Typical Costs Of Common Items
(All prices correct at the time of writing, we will endeavor to update regularly. Current exchange rate – 1,000W = £0.60)
Snack item of street food 500-1000W
Local subway or bus ride (within a city): 800-1500W
Long distance bus (city to city): 5,000 – 25,000W
Cheap Accommodation (hostel or ‘love hotel’)/ night: 20,000-35,000W
High end accommodation: in the region 200,000 – 300,000W per room per night (or cheaper outside of Seoul).
Korean style spa (not including treatments): 5,000 – 15,000W
Korean meal from standard ‘kimbap’ restaurant : 2,000 – 6,000W
Snack from a local convenience store: around 1,000W
Foreign food in reasonable quality international restaurant: 10,000 – 20,000W
Tin of silkworm larvae (essential souvenir!): 2,000W
Local beer on tap (Hite, Cass, OB): 2,500 – 4,000W
Foreign beer (usually bottled) eg. Budweiser, Guinness, Heineken: 8,000 – 16,000W
500ml bottle of Soju (Korean liquor): 1,000W (from shops) or 2,000-3,000W (restaurants)
Nightclub entrance: free – 15,000W
Cinema ticket: around 10,000W (English language films usually shown in English with Korean subtitles)
Medical supplies: prices typically comparable to or substantially cheaper than the British equivalent. Note: deodorant is often considered a seasonal item in Korea. Stock up before you leave!
Entrance to tourist attractions: Generally very affordable. Typically in the reason 5,000 – 10,000W
Football or baseball ticket (club game): 8,000 – 30,000W (cheaper tickets usually available on the door for all but the most important games).
DMZ tour: 35,000W upwards, to include view points and tunnel tours.
One off use of swimming pool or leisure centre: 5,000 – 10,000W
Taxis: Very traffic dependent, but relatively affordable. A short hop will usually come in at comfortably under 10,000W
Transfer from Incheon Airport to Seoul City: If you’re on a budget, take the subway (4,000W). A bus transfer will cost around 12,000W, and a taxi around 80,000W.
What Should I Bring To Korea?
Contrary to the strange and surprising beliefs of many Westerners, South Korea is an advanced and extremely commercial country, and most things are easy to buy once you arrive. It’s also often cheaper to buy after rocking up. There are a few things, though, that you’d be well advised to bring with you, just for the sake of having an easy and comfortable life. Here are our top tips:
- Deodorant. You’ll find plenty of it in the summer, but come winter large parts of Korea treat deodorant as a strangely seasonal item. Bring your own if you need it.
- Branded products, especially luxury brands. If there’s something you can’t live without, be it marmite or Galaxy chocolate (which does exist in Korea, but doesn’t taste the same as it’s designed not to melt in the heat), bring it with you. There are some brands you’ll find with ease and some that are next to impossible to track down. A complete list would take forever, so if you can’t live without it, bring it, or give us a bell beforehand and we’ll try our best to check it out for you.
- Clothes, especially if you’re fairly large. Sure, you might be able to buy things in Itaewon in central Seoul, but if you’re even slightly above average in size (especially if you’re female), you’re going to really struggle anywhere else. A typical Korean is both significantly smaller and probably significantly thinner than you, so don’t expect to come away with a new wardrobe.
- Shoes – see above. Unless you’re a size six or less.
- Keepsakes from home. There’s nothing more exciting to a Korean than a treasured little memento bought from your home country, which will seem far more exciting than anything you can buy out there. Pick up some postcards, pictures of your home, little trinkets or whatever else is personal and unique to your area, and you’ll impress.
South Korea is an extremely advanced country, and contacting home whilst living/ working or visiting the country is unlikely to prove a problem. There are a few tips that can help you save a small fortune, though. For a start, we highly recommend that you set up an Internet-phone account. South Korea has – by quite some distance – the highest average Internet speed in the world, so there are absolutely no issues with clarity or with getting online (you’ll find Internet cafes on almost every corner, many of which also include headsets to enable you to talk privately, though they’re generally aimed at gaming, a local obsession).
Skype would be our recommendation, as it allows you to call people all over the world at prices between free and (relatively) cheap. Other options include an assortment of travel phone cards. If you want to pick one up, head down to the Itaewon or Haebangchon districts of Seoul, where you’ll find them in pretty much ever newsagents; they can be used to call from landlines or mobiles at much reduced prices. Your best options revolve around the Internet, though, which you’ll find on almost every corner in Korea. If you are going to use the phone, may we suggest you stick to the evenings, a the time difference between Korea and the UK is either 8 or 9 hours, depending on the time of the year, and calling before around 5pm Korean time may seem a little antisocial back in the UK…
Now, please don’t take this little page as a suggestion that you’re all the kind of people that habitually hop out for some casual drug use at the weekend, but we really feel that – just in case you are – we should warn you about South Korea’s harsh drug penalties. As you’ve no doubt garthered by now, Koreans find alcohol extremely socially acceptable, to the extent that they’re one of the largest average alcohol consumers in the world. The saem certainly doesn’t apply to drugs.
If you’re caught with even the smallest amount of any illicit substance in Korea, you can expect to be locked up, or, if you’re extremely lucky, exported. You’re quite likely to be caught, as a lot of ‘dealers’ are involved in sting operations, and if neighbors have any suspicion that you’re involved in taking drugs, they’ll not hesitate to report you. In other words – and we’ll state this very clearly so there are no doubts remaining – it is stupid beyond belief to take any illegal drugs in South Korea. Just don’t do it, or at least don’t say we didn’t warn you.
One quick example, obviously using no names: we knew of one man who decided he’d like to smoke a small amount of cannabis in his Busan apartment. He was caught out by a neighbor, who smelt the cannabis and decided to report him to the police. Despite having an extremely minimal amount in his possession, the man spent five months in prison awaiting trial, before eventually being tried and deported having ‘served his five month sentence’. In other words, this is a very, very serious offence in country that will get you permanently banned and almost certainly leave you with a serious criminal record. Enough said.