Budget travel is very possible in South Korea if you are traveling on a shoe-string budget. Like many Asian countries, South Korea is very modern and cosmopolitan. It has a large number of Christian and Buddhist population, which have helped create an interesting culture and heritage, which was very influenced by the Chinese traditions. Here are a few tips to help have a great time during your budget travel in South Korea.
Where to stay
When planning a visit to any foreign country you have to think ahead where you’re going to stay. When you’re planning to budget travel in South Korea you have to think outside the box. Hotels greatly increase the costs of a trip. So you should consider alternatives instead, like the jjimjilbang or staying at a temple.
- Benikea Flower Hotel – Seoul hotels see a lot of traffic, especially during the week because it is mainly a business city. This is why the best choice would be planning your stay for the weekend, outside or in the downtown area, where the prices are more accessible.The Flower Hotel is a budget-friendly, but comfy option if you choose to go the traditional route when you budget travel in South Korea.
- Jjimjilbangs – A jjimjilbang is a public bathroom which also offers overnight stays for a small price. You can enjoy all the benefits of visiting and bathing in the hot springs while also having comfortable lodgings on a budget. Additionally, you will leave feeling refreshed and healthier, as there many benefits associated with visits to the hot springs.
- Temple Stay – If you’ve ever wished to enrich your cultural knowledge and experience the Buddhist way first-hand, a temple stay is perfect for you. Not only will you have budget-friendly accommodations, but you will also be able to participate in the temple activities. The Ceremonial Service, daily Zen Meditation or the Tea Ceremony are just a few of the things you can enjoy during your stay. Keep in mind, however, that you might be expected to make a donation when you leave.
Where to eat
In order to save money you have to eat like a local. This can become an interesting experience which will help you immerse in the culture of the local cuisine. The Korean cuisine is very delicious. Rice is a frequent ingredient in traditional recipes, and vegetables and marinated meat are also favored.
- Mugyodong Bugeokukjib – This is a popular restaurant on a budget with traditional Korean and Asian cuisine. We advise you to try the samgyupsal, a local barbeque recipe with marinated bacon and exotic sauces. Or try the dakgalbi, which is a spicy dish with chicken and cabbage.
- Cheong-Nyun Tteokbokki – If you haven’t tried South Korean street food you have yet to experience this country’s cuisine properly. Located in a bus terminal in Seoul, Cheong-Nyun Tteokbokki is one of the most popular rice cake and fried shrimp restaurants. Rice balls, rice cake (tteokbokki) and fresh fried shrimp are the main specialties of this tiny restaurant, sure to entice you. You can also try Korean comfort food which consists mainly of soups and noodles or rice stir-fries.
- 18th Street Saloon – If you’re missing home or do not wish to try the local cuisine, the 18th Street Saloon is the place you should go to. With mostly American dishes on the menu and beer a plenty, this pub will relieve your homesickness. You can also ask the owner what dish he’s working on for the day and enjoy a tasty dish at a reasonable price. As a plus, the wait staff are very friendly and chatty and the atmosphere is perfect, whether you’re coming alone or with friends.
A lot of thought has been given to the subway system in Seoul, and after years of modernization and renovation, the city can now be proud with a reliable and efficient means of transports. Subways are probably the best choice for travelers because unlike buses they have stations marked in English. To pay for transportation you can purchase rechargeable transportation cards which work on subways and buses.
What to see
You might be tempted to visit all the museums which have entrance fees, but instead of doing so, you could visit the numerous temples and gardens which are very beautiful, and free. This way you will save money, and you will also get the chance to better understand the Korean culture. Korean people are very friendly, and you might even get a free tour if you smile. Do not miss the most important places to see in South Korea for free!
- National Museum of Korea – This is the sixth-largest museum in the world, and on the fourth Saturday of each month, admissions are free. You can see a variety of exhibits, from Ancient paintings to jewelry and bronze statues from the Unified Silla Period.
Location: 137 Seobinggo-ro, Seobinggo-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
- Hongdae Neighborhood – This is the hipster area of Seoul, one of the only places in South Korea where you will get a chance to see street art. This vivid area is always full of students who sip their coffee in the local cafes or dance the night away in the multiple underground clubs in Hongdae.
Location: Hongdae, area surrounding Hongik University
- Sangumburi Crater – This amazing UNESCO Heritage site offers a breathtaking view after a moderate difficulty hike (even children or elder people can easily access the location.) Visit the crater during spring or summer when you get a chance to see nature flourishing! Note that there are entrance fees (6,000 won for adults and 3,000 won children and seniors) for this South Korean attraction, but you should include them in your budget, as it will be worth it!
Location: 768 Bijarim-ro, Jochon-eup, Cheju, Jeju-do, South Korea
Where to shop
You can bargain for many things in Korean markets, but remember to be polite and to respect the shopkeeper. Another thing you should keep in mind is to avoid foreign imports. Below you can see the most famous South Korean shopping spots, from markets to malls (only if you’re ready to splurge on a particular item).
- Dongdaemun Shopping Mall. This is the go-to place for locals when they want to satisfy their shopping passion. This mall includes small shops, as well as designer boutiques, where you can find second-hand items, as well as vintage Chanel or Dior. Additionally, there are also street vendors who are always open to bargain with tourists!
Location: Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
- Noryangjin Fish Market. This traditional fish market will satisfy every foodie with a selection of fresh products that range from the regular seafood to exotic options. On the second floor of Noryangjin, there are many restaurants from when you want to try traditional South Korean food prepared just before your eyes. The market is open 24 hours a day and it is easy to access.
Location: Noryangjin-dong 13-8, Seoul, Yeouido
- Seocho Flea Market. This flea market is every budget shopper’s dream! It is open every Saturday from 9 am to 3 pm and it offers anything from clothing to books, vintage knick-knacks, and traditional products. One of the unmissable experiences while being on a budget trave in South Korea, this market runs down an entire street. So reserve a few hours to explore Seocho!
Location: Sadang and Isu Station
These are our tips for budget travel in South Korea. As tourists, you will find something different in every region of the country, and with a little planning, money will not be a problem anymore. What do you think about our recommendations? Share your favorite spots or restaurants from this beautiful Asian country.