Thanks to K-pop and those sappy drama serials, Korea is probably the hottest holiday destination amongst young Singaporeans these days. Virtually every secondary school or JC/poly kid I know (bearing in mind that I don’t really run in those circles these days…) is obsessed with the latest nubile young Korean stars, which makes a trip to Seoul high on the list of Singaporean travellers.
It’s a good thing the South Korean capital really isn’t that expensive to visit. We break down the cost of a budget trip.
If you do your homework, you should not have to pay more than $500+. Don’t assume budget airlines are always the cheapest, as there are sometimes sweet deals on airlines like Cathay Pacific or Malaysia Airlines.
Just take care to avoid the school holiday season in June and December, when thousands of Singaporean families flock to Seoul at the behest of their Kpop-obsessed kids.
Cost: 500 SGD
Costs in Seoul are quite a bit lower than they are in Singapore on all counts—accommodation, food and entertainment.
If you’re on a budget but don’t want to share a hostel room with strangers, check into either a guesthouse or accommodation on Airbnb. You’ll pay about 50 SGD to 60 SGD for a basic twin room in a guesthouse, which works out to… not much per person.
On Airbnb, prices are similar, and you can rent an entire apartment for about 50 SGD to 80 SGD.
This room in a pretty fancy apartment close to centrally-located Yongsan station accommodates two for only 58 SGD a night. There’s also this entire studio apartment for rent at 53 SGD a night. If you’re travelling solo, this room in a house close to the student-dominated Hongdae area is just 25 SGD a night, while this one is 33 SGD a night.
If you’re travelling with a companion, you’ll find numerous options that can keep your budget to 25 SGD per person or less.
Cost: 25 SGD per day / 150 SGD for a week
Seoul’s Metro system is well-connected, fast and cheap. You also get the added bonus of being surrounded by K-pop star lookalikes. Get an Ezlink-like T-money card at the station as it will lower the cost of your rides.
The 10-stop, 47 minute-long ride from Incheon Airport to Seoul Station costs 4,150 won (4.80 SGD), but once you’re in the city you’ll probably be travelling much shorter and cheaper distances.
The basic fare for a 10 km ride is 1,250 won (1.47 SGD) if you have a T-card, 720 won (0.85 SGD) for teens aged 13-18 and 450 won (0.53 SGD) for kids aged 7-12. Kids aged 6 and below travel free.
Cost: 5,000 won (6 SGD) a day / 42 SGD for a week
The sorts of sights you’ll be hitting up in Seoul really depend on your interests. If you’re a shopaholic, you’ll be spending most of your time at Myeongdong or the markets at Hongdae and Dongdaemun.
If you’re a Kpop freak, you’ll probably be happy just stalking stars at the headquarters of the big entertainment companies like SM, JYP, YG and SM Town, or hanging out in the K-pop themed cafes.
And if you’re just the hapless friend or family member of a Korea-crazy Singaporean who’s being dragged along for the ride, go hit up some museums and palaces, or just pig out at a Korean BBQ joint.
Here’s a sampling of what it costs to visit some of the more famous sights in town.
- Gyeonbokgung Palace – 3,000 won (3.50 SGD) / 1,500 won (1.75 SGD) for kids aged 7-18 / free for kids under 6
- Jongmyo Shrine – 1,000 (1.17 SGD) / 500 won (0.58 SGD) for kids aged 7-18
- Namiseom Island – 8,000 won (9.34 SGD) / 4,000 won (4.67 SGD) for kids aged 3-13; price inclusive of round trip ferry and taxes
- Lotte World – 33,000 won (39 SGD) / 30,000 (35 SGD) for youths / 27,000 won (31.52 SGD) for children; enter after 4pm and pay only 27,000 won (32 SGD) / 24,000 won (28 SGD) / 21,000 won (25 SGD)
- Myeongdong – free
- Dongdaemun Market – free
Note that if you’re going to be carting back a suitcase-full of Face Shop masks, you probably want to raise your budget a little.
Cost: 50,000 won or 58 SGD to keep yourself entertained for a week
Even if you cannot name a single member of Girls’ Generation, if the thought of eating kimchi every day makes you smile rather than cringe, your trip to Seoul will not have been in vain. Virtually every meal you can order in Korea, no matter how modest, will come with kimchi and, often, a selection of side dishes.
There are scores of street markets and inexpensive cafes all over the city, where you can eat for as little as 3,000 won (3.50 SGD) for a simple kimbap, mandu or ramyeon dish to about 9,000 won (10.60 SGD) for a lunch or dinner menu.
Meat fans will have to refrain from hitting up Korean barbecue joints every single day. You get a big selection of side dishes and enough meat to fill even the biggest of stomaches for as little as 10,000 won (11.70 SGD).
Mid range restaurants in Seoul will have you spending up to about 20,000 won (23.34 SGD) or so.
Cost: 20,000 won (23 SGD) a day / 161 SGD for a week
Total cost of a week-long trip to Seoul: 911 SGD
Have you ever been to Seoul? Share your experiences in the comments!
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