Curious about what to pack for Korea? You might be packing for a trip or moving here for a while.
Either way, we’ve got you covered! We’ll tell you the things to bring when you plan to visit Korea and the items you can leave behind at home.
With a bit of foresight and preparation, you’ll be sure to make your trip to Korea a smooth and memorable one.
Let’s prepare your packing list for South Korea!
Skip to the parts that apply to you, or read everything below to become an expert on what to pack for South Korea.
- 1 What to Pack for a Trip to Korea
- 2 What to Bring to Korea
- 3 Personal Items
- 4 Electronics
- 5 Luggage and Travel Gear
- 6 Food
- 7 How to Get Help Once You’re in Korea
- 8 Wrap-up
What to Pack for a Trip to Korea
So, you plan to get away for a few days or weeks, and you’ve decided to go to Korea. It may seem like a daunting task to prepare for a trip out to Korea, but it’s easier than you think. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time or your 10th time visiting the country. We’ll give you the packing tips you need to make your trip successful.
What are the things that you should include in your South Korea packing list? What things should you leave at home? You’ll be thanking yourself for tackling these questions beforehand.
Make sure you know what to pack when you visit South Korea. We’ll break this down into essential, optional, and leave-at-home items.
Essential Things to Pack for Traveling to Korea
Here are the things you’ll likely need to bring with you if you’re traveling to South Korea. These are essential items for packing. Make sure that these are on top of your South Korea packing list. This will be useful for you if you’re moving to South Korea or just taking a short trip.
If you’re moving to South Korea, continue reading past this list for a more in-depth look at what you need to bring and what you can get here.
Here are the essentials of what to pack for South Korea. Make sure you include these in your packing list:
- Passport: You can’t get far without it. You might also get a passport case to keep your book looking new.
- Credit Cards/Debit Cards: Almost every store (even street vendors!) take credit cards. Make sure to alert your credit card company that you’re traveling so you don’t get any blocks on purchases.
- ATM Card: There are ATMs everywhere that you can use should you need to withdraw some cash.
- Electrical plug adapter: Check the specs of your electrical devices in case you also need a power converter.
- Toothpaste: If you like brands like Colgate and Crest, bring them from home.
- Travel Medical Insurance: The medical care is excellent here. Some credit cards offer travel insurance if you book the ticket with a credit card. Here is a popular service for travel medical insurance.
- Medication: The pharmacies in South Korea are fantastic but do bring prescription meds. Especially useful if you have allergies and you have to travel during yellow dust season.
- Unlocked phone: Some companies require you to make a special request for this. You can see SIM card and data rates here.
- Essential Documents – Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, prepare a list of documents you might need when you’re in South Korea. (Travel insurance documents, paperwork required for work, or the itinerary from your travel agent)
Pretty much everything else you can buy once you get here if you need it; no need to pack too much. There are 24-hour convenience stores on every corner in every major city and pharmacies on every block. You will be able to get a SIM card at the airport, and the data here is blazing fast.
What to Pack (Non-Essential Items)
The items below are non-essential, which means you’d survive without them. However, you may want to add them to your South Korea packing list:
- Swimsuit: These can be tank tops, board shorts, and bikinis. Depending on when you come, you may not be able to buy them here. Often they stop selling them during the last few weeks of summer.
- International driver’s license: An international driver’s license is helpful if you want to rent a car here.
- Dress clothes: Depending on your style of travel, some night venues or restaurants may have a dress code.
- Shaving cream: If you’ve got a particular brand you like, bring it from home.
- Deodorant: Pack a stick of your favorite.
- Travel Toiletry Bag: These are nice to hang in the bathroom while traveling.
- Towels: People often use smaller towels or hand towels here, so you may want to bring one.
- Bedsheets: The sheets here may not be as soft as what you’re used to, so you could bring a set from home.
- Vitamins: You can get most vitamins here, but you might want to bring if you have anything that you’re unsure about being able to find.
- Kindle: Unlimited books, light, takes up little space.
- Reusable Water Bottle: Although you can buy clean bottled water virtually everywhere in Seoul, bringing a water bottle with you when traveling is always a good idea. Plus, using a reusable water bottle is more eco-friendly if you compare it to buying a plastic bottle every time you’re thirsty.
What NOT to pack for South Korea
Here are some things you should leave at home:
- Makeup: Beauty products are generally not difficult to find. There are plenty of stores on every street.
- Shampoo: Unless your hair needs special care, you can get away without bringing shampoo to South Korea. Easy to find at Olive Young, Watsons, convenience stores, etc.
- Soap: Lots of options, plus some premium soap shops like Lush and Body Shop.
- Hairdryer: Hair dryers from other countries may need a power converter, so easier to get one here.
- Books: These will be heavy and take up space. If you can read on an eReader or smartphone, you will thank yourself for the extra space.
- Cash: Unless you have a specific reason for bringing cash, it’s easier to use ATMs and credit cards. Many tourists can get away with just using their credit cards.
If you’re unsure what you can find here, try searching on Coupang or GMarket. Chances are you can have it delivered to wherever you are staying. Remember that you may need a Korean to help you order depending on where you are visiting, what you are ordering, and your payment method.
What to Bring to Korea
In this section, we’ll cover what you may want to consider bringing, either for travel or for living. What you need to pack depends on how long you stay and what kind of experience you want while you’re here. These should be a top priority on your packing list.
If you have any specific questions, let us know in the comments below!
Korean clothing sizes are a bit different than that of the west. If you have trouble fitting into Asian sizes, you should be able to find something at stores like Zara, H&M, Giordano, and Uniqlo. You might pack a few extra pieces just in case.
Shirt sizes in South Korea
The shirt sizes in Korea generally go up to about a size “large” for western sizes. If you wear anything past that, you’ll probably have a more challenging time finding your size here. In that case, pack a bit more from home. Here are Korean clothing sizes for men:
|Chest (cm)||90 ~ 95||95 ~ 100||100 ~ 105||105 ~ 110||110+|
Here are Korean clothing sizes for women:
|Italy||36||38 ~ 40||42 ~ 44||46 ~ 48||50 ~ 52|
Even if you can’t find your exact size, there are still options to get clothes to fit you. The tailors here are excellent, so you can buy something a bit larger and then have it altered for a reasonable price.
Shoe sizes in Korea
In Korea, you can find shoes up to 285mm (10.5 US) for men and up to 270 mm (10 US) for women. If your shoe size is larger than that, you should plan. Walking shoes, or shoes that are comfortable for long walks/runs, are very important in South Korea since you will be walking A LOT. You want to be comfortable, so you don’t have to stop your day early.
Korea to US shoe size for men:
American shoe size to Korean for women:
Walking around Seoul will wear out your shoes much faster than you are currently used to, so unless your walking shoes are very comfortable and are made for walking, you’ll be noticing the difference by the end of the trip. Pack comfortable shoes with thick soles, so you don’t have to worry about this problem – your feet will thank you!
You can check out our complete guide here to learn how to express these numbers in Korean.
Shopping for clothing in Korea
If you don’t pack enough clothing or shoes, fear not! You can always take a trip to one of the main shopping areas, such as Myeong-dong. These shopping areas have many western branded clothing stores, and who doesn’t love a good shopping spree on vacation?
This could be one of the best places to reliably find stylish clothing that fits properly, so be sure to check it out if you need to augment your wardrobe while you’re abroad. There are several great places to shop in Seoul, so you’re not out of luck if you forget your favorite top.
Online shopping in Korea
Thankfully, Amazon now ships to Korea. This makes life a whole lot easier for ordering the clothing and shoes you need. The shipping fee is reasonable, and it arrives pretty quickly.
Plus Size Clothing
If you’re a plus-size in undergarments, make sure to pack those in your suitcase for the same reasons listed above. Koreans, on average, are physically smaller than people from most other countries, so you can’t find all sizes here. Do plan ahead to make sure you’re well-stocked and comfortable.
Packing for the Weather
Something that became very obvious shortly after I arrived in South Korea is that it truly has all four seasons – a true winter, spring, summer, and fall. The spring and fall seem to get shorter every year, so pack accordingly!
Winter Weather Gear
Winter in Korea gets cold (-10 °C | 14 °F), especially with strong winds. If you’re from an area where t-shirts all year round are the norm because the temperature never drops below “comfortably warm,” then you might quickly realize that you need to do some clothes shopping to introduce some winter clothes into your wardrobe.
Uniqlo has some excellent winter clothing, and they’ve got stores all over South Korea. Their heat tech inner wear comes in a few different thickness varieties based on how warm you want to be.
If you wear a size that would be hard to find in Korea, consider packing some thermals or warmer layers to keep you cozy in the Korean winters so you’re not spending your days in Korea sad that you can’t spend more time outside without freezing.
Summer Weather Gear
South Korea can get pretty warm in the summer (30 °C | 86 °F), so pack some light gear if you’re coming between June and August. Uniqlo also has you covered here; they’ve got some lightweight shirts called Airism.
If you plan on hitting the pools or beaches, remember to bring swimsuits with you!
Another important thing to pack is your personal items. This includes a set of toiletries, hygiene products, makeup, and the like. We’ll go over them one by one below.
Regarding toiletries, Korea is very reliable regarding the accessibility of toiletries – if you need it, they’ll have it. Unless you have an affinity for particular brands, most things you can get here very quickly if you simply need to pick up a new bottle of shampoo or a new tube of toothpaste.
Deodorant in Korea
A deodorant in Korea might be more expensive than in other parts of the world. I would highly recommend bringing deodorant. It’s not as widely used as in other areas of the world, so you’ll usually have to buy your deodorant at international stores, where it can be pricey.
If purchasing a deodorant stick for a price 2-3x more than you’re used to isn’t on your vacation agenda, then be sure to pack it in your bag!
Makeup & Cosmetics
If you love makeup, you’ll be thrilled to find out that Korea is one of the cosmetic capitals of the world – there’s always a new and exciting purchase to be made.
Almost any product you desire, you can buy from Korea. From essential skincare products like moisturizers, lip balms (it gets cold and dry during the winter, so best to buy a good lip balm for your trip), and sheet masks to high-end makeup products, name it, and they’ll have it.
If there’s a specific product that’s been hard to find in your hometown, check out the local Korean cosmetic markets, and you very well may find it.
It will help immensely if you learn the vocabulary of what you’re looking for and how to read it in Hangeul (Korean alphabet). That way, you can easily find it on Naver (Korea’s version of Google). If you can’t read Hangul, it is possible to learn Hangul in just ninety minutes, so what are you waiting for?
As a bonus, there will likely be many products you have never seen or heard of before, so you’ll return home with a bunch of novelties. It could be a fun adventure and an excuse to buy a bunch of souvenirs for your nearest and dearest!
If you have any kind of prescription, bring as much of it as possible – better safe than sorry! Depending on what it is, it might not be available here in Korea, and you don’t want to spend your time abroad hunting down a prescription medication instead of exploring and sightseeing.
However, the medical system in Korea is quite advanced, so it’s likely you will be able to get a Korean equivalent of what you need if you did not pack enough, so fear not.
If you catch a cold or have a headache while you are here, you’ll be able to get all of the common types of over-the-counter medicine that you’d be used to in your home country. Most pharmacists speak at least a little bit of English, so you should be able to get what you need.
There are pharmacies on every corner, so locating one will be easy. The packaging may look slightly different than what you’re used to, but the relief you’ll feel from taking anti-cold medication will be very familiar if you’re not feeling well.
Bedding, Sheets, & Towels
One of the major complaints that visitors have about products in Korea is concerning sheets and pillowcases. The bedding quality here is different from many other countries, and it can take some getting used to.
Buying nice sheets can be expensive at department stores in Korea. Upgrading your bedroom will cost you money.
Towels also fall into this category, so if you’re looking for a fluffy towel, be prepared to pay more than you would back home.
Thankfully, stores like Costco and Muji have nice bedding and towels. It’s probably not the best use of your luggage space to bring a set of queen-size sheets. However, figure out your priorities and decide from there – there’s nothing wrong with needing to be your version of comfortable to fall asleep!
Korean Phrase Books
If you visit South Korea, it’ll be helpful if you speak Korean. We have a step-by-step structured online Korean course that will teach you how to have a 3-minute Korean conversation in the first 90 days.
Reminders of Home
As with any long-term trip, you must remember to pack things that remind you of home. Having pictures of friends and family to decorate your apartment are very important. These will take up barely any room in your suitcase, and you will be pleased you brought them.
To keep from getting homesick, consider picking up some fun postcards to send back to your friends and family back home. You can get these in the major tourist areas like Myeongdong and Insadong.
Here are our tips on how to pack your electronic gadgets when going on a trip to Korea.
Mobile Phones & Smartphones
If you’re planning to use your mobile phone while in Korea, make sure it is unlocked. That way, you can pop a new SIM card in and be able to use it while you’re here without going through the hassle of acquiring a new SIM card-friendly phone.
If you want to have the latest phone, you might find mobile phones cheaper in your home country than in Korea. All major brands are available, but the prices are often higher and require a two-year contract.
Plug Adapters and Outlets
Plugs in Korea are different than in many other countries, so pack at least one plug adapter.
What electrical adaptor do I need for South Korea?
A Type F power adapter, which can run 220-volt appliances or equipment, is something you can bring and use in South Korea.
Most electronics, such as mobile phones and laptops, will work without needing a power converter (more on that below).
Korea uses 220V outlets. Most common modern electronics will not require an electricity converter. Make sure you read the specs on your devices, but a simple plug prong adapter usually does the trick. You likely aren’t going to need these unless you’re bringing specific items like a toaster or a hairdryer.
Not essential, but they will make your life a lot easier. You can pick these up anywhere in Korea. They even have them at some convenience stores. Get something 10,000mAh and compact.
Computers and Laptops
If you have a compact laptop that isn’t heavy and isn’t bulky, consider bringing it with you on your trip. Your laptop will allow you to upload photos as you go through your trip to keep your friends and family posted on social media, but it will also let you stay up to date on current events, pay bills while you’re gone, etc.
That doesn’t mean you should spend your whole vacation on your laptop, of course – it’s just nice to have a way to get in touch and stay up to date if you need to.
If you don’t have a laptop that you’d feel comfortable bringing with you, you can also use computer cafes to keep in touch with the rest of the world through news and social media.
Books and e-readers
If you’re big on books, you might consider picking up an e-reader before heading to Korea. Even though many people still love looking at physical books, the space-saving feature and convenience of a digital device can make your stay much more comfortable.
More likely than not, your flight will be long, and you’ll be grateful that you have a variety of books to choose from without packing multiple physical books.
If you absolutely must have physical books, you’re in luck! Books in English are very easily attainable in Korea. One popular place to order books no matter where you are in Korea is What The Book.
You’ll probably want to buy them while you’re here since packing books is not a good use of space in your two free checked airline bags.
Fear not – if you find a book you must have while you’re in Korea and you simply have no room in your checked baggage on the way back, you always have the option of mailing it to yourself back home to save space while you’re packing to return home.
Speaking of space, most living arrangements in Korea are pretty small. Stacking up books in the corner is not the best use of that space. With many long subway and train commutes in your near future, having something to read is very important.
While you’re in Korea, you will spend time in a beautiful country with photo opportunities everywhere you look. Korea has something for you, whether you enjoy taking pictures of natural landscapes, interesting people, or cityscapes!
If you’re a photography enthusiast, consider what you’d like to bring with you on your trip. A lot of camera equipment is bulky, heavy, and extremely expensive, so unless it’s insured and you can’t live without it, think twice.
Point and shoot cameras are better to pack than large DSLR cameras because they’re compact and can be safely stowed in a small fabric case rather than a large, over-the-shoulder camera bag.
If you’re bringing a cell phone with you with a good camera, you can also take photos on your phone without bothering to carry a separate camera.
Most importantly, don’t bring anything that is insanely expensive or that you’d hate to see damaged – traveling is tough on camera equipment, and luggage can get lost, so set yourself up for success and pack accordingly. You’ll thank yourself later when you have beautiful photos to show off your trip!
Luggage and Travel Gear
When it comes to traveling to Korea or to any place in general, the luggage or bags where you place your stuff is very important. Its capacity and convenience are something to consider not only heading to but returning from your vacation.
Korea is quite dialed in for rolling luggage. People travel around the country, so you’ll typically see them rolling luggage on the sidewalk or into the subway cars. If you have 4-wheeled luggage, then you’ll have a slightly easier time. This is what I use, and it works great.
The larger buses have storage below, and there are special luggage areas in the subway car.
Have trouble fitting everything in your luggage? Here are helpful tips: Use packing cubes to help save luggage space, try to buy the smallest and most compact version of as many things as you can (cosmetics, gadgets, etc.), and follow the list of things to bring in this article to help you decide what to bring and what to leave behind.
Bring a light backpack for day trips around the city. Keep in mind that you’ll likely be on public transportation, so it’s best to have something that’s a reasonable size. It gets crowded on the subways and buses, and it’s hard to walk by when a backpack is in the way.
Look for a backpack that can be rolled up and stowed without taking up a ton of space in your suitcase. Then you eventually pack to return home.
Alternatively, you can use your backpack as a carry-on bag to bring souvenirs back to your friends and family! If you’re planning to take many things from Korea back to your home country, it’s best to find a backpack that’s big and sturdy.
Something that might not come to mind quickly is spices or non-perishable foods. Spices and seasonings from your home country will likely not be readily available here in Korea, especially if they’re obscure.
This can add flavor to your home-cooked meals when you are trying to save money and give you a little reminder of home while you eat.
If you have any must-have non-perishables or spices that you cook with regularly, try to make room for them in your baggage. Thankfully, sites like iHerb make it easy to have a variety of spices and cooking items shipped internationally at reasonable prices.
Cheese lovers, don’t get your hopes up. Korea is not big on cheese variety, so most of you’ll see processed single-wrapped slices. Thankfully, Costco has come to the rescue with massive selections of cheeses from all over the world, so if you’re looking for some brie or some bleu cheese, head to Costco before you go anywhere else.
If you can’t pack the things you want from home, why not explore the many traditional and modern Korean foods? We promise you; it’s worth it.
When you’re out shopping at supermarkets in Korea, almost every grocery store charges extra for a bag (it won’t break the bank, but it will add up). Also, trash bags need to be purchased.
The small ones will cost around 200 won ($0.20 cents), while the larger ones can cost over 1,000 won ($1.00) each. When possible, track down a reusable grocery bag to bring with you on shopping trips – it’s better for the environment, and you’ll be saving money as well!
How to Get Help Once You’re in Korea
Once you’re here, if you need help with translations or locating anything challenging, just call 120. That’s the Dasan Help Line. They help with everyday life in Korea and have an English-speaking department.
Also, in the main tourist areas of Seoul, there are Korean guide helpers dressed in red with red cowboy hats (seriously!) who are pretty helpful. They’re easy to spot and can point you in the right direction.
It’s also a good idea to keep the international number of your travel insurance agent handy once you’re in Korea. In the unlikely event that anything untoward might happen to you, you may call them and ask for assistance.
A common question travelers ask during their travels is, “what should I pack?”. As you can see, packing for Korea may be a bit different than the trips you’re used to taking, but it’s manageable with a bit of foresight.
Thanks to the increasing availability of international goods worldwide, it’s becoming easier and easier to make Korea feel like your home away from home during your stay. Another essential thing to keep in mind is it’s best to know everything about Korea before your travel.
Can you share your South Korea packing list for those who’ve traveled to South Korea? What items do you recommend packing for Korea?
Be sure to let us know in the comments below if we’re missing anything!