Traveling is exciting, especially if you’re visiting a country for the first time. But it can be expensive for foreigners. Don’t worry, though: here are some ways to travel in South Korea on a budget.
Note: This information is mostly relevant to Seoul.
Stay at Hostels
It can be difficult to find a cheap place to stay, particularly during tourist peak season (which includes the summer). Instead of booking a fancy hotel room, why not spend one or two nights at a hostel?
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A hostel is perfect for backpackers, students, and anyone else traveling on their own. They can meet peers while also learning more about the city and its culture from the friendly staff. And working at a hostel has its own perks, like free accommodation. Plus, a night at a hostel is much cheaper!
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Staying at a hostel has its risks, however. Read online reviews carefully and compare multiple locations. If you’re a young woman, look for hostels that offer female-only dorms. And use the lockers if provided, so that your belongings don’t go missing or get stolen. Remember, safety should be your top priority.
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Eat Small and Local
One of the best parts of traveling is trying different foods. And while it’s exciting, it can get expensive eating out all the time. You might not be able to cook for yourself, but there are other ways to save money on food.
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Instead of eating at a fancy restaurant, look for small cafes and eateries. You can easily find places that don’t cost too much and offer delicious food. Plus, you’re supporting local businesses!
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Korean street markets are another great resource. They have a huge variety of food that’s available for under 10,000 won! Check them out next time you’re craving a quick (and inexpensive) meal.
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Convenience Stores and Underground Malls
Food is one thing, but what about buying other daily necessities, like toiletries and snacks? Or what if you want to shop on a budget? We have a few suggestions. First up: the convenience store.
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Don’t turn up your nose. You can find amazing deals here on anything you can think of, as well as ready-to-cook or pre-made meals like dosirak (도시락) and gimbap (김밥). Open every day until late (or 24/7), convenience stores are a life-saver, especially if you’ve just arrived in the city.
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Besides that, underground shopping malls offer ridiculously good discounts on anything from household items to clothing, compared to aboveground centers. You’ll also find quality products for cheaper prices in university districts and at local markets. Just be aware that some places are cash-only.
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Use Public Transit
Navigating a city in a foreign country is overwhelming if you’re traveling all by yourself. Luckily, Korea has great public transit. We have an entire blog about transportation in Seoul, and here are the highlights.
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If you want to visit another city, you can also ride a train. Ranging from high-speed engines to slower scenic trains, they’re more expensive but will save you time and money on plane or bus tickets.
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Finally, we can’t forget the buses. With different lines for major routes and smaller neighborhoods, you’ll be able to reach any destination without hassle. (As long as you remember which bus goes where!)
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Cards and Passes
Now, while taking public transit is cheaper than using a taxi, it will also eat away at your bank account. That’s why we recommend foreigners get two or more of the following.
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The T-Money Card is the go-to if you want to save money on transit fares. Available for use on buses, subways, and some taxis, it is also accepted at a few convenience stores and tourist attractions.
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The Discover Seoul Pass is perfect if you’re planning to do a lot of sightseeing. You’ll get discounts or free entry as well as other perks. There are three types – 24-hr, 48-hr, and 72-hr – and the pass is valid during that time frame.
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Finally, there’s the tourist-only Korea Tour Card. While you can’t access as many attractions, you can still unlock discounts and use public transit. Best of all, there’s no expiry date! Whatever you’re hoping to do, take advantage of these cards and passes if you want to save money.
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Fun for Free
“What?” you ask. “Free tourist attractions?” Yes, there are places you can access for free in Seoul and throughout Korea without a pass. First, most museums are free, although some places and special exhibits require an entry fee. It’s perfect for history buffs who want to learn more about Korean culture.
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Next, we have the five great palaces: Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Gyeonghuigung, Deoksugung, and Changgyeonggung. And you can enter the grounds for free if you wear a hanbok! Renting and wearing a hanbok can be a fun and amazing experience if done respectfully, and visiting one or all of the palaces is the best excuse.
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Finally, what’s more free than green spaces? Seoul is spoiled for choices – think Seoul Forest, Hangang Park, or Namsan Park – but you can also find many parks in cities across South Korea. Perfect for a picnic, a photoshoot, or exercise, you have nothing to lose (or pay!) when you access one of these nature spots.
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Buy Less Souvenirs
We know: you want a memento of your time in Korea. But do you need to spend so much on a glass or stickers? Do you have room in your suitcase for the new hat and pair of shoes? Or do you need to buy extra luggage?
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Instead of buying trinkets, focus on making memories at each place you visit. Because you’ll forget about the souvenirs, but you’ll always remember the time you spent in Korea.
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Consider putting together a photo album and sharing it with people. If you want to buy something for yourself or a loved one, look for something small, useful, and, of course, less expensive!
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Seoulbox: Korea Travels to You
Maybe you don’t have enough money to make the trip this year. Does that mean you need to wait to experience Korea? Of course not! You can do it through Seoulbox by trying different Korean snacks and reading about different topics in the Seoulzine. This month is Travel to Korea!
Image Credits: Image via Seoulbox
With Seoulbox, you'll learn about different parts of Korean culture and you’ll get amazing treats and merch to share or keep for yourself. There are two snack boxes, regular (Signature) and vegetarian (V), as well as a K-lifestyle box (Life).
Image Credits: Image via Seoulbox
So what are you waiting for? Go to our website’s homepage and click on “Shop Now” or the “Shop” dropdown menu. Choose the type and frequency of the box and pay. Now wait for your journey to begin!
Image Credits: Image via Seoulbox
We hope that you feel more at ease after reading this article. At the end of the day, traveling is all about the experience. Be mindful about your spending but don’t forget to have fun!
Have you been to Korea? How did you save money? Leave your tips below. And if you’d like to learn more about traveling to Korea, check out our blog on tips and travel hacks!