Over the past few years many hotels have started to provide cellphones with complimentary data and local calls to their guest so they can take them out to explore the city.
While many of these devices are complimentary (especially in Hong Kong) this isn’t always the case and travelers should be mindful of the possibility that some properties do charge money for the service and not too little.
The first city where this popped up was actually Hong Kong where both Intercontinental properties and also the Hyatt Regency TST have cellular devices available on the desk. Guests can just grab it and go on their way.
These cellphones can be used as regular phones for calls as well as for internet access and as a hotspot. When I went to HK recently and stayed at the Hyatt I actually used it because I had a problem with local SIM card.
While in Hong Kong and also in Tokyo they are complimentary to use I was surprised to see that the Intercontinental Seoul actually charges for the use of the phone.
I only recognized it by coincidence since I was sitting at the desk when I glanced on the folder sitting next to the device where it said the charge would be 14,300 KRW per day ($13) which is quite substantial. Getting a local prepaid SIM card in Korea isn’t cheap (~$30) but at least then it’s yours and you can use it over many days. Also, the charge is re-applying after midnight so you’ll be dinged twice if you take the device out overnight.
Definitely have a look around these devices before you grab them. In Hong Kong the use was complimentary wherever I’ve seen them but judging from my many visits to the country it appears that in Korea everything has an extra charge attached to it.
I get the hotels rationale that you can save money over using roaming of your home cellphone provider but I think if you plan to use mobile services over a longer period of time it’s certainly better to get a local SIM card at the airport or a shop in the city. In some countries this requires a registration process while elsewhere you can just pick a card up, pop it into your phone and you’re good to go. $13 per day for a SIM card/mobile phone rental is somewhat excessive. Unless it’s an emergency I wouldn’t go for it.