Count the Cost: Budget Tips for Your South Korea Trip
Because who wants to spend beyond their means?
The ideal and recommended daily budget for a South Korea trip is ₱5,000 or $100.
However, through careful planning and discipline, you can easily minimize your expenses.
If you're looking to get a ₱1,600 discount (around $30) on your first Airbnb booking, you can go to this link and sign up. Of course, only new users will be eligible for this! (To know more about how this referral program works for invitees/new users, read the mechanics here.)
Also check out: Converting Your Money to Korean Won
South Korea Budget Guide
While the cost of living in South Korea is reportedly on the high side, travelers can still find flexible options to suit their budget. Thanks to the sharing economy (say Airbnb for cheaper apartments!) and the boom of tourism in the country, costs of transportation, food, and accommodation have become more affordable. Hence, one can get rid of the notion that traveling in South Korea for leisure requires lots of money.
For starters, we can consider how an average traveler spends per day (figures are rounded up):
Accommodation (Hostel or Cheap Hotel): ₩30,000 (around ₱1,500 or $27)
Transportation (City and Inter-city): ₩10,000 (around ₱500 or $ 9)
Meals + Coffee: ₩30,000 (around ₱1,500 or $27)
Miscellaneous (Admission tickets, Alcohol, Snacks, Grocery Items): ₩30,000 (around ₱1,500 or $27)
As we can see, one then needs at least ₩100,000 (around ₱5,000 or $100) to get by in a day. This is exactly why most travelers would recommend having this figure for one's daily spend. (Of course, this excludes shopping money as well as airfare costs.)
Travel South Korea on a Budget
But do I really need this much money, you ask? Not exactly. If you'd like to travel on a light budget, there are tons of ways to trim down your expenses and stretch your peso or dollar:
1. Accommodation in Korea
Try searching for accommodations that are not in touristy places such as Myeongdong, Nandaemun, and Itaewon. Hostels and university dorms outside these areas usually offer the cheapest rates, which can go as low as ₱400-700 per night (around $7-13) in Airbnb. Just note that if you're looking to explore the bustling areas of Seoul, you'll most likely spend more time commuting to and fro.
If you really prefer to be in the center of all action, such as famous shopping districts and night markets, you will find capsule hotels and hostels in Myeongdong that can offer ₱650-1,100 per night, give or take.
When I stayed in Seoul, I booked Namsan Guest House through Airbnb. Their nightly rate was only around $17 per night (₱890), which is definitely not bad for the amenities and convenience they offer. Since this was my first booking via the app, I even managed to score a discount of ₱1,600, which is almost the cost of 2 nights in the guest house!
You can also spend a night at a jjimjilbang, which is a Korean sauna with sleeping quarters. These saunas typically charge around ₱350-P700 (around $6-13) for one night.
To compare (figures rounded up):
Average traveler's daily spend on accommodation: ₩30,000 (₱1,500 or $28)
You can spend: ₩7,500-18,500 (₱360-890 or $6.8-16.9)
If you don't have an Airbnb account yet, click on the button below so you can make one and get travel credits for your first booking.
Your transportation costs really depend upon what attractions you want to explore. However, you can do the following to help you save some money:
Use T-Money to pay for your subway, taxi, and bus fares. On the onset, the savings per ride wouldn't really seem to help; however, at the end of my 7-day trip, I was able to save nearly as much as the cost of an Iced Americano offered in Starbucks. You can read more about buying and using T-Money here.
Plan your routes ahead of time using apps. If possible, always take the bus or train instead of a taxi. You can read more about our recommended apps and transportation options here.
Taxis in Seoul have a base fare of ₩3,800 (around ₱180 or $3.40).
To compare (figures rounded up):
Average traveler's daily spend: ₩10,000 (₱485 or $9.2)
You can spend with T-Money: ₩7,500 (₱365 or $6.94)
Similar to transportation, your meal expenses depend upon whether you want to try out as many authentic 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 (boo! #lovekoreanfood).
If you're like me who's willing to spend more on food but is still on the conservative side in terms of daily budget, here's how I worked it out: I allotted at least ₩6,500 per meal and ₩5,500 for coffee. Per day, that would be around ₩25,000 (₱1,200 or $23).
Some of the ways you can further lower the cost:
Get personal recommendations from your host or find low-key, unassuming restaurants near your hostel/apartment. These restaurants are commonly homey-looking and found in alleys. They also have their menus up on their windows so you can see their price range. Full lunch or dinner set meals can go as low as ₩5,500 (around ₱245 or $5.12).
Look for an accommodation that offers free breakfast (Airbnb has lots)! 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 cart food. If you want a quick fill, get some street food. Each item usually sells for ₩1,000-3,000 (₱50-150 or $1-3). There are also kimbap shops that sell rice treats (carbs!) for only ₩1,300 (₱60 or $1.2).
CVS munchies, anyone? Convenience stores 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 ₩800-2,000 (around ₱40-100 or $0.7-1.8).
Other information that might be helpful: If you'll spend time in a cafe, allot around ₩10,000 for a cup of coffee and pastry. Fast food meal items would cost you around ₩6,000-9,000 (₱280 or $5.3).
To compare (figures rounded up):
Average traveler's daily spend: ₩30,000 (₱1,500 or $27)
You can spend: ₩10,000-25,000 (₱480-1,210 or $9-23)
When filling out the visa application form, make sure that the currency you use to indicate your estimate travel costs is in USD. Moreover, the amount you'll put in should not go over the money you have in your bank account.
To be on the safe side, aim to show that you have $100 per day to spend.
If you’re planning to get the Discover Seoul Pass, know that it also doubles as a T-Money card so you don’t have to buy a separate one! Read more about it here: Discover Seoul Pass: Your Key to the City
You can also score some discounts for your Korea travel essentials, i.e. an unlimited data sim or pocket Wifi in Korea. Check out our Promos section to see savings offered by Klook.
South Korea is one of the most technologically advanced countries in Asia where free hotspots are available everywhere, but most public networks are known to collect, intercept, and share user data. A VPN is a great way to protect your digital privacy and security so you can enjoy free services with peace of mind, and one with a South Korea server can ensure high-speed connections in the country. Learn more about the best VPN for South Korea here.
Price Watch: Must-buy Items for Your Korea Trip
Here are some of the travel essentials that you may want to take into account when planning for your trip to Korea:
1. Data SIM card for South Korea
Unlimited data SIM card for Korea that comes in various day plans
Fast and stable LTE connection for those on-the-go!
2. Pocket Wifi for South Korea
Get this pocket Wifi for your South Korea trip to connect up to 3 gadgets at one time.
Note that a credit card is needed to settle the deposit upon claiming the rental device.
3. Airport Express Train Ticket for Incheon to Seoul
One-way express train ticket for Incheon International Airport to Seoul Station or Seoul Station back to Incheon International Airport
Get to downtown Seoul the fastest way possible!
4. Shared Incheon International Airport Transfers to Seoul
Enjoy the convenience of a shared transfer service from Incheon or Gimpo Airport to your hotel in Seoul.
Travel in a spacious air-conditioned vehicle that sits up to 7 people with plenty of room for your luggage.
For more travel recommendations, read: PRICE WATCH: Korea Travel Essentials
Ultimate Filipino Travel Budget
How about a budget of ₱16,000 for 7 days? Some travelers have done it, and here's their usual breakdown:
Airfare + Taxes: ₱6,500 (watch out for seat sales!)
Transportation (T-Money + Bus + Ferry to Nami Island): ₱2,200
Attractions (Free + Paid): ₱1,300
Think you can take the challenge?
Just My Thoughts
While there's flexibility in terms of budgeting for a South Korea trip, remember that traveling is not always about measly spending. Your goal should be to work hard for a wondrous escape and reach that point when you can feel financially confident to go an adventure, regardless of how much amount that would entail. Having an overseas trip does not always have to be costly, but you don't necessarily have to shortchange yourself, especially if this is a dream trip that's long pending. Therefore, make sure to plan ahead, research your options, work hard, and bleed your heart out in fun when you're finally in Korea.
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