Curious to know the price range of good restaurants and cafes in Seoul? Get an estimate here!
- The ideal and recommended budget for those traveling to Korea is around $100 per day.
- However, through careful planning and discipline, you can easily minimize your expenses.
- If you want to save money when you visit all the attractions in Seoul, buy this mobile Discover Seoul Pass. With just one card, you can get automatic admission to all the top attractions in the capital!
- Planing to take an Everland shuttle bus, join a Nami Island tour, or rent a hanbok? Use WAUG — the No. 1 travel activity booking platform in Korea. Download the money-saving app here, sign up, and get the $3 discount coupon for new members!
South Korea Travel Budget Guide
While the cost of living in Korea is reportedly on the high side, there’s still a lot of options that suit various travelers’ budget and lifestyle. Thanks to the boom of tourism in the country, more affordable transportation, food, leisure, and accommodation choices have become available over the past couple of years. Hence, you can get rid of the notion that traveling in South Korea requires a lot of money.
For starters, let’s consider what many foreign visitors say is the ideal amount of money to have per day, which is $100. An average traveler usually breaks it down this way:
- Basic accommodation in Korea, like a hotel or hostel: ₩30,000 (around $25)
- Tours & Attraction Passes: ₩20,000 (around $15)
- Transportation: ₩10,000 (around $10)
- Meals + Coffee: ₩30,000 (around $25)
- Miscellaneous (Alcohol, Snacks, Grocery Items): ₩30,000 (around $25)
How to Explore South Korea on a Budget
But do I really need this much money, you ask? Not exactly. If you’d like to visit Korea on a light budget, there are tons of ways to trim down your expenses and stretch your budget. Here are some of them:
1. Find the cheaper accommodations in Korea
Search for accommodations that are not in expensive places like Gangnam and Itaewon. Consider Myeongdong, Euljiro, and Hongdae areas, which usually offer affordable rates (around $8-12).
Many foreign travelers have also tried spending a night at a jjimjjilbang, which is a Korean sauna with sleeping quarters. This place typically charges around $8-10 for one night, but know that it’s not going to be comfortable.
2. Manage your transportation costs in Korea
One way that you can save money is by using a T-Money card. This is a prepaid smart card that you can use to pay for public transportation in Korea. It will give you a discount of ₩100 ($0.09) whenever you take the bus or subway. On the onset, the savings will seem negligible, however, at the end of my 7-day trip, I was able to save nearly as much as the cost of an Iced Americano in Starbucks. Read more about this money-saving travel essential on our guide.
To help you budget your transportation costs in Korea, here are some figures:
- Taxis in Seoul have a base fare of ₩3,800 (around $3.40)
- Seoul Subway base fare for users on a single-journey ticket
- Adults [19 years and above]: ₩1,350 (around $1.2) per trip
- Teens [13-18 years old]: ₩1,350 (around $1.2) per trip
- Children [7-12 years old]: ₩450 (around $0.4) per trip
- Children [6 years and below]: FREE
- Seoul Subway base fare for T-Money card holders
- Adults: ₩1,250 (around $1.1) per trip
- Teens: ₩720 (around $0.6) per trip
- Children: ₩450 (around $0.4) per trip
- Children: FREE
Note that the Seoul subway base fare covers a travel distance of 10 km or less. An additional ₩100 ($0.09) is charged for every 5 km traveled within a distance of 10-50 km, and ₩100 for every 8 km traveled with a distance of over 50 km.
Also keep in mind that T-Money cannot be used to pay for your inter-area train transfers, i.e. Seoul to Busan or Daegu to Daejeon. T-Money can only be used to pay for the subway lines within each city.
3. Try the budget-friendly meals and food in Korea
Your meal expenses ultimately depend upon whether you want to try as many Korean food as possible, how big (or small) of an eater you are, or if you’re okay with just filling your stomach with junk.
If you’re like most who’s willing to spend some money on food but is still on the conservative side in terms of daily budget, here’s how you can work it out: allot at least ₩7,500 per meal and ₩5,000 for coffee. If you eat three square meals a day, that would be around ₩27,500 or $23 daily.
Some of the ways you can further lower the cost:
- Get personal recommendations from your accommodation host or find low-key mom-and-pop stores (the homey-looking ones!). These humble restaurants usually have their menus up on their windows so you can see their price range. Lunch or dinner menu items in these places can can go as low as ₩6,000 or $5.
- Look for an accommodation in Korea that offers free breakfast! You can save at least ₩10,000 in a day if you don’t mind having instant ramen, toast, and 3-in-1 coffee.
- Go for street food. If you want a quick fill, get some Korean street food, which you will not have a hard time looking for (Myeongdong has lots!). Each item usually sells for ₩1,500-4,000 (or $1-3). There are also kimbap shops that sell rice treats (carbs!) for around ₩2,000 ($1.7).
- CVS munchies, anyone? Convenience stores in Korea like 7-Eleven and CU offer triangular rice kimbaps (samgak kimbap) and other food items (sausage-on-stick, fish cakes, cup ramen, instant jjajangmyeon, and cooked rice) for only ₩1,000-2,000 (around $0.9-1.8).
- Other information that might be helpful: If you’ll spend time in a cafe, allot around ₩9,000 for a cup of coffee and pastry (set menu). Ordering fast food in Korea may cost you around ₩6,000-10,000 ($5-8).
If you don’t want to scrimp so you can try all the dishes that South Korea is known for (yep, eat like a local!), here are some of the restaurants that you can book online at a discount:
- Sinsa Jigudang in Gangnam (Take-Out Only)
- Picky Papa Cafe in Gangnam
- WAUG Exclusive: Joseon Era Pub in Hongdae
- The Dam Restaurant in Hongdae
- Yeoljeongdo Jjukkumi
Estimating the Cost of Your Korea Trip
If you are required to apply for a South Korea tourist visa, you will be asked to provide an estimated cost of your trip. Here we list down the price of some of the must-have travel items and tours to help you budget:
1. Connectivity & Transportation
- Unlimited data SIM card for Korea – around $27 for 5 days
- Incheon Airport Private Drop-Off Service – around $52
- Everland Shuttle Bus Ticket (Round-trip) – around $8
- Jeonju Hanok Village Bus Tour – around $29
- Seoul Palace Tour – around $30
- DMZ Walking Tour – around $30
- Yongin MBC Daejanggeum Park – around $34
3. Attractions & Shows
Final Korea Budget Tip!
If you have not signed up for WAUG yet, you can do so here. You’ll get a $3-discount coupon, which you can use on your first booking! (If you plan to explore your home country next or other destinations like Japan, Taiwan, Los Angeles, New York, or Singapore, you can also use WAUG and earn points that you can use like cash!)