South Korea is a bright, beautiful, and unique country. Its lovely architecture, varied topography, sweeping shoreline, and vibrant culture set it apart from everywhere else in Asia – and the world.
As such, it makes for the perfect adventure. Whether you’re a solo traveler longing for a completely out-of-the-box journey, a couple of canoodlers planning a getaway or a honeymoon, or a family on a strict budget, you can do Korea in style.
And oh, is there plenty to do! Although South Korea is only the size of the state of Indiana, it packs a lot into that territory – 50 million people, for one thing.
It also boasts 22 national parks, more than 400 universities, and roughly a quintillion amazing restaurants. Then there are the temples. According to CNN, “There are some 900 traditional Buddhist temples in South Korea – and around 20,000 in total.
A visit to any of these local places of worship – many of them centuries old — can be a humbling, calming or uplifting experience.”
If you’re thinking jeepers! you’re not alone. Plus, “Many of them can be found nestled in the mountains throughout the country, usually in locations believed to have the best pung-su (feng shui) of the area.” Yes, please.
But how to pay for it all? That’s the question of the hour, and we’re here to answer it. Read on to learn everything you need to know about budgeting for hotels, activities, flights, bites, and more.
Average Trip to South Korea Cost in 2023
An average one-week trip to South Korea for two people will cost around $4,900:
- Average Accommodation Cost: $100 per night
- Average Flight Cost: $1,300 per person
- Food, Drink & Activities: $100 per person, per day
- Transportation: $200 total
- Total Cost: $4,900
South Korea is amazingly varied. From socioeconomic status to religion to background, South Koreans thrive on diversity of art, food, and pop culture.
It’s important to note that this is not the case with ethnicity, sadly, which continues to be a problem for mixed-race individuals living there – just something of which to be aware as a conscientious traveler.
In general, though, you will see an eclectic variety of shops, clothing styles, and eateries wherever you go. And since South Korea’s population is relatively wealthy, but their per capita GDP is only about two-thirds that of the US, your money will go pretty far there.
As such, you can have an amazing across-the-world vacation for less than $5,000 for two. All you need to know is how to do it.
South Korea Trip Cost: Average by Item
South Korea is fairly inexpensive once you get there, but it’s still important to have a handle on your budget beforehand. That way, you can determine which areas of your trip you want to spend a lot on (if any) and which are good areas in which to save.
The following categories will break down the basics for you so that you can begin to draw up a sound financial plan for your trip.
Do note that the following estimations apply exclusively to South Korea. North Korea – the other half of this divided country – is inaccessible to US citizens, whose passports are invalid for travel there.
South Korea offers a range of nice places to stay on a very reasonable budget. Even in bustling Seoul, a luxury hotel – we’re talking 4 to 5 stars – will only run you about $200 per night. For a run-of-the-mill nice hotel, you’ll pay more like $100.
On average, hotels will cost you between $50 and $150 in the larger cities. In the quaint little “hanok” villages – known for the beautiful traditional homes (hanoks) that line their streets – a nice room in a guesthouse is around $125.
If you price-shop (always in incognito mode to avoid travel sites saving cookies and charging you more next time), you can find significant deals. Overall, you can feel safe budgeting $100 a night for anywhere in South Korea.
If you’re a young or solo traveler, this number goes down considerably. If you’re a honeymooner with a bit more to spend, congrats: looks like luxury is coming your way!
Flights will almost certainly pose the biggest expense of your trip. The world’s largest ocean separates South Korea from the United States, and if you live on the East Coast, you will easily spend 24 hours getting there – or more.
For that reason, tickets are spendy. LA to Seoul flights cost between $1,100 and $1,200 on average, but it will cost you an additional fee to get there from anywhere else in the US. From New York City or Chicago, plan to spend $300 more on average.
If you’re flying from a smaller regional airport, add another $100 to $200 for the cost of getting to an international hub. All told, the average price of a ticket to Korea is about $1,300.
You can save money by:
- Booking well in advance, as soon as you have your travel dates
- Using miles, which go far on international flights
- Booking domestic flights closer to the departure date, when they’re cheaper
- Booking international and domestic flights separately, even if they’re through the same airline, so that you can book at different times
- Steering clear of peak travel seasons: high summer (June through August) and ski season (December through February)
Food, Drink & Activity Costs
The good news: food and drink in South Korea are easy to budget. With $10 lunches and dinners, complimentary breakfasts at many larger hotels, and cheap street fare, you can eat on $30 a day without breaking a sweat.
Activities may cost you a bit more. One of the most popular things to do on a trip to South Korea is visit a historic village, the two best of which are Hahoe and Yangdong.
These are amazing showcases of medieval Korean architecture and history, stemming from the 14th and 15th centuries, and Koreans are justifiably proud of them.
You’ll take a trip back in time through architecture that, according to UNESCO, includes “residences of the head families, together with substantial timber framed houses of other clan members, also pavilions, study halls, Confucian academies for learning, and clusters of one story mud-walled, thatched-roofed houses, formerly for commoners.”
Another important spot to hit, history-wise, is the DMZ or Demilitarized Zone. This is the line that demarcates the border between democratic South Korea and the North Korean dictatorship (though it bills itself as a democracy).
As North Korea is a country shrouded from Western eyes, a tour is a fascinating glimpse into exactly what’s going on … like … up there. For between $50 and $100 per person, you can find out.
You can book other tours from Seoul as well. Check out the giant suspension bridge, nearby Nami Island, or the royal palace, all great photo ops.
These cost about $150 per person, but if you have a large enough group, you may be able to book your own tour for less. Other fantastic destinations include Jeju Island – where sunrise is one of the most stunning gifts Mother Nature ever gave us – and Uleung Island.
Dadohaehaesang National Park and Pyeongchang County are great destinations for hikers, while temples are jaw-dropping wonders that no visitor should miss.
Overall, $100 per person, per day, should cover food, drinks, and a combination of free and guided activities that won’t break the bank.
Definitely don’t freak out about transportation in this amenable country. With public transport costing only a few dollars a ride, taxis between $5 and $10, and 3-hour train rides (e.g. Seoul to Busan) less than $40, you won’t need much to get around.
If you take trains between cities, use buses and trams, and rely on foot power for much of your getting around, you and your companion can do the whole trip for $200 easily.
Things to Consider
Here are a few other things to consider when planning your trip to South Korea:
- Diehard advocate of university walks? Strolling through a beautiful campus never gets old for me, and it’s completely free – not to mention a great place to picnic. From Seoul to Daegu, Iksan to Chungcheongbuk-do, you’ll find lovely colleges to tour.
- The Seoul city government offers free walking tours. Volunteers will guide you through the most remarkable parts of the city on your chosen walk. The best part: you can do as many as you want while you’re there, so you can see plenty of different neighborhoods in this bustling metropolis.
- Love hiking? Check out the Seoul Hiking Tourism Center, which will not only guide you on your next adventure but will actually rent you hiking clothes and boots for free. Yep, you can avoid bringing your clunky shoes and outerwear and just don their loaners on your outings!
- Google Maps ain’t the thing. These won’t necessarily steer you true in South Korea, so ditch them in favor of Naver Papago, a much better choice. Not only will this help you get where you’re going, it’s usually pretty up-to-date with business hours and changes.
- Naver Papago is the way to go. This Korean app is much more effective at translating Korean to English and back again than Google Translate, so put it on standby. While many people in South Korea speak English, as it’s widely taught in schools, you never know when you’ll need it – especially in the small villages.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is South Korea expensive?
No, South Korea isn’t very expensive. It’s a great place to go if you want a magical, mystical trip on the other side of the world for less than $5,000 – more if you skip restaurants, eat street food, choose cheaper accommodations, and take advantage of the many free activities.
What are the cheapest activities in South Korea?
South Korea has almost two dozen national parks, many of which are free to enter. If you borrow hiking gear for free from the Seoul Hiking Tourism Center, you won’t pay a cent.
You can also go on free guided walks in the capital city, ride public transportation all around for almost nothing – even into the cute suburbs that surround it – and enjoy street food on a dime.
Add gardens, universities, and oceanside walks around the country, and you’ve got yourself a full itinerary for little to no cost.
When is the best time to visit South Korea?
South Korea is pretty great year-round. As the country has a temperate climate much like the US, the seasons will feel very familiar to you.
Fall and spring are mild and cool, with plenty of sunny days. You can enjoy the cherry blossoms in spring and the profusion of fall leaves in fall. In winter, the country offers fantastic skiing, while in summer, hiking and sunning yourself on the beach are popular pastimes.
The cheapest times to go are from October through March, minus the holiday season. The most expensive times are from late spring through early fall. The likeliest price breaks are to be found in mid-spring and mid-fall.
What are the passport requirements for traveling to South Korea?
South Korea is accommodating to tourists, requiring just a passport with one blank page to get in. You don’t need a visa, extra pages, a certain amount of time left on your passport, or anything else.
Is it safe in South Korea?
Yes, South Korea is considered a very safe place for American travelers to visit. The US government does recommend that you enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) before heading out, as this makes it easier for you to receive important info and get found in an emergency.
Over to You — Book Your Trip to South Korea Today!
|🛎️ Average Accommodation Cost||$100 per night|
|✈️ Average Flight Cost||$1,300 per person|
|🍽️ Food, Drink & Activities||$100 per person, per day|
|🚕 Transportation||$200 total|
|💲 Total Cost||$4,900|
The average cost of a one-week trip to South Korea is around $4,900 for two people. Use the tips above and you can save even more on your international getaway. Bon voyage!