Home Asia South Korea Budget Guide for First Time Visitors

South Korea Budget Guide for First Time Visitors

Downtown skyline of Seoul, South Korea with Seoul Tower.

Is traveling on a shoestring possible in South Korea? Yes. At first, I thought it’s not. Sure, traveling can be expensive, if one chooses it to be, but if you’ve done your research well, then you’ll be ok. I created this South Korea Budget Guide to help you get the most out of your travel.

How to Travel to South Korea on a Budget

1. Watch out for Seat Sales

This is probably the most important budget travel tip anyone can give you. Airfares usually take a big chunk of your total travel budget so it’s best to purchase them way ahead of your travel date. Personally, I usually book an out of country flight ticket a year before the actual travel date. Low cost carriers such as Cebu Pacific and Air Asia are my favorites when it comes to seat sales. 

winter in South Korea
winter landscape in the mountains

2. Book Budget Accommodation

Just like airfares, accommodation should be booked ahead of your travel date to get better rates. Booking ahead of time will give you more choices to book the hotel/hostel that’s truly in your budget. If you are traveling off-season, though, you can wait till the last minute to book. I found great hotel deals when I did this a couple of times.

I mainly use Tripadvisor for reviews before deciding to book a specific hostel/guest house. I use Agoda for online booking because I like the pay later option. Some guesthouse/hostels also offer free cancellation. 

3. Use Public Transportation

The cheapest way how to get around South Korea is by public transport. Seoul, in particular, has an efficient and reliable public transportation system. With a T-Money (rechargeable card), you easily can navigate subways, trains and buses. Before your trip, make sure to download Subway Korea app to know how to get to your destination.

4. Visit the Official Tourism Website

Everything you need to know about South Korea is in here! The website provides sample itinerary based on the number of days you will be staying in South Korea. You can also find latest promotions and coupons that can help you minimize travel costs. If you are a Koreanovela fan, they have a page dedicated to korean drama locations. Amazing right?

5. Read Online Forums

Pinoyexchange and Female Network are my primary sources of travel information. You’ll find useful travel tips from expert Filipino forumers. How cheap is cheap? You will find the answers here. I don’t recommend foreign forums because sometimes their concept of cheap is different from us. Another thing, If you are going to ask a question in the forum, make sure to do your research first. Most of the time, your questions have been raised and answered already. Do some back reading.

6. Download Online Coupons

Thanks to Korea Grand Sale, we got a discount for AREX. We only paid 6,900 KRW for Incheon International Airport- Seoul Station non-stop express train. Adult tickets normally costs 14,500 KRW. 

7. DIY Tour vs Package Tour

If you’re touring around Seoul and nearby province, go for DIY. Majority of tourist attractions are accessible by their subway system. If you are including Jeju Island, then it would be best to hire a cab that is usually good for 8 hours. The only tour package that I think is acceptable is the Ski tour package and DMZ tour. We availed the S9 Ski Tour + Nami Island which costs 129,000 KRW per pax. And the verdict? It’s sulit!

How much did I spend on my first trip to South Korea?

I was able to calculate how much I spent for my recent South Korea trip. Check out the breakdown below. I am surprised I only spent this much considering the fact that we included Jeju Island in our itinerary and we went skiing in Gangwondo. My RT Incheon-Manila tickets are not included though because I did not pay for it. My friend Jett gave it as a birthday present. Lucky me! If I will include the tickets, then the total would have been around 39,000 php. But still, not bad for a 7 days trip right?

2014 Winter Trip Expenses – you can download or view the excel file

2015 Winter Trip Expenses – you can download or view the excel file

How about you? Have you been to South Korea? How much did you spend on your first visit? Do you have any tips that you would like to share with other budget travellers? Let’s chat down below!


  1. Lately I’ve been into Korean dramas and songs. Now I’m really torn whether I’ll put SK as my #2 destination and move Japan to the 3rd spot. Haha.

  2. Okay then. I will make sure to visit these two countries before I turn 30 then =) Mahirap mag-ipon nang pang-travel! Ang mahal! LOL

  3. For me, South Korea is too perfect sometimes it gets boring. Haha. Japan is soo much better in my opinion because there are so many things to see and experience. And Japan is a cheaper shopping destination compared to SoKor. 🙂

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