Hey there, fellow adventurer! So, you’ve made the bold decision to pack up and jet off to South Korea for a year-long adventure. Before you start envisioning all the bibimbap and K-pop concerts awaiting you, let’s talk about the essentials you’ll need to bring along for the ride.

When I embarked on my own South Korean escapade, I thought I had it all figured out. Two checked bags, a carry-on bursting with vacuum-sealed clothes – I was ready to conquer Seoul with my entire wardrobe in tow. But little did I know, South Korea had a shopping scene that would make any fashionista weak at the knees.

So, here’s the lowdown on what you really need to pack:

  1. Starter Outfits and Lounge Wear: Bring along a few outfits to kickstart your South Korean journey, especially if you’re headed straight to work. Don’t forget some comfy lounge clothes for those lazy weekends. But trust me, save your money for the shopping extravaganza awaiting you in your new city.
  2. Universal Converters: Your electronic devices and hair styling tools will need some love too. Pack more than one universal converter to keep your gadgets juiced up and ready to capture every moment of your adventure.
  3. Travel-sized Toiletries: Leave those bulky shampoo bottles behind. South Korea’s got you covered with an array of skincare and beauty products that’ll make your head spin. Embrace the local brands and indulge in some K-beauty magic.
  4. Face Makeup- I had no idea how limited the shade range would be in Korea. Every time I went to Olive Young, I came out looking a little bit like a mime:/ I found myself going into Chicor (western makeup store) way too often. I recommend bringing a few foundations in your shade from home! 
  5. Self Tan- If you are a self tan enthusiast, definitely bring a few bottles from home because you will not be able to find it in Korea.
  6. Heat Protectant- If you are someone who frequently uses heat styling on your hair, I would recommend bringing a couple bottles of heat protectant from home. I was not able to find any the entire time I lived in Korea. 
  7. Deodorant Stockpile: Now, here’s a pro tip – bring along a stash of your favorite deodorant. While Koreans seem to possess a magical anti-body odor gene, us mere mortals might need a little extra help staying fresh. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
  8. Towels: Don’t underestimate the power of a good bath towel. In a land where bath towels resemble hand towels, having a couple of full-sized towels from home will feel like a luxurious embrace after a refreshing shower.
  9. Consider Your Size: If you’re taller than 5’9″ or larger than a medium US size, you might find it challenging to shop for clothes in South Korea. The “free size” trend, which typically fits S/M, dominates the fashion scene. Consider investing in vacuum seal packs from Amazon for your larger-sized clothing items to ensure you have options that fit comfortably. Also if you have a foot larger than a US womens 8 or US mens 9 you might want to bring a few extra shoes with you! Luckily, I decided to bring a carry-on roller full of my favorite shoes.

And here’s what you can leave behind:

  1. Tampons: Contrary to popular belief, South Korea does have tampons. I am not sure if this is a new development, but I never had an issue finding any.  Save yourself the suitcase space and rest assured that you’ll find all your feminine hygiene needs catered to.
  2. Tons of Cosmetics: When I went to Korea I brought a ton of eyeshadow, mascara and blush. I ended up throwing it all away and buying new products from Olive Young. The products are so cheap and of great quality in Korea. Save the space in your luggage. 
  3. Birth Control- Birth Control: If you’re on hormonal birth control, consider leaving your stockpile at home. Surprisingly, the contraceptive pill is available over the counter in South Korea, offering a convenient solution for those in need. You’ll find a variety of brands to choose from, and the best part? It’s often much cheaper than what you’d pay back home. Simply visit any pharmacy and ask the pharmacist for the contraceptive pill. Don’t worry if you’re nervous about the language barrier – a quick Google Images search for the product can help you communicate your needs effectively. So, save space in your luggage and rest assured knowing that reproductive health care is readily accessible during your South Korean adventure.

So, there you have it – the ultimate packing guide for your South Korean adventure. Embrace the unknown, dive headfirst into the vibrant culture, and get ready to make memories that’ll last a lifetime. Who knows, maybe you’ll return home with a whole new fashion sense and a suitcase filled with treasures from the streets of Seoul. Safe travels, fellow explorer!