Growing up in a country that boasts summer all-year-round made me think that I would be more than capable to take on summer in Korea. I was terribly wrong.
Check out these 5 tips for the times when you’re travelling in Korea during the summer!
1/ Always bring an umbrella with you
No, this is not what you think it’s for. Although it makes perfect sense to use an umbrella to block out those sun rays (there are lots of tourists who do this), this tip is actually for the days when it
rains pours. It rains frequently and very heavily during the summer period, and you would hardly want to be caught off-guard without an umbrella and with tons of shopping bags strewn over your arms. Trust me, you don’t want to learn this the hard way.
2/ Always have a fan on hand
I always prided myself on being a tropic native… until I experienced firsthand while hot Korea’s summers are. It feels like it’s burning your skin (hence tip #3), and feels even more awful before and after the rain, because it is so HUMID. You will feel pretty icky just from walking around outdoors for a short while, and this is coming from someone who grew up in a country that has summer all year round.
In fact, I truly realized how bad the summer weather was when I received my first heat wave warning/alert from the government/ministry (?) on my phone. I would never have imagined getting such an alert in Singapore no matter how hot the weather got, so this was a true eye-opener.
In any case, umbrellas are not the best weapon you can use to save yourself from the sweltering weather. After closely observing how the Koreans battle the summer heat, I can boil (no pun intended) it down to one useful tool – the portable fan. Sounds simple enough, but eventually you will find yourself feeling superior just from having one of those USB fans. They typically cost more than 10,000 won – actually pretty expensive, but demand & supply, ya know? If you don’t want to spend that kind of money, look out for free plastic/paper fans given out by brands and salesgirls. I can vouch that they work just as well, only difference being that you have to put in some effort to fan yourself.
3/ Do not ever skip sunblock
Again, this is something I took for granted back at home. Sunblock? Pah!
However, I instantly regretted this the first time I got sunburnt in Korea, from a simple sightseeing trip in the city. I immediately went to Olive Young to buy sunblock and ended up using one whole bottle of it over 6 weeks because I had to make sure to apply it everyday before I stepped out of the dorm.
Sounds exaggerating? Yes. Is it exaggerated? No.
4/ Stay hydrated
Feeling just slightly thirsty? Drink up immediately. The summer weather is unbearable, and you might find yourself chugging down an unprecedented amount of water. It’s easy to forget about hydration when you’re busy shopping, but also leaves you prone to heatstroke (not even joking about this). If you are not keen on buying so many drinks, or unsure if you will be able to find water in whichever places you are headed to, remember to bring a bottle of water everywhere you go. I can’t emphasize this enough because my water bottle has been a lifesaver on so many occasions.
5/ Beware of the insects
I had no idea that summer = insect party. There were all kinds of bugs, everywhere. I’m not implying Korea is so dirty that it’s infested with bugs, but I’m guessing that the summer weather naturally helps these insects to breed more rapidly? Survive better? Live freely?
Whichever the reason, let’s just say that during our time in Korea, none of us were prepared for all the weird insects that kept entering our rooms via the windows. I remember vividly that one night where there was a giant insect perched on my window ledge. Thankfully, there was a metal net of sorts to keep the insect out, so all I could see was its giant silhouette. It didn’t really help though, that it kept making some weird scratching noise at my window net. That bug freaked me out for sure, and I had to get my roommate to whack it away through the net. On one another occasion, my other roommate found a dead scorpion near our shoes… so there you go.