So you’ve decided to come to Korea. Excellent decision! In preparation, you’ve probably asked yourself this one question over and over: “What to pack for Korea?” Packing for a trip like this can seem like a daunting task. However, with a bit of foresight and preparation, it will be a breeze!
You may be worried that you might forget to pack the one critical item for your trip. After all, you may not be able to just run down to your local Wal-Mart or Target in Korea and pick up something you forgot. However, it’s unlikely that anything will be that hard to get. Most of the necessities are easily available for purchase.
Let’s go over what to pack for Korea to make your time abroad much more enjoyable.
The shirt sizes in Korea go up to about a size “Large”. If you wear anything past that, you’ll probably want to pack some clothes from home. Korean and Asian sizes in general are a bit smaller. This is especially true when it comes to shoes. You can usually find men’s shoes up to 285mm (10.5 US) and women’s shoes up to 270 mm (10 US). Shoes are very important in Korea since you will be walking A LOT. Walking everywhere will wear out your shoes much faster than you are currently used to.
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. This could possible be one of the best places you can reliably find clothing that is stylish and fits properly. If you’re a plus size in undergarments, make sure to pack those in your suitcase as well.
Something that became very obvious shortly after I arrived in Korea is that it truly has all four seasons. If you’re from an area of the world where t-shirts all year round are the norm, then you might quickly realize that you need to do some clothes shopping. If you are bigger than a size large, consider packing some thermals or warmer layers to keep you cozy in the Korean winters.
As far as toiletries go Korea is very reliable on these things. Unless you have an affinity for particular brands, most things you can get here very easily. However I would highly recommend bringing deodorant. It’s not as widely used as it is in other areas of the world, so you’ll usually have to buy it at international stores where it can be pricey.
If you have love for makeup, then you’ll be thrilled to find out that Korea is one of the cosmetic capitals of the world. Almost anything you desire in this department will be readily available. As a bonus, there will likely be many products that you have never seen or heard of before. It could be a fun adventure!
If you’re big on books, you might want to consider picking up an e-reader before you head over 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 a lot more comfortable.
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.
Speaking of space, most living arrangements in Korea are quite small. Stacking up books in the corner is just 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.
If you’re planning to use your mobile phone while you are 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. If you have to have the latest and greatest phone, you might find cellphones to be cheaper in your home country than Korea. All of the major brands are available, but the prices are often higher and require a two-year contract.
Also don’t forget to pack outlet adapters since Korea uses 220V outlets. Most modern electronics like laptops or cellphones will not require an electricity converter. Make sure you read the specs on your devices, but usually a simple prong adapter will do the trick. Be careful though, as many expats have been in for a surprise with their hair dryers and toaster ovens! Sparks and smoke can be a startling way to start off the morning.
Reminders of Home
As with any long-term trip you have to remember to pack things that will remind you of home. 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 extremely happy you brought them.
Something that might not come quickly to mind is spices or nonperishable foods. Spices and seasonings from your home country will likely not be readily available here in Korea. This is something that 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. Thankfully, sites like iHerb are making it really 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 what you’ll see is processed single-wrapped slices. Thankfully, Costco has come to the rescue with massive selections of cheeses from all over the world.
If you have any kind of prescription, bring as much of it as you can. Depending on what it is, it might not be available at all here in Korea. However, the medical system in Korea is quite advanced, so it’s likely you will be able to get you a Korean equivalent of what you need if you did not pack enough.
If you catch a cold 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.
Most of what you need to familiarize yourself with Korea is available on the Internet. You may want to brush up on your Korean before you get here, or at least learn a few of the basic phrases. The Korean alphabet can be learned in about one hour!
One of the major complaints that expats have about products in Korea is in relation to sheets and pillowcases. The bedding quality here is different than in many other countries. Buying nice sheets can be expensive at department stores in Korea. Towels also fall into this category. Thankfully, stores like the Arrival Store make it easy to get quality bath and bedding delivered to your apartment in Korea. It’s probably not the best use of your luggage space to bring a set of queen size sheets with you. However, figure out what your priorities are and make your decision from there.
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.
As you can see packing for Korea may be a bit different than the trips you’re used to taking, but it’s very manageable. Thanks to the increasing availability of international goods, it’s becoming easier and easier to make Korea feel like your home away from home.
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