[Updated 19 August 2020]
Most people would say that travelling to South Korea can be expensive. We've got good news for you, it doesn’t have to be that way!
Lucky for you, we’ve done our research on travelling on a budget in Seoul ? So, here's your cheat sheet to conquering 5D4N in Seoul under RM1800 (including flights and accommodation but not shopping)!
Firstly, you need to know when you’re heading to Seoul. Would the weather be an issue? We all know that the best time to visit Seoul is springtime (March to May) or autumn (Oct to Nov), but that might not necessarily be the cheapest months to get your flight tickets.If you don’t mind the heat and rainy season, you can get your flight tickets for as low as RM722 (with AirAsia) during summer, especially in July. Always remember to check booking websites like Skyscanner and Expedia for flight deals and comparisons!
We chose the dates from 19-24 July as it was the cheapest we could find for a 5D4N itinerary.
#HHWT Tip: Look for flights leaving for Seoul as early as possible, or take a red eye flight. That way, you can minimise your bookings for accommodation and maximise your time ?
Getting from the airport to Seoul
The fastest and most convenient way to get from Incheon Airport to Seoul might be via the Airport Express (AREX). It takes about 43 minutes and cost around KRW9000 (RM32). But if you take the all-stop train, it'll be more than 50% cheaper at only KRW4150 (RM15 with transit card) and it takes only a little longer about 62 minutes. Plus, it's also more convenient as you won't need to alight at Seoul station and transfer lines to your accommodation. Let's say, you are staying in Hongdae which is nearer to the airport, you'll even pay lesser for your fare.
Cost: KRW4150 (RM15)
#HHWT Tip: Google Maps don't really work well in Korea so we'd recommend using the Seoul Metro cyber station route planner or Seoul subway route planner to find the fastest and cheapest way to travel around Seoul.
Where to stay?
Seoul has a variety of accommodations that cater to every traveller's need. Be it dormitory, guesthouses, hotel or apartment, it all boils down to how much you’re willing to spend on accommodation. We'd recommend staying at ’24 Guesthouse’ or the ‘Ekonomy’ hotel chain. For an affordable price, their guesthouses offer both comfort and great location. 24 Guesthouse has chains in Hongdae, Myeongdong and Dongdaemun while Ekonomy has a chain in Myeongdong.
Credit: 24 Guesthouse Myeongdong Avenue on Facebook
Cost: From RM129 per night onAgoda (from RM64.50 per person)
Total cost (4 nights): RM258
Note: Price stated is for the month of July 2019 and for 2 people.
P.S. For more suggestions, check out our list of 12 affordable accommodations in Seoul near halal food!
Going around Seoul is not a hard task, especially after you’ve gotten a grip of the public transport system (which is extremely cheap!). Whether you are taking the bus, subway or taxi, getting a T-money card would make your journey much easier. All you need to do is purchase them from any convenience store and reload as necessary, and you’ll be good to go! A trip on the Seoul subway starts from KRW1250 (RM4.50) Read more here.
Cost: KRW2500 (RM9, top up as needed).
#HHWT Tip: Towards the end of your stay, avoid reloading more than KRW50000 (RM175) so that you can make your refund easily.
Staying connected with 4G pocket WiFi
We recommend getting a pocket WiFi instead of 4G SIM card as you can share it with your travel buddies. The pocket WiFi from Klook can connect up to 3 devices!
Reserve your pocket WiFi in advance on Klook and pick it up the moment you arrive at Incheon Airport (T1 and T2). No worries about not having enough data because you can enjoy unlimited 4G WiFi coverage across Korea at just RM9/day.
#HHWT Tip: Use this promo code to get discounts off your first purchase on Klook: TRAVELHHWTMY (MYR15 off)!
Cost: RM22.50 (per person for 5 days)
Relive history at Gyeongbokgung Palace (2.5h)
- You simply do not say that you’ve been to South Korea without visiting their majestic palaces and Gyeongbokgung is the most majestic!
- Admission fees are KRW3000 (RM10.50 per entry) and if you come here on a Wednesday or if you're donning a hanbok, it's free ?
Credit: Victor Chan on Facebook
- While you’re visiting the palace, do catch the royal guard-changing ceremony for FREE! It happens at 10am and 2pm daily except for Tuesdays. Do remember to arrive early to get a good spot!
Cost: RM10.50 per person
Step into the past at Bukchon Hanok Village (1-2h)
- After a cultural immersion at the palace, drop by Bukchon Hanok Village – a traditional residential area of nobility during the Joseon period.
- Part of the fun is getting lost in the tiny alleys as you admire the hanoks (traditional Korean houses) and their intricate tiled roofs ☺️
- As much as the village is a tourist attraction, this is a residential area so do try to keep your voice down!
Lunch at Halal Kitchen (1-2h)
- Stop for lunch at Halal Kitchen, one of the newer halal Korean restaurants in Seoul owned by a Korean Muslim.
- The eatery has only 2 items – Samgyetang and Bulgogi Jeongol. We recommend the latter – thinly shaved meat marinated overnight in a sweet and savoury sauce, served on a stove-top griddle.
- The beef is really tender and the rice cakes, mushrooms, and japchae were perfect to go with the beef. Just the right portion for two ?
- Halal status: Muslim-owned, prayer facilities in establishment
Cost: KRW17,000 per person (RM60)
Stroll along Cheonggyecheon Stream (1-2h)
- Once covered by an elevated highway, Cheonggyecheon was revived into a beautiful stream running through downtown Seoul.
- The stream is a hip tourist spot and a popular hangout area for youngsters. Whether it’s during the day or late evening, you’ll see people strolling around!
- We recommend walking along the stream from Gwanghwamun Square (near Gyeongbokgung) all the way to Dongdaemun to soak in the atmosphere.
Pose for the 'gram at Dongdaemun Design Plaza (1h)
- With its sleek curves and unique architecture, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is the star of popular shopping district Dongdaemun.
- Designed by famous architect Zaha Hadid, every corner here pretty much makes for an Insta-worthy spot ?
- It’s not just the exterior of the building that’s stunning, it’s interiors and the spiral staircase, in particular, are worthy spots to spice up your Instagram feed.
Enjoy Muslim-friendly street snacks at Dongdaemun
- Since you just had a hearty (and pricey) lunch just a few hours ago, we recommend going light for dinner.
- The best part is, you don't have to worry about forking out too much as street snacks in Korea are really affordable!
- Look out for Muslim-friendly snacks like Hotteok (Korean sweet pancake), Odeng (fishcake), Gyeran bbang (egg bread). The snacks usually cost around KRW1000-3000 (RM3.50-10.50).
- If you need something a little more filling, head over to the Dongdaemun Grilled Fish alley, where you can choose from over 10 fish eateries. We recommend trying Japanese Spanish Mackerel and saba fish! The prices of dishes here start from around KRW7000 (RM25) but it's a big enough portion to share with friends.
- Halal status: As the street snacks and seafood are not halal-certified, do dine at your own discretion.
Cost: RM20 (on average)
[P.S. Looking for more street snacks in Seoul? Check out our list of 15 Muslim-friendly snacks in Seoul you have to try!]
Experience late-night shopping at Dongdaemun (2h)
- Who says you have to shop while at Dongdaemun? Simply soaking in the atmosphere of 24/7 shopping here is an experience in itself!
- The many floors of Migliore, Doota Mall, APM Mall, Dongdaemun Market (and more!) come alive at night.
- If you do decide to do some shopping, there are wholesale discounts too so you and your buddies can buy in bulk and enjoy cheaper prices ?
Cost: Free (shopping excluded ?)
Total cost for Day 1: RM90.50
Visit the National Museum of Korea (2-3h)
- If you love history and want to know more about Korea, head to their national museum and spend a good few hours there!
- The 6-storey museum has over 140,000 national relics and artifacts and you can experience both tradition and modernity here.
- Besides looking at the exhibits, you can also wander around the sculpture garden and open plaza.
- What's great about visiting the museum is that it won't even cost you a single cent ?
Do your prayers at Seoul Central Mosque (30min - 1h)
- Just a short train ride away from the museum is Itaewon, where you'd find the Seoul Central Mosque and many halal eateries!
- Opened in 1976, this mosque is one of 8 mosques in Korea but it’s the only one serving the Seoul area.
- There’s nothing like setting foot in a mosque in a new place to make you feel a sense of relief and belonging to meet the local Muslim community. We highly recommend performing your prayers here ☺️
Have lunch at a halal Korean restaurant (1h)
- Savouring authentic halal Korean food is a must when you're in Itaewon and there are 2 eateries we'd recommend - Makan Halal and Eid.
- The prices at Makan Halal range from around KRW8000-12000. You can get a yummy bowl of bulgogi bibimbap for KRW8000 (RM28) while their mouthwatering Korean-style braised chicken stew is KRW10000 (RM35).
- Alternatively, you can head over to Eid Halal Korean Food where prices are around KRW8000-12000 too.
- Try their delicious bulgogi (KRW10000), samgyetang (Korean ginseng chicken, KRW12000) or jjim dak (braised chicken).
Cost: KRW10000 (on average, RM35)
[P.S. For more halal Korean eateries in Seoul, check out our list of 9 restaurants which are sure to satisfy your cravings!]
Chill out at Namsan Park (2-3h)
- Namsan Park and the N Seoul Tower are one of Seoul's most popular icons which you can also visit on a budget.
- Here's a valuable tip: Instead of taking the cable car up to Namsan Park, take the Namsan Sunhwan shuttle bus from these stations instead: Chungmuro/Dongguk Univ. (No. 2), Seoul Station/Itaewon/Hangangjin (No. 3), Myeongdong/Chungmuro (No. 5)
- The fare costs just KRW1000 (RM3.50) with T-money card!
Believe it or not - you don't have to go up the N Seoul Tower's observatory to get a view of Seoul's skyline. The view from Namsan Park itself is just as breathtaking ?
- Even the famous area with the love locks are located outside the tower, so they are free to see!
Cost: KRW1000 (RM3.50)
Shop till you drop at Myeongdong (2-3h)
- After taking in that breathtaking view of Seoul, take bus no. 5 (KRW1000) to the popular shopping district of Myeongdong.
- If you’re a skincare junkie, you’ll love the endless number of skincare stores here! While you might be overwhelmed by multiple outlets of the same brand, these outlets generally have the same product range, so keep your eyes peeled for the best deals.
- P.S. Don’t be shy to ask for samples, so you can snag some freebies ?
- Another tip when shopping here is to look out for 1+1 deals on skincare and makeup from shops like Etude House, Missha, The Face Shop, Innisfree, Nature Republic and so on. Check out our comprehensive guide on shopping in Myeongdong for more tips.
- #HHWT Tip: Bring along your passport to enjoy tax-free purchases! Some stores like UNIQLO and LINE will deduct the taxes during payment but most shops require you to claim the tax refund at the airport.
Munch on street food in Myeongdong (1h)
- Besides being famous for shopping, Myeongdong is also a street food haven!
- Look out for Muslim-friendly snacks like Gyeran Bbang (egg bread), Taiyaki (pastry with different fillings – red bean, sweet potato, etc) and Hotteok (Korean sweet pancake).
- Halal status: Do note that food here is not halal-certified. While there are halal signs, these are not official so we recommend that you dine at your own discretion. If you’re unsure, having seafood or vegetarian food items is your best bet!
- If you need to fill your tummy, we recommend heading to Kampungku which specialises in Malaysian and Korean cuisine. The prices here range from KRW7000-9000. Their Korean Fried Chicken is highly recommended!
Cost: RM35 (on average)
Total cost for Day 2 (excluding shopping): RM77
Take a day trip out to Nami Island (6-7h)
- Spend the day by taking a respite from bustling Seoul city and head to Nami Island!
- There are many tours that'll bring you straight from Seoul to Nami Island but we'd recommend taking public transport as it's cheaper and you'll have more freedom to move around too.
- Take the subway to Gapyeong on the Gyeongchun line. The fare should cost you around KRW2450 (RM8.60). Then from Gapyeong, take a taxi to Gapyeong Wharf (KRW5000/RM17.60) then pay for the entrance fee to Nami Island and round-trip ferry (KRW13000/RM46).
Cost of getting to Nami Island (per person in a group of 2): RM63.40
- Immerse in nature as you stroll around the island. If you prefer to cycle, there are bicycles for rent too but we suggest walking to experience nature at its best.
- Nami Island is beautiful in all seasons. If you're here during the peak of autumn, make sure you check out the gingko tree lane!
- Remember Winter Sonata, the hit drama back in 2002? Drop by Gongsaengwon Garden for the famous Winter Sonata statue!
- #HHWT Tip: Do bring some snacks to fill your tummy. There is a halal restaurant called Dongmoon here but as prices are quite steep (from KRW10000 onwards), so we suggest saving your stomach for a meal later ?
- There’s a prayer room with ablution facilities located on the 2nd floor of Baplex if you would like to do your prayers.
Savour halal dakgalbi (1h)
- Located within walking distance from the Gapyeong Wharf, Namisum Chuncheon Kko Kko Dakgalbi is one of the only 2 places in Korea which serves halal dakgalbi (Korean spicy stir-fried chicken).
- If the thought of perfectly marinated chicken meat mixed with gochujang (Korean red chilli paste) and sizzling on a hot pan appeals to you, then THIS is like a dream come true.
- There are 2 dakgalbi sets here which cost 8,000 KRW (RM28) or 11,000 KRW (RM39).
- Halal status: Halal meat available, reservation required for halal menu, alcohol served in establishment
Cost: from KRW8000 (RM28)
Be amazed by the Starfield Library (1h)
- After that satisfying meal, take a cab back to Gapyeong then hop on the subway to Samseong station where you'll find the Starfield COEX Mall. Fare: KRW4750 (RM16.70)
- COEX Mall is the largest underground mall in Asia and it's home to what is probably the most Instagrammable place in Seoul - the Starfield Library!
- This free and open-air library boasts a collection of 50,000 books and magazines although there is only a small section of English books.
- But with such picturesque backdrops, you won’t want to miss capturing some picture-perfect moments here ?
- #HHWT Tip: To make full use of the natural light passing through the ceiling, head here before sunset!
Stock up on convenience store snacks (30 min)
- As you've already had a fairly late and hearty lunch earlier, we recommend stocking up on Muslim-friendly convenience store snacks for a light supper.
- We recommend getting items like Tuna/Kimchi samgak kimbap (rice wrapped in seaweed, KRW1000) and Binggrae banana milk (KRW1300). Check out our full list of Muslim-friendly convenience store snacks in Korea to find out what you should look out for when buying!
- Here's a hack we got from one of our readers: get instant rice and ready-to-eat hard-boiled eggs (KRW1900) from the convenience store and you're all set for your meal ?
Cost (on average): KRW5000 (RM17.60)
Total cost for Day 3: RM125.70
See Seoul from a new perspective at Bukhansan National Park (3-5h)
- Bukhansan National Park is one of Seoul’s national parks and is one of the most popular getaways from the hustle and bustle of the city for locals and visitors alike.
- The park has a range of hiking trails available that cater to different experience levels, so whether you’re a complete beginner or an expert trekker, you’ll have a great time there!
- Do remember to wear proper and suitable shoes, and bring along a water bottle and light snacks for your trip as there are no Muslim-friendly eateries within the park.
- P.S. Bukhansan is popular year-round but especially during the spring and autumn. If you’re not a big fan of crowds, we also recommend attempting a trek during a weekday!
Admire street art at Ihwa Mural Art Village (1-2h)
- We’ve probably all heard of streets filled with murals but Seoul takes it a notch higher by dedicating an entire neighbourhood to murals!
- The village underwent a make-over in 2006 as the government wanted to revitalise the old neighbourhood.
- With the help of local artists, interesting and colourful mural paintings and mosaics decorated the walls of the village and staircases, turning the area into a treasure trove of Instagram-worthy spots.
- There’s a fair bit of uphill walking here as the village is located at the top of Naksan Mountain, so do wear comfortable shoes!
- It’s also respectful to note that the area is home to a largely elderly population who value their privacy and peace, so do keep your volumes down while exploring the area.
Refuel with a delicious meal at Kampungku (1h)
- Kampungku serves authentic Korean and Malaysian food. The menu options are mouthwatering and include some of the best both countries have to offer ?
- From local dishes like Bulgogi, Sweet Crispy Chicken, Korean Fried Chicken, and Kimchi Fried Rice to Asian favourites like nasi lemak, fried rice, tom yam and chicken satay – they definitely have something for everyone!
- They also have a mart where you can get halal-certified meat and Korean products like seaweed, honey tea, red ginseng and more ☺️
- Halal status: Muslim-owned, prayer facilities in establishment
Cost: KRW7000-9000 for ala carte dishes (RM25-32)
Go on a free tour at Seoul Skygarden (2h)
- If there's one thing that budget travellers absolutely love, it's free tours! Lucky for you, the city council organises many free walking tours. We recommend going on the Seoullo 7017 Night Course.
- Resembling the famous High Line in New York, Seoullo 7017 or Seoul Skygarden is an elevated park stretching from Seoul Station to Namdaemun. It once used to be part of an elevated road!
- The 2-hour tour will let you see a fantastic night view of Seoul and bring you to other sites like the Hanyangdoseong (Seoul city wall) and Sungnyemun Gate. Make your reservation here.
Have a quick meal at Champ Kitchen (1h)
- After all that walking, head over to Champ Kitchen near exit 6 of Sookmyung Women's University station for a quick bite.
- This unassuming eatery sells tteokbokki (KRW5000), Jjajangmyeon (KRW6000), handmade rice balls (KRW4000) and Kimchi fried rice (KRW7000), with affordable prices too.
- Halal status: Muslim-owned
Cost (on average): KRW6000 (RM21)
Grocery shopping at Lotte Mart (1-2h)
- To end off your day, drop by Lotte Mart for some grocery shopping!
- You’ll find seaweed in a whole range of flavours (even green tea seaweed!), kimchi (you can keep this for up to 3 days without refrigeration) and our favourite Korean beverage – banana milk ?
- While there are halal-certified products, you can use Google translate to check the ingredients of other products to check if it’s Muslim-friendly. We recommend that you purchase them at your own discretion.
- The best part is that the Lotte Mart opens till around 12am!
Total cost for Day 4: RM53
Stroll around Ewha Womans University (2h)
- It's already your last day in Seoul ? Start your day by taking a nice stroll at Ewha Womans University.
- With beautifully curated gardens, sprawling green spaces and neoclassical buildings, the gorgeous campus is an attraction on its own.
- There are many spots for photo opportunities too! Make sure you head to the famous steps and walkway to snap a photo ?
Last-minute shopping at Ewha Womans University Fashion Street (1-2h)
- One of the best things about shopping here is that prices are cheaper as shops cater to university students.
- Commonly known as Edae – this is a one-stop shopping street for everything a woman needs. Quality shoes, bags, accessories, clothes, socks and skincare at affordable prices with smaller crowds as compared to Myeongdong.
- Prices here are affordable - you can get clothes from just KRW5000 (RM18) and bags are prices at KRW10000 (RM35).
- Don't worry, there are fashion items for men too!
Lunch at Jyoti Restaurant (1h)
- Before making your way to the airport, head over to Jyoti Restaurant near Sinchon station to refuel.
- Get their Lunch sets for KRW10000 (RM35) or KRW14000 (RM49) and you'll get rice with naan, 2 dishes and a drink. Sounds like a great deal if you ask us!
- Halal status: Halal ingredients used, alcohol served in establishment
Cost: from RM35
Make your way to Incheon Airport (1h)
- It's time for your return flight ?
- Take the all-stop train from Sinchon station to Incheon International Airport. No need to head to Seoul station for the AREX as Sinchon is situated closer to the airport. And it's cheaper via the all-stop train too!
- There are prayer rooms at Incheon Airport too, so you can perform your prayers conveniently.
Cost: KRW4050 (RM14.20)
Total cost for Day 5: RM49.20
Estimated cost breakdown (per person, excluding shopping):
- Flight = RM852
- Accommodation = RM258
- Transportation = RM77 (Estimated 15 trips in total + T-money card)
- All-stop train to Seoul (Day 1) = RM15
- Pocket WiFi (from Klook) = RM22.50
- Day 1 = RM90.50
- Day 2 = RM77
- Day 3 = RM125.70
- Day 4 = RM53
- Day 5 = RM49.20
ESTIMATED TOTAL COST = RM1,619.90
This leaves you about RM180 just in case you want to add some attractions or theme parks into your itinerary. Plus, if you're a shopaholic, you might also want to bring more cash to feed your retail therapy ? But even with shopping, it's hard to go over RM2500, which is still a reasonable budget if you ask us!
So, Seoul on a budget sounds really doable, right? With plenty of free things to do, transport hacks, affordable halal food, and shopping, your Seoul experience doesn't have to be expensive. Time to plan your itinerary and SHARE this with your travel buddies!