Friday, March 1, 2019

How Much MONEY You Need To Go To SOUTH KOREA | Travel Guide + Budget Tips!

You've been wanting to go to South Korea for a short trip but are too afraid because you are not quite sure if you can afford it. What if you spend all your savings just for this trip? Is Seoul really an expensive city to travel to? How much money do you really need to go to South Korea?

This blog will give you all the answers to your questions. This is also the perfect travel guide for people going to South Korea for the first time!

For foreign readers, please note that for every Php 1,000 mentioned on this blog, 
it is equivalent to approximately $20. 

TRAVEL PERIOD - November 14 - November 29, 2018

You don't necessarily have to spend money on every category mentioned on this blog. Treat this like a "buffet"blog where you only pick what you think you like and then leave the rest untouched. 

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If you are from the Philippines, the FIRST THING you need to secure, before even thinking how much money you'll need, is VISA! 

VISA APPLICATION - Php 750 / person

There are different requirements depending what type of VISA you are applying for. There are also different fees depending which travel agency you will go to. I did a complete guide on Korea VISA Application for Filipinos. CLICK HERE to watch the video on YouTube.


In the Philippines, we have three top choices of airlines that fly straight to the Incheon Airport in Korea - Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Airasia. On my first time to South Korea, I took Philippine Airlines. But each time I'd try to look for cheap airfare going to Korea, Airasia always has the cheapest offer. 

My total airplane ticket fee was Php 14,380 for 2 WAY/ROUND TRIP. It was not on promo and I got it less than 2 months before my travel date. The base fare was only Php 9,000+. But upon adding the following, my total bill blew up. 
Here are the additional fees :
-Philippine Travel Tax Php 1,620
-20 KGS baggage Php 849
-Additional 10 more KGS of baggage - Php 1,011
-Travel Insurance Php 465
-1 meal Php 127

I know some people skip travel insurance to save few bucks. But I strongly suggest getting it just in case something happens. On my first out-of-the-country trip to Hong-Kong, Cebu Pacific lost my luggage. Good thing I had travel insurance so they compensated for the loss. CLICK HERE to read my horrible luggage story. 

Where is the best place to exchange money when travelling to South Korea?
On my first time in Korea, I only brought PESO. I exchanged about Php 3,000 here in the Philippines and then the rest of my money in South Korea. While it is wiser to do that on your first time as finding money changer in Seoul could be a challenge. So it's better to have some as soon as you land. 

On my second time in Korea, I was more prepared. I saved enough US Dollars and brought all of them to Korea. I discovered that exchanging USD to KRW is better than exchanging PHP to KRW. Of course, it's better if you originally have USD. But if you will have to change from PHP to USD and then to KRW, then I think you will just lose some bucks. Another great tip is if you have credit card. I found out that using credit card is better as the exchange rate is more updated and accurate. 

Now when you finally have to exchange money, the best places to do so are in Myeongdong, Insadong and in Hongdae. Usually, places where most tourists are. One thing I noticed in Korea is that money changers are rampant. I just remember that when I went to HK, money changers were almost everywhere. So always be cautious of your money and your budget. I once got lost and almost didn't make it back to my hotel in Seoul because I ran out of KRW and couldn't find a money changer.

For the COMPLETE GUIDE and TRAVEL TIPS for Korea, 
be sure to watch this video below. It's long but I promise you it's worth your time!

Where is the best place to stay in South Korea?

I wrote a long and detailed post on all of the places I've stayed at in Seoul. This is useful for people who can't decide between hotel, Airbnb or hostel. CLICK HERE to read my detailed post on the BEST places to stay in Korea.

7 DAYS STAY AT HOTEL - Php 14,712 (shared with someone | Php 7,356 / person)

7 DAYS STAY AT A HOSTEL - Php 11,450

I skipped talking about my hotel and hostel experience in Korea because I talked about them thoroughly on my separate blog post. CLICK HERE to read my post on the best places to stay in South Korea. 


T Money Card is really important when travelling to Korea. You could get it as soon as you arrive at the airport. You could also purchase it at convenience stores like GS25, CU and 7-11. It is very convenient as you could use it on subway, train, bus, taxi and even to buy food and merchandise. It also has centralized system as I was able to use the same card I bought in Seoul when I went to Busan. 

One tip I could give to save money on T Money is to be sure you know your way before entering the subway or taking the train. I've experienced getting on the wrong train, getting off the wrong exit or simply getting lost because I wasn't too familiar with my way. Getting lost and tapping your card means wasting money. So if you feel you are lost, check the map and the signs first before tapping in or out.

15 DAYS FOOD (PROPER MEAL like Samgyupsal/Bibimbap etc) - Php 4,750

One thing you should really allot budget on is food. Food in Korea, compared to the Philippines, is pricey. Pricey yet delicious! That's why I'm sure you won't be able to resist having Samgyupsal everyday! (hehe) However, my Korean friends gave me some tips on saving. They all told me to stay away from the "tourist spots" if I want to find good deals. One Korean friend told me that Samgyupsal near Universities is cheaper as compared to Samgyupal restaurants around popular tourist spots. 

Some meals I had were W15,000 per bowl of Bibimbap in Myeongdong or W7,000 just for a bowl of ramen in Hongdae. But this particular set was only W6,000! It's a set of bibimbap, bean paste soup and unlimited side dish! I had this near my hostel in Jonggak Station in Jongno-gu. 

True enough, we were able to eat 2 huge chunks of Samgyupsal for only W 5,000 EACH. This was at her recommended place near Hanyang Univesity. However, other Samgyupsal sets I've had cost around W15,000 - W20,000 per chunk / 100 grams. What a huge saving!!

I don't recommend doing this, but when I travel, I usually just have 1 full meal per day. Not because I want to starve myself or save money. But because I find it difficult to squeeze all the things I want to do and to spend an hour or so sitting down and divulging on food. What I usually do is to have a FULL BREAKFAST at the hotel. Breakfast usually comes for free at hotels and hostels in Korea. Airbnb, though, don't offer the same freebie. This is the usual breakfast in Korea!

The fried egg, nachos and grapes aren't a staple but you will always expect to have a toast, butter and strawberry jam, coffee or orange juice, hard boiled egg, cereal with milk and simple fruit. I always take advantage of that and eat as many as I can so I won't easily feel hungry. Sometimes, I put the hard boiled egg in my pocket and eat if while walking.

I only eat either full lunch meal or full dinner meal. In between whenever I feel hungry, Korean convenience stores are life savers! They have ramen, coffee, sausages, burgers, rice meals, and fruits!

15 DAYS FOOD (Convenience Store) - Php 1,550

You will surely go crazy over their convenience store food. I see a lot of items that aren't brought here in the Philippines. One of my favorites is the triangle kimbap. They kept me full on some nights I felt hungry. I ate it while watching New Journey to the West!

Oh, another favorite of mine is the coffee bun with sweet filling! There are lots of bakeshops that sell this but my ultimate favorite is the one in Wangshimni Subway Station. I buy it every time I would pass by that area. For only W1,000, it kept me full and happy for a few hours.


You are probably surprise that I only spent Php 815 when Korea is a haven for street food lovers. It's because I've already tasted them on my first time in Korea. I feel I have to warn you that Korean street food is not cheap by Philippine standard. A stick of barbecue would be around W4,000 or Php 185!

My ultiate favorite is the ODENG! I ate it everyday! Some stalls in Myeongdong sell it for W2,000 per stick. But you should wait until you see it for only W500 at another place. W500 is the cheapest you could get it for. Different place, same great taste!


Please don't ever think you will survive in Korea without internet on your phone. Yes, Wi-Fi is available but it's really smarter to have your phone connected all the time. You don't know when you'll need to use Google Maps or Naver Map. 

On my first time in Korea, I went crazy with Instagram Live and used it almost every single day of my trip for 10 days. I thought I would do the same on this trip that's why I got an unlimited data. But if you only need it for Google, Maps and for social media updating, I am sure W 35,000 for 2 GB internet is enough. 

For me, almost every place in Seoul is tour-worthy and Instagram worthy. But if you have limited time to go around, I am guessing you these places are on your to-go places : Gyeongbokgung Palace, Everland, Nami Island and N Seoul Tower.

GYEONGBOKGUNG PALACE (Hanbok Rent + Free Entrance) - Php 1,580

Getting inside Gyeongbokgung Palace is not expensive. The first time I went there, ticket was only W6,000. However, if you come in Hanbok (Korean Traditional Clothes), you will be allowed to get inside for free. Not only that, other palaces and traditional villages will let you in for free you come dress in Hanbok. When I searched online, there are various prices for renting Hanbok, some of them are even way cheaper that what I paid for. But I was happy with my Hanbok. At first, I thought I would go for girly-pink but ended up wearing red and black.

Do you know the term Cultural Appropriation? Did you know that most Koreans never get offended when you wear their traditional clothes? They never find it offensive nor foul, rather they feel proud that foreigners take interest in their culture. While going around Gyeongbokgung Palace in this ensemble, a lot of Korean elderly people praised me saying I look pretty in it. Some tourists (American and Malaysian) even asked to take photos with me because they said my Hanbok just looks so beautiful!
Anyway, to save money on entrance fee and for nice photos, I suggest coming in Hanbok! It's a bit pricey but you don't always get to wear it, right? 

EVERLAND TOUR (Entrance + Bus Service via Klook) - Php 3,320

Everland is the biggest amusement park in South Korea. While you could always do a DIY trip, my companion suggested we book our tickets via Klook. It was convenient because it comes with bus service that will pick you up and then drop you off at designated stops like Dongdaemun, Myeongdong, etc. 

I am not a fan of adventurous rides so I felt like I wasted money on this. My companion rode them alone while I waited for her for an hour or so. Lines at the popular rides are loooong.
But if you haven't seen BEARS and PANDA in real life, then you will definitely enjoy it here. I saw BEARS up close and saw PANDA for the first time here in Everland. Made my ticket worth the price!


Going to Nami Island from Seoul is convenient and not really expensive. In fact, it's one of the most affordable touristy spots. The ticket for the ferry from the port going to Nami Island is only W13,000/Php 600. But I included the ticket for the ITX train from Yongsan Station going to Gapyeong. Therefor, budget is Php 1,500. Pretty cheep considering how beautiful the place is!

Aside from the ITX train ticket, you also need to take either Bus or Taxi going to the Nami Nara port. Bus is around W5,000 per person and Taxi is about W7,000 per trip. My companion and I took the comfortable taxi and paid only W3,500 per person. Sometimes, it's best to calculate before taking off.

N SEOUL TOWER (Namsan Tower Cable Car) - Php 650

Going up to Namsan Tower / N Seoul Tower is basically for free but it's how you get up there that you have to spend money on. For some, bus is the better option. While for others, they'd rather go up by hiking, As for me, the most convenient way to go up is to take the cable car. 

If you are going with your special someone, be sure to bring lock and keys and a marker so you lock your unending love and them throw the keys somewhere. I haven't done it yet but that's something I look forward to doing someday.

You could purchase set of lock with keys at the Tower but it's a bit pricey!

TRIP TO BUSAN (3 Days 2 Nights Trip) - Php 6,150 + Php 1,100

For my Trip to Busan from Seoul, I spent Php 6,150 on the round-trip KTX tickets and 1 Night hostel accommodation in Busan. The Php 1,100 was spent on some food, snacks and souvenir. I saved money on my Trip to Busan as I met 2 Korea and 1 Filipino friends there. They all treated me to food and accommodation so I saved a lot. 

KTX is the train that we saw on the movie Train to Busan. It's the speed train that takes you from Seoul to Busan in about 3 hours or less. While other slower trains will take 6 to 7 hours. The KTX tickets are pricey. If you have lots of time in South Korea I suggest visiting the place as it's nice to see other parts of SK aside from Seoul. But if you are tight on budget and have limited time to go around, I suggest skipping it as KTX tickets are pricey and you need at least 2 days to go back and forth.

EXO-L FAN GIRLING (Viva Polo Restaurant) - Php 910

As an EXO-L since 2011, it has been my dream to visit and dine at Viva Polo. The restaurant that Chanyeol's Mom and their family owns and runs. 

On my first time in Korea, I didn't have enough time as the place is located around an hour away from Seoul via subway. On my second visit, I made sure I had time to visit. Luckily I pushed myself to visit and Viva Polo was apparently closing. As we're speaking, the restaurant is already closed.

I spent double of what I usually pay for each meal in Korea but it was well worth it. I did not see Chanyeol's Mom but it was a great and surreal experience to be at the same place Chanyeol often visits. The food was decent. The seafood pasta was great! I wish I could eat it again.


South Korea is a haven for coffee and coffee shop lovers! I mean, there's at least 1 coffee shop at every street. If you want to taste different sorts of coffee blends or if you simply want to take nice photos with the awesome interior, SK coffee shops have got you covered! 

I also reckon sipping a cup of warm coffee on a chilly day will help you get by. However, coffee in Korea is not cheap. If you think Php 150 per cup of Starbucks in the Philippines is already too much, then imagine having coffee for at least Php 270 (6,000 Won) in Korea!

LINE Friends Cafe and Store in Itaewon

STYLENANDA Pink Pool Cafe in Myeongdong

SM COEX Artium Cafe in Gangnam

If you are in for some coffee adventure, I suggest allotting at least Php 500 - Php 1,000 per cafe visit!

It's cold in Korea. Especially if you are used to warm climate like what we have in the Philippines. Keeping yourself warm also means you may have to spend some bucks.


Hot pack is a great invention! You tear the packaging , grab the small pouch inside it, shake it for a few minutes then it heats up and keeps you warm for a few hours. It's really a great invention. Some hot packs I've tried even stay warm until the next day. To save some bucks, I suggest buying sets that come in 5 or 10 pieces rather than buying one pack at a time.

This is really essential especially if you have a lot of walking and outdoor activities. I suggest having 2 packs per day and opening it after lunch or in the afternoon so it keeps you warm until you get back to your hotel at night. Put one hot pack per pocket of your coat and you are good to go. I noticed that the hot packs gets more warm when you are inside warm places like subway, train or taxi. So take it out while your inside hot establishments so it accumulates hear and then put it back in the pocket once your back on the street. 

TAXI in KOREA - Php 1,120

Transportation system in Korea is really efficient and convenient. But on times when you feel extremely tired or lazy, taxis are available, too. PRO TIP! Sometimes, it's better to take taxi when you are traveling in 2 or in 4. Simply split the bill!


If you are a fashion-forward type of person, Korea will surely excite you! Did you know that clothes are cheap in Korea and they are impressively of good quality? In the Philippines, clothes that come from "tyangge"are usually not as pretty as branded ones. But in Korea, even clothes that are sold on the streets or under the subway are of great quality! You will be shocked to see thick sweaters that cost only Won 6,000 or Php 270! If you dare, try going to Korea without bringing too much clothes. On your first day, head over to Hongdae, Myeongdong and some subway underground shopping for your clothes. I promise, you won't regret it. That's what I intend to do when I go back to Korea!


There's so much cute stuff to see and to buy in Korea. Who needs flapping-ear hats or furry bag chains? We don't need them but we still want to buy them! (hehe)

PASALUBONG (Gifts for family and friends) - Php 6,420

As mentioned above, there are certainly too much cute stuff in Korea. Oh, does your Mom want that heart-shaped lipstick? Perhaps your friend would like that bear in Hanbok? Maybe your boss would like a traditional Korean hanky? You see cute, you buy cute!

And that my friend, is how you spend too much on pasalubong. (hehe) Come to think of it, when my friends travel, I never expect them to hand me anything from their trip. It's not like they actually give me anything, though. Hehe But why do I like buying stuff for family and friends back home? I guess it's our natural instinct to want people we love have a bite of what we experienced from our trip, don't you agree? 

But if you want to save some money and avoid over-spending, you could definitely skip too much shopping. I am sure our family and friends will still love us even if we don't give them anything from our trip. 

Que my favorite "hoarer"song... "Ang dami-daming bagay na hindi naman kailangan."

Oh, did you want to see all the things I got from my WINTER TRIP to KOREA? CLICK HERE to watch my Korea Haul on YouTube. 

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That's everything I spent on my recent 15-day trip to South Korea. Some people think I spent too much while others think I was frugal at that. I guess it really depends on what your itinerary is and what your priorities are. 


I remember I was bashed on one of my videos when I went to Hong-Kong because I kept converting prices from HKD to PHP. While others believe that one must not convert when travelling, I would like to disagree. Sure we saved money for the trip but must we really buy that Php 500 pesos cupcake in Korea just so we could take a photo of it for our Instagram? Perhaps we could buy the same cute-looking cupcake back home for only Php 120? Money is not UNLIMITED. When we travel, we bring with us Philippine Money. We don't work where we travel nor do we get paid with their currency. What may be affordable in Korea may be extremely pricey in the Philippines, considering the economic status. If you migrated or are working in a foreign country, then I think that's the only time you have to skip converting prices. But as long as we're still getting our salary in Philippine Peso, then I think it is always wiser to convert, compare and think "DO I REALLY HAVE TO SPEND MONEY ON THIS?"

*Yes, I am looking at you Php 400 EXO cupcake I got from SM Coex cafe which tasted awful! I love EXO, but you cupcake, are not worth the money!*

- Php 86, 525

Is that too big? Is that too small? Our concept of "too big" and "too small" varies depending on our priorities and status in life. For me, that's quite a sum of money. I would have spent only Php 50,000 had I not gone to pricey coffee shops, rented the pricey Hanbok which I only wore for 1 hour because something happened between me and the person I went to Korea with, had I not shopped for makeup and random cute things and perhaps if I hadn't gone to Busan. I do not regret anything I spent my money on but I honestly think there are better ways to enjoy without spending too much.

If you scroll back up and list all the important stuff, you will come down to a total amount of Php 40,000. That amount includes the vital things like 2-way airfare tickers, 7 days hotel accommodation that you are to split with your companion, T Money budget, food and entrance fee to some tourist spots. If you can stretch your budget to Php 50,000 then it will be best. 

I did a separate and detailed video on that topic. CLICK HERE to watch my YouTube video explaining everything you need to know about VISA and BANK requirements.

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I hope this blog post was able to help you plan your coming trip to South Korea. For more tips and travel guide, SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel HERE.

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