Why Seoul and why now would be the big question, right?! Well, just like billions of people, I love K-culture as seen through K-dramas. Although I’m not yet into K-pop and probably won’t be any time soon.
I am also an avid traveler and would love to visit all 195 countries in the world. Traveling to any country is always very exciting for me, but this was the first time I traveled alone. So, it was a unique and special milestone.
The planning started after I received my tax rebate, as I was actually saving up to pay taxes as a freelancer. I was quite surprised when SARS gave me a healthy rebate. Honestly, to me, this was what I call "a God moment". When you have made plans (which are good), and then God comes and makes them better.
As part of my prayer board, I wrote about traveling to another country that was not necessarily China for the year 2023. Although this didn’t happen in the Gregorian calendar, God helped me to achieve it in the Chinese Lunar Calendar, which is what most Asian countries use to celebrate their New Year. I was so excited to tick this off my prayer board. It wasn’t just about the tick; it was actually bigger than that.
This was a trip to celebrate an incredible milestone, the 29th chapter of my life. The chapter I dedicate to trusting God as much as I love him.
I plan on exercising my faith more in various areas, and this trip is one of the main acts of exercising my faith - blind faith, which might seem unnecessary to the carnal mind but is quite encouraged by God to his children across various scriptures. Here are a couple of scriptures that allude these sentiments:
”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.“ Jeremiah 29:11 NIV https://bible.com/bible/111/jer.29.11.NIV
”Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.“ Hebrews 11:1 NKJV https://bible.com/bible/114/heb.11.1.NKJV ”
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’“ Matthew 6:31 NKJV https://bible.com/bible/114/mat.6.31.NKJV
”Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.“ Mark 11:24 NKJV https://bible.com/bible/114/mrk.11.24.NKJV
I am not trying to preach a prosperity Gospel here but only the Gospel that we have authority beyond what is seen, through Christ who lives within us.
Now, I am sure you weren’t expecting a sermon. Let me tell you about all the wonders that was Seoul. My budget was R14,000 (coinciding with the amount I saved using the 52-week challenge for tax purposes).
The flights won me over. Return flights were less than 1500 CNY ~ R4000. Accommodation didn't seem too bad either, with some rooms (dorm-style) being as cheap as 200CNY ~ R530. I was considering backpacker-style traveling, but the Holy Spirit assured me to go for a one-bedroom hotel/ Airbnb.
The activities that were set in stone before l left were Lotte World Tower, Gyeongbokgung Palace (Free entrance when wearing a Hanbok), Sightseeing bus tour (a waste), Nami Island tour package (wasn’t the best but I don’t regret going) as it was the only activity outside the city center, I love nature and this activity offered this and more, it is quite far from the concrete jungle and it was refreshing to be outside the Seoul CBD for a change.
Here are free activities you can do; Visit the Namsangol Hanok Village, Gwanjang market, and Myeondong Night Market (Budget 10,000-20,000 K-Won ~ R150-R300 to try out various street foods and Korean dishes). Starfield Library and DDP (there are several activities to explore).
Here is a list of my favorite activities during the winter season. I think I would have enjoyed some of the other activities if it was a different season:
Lotte Tower/ Seoul Sky,
DDP Museum/ DDP in general,
Garden of the Morning Calm from the Nami Island tour package,
and Namsangol. I would have been perfectly fine if I didn’t do the other activities, but I had to do them to know.
I purchased a sim card with unlimited data for 35000 K- Won ~ R500. My honest take is that you don’t really need it unless you are going to places such as Nami Island. Almost every place has free wifi; I personally don’t like using free wifi, hence I didn’t feel the SIM package was a total waste.
I didn’t eat much bread but do note that Asian bread and sausages tend to be sweet, but I think when I compare it to China, their sausages were a bit more savory.
Seoul also has baked goodies and convenience stores at every corner. So if you are on a tight budget, there are always budget-friendly meals from convenience stores.
It is sometimes very difficult to be served in a Korean restaurant as Asians tend to eat in groups, and the menu accommodates such a crowd. For example, I tried to buy Korean Fried chicken. It was going for 20,000 K-Won ~ R300. I asked if I could get half, and they refused. So essentially they wanted me to buy 12 pieces of Chicken all on my own?! Hence I am a huge advocate of markets. If it wasn't for laziness, I would have gone to Gwanjang market daily.
Kimchi taste review… I personally have a problem with things that are overhyped, and for me, that’s how I felt when I tasted Kimchi. I’m sorry, my darlings, but it is not for me—not on its own anyway. I think it complements the Korean dishes well.
50,000 K-Won ~ R710 should be more than sufficient for a week-long trip when it comes to transport. I predominantly used the subway as it was accessible and usually the fastest method.
If you want to visit the Myeondong clothes market note that it closes early, but the night market starts a bit later. I am not a coffee lover, and I’m lactose intolerant, so I thought I wasn’t going to try out their lattes as much, but don’t be like me—try their lattes from day one—they were so good.
Moving from one place to the next is relatively easy and affordable. Here are some apps I used during my stay:
Nevar app (really good when it comes to directions and which transport mode might be best to use) it sometimes doesn’t show you the real-time results, so you do need to pay attention to the stop you need to take). When it comes to buses, you need to press stop if you would like for them to stop (you also need to tap your card on your way out),
Agoda - Accommodation,
Booking.com - Checking out accommodation and activities,
Klook - Activities, train rides, sim packages, and
Trip.com - Flights, checking accommodation and activities.
The big question: Did I stick to the budget, or did I go over it? Well, I unfortunately went over the budget by a staggering 178K K-Won ~2.5K rands. Quite disappointing but I honestly don't see anything I could have changed with the trip.
Here is a breakdown of How much I spent. If you would like a detailed Google Doc budget sheet, which you can use to plan your own travel adventure, please click here
Visa (Fill in Arrival card)
Flight tickets (return)*
Pre-purchased activities/ items*
K- Won 167 620
Arrival day- 22 Jan (Admin + Myeodong Night Market)
K- Won 128 000
Birthday- 23 Jan (Starfield and DDP)
K- Won 25 000
24 Jan (Sightseeing Bus- Namsangol Hanok Village and Namsan Tower)
K-won 35 000
25 Jan (Gwanjang Market , Seoul Sky, Itaewon)
K-won 45 000
26 Jan (Gyeobongkung Palace + National Folk Museum of Korea)
K-won 18 500
27 Jan (Eobi Ice Valley, Nami Island, Garden of morning calm)
K-won 35 000
28 Jan- Departure
K- Won 2100
K- Won 1 175 000
ZAR 16 500
In closing, Seoul lived up to the hype. It is definitely a must-see destination and worth every penny. I am slightly disappointed that I went over my budget but this can be excused, as it was my first solo trip and I wasn't really sure what to expect.
I would advise budgeting +- 21000K-won ~ 300 ZAR per day for meals, Accommodation depends on your taste. There are a lot of activities you can do without paying a single cent, so if you are on a tight budget do reduce the activities budget to the bare minimum i.e Hanbok rental, Seoul sky (A must-see in my opinion), Nami Island and the like just to get an opportunity to be in nature or go for a free hike to the Namsan tower. As mentioned there are several things you can do without breaking the bank.
Accommodation will be a huge spent, also note that the accommodation increases by 2-10 times on weekends so if you only have a couple of days I would recommend going there during the week. 2 days on the weekend cost the same as 4 days during the week and sometimes even more than twice the amount. This is not just one or two hotels but that seems to be the standard when it comes to accommodation in Seoul.
If I were to rate the entire trip I would give it a 9.5/10 and the 0.5 is due to the exhaustion I went through after the trip. Therefore, budget 3-5 days of recovery after such a jam-packed week of activities because trust me you are going to need to recover.
So, if you are considering Seoul it definitely comes highly recommended especially for those who love and appreciate K-culture through the lense of K-pop and K-dramas.