Seoul is one of those cities that can be seen at a very reasonable cost, and one that can see luxury at still cheaper prices than most western countries. A Seoul travel budget truly works for everyone’s wallet. But let’s focus on how you can save the most fun while saving the most money.
IIf you are continuing your stay in Korea in Busan, check out my list of Epic FREE Things to Do in Busan!
Seoul Budget Travel – Things to Do
When it comes to trying to spend the least on your trip to Korea, this Seoul Travel Budget has your back. First, check out this article on the best free things to do in Seoul! In fact, most of the best things to do in Seoul are already free so it will be easy to create a budget itinerary.
While the guide above has many more details, here are some highlights:
Bukcheon Hanok Village: Get a taste of old Korean heritage right in the city for free! This village will be full of tourists dressed to the nines in hanbok, Korean traditional clothing. So your photos will look like they’ve come straight out of the Joseon Era!
Seoul Hiking: There are several popular mountains in Seoul such as Inwangsan or Namsan, all of which are totally free to visit. Most have historical sites along the trails, and the views can be spectacular.
And of course there are museums and Buddhist temples to explore for free too!
Seoul Travel Budget – The Food
Convenience stores are where it’s at for budget meals. For those concerned about missing out on culture or unique snacks by avoiding restaurants – never fear! Korea has some of the best convenience stores out there. In many you can even eat right inside or just outside at little tables.
Try triangle kimbap – very similar to onigiri if you’re more familiar with Japan’s version. There are tons of flavors, my favorite is the tuna but expect fun varieties such as kimchi (Korea’s famous fermented cabbage) and spam. Pick up a packet of pickled quail eggs for something different, and one of the royal milk teas for a drink (or cork-silk tea, my favorite!).
If you’re looking for a little higher level than a convenience store, head to a Mandu or Kimbap restaurant. Here, expect meals to run around $3-6.
- Mandu are Korea’s dumplings, and I personally think Korea has some of the best in the world (only second to Chinese soup dumplings in my mind!). Get the vegetarian ones, which have chopped cabbage and glass noodles and for some reason tastes amazing even without meat.
- Kimbap is like I’ve described above except it comes in a roll at restaurants and there are more filling stuffings. Make sure to try the Donkasu, or fried pork cutlet, version.
Seoul Budget Travel – Drinking and Partying
No trip to Seoul would be complete without a little partying. The nightlife in Seoul is absolutely some of the best in the world!
Drinking: Convenience stores are again where it is at. Soju can run anywhere from 11-20% in a bottle for less than $2. Beer and Makgeolli are similarly priced but the percentage will be around 4-8%. Don’t pay for the expensive drinks inside bars or clubs, pregame outside and save yourself a bundle. Drinking on the streets is fully legal so there’s no reason not to!
In fact, I highly recommend creating your own drunken tour of Hongdae or Gangnam! It’s one of the best ways to explore the city.
Partying: For clubbing, this is going to be a lot easier for women who can generally get a wrist band or stamp for free if you start partying earlier in the evening (around 9PM) after that women generally have to pay a cover charge of $10-15 as well.
But, if you’re not interested in dancing you can actually have an equally good time in Seoul’s bars which don’t have cover fees. Thursday Party is generally maligned as the “foreigner” bar hangout, but this can actually be nice for first-time visitors.
The Koreans inside generally will be able to speak English and are there to meet English-speaking people – so you can actually get to know people. They’re also consistently packed so no one will ever notice if you don’t buy a drink.
Seoul Budget Travel – Housing and Accomodation
Depending on the length of your stay, you have a few different options. For those only in Korea for a few days to a couple of weeks hostels are the name of the game. For long term month+ stays, consider the Goshiwons.
Hostels: There are tons of hostels in Seoul that range from $9-$20 a night. I recommend staying in Hongdae or Myeongdong where hostels are generally going to be much cheaper than in other popular locations such as Gangnam or Itaewon or the historical areas.
Goshiwon: A Goshiwon is basically a dorm room that you can rent by a specific period of time, with a month being the most bang for your buck. A month will typically run you around $300. They are very basic and small, but it is a private room with a wet bath and bed. Some include free kimchi and rice in the communal kitchen which can cut down on some of your meal costs.
Seoul Budget Travel – Transportation
Seoul is generally too big to walk around very much. If you stay in Myeongdong and you’re fine with 30+ minute walks, then you can make it the historical areas with the palaces. If you stay in Hongdae, you can enjoy the nightlife without spending a dime on transport.
Luckily transport to all the other areas is very reasonable.
Buses and Subways are fantastic and go everywhere you need them to. Seriously, I’ve never needed a taxi in Seoul. Each ride will cost you around $1.10, with certain discounts for trips within a few hours of each other (best not to rely on this as the discount doesn’t always apply to certain line changes, etc.).
Total You Can Survive on in Seoul and Still Have a Great Time
So, as you can see, the costs can be kept very low for your trip to Korea. Here’s a quick roundup:
Housing: $10 a night
Food: $10 a day
Transport: $4 a day
Fun: $8 a day
Grand Total: $32 a day!
Of course, it’s always possible to do this cheaper. You can couch surf, walk everywhere, and never pay for a single attraction and probably spend about $10 a day. However, I personally don’t recommend this style of travel because how much of the real Korea are you truly going to see that way?