South Korea Costs: $105 a Day

Even if it’s way more affordable to travel in South Korea than in, say, Western Europe, we still had a bit of sticker shock after traveling in places like India and Nepal. But Korea brought our expectations of cost back up to a healthy level after getting used to $2 meals and $6 hotel rooms. Maybe we could have cut back in some areas (like nice meals and alcohol), but it was definitely worth the extra costs to indulge in good ‘ole South Korean voracity. After all, when will we ever find another culture that so wholeheartedly embraces meat and liquor?

We experimented with several types of lodging in Korea, which is known for its love motels and bathhouses (called jimjilbangs). While some love motels are seedy (and can be rented by the hour), we found that they were a great value – most offer reasonable rooms for less than $40 a night. Some jimjilbangs offer sleeping rooms and only charge $10-12 for 12 hours in the facility. There are separate rooms for men and women, and the sleeping space includes a simple mat and a block for a pillow. But considering the spas are included, they’re a bargain. We also tried couch surfing for the first time in Korea, and making new friends made free lodging even better. We’ll write an article soon about some of South Korea’s alternative accommodation options.

Most of the sights in South Korea are priced very reasonably, with temples, museums and palaces ranging from $1-3 for admission. Open air markets are some of our favorite attractions, and they don’t cost anything as long as you can resist the temptation to load up on souvenirs. There are also a lot of free (or almost free) parks to explore, like Seoul Forest and the Tomb parks in Gyeongju.

[ptcPhoto filename=”Yorkie.jpg” title=”How much is that doggy” caption=”In retrospect, the ukulele isn’t so impractical” position=”left”]

It should be noted that there are shopping arcades around every corner in Korean cities, and our budget for incidentals grew as a result of our clothes shopping. It was about time to replace some gear anyways, after months of wearing all the same outfits. I also commandeered a ukulele in Seoul. That expense is omitted here since it’s a completely random purchase and doesn’t fairly represent the cost to travel in South Korea.

The daily average cost for our visit was $104.99 (or $52.50 per person per day), so we came in close to our goal of $100 a day.

Here is a breakdown of all our costs during our stay. This table does not include costs to enter the country, which included an $89 flight from Kathmandu (we used miles for this flight and only paid taxes).

Type of Expense Total Cost
(for 35 days)
Daily Average Notes
Lodging $1,205.29 $34.44 Our lodging choices ranged in price from $27 in Gyeongju and on Jeju Island to $54 in Busan.
Food $1,250.76 $35.74 For $6-8, you can usually find a tasty, healthy meal.
Transportation (within country) $524.97 $15 Buses between cities are very cost effective, as are Busan and Seoul’s modern metro systems.
Entertainment $95.85 $2.74 Includes a baseball game, Hwaseong Palace, archery, Seongsan Crater, and Haeinsa Temple.
Alcohol $368.84 $10.54 Bottles of soju (local rice liquor) are only around $1 in convenience stores.
Incidentals $228.87 $6.54 Includes the costs for items like sunblock, internet, clothes and donations.
Grand Total* $3,674.58 $104.99 *Total reflects expenses for two people. It does not reflect costs to enter the country (i.e., visas or airfare)

Some Examples:

Korean BBQ dinner for two – ₩25,000 ($22.50)
1.5L beer from a convenience store – ₩5,750 ($5)
Metro fare, one way – ₩1,200 ($1)
A boba milkshake (try one, they’re good) – ₩4,900 ($4.50)

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