September 21, 2011

Mailing packages, getting a subway card, and getting birth control

This is the second post I consider part of my "how to" series (the first was the smartphone post). I want to make my blog more informative and helpful - something that will assist new foreigners in adjusting to life in Korea. I hope its useful to some readers, without being a hindrance to my friends and family back in the states.

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If there is one thing I never get sick of, it is mailing and receiving letters and packages. The Korean postal service is pretty spectacular. It's much cheaper to mail things from Korea to the States than vice versa.

The offices sell boxes of varying sizes.

The boxes are cheap! For those in the states, it's about 30 cents to a dollar and change.

Even better, they have tape, scissors, markers, and so on - everything you need.

To answer the basic questions - yes, they place to and from addresses in the traditional places; yes, they will have you fill out a customs form listing everything inside along with its quantity, weight, and price. They accept cash or cards. You can mail surface, air, or express. Surface is the cheapest but can take one to three months. Some locations are open Saturday mornings, but not all are. I've had the best luck with English speakers early in the morning on weekdays, for some reason.

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In Daegu, you can buy one of two subway cards. The top one is called Toppass, and can be used in Daegu, Busan, Seoul, and some other cities. The bottom is only for Daegu. They both cost 2,000 Won, and when you buy it, they will put credit on it if you give them cash.

One of the most beneficial aspects of having the card is that you have free transfers from bus to bus or bus to subway. There are some time limits on this, such as the fact that you cannot take one bus somewhere, and the same bus going the opposite direction for free. When you exit the bus, simply swipe your card on the card reader by the exit door (if you forget to do this, it will charge you for the next fare).

** When I was in Seoul in December 2011, I could use my card, but I couldn't recharge it. Make sure you put on enough money to last your trip to Seoul!

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Getting birth control in Korea is easy and affordable. You do not need a prescription. Just go to the pharmacist and ask for it by brand name; Mercilon is pictured and only costs 7,000 Won per month. There are pharmacies all over Daegu; you can identify them by the traditional red cross symbol in the window. You can buy more than one month at a time if you ask for it.

As a side note, I am a big advocate in regular gynecological exams and believe that living in a foreign country is no excuse to not go. This is a extremely helpful blog post about Hyosung Women's Hospital in Daegu, and I recommend the hospital personally. It coordinates with US military bases and is accustomed to having foreigners as patients. I can tell you that Ms. Ku (the woman who will help you set up an appointment and ensure that you fully understand the doctor) is kind and helpful, even better, her English is phenomenal.

If you're outside of Daegu or looking for a doctor outside of the OBGYN field, this site has a list of medical services with English speakers of all types from around the country.

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