Travelling is expensive. Despite it being far cheaper these days, it can still be a reach at times.
Luckily, it’s still possible to travel on a budget! Especially in Seoul.
If you want to stay in Seoul for as cheap as possible, expect to spend around 35,000KRW ($30) per day! This price includes accommodation in a cheap goshiwon (for people spending a longer period in the country) or at a Korean sauna.
There are a lot of guides out there for ‘how to travel to Seoul on a budget’, and they offer some fantastic information. However, there is also a lot that they miss out on. This guide will show you how to save money and have a fantastic trip to Seoul while on a budget.
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1. Buy tickets online
Nearly all attractions in Seoul have tickets purchasable online. Tickets that often have large discounts!
I want to get straight into this list by talking about something that I haven’t seen mentioned before. Purchase attraction tickets online.
This is something that is incredibly overlooked. Everyone uses the internet, right? Wrong. I know very very few people who purchase attraction tickets online. But in some cases, you can save 50% or more!
For example, if you visit Namsan Tower and purchase tickets at the door, you will pay 10,000KRW. By purchasing online, you can get tickets for almost half this price!
I can’t emphasise this enough. Purchase your attraction tickets online.
2. Get internet at the PC Bang/Use free WiFi
While the PCs are aimed at gaming, a lot of people also visit when they are in need of a full desktop PC for work or school!
One of the easiest things to do in Korea is staying connected. You will find free WiFi all over the city and even in the subway. On top of this, 99(.99)% of cafes and restaurants will also offer free WiFi. Free WiFi can be found all over the city.
However, what if you need to access a computer for a while? Korea has you sorted!
Korean internet cafes are called PC Bangs. They are located all over the city, often with multiple located on every block. These cafes offer PC use from 1000KRW per hour. If you are looking to catch up on your emails, do some internet browsing, or even need a PC for work purposes, the PC bang has you covered.
PC bangs also have WiFi, and this makes them a great place to access WiFi if you need it.
If you see signs or flags advertising computers or games then you are sure to find a PC bang nearby. They are located everywhere over the city and they are hard to miss.
3. Eat These Kinds of Food!
Eating cheaply in Korea does NOT mean eating badly!
Wondering what to eat in Seoul on a budget? You’ve come to the right place!
Luckily, Seoul has a few great options for cheap food. When I say cheap food, I am generally speaking under 5000KRW for a meal.
The easiest food to find on a budget is Korean food. This means food such as kimbap, bibimbap, jjigae, deopbab, and more! You will also have a few other options such as Subway (which has a monthly sub that costs only 3900KRW), and Chinese jjajangmyeon and jjampong. There are other options also, but these are a few to get you started.
Along with these options you also have street food such as hotdogs. These can often be found for 1000KRW. If you are really struggling to find food, you can also buy (not very good food) from the convenience stores.
Look out for smaller Korean restaurants that look family-owned. They will offer a wide range of noodle and rice-based dishes and usually, prices start at around 3000KRW.
4. Carry Cash
While Korea is mostly cash-less, carrying cash will help a lot in markets!
While this is slowly changing, it is still relevant if you want to save some money.
Nearly every store in Korea will accept cards and you will find that often the same prices apply to cash and card payments. However, there is one exception to this rule. That exception is at markets.
Due to the cost of accepting debit and credit cards, you will often find that smaller stores either don’t accept cards or that cards have an additional surcharge. While this isn’t so common anymore, you might still see it if you plan to shop in the markets around Seoul.
Usually paying with a card will cost you 10% more. While this doesn’t seem like much, it can quickly add up. It is for this reason that I recommend carrying cash if you are shopping in markets around Seoul.
5. Purchase a T-Money Card
The Korea Tour Card is a special T-Money card for travellers.
Now, this one really depends on how long you are staying in Seoul. While the amount of money that it will save you is very minimal, it all adds up. That and T-Money cards are far more convenient than carrying around cash!
T-Money cards are the transport cards used in Seoul. They will allow you to pay for the metro, buses, taxis, and sometimes they will even allow you to make purchases at stores (most notably, some convenience stores).
Typically a one-way ride on public transport will cost 1350KRW. This price drops to 1250 if you use a T-Money card instead of cash and one-way tickets. While this saving is very minimal, it can add up over time.
A T-Money card can be purchased for as low as 3500KRW so if you think that you will use public transport more than 35 times on your visit, it’s worth considering. If you are in Korea for under three or four days then you might end up saving more by not purchasing it.
If you have less than 20,000 on your card when leaving Korea, then you can also get it refunded!
Want to know more about the T-Money card?
6. Be Wise About Transportation!
Transportation in Seoul is incredible. And cheap.
This next piece of advice for travelling to Seoul on a budget may seem quite obvious. However, there are a few aspects that are often overlooked!
While public transportation in Seoul can seem very complex, it really isn’t. The metro especially is incredibly easy and intuitive to use! If you don’t believe me, check out the ultimate guide to Seoul public transport!
However, there is a lot more to Korean transportation than just the metro. Buses are also fantastic and cover many areas of the city that the trains don’t. Using buses is also incredibly easy with the right transport apps!
Finally, there is another method of transport that is overlooked VERY often. That is bikes. Seoul has many bikes located (nearly always) within a 5-minute walk. These bikes can be hired by using an app.
Bike hire costs 1000KRW per hour and is a fantastic way to explore an area or to travel those short distances that are just a bit too far to walk.
For more information on how to use Seoul bikes, check out this site.
Finally, while taxis are cheap in Korea, you will generally be wanting to avoid them whenever possible. As with every city, taxis are a bit more expensive and can quickly ruin your budget.
7. Stay in Cheaper Areas
There are many cheaper areas to stay in Seoul.
Gangnam, Myeongdong, Hongdae, Itaewon. We’ve all heard of these locations when it comes to the question of where to stay. However, if you want to save some money on accommodation you will be better off avoiding these areas altogether.
That begs the question: where should I stay in Seoul on a budget?
There are a lot of different areas that you can stay even on a budget. Further, most areas (even the more expensive ones) will have cheaper options available. Accommodation starts at about 30,000KRW per night.
Looking for something cheaper? Check out point #9!
Mapo-Gu is one of the nicer areas in Seoul and there are a few great guesthouses located there. Not only is the area nice, but it is also located close to Hongdae!
Jongno-Gu also has a large variety of cheaper accommodation available, making it a great place to stay on a budget. Jongno is also located next to Dongdaemun and Namdaemun making it fantastic for tourists!
There are a lot more places that you can find great, cheap accommodation in Seoul. Enough options that I can’t list them all here!
If you are looking for more cheap options I recommend browsing through sites such as booking.com and Expedia and sorting by cheapest options first. However, the true cheapest options won’t be found online… (Read to #9!)
8. Free Tours and Classes!
The Gwangjang Food Tour is very popular!
Did you know that Seoul has a lot of free activities?
If you would like a tour of the city why not sign up to be guided by a student from Seoul? I have been on some of these tours myself, and the students are very knowledgable. If you are looking for a cheap activity to do in Seoul these tours are fantastic!
From Korean folk painting classes to calligraphy and cooking classes, the Seoul Global Cultural Center has it all! Depending on when you visit some of these classes may not be available, so make sure to check the site in advance.
9. Stay in a Goshiwon/Motel (free food!)
Goshiwons are small accommodation options that are also very cheap.
Perhaps my biggest piece of advice for travelling to Seoul on a budget is to stay in a goshiwon!
Goshiwons are famous type of student housing in Korea. Basically a tiny room with all of the furniture you need, these rooms can also be rented by tourists. Often for only 20,000KRW per night!
Not only do goshiwons give you a cheap accommodation option, but they also (often) have free food available. While this food is usually limited to rice, kimchi, and other basic items, everything counts right?
If you are looking for a goshiwon to stay in short term, check out goshipages! While not every goshiwon will allow short-term stays, there are many that will.
Another great option is the motel. While motels in Korea are often called ‘love-motels’, they are actually a great option for budget travelling also. Couples usually visit for privacy, but they are open to anyone over 19.
Motels can be found all over Korea (everywhere!) and they have prices as low as 20,000KRW for a night. The only catches are that often the manager won’t speak English and that the motels can have widely varying quality.
If you want to stay in a motel my advice is to physically find one. The only motels that advertise online tend to be more expensive and more like hotels. If you want a cheap motel, the best option is to search an area on foot – trust me, you will be able to find them easily.
You can find out everything you need to know about Goshiwons here!
10. Visit Free Attractions
Exploring Seoul Forest
Not only does Seoul have a lot of great tours and free activities, but there are also a lot of great places to visit that are free!
Some of the most famous free attractions are to some of the city’s most beautiful viewpoints. Bukhansan, Naksan and Eungbongsan all have stunning views of the city and are free. Namsan is also free (however, tower entry costs).
Exploring the parks in Seoul is one of my favourite activities. Not only are there many different parks, but they are all free. From Seoul Forest to Olympic Park and World Cup Stadium – there is a LOT to explore. This post covers some of the best parks in Seoul.
Another popular and free activity is to explore the markets of Seoul. Every market has free entry, and you are free to explore as much as you want. Some of the more popular markets are Namdaemun, Kwangjang, and Dongdaemun.
There are also a few unique areas of Seoul to explore. Places such as Ihwa Mural Village, Bukcheon Hanok Village, Cheonggyecheon Stream, Han River, and a lot more. Seoul is a fantastic city to explore.
Depending on when you visit, you may even be able to visit the palaces for free! The last Wednesday of every month has free access to the palaces in Seoul. On top of this, if you visit during Chuseok or Seollal the palaces will have free entry.
This is far from an exhaustive list of all of the free activities around Seoul. There are a lot more (and many which I don’t even know about). However, I hope it gets you started on planning your budget trip!
Travel Seoul on a Budget
Seoul is a city that can definitely be travelled around on a budget. Perhaps my biggest recommendation is simply to explore. Not only is it one of the best ways to have an authentic experience, but it also allows you to have a trip truly unique to you. If you are looking for places to visit in Seoul, check out places to visit in Seoul.
Although this list includes some of my biggest tips for travelling Seoul on a budget, there are also some tips that may have slipped my mind and therefore didn’t make the list. If you have something that you believe should be added to the list, let me know!
Seoul Budget Travel FAQ
What Are the Best Ways to Save Money While Traveling in Seoul?
What Cheap Accommodation is in Seoul?
The best cheap accommodation options in Seoul are goshiwons. These small rooms are usually aimed at students, however, many are available from around 15,000KRW per night. Compared to a backpackers or hostel these are a great choice as you get privacy.
What Can I Eat on a Budget in Seoul?
The best food to eat (while saving some money) in Seoul, and Korea in general, is the local cuisine. You can find cheap Korean dishes at many family-owned restaurants all over the country. Usually you will find that cheap options include kimbap, bibimbap, jjigaes (soups), fried rice and more.
Are There Free Activities in Seoul?
Yes! Seoul has a lot of free tours and classes that are offered by different groups. The government offers some, while student volunteer groups run others. On top of these activities, you can also explore the parks, mountains, and Han River. All are stunning and free!