How I spent SGD1600 for 12 days in Korea

Hi world! From my instagram, I am sure many of you already know that I went Korea this January. So right now, I will be doing a guide on how I traveled Korea with just 1.6K for 12 days and I’ll be sharing my itinerary . Please note that the 1.6k is inclusive of accommodation, flights, transports, food, activities and shopping aka everything.

So yes, I traveled Korea in this January because I just want to see snow. I know it is quite funny la but yes I have never seen snow before so it is sort of one of my to-dos in my bucket list. As for why korea? We actually wanted to go Harbin because of the magnificent snow festival and also, I had traveled Korea once back in 2012 but Korea came into the picture because Nic randomly suggested it and I thought why not go Korea again because I went there in Spring last time. And can winter sonata abit HAHAHAHA. So we decided to go Korea instead. Honestly, I don’t think January is the best time to go Korea because IT IS DAMN FREAKING COLD. It’s always below 4-5 degrees and highest temperature in the day can be only -7 degree. SO FORGET ABOUT DRESSING TO KILL BUT DRESSING TO SAVE YOUR ASS. I worn 2 layers of long john, hoodies and on top of it, I worn another layer of pullovers and windbreaker.  It was so cold that I refused to take photos with my iPhone because I need to remove my gloves (sorry la budget dont want to buy gloves compatible with touchscreens) and I actually bought more heat pads on top of what I brought from Singapore. And the sun sets pretty early (around 4-5pm). But I guess it was all worthy for the beautiful snow and skiing adventure.

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Sidetrack for a while, #buttertips

From my personal experience, the best time to go Korea is actually mid April- early May because it’s Spring and Spring is awesome because the weather allows you to layer up your clothes enough just not to look like ba-zhang (dumpling in hokkien) or sweat and all the flowers are blooming so you can spam ootd and the sun sets late (around 8-9pm) which means you can do alot more stuffs but actually not valid because Korea have alot of things to do even at night (so dont worry even if you are going in winter) Oh and girls, prepare to burst your wallet because you are in the right place at the right time! The clothes selling in that season is so pretty and probably ahead of the trends in Singapore. OK BACK. SO LETS START!

1) Get the right ticket

Right meaning that it must be affordable and reaching the destination at the right time. You don’t wanna land in a country at night and waste one day flying. ALWAYS USE SKYSCANNER FIRST TO CHECK OUT THE RATE. So you scan and choose properly. Some can be rather misleading eg really cheap price but got to transit twice. Ain’t got no time for that so be careful when it comes to choosing your flight. Next, GO DIRECTLY TO THE FLIGHT WEB TO BOOK YOUR TICKETS. DON’T RISK BOOKING VIA AGENTS/MIDDLE MAN BECAUSE YOU DON’T WANT TO RUIN YOUR TRIP JUST IN CASE ANY PROBLEMS POPPED OUTIt will definitely be slightly cheaper but my advise will be DON’T RISK IT. Even though I am one that will always go for the cheapest opinion but when it comes to flights NO WAY I AM GONNA DO THAT because you got to think, the airline is not responsible for any issues because you didn’t book from them and it’s not easy to find those agents because they virtually exist but they do not have a counter in the airport and there might be a lot of payment complications and maybe fraud case? Yes, I am being very very skeptical about this and I discourage anybody from using that platform to buy flight tickets.

So I manage to get a return air ticket from CHINA EASTERN AIRLINE for only SGD 559.5. I know alot of you will be asking why not Scoots, Airasia? Because not all budget airlines are cheap and commercial airline can be cheaper than budget airline. That’s why you gotta skyscan first! I remember the time when I am purchasing my ticket, Scoots was the most expensive (ard 730) and Airasia was ard 680? Even though Scoots provided a direct flight but nah 730 is no go for the cheapo me. We gotta transit at KL if we took Airasia and still paying up to 680?! So again no go! So we decided to go with China Eastern Airline which is only 559.5SGD, transiting at Shanghai and reaching Incheon in the morning, SO MUCH MORE comfortable than budget airline because there is meals provided (included in the 599.5 we paid), in-flight entertainments like movies and also pillows and blankets given for the 7 hours flight.

2) Get a shelter

 I don’t know about you guys but I personally think that you don’t have to spend alot on accommodation because it’s just a place for you to house your luggage, bathe and sleep. It’s not like you gonna spend your whole day there so when I look for accommodation, I will go for hostel/guesthouse. As long as it’s clean, affordable and convenient, I am pretty cool with it. So I choose Duri House and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. I REALLY REALLY REALLY ENJOY MY STAY HERE. And I have so many reasons that I think I need to bulletpoint.

  1. Affordable. One night costs 45000krw(50SGD) for 2 persons so it will only be around 25 dollars per person. In total, I only spend 250 in accomodation for 10 nights which is okay to me.
  2. Convenient. It’s just a few step away from the subway station, Gyeongbukgung. (Line 2, orange line) And there is also airport express #6011(cost 10000KRW) that alights right in front of the street.
  3. Even though it is a guesthouse, every room has its own bathroom aka DONT NEED SHARE TOILET!
  4. Super well-facilitated.There’s water heater!! SUPER ESSENTIAL DURING WINTER!! Hair dryer, towel, toothpaste, shampoo, body soap all provided! There is a shared fridge along the common corridor so you can actually put the kimchi you bought there so its freshness can be retained. Wifi provided too! Sometimes the host, Mrs Yim will knock in our door and offer us snacks.
  5. Hanok-styled guesthouse (traditional korean house) so we get to experience charcoal heater on the floor in winter, sleeping on the traditional korean mattress and sitting on the floor at home (what you usually see in korean drama)
  6. AWESOME HOST! Mrs Yim is really one of the best hosts ever. She cleaned our room and toilet everyday. You know how we know about it, because we don’t fold our mattress and we came back after a long day, the mattress was folded nicely and clothes are nicely hanged. And there was this day who I just put aside my smelly sock at one corner of the room so that my whole luggage wont stink and guess what?! I came back, my socks was missing and the next day,  it was placed nicely on the sleeve all smelling good! This is when I realized she actually washed my sock and really pays attention to little details that make her customer feel welcomed. Also, Mrs Yim help us alot on our skiing adventures.She actually recommended which skiing resorts to go and helped us with the booking of shuttle buses(even drawing out a map)and helped us get discounts! She can’t really speak good english but it’s still understandable.
  7. FOOD FOOD FOOD FOOD EVERYWHERE! BBQ, SEAFOOD STEW, BEERS, FAMILY MART, PARIS BAGUETTE etc. You named it, you have it.

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So how to go about booking? Just visit http://www.durihouse.kr to reserve. And all the photos on the website are true(not exaggerated/photoshop/fake)

3)Getting around

Seoul is generally easy to explore around. The whole city is linked via subways which make it very very very easy to go around. In every exit of subway stations, they will have this direction sign to various attractions, indicated by respective exits. So just follow the sign and you are good to go. Just buy T- money card from any convenience store. It works as Ez-link card or transport pass and it costs only 2500KRW if my memory doesn’t fail me. You can keep it and top up anytime/any amount you want. For direction, you can visit http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/ Good to have a Seoul subway map with you. In Seoul, you can actually use Mandarin to converse as there are bound to be a Mandarin-speaking staff everywhere. Don’t ask me why, probably due to globalization and immigration.

a) Places to go/things to do

1) Gyeongbukgung – don’t tell people you visit Korea w/o visiting its palaces. There are admission fees but you can just walk in without paying because there’s simply too much people for the ushers to manage. Just stick behind a tour group and listen to the guide to know more about the palace.

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2) Bukchon Hanok village – nice place to take ootd/can see Namsan tower from here/one of the oldest streets in Seoul with beautiful tradional hanok houses (Anguk Station, exit 2 and go straight 300m)

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3) Namsan Tower aka N-Seoul Tower- Seoul’s Eiffel tower, can see the whole Seoul from the observatory/Admission fee of 10,000KRW up to the observatory/Favourite place for Korean couples to ‘lock’ up their love/Bring your own lock or unwanted handphone cover there to save money cos one lock can cost up to 15000krw (need to take a bus from Heoyeon Station, cost around 850KRW)

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4) Ttukseom Hangang Park– open all year round/different activities for different season/snow sledding and skating in winter, swimming pool, wingsurfing in summer/There are also booths for educational purposes eg booth that has traditional korean games etc quite cool to see little kids playing/can stroll along Hangang river(super different from strolling along Singapore River as Hangang is ALOT ALOT ALOT WIDER)/admission fee of 6000KRW for snow sledding (Ttukseom-Resort Station, exit 2 or 3)

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5) Noryangjin Fish Market – Wholesale seafood market with many many different seafood(some you will never see in sg)/buy fresh seafood especially sashimi and bring it to a restaurant to be cooked/remember to bargain(be firm)/remember to check the price with the restaurant before giving them your seafood (Noryangjin Station, exit 1)

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6) Hiking in Bukhansan – Hiking has always been in the blood of Koreans and is done every season. Nothing beats being on top of the mountain watching the sun sets. Very beautiful historic temples and fortress along the trail. Be careful as rocks can be slippery in winter. I personally hike Bukhansan in winter and I feel that as long as you are careful enough, everything will be fine even without hiking equipments. There are several trails catered to different level of fitness so don’t worry. (Gupabal Station, exit 1, take bus 704 and get down at Bukhansan Fortress)

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7)Nami Island – Winter Sonata’s filming site/outskirt of Seoul/Seoul’s Palau Ubin (need to take ferry there) just that it’s alot prettier/During autumn, you can see rolls of maple tree down the stretch of pathway(I have inserted some photos from spring)/admission fee 0f 8000krw for foreigners

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8)Petite France – filming site of drama You Who Came from the Star, Running Man ep 40(the one with Nickhun and Taecyeon)/French cultural village/very vintage architecture/something like a theme park just that there’s not rides/30 mins away from the dock(Namiseom dock) that goes to Nami Island/Recommend to go Nami Island and Petite France on the same day. Just go to Gapyeong Station, walk out (there’s only one exit) and you see an information booth. The staffs there can speak really good english, ask them for help and they will give you a brochure that states the various timing for the tour bus that tours around the region(bring you to Namiseom dock and Petite Island). It is only 5000krw and you can hop on again after getting down.

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9)Skiing at Jisan Forest Ski Resort – There are many skiing resorts in Seoul but they are all located outskirt of Seoul. My host, Mrs Yim actually recommended us to go Jisan because she said there is the most convenient one compared to the rest. She booked seats for us in the free shuttle bus that brings us to the resort and got us discounts for the skiing gears #perksofhavingawesomehost! You can go to http://www.jisanresort.co.kr/eng/index.html to make reservations for the free shuttle bus. There are several pickup points and one of it is right in front of Gwangdaemun which is just one bus stop away from where we stayed. Skiing is really one hell adventure because it can be really tough to master at the first try. Skiing is not tiring but trying to get your feets up after falling down is freaking tiring. I think I wasted half of my energy trying to get up but I must quite proud to say that I can now ski w/o falling for 5 mins 🙂 As we put skiing as the second last activity during our trip, we were scared that we do not have enough to pay for it because it can easily go up to 100000krw so we actually set aside 100000krw just in case. However as we choose the half-day skiing package with lift included(trust me, half a day is enough) and gotten discounts, we only spent 640000KRW so we have more money the last few day to spent eating! 🙂

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10) Clubbing in Seoul – It is really interesting to look at different countries’ nightlife. There are two different kind of clubs in Seoul, those really posh one (the one you see in drama) and those that youngsters/hipsters will visit(can wear sneakers one). The posh one are often located around Gangnam, Apujeong where all the rich people stayed. If you don’t know, ‘Gangnam Style’ is actually a sarcasm toward the rich people living along Gangnam. Ok back, so we decided to visit Club Octagon. And indeed my oh my, all of them are so sexy and stylish. I AM DEAD SERIOUS, ALL OF THEM, GUYS AND LADIES LOOK SO GOOD. They probably have plastic surgery but that is not the point. They are really very good-looking and fashionable. It was bloody cold out there but I saw ladies wearing really short dress/shorts and cropped top. They deserved my upmost respect. The crowd is generally older/mature but the club plays awesome music and have the best sound system in town. The interior is well designed with really huge dance floor and even a pool inside. The check-in system is also awesome as they offer a big bag to put all your stuff inside and it costs 3000KRW. Best time to visit is on every Thursday because there is free entry before 11pm. Drinks are reasonably priced too, around 10000KRW. And cabbing around is quite cheap (less than 10000KRW to and fro from where I stayed). Definitely an eye opener. (Gangnam Station, exit 2 and get a cab to New Hilltop Hotel in English)

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12) Shopping at Dongdaemun, Ehwa, Hongdae, Myeongdong, Namdaemun, Itaewon, Insadong- one simply does not visit korea if he or she did not visit these places. All these are the well known to-go places in Seoul and you definitely will miss out if you don’t visit them. Really cheap cosmetics/mask/face wash around and shops coming out with creative promotions to attract customers. Dongdaemun district has many wholesale fashion markets opening up to 6am in the morning and there is a club at the basement in HelloapM. Among all the shopping buildings in Dongdaemun, my favourite is helloapM because it’s like Platinum mall in BKK. You can find almost everything there. Ehwa and Hongdae are where the Koreans youngsters usually hang around. There’s many buskers/artists around the area where they express their themselves. Clothes there are relatively more fashionable and trendy. PLEASE BARGAIN!! Myeongdong is a cosmetics heaven, you can find alot of big brands there.(Something like Orchard in SG). Namdaemun, Itaewon and Insadong are more of the traditional markets. Because it is winter so I didn’t spent alot on shopping. I only bought 3CE makeup from Stylenanda, Laneige BB cushion(37000krw=40sgd, sg selling at 59sgd) and Innisfree facial cream. Oh yes and Stylenanda has free neoprint machine so we spammed! And there’s alot of street food along the street! TRY ALL THEM!

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13)Traveling out of Seoul to take V-train- We took a 5 hours train ride(0-train)out from Seoul that loops around the inland running through Gangwon-do, Gyeongsangbuk-do and Chungcheongbuk-do (10 hours to and fro Seoul) just to see the interior of the Korean Peninsula. It will then stop at Buncheon Station and then we had to alight and get to the V-train. (Seoul > Buncheon Station >V-train(Buncheon>Yangwon>Seungbu>Cheoram>Bucheon)>Bucheon Station>Seoul). The V-train will then bring us closer to the inaccessible region. It is really damn pretty with valleys covered with snow and river frozen. I think it will be even prettier if it’s autumn! Really amazed by these breathtaking views of natural rocks and cliffs along the steep valleys and mountains. Really make the 10 hours worthy. As this region is less accessible than the major cities due to its rugged geography, not many Koreans themselves actually took the V-train. FEEL LIKE A REAL KOREAN! Please take note of the timing because there is only one train going back to Seoul at 4.45pm and we are taking KORAIL to Bucheon Station (will not appear in the Seoul subway map). KORAIL is the intercity train that links up the whole Korea and its ticket must be bought from Seoul Station. Just go to the information counter and tell them you want a ticket from Seoul > Buncheon>V-train>Bucheon>Seoul and they will do the job for you. It costs around 38300KRW  for students(aged 13-25). Remember to bring passport along and book in advance because there is limited seats on the train. Visit http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_6.jsp?cid=1829036n for more information.

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14) Eating at Gwangjang Market– This place is a genius for all foodie! YOU CAN FIND ALL SORT OF FOOD THERE. And you get to see TV station coming to interview vendors. Remember to try the SBS-intro handchop noodle(aka Banmian) (Jongno 5-ga Station, exit 8)

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15)Shopping at Lotte Mart(The one at Seoul Station)- The biggest department store in Seoul/grab all your ramen, kimchi, peppero, banana milk/cute korean wok(the one you see in drama) back home. Remember to bring your own shopping bag because they don’t offer plastic bag. There will be a corner when they provide all the un-taped box and you have to tape the box yourself. Tape provided. Didn’t manage to take photos, too busy shopping!

16)Themepark – I didn’t go any on my latest trip but I went Everland in 2012. I personally prefer Everland to Lotteworld because the rides in Everland are alot more exciting and exotic! There’s discounts for students if I am not wrong and there is a shuttle bus(5002) from Gangnam Station.  (Photos taken in spring)

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17)Korean Bath house aka Jjimjilbang– I didn’t go any on my latest trip too but again, I went in 2012. It was really an eye opener! Very interesting. Don’t worry, they segregate both genders to respective bath houses. After bathing, both genders can meet in this steam house with various temperature. Then there will be this huge lepak corner to slack/rest. Remember to roll the towel on your head. I didn’t take any photos though because I just put everything in the locker. The one I visited was Sealala Spa. Really huge! There is a water park on top of the building.  Admission fee of 7000KRW(excluding the water park). You can visit http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=747197 for more information. (Mullae Station, exit 4. Walk straight and turn right when you see Home-plus supermarket. Walk straight and you will see Sealala on the right)

18) Trick Eye museum at Hongdae – Went in 2012. It is an arts gallery with 3D painting. Visitors can ‘intereact’ with the painting so remember to bring your camera in! Not free, admission fee of 15oookrw! Photo taken in 2012! (Hongik University Station, exit 9)

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19) Camping – I personally have not try camping in Korea but I would definitely try when I am back because camping is strongly cultivated in the korean’s lifestyle. It will be quite a hassle to plan but think of the experience you get. I checked online and there are rentals of camping gears (things like tents, tables, mattress, grill set). I think you have to bring your pots or mass tin so you can cook? (Can buy from Lottemart for 6000Krw). There are a few campsites in Seoul and one of them is Natural Campsite in Seoul Grand Park (Grand Park Station, exit 2) and it’s quite well-facilitated (Shower room, kitchen, cafeteria, gym etc). Quite reasonably price(15000krw of camping fee with 4-person tent included, 1000krw for renting mattress). So interesting! Visit http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SI/SI_EN_3_6.jsp?cid=768898 for more information.

b) What to eat

One does not visit any countries if they don’t eat local cuisines and street food. Street food is a must must must especially in Korea! Actually throughout my trip, I spent the most on eating because KOREA FOOD IS GOOD! Besides that, they usually have very huge serving and free flow water and side dishes! Tips: Try not to go those really tourish place to dine in(places like Myeongdong, Itaewon, Insadong, Namdaemun), street food is fine but try not to go their restaurant because they are very commercial, very expensive and usually not-so-nice compared to ones that are located further away(the more authentic one). And I personally feel that Gyeongbukgung area has many nice places to eat, you have to really roam into the shophouses between streets to hunt for those good food. Oh and Sinchon and Hongdae area because they are where youngsters hang around so food there are not so expensive.

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1) BBQ – YOU AIN’T VISITING KOREA IF YOU NEVER TRY BBQ IN KOREA. BBQ are very different from SG. In SG, we always go for BBQ buffet where we can eat those meat like crazy but in Korea, most of the restaurants sell meat by pax or kg(hardly see buffet around). Ok I got to agree that buffet is one of Singapore culture/strong Singapore identity but have you ever wonder why? I personally feel it is a manifest of  kiasu-ism because Singapore got this mentality that they “earn” by going for buffet as they can eat all you want and they will stuff themselves to the brink(I’m guilty of that too) and instead of really appreciating the food, all we do is stuff ourselves and see how much we can eat. So it is really such a pity and I feel that the Korean F&B industry are doing it right this way by just selling by pax. So one person usually order 1pax of 1 kg of pork each(ard 10000krw) . If you think it’s not enough, you are terribly wrong because the meal will be substantiated by so much side dishes(free flow somemore) and you are really enjoying/appreciating your meal and not feel disgustingly bloated after it.

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2) Seafood stew – IT IS A MUST TO TRY KOREAN SEAFOOD STEW. Usually the authentic Korean shop(one that is really run by ahjumas) will not compromise the quality of the seafood because it plays a viral role in making awesome soup base and they are very generous one!! They actually gave us 3 crabs for this stew! SHIOKNESS TO THE MAX! Costs around 40000krw, one of the more pricey food I eat but it is too good to be missed and worth any penny. The market rate of it is around 40000-50000krw. Anything more than that, you are probably scammed.

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3) Stir-fry chicken pan aka Dakgalbi – Basically it’s just marinated boneless chicken with spicy Korean chilli paste but there’s other food in the pan too (Toppoki, cabbage, pasta, sausage, cheese, ham, rice, ramen). They will give you this cute apron so you won’t smell/dirty your clothes. Cost around 21000krw one pan, so it will be awesome if you have more friends to eat with you.

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4) Ginseng Chinese – What is Korea without Ginseng?! It is the most authentic place to eat Ginseng Chicken and please don’t compare all these with the one in SG. INCOMPARABLE! The place to eat is Tosokchon Samgaetang (quite authentic, quite because it has slowly commercialized. I went there in 2012 and the service was better and and food tasted better but when I went in 2014, the crowd management was slow(because alot of tourists) and food doesn’t taste as good but still one of the best I tried) Cost 15000won for the basic one (there’s more to choose from), worthy of that price because it is relatively good and large portion. Free flow side dish and free soju to keep warm in winter. It is located at Gyeongbukgung Station, exit 2. (Super near when I stayed) Walk straight and turn left at Jahamun-ro 5-gil Road.

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5) Spicy stew with cheese – Actually I don’t know what it is called in Korean (*Thanks to all the comments, now I know what is it called. It is called the Budaejjigae which literally means leftover army soup) hahaha but it is something like army stew where they put everything inside and let it boil. There’s luncheon meat, ham, bacon, macaroni,prok, beef, toppoki, cabbages, dumpling, ramen and CHEESE and chilli paste!! Taste damn good when the soup boils and become really saturated with the essences of all the ingredients! This is when I realize we can actually put cheese in our home cooked ramen!  One pot costs around 18000krw and can be shared among many people! They usually provided rice and free flow side dishes!

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6) Street food – Die-for! All finger food can be found! Toppoki, egg cake, kimbap, oden, fried sausage etc etc (CANNOT NAME FINISH). In winter, vendors will offer you a cup of hot soup to keep warm! And some vendors have stools around so you can sit and eat at your own comfort. STREET FOOD ARE VERY CHEAP SO JUST SPAM ONLY!

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So yay I have finally completed this guide! Blogging about it makes me miss Korea but I will definitely be back again! 🙂 Actually travelling is not expensive if you do a proper research about the places you are visiting, accommodation and air ticket and also cut down on shopping. So you must be clear of your objective of your travel eg you can spent 1000sgd in BKK because you are just going there to shop. For me, it will be really just immersing into the culture, doing what the locals do and eat what they eat. So 1.6k do not apply to you if you are going to shop(especially in Spring and Summer) but I am sure you can definitely survive Korea with just 1.6k. Hope this guide is useful for you! (Especially to many of my friends that are going Korea for exchange). Do drop me a comment/email if you have any questions 🙂

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