You’re travelling to South Korea? Amazing! Wait, you’re moving to South Korea? Even better! You’re going to have a tonne of awesome new experiences and it’s going to be an absolute blast.
You’ve probably already been thinking about all the exciting things you’ll see, do and eat in this exciting country. But have you considered what to pack for Korea? This is something that’s equally important (if a little less exciting) to think about.
South Korea is a very modern and largely Westernised country, so finding most home comforts isn’t too difficult. However, there are some things that are difficult to find, not quite the same as what you get at home, or just too damn expensive to buy when you’re over there. These are the things you’ll definitely want to bring from home instead.
“Which things?”, you ask. Read on, my friend. I’ve got your back.
Here’s what to pack for Korea.
No matter how long or short you stay in Korea will be, you’re going to need to brush your teeth. And the thing about Korea toothpaste is that it’s… weird. The flavours are unusual and many Korean toothpastes don’t have fluoride, which makes me think they’re not working as well either.
Avoid any tooth-related stress by bringing your favourite brands from home.
2) Herbs and spices
If you’re planning on doing any cooking or baking while you’re in Korea, you might want to bring some of your favourite herbs and spices over. While some seasonings like basil and black pepper are becoming more readily available, it’s still difficult to find spices like paprika, cumin or curry powder in the normal supermarkets.
Ensure your home-cooked dishes continue to taste amazing by taking your own herby supplies.
Painkillers are available in Korea, but they’re often more expensive. If you’re from the UK like me, stock up on those fab 22p packs of paracetamol so you never have to wince while spending 10,000₩ (£7/$8) on a pack of pills from a convenience store in Korea.
4) Full sized towels
Of course, you can buy towels in Korea, but they’re often very small. You will struggle to find those lovely big fluffy ones that you lounge around the house in after a nice hot shower. Those are the towels you’ll want to bring with you.
If you have any curves/boobs/meat on your bones, you may want to bring enough clothes to see you through your stay. Korea is famous for its popping fashion scene, but not for its body inclusivity. It can be difficult to find clothes that fit anyone other than very slim people.
The situation is improving as more Western shops like H&M and Zara pop up in the cities, but it’s probably best to bring enough clothes for your stay just to be safe.
Similarly, if your feet are bigger than the Korean average, you will struggle to find shoes in your size. There is no exact cut off for which sizes will be stocked, but anything over women’s UK size 7 (US size 7.5) and men’s size 9 (US size 9.5) will likely be scarce.
My partner has UK size 11 feet (US 11.5) and he couldn’t find anything close to fitting. The shop workers were always quite amused when we even asked!
Ladies, listen up! Tampons are not popular at all in Korea. It’s becoming a little easier to get hold of them, but they are a lot more expensive and I haven’t had the best experiences with Korean brands. If you use them, tampons should be at the very top of your list of what to pack for Korea.
The plug type used in Korea is the same as that used in most of Europe, which is handy if you’re coming from there. If not, you’ll need to stock up on adaptors before heading over to Korea. It’s easier to find and cheaper to buy these in your home country. You can never have too many!
Depending on which country you’re coming from, you may also need a converter. Find out more here.
You might be surprised to hear that Koreans don’t really sweat. It’s genetic, and it’s a real blessing for many.
Because of this, deodorant is not that popular. Sure, you can find it in the larger supermarkets, but there’s nothing like the selection you might be used to at home. And, of course, it’s much more expensive.
When you’re considering what to pack for Korea, deodorant must not be forgotten!
You might not expect to see makeup on a list of what to pack for Korea, considering how famous the country is for its fantastic skincare, beauty and makeup products. Certainly, you’ll have loads of fun shopping for unique creams, face masks, serums and makeup in Korea.
However, it is all tailored to light Korean skin, and many products are designed to make that skin look even lighter. That makes for a lot of pale foundations and concealers, some of which also have whitening products in. Yikes.
If you have darker skin, or are generally picky with your makeup brands, it might be worth packing some of your favourite products for your trip to Korea.
11) Your favourite home comforts
Lastly, when you’re considering what to pack for Korea, don’t forget to bring your absolute favourite home comforts. Moving overseas is a big step and it’s always important to take things that remind you of home.
A handful of your favourite chocolate bars, a bottle of your favourite hot sauce: take whatever it is that makes you feel most at home. You won’t regret it!
What to pack for Korea
These are the items I couldn’t live without in Korea, but there might be other essentials you can’t come by easily there too. Let me know if there’s anything I missed in the comments below!
Want to know more? Check out my other posts about travelling and living in South Korea here.