How To Visit Seoul, South Korea On A Budget

T-money card

Do you want to visit Seoul, South Korea on a budget?

After all, South Korea is one of the most popular countries in the world to visit.

In fact, millions of people travel to South Korea each and every year.

But one thing that many people think about when they travel to South Korea is that it is very expensive.

Many people think that they will have to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars if they ever visit this place.

However that simply isn’t true.

Sure there are expensive things in this country, but it isn’t as bad when compared to some of the other countries in the world.

It is totally possible to save money when you are going to visit this country.

With the city of Seoul being the example.

There are so many things for you to see and do in the city of Seoul where you simply don’t have to spend a lot and still have fun.

In this post, I’ll show you the best tips to use when you are wanting to travel to Seoul, South Korea on a budget.

This will help you save a lot more money as well as making your trip a lot more enjoyable without going broke.

Seoul Budget Tips

Here are the best tips and tricks to use when trying to visit Seoul, South Korea on a budget.

Finding Cheap Accomadations

airbnb in seoul

As we know, one of the most expensive parts of a travel trip is the place we stay at.

So the first thing on our list of budget tips is on how to choose your accommodations wisely.

Good thing for you is that there are a variety of cheap accommodations in the city that you can choose from.

In this list, we’ll be starting with the most basic of places to stay at and then move slowly up to the more higher end price points.

Jjimjilbang – A jjimjilbang is basically a bathouse and spa. Now I know what you might be thinking. Why would you stay at a bathhouse or spa? The answer is that many of these places actually have sleeping areas where you can either sleep in a communal room (where you sleep with many other people scattered around inside a small room) or you can sleep in a small wall cave (think of a cubby hole where you can crawl into).

Now I wouldn’t recommend you stay your entire trip at one of these locations as that will just get tiring. But it does make for a good option if you are going to be staying at a certain location for a day or two.

Typical Price: $10 – $20 a night depending on which place you choose.

Goshiwon – A ghoshiwon is basically the smallest type of room you can find to rent in Korea. The size is about a large closet where you can most likely only fit a small bed and maybe a desk too.

This is a popular place to stay at for many university students as it is cheap and affordable.

It’s not a bad place to stay at if you don’t mind the small cramped area.

Typical Price: $200 + a month.

Hostels – This is something where a lot of people might be familiar with. They are basically communal places where you stay with a lot of people. One room might have many beds for a bunch of people to sleep in or depending on which one you go to, they may offer private rooms.

Typical Price: $30-50 a night.

Airbnb – I think everybody is familiar with what an AirBnb is at this point. It is incredibly popular in Seoul as you can find a bunch of good deals on places to stay, especially if you book well in advance. You can find things like lofts, 2 bed room apartments and more. Although it is a bit pricier than some other options, it is still cheaper than a hotel.

Typical Price: $30-50 a day.

Hotel – Just like every other city in the world, there are many hotels to choose from in Seoul. Although prices tend to be near the higher price end of things, it may be something you are willing to consider.

Typical Price: $80-100+ a night.

Using Public Transportation

bus in seoul

Traveling around Seoul can be a very easy thing to do.

However before you do anything, you must first get yourself a T-money card. This is basically a transportation card that will allow you access to Seoul’s public transportation system like buses and metro.

The reason we say you should get a card is because often times you’ll receive a discount if you use the card than paying each time you ride. So you’ll end up saving a bunch in the long run.

You are able to pick these cards up at most convenience stores or metro station.

T-money card in seoul

So once you have your card, you can use any of the public transportation in Seoul.

And one of the best ways to get around the city or country is by using their subway system. The subway system is so advanced that you can reach many different provinces in a very short amount of time.

Another option you have is by riding the bus. There are different buses that’ll go on different routes, so you might have to do some research before you ride a bus. But it is relatively cheap and comfortable to ride on.

Taxi’s are also an option if you want to use them. They are surprisingly quite affordable, although I wouldn’t use them all the time for my transportation in Seoul. But they are great to use especially if you are late for something or you missed the last subway or bus home.

Now if you have just arrived at the airport and are wondering how you should get to the city, you should definitely take the AREX (airport Railroad). It has two different options from the Express Train to an All Stop Train. I would suggest you take the All Stop Train as it is far cheaper than the Express Train and is only a few minutes slower.

For more information about traveling around in Seoul, I would suggest you to read my post on “How To Get Around Seoul“.

Finding Food To Eat

This is the part everybody is probably waiting for.

You’ll be happy to know that eating food in Seoul is incredibly affordable and cheap. Plus, the food is at a real high quality as well so you know you are getting some good food.

However, you do have to know where to go before you go buy your food. Mainly because, not everything is cheap in Seoul.

Restaurants

Tip: Try to go where the locals eat. Avoid the restaurants that are geared towards tourists and go find some hole in the wall restaurant where locals eat. This will guarantee you save some money as foods tend to be cheaper here. The only problem is that, they probably don’t understand English so you might need a translation software or do some hand signs.

Now these places might be a bit hard to spot if you don’t know what you are looking for. Typically you can find these places by going to any residential neighborhood and finding a place that can only sit 5 to 8 people only.

Street Food

Street food is another type of food you can buy for a very cheap price.

You can find street foods by going to any of the street markets here in the city. And once you are there, you’ll be able to enjoy an assortment of different and delicious tasting foods.

Some of the foods you can find are:

TTEOKBOKKI – Tteokbokki is a popular Korean street food dish that consists of a spicy rice cake. You’ll notice it immediately by it’s familiar appearance. It’s a long, white and cylinder-shaped rice cake that has been drenched in fiery hot sauce.

KIMBAP – Kimbap is a Korean street food staple that is made with cooked rice and other ingredients that is then rolled in sheets of dried seaweed. It is basically similar to a sushi roll except the rice isn’t really mixed with vinegar. The filling usually consists of cheese, squid, carrot, egg, tuna or any other ingredients with sesame seeds sprinkled on top.

TOKKEBI HOT DOGS – As you know, Koreans love their hot dogs, so its no wonder that they would constantly come up with new and fresh recipes featuring the hot dog. One such creation is the Tokkebi. The Tokkebi is basically a deep fried hot dog that is covered with tiny bits of french fries. And depending on which vendor you go to, some may use a different covering for the hot dog like crushed ramen instead.

ODENG – One of the most popular food items you can find at street vendors is a food called an Odeng. This is basically a Korean fish cake that takes on many shapes. The fish paste is seasoned and mixed with starch, flour, rice wine, and other spices to then form what you know as an Odeng. It usually comes with a serving of warm and tasty broth to give it that extra flavor.

And much more!

The best thing about this is that most of the street foods you buy are only around $5 bucks or less. So you can eat quite a bit without having to break the bank.

For a full list of street foods you can find in South Korea, you should check out my post “20 Delicious Korean Street Foods In South Korea“.

Themed Cafes

Aside from all of these things, there are also something unique and interesting you might like. What i’m talking about are themed cafes.

These cafes specializes in certain themes and makes the whole experience a lot enjoyable.

You can find cafes with poop themed, cat themed, dog themed, comic book themed, and much more!

Try to check them all out!

Convenience Stores

ramen in convenience store

Another place where you can find some cheap and affordable food is at convenience stores all over the country. These stores are on a whole different level than those you can find back in the States.

Plus, they don’t just stock food, but they have literally anything and everything you can ever want.

One of my favorite things to get at these stores are the Ramen bowls. You can get them for as little as $0.50 cents and they will fill you up just nicely.

So if you ever get a chance to visit the country, I highly suggest you visit the convenience stores located in the area. They are amazing!

Places To Shop At

When it comes to shopping, you can’t beat this city.

There is so many different areas where you can go shop for cheap and affordable things.

Most of these areas tend to be at some sort of street markets or those close to a university, but they offer great deals on items you’ll want.

Myeondong Shopping Street

Myeongdong Shopping Street

Myeongdong Shopping Street is the number one place to visit if you are planning to do some shopping while you are in the city. It is an extremely popular area where many people come to shop. You can find dozens of department stores, shopping malls, street vendors and much more all around the area. Basically everything you’ll ever need can be found around the shops in this area.

Some of the items you’ll be able to find are popular items like inexpensive clothes, shoes, accessories, jewelry, and handbags from local and international brands. Also, there are over 1,000 different outlets that specialize in selling Korean cosmetic and skincare items.

Plus, this area is close to some popular sightseeing spots like the Myeongdong Catholic Cathedral and the gothic-style Myeongdong Theatre.

Gwangjang Market

Gwangjang Market

Gwangjang Market was the first permanently established market in Seoul Korea. It has over 100 years of history to it making it one of the best places to visit. The market consists of more than 5000 shops and 20,000 employees in an area of 42,000 square metres. Here you can find all kinds of things from traditional shops, to street food, to even entertainment.

The ground floor is dedicated to food stalls and restaurants so you can do your shopping and grab a bite to eat.

It is a perfect place to visit if you are looking to entwine yourself with Korean culture.

Namdaemun Market

Namdaemun Market

Namdaemun Market is a large traditional market in Seoul, South Korea. The market is located next to Namdaemun, the “Great South Gate,” which was the main southern gate to the old city. It is the oldest and largest market in Korea.

It is here where you can find quality leather goods, clothing, crafts, imported goods, utensils, electronics, and traditional oriental medicines at really cheap and affordable prices.

Many locals will come here to do their regular shopping for groceries and household items as there will be many vendors who are selling these things.

Dongdaemun Market

Dongdaemun Market

Dongdaemun Market is one of South Korea’s biggest wholesal and retail shopping districts. It has about 26 different shopping malls, 30,000 specialty shops and around 50,000 manufacturers. It is also the place to go for those insanely cheap deals you can’t find anywhere else.

Plus, it has an alley specially dedicated to Korean street food and snacks, so foodies from all over flock to this area for some tasty and delicious food.

Also the place is busy all throughout the night with festivities, fashion shows, music and dance performances taking place after the sun sets in Seoul. 

Hongdae

Hongdae

Hongdae is a unique and interesting place that is known for its youthful ambience, underground cultures, and freedom of self-expression. Here you can find many cafes, art galleries, fashion outlets, live music bars and clubs. Also there are many shops that sell goods ranging from handmade clothes to even luxury goods.

It has become a popular place for many students to visit since their is a neighboring University near the area.

The main draw of this place is the weekend “free market” which takes place from 1pm to 6pm. Local artists and craftsmen showcase their handmade crafts, accessories, paintings, and second-hand goods.

Not only that but you can also see many live dance performances, literary exhibits, cultural events, street performances, and festivals.

For a more detailed list of places to shop at, you can check out my post on “15 Best Places To Go Shopping In Seoul“.

Free Or Cheap Places To Go Visit

Did you know that you can visit a bunch of different attractions for either no cost or low cost price?

It’s true!

There are literally a ton of things that you can do for either a low cost or no cost budget!

So lets see what you can see:

Grand Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace

There are currently 5 Grand Palaces you can visit. Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, Deoksugung, Gyeongbokgung and Gyeonghuigung. You are able to either pay for an individual ticket or you can pay 10,000 won for a pass to go see all 5 of these palaces.

Cost: 10,000 Won for 5 Palaces

N Seoul Tower

N Seoul Tower

N Seoul Tower is an iconic structure in central Seoul. It stands about 237 meters above ground a features an observatory where you can see panoramic views of the entire city. Inside the observatory, you can also find a digital observatory as well as many restaurants and cafes and gift shops. Not only that, but the terrace of the 1st floor of the tower is a popular spot amount couples who come from all over to attach padlocks and love notes to the fence as a symbol of their love.

Cost: Free

Jogyesa Temple

Jogyesa Temple

Jogyesa Temple plays an important role in Korean Buddhism as the head temple of Jogye order. Jogyesa Temple’s Dharma Hall serves as the main venue for several Buddhist events, holding rituals, lectures, ceremonies, and other events all year long. The annual lantern festival in celebration of Buddhist’s birthday also takes place at this temple.

Cost: Free

Cheonggyecheon Stream

Cheonggyecheon Stream

This area is a really popular area for date nights and a stroll around the area. It features a stream that reaches more than 10 kilometres across the city. Plus, it is nit to visit any time of the year but especially so during the Lantern Festival where you can see all kinds of lanterns on display.

Cost: Free

Namsangol Hanok Village

Namsangol Hanok Village

If you are interested in seeing something unique and interesting, then you’ll want to head over to this Hanok Village. It is here where you can find hundreds of hanok houses that have stood for hundreds of years since the Joseon dynasty. It is considered to be Seoul’s most beautiful historical district. Many of these buildings has since been turned into cultural centers, guesthouses, restaurants, and teahouses. They even have different museums inside the village which you can visit. It makes for a perfect place for you and your family to go explore around.

Cost: Free

Plus, did you know that the city of Seoul has over 100 different museums?

And best of all, most of the museums are actually free to enter or at least for a low cost.

Here is a list of the museums you can enter in for free:

  • War Memorial of Korea – Free
  • National Folk Museum of Korea – Free
  • National Palace Museum of Korea – Free
  • National Museum of Korea – Free
  • National Hangul Museum – Free
  • Seoul Museum of Art / SeMA – Depends on Exhibition

Best Places To Hike Or See Nature

Bukhansan National Park

Bukhansan National Park
sunrise of Baegundae peak, Bukhansan mountains in Seoul, South Korea; Shutterstock ID 296386961; Your name (First / Last): Josh Vogel; Project no. or GL code: 56530; Network activity no. or Cost Centre: Online-Design; Product or Project: 65050/7529/Josh Vogel/LP.com Destination Galleries

If you are into hikes, then Bukhansan National Park is the place to be. Here you can find a vast amount of trails that range in length and level of difficulty. Plus, there are many temples along the way where you can visit and see how the culture is like.

Seoul Forest

Seoul Forest

Consisting of five parks spread over 180,000 pyeong (approximately 595,000 ㎡) of land, Seoul Forest is an eco-friendly zone appreciated not only by the people of the city but also those visiting Seoul. It has some beautiful tree-lined paths and is a great way for you to escape from all the city life.

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As you can see, there are quite a bit of things for you to see and do for either a low cost or for no cost at all.

Hopefully this list was able to show you that you don’t have to spend a lot of money in Seoul just to have fun.

So next time you plan a vacation, you might consider a trip to Seoul and enjoy all it has to offer.

Also if you are wondering what other things there is to do in South Korea, I have some posts for you.

Things To Do List:

Or you can check out all my South Korea posts by clicking here.

Have fun traveling~