Moving to Korea can seem like an impossible endeavor. There is an endless list of things to do before you leave, and it can feel like there is no time to say goodbye to your friends and family and actually enjoy the build up to your departure.
The key to a smooth departure is plenty of preparation. Although it won’t seem like it initially, the list of things to do before you arrive in Korea can be a fun and exciting part of your travels rather than a burden. Here are some useful tips on how to prepare to move to South Korea, everything you need to organise before leaving and how to enjoy the process!
- Organise accommodation before you leave. You can sort out housing when you arrive but it is a good idea to do it beforehand as you never know what problems you may encounter in regards to language barriers or finance when you arrive. There is nothing worse than being in a foreign country with nowhere to stay!
- If you are offered accommodation by the company/university/school you are travelling to Korea to work with, prepare all the relevant documentation beforehand. You may be asked for certain health checks if you are living with other people, so do this well before your departure in case there are any complications.
- Research your living options before signing a contract. There are many living options in Korea at a range of prices. Popular options include Apartments, (comfortable and spacious but more expensive), Officetel (cheaper and smaller than apartments), Villas (located in residential areas and provide adequate living space) and Goshiwon (very small spaces, at cheap prices which are usually occupied by students)
- Stayes, Goshipages and Craigslist are great for finding reliable housing in Seoul, which is especially useful for those who don’t speak Korean well enough to organize accommodation through a Korean estate agent in Korea.
Take a look at our article How To Rent A Place In Seoul for more information about accommodation and 3 Things To Keep In Mind When Renting An Apartment In Korea for more advice on housing.
It is essential to learn some basic Korean before moving to Korea. Not only is English not widely spoken in the country, it is respectful to learn some of the language before travelling and it will be very much appreciated. This is especially useful if you don’t know many people in the country when you first arrive and if you aren’t staying in a large city like Seoul, where English is more commonly spoken.
- Learn Hangeul. The Korean alphabet is extremely easy to learn and will help you navigate the subway system and order food when you first arrive.
- Consider enrolling on a Korean language program before you travel or when you arrive. Read through our article on Where To Find Korean Lessons Around Korea for more information about this.
- If you don’t want to take a course or don’t have time, buy some beginners Korean textbooks and self study in your spare time.
- There are also many free resources online such as Talk To Me In Korean which guides Korean language learners through videos and provides material to assist the lessons.
- Download some free Korean learning apps
- Listen to K-pop and watch Korean dramas. This will help familiarize you with the sound of Korean and expose you to some everyday words and phrases which you might not learn in textbooks and classes.
- Read our article How To Watch Korean Dramas And Movies Online With English Subtitles to immerse yourself in Korean language and culture before you travel.
Passports, Visas and Insurance
- Your passport must be up to date before you travel so ensure you check this out well in advance as it may take some time to have a new passport issued.
- It is also important to take photocopies of your passport to Korea with you as they are often needed for administration purposes.
- Foreigners travelling to Korea for more than 90 days are required to have a Visa. Check which kind of visa you need to stay in Korea here and, as with your passport, ensure you do this with plenty of time before your departure date in case there is something wrong with your application and it takes longer than expected.
- It may be difficult when you first move to Korea to locate places to photocopy documents so do this before you travel and find a safe place for it in your luggage where it won’t be damaged.
- Buy health insurance before you leave and make sure it covers you for the entire period you are away and for the activities you are likely to be doing. Health fees can be expensive in Korea so be prepared for emergencies by investing in insurance.
- If you are taking any valuable possessions abroad with you, make sure you insure them before you leave.
Health And Vaccinations
- Ensure you are up to date with important vaccinations before travelling and ask your GP for a print-out of all the vaccinations you have received to take away with you
- You may need vaccinations specifically for travelling to Korea such as Japanese Encephilitis. Check with your GP which vaccinations you need- this is especially important for those travelling to remote areas of Korea or for anyone who wants to go travelling/backpacking when they are away.
- Ask for a general health check before you leave- there is nothing worse than being ill when you are away from home so make sure you are fit and well before leaving
- Take an adequate supply of any personal medication you may need when you are away as it may be difficult to find the medication you are familiar with in your new city
- Get a dental check before you leave. Many people neglect their dental hygiene when they are away from their home country so get a general check before you leave.
- Research a local health center and hospital near to your destination before you leave.
- Moving abroad is expensive and so you may need to work out a budget before you leave. It is a good idea to decide how much you will be spending each week and month before you leave so you don’t end up completely broke at the other side of the world. Working out your finances before you leave means you can budget for trips away from the city you will be staying in and other fun activities.
- Decide how you will pay for things when you are away whether this means using cash or opening up a Korean bank account. Although it is important to have some cash when you first arrive in Korea, many people choose to set up a bank account which can be done at any large banks such as Shinhan, KB, Hana and Woori Bank.
- It may take a while for your bank account to activate so make sure you have enough cash to get you through the first couple of weeks.
- Take some time to understand how the currency system in Korea works and how this converts to your currency at home. This will help you work out what is cheap and expensive compared to your home country.
- Do your research before packing. Consider what the weather will be like if you are only staying for one season, and pack a lot of warm layers if you will stay for a full year or more.
- Find out what you cannot buy in the country (such as your favorite home comforts) and what is likely to be extremely expensive so you can pack these rather than buying or importing them (such as deodorant).
- Read up on restricted items which are not allowed to be brought into Korea before packing, a complete list of which can be found here.
- Don’t forget all your important and relevant documentation for what you will be doing in Korea. It is likely you will need items such as photocopies of your passport and photo id shortly after you arrive so come prepared with these documents.
- Try and not pack too much- it is likely you will want to buy a lot when you are in the country and don’t want to end up with more stuff than you can take back home when you leave Korea.
Flights To Korea
Flights to Korea can be extremely expensive and add to the already huge financial impact on moving abroad. The following tips will help you save some money on flights.
- Book your flights at least 2 months before you travel
- Consider choosing a route which has a stop over
- Browse cheap flights and flight comparison websites such as Momondo, Skyscanner, Kayak and Travel Supermarket
- Devise a plan of how you will use your mobile phone in Korea. Many people choose to buy a Korean sim so ensure your phone is unlocked.
- Alternatively, you can buy a phone in the country as there are many phone stores which have English-speaking staff and can help you out.
- Many people chose not to buy a sim card and use free-WiFi around the city, but this can be risky especially when you are lost and need an emergency contact!
- Download Korean apps including KakaoTalk, the Subway app and Naver Dictionary to help you out when you first arrive.
- Don’t forget to say goodbye to your loved ones properly. With all the chaos leading up to your departure, it can feel like there isn’t enough time to relax with your friends and family, but it is so important to do this as the time difference when you move abroad may mean you find it difficult to keep in regular contact.
- Agree a regular time at which you can contact your friends and family via Skype so you can tell them all about your adventures!
- Plan how you will get from the airport to your new accommodation or hotel. When you arrive in the country, tired and jet-lagged, you will not want to spend your time decoding the subway system or finding which bus to take. Print out the directions to your new home and have some cash to hand so you don’t have to unpack your bags in the middle of the airport.
- Buy a journal or start a blog and document your time abroad as you are about to have a life changing experience!
Hopefully this will be helpful to those of you who are moving to Korea and are worried about the extensive list of things to do. And for anyone interested in moving to Korea check out our list of 3 Nontraditional Ways To Travel To South Korea for some inspiration for your travels!
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