South Korea surprised us in many ways and for Yeison’s Asia trip, it was probably one of the best countries to visit for first time Asia travelers. It was not crazy expensive, easy to get around and the food is just the best.
We spent 17 days in South Korea exploring Seoul and Busan. We had planned to travel on a moderate budget so we did a lot of research. Good thing about South Korea was that they had a large range of hotels, you could find cheap options and high end places.
If you’re planning on visiting South Korea, you can get a good idea of how much you’ll spend on your trip from this breakdown.
*1000 won equals roughly 1 USD (easy to remember). When prices are in $, it is for USD.
Cost to Travel in South Korea: 17 Day Wrap Up
Click on the city to skip to it.
- Total Expenses
- What we loved
- What we didn’t
- Wrap up
Incheon 1 day
We flew to South Korea from Taiwan, around 2 and a half hours from Taoyuan International Airport into Incheon. Luckily, we were able to find a relatively good price on tripsta.com for $195 one person one way with Asiana Air.
We stayed at Incheon Airport Yegrina Hotel for $48 a night. If you need a place to stay near the airport, this is a great option. They have a free shuttle to and from the airport, free Wi-Fi and includes breakfast.
Seoul 11 days
We used AirBnB (get $20 credit here) and found a place to stay during our time in Seoul for $30 a day. I was incredibly happy with how our first experience with AirBnB turned out and highly recommend it as an alternative choice to hotels. We got to experience living like locals and enjoyed staying in a university neighborhood. Our host was a really cool Korean guy who has traveled all over the world and when we visited Seoul in 2019, we met up with him again after 5 years!
From Incheon Airport we took the subway to Seoul which cost around 8000 won. The place we stayed at was outside Seoul so we had to take a public bus to get to the city.
We spent a total of $15 together taking the bus from Daehak-dong to Seoul nearly everyday.
We spent roughly $45 a day eating a lot of ramen and cheap pastries. Despite staying in a college town area, meals were about the same prices in the States at $7-10 a person. Being on a budget, we stuck to eating cheap and didn’t go to many sit down restaurants. I was sad to see that coffee was quite expensive at $3.50 for a small Americano (just regular black coffee) so we drank instant coffee instead.
The shining light was that we found a Korean bbq all you can eat for $11!
We went on the Seoul city bus tour which was $12 per person and visited Changdeokgung Palace which was $8 a person.
The rest of the time we visited Insadong and Dongdaemun, went to Yeouido Park to meet up with some friends and hiked Gwanaksan Mountain. All free!
I spent about $75 on Korean beauty products for souvenirs. This was so hard for me to resist since I love Korean beauty products. I must have visited every one we walked by! But there are some beauty stores that sell cheap items then there are the more expensive brands.
Busan 5 days
On our travel day to Busan, we decided to first go to Yeison’s father’s grave in Youngcheon. We took the KTX from Seoul to Dongdaegu, the slow train to Youngcheon and then the slow train and subway to Busan.
We really wanted to take the KTX to experience it but it is definitely more expensive. For two people we paid $76. It is really fast though, we got to Dongdaegu in about 2 hours or so and it was a really cool experience. I actually really recommend it just to try out a high speed rail in Asia.
We stayed at Pusaninn Motel next to Busan Station. In the area are a lot of places to eat for a decent price open 24 hours and for a budget hotel it was a great choice for us. Plus it’s right across the street from the subway station which made it incredibly convenient. But I have no mention that it’s right across from the Red Light District which I was stupidly unaware of when booking so it is kind of more like a “love motel.” But the location was great since it was next to the subway and close to a ton of food.
Food in Busan ran us a tad bit cheaper at about $35 a day. There were some places around our hotel that had really cheap Korean food which we enjoyed.
We met up with Meagan, a blogger friend who took us around Busan and showed us some of her favorite spots. We did a bit of shopping, eating and sightseeing.
On our last day we visited Haedong Yonggung temple and Haeundae beach. Besides paying for the subway and bus fare which was just a few dollars, it was free.
Our grand total cost of travel in South Korea came out to be about $1500 for two people which is $88 a day. Not too bad considering we stayed in relatively cheap places and stuffed our faces with Korean food!
What we loved about South Korea
Food, ease of transportation and the Wi-Fi.
- Korean food is so dang delicious. When you go to Korea, make sure to eat and try as many new things as you can.
- The city is very modern and did I mention again that I love their Wi-Fi? It was crazy fast!
- PS. Don’t forget South Korea runs on a different voltage than the US so don’t forget your adapter. They sell them everywhere for cheap but not the best quality. The one we bought in Seoul broke the first day.
- Getting around Seoul and Busan almost became second nature to us after taking the subway almost everyday. Especially with the app, we figured out how to get everywhere we wanted to go using the subway and public bus.
- My favorite activity? Visiting a cat cafe. Soo many adorable kitties to play with!
- Yeison’s favorite activity? Biking the Han River and testing out the Wi-Fi connection at all the Apple stores we ran into.
What we didn’t love
As someone who grew up somewhere that said “sorry” and “excuse me” when you bump into someone, it was a shocker to be in a society where everyone ran each other over.
Although the subway is easy to use, actually riding it was like running a 50 meter sprint with too many people stuffed on the track. Everyone just pushes and shoves their way on and off!
There is also a lot of garbage in the neighborhood streets. The place we stayed near Seoul National University smelled pretty bad with food spilled over everywhere. However, the main streets in the city itself are nice and clean.
A few personal tips
Tip: To take the public bus, you need to buy a bus card called T-Money and put credit on it which you can do at a convenience store. You have to scan it when you get on and off.
Tip: Download the Subway app. It tells you which lines to take to your destination, how much it costs and how long it’ll take. And you don’t need Wi-Fi to use it.
Tip: Write down important words and phrases in Korean. This was super helpful when the subway randomly stopped running the route to our place and we had no idea how to get back!
The cost of travel in South Korea wasn’t horrible and we did know that it was more expensive than SE Asia. I was very happy we chose to stay in Airbnb instead of a hotel because we got a more local experience and it was a really great price.
Koreans are a very interesting group of people. You could tell that they are in a transition period with their mindsets and way of thinking when it comes to traditional versus modern. Young people were much more open to talk and help us whereas the older generations shied away. Although Seoul is very modern, you still see old temples and historical places right in the middle of a touristic area.
For first time travelers to Asia, South Korea is a great option. It’s so easy to get around, food is great and the locals are super nice! We had some great experiences with locals helping us with directions or pointing out restaurants, even though they spoke limited English.
All in all, the cost to travel in South Korea is reasonable and I was really happy with how our budget turned out!
Want to read other expenses wrap ups? Here you go!
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