We always wanted to go to South Korea during the winter season because one, we really wanted to see some snow. And second, since we are living in a predominantly warm country, winter is a particularly novel experience for us. My friends and I initially planned to fly out during the month of January and had already booked our tickets six (6) months prior, but CebuPacific had messaged us that there had been a change in flight schedules and our original fly date and time were moved. Due to this, as you veteran flyers know, we have been given three options:
- Accept our new flight details
- Rebook or reroute to an alternate airport up to 30 days from our initial flight schedule without charges
- Get full travel refund which can be used up to 90 days from the date of creation
Since we really wished to go to South Korea during Winter, we chose option 2 and booked our trip almost 30 days after our initial schedule at the middle of February to almost March so we won’t need to endure the harshest part of the season.
For those of you wanting to go to South Korea during the Winter season like we did, I will try to answer the most common questions we received during and after our trip in this post.
How did you prepare for the Winter Season?
Check the weather predictions regularly
This is critical especially if this is your first time to experience Winter and if you are on a budget. Preparing for winter can be quite expensive because you will be needing quite a lot of pullovers, jackets and thermals and you don’t want to shortchange yourself and end up suffering too much in the cold.
We regularly checked the weather predictions online two months before, a month before, a week before and the day before our scheduled flight and prepared for the predicted temperature we will face once we landed in South Korea.
We prepared for the worst temperature we could encounter. And based on the early predictions on the dates we will be in Seoul, the worst temperature that we will come against was -5 degrees celsius. I focused my clothing preparations and the other items I brought based on that knowledge and all else became secondary.
Here are the items you should bring to South Korea during the Winter Season:
- Thermals or HeatTech clothing
- Thermal Socks or just really thick socks
- Ear Muffs
- T-Shirts and leggings you can layer
Coming from a tropical country, I think we all know the meme, “sana naka-aircon na lang yung buong Pilipinas.”
(Translation: I wish the Philippines has centralized/country-lized lol airconditioning)
And we get very excited with the thought of experiencing snow or the great cold in another country and prioritize planning our OOTDs to take amazing photos. But this is what nobody tells you, Winter is so painful. Literally, painful. And if you are not used to it or haven’t experienced it before, it will shock your body once you step out of the airport. So it is wise that instead of focusing on the next best outfit for your OOTD, really focus on comfort and ensuring that you have what you need in case the cold gets extreme.
Why do I need thermals?
Thermals are your security blanket from the cold. You need them to warm your body and automatically adjust to the cold. They seem expensive to buy but I swear it is the most important investment you need to have for the trip. We are so lucky that we now have stores that offer a lot of options for thermals. Your best bets in this are: Uniqlo HeatTech or Marks and Spencers Thermal wear. If you find the extra warm versions, I suggest to go for those options.
Pro Tip: If you feel that it’s really out of budget to buy thermals, what you can do is bring a lot of leggings and T-Shirts and layer them. You need to be able to provide protection not only for your back but to your legs as well. Your legs need to be covered because the cold will make you feel so much heavier and there will be times that your energy to walk will be seeped out of your skin and you will have no idea how it started.
Why do I need gloves?
If you are thinking about skipping on bringing gloves, I am telling you no, do not even think about it. We felt that the area that suffered the most during our trip were our hands. And I was wearing gloves. I was also moisturising my hands with lotion every 30 minutes. Religiously. There are no words to explain the pain you will feel once you remove your gloves to take a photo.
During our trip at The Garden of the Morning Calm, it was so cold that we didn’t bother to take a lot of photos even for memories. The cold was insufferable. And I feel so much pain even writing about it. It was so cold *cries in Korean* You will not see and know where exactly in your fingers the pain is, but you will feel it. Also, your nails will suffer. I noticed that my nails grew quickly yet became so brittle that at the end of our trip they broke off. *cries again in Korean* So all I’m saying is: BRING YOUR GLOVES.
Pro Tip: To get cheaper items, buy your winter clothing during the Spring/Summer season in the Philippines. By then, Winter clothing will be out of season and gloves, scarves and beanies will be discounted almost 70% off. I also saw outerwear items like jackets and pullovers selling for half the price in really good stores like Berksha, Terranova and American Eagle Outfitters. Plan your Winter trip at least a year before to prepare for your winter clothing and get great deals like this.
Pro Tip: Finding earmuffs in the Philippines can be hard but what you can do is look for a multi-purpose scarf that can cover your head as well. I bought mine in Divisoria for just 250PHP and it did its job so well that I didn’t need to re-adjust it often. If you have the time, it might be good to check out local thrift shops/ukay to save on some moolah. I wasn’t too fortunate on that time, but I did find great finds in Divisoria two days before our trip.
Layering and Heat Packs
Layering your clothing is the best thing you can do to survive a Winter Trip. I found that the only way I can enjoy the trip was by wearing 7 layers of clothing and for me that would be:
- HeatTeach Tights
- Inner Jacket/Coat/ Pull Over
- Scarf, Bubble Coat, socks and face mask
Because I was so prepared (I actually over-prepared lol), I didn’t need to buy a heatpack. But it doesn’t make you a lesser person if you do. Heatpacks are available in all of the convenience stores in South Korea, it wouldn’t be hard to find one. Please do anything to ensure that your body temperature stays regulated even if it means taking constant breaks from your trip to relax at a Cafe and dial up your temperature to a few degrees. You do not want to end up sick and wasting your last few days recuperating at a hotel or a hospital so taking care of your body is very important.
Bring your medicine
This should be a MUST in every trip regardless of the weather, since there is always the probability that the medicine you are used to does not have a direct equivalent at the country you are going to and there is always the language barrier. So any medication you have must be bought before your trip with some extras just in case of emergencies. Part of my medicine kit were packs of Vitamin C, eyedrops, Biogesic, antihistamines and antacids.
Moisturize, every chance you get.
Stock up on your favorite lipbalm and lotion because you will definitely need it. I was so scared of getting too cold that I would hydrate myself, moisturize and dab on lipbalm every chance that I got that’s why I didn’t experience the full effect of dry lips. But during our last day in South Korea, my body was already impervious to the cold and I got so confident that I didn’t bother to put on lipbalm. Once we got to Incheon International Airport, my lips were cracked and in pain. It felt like my lips were being sliced in half and I wanted to cry out. But nothing like good ole’ Lucas Papaw couldn’t solve and I was once again healed. Again, never skip putting on lipbalm.
Knowing what you are getting to and planning for it is the best way to go forward if you want to spend some Winter time in South Korea. Always be a step ahead especially if you are afraid of the cold like me. Always mind these areas: your neck, your ears, your nose, your legs and your hands. Once you got these covered, you will definitely enjoy your Winter trip in South Korea.