Whether you are traveling to South Korea as a tourist or planning to move there, here are some of the few essentials I think you will need for your Korea packing list. I have been living in South Korea for the last year and have endured every single climate for the year. This is my ultimate Korea packing list and what to wear in Korea which is perfect for whoever you may be.
Korea Packing List | For Tourists and Long Term Residents
Some of your Korea packing list essentials for your trip.
Korea Packing List Essentials
- Passport – Obviously this is mandatory to travel in a country abroad.
- Visa – Be sure to check your country’s visa policy for visiting South Korea. Additionally, if you happen to be moving from another country to South Korea, be sure to have the necessary working, student, or resident visa prior to arrival.
- Credit Cards, Debit Cards, and Cash – Don’t forget these essentials!
- Flight Tickets – Make sure you have these printed or as a save image on your phone. You can’t always rely on wifi to access this information.
- Train Tickets – Make sure you have these printed or as a save image on your phone. You can’t always rely on wifi to access this information.
- Hotel Reservations – Make sure you have these printed or as a save image on your phone. You can’t always rely on wifi to access this information. It’s necessary to have the address for where you will be staying, make sure to have that handy for the customs form.
- Travel Insurance – I prefer getting travel insurance for an ease of mind. You never know what will happen where you travel to. I suggest you get the Allianz annual travel insurance which is great for the entire year.
- Personal Medication – Pack any of the medications that you need for yourself. Pharmacies are widely available in South Korea, however, they may not have what you are looking for. For example, many cold medicines require seeing a doctor for a prescription.
Electronics to add to your Korea packing list
- Unlocked Phone and sim card – You need to make sure you have your phone unlocked by your provider back home. Phones in Korea are only used via a sim card, so many sure that your phone uses a sim card. You can easily pick up a sim card at the airport.
- Plug converters and adapters – The standard voltage in South Korea is 220 volts and 60Hz. South Korea uses typically uses the Plug Type C with the 2 rounded prongs.
- Camera – I’m assuming you didn’t fly all the way to Korea to not photograph your vacation.
- Powerbank – This is crucial since using the subway maps and apps are important to getting around in Korea. A power bank will help you stay connected and with enough power and juice to finish your plans for the day. If you don’t have one or your power bank is dead, try to stop in a local cafe and charge your battery there, just make sure you have your adapter and plug available.
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- Naver Maps – Google Maps does not work in Korea typically, so it’s important that you download this app. It will tell you which public transportation to take to get to your destination as well. I suggest you download this before you leave and have the settings set to English.
- Kakao Subway – If you just want to know which subway to take, this will be your best best. It’s the easiest one to navigate and there is an English option as well.
- Kakao Bus – Just like the subway app, except this will be used for the buses in Korea.
- Papago Translator – You can use google translate if you would like, however, most ex-pats find that Papago translator to be more accurate than google translate.
Luggage and Accessories
- Backpack or Day Pack – You will be doing a lot of walking around in Korea and it can be annoying and frustrating to carry around bags of stuff. So I suggest you bring a lightweight backpack where you can stash some of your souvenirs or things you would like to buy.
- Packing Cubes – I find these super useful when trying to find things within my bags.
Packing List for Korea | What to wear in Korea for Spring
- Light jacket or sweater
- Dresses or Skirts
- Pants or Jeans
- Sneakers or closed shoes
- Face mask (you can purchase one in Korea) – There is yellow dust usually during the spring months so if you are sensitive I suggest you use a facemask and check the air quality daily.
Weather in Korea in Spring
Spring is one of my favorite times of the year in Korea. There are so many beautiful cherry blossoms, the weather is not too hot and not too cold which makes it perfect to walk around in. These are some of the most important things for your Korea packing list for spring.
The average temperature in Seoul is around 17°C/63°F. However, the fine dust can sometimes be a problem for many to walk around in.
Packing List for Korea | What to wear in Korea for Summer
- Waterproof shoes or sandals
- Compact Umbrella – Be sure to keep this in your backpack because the weather can be unpredictable. It may say it won’t rain and then all of a sudden you are stuck in a huge downpour.
- Dresses or Skirts
- Electric Fan
Weather in Korea in Summer
Summer in Korea can be brutal from very hot and humid temperatures and the wet and rainy season from the incoming monsoons. Summer is not a season I recommend people visit, but I understand that it may be the only time people can get off. These are some of the most important things for your Korea packing list for Summer.
The average temperature in Seoul is 25℃/75°F during the daytime with a high percentage of humidity.
Packing List for Korea | What to wear in Korea for Fall
- Long sleeve tops
- Light Jacket
- Boots or sneakers
Weather in Korea in Fall
Fall is my favorite season in Korea. The weather is absolutely perfect, it’s not as crowded or crazy, the weather is just starting to cool down from the hot summer months. Depending on when you are traveling there are a few of the essentials. These are some of the most important things for your Korea packing list for Fall.
The average temperature in Seoul ranges is 20°C/68°F.
Packing List for Korea | What to wear in Korea for Winter
- Long Padding Down Lined Jacket or Puffer Jacket – This is a must-have for your Korea packing list.
- Long johns or thermals to wear underpants
- Long sleeve shirts
- Thick sweaters
- Jeans or thick pants
- Thick or woolen socks
- Boots or warm shoes
- Warm Hat
Weather in Korea in Winter
Korea has some pretty harsh winter temperatures. It can be fairly cold, however, with these tips you can make the best of your trip. It snows in some parts of Korea, so waterproof shoes may be an option, however, in the major cities, snow is very rare and usually only a little bit until it melts. These are some of the most important things for your Korea packing list for winter. What really makes Korea so cold is the wind chill factor, so don’t trust what the temperatures say.
The average temperature in Seoul ranges is -2.4°C/27 °F. It is a little warmer in areas like Busan but can still be very cold.
Where to buy winter clothes in Seoul
If you forget to add some winter essentials to your Korea packing list, there are a lot of places you can find winter clothes in Korea. One of the most popular places to go would be to visit one of the Starfield malls in Korea. If you are looking for some cheap or affordable jackets, I would suggest you visit a Uniqlo, SPAO, or H&M.
Long Term Korea Packing List for Expats, Teachers, and more
This Korea packing list below is for those looking to move to Korea long term either as an English teacher, student, or other reasons. Here are some of the things I wish I had packed.
Documents needed for your Korea packing list
- EPIK Contract – Assuming you are moving abroad because you got a job teaching English in South Korea. Bring all the documents required by EPIK or your school.
- Colored Copy of Passport – I always suggest people have an extra copy of their passport for personal reasons. I like to keep a copy in my google drive in case of emergencies like a stolen or lost passport.
- Copy of SSN Card – unless you don’t have anywhere to store it, then plan to bring it with you.
- Extra Passport Photos – You will need the extra passport photos to use for your new ARC card and application to the immigration office.
- International Driver’s License – If you plan on renting a car or driving in South Korea, I suggest you get an international driver’s license to help you get around.
- Allianz Travel Insurance – Annual Plan – You may not have insurance for the first month, while in Korea, I suggest you purchase Allianz Travel Insurance plan for emergency issues. This plan covers you for the whole year and while traveling to other countries as well.
- Travel Credit Card – For Emergencies only. You may have a difficult time getting a credit card in Korea or it may not be available at all. I suggest you have one for emergencies. You’ll have to make sure you keep your American Bank available abroad so you can make payments on it. Make sure your credit card doesn’t charge extra for foreign purchases.
- Phrasebook or Guidebook – Although, I may not recommend bringing this because there are so many apps available. Additionally, if you are staying here long term, it will be best to buy the book at a local book store like Kyobo where you can easily find several Korean language books.
- Birth Control – First few month’s worths, unless you can only use a certain brand then try and get as much as possible from your Doctor. You can easily find affordable and cheap birth control over the counter at any Pharmacy. Look for 역, those are the pharmacies.
- Cold Medicine – Products like Nyquil or Mucinex are not available here. Many people have stated that Korean Cold Medicine doesn’t do it for them. I found medicine to be fine for me here, so this is a personal preference.
- Vitamins – Vitamins can be expensive and hard to find. Bring your favorites if necessary.
- Photos of Family and Friends – Make your place feel like home with some photos of family and friends. Nothing says a bachelor pad rather than something without a personal touch.
- Deodorant – Deodorant is expensive in Korea and is usually not in the brand you like. The deodorant can be weaker in strength and can be difficult to find in Korea. This might be a necessity for your Korea packing list if it’s something you can’t live without.
- Tampons or Menstrual Cup – Tampons have been easier to find recently, however, I made the change to a menstrual cup years ago. It’s better for the environment and I just find tampons are not everywhere when I traveled. You can, however, easily find pads available everywhere in Korea. If you can not live without tampons, try to pack as much in your Korea packing list.
- Fluoride Toothpaste – Most toothpaste in Korea is not fluoride and have interesting flavors. I did not bring toothpaste here, I have found some that do include fluoride and have similar flavors. So this is a personal preference.
- Makeup Foundation – If you have darker skin tones, I suggest you bring anything from foundation to concealer for darker skins. This would be a must to have in your Korea packing list. Koreans are very fair-skinned and it can be hard to find the right color for you. When it comes to other makeup from eyeshadows to eyeliners, that is all available and affordable here. I wouldn’t suggest bringing those unless you have some favorite staples. Makeup stores like MAC, NARS and more are available here.
- Travel Size Toiletries – During orientation, you will need your own supply of shampoo, conditioners, etc. It won’t be until you are at your apartment that you will be able to purchase your full sizes.
- Body Spray – Body Spray can be expensive and harder to find in Korea. It’s been easy to find perfume, but sometimes you don’t want something so strong.
Clothing to include in your Korea packing list
- Underwear – If you are bigger than a large, it may be more difficult to find underwear in your size.
- Bras – If you are bigger than C cup, you will have a difficult time finding bras that will fit here. This was a must for my Korea packing list, however, there are some bra shops in Hongdae I heard that are good.
- Clothes – Bigger than Size 6 are difficult to find and appropriate for all 4 seasons
- Shoes – Especially if you are bigger than size US 8.5, these sizes are limited and harder to find in Korea.
- Dresses – I swear by these for school. It’s literally the easiest thing to wear to school without thinking about it.
- Long padding down jacket – I’ve said this before, but being plus size can be hard to find clothing in South Korea. The Long padding jacket or winter coat to keep you warm is definitely a difficult thing to find. I highly suggest you buy one and bring it over before your flight.
What clothes to exclude from your Korea packing list
- Dress pants for women – I found it a complete waste to bring dress pants unless you feel more comfortable in them, but many of the schools allow you to wear jeans. Additionally, I found myself wearing more dresses and leggings rather than pants. Korean women like to be more dressed up in dresses, skirts, and blouses.
- Full-on suit for men – While maybe this is a hit or miss, if you plan on wearing a suit every day, I don’t see the necessity of it. However, if you happen to be invited to a Korean wedding, then maybe the suit is necessary. You can easily get a custom-tailored suit in Korea as well. So this is more options for you and your style.
- VPN Express – So if you want to keep up with your shows abroad on streaming services like HBO Go or Hulu, a VPN is required. Netflix is available here, however, it will be the Korean version. Most shows and movies are available, but if you want to stream the US version, definitely get a VPN. If you sign up here, you can get 30 days free.
- Camera – You don’t have to buy a camera before you go. However, if you do want a camera, electronics abroad are more expensive than in the US. This is because the US is a high consumer country which means a lot of the times, we have better deals based on higher amounts of purchases.
- Laptop – Same as above with cameras, you can save more money bringing your own or updating your laptop before leaving.
- External Hard Drive
- Unlocked Phone
- Plug Adapters
- Google Play Movies – I knew I couldn’t live without my favorite movies and DVDs so I started building my digital and online collection. Google Play Movies was my favorite because I can download them to my device, stream them online or easy stream them from my phone or tablet.
- Others – If you have an electronic item you want to bring, just make sure that your electronics are compatible to be used abroad. For example, in the US, we used 110V, so a lot of products like hair dryers or straighteners may not be compatible. Be sure to check the voltage on the cord it should say 110-220.
This might be a necessity for your Korea packing list for those of you who want certain comfort foods you can not get in Korea.
- Pack your favorite seasonings – Meat is not allowed, so obviously, bring your favorite seasonings with you. Check iherb.com to see if you can purchase it online to ship to Korea.
- Favorite Hot Sauce – Tapatio is not available, however, I have seen Chalula at Lotte Mart
- Favorite Candy or Sweet – Snickers, Kitkats, Sour Gummy Worms, Hershey’s, Oreos, Nutella, and more are available here. However, there may be some you can not find here.
- Favorite Chips – The only American brand chips I have found in Korea are Sun, Cheetos, and Lays. I really miss some baked or kettle-style chips and in salt and vinegar.
Miscellaneous things for your Korea packing list
- Reusable Air Mask – Korea’s air quality is quite bad and it kind of bothers me to purchase a single-use face mask that lasts maybe a day or 2. So I figure to save money and be a little more stylish on those bad air days, you should get a reusable air mask. Make sure it can handle fine dust and is at least an N94.
Websites to know for South Korea
- iHerb.com – Great for ordering any seasoning of your choice.
- Coupang – This is pretty much like the Amazon for Korea. You can get a lot of things delivered easily the next day. This has been a lifesaver for most of us abroad in Korea.
- GMarket – Similar to Coupang.
- Romi Story – A women’s Korean clothing store perfect for those of you who are plus-sized.
- KorShare – If you came to Korea to teach English, well Korshare is perfect to get some of those free resources to help you within the classroom including games and lesson plans. Since it is free, it can be quite limited.
- Waygook – Another English teaching resource. I actually prefer the resources on Waygook more than Korshare. However, the site is free to read, but in order to download the lesson plans or activities, it does cost a small $20 annual fee. I highly recommend this.
Apps to Know for South Korea
- 배달의민족 – This is a food delivery app that delivers food in your location.
- 해피포인트 – This is a popular point card system that works for many stores like Paris Baguette and Baskin Robbins.
- Kakao Talk – This is a typical messaging app in South Korea and is very common. Most people use this app to communicate with locals or other ex-pats living in Korea.
- Kakao Taxi – This is like Uber for South Korea. You need to have a Kakao talk id in order to use the app. You don’t need to set it up to use your card, you can easily change the payment to pay to the driver. Easily request a taxi driver to and from your destination.
- Kakao Bus – This app is for intercity buses.
- Kakao Metro – This app is for intercity subways.
- Kakao Map
- Naver Map
- Papago – If you need help with translation, the Papago app is the best app for English to Korean translation. Google translate does pretty well, however, Papago is highly used in Korea.
- KTX – For long distances, you can easily take the KTX to major cities and areas. I highly suggest you download this app for easy access.
- 고속버스모바일 – To take your to areas outside of the major cities or even to large major cities, you can take the long-distance buses.
- Air Visual – You will need to know what the air quality if like in South Korea. We have to worry about air quality during the winter and spring months. It’s important to check this app before leaving the house so that you can wear an air mask on these days.
Korea Packing List | What not to wear in South Korea
Well, Korea is a fairly conservative country but still pretty advanced. While it may be okay to wear mini skirts with almost your butt exposed in Korea, it is not okay to show cleavage or shoulders, especially in the workplace. For your Korea packing list as a tourist or foreigner, you can dress however you want, but expect to get some stares and them not to be apologetic either.
Some younger Koreans do wear bikinis, however, it can be seen as provocative so keep in caution you might get stared at yet again if you are out there in a bikini. In my case, I rock the bikini anyways.
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