Things I Wished I Knew Before Coming to Korea

Before I came to Korea, I did extensive research on what to bring and what to expect. I read blogs, searched on google and watched youtube videos on what people were bringing and packing and tips. But, looking back now, whilst my research did help alot, there were still some things that I didn’t know about and wished I knew before coming.

1. You can buy toothpaste here

Hear me out here. I’m one of those really picky toothpaste people. Back home, I would always stick to the same toothpaste because I loved the taste. I love the minty taste and anything that veers to anything but, I don’t like. I had already read advice online of people recommending to bring toothpaste from home because western brand toothpaste is hard to find, everything in sweet in Korea and how there is less fluoride in local toothpaste. Well, believe it or not, South Korea is a modern country and your Colgate is easy to find here. So here I was, bringing my tubes of toothpaste from home when I really didn’t need to! But, considering it’s an everyday item, it wasn’t hard to get through my supplies.

2. How hard it is to find black tea here

Something I didn’t expect and something my research failed to mention, black tea is hard to find here! Coffee reigns supreme here and the tea aisles here are mostly stocked with herbal teas. Corn tea and barley tea are everywhere here, but black tea… will be needing to search alittle harder. As a regular morning breakfast tea drinker back home, I was frantically searching for my daily elixir and found some online that was way more expensive than what I was use to. Thankfully, I had family visiting me who were able to bring tea from back home (for a quarter of the price).

3. Foreign cards can be a hit or miss

I’ve met a few people who have said that their foreign cards haven’t been easily accepted in many stores. The entire country and their online shopping and eftpos is set up for Korean cards. Furthermore, everything online is also linked to a mobile phone number here. So, when you visit, be sure to have cash on you. It cannot be guaranteed that your card will work 100% of the time. Whilst I didn’t have my card rejected at any point, I’ve heard many stories. You can also forget about buying anything online here as a short term visitor without a Korean card.

4. How much walking you will be doing

It is pretty obvious that when you travel, you will be walking all day. It is no exception here. Add to that the public transport system (which is great by the way) and the underground city that you will be walking across to either connect to another line or mode of transport, you better be wearing some good shoes! So in saying that, I wished I didn’t bring my summer sandals. I wore sneakers for most of summer due to how much walking plus if you’re out sightseeing in different places, sneakers are just more comfortable.

5. Not to bring over so much tech

By tech I mean mostly chargers and cords. I brought over a few usbc cords, 2 adapters and even an Australian extension cord. But South Korea is a tech haven and with the Daiso stores here, you can pick up a charger/usbc cord for $5. The only thing I really needed was the adapter for my laptop charger and maybe 1 charging set!

6. To pack a carry bag with a zip

I frequently travel to and from Seoul by bus. Sometimes, I stay in the Seoul for the weekend or long weekend to be able to do more things and at times a backpack is enough but I also sometimes like to pack my small carry on wheelie bag. But, these intercity buses don’t have any luggage space and is a great source of anxiety for me as there are basically only 2 areas of the bus that the wheelie bag can fit infront of my legs. These buses are usually quite full and I’m sometimes just annoyed that I didn’t bring my carry bag so that I could just carry 2 bags instead of having a wheelie.

7. To come with more space in my luggage

I had some idea when I was packing that I should make sure I have space because I would probably buy some things. But in hindsight, I need more space. I thought I packed well in terms of clothing with just the right amount. I could’ve done with 1 or 2 shoes less, 1 jacket less, a smaller jewellery box, 1 sunscreen tube less and 1 extension cord less.

8. How good the insect repellent is

Mosquitoes seem to love me so I always make sure if I’m going anyway in summer, I bring some insect repellent. Australia has very good and strong smelling ones and there’s not many to choose from. I brought over a small spray bottle of the trusty Aeroguard. It’s not very small so it is bulky to bring out with you. In the summer, I was in Seoul and forgot to bring my Aeroguard and ducked into the trusty Daiso store to pick up a small roll on. This had to be one of my best purchases. It didn’t smell, it’s small like a deodorant and convenient to bring everywhere. If I knew it was going to be this easy to find and this good, I wouldn’t have brought mine from home!

I hope this gave you abit of a laugh. Was there something that you wished you knew about a destination before you arrived?


9 thoughts on “Things I Wished I Knew Before Coming to Korea

  1. Great post! I wouldn’t have guessed that finding black tea was so difficult in South Korea! As for “packing less”, when I’m packing I always feel like I’m only bringing essentials, only to realise when I go back home that I could have reduced the “essentials” to much less.. Maybe you should buy a carry bag for your weekend trips in Korea and to pack everything you bought when you go back home! 😉

  2. I’m actually very surprised that it’s hard to find black tea in Korea! But given that I’ve only ever had herbal or barley tea in Korean spaces (e.g. restaurants, cafés, etc), I supposed it shouldn’t be a huge shock…I think for me, when I was packing to move abroad to France, I realize that I didn’t need to pack as many clothes as I’d done: not only did I end up not wearing some of the clothes I’d brought, but I also ended up buying clothes over there, which I ended up loving! Same went for toiletries and other little knick-knacks, as I could easily find them while shopping (and I wasn’t picky about brands). It’s the things you learn over time that gradually make your time abroad all the more pleasant…and fun!

    1. I’ve eaten at Korean restaurants before in Aus and they also only served barley tea and it didn’t click for me! I brought over a work blazer that I’ve not worn :(. That is true, it’s all a learning process.

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