A Trip to [Korean] Costco

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, which is a shame, because I have some really beautiful photos of the Seokbulsa Temple to share with you. Unfortunately, these photos are trapped on my camera because I cannot locate the cord that connects said camera to my computer. Womp womp.

This post is less for my mom-and-other-family-contingencies who read this blog, and more for lost ex-pats who are scouring the web for some information on Costco in Busan. I tried doing the same before my first trip to Costco, and only came up with many shaky, annoying YouTube videos filled with people screeching about ohmygodpeanutbutter!!!Starbuckscoffee!!! I’ll save you the trouble; here’s what you need to know:

How to get there: I live in Namcheon, which means it’s only about a 5,000-6,000 won taxi ride for me to get there. If you’re any further away, take the subway to Suyeong and grab a cab from there. Every time I’ve gone, I’ve showed the taxi driver these characters: “코스트코”, and said “Cost-uh-co-uh.” The “uhs” are very necessary. It’s how you say Costco in Korean.

Upon arrival: When you enter into the store, bear to your left. That’s where you buy a membership. There are forms in both Korean and English, but we found it was easiest to hand over our ARC and have them write the address in Korean for us. Actually, the saleswoman saw Alex painstakingly trying to copy the characters from his card onto the form, decided it would take about three hours, and took it from him. Either way.

So you fill out the form, hand over 10,000 won for a one-year membership, and they take your mug shot. Moments later, they hand you your card and you’re on your merry way.

Now, onto the good stuff. A whole new world of legitimately Western food has opened itself up to you, and it’s easy to go a little crazy. We brought our coworker from Wisconsin with us on our second visit, and he bought about $70 worth of cheese. Try to reign yourself in; it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Walk parallel to the checkout lines and head to the aisles on the far right first. The first few aisles are filled with beauty products/toiletries at mostly exorbitant prices. The only thing I’ve picked up from these aisles is sunscreen: 28,990 won for two small bottles. For a country as obsessed with staying pale as they are, you’d think sunscreen would be readily available. Not so much…

The next few aisles are filled with all of your normal pantry items. Here’s a list of what we’ve picked up from Costco on past trips. Certain items did not need to be bought again after our first trip; others we buy every single time:

Special K (two normal-sized boxes): 11,490

Cheerios (two big bags): 11,790

Fiber One granola bars (box of 36): 16,990

Tomato Sauce (three large jars): 9,990

Pasta (more than you will ever eat, ever): 10,790

Peanut butter (4 lb, aka two monster jars): 19,990

Olive oil (a vat): 13,790

Thai sweet chili sauce (two huge bottles): 6,490

After these aisles, you’ll come to the frozen/refrigerated foods section (and coffee. Don’t forget about coffee). Here’s what we’ve picked up there:

Starbucks Via packets (24 packets): 19,000 (in case you’re wondering, yes I do realize this is highly overpriced. And I.don’t.care.)

Chicken (6 lb, individually packaged breasts): 26,490

Frozen bag of mixed berries (3 lb): 11,990

Orange juice (1 gallon): 9,390

Cheese (2- 2 1/2 lb depending the variety; we’ve gotten Colby-Jack, Cheddar, and Pepperjack): 10,000-12,000

Then, the alcohol section. Wine is incredibly expensive in Korea (a fact that still makes me sad), but Costco is your best bet for finding cheap bottles. They have a very large selection, ranging in price from 8,000- 50,000 won. There are also a couple of wine tastings set up in this section. Because who doesn’t want to sip on wine at 10am on a Saturday? I usually grab a couple of bottles when we come here. They also have liquor, soju, and some beer. Liquor is also fairly expensive here, but a bottle of Bacardi 151 is a fairly reasonable 21,000 won.

Usually by this time, our budget has been maxed and we’re ready for the check-out line. Every blog that I’ve found boasts about how great the pizza at Costco is. You know, from the mini food court thing? We ordered one before going to the beach one day, and while it was decent, I wasn’t amazed. To its credit, it is friggin’ huge. A whole pizza is 12,000 won, and I was stuffed after one slice.

Once you leave the check-out, wheel your cart on out to the taxi line. Remember how I said if you lived too far, you could just take the taxi to the subway? Well, good luck subway-ing it with your impossibly heavy boxes of bulk goods. Bite the bullet, take the cab all the way home (most of the drivers we’ve had have even helped us unload), and enjoy your all of your delicious, Western delights.

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