Essential Budgeting Advice for Living in Seoul

For anyone travelling overseas, one of the most important things to consider is budgeting. There are many factors to consider when you’re budgeting and it obviously varies from person, country and lifestyle but it is a thought that must always be at the back of your mind. 

Seoul is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to and with its rich culture, food, and activities it can be very hard to not feel the urge to spend money. As an intern from Australia, there were many things I had to consider when living in Seoul. But before thinking about the cost of living over a period of one month, the most important step is to actually exchange money and from where. 

Airports for the most part tend to give you extremely bad rates taking 20% of the actual worth of your  currency. From Australia, we had to travel to Singapore before arriving in Seoul and the Australian rates were very unfavourable. The biggest mistake I’ve made so far is exchanging my money in Singapore. Though rates were much better than in Perth, the best rates actually came from Seoul. The Incheon airport had very good rates much closer to the Australian dollar so I highly would recommend exchanging there as it is also very convenient. However if you are really tight with money and want the best value possible, with the help of public transport I recommend Moneybox in Myeong-dong. Moneybox will give almost exact exchange rate values and is one of the best currency exchanges in Seoul.

Now you have to wonder how much to actually budget. Everyone will tell you it depends on your spending habits and that is honestly true. Assuming you have already booked accommodation and are wondering what you would actually spend on, there are three main categories, food, shopping and transportation. Food being the most important, compared to Australia is much cheaper. If you are looking for a quick bite to eat, the convenience store food is very cheap with quick meals being anywhere from 2~5 dollars. Street food is also very cheap with prices being generally less than 5 dollars. Restaurants will be dependent on where and what you order but small local restaurants will have meals from 7~20 dollars. Grocery shopping is also very simple and easy with prices being slightly cheaper compared to convenience stores. Shopping is very dependent on yourself as well as where you are. Skin care products are very cheap in Korea so I recommend taking advantage and stocking up as much as you can if you are interested. Clothes can vary from store to store but don’t expect anything to be crazy cheap. Korea is one of the leading countries in fashion and beauty after all. Bartering is also an option for those feeling confident to negotiate prices but only for street vendors.

Understanding Korea’s transportation system won’t be hard but will be necessary if you want to travel between districts or neighbourhoods. Buses tend to cost anywhere between 1-2 dollars depending what colour bus and how far it goes. Korea’s subway system is very clear and easy for foreigners and also very cheap. Price can vary from distance but won’t cost you more than $2.50. Taxis are also an option but I would highly recommend learning and understanding Korea’s transportation system if you want to save money. Remember that these prices are one way so double every price for a two way trip. Subways will only charge going in and leaving a station so transferring between trains will not cost you.

The most expensive part of your Korean trip will most likely be the flights. Korea is a lovely country to visit and the prices compared to a western country are a dream come true. However that is not an invitation to spend money frivolously no matter how enticing it might be. 

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