How to Travel in South Korea on a Budget!

How to Travel in South Korea on a Budget!

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?

Woman looking out of plane window at sunset

Image Credits: martin-dm via iStock

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!

Hostel Korea in a tall brick building

Image Credits: Image via

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.

Young people planning a day in hostel dorms

Image Credits: Morsa Images via iStock

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.

Black tables with crystal glasses and white napkins by a window

Image Credits: LOTTE HOTEL YANGON via Instagram

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!

Mandu, kalguksu, kimchi, and other food on wood table with woman wearing green top

Image Credits: Kaz_20 via Tripadvisor

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.

A woman in blue dress with white bag at Korean street food stall with woman in white shirt and red apron

Image Credits: seua_yai via Flickr

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.

Person wearing jeans and white sneakers holding paper shopping bags

 Image Credits: oatawa via iStock

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.

GS25 convenience store at night

Image Credits: Cyrano via Instagram

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.

Aisle of Goto Mall with clothing racks visible and crowd in background

Image Credits: Image via HaB Korea

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.

Back of woman wearing camel coat and pink backpack looking at neon-lit towers
Image Credits: Anek Suwannaphoom via Flickr
First, we have Seoul’s subway network, the longest subway system in the world. It’s efficient, clean, and easy to use. Plus, there are signs clearly marked and/or in English for tourists who aren’t fluent in Korean.

A mostly empty subway station with people waiting to board subway

Image Credits: Sabishii Seishun via Flickr

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.

Green ITX train and blue KORAIL train

Image Credits: Seongjin Oh via Instagram

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!)

A man waiting at a bus stop for a blue city bus at dusk

Image Credits: Young Woo Park via Flickr

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.

Person with red and blue plaid shirt opening empty brown wallet

Image Credits: Emil Kalibradov via Unsplash

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.

Hand holding T-Money card next to T-Money machine

Image Credits: yakfur via Flickr

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.

Pink 24-hr and blue 48-hr Discover Seoul Pass

Image Credits: KTO India via Instagram

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.

Person holding two Korea Tour Cards - one with pink mascot and one ombre

Image Credits: Nini via Instagram

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.

Interior of National Korea Museum - modern, beige marble blocks

Image Credits: Maria via Instagram

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.

A woman wearing peach and pink hanbok in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace

Image Credits: Mary Andaya via Instagram

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. 

Aerial view of Seoul skyline, yellow green spaces, and sidewalks in park

Image Credits: Seoul via Instagram

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?

Korean souvenir shop

Image Credits: gralola via Flickr

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.

Person wearing striped shirt and jeans trying to close full purple suitcase

Image Credits: Hazal Ak via iStock

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!

Bearded man with glasses, plum hoodie, and jean jacket holding a black camera

Image Credits: Keenan Barber via Unsplash

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!

Seoulbox Signature box with cherry blossoms in the background

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).

Assortment of Seoulboxes: Signature, V, and 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!

Seoulbox homepage

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!

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Craving some more? How about with Korean snacks!

Yes, you, you hit the right spot! Treat yourself to a box filled with unique snacks, exclusive K-pop merch, and K-beauty essentials, all sourced directly from Korea. Relish the thrill of exploring Korea each month and feel its heartbeat closer than ever!