South Korea Budget Travel Guide
After a few months from traveling Solo in Japan, a seat sale to South Korea happened and I actually booked a flight there for Php 2,399 (about USD 46) for the month of March. Fast forward to February of the next year, I applied a South Korean Visa and got approved and started planning my trip. On the 27th day of March; I finally stepped to the land of my favorite dramas and the most addicting music – South Korea.
It was actually not a good time to go; it was somehow considered winter and the flowers haven’t bloomed yet. So I, from a tropical country called The Philippines, had limited activities (especially at night) since the cold does bother me (here I wish I was Elsa). But nevertheless, I did enjoy my time and would like to share to you my budget itinerary to South Korea. I stayed for 7 nights and 7 days but for my 1st night and last day, we’ll be considering it as 0 since it was my travel time and I was handicapped (due to an injury and a cold) on my last day.
So ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, my 6-DAY South Korea Travel Budget Guide for less than Php 18,000.00 / KRW 400,000 / $350:
The 18K does not include AIRFARE, VISA FEE, TRAVEL TERMINAL FEE, AND SOUVENIRS, because they vary (and some countries does not have this)
But the budget does include
- Various Korean Food
- Transportation within Korea
- Paid attractions you might want to try.
Please note that I traveled solo, so if you’re a pair or a group; you’d probably spend less especially on food and accommodation.
Where to stay and what to use in booking?
It depends on what type of environment you want; for historical sites – Jongno, for Shopping – Myeongdong, for young ones – Hongdae-Sinchon which is considered Seoul’s University Belt, for fun nightlife and international scene – Itaewon and for Kpop fans – Gangnam.
I stayed at Hongdae because it was cheaper and the close to Hongik Univ. Station (no transfers from Incheon International Airport).
I also used the following in my South Korea Trip:
- · Hotel Booking Sites e.g. Agoda – I found cheap budget hotels here which cost less than Php 700, $ 13.5 or KRW 16,000 per night. Plus you can book without paying yet and your booking can be sent with your visa application and can be shown to the immigration staff. Try to choose a cancellable option for on-the-spot ideas.
Budget tip: Try using Shopback then go to Agoda. It’s a rebate app – in case you book using their app, they can give you back a percentage of your payment plus can let you see some of their ongoing promos.
For my 1st to 3rd night – I spent Php 1,492.17 in Kimchee Sinchon Guesthouse in Hongdae and Php 681.73 in Egg House Namisum (Nami Island) Guest House at Gapyeong.
- AirBnB – If you’re a group or a family I suggest this. If you don’t have an account register here for a discount on your first stay.
- Couch Surfing – this is good for solo travelers. This is about locals opening their homes to travelers who want a place to stay. I stayed with a female Korean for two nights. She had a cute cat and we ate dinner together. Samgyeopsal Korean Style. Comment down so we will be friends
Transportation is pretty easy in South Korea especially with NAVER app, be careful of the right direction though, as some have no English translations (I actually rode the wrong way once). Koreans are pretty friendly and helpful and speak good English.
Travel tip: Buy a KOREA TOUR CARD for KRW 4,000, instead of a normal T-money card (they have the same price) as they have perks for tourists. You can have shopping coupons, discount for attractions and gifts if ever presented in the list provided by your card. I even got a KRW 2,000 discount at Petite France.
Their website tells you that they are sold in shops inside the airport, but I actually asked around and no one has them. Luckily, there were 3 vending machines going to the subway station (in the airport) that sells this card. Preload it with KRW 30,000 (this was enough for my activities).
The most common transportations in South Korea are:
• Railroad / Subway – a fast way to travel within SoKor. To know what to ride or where to get off using the NAVER app J there are different lines so be careful when to transfer or when to stop. It’s pretty fun when you get used to it.
If you want something faster – from/to the airport there is AREX which is KRW 9,000 but KRW 6,400 in Klook. And if going out to the provinces (like Gapyeong for Nami Island) – ITX is faster but a bit expensive. USE E94ZL to get a discount on Klook.
- Bus – there are a lot of buses in South Korea and I think I rode them more than trains/subways. It goes to a lot of places and would require less walking because some stations are too far from tourist spots (e.g. Everland) plus NAVER has options for fastest, cheapest or less walking.
- Taxi – I only used this in Gapyeong (where Nami Island is) because it would be time-consuming for me to wait for a bus it was about KRW 3,000 flat rate for the first kilometer and additional KRW 100 per 132 meters or 31 seconds, I didn’t spend more than KRW 5,000.
Day 0 / Night 1
Arrival at Incheon Airport
I booked a KT Mobile Wifi via Klook. It’s about Php 116 -118 or KRW 2,500 won per day which can connect to 5 devices and a pretty good connection and battery life. It is better to book via Klook as it is more cost saving since the rate is KRW 8,800 per day (at the airport or KRW 4,400 if you book on KT’s site. Though, you need to have a credit card under your name for this. Pick up near gate 6-7 as they are 24 hours and is near to the train.
If it’s your first time with Klook – use “E94ZL” to have a Php 150 or KRW 3,000 discount.
Reminder: Buy Korea Tour Pass found at the subway station and load it with KRW 30,000 in advance.
To go to Seoul you could either use the All Stop Train – this is the one I rode because it’s cheaper KRW 4,150 and can stop at Hongik University Station where my hotel is or the Express Train which is KRW 9,000 but KRW 6,400 in Klook or a bus (found outside the Arrival area).
Arrival at the hostel – Kimchee Sinchon Guest House (near Hongik University Station) and cost me Php 1,492.17 (KRW 33,200) for 3 nights. Location wise, it’s near Hongdae which is good if you want nightlife (but I didn’t have one because it was FREEZING!), it has E-Mart near it and a bus station a few meters away which was my favorite part instead of using the station.
You can also get a Discover Seould Pass, to have a free ride on the trail and free entrance to attractions.
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
- Bukchon Hanok Village
- Changdeokgung Palace
- SMTOWN @coexartium
- (alternative) Starfield Library
- (alternative) Hallyu K Star Road
- (alternative) Gangnam Underground Shopping district
Before traveling, I booked a Hanbok because it’s a nice cultural experience and I had a discount voucher from booking. If you book trhough Klook, use my discount code “E94ZL” for about 3,000 KRW. You could also try a Discover Seoul Pass.
Entrance fees to the palaces are as follows.
- Gyeongbokgung Palace KRW 3,000
- Gyeonghuigung Palace free
- Changdeokgung Palace KRW 3,000 (Secret Garden KRW 5,000)
- Changgyeonggung Palace KRW 1,000
- Deoksugung Palace KRW 1,000
- Jongmyo Shrine KRW 1,000
Combination tickets for all of the palaces is KRW 10,000.00 which is valid for 30 days.
- Closed on Monday: Changdeokgung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace
- Closed on Tuesday: Gyeongbokgung Palace, Jongmyo Shrine
But if you are wearing Hanbok – you could actually go in for free except for Changdeokgung’s Secret Garden which is a guided tour only – you must book online or come early (first come, first serve) because it’s limited to 100 people. Do not visit on Monday or Tuesday though, since the TOP 2 palaces are closed. But anyway, they both look similar. Too bad I haven’t got enough time to join go to the secret garden.
It was not really my intention to go for Gangnam on Day 1 since I like to spend a whole afternoon up to the night. But there was a traveler’s night hosted by Pindle (I found this event in Couchsurfing) and it was nice to know fellow travelers and have new South Korean friends (who actually helped me during my travels and to buy medicine in the pharmacy). I also won a Bluetooth speaker, t-shirt, face masks, and a few more J So while waiting for the event, I actually spent a few hours in SMTOWN @coexartium, the shops are free but SM Town Museum costs KRW 18,000 but I’m a fan of Super Junior so it was worth it! If you’re not into SM Town artists, you may go to the Starfield Library and walk around Hallyu K Star Road.
After the party, I wanted to go to Gangnam Underground Shopping district but it was about 6 degrees, and I couldn’t take it (haha) so I went home.
Everland is South Korea’s largest theme park. It was so huge that I walked 10km around the area (haha). South Korea has 2 popular theme parks Everland and Lotte World, I chose Everland mainly because of the rides plus it has a zoo.
My favorite attractions were as follows:
- Rolling X-Train
- Thunder Falls
- Safari Express
- Shooting Ghost
A few of my targeted attractions: Lost Valley was actually closed. So make sure to check attractions on their website.
Unlike Disneyland, there is no fast pass here, so you need to line (and it took me almost two hours for T-Express). If you want a faster experience there is a Q-Pass which can only be bought online.
I bought a ticket at Klook for Php 1,161.60 instead of the original price of KRW 56,000 for adults. And it gave me a chance for a Q-Pass (but I wasn’t one of the first 50 L) but I had a KRW 5,000 voucher which I bought for food, so it pretty much saved me a lot of money.
Everland is in Yongin which is 2 hours from Seoul, so you need to ride to Gangnam Station and take the #5002 bus to Everland Terminal and another bus to Everland itself.
I actually went home early and didn’t wait for the fireworks because it was cold and you can’t walk from Everland to the terminal, so it’s better to line early than wait for the crowd to grow.
Morning to Afternoon DMZ Tour
Evening Hongdae (for Nightlife)
I am really curious about Korea and wanted to be at least a few meters away from North Korea. So I took the DMZ Tour. This originally costs KRW 49,000 + Seoul City Tour Bus Ticket (can be done the day before or after the tour) worth KRW 18,000 which won but I got it for Php 2,437.80 with klook discounts (this one was saved me a lot of money).
The Korean Demilitarized Zone is actually a strip of land that divides South and North Korea. These are the places we went to:
- Imjingak – The Park has many statues and monuments regarding the Korean War. There’s also the freedom bridge – the old train that was connected to North Korea
- Third Tunnel – A film showing then going inside the tunnel which makes you 170m away from North Korea, when you are inside, you can’t take pictures. This tunnel is about 1,600 m (5,200 ft) long and about 73 m (240 ft) below ground. It’s pretty tiring to walk inside the tunnel and you need to wear a helmet so that you won’t get hit.
- Dora Observatory – Here you can also see North Korea especially when it’s a clear day.
- Dorasan Station – This is the last train station in South Korea and sadly it doesn’t go to North Korea anymore. To enter and see the railway you need to pay KRW 100.
I wanted to go to JSA (you’re a door away from North Korea) but since there’s a bit of tension between the two Koreas, no tourists are allowed here. We were a bit delayed so we had a very late lunch and arrived in Seoul at about 4 PM.
I wanted to originally go to Hongdae to check out the Harry Potter Café, listen to music, look at shops and hang out but it was too cold to tour around and I transferred to couchsurfing. It was about 6 degrees that day and much colder at night, so I decided not to push through. But you could do that.
Seoul City Tour Bus since I purchased the DMZ tour and it includes this tour bus, I actually saved money plus it’s informational. They provide you earphones so while being on the bus audio (with different languages – yes there’s English) is being played.
There are 2 types of Bus Tour – Course A (Downtown Palace Namsam Course) – 09:00 to 18:00 (interval: 30 minutes) and Course B (Panorama Course) 09:30 to 17:00 (interval: 70 minutes).
The departure location is near to Chosun Ilbo building or a few meters from Koreana Hotel.
To get there:
Subway: 50M straight ahead at Exit 6 of Gwanghwamun Station on Line 5 (ticket booth next to Chosun Ilbo)
Subway: 100M straight ahead at City Hall Station (Line 1)
Since this is a hop on hop off bus, I started at Myeongdong. Just find a red stand or ask people where the Seoul City Tour Bus stop is.
I actually chose this course because I already visited a lot of Palaces and Spots in Course A.
This is where it passes:
1 Gwangwhamun – The main gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace. This is the starting point of Seoul City Bus Tour.
2 Myeongdong – This is my first stop for 9 AM, I attended an English Sunday Mass at the Myeongdong Cathedral, I also went back here for my last stop about 4:00 PM plus so that I could do some shopping. They have a lot of Shops and have street food at night.
3 Seoul Animation Center (unavailable)
4 Namsan Cable Car – My second stop since I don’t like to walk because it’s too time-consuming, I decided to spend KRW 9,500 for round trip tickets using the cable car. After arriving, I went inside N Seoul Tower – admission to the top is KRW 10, 000 due to credits in always using Klook instead of spending KRW 5,500 or Php 241, I got mine for Php 90.70. But I did spend KRW 9,500 for my lock and keys.
5 Millennium Seoul Hilton Hotel
6 Namsan Public Library
7 Grand Hayatt Hotel
8 Gangnam Station
9 Sebitseom (Some Sevit) Sebitseom consists of three islands — Gavit, Chavit and Solvit– along with Yevit, a performance area on the water. It has free admission and looks great at night. Originally, I wanted to see this at night, but it was still freezing and I didn’t like walking at night. But if you want this to be your last stop here is how to get home.
10 63 City and Hangang Cruise – 63 Building or 63 Square is a skyscraper on Yeouido island, overlooking the Han River in Seoul, South Korea. It’s gold so I got to see it when we passed by. It’s free to look around but when you want to go to Aqua Planet 63 it costs KRW 25,000 and 63 ART it costs KRW 15,000; pass for both is KRW 30,000. From 63 City, you go to Eland Cruise Terminal for a Hangang River Cruise, the minimum price for a 20-minute cruise is KRW 15,000 but it’s 14,000 in Klook. There are various types: Hangang River Story, Moonlight, Music and Fireworks Cruise. You could also have dinner and lunch cruise; this would be perfect for a date <3
11 Yeouinaru Station
12 Hongik University – This stop is near Hongdae, it has a lot of young university students. Hongdae is described as a youthful neighborhood and popular during the night for music and street food. We passed by here and I wanted to come down when I realized there were people singing in the streets. (But maybe next visit, when it’s not too cold). If you want to enjoy the nightlife, try doing it on the 2nd day.
13 Airport Railroad Hongik University Station
14 Sinchon Station + Ewha Womans University – Ewha Womans University is one of the most prestigious universities in South Korea. The grounds are very gorgeous and tourists can come in. But you can’t go inside the buildings. I bet this is going to be very pretty when the flowers are at full bloom. Outside, there’s also a shopping district that sells fashion items, beauty products and a lot of food outlets but Myeongdong has more.
15 Agricultural Museum – admission is Free and this is open from Tuesdays to Sundays (from 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM for Summer Season and closes 5:30 for winter Season)
16 Seoul History Museum – admission is Free and this opens every day from 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM for Weekdays, up to 7:00 pm during Weekends and Holidays of Summer Season and up to closes 6:00 for winter Season)
1 Gwangwhamun <3
P.S. I just wanted you to know that most tourist spots have walking Tourist Helpers, they mostly wear Red or have and information flag. They give out free maps and help you where to go. They also speak good English.
Day 5 is a bit of a rest day (my legs were tired of walking more than 45 kilometers for 4 Days) and I decided to wake up late. At about 10 AM I went to Gapyeong.
I arrived at the terminal and decided took a taxi for KRW 3,100 to Egg House Namisum (Nami Island) Guest House to leave my things. Since the terminal is just across, at 1 pm I rode the Gapyeong City Tour Bus for KRW 6,000. If you’re just only going to Nami Island and are a group, might as well ride a taxi for about KRW 4,000. But don’t ride a taxi to Petite France or Garden of Morning Calm since fare would be KRW 15,000+.
I went to Petite France for KRW 8,000 (original is KRW 10,000 but I got a discount because of Korea Tour Card) and spent a good amount of time there.
After that, I went to the Garden of Morning Calm. Not a lot was blooming yet, but I still enjoyed the view and nature itself. Original Price is 9,500 but I got a KRW 2,000 discount since there was no more event (it was only up to March and that day was April) and there were not so many flowers.
Warning: the last bus trip is 7:30 PM but I got on about 6:30 PM and the last stop is at Cheongpyong terminal not at Gapyeong terminal. There is a KRW 2,000 bus to Gapyeong terminal but the bus driver actually lives near there and offered me a ride (I know a bit dangerous) but thank God I was safe and he was very kind.
- Gapyeong Rail Bike
- Nami Island
- Namdaemun Market
- Dongdaemun Design Plaza
- Siloam Sauna
This is for my Nami Island Trip and Gapyeong Rail Bike. The first turn is on 9:00 AM and it was only a few minutes’ walk from Egg House so I saved money there, but sadly I wasn’t advised to do it since I was alone and it was cold and there are uphill roads. Running time is usually an hour and a half– probably I’ll do this for more than 2 hours alone (this would make me die haha). Also, a few of my dormmates said it was pretty hard too even if they were 3 persons. So I skipped this L maybe next time. KRW 25,000 was for a two-person bike and KRW 35,000.
I directly went to Nami Island via Taxi since I would be wasting time waiting for Gapyeong City Tour Bus. From there I enjoyed Nami Island till 1 PM. There are not many flowers blooming, but it was still pretty.
But I advise you if you’re staying in Gapyeong to do Nami Island first because it opens at 7:30 AM and there aren’t a lot of tourists yet. Then book the Gapyeong Rail Bike at may 10:30, go out of Nami maybe a quarter to 10 or at 10:00 since you need to be oriented at the railbike 20 minutes before your time.
After this, I went back to my hotel and got back to Seoul. I initially wanted to go to Namdaemun Market and Dongdaemun Design Plaza but I was too tired. I’ll visit next time.
I spent the night at Siloam Sauna (haha) were you take a bath naked with people of the same gender then go to Sauna on the upper floor (gender mixed) and sleep at night. It was a Korean experience, so it was a bit embarrassing but really cool.
South Korean Food is one of my favorite cuisine. Prices for big meals ranges from KRW 7,000 (Non-Spicy Noodle) to 17,000 (Sampgyeopsal). Bibimbap costs KRW 10,000 and is one of my absolute faves since I can control the spiciness. Convenience stores also sell cheaper food KRW 900 (Samgak-gimba) to 4,000 (Tteok-bokki) which I don’t recommend since it’s super spicy. Street food are an absolute delight – Odeng is tasty and perfect for the cold weather. The tip is balance your expenses: save money but enjoy the food!
Overall, here is a summary of my expenses:
South Korea is another dream come true! Though the weather wasn’t perfect, it was still such a beauty. I will definitely comeback here, preferably spring or autumn. I hope you go and visit as well! Thank you for reading!
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