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Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

12 Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

12 Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea, Almost everyone we know is fascinated by Seoul and South Korea. Some are into cosmetics. Many people are obsessed with music and TV dramas. Almost everyone, including us, is in love with food.

In recent years, South Korea’s technology and popular culture have become the global mainstream. This “Korean Wave” has made Seoul one of the most popular destinations in Asia, attracting more than 17.5 million international tourists in 2019.

Unfortunately, the slowdown in travel has brought this wave of travel to a halt, but it is expected to surge at a retaliatory rate when the border opens. Until then, you can use our latest version of the Seoul Travel Guide to plan your future travels.

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Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
12 Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

Reading about the best activities, the coolest neighborhoods, and the most delicious dishes will make you even more excited about visiting the land of kimchi, K-pop, and Korean cosmetics!

Seoul travel restrictions

Due to the current global situation, Seoul’s travel guide seems to change every day. Before planning a trip to Seoul, be sure to check the Flatten the Curve website for information on travel restrictions in Korea. If you decide to visit Seoul, then you may need to seriously consider purchasing travel medical insurance.

South Korea visa

Depending on your passport, you may need a visa and other travel documents to visit South Korea. Check iVisa.com for requirements and apply for a visa if necessary.

Seoul at a Glance

Seoul is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Korea. Its estimated population within the city limits is 10.29 million, but taking the surrounding area into account, this number jumps to 25.6 million, making it the second-largest metropolitan area in the world.

In recent years, South Korea has been the headline news in the fields of technology, automobiles, and entertainment. Korean brands such as Samsung and Hyundai are world-renowned brands. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

People all over the world are watching Korean dramas and listening to Hallyu. Myeongdong has become a hotbed of cosmetics, and almost everyone I know loves Korean cuisine! There is no doubt that South Korea is booming, and at the center of all this excitement is Seoul.

Best time to visit Seoul

South Korea is also an Asian country. It has four different seasons-spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The most popular times to visit Seoul are spring March to May and autumn mid-September to early November, when the weather is ideal and the scenery is the most charming.

The two seasons are characterized by huge changes in color-pink and white cherry blossoms in spring, and fiery reds, oranges, and yellows in autumn. This is what you can expect in every season.

March to May: Spring is one of the best times to visit Seoul. The weather is ideal and there are flowers everywhere in the city. If you want to catch the cherry blossoms, then you should plan to come to Seoul in the second week of April around April 9-10. This will be your best chance to see the cherry blossoms.

Having said that, please remember that the flowers depend largely on the weather, so there is still no guarantee that they will bloom at that time, which is why I think it is better to go at that time or earlier. If they have not yet bloomed in Seoul, you can choose to take a day trip to Jinhae, where Korea’s largest cherry blossom festival is held. Be sure to add a bookmark on the visiting Korean website to get updates about the festival.

June to August: Summer is not the ideal time to visit Seoul. The weather is hot, humid, and rainy, and the price is the highest. Summer is the peak period of domestic tourism. If you can, avoid these months. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

September to November: Unless you are chasing cherry blossoms, autumn is arguably the best time to visit Seoul. Like spring, the weather is ideal and the leaves are the most eye-catching. If possible, please shoot at the end of October or early November.

December to February: If you want to go skiing, snowboarding, or just experience snow, winter is obviously a good time. However, the winter in Korea is very cold. We went in early November and we were surprised that it was already so cold. If you can tolerate the cold, then you can visit several ski resorts in Seoul.

Climate: Annual monthly weather in Seoul

Check weather-and-climate.com to learn more about the weather in Seoul. For your convenience, I have also created graphs of average temperature and annual rainfall below. The recommended visit month is highlighted in orange.

Average temperature

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

Annual Rainfall

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

Traveling to Seoul

Almost all international flights land at Incheon International Airport. There are many ways to get from Incheon to downtown Seoul. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Take the Airport Express (AREX): This is the fastest way to get from the airport to the city. It runs like clockwork and takes only 43 minutes to reach Seoul Station. The train is very comfortable and there is free Wi-Fi onboard. You can buy tickets at the door (9,000 won), but you can get a discount if you purchase in advance through Klook or Get Your Guide.

By All Stop Train: This is the second-fastest way to enter Seoul from Incheon. It allows you to reach Seoul Station in about 58 minutes, and it costs less than half of the AREX price (KRW 4,150 from Terminal 1). The train runs from 5:23 in the morning to 11:40 in the evening. This is the train we usually take.

Bus: The one-way bus fare is 9,000 won, which takes longer than the subway (approximately 80 minutes), so I recommend that you only take it when you arrive in Incheon during non-working hours. The late-night airport bus to Seoul Station operates from 12 am to 4:40 am, while the bus to Gangnam Express Bus Terminal operates from 11:40 pm to 4:20 am. Detailed inquiries about bus routes and bus stops can be made at the airport information desk on the 1st floor. Click on the link to learn more about late-night airport buses.

Taxis: Taxis are convenient, but they are also very expensive. A taxi will take you into the city in about an hour and will cost between 55,000 and 75,000 won.

By private transfer: This is the best and most convenient option, but it is also more expensive. Click the link to book a shared or private airport transfer service through Get Your Guide.

For more information about airport transfers, please check the Visit Korea website.

Where to exchange currency

The currency unit of Seoul is the Korean Won (KRW). Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Myeongdong is the best place to exchange currency. There are many money changers in the area, and their exchange rates are among the most favorable in the city. We researched some other areas, but the price has never been so good.

I suggest changing a small amount of money at the airport, no more than 100 dollars, just to get you into the city. Then you can change the rest in Myeongdong.

Now the better option is to withdraw the Korean won from the ATM. The prices are competitive and sometimes even better. Be sure to let your bank know that you will use your ATM card abroad to avoid any problems. According to my experience, my ATM card can be used on some machines, but not on other machines. I have no problems using it in Seoul.

Tip: Some ATMs may ask you if you want to “convert or not”. Always choose without conversion. Performing “with conversion” allows foreign banks operating ATMs to convert at an interest rate that is beneficial to them.

Best place to stay in Seoul

Based on our own experience and what I read online, Myeongdong, Insadong, Hongdae, and Itaewon are the best places to stay in Seoul. They offer different things, so it all depends on what you want. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Myeongdong is suitable for shopping, and Insadong is suitable for culture and art. Hongdae is young and fashionable, and Itaewon is Seoul’s international district. We have visited all four areas, but we only live in Myeongdong and Hongdae. Personally, we prefer Hongdae.

I will introduce each area in more detail below, but you can search for hotels in Seoul on Booking.com and Agoda.

For convenience, I have created a color-coded map below so that you can see the location of all these recommended areas. Click the link to get an interactive version of the map. (Please note that the marked area is only an approximation)

RED – Myeongdong
ORANGE – Hongdae
PURPLE – Insadong
AQUA – Itaewon

Seoul area map Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Seoul area map Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

Myeongdong

If you plan to do a lot of shopping in Seoul, Myeongdong is definitely the place to stay. This is a super shopping area full of well-known brands and boutiques, as well as many restaurants, cafes, and street food stalls. If you like Korean cosmetics, chances are you will never leave this place.

Our place seems to be gone, but you can search for hotels in Myeongdong on Booking.com and Agoda. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Insadong

We did not live in Insadong, but we spent many days exploring its rich traditional shops, boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and tea houses. It is within walking distance of several major attractions such as Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeok Palace, and Bukchon Hanok Village.

You can search for accommodation listings in Insadong through Booking.com and Agoda.

Hongdae

Bingo House, Hongdae, Seoul, South Korea
Ren and I don’t like shopping, so we prefer to live in Hongdae. Refers to the surrounding area of ​​Hongik University. This is an interesting and young area with an easy-going university town atmosphere. This is our favorite neighborhood in this city, so we might live here every time we go back to Seoul.

Bingo House is a small hotel with 5 rooms, a short walk from Exit 6 of Hongik University Station. There are 7-11 convenience store and GS25 convenience stores nearby and several restaurants and cafes. Free water and kitchen supplies are provided in the public area, but breakfast is not provided. You can book a room here through Agoda.

If you like Hongdae but think that Bingo House is not for you, then you can check these sites to get an alternative to Hongdae: Booking.com | Accord.

Itaewon

Among these four areas, Itaewon is the place we are least familiar with. It is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city, with numerous shops and international restaurants. It also has a bustling nightlife, which is one of the reasons why it has become a hot spot for ex-pats. You can search for accommodation listings in Itaewon through Booking.com and Agoda.

You can also use the convenient map below to book hotels and Airbnb in Seoul. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Seoul tourist attractions

The Five Grand Palaces

There are five Joseon palaces in Seoul-Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeok Palace, Changgyeong Palace, Gyeonghee Palace, and Deoksugung Palace. We only visited the first two, but you can easily visit all five if you want.

Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeok Palace are the largest of the five and can be said to be the most beautiful. Gyeongbokgung Palace is the main palace and one of only two (the other is Deoksugung), where you can watch the changing of the guard of the Royal Guard. Equally impressive is the Changdeokgung Palace, which is a UNESCO heritage and has the Huwon or “Secret Garden”.

You can visit on your own or go on a guided tour Get Your Guide.  If you plan to visit multiple palaces on your own, then you may need to invest in Integrated Palace Ticket.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

Suggested visiting time: 1-3 hours per palace / Admission fee: 1,000-3,000 won per palace. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Bukchon Hanok Village

In an ultra-modern metropolis like Seoul, it’s great to be able to find such a place in the city center. Bukchon Hanok Village is a maze of narrow alleys and traditional Korean houses called hanoks. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Exploring its network of streets will take you back in time and give you a glimpse of Seoul 600 years ago. Like the Royal Palace, it is one of the best places in Seoul to rent Hanbok and upgrade your Instagram game.

If you want to learn more about Bukchon Hanok Village, then you may be interested in taking this free walking tour or traveling with a guide.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

Suggested visit time: 1-2 hours / Tickets: free. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

N Seoul Tower

Speaking of beautiful scenery, this place is better than the competition. The observation deck of N Seoul Tower is 480 meters (1,575 feet) above sea level and is the best place to get a bird’s eye view of the city.

N Seoul Tower is located on the mountain. Nanshan can be reached by road or cable car, but most tourists choose the latter. You can purchase tickets for the observatory in advance at the door or through Klook or Get Your Guide.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

Suggested visit time: 1-2 hours / Ticket: KRW 11,000. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)

This place is incredible. If you like design, any type of design, then you need to include Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) in your itinerary. It is like a museum, a design supermarket, and a spaceship all in one.

DDP was designed by the late famous architect Zaha Hadid, who was the creator of the 2012 London Olympic Aquatic Center and the Guangzhou Opera House in China.

If possible, I suggest spending a few hours in this place. When the building is truly revitalized, be sure to come back at night. Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Seoul, South Korea.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

Suggested visit time: 2-3 hours / Tickets: Free, but some exhibits may be charged. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

Jogyesa Temple

Jogyesa Temple is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Korea. It is the main temple of the Korean Buddhism Jogye sect and the main place for many Buddhist activities, ceremonies, lectures, and ceremonies.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

Buddha statues in Jogyesa Temple Suggested visit time: 30 minutes-1 hour / Tickets: free. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

COEX Mall Library

The COEX shopping center in Gangnam District has become quite famous on Insta in recent years, all of which is attributed to this beautiful library located in the center of the shopping center.

The Starfield Library is an open-air public library with hundreds of books and magazines. Its amazing architectural bookshelves make it one of the most popular photo spots in Seoul.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea COEX Mall Starry Sky Library

Suggested visit time: 2-3 hours / Tickets: free

Things to do in Seoul

Wear Hanbok

If you are a fan of Korean dramas or general culture, then you may want a selfie in Hanbok. This is a traditional dress worn by Korean men and women during festivals and celebrations.

Bukchon Hanok Village and any of the five royal palaces are excellent backgrounds for taking pictures. You will find several hanbok rental shops near these areas, but you can also rent one in advance through Klook or Get Your Guide.

  • Drop by a hanbok rental store and pick what you want to wear from a wide variety of jawdropping designs
  • Walk around Gyeongbokgung Palace in your hanbok and pretend you’re a resident of the Joseon dynasty
  • Visit the South Korean president’s official residence known as the Cheong Wa Dae, which is often shown on TV
  • Get to walk around and take pictures in scenic spots like the N Seoul Tower and the Bukchon Hanok Village
  • Delight in a hearty Ginseng Chicken Soup lunch and feel the warmth of the savory soup in your belly
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

Hanbok Rental, Seoul, South Korea. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Visit the market

We like to visit the markets on our trips because they are usually the best place to find delicious street food in any city. Seoul is no exception. There are many interesting markets such as Noryangjin Fish Market, Gwangjang Market (pictured below), and Namdaemun Market. If you are looking for cheap and authentic street food in Seoul, you may wish to check them out.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

In Gwangjang Market. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Explore the neighborhoods of Seoul

Seoul is a big city with many interesting neighborhoods. The four most popular ones include Insadong, Myeongdong, Hongdae and Itaewon, each with its own unique personality. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Insadong is famous for its traditional arts and crafts. Myeongdong is famous for its brands and cosmetics Hongdae is famous for its stylish university town atmosphere, and Itaew Town is famous for its international atmosphere.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea  Explore the neighborhoods of Seoul
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea Explore the neighborhoods of Seoul

Insadong, Myeongdong, and Hongdae in Seoul, South Korea. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Take a Stroll Along Cheonggyecheon Stream

Cheonggyecheon is an 11-kilometer stream running through the center of Seoul. It crosses 22 bridges and many city landmarks and then leads to the Han River. It is a popular photo spot in Seoul and a good place to cool off in summer.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

People relaxing by the Cheonggyecheon River in Seoul. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Go on a K-pop/Kdrama Tour

As mentioned above, due to the popularity of Korean pop music and its film and television industry, many people have turned to Korea. In fact, we know that some hardcore fans often fly to Seoul just to attend concerts!

If you are fascinated by Korean pop culture, then you may be interested in booking a K-pop tour (Klook | Get Your Guide). You may also find some sightseeing tours that take you to filming locations that are popular for hit TV shows.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

Watch the Cookin’ Nanta Show

If you want to watch performances or performances in Seoul, then you can consider Cookin’ Nanta Show. It’s fun and interesting and reminds me of the Korean version of Stomp, but there is food.

There are two Nanta Theaters, one in Myeongdong and the other in Hongdae. You can buy tickets at the door, but if you buy in advance through Klook, you can sometimes get discounts.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea Cookin’ Nanta Show

Seoul One Day Tour

If you stay in Seoul long enough, you may want to explore outside the city and take a day trip. The four most popular are listed below. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Nami Island

We skipped Nami Island when we first went to Korea because we thought that only fans of the TV series Winter Sonata would appreciate it. We were wrong.

Nami Island is very beautiful and is a must-visit place for anyone visiting Seoul. We went in winter when the island was covered with a thin layer of fresh powder. It is beautiful, although it may not be as magical as autumn when the leaves turn into fiery shades of red, orange, and yellow.

You can visit Nami Island on your own, but it may be the easiest to take a guided tour (Klook | Get Your Guide). Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea Cookin’ Nanta Show Nami Island on winter, Instagram: @putrisetiawan

Nami Island, Gangchon Railway Park, and Petite France from Seoul, South Korea. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

The DMZ

This is one of the most interesting trips I have ever participated in. DMZ stands for Demilitarized Zone and refers to a 4 km wide buffer zone separating North Korea and South Korea.

When I go, they still provide access to JSA or Joint Security Zone. Known as the “most dangerous place in South Korea”, it is the only place in the demilitarized zone where North Korean and South Korean soldiers can stand face to face.

I checked and the JSA tour seems to be no longer available, probably due to the cooling of the North-South relationship, but you can still book the DMZ tour on Klook or Get Your Guide. It is not as intense as the JSA tour, but it is still worth a try, especially if you are interested in Korean history.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

JSA and DMZ tour from Seoul, South Korea. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Everland Resort

Many tourists, especially those traveling to Seoul with young children, may want to visit one of Korea’s largest theme parks (or both)-Everland and Lotte World.

Lotte World is located in the center of Seoul, and Everland is about an hour away. We visited Everland, which is an interesting day trip from Seoul.

When you decide which theme park you want to go to, you can buy tickets through Klook (Everland | Lotte World) or Get Your Guide (Everland | Lotte World) to save on admission fees.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea  Everland Resort
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea Everland Resort

Everland Resort or Lotte World from Seoul, South Korea. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Hwaseong

Hwaseong Fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located about an hour south of Seoul by subway. Its name means “brilliant castle”, and it was built in 1796 by King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty to house and commemorate the remains of his father, Prince Sado.

Hwaseong City can enjoy the beautiful scenery of Suwon, it is a good place for hiking, and you can even try traditional Korean archery.

I visited Hwaseong Fortress myself, but you can also take a guided tour through Klook or Get Your Guide.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

Hwaseong, Suwon, South Korea. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Korean Food Guide

Seoul has a lot of delicious food. From Korean delicacies such as ganjang gejang, galbi, and gomtang to popular street foods such as tteokbokki and gyeranppang, Seoul will let you count down to your next meal.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea Korean Food

Where to eat in Seoul

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Yeontabal Barbecue Restaurant

Gogigui or Korean BBQ is one of our favorite Korean food. Grilled meat on the charcoal grill and marinated meats such as Galbi are absolutely delicious.

Yeontabal’s grilled king beef ribs are the best we have ever eaten. Smoky, sweet, and super tender, they will die for it, especially when eaten with steamed white rice and kimchi.

Remember, Korean meat is usually expensive, so expect Korean barbecue to become your more expensive meal. If you purchase a voucher through Klook, you can get a small discount at Yeontabal.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea  Korean Food
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea Korean Food Yeontabal BBQ Restaurant, Seoul, South Korea

Expect to Spend: At least KRW 34,000 per person. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Woo Lae Oak

Ever since I watched a documentary about North Korea, I have always wanted to try naengmyeon (cold soba noodles). It was originally a Korean delicacy popular throughout the peninsula after the Korean War.

I looked for the best place to try naengmyeon, and Woo Lae Oak, one of the oldest restaurants in Seoul, appears frequently. They are a Korean barbecue restaurant famous for its cold noodles.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea  Woo Lae Oak
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea Woo Lae Oak

Expect to Spend: Around KRW 15,000-20,000 per person

Myeongdong Kyoko

Myeongdong Kyoko is widely regarded as the best stove in the city. Kalguksu is a noodle dish consisting of hand-made knife-cut wheat flour noodles, served in a large bowl, and broth and other ingredients are added. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea .

Myeongdong Kyoja has been in business for more than 50 years and is located in the center of Myeongdong. This is a great place to have lunch or dinner while shopping in the area.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea Kyoka, Myeongdong, Seoul, South Korea

Expect to Spend: Around KRW 10,000-15,000 per person

Manjok Ohyang Jokbal

I asked my Korean friend which dishes he should try when traveling to Korea, and jokbal is one of her recommended foods. Jokbal is a delicacy of the tenderest trotters cooked with soy sauce and spices.

I searched for “the best jokbal in Seoul” on Google and I often mentioned Manjok Ohyang Jokbal. They are the winners of TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice and have a 4.5-star rating. Seriously.

We purchased a voucher for a medium spiced pork trotters bossam set meal from Klook. It is suitable for 2-3 people and comes with jokbal, bossam (pork belly boiled in spices), dumpling soup, and a range of side dishes.

first timers in Seoul Korea Manjok Ohyang Jokbal, Seoul, South Korea

Expect to Spend: At least KRW 28,500. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

Oksang Dalbit

If you like Korean fried chicken, then you can’t go to Seoul without eating at Chimaek Restaurant. Chimaek is a compound word of chicken and maek-ju (meaning “beer” in Korean), so it refers to the popular combination of Korean fried chicken and beer.

The reason Korean fried chicken is so delicious is that it is double-fried, which makes the skin crisper and less greasy. There are many recommended chimaek restaurants in Seoul, one of which is Oksang Dalbit in Hongdae.

Oksang Dalbit, Seoul, South Korea
Expect to Spend: Around KRW 15,000 per person

Wonjo Masan Halmae Agujjim

We skipped ganjang gejang on our first visit to Korea, so I made sure to try it on my next trip. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Ganjang gejang is raw crab marinated in soy sauce. Many people think it is the ultimate Korean dish. I waited for more than two years before trying it. This experience surprised me. It is very good, unlike anything we have tried.

If you like crabs, then you must try this dish. Like Korean barbecue, ganjang gejang is very expensive, so you have to pay at least 30,000 won for each small crab.

We ate at Wonjo Masan Halmae Agujjim. It is one of several restaurants in Ganjang Gejang Alley, which specializes in this interesting and extremely delicious crab dish.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea Seoul, South Korea Wonjo Masan Halmae Agujjim
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea Seoul, South Korea Wonjo Masan Halmae Agujjim

Estimated cost: about 30,000-40,000 won per person. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Myeongdong Food Street

Although we like going to restaurants, there are some particularly exciting places to eat street food. It’s like tasting food on the street!

The first trip to Seoul without having eaten street food in Myeongdong will be incomplete. Myeongdong has mouth-watering delicacies such as grilled lobster tails, chicken and scallion skewers, and fried rice cakes. It is a paradise for Korean street food lovers.

Myeongdong Food Street
Estimated cost: between 2,000-15,000 won per dish

The restaurants above are some of our favorite restaurants, but if 7 are not enough to satisfy your appetite, then you can check our article on 25 must-eat restaurants in Seoul.

It includes recommendations from many other restaurants, such as where to find the best gomtang (beef bone soup), the most authentic Jeonju bibimbap, and cheap but delicious Korean barbecue. It will even tell you where to find the oldest restaurant in Seoul, an institution with a history of more than 110 years that specializes in snow thick soup or beef bone soup.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea Seoul

Expect to Spend: Anywhere between KRW 2,000-15,000 per dish. Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea.

Seoul’s points of interest

For convenience, I created a map so you can better understand the location of all items. All the locations recommended in this guide are fixed on this map. Click the link to open an interactive version of the map in a new window.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea Seoul Map with pushpins
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea Seoul Map with pushpins

How To Get Around in Seoul

Seoul’s subway system is so efficient that you may not need any other form of transportation while you are there. We have never taken a taxi, the only time we took a bus to go to places outside of Seoul, such as Paju, Suwon, and Jinhae.

It may be a bit confusing at first, but as long as you remember the destination subway station and the line number it is on, then you shouldn’t have any problems.

Sometimes you have to walk a long way to transfer between lines, so it’s important to know the line number of your stop. Otherwise, you will not know which route to take to transfer. Whenever I include directions in our Seoul travel guide, I always try to indicate the route and exit number.

Investing in a T-money card is a good idea. It is a transportation card that saves you the trouble of buying one-way tokens and saves you 100 won per trip. It can be used to transfer between subway lines and buses, or between subway and bus (within the transfer time limit), without additional cost.

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea
Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

The card itself costs 2,500 won and can be purchased at most convenience stores and subway stations. You can recharge any amount of money at the charging station of each subway station. If there is still remaining at the end of the trip, you can apply for a refund at a convenience store or refund station (minus 500 won service charge).

Another option is to obtain a Korean travel card, which is a variant of the T-money card. It has the same benefits as the T-money card and gives you small discounts in some tourist attractions, shopping centers, restaurants, and theaters.

We usually use Google Maps for navigation, but it is not very useful in Seoul. It is related to the recently changed street name (or something similar), so it is better to use NAVER Map for navigation (iOS | Android).

Length of stay Seoul itinerary

Seoul is a huge city and there are many things to see. We don’t like rushing, so we stayed for more than a week on each of our three trips to Korea. I think it’s great to stay in Seoul for a week, but if you’re short on time, then 5 days is enough for most visitors to the city for the first time.

This is a quick 5-day/6-night Seoul itinerary compiled by me to help you plan your trip.

First day

•Jingfu Palace
• Bukchon Hanok Village
Changdeokgung Palace
• Changgyeong Palace
• Jongmyo
•Benefits
Dong Hanok Village Insadong
• Jogyesa Temple

Second day

• Gyeonghui Palace
• Deoksugung Palace
• Namdaemun Market
• N Seoul Tower
• Myeongdong

The third day

• Noryangjin Fish Market
• Hongdae
• Bongeun Temple
• COEX Shopping Center
• Jiangnan Shopping Street

The fourth day

• Cheonggyecheon
• Gwangjang Market
• Ewha Mural Village
• Dongdaemun Design Plaza
• Itaewon

Fifth day

• Nami Island

Budget Summary of Expenses

After our first trip to Seoul in 2015, I was a little surprised because it turned out that the city was cheaper than I thought. But this may be because we eat street food most of the time and only go to a few restaurants. In fact, Seoul is more like Osaka in terms of travel costs.

Assuming you will stay in Seoul for 5 days and share cheap accommodation with another person, a budget of approximately 65,000-70,000 won per person per day should be good. This takes into account your accommodation, transportation, moderate meals, and pocket Wi-Fi rental. Here is a quick breakdown of costs:

Accommodations

Everyone has their own preferences, but in our recent trip, we stayed in a hotel in Hongdae, about 60,000 won per night. This is the two-person rate for a room with a private bathroom. If you live in a hotel, expect to pay much less.

Meals

This is also subjective, but based on our experience, I think it needs about 30,000 won per person per day. Cheap but filling dishes like gomtang or seolnongtang usually cost between KRW 10,000-15,000. If you plan to eat Korean BBQ, please add more to your budget.

Pocket Wi-Fi Rental

If you share the cost with another person, then each of you will need to pay approximately 1,500 won per day.

traffic

If you have a T-money card and use the subway, you will need to pay at least 1,250 won per trip. Assuming you take about 3 subways a day, it is estimated that you will spend about 4,000 won in transportation expenses per day.

Total per person per day

Approximately 65,500 won. Keep in mind that this baseline estimate does not include tour fees, entrance fees, or shopping costs. Be sure to add the cost of any travel you want to this amount. Ren and I are middle-travel travelers who enjoy food and wine, so the recommended budget is a good benchmark for travelers like us. Make corresponding adjustments according to your own travel habits.

Seoul travel tips

Use Sygic Travel to plan your trip

Some people may find travel planning a bit tedious or intimidating. This free travel plan can make it easier and more fun.

The role of Sygic Travel is to allow you to visualize everything on the map, so you can easily group the places of interest by location and put them all together to form an effective itinerary.

Rent pocket Wifi device

Nowadays, continuous wifi connection is essential, especially when you are traveling. You will need it to translate, research, use ride-sharing apps, and find your favorite Korean drama filming locations. If we don’t rent pocket wifi devices first, we won’t go anywhere now.

You can keep in touch in Seoul by renting a pocket wifi device or buying a SIM card. We always rent pocket wifi devices, but the sim card is also very good. They are even cheaper.

Regardless of your preference, you can rent a pocket wifi device or purchase a SIM card through Klook. If you are in Asia, be sure to read the list carefully, because it may be cheaper to pick up the goods from your country of origin.

Get an Integrated Palace Ticket

If you want to visit as many palaces as possible in Seoul, then you should definitely get a comprehensive palace ticket. Entering the four major palaces-Changdeokgung Palace (including the backyard), Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace-plus Jongmyo usually costs KRW 17,000 for adults. With the comprehensive palace ticket, you can visit all five for only KRW 10,000.

Check for Discount Passes

I like to find travel deals through e-commerce sites. I bought vouchers from several different websites, but for Seoul, my favorites are Klook, Get Your Guide, and KKday. They offer the widest selection at the best price.

If you are looking for Seoul’s tours, performances, theme parks, and airport shuttle services, please check Klook, Get Your Guide, and KKday. Even if I don’t buy anything, I often find interesting activities that I might not have thought of myself, so it’s always worth seeing.

Get Travel Insurance

Purchasing personal travel insurance can provide insurance applicants with personal accident protection, medical expenses protection, personal property protection, personal legal liability protection, and other benefits during the travel period.

As the current travel agency helps to purchase insurance protection, the travel agency’s negligence causes the traveler’s injury or property loss to be compensated, so the purchase of personal travel insurance can only be compensated during the travel period.

Increasing the protection of tourists on the way, tourists have an endless stream of unexpected situations during their travels. Especially for those tourists who like self-guided tours, due to the lack of protection and reminders of tour groups, many self-guided tourists often have some small accidents. If you have the protection of personal travel insurance, you can make travelers feel more at ease on the way.

Bring a suitable power adapter

Electrical outlets in South Korea are round so plugs are typically Type C or Type F. Be sure to bring the right power adapters for your devices. Electrical voltage is 220/230V.

Have fun!

I am by no means an expert in Seoul, but I do hope this guide is helpful to you. I just share some of the things I learned from traveling. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask us in the comments section below. You are welcome to join our Facebook Travel Group.

Our equipment

These are some of the things we brought to Seoul. If you want to know about other equipment we carry on our trip. (NOTE: The following links are Amazon affiliate links)

Canon PowerShot G7X Mark III
Osmo Mobile 4
Power Cube
Bluetooth Selfie Stick

Budget Tips from first timers in Seoul Korea

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