Cost of living in Seoul, Korea
If you are visiting or moving to Korea for the very first time, then you will find the information below very helpful. I have written this article keeping Seoul in mind but if you are visiting some other city or province this information would still be helpful to you to give you a fair idea about living in Korea. Apart from accommodation, the cost of living for food, travelling, maintenance is almost the same across various cities in South Korea.
Note: If you want to learn about the Cost of living in Korea for the year 2012 then we recommend that you read this post – Cost of living in Korea for 2012.
The Cost of living is giving below in three currencies – Rupees (India), Won (Korea) and Dollars (America).
The Cost of Living in Seoul Korea can broadly be divided into:
- Deposit – Rs. 2 lacs / 5 Million Won approx ($5000)
- Monthly Rent – Rs. 25,000 / 700,000 Won per month approx ($700)
- Winter – Heater / Gas / Electricity / Water – Rs. 2,000 / 50,000 Won per month approx ($50)
Food and Grocery
- If you cook at home – Rs. 8000 / 200,000 Won per month approx ($200)
- If you eat outside – Rs 20,000 / 400,000 Won per month approx ($500)
Travelling using public transport
- If you travel by subway or bus – Rs. 3600 / 90,000 won per month (including weekend travelling) ($90)
- Local calls using Mobile – Rs. 900 / 23,000 Won per month ($23)
- International Calling cards – Rs. 600 / 15,000 won per month ($15)
- PC to Phone – Rs. 800 / 20,000 won for 3 – 4 months.
- Internet – Rs. 500 / 13,000 Won per month
So per month you would be spending approx – Rs. 40000 / 1000,000 Won per month. ($1000)
Accommodation (and maintenance): The cost of accommodation depends upon many a factors – whether you are staying alone or with family, location of the house, room sharing etc.
For budget hotels or cheap accommodation in South Korea you can read our detailed post on - Cheap and Budget Accommodation in Korea.
If you are staying alone in an officetel or a studio apartment then your monthly rent can come to – 300,000 – 350,000 won per month ($300 – $350). For certain officetel you need not pay any maintenance like electricity, water, gas, heater separately. It is all inclusive (including dinner). But since it is occupied mostly by Korean students for studying you would not be allowed to invite your friends over or talk inside the room.
If you are sharing your room then your monthly rent as well as maintenance can come down to – 350,000 – 500,000 won per month. You are likely to share your room with a Korean family, Korean students or some other foreigner. Maintenance and food is separate but it will be shared between the room-mates.
If you are staying with your family then your monthly rent will be minimum 700,000 won per month ($700). Maintenance separate.
Alternatively you can post your requirements for an apt/room sharing on Craigslist and you will have people contacting you directly.
The cost of accommodation may vary as per location. Places which are 40-50 minutes distance via Subway trains in Seoul would charge you lesser rent as compared to places in the proximity of Seoul Metropolitan area.
Deposit (Key Money) - Except for officetel, for other apartment or studio you would be required to pay Key Money or deposit before you sign the lease. The key money / deposit could range anywhere between 2 Million won to 5 Million won ($5000).
Furniture – Most of the studio or apartment are sometimes furnished, but you can check for the following things before you accept the offer
- Bed with blankets
- Washing machine
- Gas stove for cooking
- Chair and desk
- Room heater facility
- Rice Cooker
Officetel are normally furnished with a bed, chair and desk, refrigerator. They may share a common kitchen, bathroom and washing machine.
Water – Water is a bit hard in Korea so some of you may not find it suitable for drinking. You may chose to boil it before drinking or use mineral water which is approx. 600 – 800 won (less than a dollor, Rs. 25 – 35 per bottle in a department store) for a 2 litre bottle.
Food – Certain food items like milk, bread, butter, jam, yoghurt, corn flakes, ketchup, tea, coffee, noodles, egg, raw chicken, Korean rice, onion, potato, fruits and vegetables are easily available in Korean department store. If you need to do shopping for Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Middle Eastern Grocery items then you need to visit the Foreign Shop and Marhaba at Itaewon. You might not get everything but you would get many Indian spices, pulses and food items for cooking. There is also a Nepal Street in Dongdaemun. Dongdaemun is considered as mini Nepal as it has many Nepali shops and restaurants.
There are many Indian Restaurants in Korea but they are a bit expensive. Other eateries like Mc Donalds, Burger King, KFC, Pizza hut, Paris Baguette, Papa Jones, TGI Friday, Subway, Quiznoss, Sunshine Kababs, Lotteria and many other burger, pizza, hotdog and kabab joints are commonly found in Korea. Eating in any of these eateries can set you back by approx 4000 – 5000 won per head. And sorry no vegetarian food available. Most of the food items would contain beef or pork but you will get chicken items too in any of these outlets easily.
If you are a vegetarian / vegan then read our post on Can Vegetarians / Vegans survive in Korea
Travelling – Public Transport is highly efficient in Korea. From Subway lines to buses you can chose anything for your daily mode of transportation. All you need is a T-Money card to travel. T-Money Card is widely accepted in buses, subway trains, cabs and taxies, Seven Eleven shops, Public telephone booths and many other places. T-Money card is available in any Seven Eleven shop for 3000 Won which you need to reload with money from time to time as per your requirement.
- Subway – http://www.smrt.co.kr/Train/Subwaymap/Eng/Subwaymap.jsp
- Seoul Bus Routes – http://bus.congnamul.com/SeoulRouteWebApp/view_english/map.jsp (works on internet explorer)
Communication – International Calling Cards are easily available at various convenience stores in Korea. But it is commonly found in shops that are run by non-koreans (foreigners). Shops selling calling cards would generally have a board or banner with the words International Calling Cards printed in bold. This card is like a scratch card. It has a Card No. which you will have to use for making International Calls from a public phone or your cell phone. The card has around 110 calling minutes and are available from various companies for various denominations. Sky and Very Good are amongst the commonly used cards. Other economical option is to use VOIP (PC to Phone) services which works out much cheaper than calling cards.
Doctors – You will find English speaking doctors mostly at Haebangchon and Itaewon, but you will find English Speaking doctors in other areas too. Look for International clinic when you visit Korea. And it is important to have a health insurance else a visit to a doctor could be very expensive.
E commerce – Internet is the fastest in Korea as compared to any other country in the world. And Korea is very tech or net savvy. Ecommerce is a big business in Korea and you can shop most of your items from G Market – http://www.gmarket.co.kr/index_eng.asp. But to use this website you need to have your Alien Registration Card and a cell phone.
Drinking and partying - Most of the clubs will have free entry for foreigners in Hongdae (Hongik University) area. Where as in other areas like Gangnam they might ask for some cover charge entry. Beer and Soju would cost anywhere between 2000 won to 3000 won per draft ($2 – $3).
Alien Registration Card – Every foreigner after landing in Korea is required to apply for Alien Registration Card. This card enables you to open a bank account, procure a phone and do other important activities in Korea. You need to visit the Korean Immigration office with your passport, employment agreement, passport size photo, and 10,000 won for stamping.
Do not forget to carry a Universal Travel Charger / Adapter plug for charging your laptop.
If you have any specific question about South Korea then you can post us your query on our Frequently Asked Questions about Korea page. But make sure you read the queries posted by others before your post your query.
If you need more information about Moving to Korea then read all the pages listed in that section.
Please note: For this post we have considered 1000 won equivalent to $1 for easy calculation.