10 Best South Korea Budget Tips + Travel Costs (2024)

Are you wondering how much a trip to South Korea will cost? Here’s our in-depth travel guide on the 10 best South Korea budget tips you should know before your trip. We’ll show you how to plan your South Korea travel costs and many ways to make your trip more budget-friendly. We also share all of our costs for a 2 week trip to Korea from accommodation and snacks to transport and activities.

South Korea is ultimately one of the best countries we’ve travelled to. The country blew us away with its beautiful culture, rich history and delicious food.

Have you been wondering if South Korea is expensive to visit? Depending on the prices of your home country, it’s really not too bad. Compared to the UK it is much more affordable and it’s even slightly less expensive than beloved Japan!

We’ve created this budget guide to share our South Korea travel costs of travelling the country for 2 weeks. We visited Seoul, Gyeongju, Golgulsa Templestay, Busan and Jeonju!

Honestly, we had a great time and can’t wait to go back in the future and we’ll probably still stick to a budget. For now, we’ll show you that South Korea can be done on a budget and what travel costs you can expect.

10 Best South Korea Budget Tips + Travel Costs (2023)
10 Best South Korea Budget Tips + Travel Costs (2024)

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10 Best South Korea Budget Tips

Here are our top 10 South Korea Budget tips to help you plan the best trip! After these tips, you’ll find our full South Korea travel cost breakdown split into separate categories.

1. Swap Restaurants for Markets & Street Food

One of the best ways to travel to South Korea on a budget is to choose your food carefully. The price to eat somewhere in South Korea is very reasonable, but some places will be expensive too.

Throughout our 2 weeks in South Korea we ate our food at restaurants, markets, street stalls, convenience stores and grocery stores! It definitely helps the bank to cook your own food and you can try the endless supply of ramyeon!

Places to eat in South Korea on a budget

  • Myeongdong Street Food (Seoul)
  • Maru – Budget-friendly Korean street food in the heart of Insadong (Seoul)
  • Gwangjang MarketOur favourite! (Seoul)
  • Haeundae Market (Busan)
  • Gwangbokdong Food Street (Busan)
  • Fast-food chains – Places like Lotteria, No Brand Burger and Subway

We highly recommend visiting Gwangjang Market whilst visiting Seoul. Grab a mung bean pancake, bibimbap and dumplings and you’ll be very full (this food will feed two people)!

A few Korean dishes to try to keep your South Korea travel costs low:

  • Ramyeon (The easiest food to grab at a convenience store)  1,500
  • Bibimbap (Very popular with a variety of toppings)  6,000
  • Gimbap (Korean Sushi, you can find these everywhere)! around 2,000
  • Mandu (Korean Dumplings) 5,000
  • Tteok-bokki (Spicy & saucy Rice Cakes) 3,000

You’ll be surprised by how good the food is in the convenience stores in South Korea. Locals grab food from here all the time and it’s perfect for those in South Korea on a budget.

If there are some restaurants you’d like to try, just add that to your budget and eat at convenience stores the next day. International and Western food will also usually cost more than Korean, but Korean food is very good!

Osegye Hyang is our favourite traditional Korean restaurant with affordable prices. We’ve even created a Vegan in South Korea Guide – Best Restaurants & Snacks (2024)!

Note – There is no tipping culture in South Korea. It’s likely the staff will kindly decline your tip! This is common throughout East Asia.

Eat at markets if you're visiting South Korea on a budget
Eat at markets if you’re visiting South Korea on a budget

2. Stay in Budget Accommodation in South Korea

Accommodation can take up a big part of your South Korea travel budget. Especially if you choose amazing hotels! Although it’s nice to feel comfortable, maybe take the time to look at some other options before spending more than your budget.

Hostels and small private rooms are going to be the most affordable places to stay in South Korea. Most hostels offer private rooms that are still cheaper than hotels.

It’s really down to preference, but we didn’t stay in one bad accommodation on our South Korea trip and we stayed in private rooms!

Hostels usually cost around 25,000₩ per person with male, female or mixed dorms available. A private room in a hostel is around 40,000₩ per room and hotels are usually 70,000₩ or more!

Where to stay in South Korea on a budget

There are also a few ways to get free accommodation in South Korea:

It’s also important to note that accommodation will be more expensive in the peak time of year such as the Cherry Blossom season, spring and fall. Winter is usually the cheapest time to visit South Korea on a budget.

Accommodation in South Korea (this one is a Hanok stay)!
Accommodation in South Korea (this one is a Hanok stay)!
Ultimate 2 week South Korea Itinerary: Best Places (2024)

3. Do you need a Sim Card in South Korea?

When you start to Google about sim cards or wifi in South Korea, there’s a lot of information telling you to get one! We agree, but it’s definitely possible to travel the country without one.

We have a solution to help your South Korea budget. Pick up an E-Sim for 15,000₩! (€10.99 for 12 days)

E-sims are the perfect option if you only need internet or mobile data. You don’t even need to buy them in advance like other sims or wifis.

As we visited South Korea for 2 weeks, we purchased our sim on Day 3 of our trip. This made us realise how much easier it is to have the internet on the go, but luckily Seoul is a very easy place to get around and we downloaded offline Maps.

If there’s more than one of you, it’s also possible to hotspot the E-sim data from one phone, although you’ll have to check your data allowance! The instructions come with the E-sim, but you simply install it into your phone settings. The customer service team answer quickly if you have any problems!

There’s also some great deals if you do need a Korean phone number. Here’s a few other options ranging in price:

E-Sim – Here’s a 12 Day E-Sim (15,000₩, €10.99 for 12 days and 6gb of data)

Prepaid Sim – Purchase ahead of time and pick up at the airport. This sim has a Korean number! The price changes depending on how long you need it. Find a sim card on Klook here! (£15 for 10 days)

Portable Wifi – The most expensive option is portable Wifi and this is usually what travellers get if they’re not worried about their South Korea travel costs. Find a portable Wifi on Klook here! (£20 for 10 days) Also, pick it up at the airport.

It’s also a good idea to carry around a portable charger for your phone so you always have enough battery to last the day. We recommend Anker Power Bank and just charge it up every few days if you’ve been using it a lot.

Travelling South Korea on a budget
Travelling South Korea on a budget

4. Use Buses to get around South Korea on a Budget

The transport in South Korea is some of the best in the world! It’s reliable, well connected and quite affordable considering how good it is.

If you want to stick to your travel budget in South Korea, we recommend catching Intercity and Express Buses around South Korea. They are so comfy and you can book your seats in advance.

Here’s the prices we paid for transport around South Korea on a budget

  • KTX (Fast Train) Seoul to Gyeongju – 2 hours – 49,000₩ (£32)
  • Express Bus – Gyeongju to Busan – 45 minutes – 5,000₩ (£3.30)
  • Express Bus – Busan to Jeonju – 3 hours – 25,000₩ (£16.40)
  • Express bus – Jeonju to Seoul – 2.5 hours – 14,000₩ (£9.20)

The buses from Seoul to Gyeongju will take around 4-5 hours and usually cost around 22,000₩ £46.40. We took a train as we wanted to arrive in Gyeongju early and also wanted to experience a train in South Korea as we only used buses in Japan.

If you want to add Jeju Island to your South Korea travel costs, then it’s best to book a flight from Seoul or Busan. The ferries are often more expensive and they will take longer.

It’s possible to book trains in advance, but you can only book buses in advance if you have a Korean number. We booked our bus tickets as soon as we arrived at a new destination, usually booking them 2-3 days in advance.

Express & Intercity Buses – Have a look at bus times on the official Korean website – Kobus tickets

Trains – Book your train tickets in advance here – Korail tickets here (or a Korea Rail Pass)

Flights – Flights to Jeju Island from Seoul or Busan – Check Skyscanner for flight times and prices!

Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok Village

5. Get a T-Money card

This is another great way to stick to your South Korea budget. A T-Money card is a discounted transport card that works all over South Korea in cities and towns. It’s for local transport to each destination, not for long bus journeys.

Using a T-Money card is not just about saving money, but saving time too! You won’t need to purchase a local ticket every time you use the bus or subway. Simply tap your card when you get on and off transport and you’ll be good to travel around South Korea!

A T-Money Card costs 2,500. There’s also tourist cards and designed cards that cost 4,000₩

How to get a T-Money Card?

T-Money cards are available to purchase at the airport, at major stations and convenience stores (such as CU, GS25, 7-Eleven and Ministop).

How to top up my T-Money Card?

You can only top up a T-Money card with cash and not by debit or credit card. Make sure you grab money out of an ATM if you arrive in South Korea without Korean Won! Here’s how you can top up using cash:

  1. At Convenience Stores! Hand your card over, give the employee the cash and it’s all done!
  2. Some other local newsstands or shops offer top-ups. Look out for the T-Money logo!
  3. At major stations, find a ticket machine and choose how much you want to add to your card. The machines can be changed to English!
Gamcheon Culture Village - Free!
Gamcheon Culture Village – Free!

6. Use Local Buses and Subway instead of Taxis

Local buses are always the most affordable way to travel around any city and it’s the same with South Korea. However, the subway is also very budget-friendly too!

As the transport is well connected, you won’t need to use taxis anyway! The best way to feel comfortable about using public transport in South Korea is to download the app – Naver Maps. Google Maps doesn’t work in South Korea, so it’s best to use the local navigation app!

It costs 1,250₩ to use the Subway in South Korea which is £0.82p! For reference, in London, it costs £2.60 to take one journey. We used subways and buses all around Seoul, Gyeongju, Busan and Jeonju without any issues! Naver Maps is perfect with timing and where to go.

Klook.com

7. Shop at Convenience Stores

One of the best South Korea budget tips is to eat and shop at the convenience store! Food and meals are well priced and you can usually heat the food inside the shop too! It makes travelling around South Korea on a budget so much easier!

The tax in South Korea is included in the price, so you don’t have to worry about extra prices at the checkout (like in Canada or the US).

  • CU
  • GS25
  • E-mart
  • 7-Eleven
  • Ministop

Our favourite convenience store snacks are Ramyeon, Lotus Biscuits, Chocolate Soy Milk (it’s okay to laugh), Japanese Onigiri and Frozen dumplings (to add to your Ramyeon back in a hostel kitchen).

There are plenty of lunches to find in convenience stores based around rice or noodles. The best part is convenience stores are everywhere!

Onigiri at 7/11
Onigiri at 7/11
Food at Gwangjang Market
Food at Gwangjang Market

8. Make use of the Free Things To Do

This South Korea budget tip may be obvious – activities don’t always have to cost money. There are so many free things to do around the country and some of them are highlights of our trip! Here’s a list of great things to do for free if you’re in South Korea on a budget.

Seoul – A city filled with unique neighbourhoods, hikes and parks. There are so many free things to do in Seoul to help your South Korea budget. Check out our 5 Day Seoul Itinerary!

  • Explore neighbourhoods such as Insa-dong, Ikseon-dong, Myeongdong, Hongdae, Itaewon & Gangnam
  • Walk around the beautiful Bukchon Village & Ihwa Mural Village
  • Feel the nature at Namsan Park

Gyeongju – Some of the best things to do in Gyeongju are free! Browse our 11 Best Things to do in Gyeongju: Itinerary (2024)! Here’s a few suggestions:

  • Admire Woljeonggyo Bridge, Donggung Palace & Wolji Pond
  • Visit Cheomseongdae & Gyerim Forest 
  • Window shop in Hwangnidan-Gil & explore the Hanok Village

Busan – Another great city for finding budget-friendly activities! We also have a 3 day Busan Itinerary!

  • Gamcheon Culture Village (yes it’s free!) & watch the sunset at Lotte Department Building
  • Walk along the Igidae Coastal Walk & relax at Haeundae Beach
  • Discover Nampo-dong & Haedong Yonggung Temple

Jeonju – Walk through the famous Hanok village and check out the murals, markets and shrines!

  • Explore Jeonju Hanok Village & Jaman Mural Village
  • Walk through Nambu Market & visit Gyeonggijeon Shrine
  • See the views from Omokdae

Jeju Island – Filled with natural wonders, Jeju is filled with free things to do. You’ll just need transport to get around!

Namsan Park - Free things to do in South Korea on a budget
Namsan Park – Free things to do in South Korea on a budget
South Korea Budget Tips -  Igidae Coastal Walk
South Korea Budget Tips – Igidae Coastal Walk

9. Use Klook to Save Money on Activities

Klook is one of the best companies to book activities, tours and things to do in South Korea. It’s similar to GetYourGuide, but Klook is used more in Asia. We’ve used this website in South Korea and Japan to buy discounted tickets such as Disneyland, Seoul Tower and Hanbok rentals.

It’s also a great place to find sim card or portable wifi deals! When using Klook, you can easily book your activity in advance and sometimes there’s an option to pick up the ticket at the airport on arrival.

Activities to buy on Klook in South Korea:

Staying in a temple is another fantastic activity that can’t be missed on your South Korea trip! It can be booked on Korea’s temple stay website! Also, check out our Golgulsa Templestay Review!

Hanbok Rental using Klook
Hanbok Rental using Klook

10. Travel Off Peak

If you’re planning your travel budget for South Korea, one of the first steps is to figure out which time of year you want to visit.

The most popular time to visit South Korea is between April and May due to the beautiful cherry blossom season. Prices for accommodation and flights will most likely be more expensive and it will also book up fast. There will be more tourists and locals around, especially in the parks.

If you’re travelling to South Korea on a budget, it may be best to avoid these months and visit off-peak.

The off-peak months to travel to South Korea are January, February, late October, November and early March. If you can find good deals on flights and good accommodation prices outside of these months, then go for it! January is usually the cheapest month to travel as it’s cold, but it’s perfect if you want to ski!

Summer isn’t the best time to visit South Korea due to the hot and humid weather, but it’s still a popular time to visit due to worldwide holidays.

When to travel to South Korea on a budget
When to travel to South Korea on a budget

How to Budget in South Korea

So that’s our 10 South Korea budget tips! There are many ways to travel on a budget, it all depends on how comfortable you are. We love hostels, but some people we know would never stay in them. For us, they’re budget-friendly, comfortable and just a place to sleep or meet new people!

Ultimately it comes down to food, accommodation, transport and activities. Check accommodation in advance before you book your flights just to get an idea of prices for that month. Here’s a few more tips on how to budget in South Korea:

  • If you want to shop, Namdaemun and Dongdaemun are filled with discounts in Seoul
  • Tours will cost money, so make sure you add must-do activities to your budget
  • Eat more street food and at markets
  • Check prices for your visa (every country is different)
  • Use Skyscanner to browse flight prices for different times of the year

Accommodation in South Korea – We use Hostelworld and Booking.com to find accommodation in South Korea. You can filter to the lowest price and check reviews from previous guests.

Travel Insurance – Don’t forget travel insurance whilst planning your South Korea budget.  SafetyWing is a flexible monthly-rolling travel insurance to help you stay safe on your trip. You can add more months to your trip too! – Find out more here!

E-Sim – Here’s the E-sim we used on our South Kore trip – 12 Day E-Sim (15,000₩, €10.99 for 12 days and 6GB of data)

Shop in markets instead of shops on your South Korea budget trip
Shop in markets instead of shops on your South Korea budget trip

Costs compared to other countries in Asia

We have only visited countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Japan.

After visiting both Japan and South Korea, we have to admit that South Korea is slightly cheaper! The country is more affordable meals out and transport (especially the train!)

Comparing South Korea to countries such as Thailand, Sri Lanka or the Philippines, we have to say that South Korea is more expensive on every level. Accommodation is almost three times the price compared to countries in Southeast/South Asia. Food and activities are more too.

Also check out our 25+ Best South Korea Travel Tips: What to Know!

A full breakdown of our South Korea Travel Costs

Here’s the full breakdown of our South Korea travel costs. We both shared the same card and cash, but for this breakdown, we’ll show you roughly how much the same trip would cost for one person too.

Our full South Korea travel costs for 2 people (2 weeks)

  • Korean E-Visa – 20,600₩ (£14)
  • Intercity Transport -186,800₩ (£123)
  • Local Subway & Buses – 88,000₩ (£58)
  • Activities – 225,800₩ (£148)
  • Restaurants & Markets – 345,600₩ (£227)
  • Groceries – 109,110₩ (£72)
  • Snacks – 120,300₩ (£79)
  • Accommodation – 586,200₩ (£385)
  • Miscellaneous – 20,500₩ (£13.50)

Total Cost – 1702,910₩ (£1,120)

Our Transport Costs – 274,800₩ (£181) – prices for two people

  • KTX (Fast Train) Seoul to Gyeongju – 2 hours – 49,000₩ (£32)
  • Express Bus – Gyeongju to Busan – 45 minutes – 5,000₩ (£3.30)
  • Express Bus – Busan to Jeonju – 3 hours – 25,000₩ (£16.40)
  • Express bus – Jeonju to Seoul – 2.5 hours – 14,000₩ (£9.20)

T-Money Cards – We accidentally bought the Korea Tour Cards at the airport so spent 4000₩ instead of 2500₩. We topped up our cards with 80,000₩ (£52.60) to get around the cities in towns during our 2 week trip. There’s a chance we may have a bit of money leftover on our cards too!

Accommodation – 586,200₩ (£385) – prices for two people

  • 5 nights in Seoul (private room in a hostel) – 260,000₩ / £171
  • 2 nights in Gyeongju (private room in a hostel, Korean style beds) 72,000₩ / £47
  • 3 nights in Busan (private room in a shared apartment, shared bathroom) 117,000₩ / £77
  • 1 night in Jeonju (private room in a Hanok with free breakfast) 52,200₩ / £34
  • 2 nights in Seoul – different place – (private room in a guesthouse) 85,000₩ / £56
  • Seoul – 52,000₩ (£34.20) per night / 26,000₩ (£17.10) per person
  • Gyeongju – 36,000₩ (£23.50) per night / 18,000₩ (£11.75) per person
  • Busan – 39,000₩ (£25.60 per night / 19,500₩ (£12.80) per person
  • Jeonju – 52,200₩ (£34 per night / 26,100₩ (£17) per person
  • Seoul – 42,500₩ (£28) per night / 21,250₩ (£14) per person

Our accommodation costs came to 586,200₩ (£385) which is 293,100₩ (£192.50) per person for 2 weeks! One of our nights we spent at Golgulsa Templestay which we’ve included as an activity.

Activities – 225,800₩ (£148) – prices for two people

  • Golgulsa Templstay – 120,000₩ (£79)
  • Archery at Golgulsa Temple – 20,000₩ (£13.20)
  • Palaces – 26,000₩ (£13.20)
  • Hanbok Rental – 24,000₩ (£15.80)
  • Seoul Tower – 8,300₩ (£5.50)
  • Photo Booth – 4,000₩ (£2.60)
  • Bukchon Observatory with free drinks – 6,000₩ (£4)
  • Gamcheon Map – 2,000₩ (£1.30)
  • Arcade games – 15,500₩ (£10.20)

Shopping & Miscellaneous – 20,500₩ (£13.50) – prices for two people

  • Laundry / Laundry Detergent (2 washes) – 4,000₩ (£2.60)
  • Socks & Lip Balm – 12,500₩ (£15.15)
  • Plasters – 4,000₩ (£2.60)

Restaurants & Markets – 345,600₩ (£227.40)

We ate at multiple restaurants and markets during our 2 weeks in South Korea, we also revisited a few if we loved the food. Osegye Hyang is our favourite restaurant (traditional Korean)! Here’s a few examples of our meals:

  • Lunch at a Traditional Korean Restaurant – 27,000₩ (£17.80)
  • Lunch at a Hot Pot Restaurant – 26,000₩ (£17.15)
  • Lunch at 7-Eleven – 83,00₩ (£5.50)
  • Lunch at Lotteria – 14,200₩ (£9.40)
  • Lunch at a Bibimbap Restaurant- 16,000₩ (£10.55)
  • Lunch at a Korean Street Food Restaurant 19,000₩ (£12.50)
  • Dinner at a Japanese Restaurant – 18,000₩ (£18.90)
  • Dinner at Gwangjang Market – 12,000₩ (£7.90)
  • Dinner at a Korean Restaurant – 16,000₩ (£10.55)

Snacks – 120,300₩ (£79.15)

In the snack category, we’ve included random snacks at convenience stores or street food. Here are a few examples of snack prices in South Korea.

  • Lotus Biscuits – 3,800₩ (£2.51)
  • Sweet Potato Street Food – 1,000₩ (£0.65)
  • Chocolate Soy Milk – 1,200₩ (£0.79)
  • Onigiri – 1,200₩ (£0.79)
  • Mochi – 2,500₩ (£1.65)
  • Red Bean Bun – 3,000₩ (£2)
  • Bakery (4 Doughnuts) – 13,100₩ (£8.65)
  • Korean Rice Cakes – 4,000₩ (£2.65)

Groceries (which include meals) 109,110₩ (£71.80)

Our grocery section is very close to snack selection but we tried to split it up into food that we took home or cooked for meals. We bought a lot of instant noodles, frozen dumplings, inari sushi and soy milk.

  • Bread – 2,250₩ (£1.49)
  • Inari Sushi Pack – 4,500₩ (£3)
  • Bananas – 4,900₩ (£3.20)
  • Ramyeon – 2,400₩ (£1.60)
  • Frozen Dumplings – 6,400₩ (£4.20)

Total Food Costs – 575,010₩ (£378.40)- prices for two people

Food Costs per day in South Korea – 41,072₩ (£27) – prices for two people

Total Cost of a 2 week trip in South Korea for 2 people – 1702,910₩ (£1,120) & 141,909₩ (£93) per day

Our total cost doesn’t include flights in and out of the country, but for reference, we flew from Manila to Seoul for £135 each with Jeju Air and Seoul to Bangkok for £105 each with Air Asia. Our flights worked out well as we were already travelling in Asia at the time, we booked them 2 months in advance.

We hope this helps you plan your South Korea budget! We think that £46 per person, per day, is a pretty good price to travel around South Kore. We also had the best time and didn’t feel like we lost out on anything.

Korean food is amazing and we ate at restaurants and markets a lot more than cooking our own food. If we cooked more, our South Korea travel costs would be even less!

Traditional Korean Restaurant in South Korea
Traditional Korean Restaurant in South Korea

Is South Korea expensive to visit?

After looking at all of our South Korea travel costs, we’ve concluded that South Korea isn’t expensive to visit compared to the UK. Depending on your home country, the prices may be more, but we were pleasantly surprised with the prices of food.

The accommodation we booked was also really great! If you’re visiting South Korea on a budget, you’ll need to watch your spending when shopping or eating at fancier restaurants.

How much money to bring to South Korea for 2 weeks?

If you’re planning a travel budget for South Korea, we always recommend budgeting more than you think you need. We spent 1702,910₩ (£1,120) for two people during our 2 weeks in South Korea and although we ate a lot of instant noodles, we did everything we wanted to do!

We recommend budgeting at least 1215,715₩ (£800) if you’re a solo traveller with the addition of flights.

Travel Essentials for a South Korea Trip

Here are a few travel essentials we always bring with us:

Let us know if you have any more South Korea budget tips and we’ll have to keep adding to this guide! We highly recommend visiting South Korea even on a budget. Make sure you have extra money just in case anything goes wrong and always have travel insurance! Now you know how to create a travel budget for South Korea!

Don’t forget about Travel Insurance! – SafetyWing Nomad Insurance

SafetyWing is a flexible monthly-rolling travel insurance to help you stay safe on your trip anywhere in the world. Find out more here!

More South Korea guides:

That’s the end of our 10 Best South Korea Budget Tips + Travel Costs (2024)! Have the best time in South Korea on a budget and if you need any more help planning – send us a message on Instagram (@thesunrisedreamers) or leave a comment below!

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4 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for such awesome tips. Planning a trip for early next year so these tips will definitely be useful.

  2. Thank you this has really helped with my planning a budget travel trip to South Korea. I was just wonder if you, or any other readers used a WOW pass, it seems to get a lot of good reviews?

    1. Hi Ashley! Thank you so much 🙂 Personally, we haven’t used a WOW Pass but know it’s an all-in-one prepaid card for foreign travellers! As we’re from the UK, we just use a debit card that has no foreign charges. (example, Starling or Revolut) Sorry I can’t share more info about it! Safe travels.

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