Korea is an amazing country that provides its visitors with various kinds of experiences depending on what they want. You could choose to hike their beautiful mountains, chase after K-Pop stars, go on a food hunt, a shopping spree or even a road trip.
Despite the higher cost of living, we were still able to tour around Korea for a month for less than SG$1,800 per person. Of course, we did not live the extravagant life. However, we were still able to experience their rich culture and beautiful landscape.
Let us share on how we can travel in Korea for less than SG$1,800 for one month.
On the outset, this Korea tour mainly seeks education, culture experience and the hiking of beautiful mountains. It is not the typical food chase, skiing and shopping paradise that we will be discussing.
We will be doing what most of the locals do – visit really cheap and delicious low priced street food, scrolling by the Cheonggyecheon (famous stream in Seoul) and many other healthier and cheaper activities.
Most of the time, we will be spending our time in Gyeonggi Province and Seoul, where the main culture and education exhibits reside.
The largest ticket item while traveling over an extensive period of time will be accommodation. Staying in a hotel in Korea will definitely burn a hole in our pockets.
Thankfully, the magnificence of Airbnb allows us to search for really low priced accommodation such as guesthouses and backpackers’ lodges. Since we are intending to travel around most of the time, we did not think it was necessary to be spending so much on a hotel room just to store our luggage.
These guesthouse and backpackers lodge we stayed in ranges between ₩15,000 (SG$18) to ₩23,000 (SG$28) per night, depending on which city and province we were in.
These accommodations can be very well located if we take the time to search out and research on them. For example, we managed to find Bong Bagpackers, a very cozy and nice accommodation in Hyehwa, Seoul, that is located just a few minutes walk away from Sungkyunkwan University, the oldest and one of the best universities in Korea.
It is also about a 20-30 minutes bus ride away from the main Central Business District (Gwanghwamun) and multiple cultural sites like the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village.
The best part about it is that during the off peak period, it only cost ₩15,000 (SG$18) per night. Peak period would cost slightly more at SG$22 per night. They also provide free daily breakfast as well.
Over the course of 30 days (or 1 month), we can expect to pay about ₩500,000 (SG$600) for accommodation. Averaging about SG$20 per night in these accommodation.
In Korea, there is virtually no hawker culture, with food generally sold in restaurants and tents. Luckily, we only need to spend for lunch and dinner as the guesthouse/backpackers’ lodge usually provides breakfast.
With a budget of ₩10,000 per day for lunch and dinner, we could not afford the barbecued meat and pricy abalone porridge. However, local delights such as bindaetteok (mung bean pancake), mayak gimbap (mini kimbap) and ddeokbokki (spicy rice cake) were within our budget.
Most of these local delights are served in large portions, sufficient to fill us. The bindaetteok at Gwangjang Market cost ₩4,000 (SG$4.80), while ddeokbokki averages about ₩3,000 (SG$3.60) per serving.
With a budget of ₩10,000 (SG$12) per day, we can expect to spend about ₩300,000 (SG$360) for the month in Korea.
Similar to our ez-link card, Korea has their T-Money card. It is rechargeable at every subway station and even at local convenience stores. Almost all places in Korea are now using T-Money as the main mode of ticketing.
An average one-way trip (with in the city) would cost about ₩1,250 (SG$1.50). By budgeting ₩3,750 (three one-way trips) per day, that would require us to have ₩112,500 (SG$136) set aside for the month.
To further reduce transportation cost, we can plan to visit one location, which houses multiple attractions. Gyeongbukgung palace, Changdeokgung palace, National Folk Museum of Korea, Bukchon Hanok Village, National Palace Museum of Korea and the Great King Sejong Statue are all located near each other, which allows us to walk from destination to destination. We doubt anyone can complete the tour of the above mentioned within one day, as a proper visit into a museum would take at least 3-5 hours.
Therefore, we can only budget ₩2,500 for transportation a day.
Jeju Island: Air Ticket
A must-visit in Korea is the beautiful and scenic Jeju Island. It is only an hour’s flight away from Seoul. Their domestic air tickets are actually really cheap.
Air ticket prices from Seoul to Jeju Island
Source: Easter Jet
Air ticket prices from Jeju Island to Seoul
Source: Easter Jet
By making early arrangements and choosing the cheaper tickets, we will only need to pay ₩42,800 (SG$52) for a round trip ticket.
Jeju Island: In-island Transportation
While at Jeju Island, we would highly recommend renting a car. We could of course hire taxi drivers for the day, but the cost will be high. If you have local friends, that would help as they can reduce the price significantly.
If the “local” price is not achievable then we should whip out our Singaporean talent, bargaining. Just outside of Jeju Airport, there is a shelter that houses car rental shops. We estimate that there are at least 30 different companies there. Like how our mother walks around the market to select the best vegetables at the best price, we should do the same for the rental cars in Jeju.
An excellent “bargainer” can get the car rental below ₩100,000. Nonetheless, to be safe we should provision ₩120,000 (SG$145) for a 72-hour car rental.
Make sure that the car rented runs on LPG fuel, because LPG fuel is much healer than normal petrol. With ₩50,000(SG$60) it will last almost 3 days with moderate driving distance.
Therefore totalling ₩170,000 ($205) for transportation around Jeju.
Gangwon Province: Express Bus
Getting to Gangwon Province, where the beautiful Mt. Seorak (Seoraksan) resides, will require us to take an express bus that will take about 3 hours from the East Seoul Bus Terminal.
It cost between ₩16,000 (SG$19) to ₩19,000 (SG$23) depending on the time and day. We should budget about ₩36,000(SG$43) for a round trip.
Activities in Korea
So far we have consumed:
- Accommodation: SG$600 (including Jeju)
- Food: SG$360
- T-Money: SG$136
- Jeju Air Ticket and Car: SG$257 (round trip)
- Gangwon Province Bus: SG$43
Totalling SG$1396, with a remainder of SG$404.
There are a lot of interesting activities in Korea that do not require any form of expenditure.
We would highly recommend mountains hiking in Korea. A large portion of Korea is made out of mountains; this makes Korea a great destination to hike. This is why we usually see uncles and aunties hiking mountains in the Korean drama.
Monetarily, hiking is free. Like we mentioned before Gangwon Province has Mt. Seorak that has a fantastic view at the summit (Daecheongbkng Peak). A hike up will take an average of about 6 hours. They have a national park cabin located all around the Mt. Seorak that rents out a tiny sleeping space for ₩7,000.
Coming down would take roughly the same amount of time as well. The sunrise and sunset will surely make the effort worthwhile.
Museum and Cultural Sites
With SG$404 or ₩335,000 left. There are actually a lot of palaces, historical sites and museums to visit. The entry fees ranges between ₩1,000 (SG$1.20) to ₩5,000 (SG$6).
A lot of these sites provides better education about the history, religion and evolution of the society and country, as compared to what we can obtain online and through dramas.
The ramen culture in Korea was well explained in the National Folk Museum, along with its food palate preference.
With the above knowledge, you will be able to spend a month long in Korea doing various things and exploring around the beautiful country while keeping your expenditure below $1,800.
That averages only SG$60 per day as a tourist, which comprises of accommodation, food, travel and activities. They key to having an affordable holiday is to plan and prepare all these in advance that you can snatch for yourself a good deal.
This article originally appeared on DollarsAndSense.sg, and is republished here with permission.