Visiting a friend in Korea can be one of the most interesting cultural experiences you’ll ever have. Korea is a country where beautiful traditional Buddhist temples cohabitate with skyscrapers on every corner. A country where there’s a little something for almost everyone, it’s a great destination to choose for a week away or maybe even a year abroad. Stumped on what to pack? Here’s a list of some helpful – and a little unconventional – packing items you should include in your suitcase before you go:
1. Good Hiking Shoes
Korea is filled with hills and mountains and many of them are dotted with some of the most beautiful Buddhist temples you’ve ever seen. Aside from the mountains, the place is overrun with national parks with breathtaking scenery. Even just a trip to Seoul can include some hiking so bring the boots with you, especially if you have average-to-big sized feet. They’ll come in handy.
2. Cotton bedding
If you can find the room to bring a few flat sheets or fitted sheets and pillowcases with you, definitely do it. Cotton bed sheets are incredibly expensive in Korea, and they are not plentiful. Keep in mind that you will end up paying upward of 40-50 USD for a cotton flat sheet at Lotte Department stores. It’s also worth checking the size of your bed, because the two default sizes in Korea are super single or queen.
For some reason, deodorant is incredibly expensive in Korea. I’ve been told the locals don’t really need it, so they don’t use it which makes it more of a novelty to buy. Expect to pay upward of 5 dollars (or 5000 Korean Won) or more per stick for the stuff. If you’re coming for an extended stay or visiting someone who might need some, bring it along in bulk!
4. Tampons and condoms
Depending on your gender and your needs, you may not find yourself needing either of these items, but both are hard to find in Korea. Smaller towns will not carry tampons and they’re expensive in larger city centers. It’s also difficult to find the same sizes and brands of condoms as you would back home – if you have any doubts, pack some in before your trip.
5. A gift for your host
A polite and courteous way to start your trip in Korea includes bringing a small gift for your host. If you’re planning on working here, then a gift for your boss will be well received and should boost your ‘face’ value or standing in the eyes of your host. Anything unique to your home country would be suitable, like maple syrup, special cheeses or teas, or anything with peanut butter and chocolate in combination. Reese’s peanut butter cups are scarce here.
6. Ranch salad dressing
Once you get to Korea, Subway will be the only place you can find this, and it tastes nothing at all like what you’re expecting. Costco doesn’t even have it, so if it’s something you enjoy or something you can’t live without, consider bringing it.
7. Bigger sized bath towels
This is another thing to consider depending on the length of your stay. These are mighty hard to find and incredibly expensive when you do locate them. Drying yourself off with a hand towel is more of the norm in Korea, so bring along your own plush bath towel from home.
8. Plus sized everything
If you are over 5’5”, or above a size 8 in clothing (or in shoe) bring everything you think you might need, as plus sized items are tricky to nail down. Major cities like Seoul have a decent selection in the foreign districts (Itaewon), and there is always Gmarket (an online haven for purchases), but it’s pot luck when it comes to finding something that fits.
9. Your favorite brands of hair dye (especially if you are a bottle blonde)
You can find hair dye in Korea in colors like black, dark reds and some medium browns. If you wish to dye your hair any other color (and are not a fan of potentially expensive salon prices- up to $125 in Seoul) bring enough dye to last you for your trip. Relying on salons that have no experience dying non-Korean hair can sometimes leave you with disastrous consequences, like an orange head or crispy ends from over processing.
Have you been to Korea? Why not see how much of the language you picked up with our free Korean level test? If there are any other packing items you would recommend, tell us in the comments below!