I was busy planning and prepping for my trip before I had even packed my bags for Seoul. If I think about it, it really took me a solid year of information gathering, planning, and researching to get everything ready for me to leave. Even with all the research and planning I did for the trip there were still some things that I missed and not all of my plans… went according to plan.
If you are planning a trip to Korea for more than a week, I really suggest you take some time to do some research while you are here in the states because you may or may not have access to internet while you are abroad. If you are planning on being there are week or less, then you should be ok with looking up the major hot spots and tourist zones. Check out my blog post about where I shared 7 websites that helped me prepare for the trip. But if you want to learn more about how I prepped for the flight and trip read on!
Learn the language
So you may be wondering what in the world I did that took me a whole year to get ready. Well, I learned the language. I mean I am not a native speaker but I took an entire summer to learn the Korean alphabet and some basic phrases. This allowed me to be very comfortable with saying things in Korean as well as understanding mostly what was being said to me.
Some of the phrases I used the most included:
안녕하새요 which is the formal hello.
이거 얼마예요 which is, how much is this?
이거 뭐예요 which is, what is this?
감사합니다 which is, thank you
___ 추세요 which is, please give me _____.
처기요 which is how you call a waitress or waiter.
____ 어디예요 which is, where is the ___.
To hear more examples, I would really suggest checking out Talk To Me in Korean’s podcasts! Hana Hana Hangul series on YouTube which basically taught me what I needed to know to order food, buy things, read signs/menus, and understand directions when I was lost.
The next thing I did was pack wisely. I knew I was going to be abroad for 5 weeks and would need to conserve space in my suitcase for the trip back home (I mean Korea is internationally known for their cosmetics!). Since I was going to Korea in June and July, I packed a lot of sheer tops, shorts, tanks and one pieces. All of the pieces could be mixed and matched into a lot of different combos! I also took a pair of sandals, flip-flops, boat shoes, and tennis shoes.
I would really make sure that you pack enough clothes, socks, and shoes if you are going to Korea for an extended stay. At the time I was wearing a small/medium top and a size 8 bottom and NONE of the cute Korean fashions fit me. Also many of the shops in Hongdae would not allow me to try the clothes on so there was no way of telling if clothes would fit. I bought four tops and only two of them fit. I also wear a size 9 ½ shoe and I could not find anything bigger than a size 8 :(.
I also purchased a sturdy canvas cross body bag from Amazon. In this bag I was able to pack a ton of things that I would need for the plane ride! I will go into more detail on what I found useful while in-flight in another post.
Create an Itinerary
Once you get to Korea there will be sooooooo many things to do! The whole first week my friends and I went to all of the palaces and museums. We hit all of the major tourist spots including Hongdae, Dongdaemun, Itaewon, Myongdeon, and Insadong. Let me tell you, a week was not enough time! We would leave our hotel at 9 a.m. and not get back until after 10 a.m. We were walking an average of 14-15 miles a day! What allowed us to hit all of the highlights was that we used Google docs to work on an itinerary. We spent about two months researching and adding to the itinerary. This allowed us to hit up a lot of places, know how to get there from our hotel, how much it would cost, and what the hours of operations were. If you are curious about the places we visited stay tuned for future blog posts on some of my favorites!
Take Cash Over Cards
Finally, I would recommend taking cash over your cards. Many of the shops only take cash and the ATMs we found only worked on occasion. It depends on the areas you live in and your bank on whether you can get Korean Won. I had to order my Won online and pay a $25 fee for the money. You can opt to have the money delivered to your house or to pick it up at the bank. My friends took around 900,000 KRW which is a little bit more than 900 USD and were not able to use it all within the week because everything was so inexpensive. While I was at the University many of my classmates ran out of cash very quickly and had trouble making their cards work at the ATM. I ended up becoming a walking currency exchange!
Even though I spent a year prepping there were still many things that I was not prepared for and, in some instances, were over prepared for. For example, it rained for two of the days we were there and none of us had umbrellas. Another example was that many of the places we saw our favorite YouTubers visit were no longer open or we just couldn’t find them. This caused us to just throw out some of our plans and fly by the seat of our pants!
Overall, I would say that I was really prepped for the trip and if you would like to know more detail about some of the things I shared, let me know in the comments below and I can do a dedicated post on it!
In the mean time, have fun conquering those goals!