So you’re planning a trip to Korea this summer, but you’re not sure what to pack? DO NOT WORRY!!! WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED! ☺
If it’s your first trip to Korea, or Asia, or even overseas, it can be a bit overwhelming. I know how you feel. That was me in 2008, and Richard a few years earlier. How can you know for sure what to bring? If you’re coming for 2 weeks or more, how much is too much? Will you be over-packing if you bring four pairs of pants? 2 dozen pairs of underwear? What if it rains a lot while I’m there? These are all legitimate questions.
During summer’s hottest months, Korea’s most comfortable and best temperatures are in the evenings. After 8pm you can expect mostly perfect climate to dine in, so sitting outside for dinner is quite popular here. For this type of atmosphere, if you’re a lady, a nice little black dress is a no fail option. Girls wear dresses here a lot. You see a lot more color in Korean dramas than you actually see on the streets here, so maybe take that into consideration. You also can’t go wrong with a nice pair of shorts and a cute decorative top, particularly if you want to go out onto the town, go to a bar or club (if you’re old enough), or just mosey around. For show at night, I’d recommend some nice sandals. You may want to wear heals, but your feet will be angry with you by the end of the night. What I wouldn’t wear are flip flops or slides, because in Korea those are usually thought of as shower shoes or bathroom slippers.
Also in the evening it’s smart to bring a cardigan or small blazer with you because it can get cool, although this varies from person to person. This is a practice I like to partake in, but Richard seldom needs anything more than a t-shirt during the summer months even at night. He’s brought one out before upon my recommendation, and carried it around all night. Of course a light jacket will be nice especially if it starts to rain.
It’s hot in Korea in summertime, especially during the middle of the day. In Fahrenheit it can range anywhere from around 80 degrees all the way over 100+, which in Celsius is anywhere from about 26 degrees to 38 or so. That’s hot to most people. It gets so hot you may start sweating only moments after leaving the cool air conditioned mall you were just shopping in.
Knowing this important bit of info, shorts and t-shirts all the way. Or sundress if you feel so inclined. The key is to be comfortable but slightly conservative. You might get more stares if you’re wearing a tube dress than if you’re wearing something with capped sleeves. I also wouldn’t recommend wearing too much white, as sweating may occur especially if you’re walking around from place to place such as tourists tend to do. And heaven forbid should you get caught in an accidental downpour, who wants to be wearing white then? Not me. Oh, and Richard recommends sneakers. Personally I’m a fan of some ballet flats, and I may even be tempted to get a pair of galoshes for the rainy days, but I wouldn’t want to pack those.
As for exchanging money for your trip, you have several options. I’ve known people to bring Korean cash (Won) with them from their home country prior to arriving here. If your bank back home has the ability to do that for you, it’s not a bad idea. In our experience only larger branches of banks hold Korean Won reserves. Smaller branches usually do not. If you’re able to do this to get you started it will save you some time once you touch down in Korea.
If you’re unable to exchange anything before arriving here, it’s still not a problem. Incheon airport has a ton of banks open around the clock (I think) to exchange money right there when you land. They all have pretty much the same exchange rate. (Pro tip: Korea only has a total of about a dozen domestic banks or so. Not sure the exact number but banking is fairly consolidated here.)
Once outside the airport, it may be more difficult than you imagine exchanging money, unless your hotel will do it for you. Some hotels do it, but I would find out in advance before relying on that method to exchange your currency to won. You can always go into virtually any bank you see, but lines can be long depending on the day, and waiting to exchange money can cut into your free time when you may rather be doing something else.
These days, Korea relies more heavily than ever on credit and debit cards. This is a more recent trend here. Richard has told me often that back in 2002 when he first lived here, not only were most transaction in cash, but he even got paid in it every two weeks. That’s right, his employers literally handed him envelopes every two Fridays.
In the video we only spoke about credit cards, because if you’re visiting from outside Korea, a foreign credit card will most likely work fine here, but I wouldn’t trust that your debit card will. Although your bank may insist that your debit card will have no problem, for some reason debit and credit cards play by slightly different rules. If you have the ability, we suggest bringing credit cards that have pin numbers programmed in already. That will be the best way to ensure it works fine here.
You can of course withdraw money (cash) from an ATM (money machine). ATMs are located at all banks, as well as most corner stores these days. If you do plan to withdraw money this way, be sure to do it during the day. Some of Korea’s banking machines close down after midnight for security reasons. And, as a precaution, make sure to double check with your bank or credit card institution any fees that are associated with transactions and money withdraws from banking machines.
That should do it for now. If you have a question about something we did not cover on the blog or in the video, drop us a note below, in the YouTube comments of this video, or on our Facebook page, and we’ll do our best to try and answer it for you.