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The basics
South Korea: Destination Guides

Experiencing Seoul on a student budget

In Seoul for a short trip? Or studying abroad? Check out these money-saving tips here!

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Let’s face it, studying abroad isn’t cheap, especially if the exchange rate is particularly bad during certain periods. Don’t fret. We’ve curated these tips to help you enjoy all that this wonderful country has to offer without breaking the bank, quite a few of them are completely free!


If you’re not studying abroad, and are only in Korea, then there are some hotels in Seoul that cost about RM 100 per night (all you need to do is book in advance or keep an eye out for discounts on sites such as Expedia or trivago.


Free phone calls

In the unfortunate case that you’ve lost your handphone in the middle of the bustling city. Don’t panic. Head over to any of Seoul’s major subway stations. There are “giant smartphones” (pictured above) where you can make any domestic call within Korea for free. Pick up the phone and make the call.


Free korean lessons

Photo credit: seafaringwoman

This is especially useful for international students, as not all Korean universities offer language lessons for free. Of course prior to your study abroad, you would have done your homework and picked up a few essential phrases and vocabulary online, but nothing compared to face-to-face interaction and being able to use the language immediately and have an expert correct you. Asian languages are trickier with the different tones and certain nuances that a local would be able to explain to you in detail. There are plenty of Korean language classes in traditional classroom settings run by volunteers and occasionally (if you’re lucky) by professional teachers. Some of these places include: Myeongdong Language Exchange Group, Hannam/Itaewon Global Village Center and Korea Cultural Foundation.


Free Wifi

Korea is a Wifi heaven. There is hardly any place where you can’t stay connected, from train stations to hipster cafes and even traditional family-run eateries. This is fantastic city has an approximate 10,000 free public Wifi zones! You don’t even need to login or request for a password. Simply select ‘Seoul Wifi’ and you’re good-to-go.



Free concierge service

Photo credit: Visit Korea

One of the most tourist-friendly cities, The Korea Tourism Organisation have actually placed tour guides in popular tourist haunts. For instance, in Myeongdong, Dongdaemun you can see these tour guide using a red vest over their regular clothes to indicate that you can approach them and ask for directions, you can even get them to help you plan your route for the day.  You could also call 1330 from any phone and you will be directed to operators who will help you with any queries that you might have- from bus schedules, food recommendations, activities to do in Korea or even where you can get concert tickets for Big Bang or any other popular Korean band. Don’t worry, all of these operators and tour guides can speak English!


This service is not only limited to Seoul, but for all cities in Korea.


Free professional city tours

Say you have a weekend free, you’re done with all of your assignments and are looking forward to exploring this city. There are many walking tours that are available at no charge. These tours are conducted by professional guides and are the best people to ask about the city’s most interesting tourists attractions. From places such as Gyeongbokgung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine to Namsan Park and Hanok Village. Tours are conducted daily and are in Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese. There’s no need for you to reserve, just walk in and have fun!


Free tours conducted by students

If you want to make more friends during your stay as an international student here, you can go on free tours conducted by Korean college student volunteers instead. Like you, they’re keen to introduce their culture to foreigners and make friends. Check out sites such as Meteor Youth, FreeTourSeoul, and SeoulMate. These tours are more laid-back and you get to practice your Korean skills with local and since they’re fellow students, they’re an excellent source of information!


Free makeup samples

For those of you who are makeup aficionados, Korean cosmetics are one of the best in the world, from packaging, the kinds of ingredients used, the range is mind-boggling and they’re really affordable! In Korea, all of the cosmetics shops give out free samples, even if you don’t buy anything. How cool is that? One of the best places where you can find almost all of the popular brands is in Myeongdong. There are also a lot of offers and discounts, so it’s worth dropping by if your collection needs an update and even if it doesn’t, you still get free samples! Furthermore, I was surprised when I went there myself, but practically all of the sales staff can speak English and some could even speak Chinese and Japanese!


Free food samples

Giving out samples is a marketing tactic that the Koreans firmly believe in. It makes sense, once you’ve tried a product and found that you liked it, you’re definitely going back to the store to purchase that product. In major supermarkets such as Lotte, HomePlus and E-mart, they offer free food samples for you to try. From Korean dumplings, kimchi, bulgogi, galbi, japchae, fruits and so many more! Just walk up to any of the booths and take one sample. Some samples are inevitably more popular than others as they’re more expensive. For instance, bulgogi samples are really popular and you might have to brave the crowd to get one.



Free alcohol refill bars

If you want to kick back and have a drink or two with your friends, some bars provide free alcohol refills. In Hongdae, bars such as ‘Ssada! Maekju!’ and ‘Makgeolli Salon’ have free refills for draft beers at RM20/person, soju at RM15/person, and makkeoli (rice wine) at RM14/person.


Get discount coupons

Before you leave for Korea, print out some of the promotions and discount coupons specially for foreigners. Visit these links and print out those coupons.


Get T-Money or Seoul City Pass Plus

Photo credit: Visit Korea

The T-Money is a card that you can use to pay for fares in subways, taxis, buses and even at convenience stores. T-money offers discounted fares for public transport, fares are KRW 100 cheaper compared to when you pay in cash. The card costs KRW 2,500 but you can refund the remaining balance for a fee of KRW 500. Seoul is very well-connected; you don’t normally need a taxi to get around the city. Most places are accessible by train and bus- you just might need to walk a little bit.


Food is cheaper in non-touristy areas

Places like Myeongdong and Dongdaemun are immensely among tourists, so food prices tend to be a little higher. Walk out of the city and check out any small eateries or places that have more local students, these are usually more affordable. Street food is also an equally delicious and cheap option. Towns near universities such as Edae and Hongdae have lower food prices too.


Have fun exploring all that Seoul and Korea has to offer!


Want to study abroad? Check out the courses available here!