A Day In Seoul For Less Than $25

Seoul, the Cosmopolitan Capital with a Low Price Tag

I got a little ahead of myself I thought. Seoul for under $25 a day was simply not possible! Turns out, I just wasn’t thinking hard enough. When we think of budget destinations across the planet, we almost immediately rule out first world nations without even exploring if it can be done on a budget. While I am still waiting for someone to show me how to roam around Italy on a couple of euro a day, here in Asia, everything is affordable, even in the richest of nations.

Palave Pavillion Pond
Palave Pavillion Pond

Thankfully, trying to keep spending to a minimum in Seoul doesn’t mean keeping your sightseeing to a minimum. In fact, most of the best things to do are actually extremely cheap or free. With a little savvy, foresight and memorization of this post, you too can explore the capital of South Korea for $25 a day or less.

Food pots in Seoul
Food pots in Seoul

What Should I Do?

For starters…

The #1 thing I recommend people to do in Seoul is to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace, and on a budget, the recommendation is no different. You can spend hours exploring the king’s 600 year old home by gazing at his throne room, looking at his wonderful pavilion pond, or checking out what’s for dinner in the many fermenting pots still in use today!

Gyeongbokgung Palace
Gyeongbokgung Palace

Cost: 3000 won / 2.70 USD

Gyeongbokgung Palace
Gyeongbokgung Palace

After that,…

Cross the street into Sejong-ro and walk along the statues of the two greatest heroes of Korean history, King Sejong the Great and Admiral Yi SunShin. As one of the main city squares, there always seems to be something going on in this area.

Sejong Road, Seoul
Sejong Road

If you haven’t heard of either of these historical characters, shame on you, but here is a little history lesson! Sejong is credited with creating the Korean writing system known as Hangeul. The Admiral on the other hand, is credited with having pulled one of the biggest naval upsets of all time, destroying a Japanese Armada of 333 ships with 13 of his ‘turtle ships.’

Statues of Sejong and Yi
Statues of Sejong and Yi

Cost: Free

Got your attention?

Good! Familiarize yourself with Korean history at the Sejong and Admiral Yi museums, located directly underneath your shoes! Quite literally, those museums are located underground beneath Sejong Street with the entrance conveniently located behind the large golden statue of King Sejong the Great.

Entrance to the museum, Seoul
Entrance to the museum

Foreigners can be taught to write their name in Korean in traditional Korean paper known as hanji and take it home as a memento.

13 Learning Korean Seoul
Learning Korean

The museum also has a 4D theater to convince you of how awesome Admiral Yi was. The hilarious portrayal of the Japanese as nearly demon-like and their shock of Yi’s awesomeness is reason enough to watch the 15 minute flick.

12 3D Theatre wm
4D Theather

Cost: Free, Free and FREE!

Now that you have spend a whopping 2.70 and walked around all day, it is time to eat.

What should I eat (and where)?

Eat Korean food…seriously! This goes without saying, but I feel I must. In Korea, foreign foods come at a premium, and with the cheap and amazing local dishes available, why would you eat anything else in Korea.

Head towards Jong-no to have a local meal at an affordable price. While the more tourist oriented ‘Insadong’ area is closer, I have never had an amazing meal there, and it comes at a slightly inflated price (Koreans don’t really know how to jack up the price though). Jong-no is still within walking distance of the museums and palace, so it shouldn’t be much of a hassle.

jaeyukdopbap
Jaeyukdopbap

Try jaeyukdopbap / mixed pork with rice / 재육덮밥, kimchi jjigae / kimchi soup / 김치찌개, or my all-time favorite ppyeo haejangguk / backbone soup / 뼈해장국. They are all amazing, so try them all. If you are a bit more adventurous, check out these lists of Korean foods to try! (list 1, list 2, list 3).

Kamjatang aka Ppyeohejangguk
Kamjatang aka Ppyeohejangguk
Kimchi-Boggeumbap
Kimchi-Boggeumbap

Cost: Appox. 5000 won for most meals

Where should I sleep and what should I dream of?

While I can’t help you with the dreams, there are plenty accommodation options. If you are looking for the free route, you can either couchsurf, or teach in Korea like me where housing is provided by the employer!

Let’s get serious though. Not everyone is into couch surfing, or starting a new life in Seoul just to save a couple of bucks.

Although the cheapest possible accommodations are for 10,000 won in the foreign district of Itaewon, let loose a little and spoil yourself by spending an extra 2000 won and staying in the nightlife hub known as Hongdae. If you are into a good nightlife that won’t leave you broke, this is the place for you.

 Total cost: 12,000 won

Where should I get my drink on?

20 North Korean Soju (bought at DMZ)
North Korean Soju bought at DMZ

Probably the real reason why you are reading this article right? My favorite thing about going out and having some drinks in Seoul is how inexpensive it could be compared to pretty much any other developed country. Since you will be staying in the Hongdae area, take a stroll in the neighborhood for some drinks and fun. Just so you don’t get confused though, while everyone calls it Hongdae, it is short for Honggik Daehakkyo (Honggik University) and is located on the green subway line 2, exit 9.

Option 1: Ho Bar

The poorly named bar is a haven for deal hunters as their domestic beers start at 1800 won. You can afford 2 on your $25 a day budget! Ho Bars, like most in Korea, are a chain and I have counted about 10 in Hongdae alone.

Option 2: Any ‘Fridge Bar’

This type of bar is a self-serve place where you can freely pick a beer you like from the fridge as if you were at home. These “Mekju Chango / 맥주 창고” bars are all over Korea and sometimes start as cheap as 2000 won a beer.

Option 3: Zen or Papa Gorilla in Hongdae

Let me be honest, suggesting a bar or club is not my strong suit as I rarely go out of my comfort zone in Hongdae. Nonetheless, I suggest these two for very special reasons. Unlike options 1 and 2, they are dance club-style bars where you can mingle with strangers, which for Koreans, is still a Western concept. For this reason, these are called ‘Western style bars / clubs’. Furthermore, the drinks are cheap, (starting at 3000 won), they have a good crowd of about 60% locals 40% foreigners on weekends, and best of all, there is no cover before midnight (or ever in Zen’s case).

19 Long Island Buckets at Papa Gorilla wm
Long Island Buckets at Papa Gorilla

 Total cost for 2 beers in any option: 6000 won maximum

Your Budget Sum Up 

Total COST: 26,000 won or 23 USD. Throw in 2 USD for subway fares and we can call it even!

SONY DSC

Julio decided to make the most of his college education by ignoring his degree and following his passion of exploring the world, much to his mother’s chagrin. What was supposed to be a single year of working and exploring South Korea has turned into the four best years of his life. His passion for travel has only gotten more intense since living in Asia, probably because he finally has a full-time job to support his full-time addiction. Follow his quest to explore and evaluate all of the world’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites on his blog. You can also follow him on Facebook, or the necessary evil that is Twitter if you want to hear about his ramblings about life as an expat in South Korea.

Have you guys ever managed to visit Seoul for less than $25?

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45 Comments

    • Wow, kimchi on pizza? You became more immersed than me! haha. I don’t know where you are from, but in southern California, kimchi is relatively easy to find. It is one of those things you don’t bump into unless you are looking for it, but I was surprised how my neighborhood market had it.

      I am no chef by any means. Actually, I am quite a terrible cook, but kimchi jjigae (kimchi soup) is extremely simple to make (if you find the kimchi!) Simply put a pot, dump canned tuna (with the oil). Let it sit for 7 minutes, add kimchi and water, wait 10 minutes…tada!

      If you can’t kimchi pre-made for you, I recently made a post where I linked a video on how to make kimchi. Check it out:
      http://www.travelworldheritage.com/tag/how-to-make-kimchi/

    • I feel you on the foreign eateries. Eating foreign foods is not cheap in Seoul. Generally, I have found “tourist restaurants” to be slightly more pricey, but no where near as much as in other countries.
      When I went to Peru, I could pay 10 USD for ceviche, or have it free as an appetizer… the more you know!!
      Thanks for the comment!

    • It is awesome how once you get into Korean culture and history, you can then expand on that. I was really interested in Admiral Yi and recently went to Yeosu. It is on the remote southern part of the country where he built his turtle ships and had his military headquarters! They recently made a full scale replica of a turtle ship too!

  • Wonderful post here about Seoul. When it comes to talking about budget travel, many people automatically dismiss particular locations they deem too “expensive”. It is my personal belief though that almost any location can be affordable if you are willing to do what it takes to make it work. If I end up going to Honolulu later this year (as planned for a few days) I will be making every effort to strive off of nothing more than $25/day. It is possible, just takes a bit of creativity. Great post!

    • Honolulu seems tough to do, but if you can make it work that would be awesome. Now, I am not beyond spending a bit more if I think it is worth it, but almost always, it is completely unnecessary :). Like you said, takes creativity!
      Thanks :)

    • Many thanks Dave! It’s so true. I did a weekend in Tokyo for less than $25 so every place is doable but we need to be more creative and adventurous :).

  • Another terrific post, Agness! The Gyeongbokgung Palace looks gorgeous! And I didn’t know that part about the naval history – very interesting! I had to look up what 4D is, we don’t have one in Reno, and I definitely want to go to a theater that has the physical effects but I can’t do 3D (the glasses). The Kimchi-Boggeumbap looks totally delicious – yes please! :)

    • 4D is an awesome experience Mike, you gotta try it one day :-). The Kimchi-Boggeumbap tastes as good as it looks like, I’m telling you!

    • 4D, unfortunately, usually includes a 3D aspect of it, and the “4th dimension” is considered to be the effects. This one however, is only 15 minutes long, so it shouldn’t hurt your head too bad. The depth of the 3D isn’t too bad either. Even friends who hate 3D movies were able to do this one just fine.
      Give it a try :)

  • This was great thank you so much for sharing along with another blog I read how to get flight cheap, this will be great Thank you
    Kymee

  • Nice post. The food is simply awesome and you can always get it cheap if that’s what you want. A kimbap shop has yet to disappoint me!

    I don’t know if you were lumping them in with the 10k won accommodation, but jimjilbang are usually my choice for sleep. Super cheap, no checkout times, and you get to relax in the pools!

    • Hey Matt, thanks for sharing. We are also big fans of cheap and no checkout time accommodation so welcome to the club :)

    • Jimjjilbangs can come as cheap as 5 bucks a night. I know tons of people who swear by them, but since I hadn’t tried one myself (embarrassing, I know), it definitely slipped my mind. Good catch!

  • Great post, Julio! I live in Korea too, so I can definitely support your idea that going to eat away from tourist areas is the way to go. Just look for where a bunch of old Korean men are eating and the food is bound to be authentic and cheap! :D

  • We’re hoping to visit Seoul this summer so this guide will come in very handy. Looking forward to exploring all the free attractions. It’s great to know it can be done on a budget and especially helpful when traveling with kids. Thanks for this!

  • This is absolutely wonderful! I love it how y’all do guest posts about how to travel in particular countries for less than $25.
    You always have such wonderful and helpful information!

    I hope I get to go to Seoul in the next couple months!

  • Hi Agness and Julio, great post. While I know so much about Korean food, I’m not too informed about history and places to see in Seoul. It’s one Asian city I’m yet to explore. Thanks for the the tip about sightseeing and the historical lesson about the king and the admiral. I’ll definitely these in mind when I make it to Seoul.

    • I am glad you (and others) likes the history bit. I was so close to leaving it out! I thought the post was getting too off track, but it makes me so happy that you liked it. If you happen to have a long time in Korea, the city of Yeosu recently built a full scale replica of the turtle ship.

  • Hi, I’m Korean and I’ve live in Seoul.

    This post is really interesting and the food pics make me hungry.
    Choosing the Hongdae for drinking some alcohol was perfect.! :D

  • I probably didn’t put much effort to find a cheap beer in Seoul, because I spent like 200 euros for a week (but yeah, I’m heavy beer enjoyer) :D shame on me. Anyway, for me as a vegetarian it wouldn’t be possible to survive there cheaply anyway as it’s almost impossible to find non-meat meals there.

  • Great tips! Let’s not forget a good old Family Mart for picking up some Korean beers and drinking them in Hongdae Park – there’s often live music or something going on in there. Or even picking up a few cocktails in the park for 3000won a go (it’s been a few years since I was there but I doubt much has changed ;) )

    Insadong can be quite pricy for food but I’m sad to hear you’ve never had an amazing meal there! Oh Sae Gae Hyang and Sanchon are two of the best restaurants I went to in the whole of Korea!

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