s arrival. The reason why it’s Korea’s most popular mapping app is that it gives you the accurate timing of travel. It also offers a 3D map, which allows you to rotate the map 360 degrees to get a clear view of the directions from different angles. Kakao map has an English support feature, so it is perfect for Non-Korean speakers. However, as you download the app, it will be available in Korean by default. So, you have to change the settings and set it to English. Here’s how you can do that:
- Download Kakao maps on iOS or Android
- Find the Menu button and then Settings
- Search for the “app settings” and “language”
- Here, you will find the “English” language.
Once you have changed the language, it will be easier to get directions to whichever place you want to go to. Now, the question is how do you change the language when you can’t read and understand Korean. Take help from a local. They will help you change the language settings.
Once the interface is available in English, you can search for the destination by typing the address in the search bar. The map also suggests the best places for eating, sightseeing, shopping, and more.
T Map is your best choice if you are looking for one of the best navigation apps in Korea. Developed and launched by SK Telecom, it was initially designed for SKT users only, but it was made available for the public so everyone can use it and enjoy smooth and seamless navigation around the Korean cities.
The app comes with the “children protection path” – the feature that we liked the most in this map. The app is popular for providing the best and most accurate directions in just about any Korean location. You type the address in the search bar and the map will guide you to your target location via different routes. You could also filter the routes by your preference.
The company has partnered with NUGU voice assistants. So, it is possible to make voice commands. You can use this feature to call your mom, text a friend, find the weather reports, listen to music or podcasts, and so on.
Another special feature is for the drivers. It enables drivers to access their driving records so they can calculate their driving score and become eligible for the 11% discount on the insurance premiums. T Map also happens to be the first app to offer aerial directions. So, you can use this map if you are traveling by air. T Map does a lot more than showing you the directions. You could listen to music, make phone calls, check your schedule for the day, and perform other activities while navigating your way around Seoul and other cities.
Once you have downloaded the app, use this subway map in Korea to enjoy the best navigation features. Type the destination address in the search bar, as you did with the other apps, and enter your current location.
So, these were the best navigation apps in Korea. Try them now, set the language to English, and explore the features. While Google Maps isn’t an option for Korean travelers and locals, the above-listed apps are a good alternative to Google Maps. They have the information about every street, road, public transport, and other sites available in the database. So, you never have to worry about getting lost in the Korean streets. Note that these are the local map apps that work in South Korea only. They are not for global use.
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