A trip to Seoul has long been on my travel bucket list and when it came time to pack, I was a little overwhelmed. A quick look at the weather app revealed it was going to be hot but not humid, storming on some days and sunny on others and cool in the evening but very hot during the day! Add to that the fact Koreans are very stylish and I was in the midst of a packing freak-out! Well, during our visit we quickly realised we got some of our packing right and some of it very wrong. To help you be better prepared and have an amazing time during your own visit, here are our tips on everything you need to pack for your trip to Seoul.
We visited Seoul in September and the weather was lovely and warm but not scorching hot. Here’s a look at the clothes we packed and actually used:
- Shorts – comfortable, breathable shorts in fabric like cotton or linen is perfect
- T-shirts – again, comfortable breathable t-shirt fabrics are going to be best
- Button-up shirts – I wore linen, long-sleeved, button-up shirts with my shorts, skirts and jeans
- Jeans – one or two pairs of jeans are great for a quick, easy outfit choice
- Dresses – Seoul is a very stylish place so be sure to pack a few beautiful summer dresses and evening dresses if you like
- Skirts – I always find beautiful skirts to be an easy, comfortable outfit staple and they really suited the weather in Seoul
- Jumpers and coats – I packed a jumper and coat, though it wasn’t really cold enough to need either I did use the jumper inside our hotel room
- Pyjamas – pack a few sets of pyjamas for sleeping and relaxing in while you’re inside the hotel room
- Swimmers – if your hotel has a pool or your planning on taking a dip, be sure to pack your swimmers
- Socks – don’t forget to pack lots of socks
- Undies – and plenty of clean undies, too!
We wanted to do laundry but found it really hard to find a place to do it, outside of the hotel (and the cost was crazy so we weren’t paying it!) Make sure you pack enough clothes to last you the length of your trip and, if you do run into a tough spot, you can always hand wash some undies in the shower.
If you’re visiting during the winter months, things get really cold in Seoul so you will want to make more winter-friendly gear. You’ll most likely need warm pants, tops you can layer, wool jumpers, thick coats, scarves, beanies and gloves. Take a look at what the weather in Seoul is like at different times of the year here.
It rained very heavily one day we were in Seoul and we had to buy an umbrella as we had forgotten ours. We also used the umbrella when we were visiting the Demilitarized Zone as there wasn’t much shade in some places and the sun was really intense in the middle of the day. So, be sure to pack an umbrella you can fold up and fit neatly in your day bag.
Speaking of which, you’ll definitely need a day bag. You might like to use a soft, canvas bag like I do or a small backpack as Matt prefers. Either way, just make sure it’s something you can comfortably carry all day and fit all your essential items in. These might include cameras, phone, wallet, a bottle of water, a map, sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, umbrella and hand sanitiser/medicine bag.
It was lovely and sunny during our visit, aside from the one epic day of rain. Matt shaves his head and needed to put sunscreen all over his noodle. He forgot to pack a hat and desperately wished he’d had one. I used the umbrella for sun protection as well as regular sunscreen for my arms, shoulders, chest and legs and a 50+, matte face sunscreen each day under my makeup.
Hair and make-up
The Korean approach to beauty is vastly different from what you might usually see in places like the U.S. You won’t see full faces of thick make-up, false eyelashes, contour and matte lipstick. Instead, you’ll see lots of natural-looking, dewy, healthy skin, a little blush, simple brows and a glossy, light lip. The whole make-up vibe is natural and glowy. When it comes time to pack for Seoul, you can definitely get away with just bringing your essential make-up. Primer, concealer, foundation and powder + blush, tinted lip balm, brow pencil and mascara ought to be enough.
For hair, when I’m travelling, I like to wash, blow-dry and straighten mine then just top up the straighten each morning before I head out. You could easily get away with natural waves, a simple ponytail or bun or go the straight option like me. Again, it’s a simple approach to beauty!
Matt and I both got this really wrong! We did not pack shoes that were anywhere near comfortable enough and severely regretted it. If you’re planning on doing a lot of sightseeing, like we did, and use the train as your mode of transport, you’re going to walk a LOT. The distances between platforms and train lines can be significant so please make sure you pack two pairs of really comfortable shoes you can switch between. I would highly recommend sneakers or walking shoes as my sandals just did not cut it.
There are some great hiking spots around Seoul so if you do fancy stretching your legs be sure to pack your favourite hiking gear. When I’m hiking I pack two pairs of Lorna Jane tights, two tops and two sports bras. They’re extremely comfortable and I usually end up wearing the tights on long-haul flights too. Find Lorna Jane Activewear here.
Medicine (overcome the language barrier/it was hard for us to find paracetamol)
It’s really important you pack all your prescription medicines and put together an essential medicine kit of your own. Matt’s allergic to certain medicines and, with the language barrier, we had trouble finding him paracetamol when we ran out! I like to pack a little medicine bag which includes Imodium/something for an upset tummy, paracetamol and ibuprofen for headaches or injuries, loads of band-aids, hayfever/allergy medication, asthma inhaler, a very strong antihistamine, sleeping pills, valium in-case of a bad anxiety/panic attack, eye drops, cold and flu medicine, throat lozenges, travel sickness medicine, hand sanitiser and ginger tablets. Find Medicine Bags here.
It may sound pretty straightforward but make sure you pack your deodorant and that it has enough left. For some reason, I found it a little hard to find on the shelves of the stores we visited.
Feminine hygiene products
Ladies may like to pack their own tampons, pads etc as the brand or type you prefer may not be available in Seoul. I also had a tough time spotting them in the shops we visited so I’m not sure what I would’ve done if I was in desperate need. So be sure to stock your luggage if you think you’ll be needing them and, you know what, just pack some anyway just-in-case. Of course, I always recommend packing hand sanitiser and keeping it in your handbag too.
My skin has been getting increasingly dry as I travel more and I found I really needed a good quality moisturiser in Seoul. I’ve recently switched from using a store-bought moisturiser to using organic, extra-virgin coconut oil instead and my skin has been amazing! I slather it all over my body once a day and find it soaks in really nicely, not leaving me too oily. I bought mine super cheap from Aldi. For my face, I use rosehip oil and a good quality moisturiser over the top. I also carry a hand moisturiser in my day bag because my hands tend to get dried out from hand sanitiser.
Always keep a pocket pack of tissues with you, just in case you find yourself in a toilet without paper, you sneeze and have an embarrassing nose explosion somewhere or need to help someone else out who desperately needs one.
You might like to bring a few separate bags to put your dirty shoes, clothes and underwear in to keep your bag from stinking out and making your fresh clothes smell bad.
You’ll need a power converter to ensure you can recharge your camera, phone and other electronics. In Seoul, it’s the two round prong converter (take a look at it here). I always pack a power-board with me or a multi-USB. It means I can charge my iPhone and cameras while using my laptop and only need one converter. Yep, I’m a technology addict. Find Power Boards here and Find Power Converters here.
External battery pack
We were out all day every day in Seoul and, using our cameras and phones a lot for work, found our batteries ran out really quickly. An emergency, backup battery pack each came in really handy on a number of occasions.
Neither Matt or I can read or speak Korean so we definitely struggled a few times, especially when it came time to choose a place to eat or order from a menu. To help with this, we started using the Google Translate app to read signs, communicate with services and decipher menus. It isn’t perfect but it can help you convey what you’re trying to say to a server.
We also ended up using Google Maps a LOT for finding our way around Seoul. If you don’t have a local sim (we didn’t) you can just pre-load google maps on your phone while you’re connected to your hotel’s wifi. Then, when you go out, it’ll still work. You can see your location and make your way to the next spot. I think the only thing you won’t be able to do is to search for places and chart a route, you just have to use your own brain to figure out how to get from place to place.
Packing hacks and tips
A few tips and tricks to help you hack your pack!
Stash some eco-friendly bags and reusable sandwich bags in your luggage, they come in so very handy for storing dirty shoes and clothes as well as bars of soap, wet swimwear or leaky toothpaste tubes! Find Eco-Friendly Reusable Bags here.
Stop leaky bottles
If you’re worried about your shampoo, conditioner or body wash leaking in your bag simply unscrew the lid, place some cling-film over the top and screw the lid back on. It’ll stop everything from leaking and potentially ruining your clean clothes.
I use Tupperware or similar hard plastic containers to put all my toiletries in. This ensures no leaks will destroy my clean clothes and makes it really easy for me to grab my toiletries in one easy swoop, keep them together in the hotel and makes re-packing easier too. I also use a small container for all my jewellery and another one for electronics like adaptors, cords and chargers. It keeps me organised and stops me from losing things! Find Storage Containers here.
Put dryer sheets in your suitcase to keep your clothes smelling good throughout the whole trip. If you don’t have dryer sheets, a few drops of essential oil on a tissue, laid flat in-between layers of clothes, works wonders. I also have a little bottle of spray which instantly freshens up clothes, it’s from The Laundress and it’s amazing! No musty smelling clothes for you, my friend. Find Dryer Sheets here.
Useful travel resources for your trip to South Korea
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