For those who tend to go a little crazy with the shopping in Korea, yet can’t afford to lug back a 50kg luggage, the best solution you have is to ship as much as you can back to your home country via the post office.
When I first did this during my summer school programme, I thought I was absolutely nuts. Other people whom I told this about also thought I was out of my mind. I worried about costs, about whether I could find a post office, whether I could ship all my precious things back to Singapore safely – and I had to settle this alone in a country where my language-speaking skills were limited to ordering food.
However, the pros of taking on this risk obviously outweighed all my worries. Because I was taking Korean Air, I could only check in up to 23kg, and carry on 12kg. I had brought too many clothes and necessities with me because it was a 6-week programme, and of course bought too much stuff home, be it souvenirs, snacks, skincare, makeup (I gotta say, those bottles of toner and whatnot are seriously too heavy). So I went to check postage rates, estimate how much it would cost me, and figured that sending the bulky stuff back to SG would still be the cost-effective method.
Now, another problem I faced was how to lug everything to the post office. Thankfully, Korea University has one on campus – not near my dorm at all, but still decent (kinda), and I was lucky to have a friend help me lug my bags as well. When I stayed in Myeongdong on family trips, we would go to the Seoul Central Post Office in Myeongdong. You can walk there if you can manage to, but I’ll warn first that it’s torture in winter. We also attempted to take a taxi from Skypark Central to the office and cost us around 6000 won, which is actually a very reasonable price.
If you have any boxes with you, great. If not, you’ll have to buy these from the post office. I did hear that you could probably go to convenience stores like GS25 and 7-11 to ask for used boxes to recycle, but the chances of you getting one that is intact and clean may be pretty slim.
Different sizes warrant different prices, so my suggestion is to just buy the biggest size if you know that you have a lot of big & bulky items, instead of separating them into many smaller ones. Just save yourself the trouble of having to track every single box down, I promise you’ll be better off that way.
For the rates, you’ll have to look at the ones for EMS. Below are the rates for Singapore (the one on its left is for Russia), accurate as of July 2017. You can find the updated ones on the Korea Post website as well.
To be honest, the rates definitely aren’t cheap, but it is definitely cheaper than having to pay for extra baggage on the plane. Also take into consideration that this EMS is seriously efficient: my boxes usually get delivered within 1 to 2 days!
I was once asked whether I would prefer to have my packages shipped via sea instead of air. I can’t remember the exact rates, but they actually don’t differ much from air post, but take much longer – up to one month! I’m not sure I want to have all my snacks floating on the sea for that long, but if you are not in a hurry to get these items back, it’s definitely a probable option.
On a side note, don’t try and send these items back home! Even portable fans, curling irons, hair dyes and perfumes are prohibited, so try to bring these back in your hand carry instead.
After packing your boxes (you also have to assemble the box & tape the ends together by yourself), get a EMS form and fill it up with your details. There are usually templates in English & Chinese for you to follow, in case you can’t really understand what the form is asking for. After that is done, get a queue number, then bring both boxes and forms to the counter after your number is called. The staff member at the counter will make sure your form is filled up properly, confirm that you didn’t put any prohibited items, and then weigh your boxes, much like how they do at the airport check-in.
There’s not much guarantee that the counter person will speak English, so it really depends on your luck. I once met a staff member who didn’t want to communicate in English, insisted that we fill up our hotel address in Korean (you don’t have to), and looked ready to shun us away… but I also had an encounter with a friendly staff member who was very eager and made sure we had everything settled nicely. So yeah, it’s really a matter of luck sometimes.
Andddd that’s about it! Now all you need to do is track your parcels online, and receive all your precious Korea shopping loots back in your home country.
In any case, don’t worry as much as I did, because sending parcels back home via Korea Post actually turned out to be an easy task. If you encounter any issues or want to enquire, check out their website or give them a call at +82 1588 1300.