The Bright Lights of South Korea’s Capital: Visiting Seoul on a Budget

Seoul is South Korea’s megacity, with almost 12 million people in an area smaller than New York. Like all big cities, Seoul is more expensive than just about anywhere on the Korean Peninsula, but it is still possible experience the bright ping-pong machine of a city on a budget. If you make the right choices, you can visit Seoul in style without breaking the bank.

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Start with the Flight

All trips overseas start with a flight. It goes without saying, but if you find a cheap one you will be able to maximize your budget when you are actually in the city. Booking midweek is almost always cheaper than booking on Friday or during the weekend. It also depends on when you will leave. When looking at flights, try to be flexible about when you will leave. If you have more time, look at surrounding dates and choose the flight based on the price. Don’t just book the first flight you can afford, make it so your experience is without stress.


Choose Activities Carefully

There are many, many things to do in South Korea, and even more in Seoul in particular. But when you’re traveling on a budget, you will want to be careful about what you choose to do. For example, simply walking through some of Seoul’s shiny night life districts is a free activity you will never get bored with. There also many temples and palaces that are affordable to visit. Here you can take your time and fall deeply into another time. Visiting Seoul’s famed markets is also another cheap option.

Choosing your activities not only based on what you want to, but how much you want to spend will help you save money for the things you absolutely want to do. Don’t miss out on the city’s infamous party culture, people here work hard and drink harder.


Where will you Stay?

Your hotel is another expense that you can down on simply by staying in the right neighborhood. On a budget you won’t want to stay in Myeongdong, Seoul’s main shopping district, because rent continues to be pushed up by boutique department stores. You should definitely visit the neighborhood, as it is the center of Seoul’s increasingly consumeristic and beauty-focused culture. But you don’t have to stay there.

Instead choose to stay in either Jongno, which is Seoul’s historic center where there are five grand palaces. Another option is to stay in Hongdae-Sinchon, a young part of the city. According to the specialists at the site MoneyPug, which is known for being a platform to find cheap holidays, here you can find a creative quirk unlike other neighborhoods in Seoul, and it is usually cheaper than staying in either of the other neighborhoods because it is less touristy. Plus, here you will have access to Seoul’s famously plentiful street food.


Eat Street Food

Seoul is famous for its street food. Stalls abound here in this food-obsessed city, and you will do yourself a service to take advantage of your many options on the street. Not only is it cheaper to eat street food, it is often more delicious and authentic. Seoul’s residents catch food on the street for lunch during their busy workdays and grab a late-night bite to eat after drinking too much soju. So be a local. Don’t be afraid—you will likely see a lot of food you are not familiar with. Instead of running to a tourist-friendly restaurant, eat the authentic delicacies of the city at markets and street stalls around the city. It will help your wallet, fill your stomach, and provide unforgettable experiences.

Seoul is a modern city, but it doesn’t have to be a bank-breaking trip. Choose your activities wisely, stay in a cheaper local neighborhood, eat street food, and try your best to do your research. Odds are the local things to do will be the cheapest. Sometimes when you have a budget your experiences can be altered by it in a good way. Embrace the local culture and walk around the city, you will never get bored with simply being in Seoul. There are so many things to do and find the activities that will lead to great experiences that both fun and are reasonably priced.


Ryan Beitler is a journalist, writer, and traveler. He has been published in Paste Magazine, New Noise Magazine, The Slovenia Times, OC Weekly, Deadline News, and numerous travel sites. He can be reached at [email protected]