How To Save Money In Seoul: 15 Money Saving Secrets

Want to know how to save money in Seoul and still have an awesome time visiting Korea’s incredible capital? Then you’ve come to the right place. I’ve put together this super useful and easy list of all the best ways you can cut your costs while you check out Seoul’s fantastic sights, soak up the atmosphere, and indulge in Seoul’s finest dishes.

This excellent guide will let you save money on food, transport, sightseeing, dressing up in Korean hanbok, getting Internet access, and lots more.

After 5 years of travelling, living and saving money in Korea (over $15,000 per year), I want to share some of my top secrets to save money in Seoul. I’ve found loads of ways to cut costs without sacrificing great travel experiences and still having an incredible time in Korea’s incredible capital.

If you want to know how much does it cost to travel to Korea, check out my article all about the costs you can expect to pay for accommodation, food, sightseeing, and transportation, as well as other expected costs.

Cost To Travel In Korea: Korea Budget Guide

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Save Money In Seoul With Free Entry To Seoul's Palaces

How To Save Money In Seoul As A Tourist

These money saving tips will show you Seoul’s incredible sights, let you taste Seoul’s delicious food, and create unforgettable memories in the capital of The Land of Morning Calm, all for less.

If you don’t know where to visit in Seoul, check out my one week itinerary for Korea below:

One Week Itinerary For Korea

These are tips I use myself when visiting Seoul and other places around the world. Take a note and use them when you travel anywhere. Some money saving tips are universal.

Without further ado, here are the 15 best ways to save money in Seoul as a tourist:

Planning your trip to South Korea

1: Create A Daily Travel Schedule

Create a daily schedule:
Seoul is a big city and if you’re going to travel around a lot, then you might spend more money than necessary getting from place to place. Creating a daily travel schedule is a great way to not only save money in Seoul, but also to get more out of your trip. This doesn’t have to be a minute-by-minute plan for every day of your trip, more a rough itinerary.

Many of Seoul’s best attractions are grouped together in similar areas and you can see a lot of them in one day before moving to another area the next day. For example, if you want to rent hanbok, this is a lot easier if you plan to visit similar places in one day. Visiting Seoul’s historic Bukchon Hanok Village and Gyeongbokgung Palace in the same day means you only need to rent hanbok once. This makes more sense than renting hanbok over multiple days.

Mark your route on a map:
Grab a map and mark out all the locations you might want to visit in one day. Or use Google Maps and plan to visit all the best spots in one or two areas. Below is an example itinerary for 3 days in Seoul.

You can see that each day is colour coded and mostly in the same area. This reduces your need to take buses, trains, and taxis, all saving you time and money.

Map of 3 Day Seoul Itinerary

Please note: you will need to use Google Maps to open the map.

Take a trip to Nami Island and save money in Seoul

Plan day trips to similar places:
Travelling in Seoul is cheap, but there’s no point spending extra money (and time) going from Seoul to Nami Island, then another day going to the Garden of Morning Calm, for example. Those two attractions are right next to each other and can be done in one day.

Nami Island & Garden of Morning Calm Combo Tour

If you plan ahead and make a daily itinerary, you’ll cut down on wasted money and time. Not only that, you can also get more out of your trip to Seoul.

Lotte World in Seoul, South Korea

2: Get Big Discounts At Seoul’s top Attractions

Get a Discover Seoul Pass:
Another great way to save money in Seoul is by using the Discover Seoul Pass. This is a discount pass that will allow you to visit some of Seoul’s premium locations for a fixed fee for 24 / 48 / 72 hours. This includes exciting locations such as Lotte World Adventure, COEX Aquarium, N Seoul Tower, and all the royal palaces. You can also get free hanbok rental.

Creating a daily travel schedule that gets the most out of the Discover Seoul Pass will help you save money in Seoul. To make your life easier, I’ve created itineraries for 1 / 2 / 3 days that can save you up to 75,000 won per day! You can find out more in my guide to the Discover Seoul Pass below:

Discover Seoul Pass Guide & Itineraries

Discover Seoul Pass- a great way to save money in Seoul

The Discover Seoul Pass isn’t right for everybody and I would suggest reading through my summary at the start of the article to see if it’s right for you. I’d definitely recommend it for families and travellers who want to see some of Seoul’s hottest attractions.

The Discover Seoul Pass also comes with 1 free AREX (Airport Express) train ticket to get your from Incheon Airport to Seoul Station. This is another great saving that you can add to the free entry and other discounts the pass offers.

Talking of train tickets and transportation, that’s the third way you can save money in Seoul. Keep on reading to find out how.

T Money Card in Korea

3: Get A Transportation Card For Cheaper Travel

One of the biggest costs when you travel is transportation. It’s kind of an invisible cost that you don’t really anticipate but adds up to a lot. A bus here, a train ride there, a taxi home at night. Wouldn’t it be great to save money on all these journeys?

I’ve got great news for you. Firstly, Seoul has great public transport and it’s much cheaper than a lot of similar countries. Secondly, there are some great options for tourists to save money on transportation.

Buy a T-Money Card:
Seoul is a modern city and most forms of transport will accept an electronic pass card that you top up. In Seoul, this is called a T-Money card. I would say you absolutely have to get a T-Money card in Seoul. Not only do these cards save you money, they also make travelling around so much easier.

You can use the T-Money card to pay for subways, buses, taxis, buy goods in some shops, and even get food and drinks at places like Starbucks & McDonalds. It’s a very versatile little card and will definitely save you money in Seoul. Find out more about the T-Money card in my detailed guide:

Guide to the T-Money Card

The Korea Tour Card - a great way to save money in Seoul

Get a Korea Tour Card:
This card (only available to tourists) will let you save even more money in Seoul as it offers a whole range of small discounts on various attractions, restaurants, sights, and comes with all the same functions as a T-Money Card. The cost is only marginally higher, but you could save even more. Read more about the Korea Tour Card below:

Guide to the Korea Tour Card

Walk more:
The best advice I can give you to save money on transportation has to be to walk as much as you can. There are so many unnecessary journeys when you travel small distances and you’re missing so much by heading into the subway. You can find hidden treasures, incredible sights, and save money in Seoul when you get out and walk between places. Alternatively, hire a bike – you can rent one for free with the Discover Seoul Pass.

Deluxe Taxis won't save you money in Seoul

Don’t use Taxis too much:
Taxis are so convenient and they’re always around when you need one, but the costs will add up quickly. If you want to get a taxi, then go for it, but be careful with black taxis. Black taxis are ‘premium’ taxis and will cost more than a regular taxi. If in doubt, use Kakao Taxi, a great app that lets you order a taxi and will show you the expected price you’ll pay.

Korean BBQ

4: Eat & Drink Like A Local

Eat Korean food when you come to Seoul:
Seoul is a multi-cultural city and you can find a plethora of great dishes from around the world, especially in Itaewon. However, you’ll find those same dishes in many countries. Where can you find jjimdak, tteokbokki, sundae, or kimchi jjgae? Not many other places outside of Korea.

The main reason why you should try Korean food is it’s a lot cheaper than foreign food in Seoul! Check out this Korean Food Guide to see all the delicious bargains you could be enjoying.

Side dishes in Korea are called banchan

The picture above is of side dishes (banchan 반찬) that were part of a meal that cost about $10. The main dish (not pictured) was a big plate of pork with rice and soup. Korean restaurants are very generous, cheap, and have many delicious dishes. Try them. and don’t waste your time with foreign foods.

Guide To The Best Traditional Korean Dishes

Korea's street food is cheap and delicious. Save money in Seoul with this

Try Korean street food:
You’ll find some incredible street food in Myeongdong and other markets in Seoul that cost very little, but leave you with a giant smile on your face. Snack on this as a cheap way to stay full between meals. Head to Myeongdong Food Street in Myeongdong Market to find delectable snacks available from the early afternoon until late at night. These are cheap and super delicious!

Beer and ramyeon - how to enjoy spring in Korea by the Han River

Cheap meals from convenience stores:
head to a convenience store to find cheap meals that can substitute an expensive breakfast or lunch. One of my favourite options is gimbap – Korean rice roll filled with various veg and meat / fish. You can also get ramyeon (instant noodles), bread, and lots more. This is also a cheap place to stock up on alcohol if you want to have a beer on the banks of the Han River (above) like a real Seoulite.

Save money in Seoul by drinking local alcohol

Drink Korean drinks:
As for drinking, the same rule applies. Imported drinks cost a lot but Korean beer, makgeolli (rice wine), and soju (Korean spirit) are very cheap. Try Korean bear and soju mixed together (called so-maek) while you’re stuffing your face with Korean BBQ – the combination is perfect. Even Gordon Ramsey agrees! Most Korean restaurants will only stock Korean beers anyway.

However, that doesn’t mean you should go out and eat Korean BBQ each night, as that’ll cost you a fortune! Look for the small Korean restaurants as you walk around, pop inside to see what they sell.

If you’re worried about being able to order food or drinks, check out some of these really handy Korean phrases. They’ll help you order food, ask for discounts, check if something is spicy, and lots more.

Guide to Essential Korean Phrases

Rose Latte from the Poop Cafe, Seoul, South Korea

6: Save Money On Coffee In Seoul

Buying coffee when I’m in Seoul is both one of my greatest pleasures and my biggest problems. It’s a pleasure because there are so many incredible cafes in Seoul with great coffee, unique settings, and delicious desserts. It’s a problem because coffee in Korea is also expensive, especially in a cafe.

Coffee costs can really add up if you’re grabbing one for breakfast, then taking a break in a cafe after lunch, or chilling in the late night cafes in the evening. It’s easy to spend $10 (or even $20) a day just on coffee (and cakes) in this way. So how can you save money in Seoul and still drink lots of coffee?

Convenience stores can save you lots of money in Seoul

Get your coffee-fix at a convenience store:
Korea’s convenience stores are a true haven for budget travellers visiting Seoul. Not only do they have cheap eats, essential items, and curious Korean snacks, they also have an increasingly good range of cheap coffees to go.

If you’re looking to save money but still get your daily dose of caffeine, then the big convenience store chains are a good option. Coffees are cheap (less than $2), large, and come in a range of various types. You can even get ice from the freezer to make all sorts of refreshing iced drinks.

Check out 7/11, CU, GS25, emart24 and other big convenience store chains for cheap coffee in Seoul.

Head to the 1 litre / budget coffee shops:
There are a load of cheap coffee shops that actually have some ok coffee in them. Again, if you’re looking to grab a coffee on the go, or want to sit at a basic table for a quick rest and strong coffee, then these places are perfect for you. Some of the big chains in Korea for cheap coffee like this are I’m 1L, Paik’s Coffee, and Mega Coffee.

Of course, sometimes you want to go to a cafe for the atmosphere, not the coffee. Some of Seoul’s cafes are expensive, but worth the price. I’m not saying don’t visit those, just spend less on one day so you can enjoy more another day. Also, you can usually find more discounts when you take out coffee instead of drinking it in the cafe.

By the way, I wrote an article about the delicious Blue Bottle Coffee shops in Seoul. Be sure to check it out if you want a decent coffee in some awesome locations:

Blue Bottle Coffee In Seoul

Free wifi in Seoul to save money

7: Use Free WiFi To Save On Internet Costs

Korea’s Internet speeds are some of the best in the world, and so are the WiFi services that are available to tourists in Seoul. In recent years, the city has invested a lot in making sure that you can get free WiFi across the city. They aim to provide free WiFi in all public places by 2022. This is really useful for those who don’t want to buy a sim card or WiFi egg and will definitely help you save money in Seoul. Keep reading to find out where to find free WiFi in Seoul.

Take the AREX from Incheon Airport to Seoul

Free Wifi at subway and train stations:
When you visit subway stations across Seoul, you should be able to connect to free WiFi services. This is great for killing time while travelling from place to place. It’s also really helpful if you’re lost and not sure where you need to go! Make use of the free WiFi at a station to check where you’re going and plan what to do when you get off.

You can also get free WiFi on the Airport Express (AREX) from Incheon Airport to Seoul.

Transportation options in South Korea

Free WiFi on Seoul’s buses:
Travelling across Seoul by bus can be a lot more fun than taking the subway as you get to stare out the window and see the city as you pass through it. However, you won’t always want to do that and sometimes being able to check Facebook and upload your latest Insta-pics is a lot more appealing. Fortunately, Seoul’s buses all come with ‘bus-WiFi’ that is completely free and works well.

Free WiFi in Seoul’s public areas:
Besides transportation, you can find free WiFi in Seoul in public areas, such as libraries, government offices, traditional markets, and some parks. This is great for tourists who want to make sure they aren’t lost when they’re out, or want to find recommendations for nearby places to eat. You never know when you might need an Internet connection, such as if it starts raining in Seoul and you want to check my guide to what to do when the weather gets bad.

Guide to Seeing Seoul While it’s Raining

Delicious coffee in Seoul

Free WiFi in cafes and restaurants:
A lot of cafes in Seoul, particularly large chains, offer free WiFi for customers to enjoy while sipping on a creamy beverage. Everyone needs to put their feet up after a busy day, so this is a great place to catch up, scratch that social media itch, and see what’s going on online. Some restaurants, such as McDonald’s, also offer free WiFi for customers.

Sim cards and WiFi Egg options for traveling to South Korea

Save money In Seoul by getting a cheap sim card:
If you really think that you can’t live without a regular Internet connection for the time you’re in Seoul (I understand, I really do), then you can still save money by purchasing a cheap sim card. You can get these when you arrive, or save a bit of money (and hassle) and order them in advance online. I’d recommend Klook’s sim card, which is as low as $2 per day.

Order a Sim Card from Klook

Korean cosmetics

8: Make Use Of Free Samples From Cosmetic Stores

You can’t walk down the narrow streets of Myeongdong without getting accosted by a cosmetic store sales assistant inviting you to come inside. Myeongdong is the go-to place for people looking to stock up on Korea’s famous cosmetics at bargain prices. Not only can you save money in Seoul by doing your shopping here, you can even get free stuff to take home with you, too.

Shop around in Myeongdong as a great way to save money in Seoul

Accept free samples from all the cosmetics shops:
What’s better than cheap cosmetics? Free cosmetics! Even if they’re only small, sample-sized packs. In order to entice you into the store and to encourage you to shop for more, the sales assistants will offer you a wide range of free samples, such as a face mask, cotton pads, or mini packs of moisturiser. These can be really useful if you’ve left your own at home!

There are dozens of cosmetics shops in Myeongdong, so you can walk away with quite a collection. You’re also likely to receive free samples after you make a purchase. The cosmetic shops in Myeongdong, and also Dongdaemun, have a lot of special offers and discounted prices from what you’ll find in other places in Korea. If you want to buy a lot, it’s best to do your shopping here. And the more you buy, the more discounts and free samples you’ll get. What better way to save money in Seoul for K-cosmetics fans?

Get your tax back after visiting Seoul

9: Get Your Tax Back When You Go Shopping

Tourists can save money in Seoul really easily by taking advantage of tax free shopping, which makes your bargain hunting even better! There are several ways you can save avoid paying tax in Seoul.

Shopping at duty-free shops:
There are great duty-free shops in Seoul and at Incheon Airport where you can buy a wide range of excellent Korean and foreign goods without paying any tax. These shops will remove the tax from the price and the price you see is the price you pay. There are several duty-free shops in central Seoul, including Shilla I-Park Duty-Free, Shinsegae Duty-Free, and Lotte Duty-Free.

Instant tax-refund at tax-free shops:
Some shops in Seoul will allow you to receive an immediate tax-refund. This is really convenient and can save loads of money. To be eligible to get an immediate tax-refund at these shops, you need to:

1 – show your passport to prove you’re not a Korean resident.
2 – spend between 30,000 KRW and 300,000 KRW in one place. These values include tax.
3 – be leaving the country within the next 3 months.

You can claim an immediate tax-refund for up to 1,000,000 KRW (approx. $820) of goods during your entire trip to Korea. If you plan to spend more than 300,000 KRW in one place, split your purchases to make sure you don’t go over the 300,000 KRW limit.

**Be sure to check that the shop can offer immediate tax refunds before you buy anything. A lot of big chain shops in Myeongdong and other popular shopping areas should offer this service.

Claim a delayed tax refund at Incheon Airport:
If you haven’t already got your tax back from the store, you can claim it back at the airport before you leave Korea. Make sure that the stores are certified to offer tax free shopping. If they are, you should see a logo like the ones in the picture below.

Tax refund signs in Seoul
Image Credit: Visit Korea

These stores should also have ‘tax-free’ written on their VAT refund receipts. The total tax refund limit you can reclaim at tax refund centres in Korea is 5,000,000 KRW.

You can reclaim tax at branches at Incheon Airport and other locations across the country. For more information about duty free shopping and tax refunds in Korea, visit the official site:

Guide to Tax Free Shopping In Korea

Buying a lunch box doshirak and Tongin Doshirak Market, Seoul, South Korea

10: Find Bargains In The Traditional Markets

I’m a self-confessed lover of traditional markets in Korea. One of my first ever articles was about Korea’s awesome traditional markets and the many incredible things you can find there. They’re a great way to save money in Seoul as a local or a tourist, which is why they’re always so popular.

Guide to Korea’s Best Traditional Markets.

Seoul has many traditional markets and each one offers something different from the rest. Bargain clothes, discount souvenirs, insanely cheap eats – street food and traditional restaurants, quirky items, antiques from Korea’s past, artworks, Korean hanbok… I’m sure you get the idea. And the best thing is they’re all really cheap. Here’s where to find some great bargains in Seoul’s traditional markets.

Delicious street food for sale in the markets in Myeongdong, Seoul, South Korea

Cheap eats in Seoul’s traditional markets:
If you’ve watched Netflix’s Street Food series, then you may have heard of Gwangjang Market. This is a mecca for foodies who want some authentic Korean food, freshly cooked before your eyes in narrow streets packed with hungry customers. If you want to sample some delectable Korean street food, then come to Gwangjang Market.

I’d recommend sampling some bindaetteok (fried bean pancake – 빈대떡) and makgeolli (Korean rice wine – 막걸리), as I did in the pic below.

Cheap food at Gwangjang Market, Seoul

Almost all traditional markets in Seoul will offer some great food options to sample. The other ones you shouldn’t miss are Myeongdong Market (street food), Noryangjin Fish Market (freshly caught fish, sushi) and, Tongin Market (make your own lunch box).

Hanbok rental in Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul, South Korea

Get your fashion fix for less:
One of the big draws for tourists visiting Seoul are the cheap (but good quality) clothes you can get at discount prices at the traditional markets. There are several famous traditional markets in Seoul that have incredible bargains for fashion-lovers. You can’t help but save money in Seoul’s markets. These places are much cheaper than regular department stores and you’ll see many tourists arriving with empty suitcases and leaving with full ones!

Namdaemun Market has a wide range of regular clothes, designer fakes, and traditional Korean clothes, including hanbok (Korean dress). Gwangjang Market also has lots of good options for traditional Korean clothes, and you can get a custom made hanbok there. Myeongdong Market has regular chain stores, as well as some cheap fakes in the stalls. Dongdaemun Market has lots of great bargain clothes, and you’ll find more discounts in the nearby fashion malls.

Antiques for sale at the Seoul Folk Flea Market in Seoul, South Korea

See Korea’s history on display:
You won’t just find clothes and food for sale at Seoul’s traditional markets, you can also see tiny pieces of Korea’s history. You can find vintage clothes and goods, authentic tea sets, retro items, and lots more in the markets. Some of the best markets for cheap goods like this are the Seoul Folk Flea Market and the art stalls around Insadong. Why not snap up some authentic souvenirs at bargain prices to take home and show your friends?

Korean won, the main currency used in South Korea

11: Exchange Money In The Right Place

One of the worst expenses, and easiest ways to get ripped off when you travel, is by exchanging money. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has exchanged money in one place, and then found a much better rate just a minute down the road. If you want to save money in Seoul, then be smart about where you change your money. First of all, I have one crucial piece of advice.

Don’t change money at the airport:
Okay, Incheon airport isn’t as bad as some airports when it comes to exchanging money, but it’s also not the best place to exchange money in Seoul. If you desperately need some cash, then change a bit, but otherwise wait until you get into central Seoul.

Use a money exchange to save money in Seoul

Money exchanges in Myeongdong:
There are loads of money exchanges in Myeongdong and they offer some of the best rates. Myeongdong is one of the most popular tourist areas and there is strong competition between the various businesses to offer the best exchange. You’ll find all the smart tourists, who know how to save money in Seoul, coming to Myeongdong to exchange money.

Bank sign in Seoul, Korea

Exchanging Money at a bank:
There are also banks where you can try to exchange money. From my world travels, I’ve often found that these offer some of the best exchange rates. Be sure to bring your passport to exchange money as they’ll need a form of ID usually. Some of the big banks in Seoul include KB Bank, KEB Hana Bank, Woori Bank, and NongHyup (NH) Bank.

Using your credit card:
Seriously, this is probably a lot easier, and will save you money versus changing cash all the time. Korea is very card-friendly and you can use credit cards in most places. If you want to save money in Seoul by avoiding exchange rate losses, then use your card to pay for meals, purchases, day trips, and more. Make sure you carry some cash, however, as smaller places and street vendors won’t always accept cash.

If you’re not sure about using your credit card in Seoul, be sure to check with your bank before you travel. Make sure that your bank won’t charge you large fees to use your card overseas.

Hongdae at night, Seoul, Korea

12: Go To Hongdae For Bargain Souvenirs

Hongdae is definitely an unmissable stop on any trip to Seoul because of its quirky cafes, great food, and incredible shopping opportunities. I think you really need to visit this area at least twice – once to experience the atmosphere, the second to stock up on cheap souvenirs. You’ll save so much money on souvenirs by coming to Hongdae and visiting the various shops for goods to bring back home.

Korean snacks for sale in Seoul

All the delicious Korean snacks you can carry:
When my brother came to visit me last time, we spent hours in Hongdae hitting up the discount snack shops that sell an unimaginable range of weird, wonderful, and often strange, snacks that you’ll only find in Korea. I know a lot of people want to bring these home to share with friends and the best place to get these is in Hongdae. Just make sure you have enough space in your suitcase!

Traditional souvenirs for family and friends:
Want a cool t-shirt with hangul (Korean writing) on it? Got a friend who collects unique chopsticks or magnets from around the world? Need to buy your pet a little costume with ‘I Love Seoul‘ written on it? Then Hongdae is your place. You’ll find loads of market stalls selling traditional souvenir goods, as well as lots of other things you might want to give people after returning from Seoul.

Free Things To Do In Seoul

13: Enjoy All The Free Things

This should probably be top of the list of ways to save money in Seoul, as what saves more money than free stuff? There are so many ways you can enjoy visiting Seoul for free and some ways to get free access to places that would normally cost more. I’ve written a whole article about it that you might like, and I’ll cover a few of them here.

25 Awesome Free Things in Seoul

Night view of Gyeongbokgung Palace

Free entry To Seoul’s palaces on culture day:
The last Wednesday of every month is known as culture day and on this day you can get into all of Seoul’s royal palaces for free! That’s right, you can get into Gyeongbokgung, Deoksugung, Changdeokgung, and Changgyeonggung palaces for nothing. Culture Day was created to promote culture within the country and also includes discounted tickets for cinemas (5,000 won), and discounted entry to some other attractions, including COEX Aquarium in Gangnam.

Free walking tours in Seoul:
If you’re like me, and love walking around a city to explore it in depth, then you’ll love this chance to save money in Seoul. There are free walking tours around some of the most amazing parts of central Seoul, focusing on history, culture, modern life, and other interesting themes. Volunteers will show you around tourist spots, as well as lesser-known areas, giving you an informative, free tour of Seoul.

Tours run several times each day and are available in English, Korea, Chinese, and Japanese. To find out more, click the link below:

Free Walking Tour Information

Hanbok rental at Bukchon Hanok Village, Seoul

Free Hanbok rental in Seoul:
You can’t miss people in the long, flowing robes of traditional Korean hanbok when you visit Seoul’s royal palaces or stroll through the streets of Bukchon Hanok Village. Hanbok are traditional Korean clothes that can be worn by men or women.

Visit K Style Hub to save money in Seoul with free hanbok rental

If you really want that authentic Korean experience, then I’d definitely recommend trying out a hanbok. For those who want to save money in Seoul, there are a few places you can rent hanbok for free. These include the K Style Hub near Cheonggye Plaza, Myeongdong Tourist Information Centre, and the Seoul Global Culture Centre in Myeongdong.

Unfortunately these places usually only allow you to wear the clothes outside, so you can’t take them around the palaces. If you want to rent some top-quality hanbok, I’d recommend booking a discount hanbok rental online with Klook.

Book Discount Hanbok Rental Online

Learning Hangul

14: Learn Some Korean To Save Money

How can you save money in Seoul by learning some Korean? There are many ways. From haggling in the market, to being able to being able to recognise what you’re ordering in a restaurant, speaking Korean can stop you wasting money during your holiday. After all, everyone expects tourists to be easy targets.

Also, people are more likely to be kinder to you if you show that you’ve made an effort to learn at least a little bit of Korean when you visit Seoul. Seoul does have a lot of English signs and announcements available, but learning some essential Korean phrases will help a lot.

Haggle in the markets in Seoul

Learn Korean to haggle in the markets:
A few simple words can go a long way in Seoul’s markets, where prices usually aren’t written down. The first bit of Korean you’ll need to learn to be able to shop smartly in Seoul’s markets is ‘olmayehyo?’ (how much is it?). Learn some basic numbers so you can understand their response, and to be able to show how much you want to pay.

If you want to get the best price for that sweet jacket you’ve seen in Namdaemun Market, you need to be able to at least ask for a discount – ‘ggagga juseyo‘ (discount, please). Better yet, how about pretending to be disgusted and saying ‘bissayo‘ (too expensive) and see if that works. Market stalls in Seoul will always start with a higher price than they expect you to pay, especially with foreigners.

Avoid costly mistakes from miscommunication:
I’ve experienced this many times. You saw a sign and assumed that was the price you were expected to pay, but it turns out it was higher. Or you order food in a restaurant and didn’t realise that the price was per person instead of for the whole meal. You end up wasting money because of small language problems. At times like this, some simple phrases to check how much something is (olmayehyo) can save you money and face.

There are many reasons to learn some Korean before you visit Seoul and I always recommend trying to learn at least a few simple phrases or even the writing system – hangul. Learning how to ask for directions, whether you can use your credit card, how much something costs, and asking for a discount, will all save you money in Seoul and make your time in Korea a lot easier.

If you want to learn some basic Korean, I recommend checking out this:

Guide To Essential Korean Phrases

Alternatively, try learning Korean online with 90 Day Korean. You’ll find a link to their awesome website below. You can sign up for their free language courses or get dedicated private tuition.

90 Day Korean Promo Pic

Master Korean With Expert Assistance

Want to learn Korean before you travel to Korea? Feel like you’d enjoy K-pop, drama, and movies a lot more if you knew what was being said without subtitles? Eager to make Korean friends both online and in Korea?

Then I’d wholeheartedly recommend 90 Day Korean to help you study Korean wherever you are in the world. Their great courses are tailored to your language learning needs, whatever your level. Featuring weekly lessons, exciting challenges, native-Korean proofreading, email support, regular tests, and lots, lots more. You’ll master essential Korean language in no time and make lots of Korean friends.

15: Save Money In Seoul With Discount Tours

Sometimes you want to see all the sights and you can’t help but spend money on a day trip or other excursion. There are so many great day trips from Seoul that you can make that you sometimes can’t do by public transport. For example, if you want to see the Panmujeon Peace Village in the DMZ you have to book a tour with a registered agency. That doesn’t meant that you have to pay through the nose for your tours, though. Be smart and you can save money in Seoul and still enjoy the sights.

10 Awesome Day Trips From Seoul

Use reputable tour companies:
When I’m booking trips in Korea, I usually go through travel agencies, such as Klook or Trazy, and check prices between these companies. There are often discounts on some of the tours and attractions that you won’t get offline. I’d recommend checking their prices and see how much you can save.

Search for Discount Tours With Klook

Search for Discount Tours In Seoul With Trazy

Other Money Saving Ideas

As a tourist, you can plan ahead in many ways. For example, by working out how to get from the airport to the your hotel. In fact, I wrote a great article all about that, which you can check out below:

How To Get From Incheon Airport To Seoul

Knowing where to change money, how much money you’re likely to need, figuring out where to stay in Seoul or other cities, and any discount passes you can pick up are all great ways to travel in Korea for less.

Not only that, but knowing about the country you want to visit, Korea, is a great way to avoid expensive mistakes and prepare for your travels. Check out my article with all the most amazingly useful pre-travel tips for South Korea right here:

Pre-Travel Tips For Visiting Korea

Joel eating Isaac Toast

My Favourite Ways To Save Money In Seoul

Some of my favourite ways to save money in Seoul that I haven’t included above include the following:

  • Carrying a water bottle with me and topping it up at restaurants for free. Most restaurants will offer water with your meal, be sure to add some to your bottle at the end.
  • Walking between places that aren’t too far apart. It’s good exercise, too.
  • Buying sweet goods in a convenience store and them eating them in a cafe. This is a bit cheeky, but saves a lot of money on expensive Korean desserts. Also, convenience stores in Korea have so much good stuff!
  • Limiting my coffees to one a day (and then making it a really good one).
  • Getting a cheap lunch (so I can treat myself to a big dinner). You probably want to eat as much yummy Korean food as you can when you visit. However, if you also want to save money in Seoul, then try to have at least one cheap meal per day. This could be a gimbap from 7/11, some toast from Isaac Toast (pictured above), or a couple of cheap street food items.

These small savings really add up and you can save that cash, or use it for those must-do expensive things in Seoul that you really don’t want to miss.

Cheap accommodation in Seoul

Where To Stay In Seoul For Less

Seoul is a massive city with many different districts with a wide range of hotels, hostels, guesthouses, AirBnB’s, and apartments you can stay in. However, if you want to save money in Seoul on accommodation, then I’d recommend the following locations for a cheap stay.

Myeongdong:
Not only is Myeongdong one of the busiest and best places to stay in Seoul, it also has a whole load of cheap hostels and guesthouses. One of my favourites is:

Myeongdong K Stay 2 **
Located close to Myeongdong Station and the main shopping area, this cheap yet cosy hotel offers air conditioning, WiFi and a free breakfast. Conveniently located close to the airport shuttle bus.

Hongdae:
The hip and happening student area is very expensive if you want to live there, but fortunately there is some cheap accommodation nearby. Stay here and enjoy the vibrant nightlife that Seoul’s most colourful district has to offer. My recommendation for Hongdae is:

Chingu Guesthouse Hongdae **
Located 300 m from Sangsu Subway Station (Line 6), Chingu Guesthouse Hongdae – Mr. Kim’s Branch offers dormitory accommodation with free WiFi and laundry facilities. All furnished rooms come with air conditioning and bed sheets.

Insadong:
Located in the heart of Seoul, close to all the royal palaces, Bukchon Hanok Village, lots of cool galleries, shops, arcades, tea shops, and other tourist spots. Insadong is a great place to stay for those who don’t want to travel far to do their sightseeing, and also want to be close to hot-spots like Myeongdong. You can still find cheap accommodation here, such as:

Insadong Hostel **
Situated along the traditional Insadong Culture Street. Guests enjoy free WiFi access and have access to the living room, dining area and computer room. Luggage storage, laundry and ironing services are available and a simple breakfast is served daily.

All of these areas have good subway connections and will easily get you to other areas.

If you want a more detailed guide to Seoul’s best districts, and where to stay on any budget, then check out my guide to staying in Seoul.

Guide To Where To Stay In Seoul

Autumn in Korea

Best Time To Visit Seoul Cheaply

Seoul is an incredible city to visit at any time. Snow in winter, cherry blossoms in spring, sunny beaches in summer, and beautiful autumn leaves in autumn. The cheapest times to visit are going to be times when there aren’t any big Korean holidays or popular attractions. These times are:

January – as long as there isn’t Seollal (Korean New Year)*
February – as long as there isn’t Seollal (Korean New Year)*
May – sunny, but not too hot. Lovely time to visit. Avoid the first week of May as there are many public holidays at this time.
September – as long as there isn’t Chuseok (Korean mid-Autumn Harvest Festival)*
December – Quiet time in Korea before the start of the main ski-season. Christmas may be a bit more expensive.

*Seollal / Chuseok are based on the lunar calendar and change each year.

I don’t have any scientific evidence to back these dates up, but this has been my experience when travelling to Seoul throughout the last 5 years. March and April are busy with cherry blossoms and spring festivals. The summer is school holiday time, so also busy. However, many Koreans will travel overseas. October and November are busy because of the autumn leaves.

How To Save Money In Seoul FAQs

How To Save Money In Seoul FAQs

Finally, here’s a few FAQs about how to save money in Seoul, in case the above information didn’t cover enough for you.

How much money do I need to travel to Seoul?

About 100,000 KRW ($82 USD) per person, per day.
This is a rough amount, but one that should cover transportation, entertainment, food, and other expenses, such as buying some souvenirs. However, this doesn’t include accommodation. If you intend to do a lot of shopping in Seoul, then you should increase this figure. You can get more detailed figures in this guide to the costs to travel in Korea.

You can spend a lot less per day, it depends on what attractions you are going to see and what kind of food you are going to eat. Some example prices are: Lunch – 10,000 won. Korean BBQ – 20,000 won. Coffee – 4,000 won. Palace Entry Fee – 3,000 won. Subway / Bus Far – 1,250 won. Hanbok Rental – 10,000 won.

Is Korea cheaper than Japan?

Yes.
Food and drinks in Korea are cheaper, as is transportation. Accommodation is generally cheaper in Korea, but you can find bargains in both places. One example of an everyday difference: in Korea, bottled water at a convenience store will cost you $0.50, whilst in Japan it is about $1.00. It is best to budget for higher costs in Japan when compared to Korea. However, some things will be cheaper in Japan, such as imported spirits (whisky). I’ve lived and travelled in both countries and Korea is definitely cheaper than Japan for most things.

How can I save money in Seoul?

Get a T-Money card to cut down transportation costs and try to plan sightseeing days into areas to reduce travel costs. Do some research about good places to eat and plan your day in advance to avoid costly, unexpected travel. Try to avoid drinking too much expensive coffee and eat Korean food.

Where should I exchange money in Seoul

Myeongdong.
You can save money in Seoul by not changing your foreign currency at the airport when you arrive. Wait until you get into central Seoul and go to Myeongdong. There are many money changers there who will give you a better price than airport money exchanges

Are taxis expensive in Seoul?

Taxis are relatively cheap in Seoul.
Taxi prices start at 3,800 won ($3.10), which covers the first 2km of your journey. Compared to other capital cities such as Tokyo and London, taxis are very reasonably priced and you’ll be able to travel conveniently without incurring a large cost. However, if you want to save money in Seoul, then I’d recommend limiting your use of taxis and try to use Seoul’s great public transport system.

Will I save money with the Discover Seoul Pass?

Yes, you can.
But it depends on whether or not you plan to see a lot of Seoul’s premium attractions in a short time and create a good Discover Seoul Pass itinerary to get the most out of it. With advanced planning for where you want to go, you can easily save 50,000 in one day, possibly even more. The Discover Seoul Pass also includes T-Money functionality and a one-way Airport Express (AREX) ride, which will get you from Incheon Airport to Seoul.

How do you say ‘give me a discount’ in Korean?

ggagga-juseyo (깎아 주세요)
This translates to ‘please give me a discount’. There are many useful phrases that will help you gain discounts in Seoul’s markets and shopping areas. Being able to say that something is too expensive is also really helpful. There are lots of essential Korean phrases that will make travelling to Seoul a lot easier and only take a short time to learn. Try learning some to save money in Seoul.

Your Suggestions To Save Money In Seoul

Let me know if you have any more suggestions about how to save money in Seoul. Drop me a comment below and let others know your great savings ideas. Thanks

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