Travel Essentials: How to Pack for a South Korean Winter (and the Winter Olympic Games)

Now that it is officially 2018, the real countdown to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics is officially on! Our Melbourne writer Anastasia is currently travelling across Seoul. In the first in a series of special posts, Ana gives us her top Korean Travel Essentials that will ensure that you have packed all the right things, ready to embrace the winter chill!

I have always found that packing for cooler weather is incredibly difficult. Currently, South Korea is shivering through bitterly cold winter nights while the East-Coast of Australia is enduring one of the warmest starts to January on record.

Folding thick woolen jumpers and stuffing long jackets into your luggage works up quite the sweat when it is pushing above 37 degrees celsius. Moreover, all those extra layers take up too much space and weigh significantly more than the sandals and t-shirts you would throw into your bag on a summer escape.

Considering this, it is important to know exactly what to bring to ensure that you’re ready to embrace the chill while also avoiding to break those baggage scales at the airport,

Jacket/Coat

This one is an obvious one. You have got to bring a jacket, there is no other way around it. While a good jacket is bound to take up a good section of your luggage, this piece of clothing is an absolute must. Unlike the Australian winter, you are not going to be able to get away with a small coat or a thick jumper.

Surprisingly, however, there a number of jackets that are lightweight, yet insulating enough to ensure you will keep toasty warm, even when it’s -12 degrees. If you invest in a good jacket, you are sure to keep toasty warm. In any case, puffy jackets are all the rage in Seoul this season!

Lightweight Sweaters and Jumpers

While a coat or a padded jacket is an absolute must for all outdoor activities, as soon as you hit a shopping mall or any indoor venue, you are bound to be met with very effective heating which will leave you eager to take that jacket off.

The best way to think of what to pack is to think layers. Layers. Layers.

My suitcase is currently full of lightweight shirts and turtlenecks, accompanied by a couple of warm woolen knits and a jumper or two. Layer these underneath your coat, and you are sure to be prepared for any kind of temperature.

Scarves

Another no-brainer. Bring a good scarf, the kind of one that you can wrap around your neck several times and bury your chin in, particularly if you plan on going out at night or early in the morning. Wool or fleece is preferable.

Smartphone Friendly Gloves

As soon as you walk outside in Korea, any exposed skin becomes very quickly apparent – none more so than your hands. If you don’t protect them, not only will they get cold, but you may be susceptible to extreme dryness and minor frostbite, particularly if you plan on going out at night.

Gloves, generally, are useful. However, my tip would be to hunt down a pair that you can wear while being able to use your phone; this is particularly useful if you plan on taking lots of photos or videos, as you will not need to take them off and put them back on again.

Boots

Boots are just my own personal preference, however sturdy shoes are essential. Something with a good tread (particularly if you expect snow) and a sturdy grip are important, but you want to make sure that your feet remain warm, dry, and comfortable. Cozy toes is key, particularly if you plan on walking around a lot (and I suggest you do – Seoul, particularly, is best travelled by walking around).

Socks

Another obvious one – you have to keep those feet warm and dry. However, only pack one or two pairs, as you are bound to very quickly run into more than a dozen stores that sell hundreds of impossibly cute, afforadable, and wonderfully warm socks in Korea.

Tights

This is a staple in my bag – wear them alone, or as an additional layer underneath pants or jeans for some extra warmth. 

Face Masks

And no, not the skincare sheet-mask or the night pack variety – although, wearing these masks does have some skin care benefits, too! While face masks are typically utilised to filter out bad quality air, wearing these masks keeps your lips and the skin around your jaw away from the bitterly cold air. You can find face masks everywhere in Korea, but be sure to have one around when you get off your plane – the cold air will hit you instantly!

Getting to South Korea from Australia

South Korea’s two airlines – Asiana Airlines (codeshared with Qantas) and Korean Airlines, offer direct services to Seoul from a variety of capital cities around Australia.