How to enjoy?
Lonely backpacker will be lonely.
In my opinion you get the most out of South Korea when you go there with your friends or make some friends there and travel with them, you will be able to eat samgyopsal, go to noraebang and have more fun in all other ways. I traveled for two weeks alone and I think it was quite depressing (maybe because it was the winter?), many cities don’t have hostels where you could meet other foreigners and if they have there are not many westerners anyway, young Koreans can speak English but good or bad that varies greatly. I suggest you use CouchSurfing outside Seoul, Gyuongju and Pusan, this way you can get a precious chance to taste home made food and sneak a peak into Korean everyday life.
If you wonder what most of the foreigners do in South Korea the answer is they teach English or study. Most of the tourists and backpackers hang out within Seoul and mostly at Hongdae after sun sets. If you go to smaller cities you will feel everyone’s eyes on yourself, not many foreigners go there.
Korea is a pretty safe country and the people are honest. Though, in subways and on the street everyone will bump into you and it freaking hurts. During weekends drunk people will pee and throw up all over, sleep on the streets and just be drunk. See, it’s even safe to sleep on the streets, your wallet and phone won’t be stolen.
So what to bring?
The bad smell will be beaten.
And you ready to smell good again?
Coming soon to the backpacks.
DEODORANT, LOTS OF DEODORANT! I have heard about myths that they sell deodorant at some shops like Watsons but I have never seen it on the shelves. You can buy perfume anywhere. Maybe Koreans don’t sweat at all, must be that. DON’T FORGET DEODORANT!
If you are fat, I mean normal sized in the west bring clothes, mostly pants because in Korea normal is fat and skeleton is normal. Though, you can always find big sized clothes at Itaewon but I doubt you want to look like black rapper or alcoholic. If you are a skeleton congrats, you will be able to buy so many fancy clothes, yay! By the way, if you have boobs pack bras, if you don’t then there won’t be any problem.
Everything else can be bought in Korea.
But you need to pack something, right?
A trash bag because you know, there are no trash bins anywhere on the streets. Even if you go trough them with a loop, you won’t find even a shadow of a trash bin, not a trace, nothing. You know why? My friend had an answer, she said: “Koreans don’t create any trash so they don’t need trash bins.” Simple.
High heels, make up, designer bags, and your best clothes including all of your mini skirts. (guys too!) And of course, a mirror so you can look at yourself every 5 minutes.
Your smart phone. You can leave your old cellphone home, it won’t work there and even if it will you won’t be able to buy a sim card if you are just visiting, or you can but it might be way too difficult and annoying. Some foreign phones and sims work there though so if you are not scared of big bills then… If you have a smart phone it will be useful because you will be able to access Internet at least and use skype and kakao talk.
A big empty bag because you will end up buying too much and an empty stomach so you can eat as much as possible.
Money, hell yeah, you are gonna spend like crazy. It’s cheap but remember, you are gonna spend like crazy!
If you don’t want to use whitening creams you better bring all of what you need along.
What to buy?
Kimbab. The food of the poor.
I heart Korea t-shirt or other Korea related t-shirt, just because those are cheap and cool souvenirs. I brought one I heart Korea t shirt to all my Russian relatives and they love them. LoL
Hambok, a traditional Korean dress just because it’s so pretty. You will never use it for anything (maybe for rugs later) but still, it’s pretty. Go to Namdaemun and the big shopping center at the center, I think on the second (maybe third) floor you will be able to find a cheap little shop for a simple ordinary dresses.
Chocolates with seaweed fillings. Surprisingly good. They also sell delicious stone chocolates aka ugly m&m’s and choco pies (this is typical Korean snack, they also have with strawberry filling which is my personal favorite). Why you are at it buy some Gim, dried laver, it’s tasty.
Ginseng anything, should be very healthy!
Key chains, little silk purses, magnets, teddy bear key chains, wooden masks and fancy fans. + Every possible tourist shit there is.
SHOES! Especially some street at Gangnam (I’m such a good guide, just go there, some street, you will find it somehow) is full of shoe shops filled with branded shoes at cheap prices! At Dongdaemun you will be able to find a shoe market, maybe not the real stuff but very interesting and cheap.
An animal hoodie with ears, tails and other extras. Those are damn cute. I have one with wings sticking from the hood. If you wear one of those back at home they will think you are a crazy otaku or even weird larper, good luck.
Korean won boxers, got one pair for my dad and little brother. It’s funny, trust me.
Mountain climbing gear, there is a wast variety of products, anything you imagined about. Koreans love their mountains!
Make up and perfume, Korean stuff is famous around Asia. All sorts of facial masks and creams, shampoos and million things. Just remember that most of the masks and creams might have whitening effect.
Korean celebrity shits like little pillows, pencils, purses, posters, stickers, key chains, CDs, mugs, clocks, socks, t shirts, fans, umbrellas or anything made to please mad screaming fan girls and Japanese tourists. If you have a personal favorite always ask what they have to offer but if you are not familiar with Korean Showbiz just go for mugs with prints of boy band members hugging each other while dressed in pink and yellow.
Personal stamp because it seems cool while you are there but once you get home you will wonder why the heck did you buy it in the first place. Regrets, regrets. Still buy it.
Other stuff: tableware, cups for alcohol, pan for samgyopsal because by then you are probably so much in love with it you want to try cooking it at your house.