What to Pack for Korea

What to Pack for Korea

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Curious about what to pack for Korea? You might be packing for a trip, or to move here for a while.

Either way, we’ve got you covered!

With a bit of foresight and preparation, you’ll be sure to make your trip to Korea a smooth and memorable one. You’ll be thanking yourself for tackling this question beforehand.

Luggage on a blue background for travel It may seem like a daunting task to prepare for a trip out to Korea, but it’s easier than you think. We’ll give you the South Korea packing tips you need to make your trip a success.

Skip to the parts that apply to you, or read everything below to become an expert on what to pack for Korea!

What to Pack for Travel to Korea

We’ll break this down into essential, optional, and leave-at-home items. 

Essential Items for Packing

Here are the things that you’ll likely want to bring with you if you’re traveling to Korea. This will be useful for you if you’re moving to Korea or just taking a short trip.

Packing for Korea

If you’re moving to Korea, then continue reading past this list for a more in-depth look at what you should bring and what you can get here.

Here’s are the essentials of what to pack for Korea:

  • Passport: You can’t get far without it. You might also get a passport case to keep your book looking like new.
  • Credit Cards/Debit Cards: Almost every place (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. 
  • Electrical plug adapter: Make sure to 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 the credit card. Here is a popular service for travel medical insurance.
  • Medication: The pharmacies in Korea are fantastic, but bring prescription meds.
  • Unlocked phone: Some companies require you to put in a special request for this. You can see SIM card and data rates here

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. 

Non Essential Items to Pack

Here are the non-essentials for what to pack for Korea (things you may want to add to your list):

  • Swimsuit: Depending on when you come, you may not be able to buy them here. Often times they stop selling them the last few weeks of summer. 
  • International drivers license: Useful 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 really nice to hang in the bathroom when you’re traveling.
  • Towels: People often use smaller towels here, so you may want to bring one.  
  • Bed sheets: 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 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.

What you should not pack for Korea

Here are some things you should leave at home:

  • Makeup: There are plenty of stores on every street.
  • Shampoo: Easy to find at Olive Young, Watsons, convenience stores, etc.
  • Soap: Lots of options, plus some premium soap shops like Lush and Body Shop. 
  • Hair dryer: You may need a power converter, so easier to just 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.

If you’re not sure of what you can find here, try searching on Coupang or GMarket. Chances are you can have it delivered to wherever you are staying . Keep in mind you may need a Korean to help you order depending on where you are staying, 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 really depends on how long you are staying and what kind of experience you want to have while you’re here. 

If you have any specific questions, let us know in the comments below!

Clothing

Korean 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 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 harder time finding your size here. In that case, pack a bit more from home.  Here are Korean clothing sizes for men:

Men’s clothingSMLXLXXL
Chest (cm)90~9595~100100~105105~110110+
Waist (inch)30/3233/3434/3636/3838/40

  Here are Korean clothing sizes for women:

Women’s clothingSMLXLXXL
Korea-Chest (cm)859095100105
Korea4455667788
U.S.A.0/13/57/911/1315/17
Italy3638~4042~4446~4850~52

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

You can find shoes in Korea 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 ahead. Shoes are very important in Korea since you will be walking A LOT, and you want to be comfortable so you don’t have to stop your day early.

Korea to US shoe size for men:

Korea (mm)250255260265270275280285290295
U.S.A.7.588.599.51010.51111.512

American shoe size to Korean for women:

Korea (mm)220225230235240245250255260265270
U.S.A.55.566.577.588.599.510
Italy35.53636.53737.53838.53939.54040.5

Walking everywhere 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!

Shopping for the 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 possibly be one of the best places you can reliably find clothing that is stylish and fits properly, so be sure to check it out if you need to augment your wardrobe while you’re abroad. There’s a number of great places to shop in Seoul so you’re not out of luck if you forgot your favorite top.

Online shopping in Korea

Thankfully, Amazon now ships to Korea. This makes life a whole lot easier for ordering clothing and shoes you need. The shipping fee is reasonable, and it arrives fairly quickly.

You can also shop on Korean sites like Gmarket and Coupang. Knowing the Korean alphabet and how to use a Korean dictionary will help tremendously.

Plus Size Clothing

If you’re a plus size in undergarments, make sure to pack those in your suitcase as well, for the same reasons listed above. Koreans on average are physically smaller than people of most other countries, so not all sizes can be found. 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 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 be sure to pack accordingly!

Winter Weather Gear

Korea can get quite cold (-10 °C | 14 °F), especially when there are strong winds. If you’re from an area of the world 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 gear, and they’ve got stores all over Korea. Their heat tech inner wear comes in a few different various of thickness 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

Korea can get fairly 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 call Airism. 

If you plan on hitting the pools or beaches, remember to 

Personal Items

Toiletries

As far as toiletries go, Korea is very reliable when it comes to 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 easily if you simply need to pick up a new bottle of shampoo or a new tube of toothpaste.

Deodorant

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 your deodorant at international stores where it can be pricey. 

Buy deodorant for your trip to Korea since they may not have what you're looking for

If purchasing a stick of deodorant 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 have love for makeup, then 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 anything you desire in this department will be readily available. 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.

People shopping for makeup and cosmetics in Korea

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 that 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!

Prescription medicine

If you have any kind of prescription, bring as much of it as you can – better safe than sorry! Depending on what it is, it might not be available at all here in Korea, and you don’t want to have 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 you a Korean equivalent of what you need if you did not pack enough, so fear not.

A person with a pill bottle in one hand and pills in the other

Over the Counter Medicine

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. The packaging may look a little bit 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 in relation to sheets and pillowcases. The bedding quality here is different than in many other countries, and it can take some getting used to. Buying nice sheets can be expensive at department stores in Korea.

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.

Buy comfortable sheets for Korea

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 with you. However, figure out what your priorities are and make your decision from there – there’s nothing wrong with needing to be your own version of comfortable in order to fall asleep!

Korean Phrase Books

It definitely pays to invest 60 minutes of your time to learn the Korean alphabet. Your pronunciation will be much better and you’ll be able to read menus and signs while you’re here. 

You can download a free PDF with basic phrases to make conversation easier. You can use this as part of your overall Korean language learning plan

We also 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 have to remember to pack things that will 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 extremely happy 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 at the major tourist areas like Myeongdong and Insadong.

Electronics

Mobile Phones & Smartphones

You should get a SIM card if you're going to go to KoreaIf 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 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 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.

Plug Adapters and Outlets

Korea uses a different style outlet plug than many other countries, so make sure you pack at least one plug adapter. Most electronics, such as mobile phones and laptops, will work without needing a power converter (more on that below).

Bring travel adapters to Korea

Power Converters

Korea uses 220V outlets. Most common modern electronics will not require an electricity converter. Make sure you read the specs on your devices, but usually a simple plug prong adapter will do the trick. You likely aren’t going to need these unless you’re bringing specific items like a toaster or a hair dryer. 

Power Banks

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 convenient 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, paying 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, there are also computer cafes you can use 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 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. More likely than not, your flight will be a long one 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 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.

Camera Equipment

While you’re in Korea, you’re going to be spending time in a beautiful country with photo opportunities everywhere you look. Whether you enjoy taking pictures of natural landscapes, interesting people, or cityscapes, Korea has something for you!

If you’re a photography enthusiast, carefully 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 really 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 having to bother bringing a separate camera.

Use caution if you're going to take your camera with you to Korea

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 from your trip!

Can't read Korean yet? Click here to learn for free in about 60 minutes!

Luggage and Travel Gear

Luggages

Korea is quite dialed in for rolling luggages. People travel all around the country, so you’ll normally see them rolling luggages on the sidewalk or into the subway cars. If you have a 4-wheeled luggage, then you’ll have a slightly easier time. This is what I use, and it works great.

The larger buses all have storage below, and there are special luggage areas in the subway car. 

Backpacks

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 for when you eventually pack to return home. Or, alternatively, you can use your backpack as a carry-on bag to bring souvenirs back to your friends and family!

Food

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, especially if they’re obscure. 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.

If you have any must-have non-perishables or spices that you cook with on a regular basis, try to make room for them in your baggage. 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, so if you’re looking for some brie or some bleu cheese head over to Costco before you go anywhere else.

Supermarkets

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 any help with translations or finding something, 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 quite helpful. They’re easy to spot and can point you in the right direction.

Wrap-up

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 with a little bit of foresight. Thanks to the increasing availability of international goods all over the world, it’s becoming easier and easier to make Korea feel like your home away from home during your stay.

What items do you recommend packing for Korea? Be sure to let us know in the comments below if we’re missing anything!

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