FUN-FOR-A-FIVER. Seoul is up there with Hong Kong and Singapore in terms of expensive cities in Asia, but there are still some great things you can do that will cost you less than a fiver!
We hung out in Seoul for a couple of weeks to discover the best value for money that can be found in a city deemed “too expensive” by most budget travellers.
1. Visit the Gyeongbokgung palace
This palace was originally constructed in 1395 but parts have been destroyed many times due to different occupations by the Japanese and also the Korean war. Restoration to its current form began in 2009 and approx 40% of the buildings have been reconstructed, however some buildings from the 19th century still stand and the grounds a certainly worth a look around.
Entry costs 3000 won per person ($3 USD) and there are tours offered in English, Japanese and Chinese throughout the day. We highly recommend taking the tour as the guides have some great stories and help you get a better understanding of the history of the palace.
Gyeongbokgung Palace Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 5. OR, Gwanghwamun Station (Seoul Subway Line 5), Exit 2.
2. Go into History Geek overload at the Korean War museum
This museum and memorial is a fascinating place to go to learn more about the wars that have plagued Korea’s history for centuries and to also get a better understanding of the most recent war in the 1950’s which divided the country into North and South, as we know it today.
It’s 3 floors contains a variety of information offered in a very interactive and fascinating way, outside there are impressive and moving memorial statues to admire or you can check out old military vehicles, aircraft and ships in the surrounding grounds. It’s the largest memorial of its kind in the world.
Admission is Free
[Subway] = Samgakji Station (Subway Lines 4, 6), Exit 12. It is a 2 min walk away from the station
[Bus] = NO. 149, 150, 151, 152, 500, 501, 504, 506, 507, 605, 750A, 750B, 751, 752 (Samgakji Station)
NO. 110B, 730, 421 (Main entrance of The War Memorial of Korea)
3. Eat Dirty Awesome Street Food in a Street Tent
There are many delicious options!
For a traditional Korean choice try Tteokbokki (떡볶이 – spicy rice cakes) can be spotted all over Korea in a variety of street stalls. Especially on weekends, a variety of vendors will set up tents along the streets of popular party areas such as Gangnam, Itaewon and Hongdae, and drunken Koreans and foreigners alike can sit down and have some dirty street food, usually washed down with a bottle of Soju (Korean vodka).
The rice cakes are covered in a spicy red pepper paste/sauce and the level of spice depends on the particular vendor. These tents are a great place to sit have a few drinks with a late night snack, and watch the “Mental” of a Friday/Saturday night!
Price: 4000 – 4500 won ($4 – $4.50), if you head away from the party districts you can find servings of Tteokbokki even cheaper.
4. Booze it up at the local convenience store!
You may think it sounds a little like “hobo drinking” to be boozing it up outside a convenience store, but in Korea it is an accepted tradition. Stores usually have tables and chairs set up either inside or outside so you can people watch as well!
Drinks in the convenience stores are much cheaper than the bars and you are not expected to buy food as well. The expectation to buy food when you buy alcohol is quite common in many bars in Korea – food and booze go hand in hand which can start to get expensive and very, very filling!
Convenience stores still have the Korean classics available: Beer, Soju and Makali and some even specialise in imported beers. So grab a bottle, find a seat and make some new friends because, trust us, you won’t be the only people there grabbing a drink or two!
Beer: standards Cass / Max / Hite 330ml bottle 14-1500 won ($1.40-$1.50)
Soju: 14-1500 won ($1.40-$1.50)
Makali: 1200 won ($1.20)
5. Declare your Love at Namsan Tower.
Namsan tower in Seoul is a massive landmark that rises high above the city.
You can either get there by walking (wear comfortable shoes, the amount of crazy Korean girls heading up in high heels and practically begging their boyfriends to carry them is quite ridiculous… and amusing) or there is also a cable car to the top but this will set you back 8000 won for a round trip. So, taking the cable car doesn’t fit into our under $5 category but we thought we’d let you know it’s there!
At the top of the hill there is an impressive view of Seoul. More uniquely, there is one of the largest collections of “love locks” in the world! Couples come here to write messages of everlasting love on the locks, then lock it to the mass of other locks and throw away the key (preferably not over the side and onto the head of an unsuspecting walker).
It’s best to pick up a lock before heading up as we couldn’t find anyone selling locks at the top and it’s much cheaper to buy in advance anyway. We picked up a padlock from a “dollar mart” type store for 2000 won or about $2 USD.
If you are not coupled up then it’s still a great place to visit!
The views of the city are the best in town (especially at night) and at 3pm most days they have a traditional Martial Arts and Dancing display which is completely free to watch and offers multilingual commentary! Note: Times can vary depending on the time of year.
Myeongdong Station (Subway Line 4) Exit 3
Go south along Toegye-ro 18-gil street to the Pacific Hotel and turn left
Walk along Toegye-ro 20 gil street until you see the Ministop
Turn right to walk along Toegye-ro 20-na-gil street
At the end of the street, you will see the stairway to the cable car, you can walk onwards and find the stairs all the way to the top!
*Approximately 10 minutes walking distance from subway
Well that’s 5DT’s Kickass things to do in Seoul for less than $5…
Did we miss anything? Is there something you personally experienced in Seoul for less than $5 that would make your top 5 list? Leave a comment we would love to hear from you!