Well, Korea is an ever changing country that keeps becoming more and more westernized. With that in mind, I’ve decided to make a helpful list of what you should and should not pack when planning to spend a year in Korea. I researched packing quite a bit before we came, but looking back I still would have made changes to the way we utilized our precious luggage space.
- Most Airline carriers allow two checked bags (max. 50 lbs.), one carry-on bag, and one personal item. Buy a digital luggage scale ($9) and utilize your space to the maximum potential. We packed our bags to 45-47lbs. (if you go over on the weight limit, you can be charged hefty fines) and we were just fine at the airport.
- Pack most of your heavy things (shampoo, deodorant, etc.) in your carry-on since there is not a weight limit with carry-on bags.
- Bring items that blend and match well. It’s best to stick to a few neutral colors and add items that complement them.
- Pack for all seasons, and keep in mind that Korea has a rainy season that lasts nearly a month. (Rain boots are bulky but your foot is a size 9 or larger, you will have a very difficult time finding any shoes. I had rain boots shipped over from the States.)
- Accessories are a great way to stretch your wardrobe, but only pack your favorites. You can find plenty of scarves, watches, and jewelry in Korea.
- Shoes. When packing shoes, keep in mind that you never wear shoes inside a home in Korea… or even many restaurants. This means that you will be taking your shoes on and off a lot. Slip on shoes are the way to go. Also, you want comfortable shoes… you’ll find that you do a lot of walking.
- Sheets. If you are coming as a couple, pack a set of queen size sheets (if coming by yourself, than pack a twin). Koreans only use a fitted sheet, finding a top sheet for your bed is impossible unless you want to spend $70 for a set at Costco.
- Bath Towels? Normal sized bath towels in Korea are equivalent to the size of hand towels in America. You can find larger towels but expect to pay at least $20 per towel. So if you have extra room than throw them in, but if not, you’ll be able to get decent sized ones in Korea.
- Deodorant. You can now find deodorant at some large supermarkets in Korea, but expect to pay about $10 for a stick of Old Spice.
- Tooth Paste. Korean tooth paste has a soapy after taste, and it’s not minty. We didn’t pack tooth paste and we regretted it. We were lucky enough to find Arm & Hammer toothpaste here, and I bought 4 tubes (I haven’t seen it since, so I wouldn’t bank on being able to find it).
- Tampons. Like many other items I listed, you can find them here, but you’ll pay a high price for them.
- Condoms. From what we’ve heard, western men will be more comfortable in western-sized condoms.
- Shampoo. If you have a sensitive scalp, I suggest you pack your own shampoo. They have Head & Shoulders ($15 for a medium sized bottle), and Pantene Pro-V ($15) but for some reason I’ve found that they make my hair extra oily.
Unnecessary Things to Pack
- Curling iron, hair dryer, etc. Not only is the power conversion a hassle, but in most cases it will end up ruining your item in a matter of months. These items can easily be purchased in Korea at reasonable prices.
- Addicted to French press coffee? Not to worry, you can find a regular sized French press at most local supermarkets for under $20.
- Pack in duffle/collapsable bags. Suitcases are bulky and they will take up a lot of precious space in your smallKorean apartment. (You can find large Army duffles at second handstores for next-to-nothing.)
- Before coming to Korea, look up Facebook pages for the area you are going to. Many times there will be local Facebook page for foreigners. Many foreigners will sell their stuff on these pages before leaving for Korea. Keep your eye out for items you can purchase from them that will save you luggage room. We live in the southern part of Korea the Facebook pages we use are: Geoje Teacher Group, Geoje Flea Market, and Teach ESL Korea.
- Other helpful websites for buying things in Korea are: http://koreabridge.net (a used classified and general information site for foreigners), http://english.gmarket.co.kr (Korea’s Ebay), and also iHerb, which ships to Korea.
- Interested in running in Korea? Check out the Facebook page “Waeguks Got Runs.” They have a list of all races being held in Korea, and helpful information on how to register, etc.
For those of you who are coming to Korea in the future, I hope this list is helpful and that you have a wonderful experience! For those of you who have already traveled to Korea, is there anything I left out, or things you think I should add?