“Is it expensive to travel to South Korea?” I usually get that question whenever someone finds out that I’ve been to South Korea several times.
Almost everyone has this notion that going to South Korea requires a lot of money. Well, in general, traveling to other countries would of course require some travel funds to pay for airfare, accommodation, food, entrance fees, transpo and visa (if required). Plus, a separate budget for pasalubong (souvenirs and other take homes).
Your first travel to South Korea can be cheap and it depends on you — on the places that you wish to visit, the activities that you want to experience, the food that you want to try, the place where you want to stay, how long are you going to stay there, and etc. There are a lot of factors to consider.
So here is a list of frequently asked questions which can help you decide whether to push for your dream South Korean trip.
1. Is it expensive in South Korea?
Expensive means costly or high-priced. When you travel overseas, converting their local currency to Philippine peso can be a torture since you will clearly see the difference. But for the purpose of comparison, let us start with their food.
A typical meal in South Korea ranges from 5,000 to 8,000 KRW. That’s roughly 250 to 400 in pesos. With that, you can already buy a bucket of chicken in fast-food chains in the Philippines.
There are packed meals that you can buy at convenient stores there ranging from 1,500 to 5,000 KRW, equivalent to 75 to 250 pesos. Here in the Philippines, you can already buy a rice meal in a convenient store for as low as 39 pesos.
But when you go there with two or more companions, then you can minimize your food expenses. You can do meal sharing since their servings are large. For example, if you are traveling in three, then you can just order a meal for two and then split the cost in three persons. The more, the merrier, the cheaper the cost.
If you wish to go to known tourist spots, you might have to pay for entrance fees but there are other places too that you can visit for free. I suggest that you list down the places that you wish to visit and note their respective fees and see if it will fit your budget or if you have to do more iponing.
As for the accommodation, it will be discussed on item no. 3 in this article.
To answer the question if it is expensive in South Korea compare to the cost of living in the Philippines, yes it is more expensive in South Korea.
The amount of money that you have to save and spend depends on how you want to enjoy your trip. On my first trip in South Korea in 2016, I only spent 16,000 pesos for 5 days and 4 nights including the airfare, lodging, food, entrance fees and transpo. I was able to save a lot because I went there with my two bestfriends. The cost is exclusive of my expenses for the pasalubong.
Remember that it can be a once in a lifetime experience, so might as well save up for it. It’s more important that you enjoyed your dream trip and did not deprive yourself of the unique things that you could experience there than being frugal and have “what-if’s” once you left.
2. How much is the airfare? How did you manage to get cheap airfares?
Whenever I tell people that once I was able to get a roundtrip airfare (Manila-Incheon-Manila) for as low as 3,300 pesos, they would freak out and ask for some tips. Others would even ask that I book for them if there’s another promo fare. Actually, I could have lessen it to 1,800 pesos if I was able to use the 30 USD welcome gift of Jeju Air that time. But I was in a hurry to book that cheapest fare so I forgot about it.
Whenever there’s a promo fare, I usually check first the travel dates with the lowest airfare thru Traveloka. They always have a promo so you could still lessen the cost by 400 to 800 pesos.
A regular Manila-Incheon-Manila airfare ranges from 10,000 to 20,000 pesos depending on the airline and travel dates. But with the right timing and source of information, you can get it from 2,000 to 5,000 pesos.
3. Where to stay? How much is the cost of lodging?
It depends on the places that you want to visit. Decide whether you want to stay in a cozy place or you’re ok with a simple hostel or guesthouse. You have to research and research well. It is advisable that the place is near subway or bus station so you can easily commute.
I usually book thru AirBnb or Agoda and I make it a habit to read the description of the listings and its reviews before booking it to set my expectations right. You can book a hostel/guesthouse for as low as P500/head per night.
Sign up for Airbnb and get ₱1,600 off your first adventure here.
4. Is it safe there?
South Korea is definitely not a zero-crime country but Seoul is one of the safest city in the world for travelers. You can place your bag on your back without having to worry about being robbed.
I have experienced going home alone late at night and early in the morning like 3am to 4am with peace in my mind. Most of the streets and establishments are equipped with CCTV cameras so you it will put you at ease.
5. Will I be able to see my Kdrama oppa or my Kpop bias there?
If the universe will conspire bes. It takes effort, funds and fate to finally meet your Kdrama oppa or Kpop bias.
Song Joong Ki’s Fanmeeting
I was able to see Song Joong Ki and his guests Kim Min Seok and Lee Kwang Soo last September when I went to his 10th year anniversary fanmeeting. But in general, it’s more difficult to see Kdrama stars than Kpop idols.
Fansigning Event with BTOB
6. Can you recommend an itinerary?
Doing an itinerary is advisable if it’s your first time to go to South Korea unless you will opt to book a tour package. Here are sample itineraries with budget breakdown to guide you:
But you can always customize yours. You may check some of our recommended fun activities and to-do’s here.
7. How is their transportation system?
World-class bes! It’s very convenient to tour around because of their efficient transport system. Plus, you can pay using their transportation card known as ‘T-Money’. You can also use this card when purchasing items in convenient stores.
A T-Money costs 3,000 to 5,000 KRW (50 to 250 pesos) depending on its design. But you can get it for free when you purchase a Discover Seoul Pass.
A short distance train ride costs 1,250 KRW (63 pesos) while the flagdown rate for a regular taxi (white) is 3,000 KRW (150 pesos).
8. Do the locals speak in English?
Not everyone can speak in English well so be ready with your basic Korean language skills especially when asking for directions or buying your pasalubong. Otherwise, ready your skills in ‘charades’.
9. Is it free Wi-Fi everwhere?
Mga bes, it isn’t true that there’s free WiFi everywhere so it’s still advisable to purchase a traveler’s sim or rent a pocket WiFi. You must also be careful when connecting to public WiFi because your private information might be exposed. You can find the rest of the things that you must bring here.
10. Where to buy pasalubong? Kdrama/Kpop merch?
A typical Filipino traveler won’t go home from trips abroad without buying ‘pasalubong’. Tourists usually buy pasalubong at Myeongdong, Namdaemun, Dongdaemun and Insadong. But sometimes I find it cheaper to buy pasalubong, especially food, at supermarkets or local markets. Plus, they usually offer bundles and discounts so you can save a lot!
For clothes, shoes, bags and other fashionable items, aside from Hongdae and Ehwa, you can go to the underground shopping center at Express Bus Terminal station exit 8-1, 8-2.
I hope that this article will help those who are planning or contemplating to go to South Korea especially the first timers. If you have any questions, just comment and I’ll try to answer them as much as I can.