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This South Korea packing list is going to teach you how to pack for winter in Korea. It can be hard to know what to wear in South Korea in winter, especially if like me, you come from a place where winters are practically non existent *cough Queensland*.
I was given lots of different advice as to the level of rugged-up-ness I would need to be, but generally I spent most of my time in normal clothes plus a warm coat, scarf and boots. If you feel the cold very strongly though, bring a pair or two of thermal underwear to wear underneath your normal clothes.
South Korean winters can get pretty chilly, with many cities experiencing snow, however most of the sites are still easily accessible. South Koreans don’t let the cold stop them, and neither should you, you’ll even find many of the hikes still have many locals trodding along beside you. Anyway, read on to find out how to dress for winter in Korea.
In this South Korea packing list article you’ll find:
- How seasons will effect your packing list,
- What to wear in South Korea in winter,
- Some information on travel insurance, ideas on things to see, and advice on where to stay.
When to Visit South Korea: Weather & Seasons
South Korea, like Japan and China, experiences hot, humid summers, and cold, sometimes snowy winters. While it can get pretty cold, you’ll find a good, thick coat will protect you from a lot of the cold. Understanding seasons may help you understand a little easier about what to pack for a trip to South Korea.
Seasons in South Korea
- Summer in South Korea (June, July, August): If you judge summer by the estimated temperatures you wont be adequately prepared. While only stated to be between 24-30 degrees Celsius, Korean summers are incredibly humid which can make traveling uncomfortable at times. Not to mention there’s also a decent chance of rain.
- What to wear to Korea in December, January, February: If you want to experience snow then winter is a good time to visit South Korea. As I mentioned above, most of the attractions will still be opened with locals unbothered by cold weather and snow when it comes to sightseeing, hiking national parks and getting out and about. It’s also a good excuse to visit more cat cafes to escape the winter breeze.
- Spring in South Korea (March, April, May): A pleasant time to visit.
- Autumn in South Korea (September, October, November): Like Spring, Autumn is a nice time to visit.
What to Wear in South Korea in Winter
How to dress for winter in Korea:
- Pants x 3: Jeans and other types of warm pants will come in handy for the cold here.
- Leggings x 2: These are lightweight so you can getaway with two pairs without adding too much weight. If you’re tight on space only bring one. You can use the leggings under the dress, under your pants on quite cold days, or to sleep in.
- Dress x 1: Pick a dress that keeps heat in. You should pair this with the leggings. If dresses aren’t your thing add an extra top.
- Tops x 5: Stick to longer sleeves to keep warm.
- Cardigan x 1-2: You can layer this under your coat or use it for indoors.
- Coat x 1: If luggage weight is not an issue pack a second coat. It gets quite cold in winter especially when there’s a breeze so you’ll be wearing this each time you go outside. Try either a knee length Korean style coat or a puffy coat in a neutral color.
- Scarf x 1-2
- Boots x 1: Like the jackets, feel free to take a second pair if you’re not trying to conserve space. Make sure it’s something that can survive the snow – thin-heeled boots wont be the best idea.
- Socks x 4: Easy to wash as you go, make sure you keep your feet warm while you’re out and about, and at night as well. Socklets are a good alternative for inside boots as well but they wont keep you as warm.
- Sneakers x 1: If for some reason you feel the urge to go on a winter’s hike sneakers may be a good idea. However unless you plan to do something strenuous, you can probably survive with the above pair of boots.
- Underwear x 7 / bras x 5
- Gloves x 1-2: Keep your hands warm!
- Beanie (woolen hat / tuque) x 1-2: Keep your head warm when you go outside. Now is your chance to wear one that isn’t age appropriate as South Koreans fully embrace cute hats. So go forth, and purchase one that resembles a llama like you always wanted.
What to Pack for South Korea in Winter: Other Items
- Keeping warm: In the interest of how to dress for Korea in winter, you may want to take it one step further. If you really feel the cold you could try to pick up some heat packs in the chemist on arrival. These are cheap, and quite popular (but maybe more so in China). If you can’t find a basic heat pack you could try one of the heat packs made to ease pain. Stick it to your stomach (they’re adhesive) and it should keep you warmer for atleast a couple of hours.
- Make up & Toiletries: Don’t forget to bring your basics like toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant. Make up is a personal choice, but remember that your skin will be a little drier due to the cold. Moisturizer may be a good option if you can find a travel sized one. Check out this cheap and compact makeup bag here.
- Medical kit: Bring a small medical kit with cold and flu medications, dehydration sachets and headache tablets.
- Technology: Bring your camera plus two to three batteries, and your charger. I personally love the Sony a6500 + 35mm f1.8 combination.Batteries will not last as long in the cold as they do in normal temperatures, so take the extra one if you have it. Bring 2-3 16gb memory cards (better than buying one large card in case it gets stolen or damaged). Consider a portable charger which will help if your phone dies quicker due to the cold. On that note, don’t forget your phone charger! Pack an international plug adapter as well so you can use your electronics.
- Everything else:
- Photocopies of important documents. Keep them in a different place to where you keep your passport if possible. Also leave a copy at home.
- 2 bank cards: It’s a personal rule of mine to never travel with less than 2 bankcards. Sometimes one may not be accepted, or it may get stolen or eaten by the machine. Having a backup will save you a ton of stress.
- Recommended luggage:
- Backpacks: It’s going to be a little harder to make it as a carry on traveler due to all the winter clothes, so don’t forget to book a checked bag (like this 65L or 70L if packing more than one coat). If you insist on trying, wear the heaviest stuff at the airport. I’m yet to be called out on wearing a giant coat in inappropriate weather while checking in for a winter destination – let’s pretend you’re just prepared for disembarkment.
- Suitcase: same as above, see some options here.
Where to Stay in South Korea in Winter
- Budget: Birdsnest Hostel Hongdae is a good choice for budget travelers looking for a dorm or cheap private room. Find more information here.
- Midrange: Shilla Stay Gwanghwamun is a great choice for staying in central Seoul. Starting at around 120 a night the hotel is centrally located and close to the subway, plus the buffet breakfast is great. Find more details here, or read the full review of the hotel over here.
- Luxury: For a splurge, much like what I suggest for Busan, I recommend trying Korean brand Lotte Hotel. I love trying local owned or started hotels when visiting a country. Find out more about Lotte Hotel Seoul here.
- For more accomodation options in Seoul, do a search here.
- Budget: Situated close to a subway, Kimchee Busan Original Guesthouse is one of the cheaper dorms available with good reviews in the city. Find out more here.
- Midrange: SOYU Hotel is a good choice for those with a mid-range budget. It’s close to the subway and Busan tower. Find more details here.
- Luxury: Lotte Hotel Busan is a good option for a splurge being close to a shopping mall, the subway and many of Busan’s sites. The hotel offers an all inclusive plan, a mini golf course and a fitness centre. See the hotel here.
- For other cities take a look over on Hotels Combined: visit the website here.
Don’t Forget to Pack Travel Insurance | South Korea Packing List for Winter
While not the most interesting aspect of travel, travel insurance is essential when going overseas. It’s important to protect yourself incase an accident happens, or if something gets lost or broken. I suggest World Nomads because:
- It’s the insurer I use for all my trips, and I can recommend them. As with all insurance policies, read the terms to see what you’re covered for before purchasing and see if it’s right for you.
- You can purchase it from outside your home country if needed, unlike with most travel insurance countries. This is great if you want to extend or are on a round the world trip.
- It’s cheaper than many other companies with the same coverage.
You can see an estimate for your trip here – (click here), or use the quote box above.
Packing List for South Korea: Safety and Health
- Be careful when hiking in the snow and bad weather. While you’ll see many South Koreans doing it keep in mind that their fitness standards may be higher than yours. Never hike alone in bad weather regardless of how far along on the Bear Grylls scale you think you are.
- While South Korea is relatively safe, let someone back home know your itinerary plans just incase.
- Be respectful towards elders in South Korea, respect for older people is a very big thing in South Korea.
- Don’t forget your medical kit. Also consider getting a cheap mask from a chemist if the cold is getting to you to help protect your nose from the cold. These are common in South Korea so you wont look out of place.
Popular Day Tours in Winter in South Korea
You can pretty much do everything you want to do in winter, just the same as you could in summer. Swimming and sunbathing would be the exception though, obviously. Here are some ideas for what to do in South Korea in winter to get you started:
- Day tour to Nami Island & Petite France (colour french buildings): find more details here.
- Night bus tour of Seoul: find the details here.
- Demilitarized Zone and security zone day tour (Where North and South Korea meet): If you want to see what this incredibly tense border looks like you can hop on this popular day tour – click here for more information.
- Hit the popular sites of Seoul on a day tour: see more details here.
- For more ideas of what to see in Seoul visit this website.
- Full day tour of Busan hitting most of the sights. Find more information by clicking here.
- Busan day tour similar to above, but with the addition of a photographer capturing moments for you! I would totally do this if I went back, it’s so hard to get good photos of yourself. See the details here.
- For more Busan tour ideas visit here.
Hope you liked this packing list for South Korea in winter. Don’t forget to pin it or share it to your social medias if you found it helpful.