After you’ve made the decision to move to Korea, now comes the hard part.
You may be wondering what to pack for Korea.
I’ve made the ultimate Korea packing list that will make life easier.
Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you use some of the links below, I get compensated. This does not cost the viewer anything.
Your South Korea packing list should have a variety of clothes; from shorts to a hefty winter jacket.
A friendly reminder that there are four seasons in South Korea, so all seasons should be on your list for what to pack for Korea.
The winters can get quite frosty and the summer can be blistering.
If you’re moving to Korea to teach English, you might be staying at an apartment that was owned by a previous teacher. If that is the case, you should make sure you ask your boss what items the apartment will and won’t already have.
For me, I can tell you with confidence that I overpacked when moving to South Korea so I can also tell you with confidence how to pack for Korea without breaking your suitcase as I did. TWICE.
Moving to Korea Checklist
1. Make sure your phone is unlocked
If you decide to cancel your phone plan before you go to Korea, you can port it to Number Barn or Google Voice.
You will be able to buy a SIM card at the airport or once you get settled in. If you decide to wait, I highly recommend going through Smartphone Solutions for Foreigners in Korea (LINK).
They will send you a SIM card.
You can also go through the carriers in Korea such as SK Telecom, KT, and LG U+.
Wifi is available anywhere and everywhere in South Korea so if you’d rather use Kakao on just Wifi, that might work for you too.
2. Korea Travel Insurance
If you’re moving to South Korea to be a teacher, you will more than likely have insurance through the Korean government or your school, but always double-check. If you’re just visiting Korea, I suggest investing in travel insurance.
3. Connect with People
You can join Reddit groups, Facebook groups, Internations, and even use Bumble BFF. You are bound to find other travelers or teachers that will help with your adjustment to the Korean lifestyle.
4. Get a VPN
Hola VPN is free. I have never tried it outside of the US. I’ve used Nord VPN before and it worked out great.
5. Get an IDP (International Driving Permit)
If you plan to drive in Korea, get an IDP. You can find more information on AAA.
You don’t need an IDP because Korea’s transit system is phenomenal. But, they are only USD 20 so it might be worth it and might also save you some time while you travel around the country or make day trips every now and then.
6. Learn some Korean phrases
Some apps that can be good for learning Korean are LingoDeer, Duolingo, and believe it or not TikTok is how I learned some basic phrases.
Follow jfromkorea on TikTok, he is great and really pronounces all of the words.
You can also watch YouTube videos.
Some common phrases to know are:
- Hi: annyeong-ha-seyo
- Nice to meet you: bunga-wo-yo
- Please: juse-yo
- Thank you: kam-sahamni-da
- Excuse me: jeogi-yo
- Sorry: joesong-hamnida
- Yes: ne
- No: ani-yo
- I don’t know: molla-yo
- Okay/no worries: gwaen-chan-ayo
- Help: dowa-juseyo
- Where is/ where are: oe-di-ye-yo
- Where are the toilets/Where is the bathroom: hwa-jang-sil eo-di-ye-yo
- How much: eol-ma-ye-yo
If you’re wondering What can I bring to Korea, check out this website.
But more importantly, do your own research as well. There are some things that can and can’t go into the country and this list may not be the same when you read this.
What to Pack for Korea
If you’re in South Korea because you’re teaching, then this should be the most important thing on your what to pack for Korea list.
You can always ask ahead what the school’s dress code is to be well-prepared.
At my school, I was able to wear jeans and a nice shirt with sneakers. I couldn’t show my tattoos and I have a tiny nose piercing that wasn’t a problem.
However, each school and language center is different and if you ask ahead of time, you will be able to save space (or pack something better).
- 3 pairs of jeans
- 1 skirt
- 2-3 tank tops
- 4 t-shirts
- 6-7 nice shirts for teaching
- 1-2 dresses
- 3 leggings
- 4-5 sports bras (If you’re like me and don’t wear underwire bras)
- 8 pairs of socks
- 8 pairs of underwear
- 1-2 Bathing suits
- Dansko hiking/waterproof shoes. These worked great for hiking and walking to school when it was raining
- 1 pair sandals
- 2 pairs of sneakers (I love Brooks and New Balance)
Note: If you have small feet, you will be able to find shoes all throughout the country. If you have a shoe size bigger than a US 7/8, bring all of your shoes. Or you can also shop online.
- Lipstick/Lip balm
- Medication that you need
- Headphones (Bluetooth/or AUX)
- Portable charger- this will save your life, especially if it’s mAh 20000. If you’re like the rest of Korea, you will be taking pictures everywhere you go so bring this thing with you and you won’t have to worry about your phone dying.
- Power adapter or converter. You can’t leave home without these (or at least one). Kidding, you can. Daiso and other convenience stores will have USB adapters.
- Speaker- it’s waterproof and doesn’t take up too much room
Note: South Korea uses a different type of plug than the US. In the US we use type A and B. Korea uses C and F, like Europe. Korea has a voltage of 220 V and 60 Hz while the US has 120 V and 60 Hz.
Your school will get you set up with a bank account but it would be smart to also bring your credit cards from home as well. You can also sign up for a Charles Schwab bank account to avoid foreign transaction fees when taking out money from ATMs.
- Credit Card
JetBlue and Chase Sapphire Preferred don’t have any foreign transaction fees.
These days, some banks have turned off the travel advisory and they will just notify you if they suspect something on your account.
You have to decorate your apartment. I mean, you’re most likely going to live there for at least a year so make it homey!
- Reusable water bottle
Again, I brought too many. I’ve always had this obsession with water bottles and I’m not sure why. But if you have a reusable one, bring it and save the world!
I recommend bringing some of your favorite snacks.
If you’re having a bad day, or even a good day, sometimes comfort food helps out.
If you don’t want to pack food, you can always have your friends/family send you a package. My mom sent me a box of Smartfood, hot Cheetos, ranch Doritos, and Hellmann’s mayonnaise.
On Gmarket, hellman’s was over USD 50!!!
Bring your daily vitamins or you can just get them delivered through iHerb (LINK).
Things I Wish I Brought to Korea
For me, I actually brought TOO MUCH to Korea. My packing list for Korea was over the top and figuring out what to pack for South Korea was overwhelming.
I brought too many clothes that I never used.
If you forget anything, your local Daiso will most likely have it. Homeplus is another great store, as well as an e-mart. You can always do some online shopping on Gmarket or Coupang.
What to Wear in South Korea
For me, I’m all about comfort. I prefer to be comfortable rather than look fashionable. You will see me wearing sneakers at the bar with leggings and a comfy shirt or a dress.
But you will ALWAYS find me in sneakers.
I threw out my underwired bras before moving to Korea and that’s the last I’ve seen of them.
I have always had some back problems and being comfortable has made my life that much easier.
In South Korea, you’ll see a ton of people wearing sneakers and wearing clothes that look comfortable but also fashionable which I loved because I’m a fan of sneakers and leggings.
In Korea, it’s not really acceptable to wear anything that shows cleavage or your shoulders.
It’s hard for us girls that sweat a lot or are busty because even a regular t-shirt can sometimes give you cleavage!
You won’t be stopped by the police or anything (I don’t think) but people might look at you or men might even grab you. I’ve heard a few stories of that happening.
I mean, should it be a thing in the 21st century??? Probably not. But better to be safe than sorry (*cringe).
What You Don’t Need to Bring to Korea
Is it me?? Do I overpack or do I overpack?
You don’t need to pack a lot, trust me. You can find anything and everything in South Korea.
I brought too many water bottles. Shocker. I love this Crazy Cap water bottle.
Seoul has tons of international stores and you might even be able to find better/cheaper things to buy in Seoul than you would back home.
AK Plaza Pyeongtaek also has a plethora of stores in and around the plaza so if you’re near there, check it out.
What You Don’t Need to Worry About
Before heading off to travel to Korea, I read blog upon blog that said that you can’t find deodorant in Korea. Either the blogs were outdated or people just never used online shopping before?
I mean yes, one of the most important things to pack for Korea will be deodorant, especially for those HOT days. But, you will be able to find deodorant in any store. And if you can’t, you can resort to buying it online through one of the many online stores.
You will be able to find tons of toiletries around the country, but they MIGHT be slightly more expensive.
So, to cut your packing list for South Korea short, you don’t need to bring a 6-pack of deodorant.
You can also find some cheap workout gear at Daiso or e-mart.
iHerb is international so they will have all of the toiletries you need. You can order your vitamins, pet food, face products, and more. South Korea is known for its amazing skincare products so you might find good deals at a local Daiso as well.
What to pack for Korea relies completely on what you plan on doing in the country.
But just know that you don’t have to bring two overweight suitcases and a duffle bag (yeah, I did that).
Most of the stuff you can buy in South Korea will be the same price if not cheaper than what you can buy in the US so always keep that in mind!
Being a teacher is HARD.
Especially in South Korea. Sometimes it will make you laugh and cry at the same time. The work culture can go either way.
It is important to know your worth. Don’t let employers take advantage of you.
If you’re moving to Korea to teach English, do your own research to see if it’s right for you. And don’t forget that you are not tied to the job if you feel too much pressure.
I mean, you are tied to the visa so if you want to stay in Korea that’s a whole different story that I am not familiar with.
Make sure you join Facebook groups. There are some legal groups as well (if you’re having work problems) and most people are incredibly helpful.
Here are some Facebook groups that I joined that can help you out too:
- Every Expat in Korea
- Expat Women in Korea
- ITA Alumni South Korea Discussion Group (you can only join if you got your TEFL through International TEFL Academy)
- LOFT: Legal Office for Foreign Teachers
- Quarantine in South Korea
Adjusting to a new culture can bring on culture shock so reach out to those around you and find other teachers that could possibly be your new friend!
Korea is a beautiful country with unlimited possibilities and also breathtaking views so make sure to travel around and enjoy yourself!