Monthly Archives: January 2008

I’m going to miss the cheap wine…

My wife and I have just spent the last couple of years living in Cape Town, with part of that in Stellenbosch. Apart from the great lifestyle that this entailed (which I’m also going to miss) we got a little bit spoilt with the great selection of ridiculously cheap wine.

I’ve been trying to find out about finding some decent (cheap) wine in Korea, and it seems like we are in for one hell of a disappointment. Nederburg seems to go for W17,000 (R120) and Two Oceans for W13,000 (R90) at Emart (thanks Marie for the info!). The cheapest I’ve heard of so far is a W10,000 (R70) bottle of Nederburg Chardonnay, which was on special at Lotte sometime last year. How depressing. I’ve gotten used to getting away with less than R30 for a half-way decent bottle of wine! According to this article from the Korea Times there are now more than 20 importers of South African wine into Korea. I’m hoping the range available is going to grow beyond Nederburg and Two Oceans. Not that I’m an expert, but I do like variety! In the meantime I’m keeping my eye on the wine korea blog. Every now and again he reviews a South African wine he has discovered in Korea. Excellent resource!

In the meantime I’m debating the benefits of taking a couple of bottles with me. Hmmm…which is more important? Two bottles of wine or warm clothes….

Using SA cellphones in Korea

(Edit: My wife and I tried the SMS Roamer I mention in the post below. To my embarrassment, it didn’t work. Just leave your SA phone at home and pick one up here. Saves lugging unnecessary stuff all the way here.)

The bad news is that South Korea uses a different cellphone technology (CDMA) to SA (GSM), so your SA phone can’t be used there. Big bummer for me, because I have two perfectly good cellphones that I now have to leave at home and go buy some dodgy second hand phone when I arrive in Korea. I’m not looking forward to that.

But there is some good news. If you are a Vodacom customer you can arrange to use SMS Roamer. Using this you can take your SA cellphone to Korea, but all voice calls (incoming and outgoing) are disabled, and you can only use SMSs and voicemail. The SMSs from Korea to SA cost R2.50 each, and from SA to Korea R1.74. People can still phone you, but they will be diverted to voicemail, which you can access in Korea.

This seems like a good idea to me for the first week or so before we get organised with a local cellphone, especially as my wife is stuck with a Vodacom Top-Up contract until July. At least we can get some use out of all that airtime!

The cheapest credit cards (what a mission!)

So I was at Standard Bank, ABSA and FNB yesterday trying to sort out my forex and questions about sending money home. This turned out to be a very tiring experience. Most of the time the staff at these banks had no idea what I was talking about, especially when I asked if they could supply me with Korean Won. Hahahaha. At any rate, a couple of them tried to sell me a “travel wallet”  or “travel card”, telling me that it would be cheaper than using a credit card.

So I thought I’d look at this. In theory it seems like a good idea. Load a card with your forex, and use it like a debit and ATM card at your destination, at the fixed exchange rate that you bought the forex at. Sounds like a good idea… except when you start looking at the costs. Just for an idea, you first need to purchase the card (between R50 and R100), then you need to pay to get it loaded, and then you pay each time you withdraw cash from a foreign ATM (at least R14). And to top it all off, since you can’t get one of these in Korean Won (only in US$, Euro, Pounds and AUS$), you pay an exchange fee to put the money on your card AND an exchange fee every time you use it in Korea. So I probably won’t be using this.

I’ll probably lump for some traveller’s cheques. I also looked into using a South African credit card in Korea. I heard it is tricky to get a Korean credit card, so I thought I’d take a a South African card along. I did some research last night into the costs involved, and was pleasantly surprised to find that VirginMoney seems to come out tops. Not only do they not charge an annual card fee, they have the cheapest ATM withdrawal fees. This is R8.75 at ANY ATM WORLDWIDE. Of course there will be some exchange fees involved and possible charges at the foreign ATM, but this is MUCH cheaper than what the other credit cards charge. Anything from R20 to R35 I think, for the same thing. And of course POS purchases don’t cost anything, except for the exchange rate fees.

I’m still looking to see if this is the best deal. In the meantime at least I know I can rely on my VirginMoney card if I’m in dire straits in Korea. Yay!

TB

Welcome!

My wife and I are heading to South Korea in February, for what will hopefully be an awesome experience. Over the past few months we have struggled to find helpful information on Korea just for South Africans, so we decided to put together everything we’ve found so far on this website.

It’s still a work in progress, and there is lots still to add. I’m still working on it, and it will go a lot quicker if you can help me. Let me know if you find this useful, or if you think I should add some more info. Better yet, write me a page and I’ll put it on the site.

In the meantime, have some fun and let me know your thoughts!

TB