This app has come a long way in a single version. The first version, while not bad, required an Internet connection; this one has the same requirement, but fits the smartphone platform with redesigned mobile-friendly pages.
Start with the main page, which is well-organized into expected sections: destinations, accommodations, and practical needs like dining and transportation. You’ll need to dig through a menu or two before the app retrieves a website, but if you’ve tapped the right options it’ll give you the information you’re looking for 95% of the time.
For destinations (“attractions” as the app calls them), it has the usual tourist traps, along with the plethora of other options that exist on their full-fledged website. The categories are well-thought out, although the directions remain a source of some personal angst (simply saying “take a bus to…” – especially if the name is in English – won’t help your average tourist find their own way the majority of the time).
As restaurants go, their listings continue to be dominated by the larger, more well-known, and more expensive shops that put their best feet forward. This is to expected, of course – these are the places that have been around for a long time and will probably continue to be around for a long time to come. That they have introductory guides to vegetarians and Muslims shows a growing sensitivity and awareness of their incoming visitors.
Accommodations, while already easy to find around the bus terminals and train stations, are fairly well-covered. Information about staying in a Hanok, for a templestay, youth hostels, and guest houses round out the listings. Again, these are the same places you’d find on their website, but better organized and with pages optimized for a smartphone. The same thing can be said for the ’Shopping tab’.
I found the transportation tab a bit disappointing. As someone who makes frequent use of Korail’s train timetables online as well as the English-language bus schedules, I was hoping both of these features would be incorporated. No such luck – all you get here are some basic introductions to what’s available throughout the country. The subway maps for every system in the country are nice, but for actually getting around I’ll still be using Jihachul.
And then there’s a highlight – an English-language map of Korea. Google Maps has this covered, of course, but many of the entries and display is in Korean. While a little slower, the satellite map displays entirely in English, complete with colorful icons indicating a point of interest. Enable the location-based services to let the app pinpoint where you are, and it’ll reward you with what’s nearby.
The final section makes a guidebook almost obsolete, and is perhaps one of the best reasons for a tourist to pick up the app. Everything from national holidays to useful phrases is here, and while aimed at tourists is also helpful for residents. The current time, weather, temperature, and exchange rate take a second to load, and round out a very good set of offerings.
Overall, the app is in excellent English, and presents a unified view of the country’s tourism services. That you can call 1330 (the country’s official tourism assistance hotline) from virtually any spot in the app makes it easy to get more information when necessary. The app is already out of date in some aspects (the Yeosu Expo is now over), and I’d like to hope whatever technology optimizes their smartphone-friendly pages will also help the human staff update them regularly. It’s a great app at the best price, and I hope every country I visit in the future has something at least as good as this.