Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Spending less than S$2,000 for a 12 day trip to South Korea!

I am compiling a guide on how to experience South Korea on a budget. In May 2013, I visited Shanghai, Busan, Jeju, and Seoul for a total of 12 days on the road. I spent a total of about S$2,000. The only reason why I spent so much is because we ate luxuriously and shopped for make-up like CRAZY! If I were truly on a budget, I would have spent a total of only $1,500. But that is not me, I am pampered and spoilt & I needed my Black Pork Korean BBQ!!

Check out my elaborate blog posts about South Korea & Shanghai here:
For further information regarding my itinerary, please click here:

I spent about $1088 for flights, housing, car rentals, major attractions like going to the DMZ and Lotte World and this is how I did it.
South Korea Costs
International Flights

Airfare is always one of the biggest bulk in your expenditure. I always check Zuji & Skyscanner for good deals first and than try to book directly. My dates are always flexible and I will always try to fly a mid-night flight if the flight will take 7 hours or more. As you know, I work shifts and in the hotel industry, and it is really difficult for me to take leave and I want to maximize it to the fullest. We booked multi-city tickets (it may add on extra charges, but for $460, we didn't really care) and flew to Busan straight, after transiting in Shanghai for 1 night, and than flew out from Seoul to Singapore.

Food served on China Eastern, not too shabby right?
Furthermore, flying at night not only save you 1 Annual Leave, it also saves you 1 night of accommodation and 1 whole day to explore the city. We flew at about 1am, and landed in Shanghai at about 5.30am. We had breakfast and than we took the first train out to the city! I know it sounds tiring, but if you're young and on a budget, this is the way to go!

Also, we didn't fly with any budget airlines because it is about the same price, NOT including meals, baggage allowance, and the entertainment system (I was too tired after my shift and so knocked out all the way though). China Eastern is fine, the only problem I had was some China Auntie pretending that she was booked for my window seat. We had that sorted out in no time after my dear gung-ho of a boyfriend confronted her. Hahaha.

Domestic Flights

Now, I visited 3 cities in South Korea and the cities are not exactly near where you can just take an hour's train and you're there (like Japan). From Busan to Jeju, I flew with Busan Air and from Jeju to Seoul I flew with Eastar Jet. Do your research properly! There are plenty of affordable Korean domestic airlines that can get you to places! Sign up for their free membership and you also get additional discounts! Always use trial and error to find those flights!


My friends and I always stayed in a hostel/motel/guesthouse. You'd be surprised at how beautiful and cosy the hostels are! Of course we splurged a little and got the 4 pax bunk with ensuite for our stay in Jeju. To be honest, I felt the accommodation could be cheaper, but I just wanted a nice little house/room to go back to after a long day. I never regretted it!

Rainbow in Jeju Hostel!
Look at how beautiful those hostels are! They even provide basic groceries for you to cook your own breakfast every morning. Look out for hostels with laundry facilities, because if you only brought a limited set of underwear, you're gonna have a bad time if you don't wash it.

Doo Guesthouse (traditional housing)
Always look out for past reviews from other guests who have stayed there previously, location, and of course the pricing. It is always cheaper to get a family room of four, as compared to a room for 2. Of course if you don't mind, you can always bunk in with other (random) people to lower the cost.

Lee & No Guesthouse (MY FAVORITE OF ALL)
Like I said, I am spoilt, I wanted my own room. Besides, there were four of us, and we saved a lot when we got the family rooms.

Car Rental in Jeju

I always advice my friends who are visiting Jeju, has a SG licence, and above 21 to ALWAYS rent a car in Jeju. There are no trains in Jeju, only taxis and buses. We rented the Hyundai Sonata for about 3 days with full insurance, and each of us paid only S$42! (Total is about $165.)

Of course if you have people to split it with, that's good for you, if not, rent a smaller car with partial immunity, that will lower down the costs for you.
Our ride: Hyundai Sonata
By the way, I loved the boot space of the Sonata! I can fit 3 dead bodies inside. HAHAHA.

I've read and heard of people who was lost and didn't have any transport back after sunset, and how they had to beg/hitchhike the locals to drive them out to the main road where they waited for 30mins for a taxi. Or how people have walked so much and spent so much time trying to get to the attraction, they were tired already before they even reached the attraction.

Every rental car comes with a GPS system
If you can't rent a car due to the legal age limit, try searching for taxi drivers who are willing to drive you around for the whole day! I am not sure how much it will cost, but it is def better than walking 45 mins to the museume.

To me, time is money. I hate wasting time walking to places. Ok, I hate walking.

Every rental car comes with a GPS system. I rented the car through KT Kumho Car Rental (of course after signing up as a member and getting 70% off), and requested for an English GPS system. Bear in mind the local addresses are still in Korean, so you need to keep the telephone numbers of the attractions you want to go to and you can just punch in the telephone number into the GPS system.



I can't stress this enough. Do not buy/rent those egg Wifi thing you see at Changi Airport. It will be a waste of money! You walk into the shopping mall, there's Wifi, you walk into the cafe, there's Wifi, you take the TRAIN, there's also Wifi. It is everywhere and it's free! Even at the airport!

Besides, I can't stress this enough. You're on a holiday! Turn off your Facebook, Instagram & Twitter! You can brag about the places you've been when you rest at the nearby cafe...

Food & Shopping

I will not and do not want to touch on food and shopping because i'm embarrassed by how much we ate. It was almost Korean BBQ almost every night until I fell terribly ill with high fever. I had no budget when it came to food. My BF and I splurged on it and ate luxuriously. So it really depends on how you eat and shop as that's something we're all different.

My only tip is to go for all the street food! There's plenty of yummy street food that can fill you up, and even Korean BBQ along the streets in Seoul. Jeju was more or less restaurants and it was more expensive than in Seoul.

By the way, I did not shop too much for clothes, but I went crazy with make up stuff.

Getting Around

Taking the buses and trains are of course the cheapest way to get around. Not only do you save, you get to experience what the locals experience. Download this app "Jihachul". It is an app for the Korean Subway system and it is available in Korean, Japanese and English!

Awesome Korean Subway App
This app has the train system of all the major cities in South Korea like Seoul, Busan, Daegu, etc. It tells you the rough time estimate it takes from your current train station to your destination, the time the next train arrives & even which exit to take to change lines. What is so awesome about this app is that it doesn't require any internet connection because the trains run on a strict schedule (very much like Japan) which is also available on their Subway website.

Of course, planning your route and attractions plays a big part, you want to visit all the attractions in the East, for example, before visiting the West. It saves on time and transport fees!


I know you must be thinking, "What does the weather got to do with budget?". Well it does! You're saving S$2,000 for your Korea trip to pay for all the expenses, but have you forgotten the budget you're forking out to prepare for your trip?
Rainy & cold in Shanghai!
I visited in May, and the weather was JUST NICE. Nice and chilly when I was in Busan & Jeju, yet I didn't need more than my sweater and windbreaker! I did my research and after weeks of monitoring the weather and temperature, I decided to bring along 2 pair of jeans and 2 pairs of leggings. I wore the 2 pair of jeans when I was in Shanghai & Busan (because it was Mother cold), and the leggings with shorts when I was in Jeju (when it was NOT foggy, and it was nice and sunny). I learnt my mistake when I went to USA in 2012 thinking it was summer (all shorts and tank tops) and upon arriving in LA, it was 12-15C. I nearly died.

Foggy & cold in Busan, as it is a port city

Now, if I went in WINTER. I had to buy heatec leggings and inner wear, boots, wool socks, heat packets, jackets, the list goes on! We live in Sunny Singapore, where the weather is always HOT or RAINY. We do not have winter clothes, and travelling to winter countries means spending about a good $300 on all these items.
In a lava cave in Jeju where it was cold & Kenneth was all garang.

IF you intend to invest in such items as you travel to winter countries every year, than yes, good for you. If not... Beg, Steal or Borrow. The only way to save on such items.

Winter Wonderland in Hokkaido, Japan!
Trust me, you'd want to invest in a good pair of socks and boots (even a hat or a scarf) because you're gonna be so miserable you cannot enjoy your vacation thoroughly. I've been to Hokkaido dead in their winter. I know what it is like when you wear 2 pairs of heatec under your jeans in -20C weather, AND it doesn't work.

Remember to always do your research and be prepared for the worst! Hope you'll enjoy Korea as much as I did!

Taken on beautiful U-do Island!


  1. Hi there, can I check if the baggage from Singapore to Korea is confirmed 23kg per piece, and maximum 2 pcs only? In addition, the carry-on baggage is only 1 pc of 5kg weight only?

    1. Hi Carin,

      May I know which airlines you're taking? It varies from airlines to airlines. If you're taking US bound airlines, they are very strict that each piece of luggage weighs 23kg or less. But usually, for Asian flights, they will allow a combined weight, not exceeding the total weight that is part of your airfare. As for carry on, it depends on which airlines too. Some allow 5kg while others allow 7kg. Let me know which airlines you're flying with and I can advice accordingly. Thanks!!!! :)

  2. Hello! Wonderful post you have here:) Just wondering for the car rental in Jeju, do they accept SG driving license or is it necessary to to get an international driving license?

    1. Hi Shimin! When I rented the car, they asked for both my international license and Singapore's licence. It's better to be prepared to have both, just in case. Besides, the international license is valid for 1 year so you can use it when you travel to other countries as well! The application and collection takes only 15 mins at AA office. In the past, we had to apply online and send photographs by post, recently, they have changed everything so it's all express! Very fast!

    2. Thanks for the info!:)

  3. That's awesome. I hope I can spend that cheap when I travel Soul. I already booked vacation rentals in Seoul and I am excited for my trip.

  4. Look for
    Cheap accommodation in Seoul
    next time, I assure you it's worth a shot