So, is Seoul expensive? *Sigh* We’ve all been there—the make or break it travel question that lets you know whether or not some seemingly awesome-looking tourist destination is where you’ll spend your next vacation.
Fortunately, Seoul is one of those popular regions of the world where you can actually do a lot on a small budget—more bang for your buck, as the saying goes.
And the best way to tell if Seoul is expensive is by breaking down the region’s prices into 3 fundamental tourist-related categories:
Food: The Street Food Is Amazing!
Where there are street food markets, there will always be cheap cuisine, and Seoul’s got plenty of them.
Sure, a little wine and dining at a fancy restaurant in Seoul is fine, but there’s nothing like a fun, immersive culinary experience where you can fill your belly with local snacks and cuisine on a budget. And that’s where Seoul’s Gwangjang, Namdaemun, and Dondaemun’s street food markets, come into play.
There, you’ll find everything from traditional rice cakes, meat skewers, and kimbap, to green onion pancakes, fried chicken, and a variety of kimchi, at prices anywhere between 1,000 to 6,000 Won ($.75-$4.50).
Of course, there are thousands of upscale places to eat around, too, but as street food markets are staple attractions of Seoul, chances are you’ll wind up living there after your first visit, and thus, we’ll mark Seoul as inexpensive when it comes to food.
Transportation: Public Transport Is Great!
Seoul’s equipped with 3 essential forms of public transportation—subway, bus, and taxi—to help you commute to hotels, attractions, department stores, and nightlife hubs, conveniently and affordably.
View a picture of Seoul’s subway map and you’d see why it’s one of the most extensive metro line networks in the world. As for the price? The basic fare for a single journey is 1,350 won—about $1 as of 9/2022—for adults and teens, and 450 won for kids ages 6-12. Hey, that’s not bad at all!
Seoul’s sprawling public bus system is also very well organized and convenient. Buses are color-coded to represent different routes, and English apps can be used by foreign visitors to help navigate its system. Fares for adults can run anywhere from 1,300-2,400 won (about $1-$1.75).
Taxis in Seoul are widely available too, and the base fare for a regular taxi starts at 3,800 won for the first 2km, and 100 won for every 132m therein after. There are also international taxis specifically created for English, Chinese, or Japanese speakers, making touring the city even easier.
All in all, getting around Seoul, a vast mega city with over 10 million people, is pretty easygoing, convenient, and inexpensive, and because we consider transportation as one of the most important factors in deciding whether a potential travel destination is too expensive to visit, that definitely gets our stamp of approval.
Accommodation: There are so many options!
When it comes to travel, the price of accommodation in any city is always tricky. There will always be high-end, mid-range, and cheap options, but those “cheap” options could still be pretty expensive in, let’s say, places like Los Angeles and New York.
And let’s not forget that Seoul is not only Korea’s largest city—it’s also the capital, meaning that any given time of year can bring in an insane amount of local and foreign nationals and tourists. With that, the cost of hotels in Seoul can be very wide-ranging, from about $50-$200 per night. Eh, not bad, depending on your budget and what you’re looking for.
Nevertheless, like Seoul’s street food markets, where there are hostels and Airbnb, there are always cheaper places to stay. And yep, Seoul’s got plenty of them.
Hostels are very common throughout Seoul, especially in popular districts like Hongdae, Myeongdong, Gangnam, Itaewon, Namdaemun, and Dongdaemun. Sure, they’re significantly smaller than a hotel and are often shared spaces, but they’re usually conveniently located near attractions, are a great way to meet other tourists, and are considerably cheap. The cost for a hostel in Seoul usually falls between $15 and $40 per night.
And as for AirBnB? Fortunately, the U.S.-born lodging app is allowed for use in Seoul, and everything from apartments, homes, and beach houses can be rented at affordable rates.
With so many great options to choose, let’s just say that accommodation in Seoul is inexpensive.
Should You Visit Seoul?
Yes, and, now, if possible. Seoul is an amazing city brimming with history, culture, beautiful architecture, wonderful people, fun entertainment, and more. Plus, now that you know that the 3 fundamentals of travel—food, transportation, and accommodation—are inexpensive in Seoul, I’d say that it’s abundantly clear why you should make a trip to South Korea’s largest city the next adventurer on your travel bucket list. Safe and happy travels!