Seoul Cost of Living Price Index
Seoul Cost of Living Price Index in 2019! How expensive is to eat and live in Seoul?
9 months ago
Li Zheng Ying @creatripfromSeoul

Hello,everyone! We are Creatrip, a group of Korean travel experts.
We proudly present you the latest, useful Korean travel information and tips every day.

Today, I would like to talk about the living cost in Seoul.

Many foreign tourists might wonder about the cost of living in Seoul.

The Worldwide Cost of Living index takes the living cost of New York (USA) as 100, and compare the average price of 160 commodities, such as food, clothing, housing, transportation, and tuition, in various cities in the world.

According to WCOL index 2017, the cost of living in Seoul was far higher than other international cities - including Shanghai, Bern, New York, and Paris. 

Seoul was ranked as the sixth city for having the highest cost of living in 2018.

Check out the original ranking Click here! (English)


As a Korean living in Korea, I wanted to talk about the "real' cost of living in Seoul.

Korean Price Index:1. Main Meal

Everyone's thoughts on Korean Prices are mostly straightforward. We can clearly compare through the food prices.  Some foods are cheap, some are expensive, but they are all sorted out with Korean prices. Imagine a bowl of traditional Taiwanese spring noodles, asking for about 5,000 Won (about 140 Taiwanese dollars). To eat a bowl of the most common noodles in Korea, probably it would be about 5,000 won.

Super Coca-Cola, Taiwan has a bottle of NT$29 (about 1,050 won), but in South Korea's Coca-Cola, a bottle is about NT$52. The price of South Korea is about 1.8 to 2 times that of Taiwan.

The following is the average food price that Creatrip dine out every day. This part is based on the center of Seoul, a non-tourist frequents, and is also based on the taste and health of the store. See if most of these foods are expensive or cheap.

Main Meal Deal
Average Price
Rice Roll2,000 Won to 3,000 Won

Kimchi pot, big sauce pot

6,000 Won to 8,000 Won

Bake three layers of meat to eat

9,900 Won to 11,900 Won

Spicy fried rice cake

2,500 Won to 4,000 Won

Ginseng Chicken Soup

12,000 Won to 15,000 Won

Bibimbap, cold noodles

6,000 Won to 7,000 Won
Sandwich2,000 Won to 3,500 Won
Stewed chicken, fried pork
15,000 Won to 20,000 Won
Fried chicken
12,000 Won to 15,000 Won

Korean Price Index:2. Drinks and Desserts

There are many cafes in Korea that offer a variety of desserts, drinks, and even shaved ice desserts. However, the price differs depending on the type of the cafe. The franchise and community cafes, even with some private specialty cafes have a large price difference.

Franchise Cafe Price Range
General Cafe Price Range
Americano₩3,000 to ₩4,000₩2,000 to ₩4,000
Caffe Latte₩3,500 to ₩4,500₩3,000 to ₩5,000
Fruit Juice₩3,500 to ₩4,500₩4,000 to ₩6,000
Milk Tea₩3,500 to ₩5,000₩3,500 to ₩5,000
Cake₩6,000 to ₩8,000₩6,000 to ₩9,000
Iced Desserts₩9,000 to ₩12,000₩10,000 to ₩15,000

The general coffee shop is not particularly cheap, and the price range is very large as you can see from the chart. More specialty coffee shops in Seoul are getting more and more expensive. In the store, you can drink specialty coffee and enjoy the unique atmosphere. In contrast, the price of chain cafes is not very cheap, but it also has the advantage of stable quality.


Korean Price Index:3. Other Food Products

When you travel to Korea for a long time, you will need to shop for everyday groceries. The high cost of living in Korea is well known. Not only is it expensive, but the daily necessities are also very pricey. The prices of the grocery items that are sold in supermarkets and convenience stores are indicated in the table. When you shop at large supermarkets, you can get the same items for a cheaper price.

Food Product
Average Price Range
Milk (One Liter)₩2,500 to ₩3,500
Eggs (Ten)₩3,000 to ₩3,500
Mineral Water₩750
Instant Noodles (each)₩950 to ₩1,100
Instant Noodles (Per Pack)
₩3,500 to ₩5,000
Biscuits₩1,000 to ₩1,500

Korean Price Index:4. Transportation

The cost of public transportation in South Korea is very cheap compared to other things. In principle, if you take the subway to commute, you can use either a monthly pass or T-Money Card, and take the subway and bus at lower prices. In addition, taxis are also commonly used among Koreans.

Korean Taxi(Seoul)
ModelFixed initial costAdditional Cost (by travel distance)Additional cost at night
Regular Taxi₩3,000₩100
every 142m/35 seconds
00:00 to 04:00
Add 20% of the final fare
Large or Mobum (Black Cab) Taxi₩5,000₩200
every 164m/39 seconds
International Taxi₩3,600₩120
every 142m/35 seconds

Seoul Transportation(T-Money Card)
Adult FareAdolescent FareChildren Fare
Blue Bus₩1,200₩720
Green Bus₩1,200
Red Bus
Yellow Bus₩1,200

Seol Metro (T-Money Card)

Korean Price Index:5.Telecommunications and Postage Costs 

South Korea’s telecommunications and postage fees are much more expensive than you would imagine. In South Korea, not many people use data because the public wifi is available almost everywhere. The wifi even works in the subway!  Depending on your carrier, you can still use the free network.

However, I would like to remind you that if you want to connect to the Korean telecommunications public network, the mobile phone number must be signed by a Korean person. The network SIM card purchased by a traveler does not have access to the public network.

In addition, although the registered mails in Korea are cheap, sending parcels and letters to foreign countries is much more expensive. Many telecommunication expenses, such as telephone charges and internet fees, would be something that you can't save much while you are in the country. I've created the table below with the details about the price range. I hope those of you who want to come to Korea for a long-term stay to find this information useful.

Register mail in Korea₩2,500 to 3,000
International mail₩20,000 or more
Telecommunication Charges(with LTE data coverage)₩65,000 to ₩80,000(monthly)
Telecommunication Charges(3G network)₩50,000 to ₩60,000(monthly)
Telecommunication Charges(2G Network)₩25,000 to ₩30,000(monthly)

Korean Price Index:6. Accommodation

For the Korean price index, the most expensive criteria would be the cost of accommodation.

Seoul’s accommodation cost is rather expensive, especially during the winter, summer and Christmas season. South Korea’s accommodation cost is two to three times more expensive than usual around these time of the year. The cost of living in Korea is in general extremely high.

TypePrice Range
Hotel Twin Room₩80,000 to ₩120,000
Hostel₩40,000 to ₩60,000
Backpacker₩10,000 to ₩20,000
Single Room₩400,000 to ₩600,000(Monthly)
Dormitory (Examination Institute)₩400,000 to ₩550,000(Monthly)
Boarding House₩300,000 to ₩400,000(Monthly)

These prices are mainly concentrated in the center of Seoul, where the transportation is convenient. 

Take my house as an example. Creatrip is located near the Jonggak Station. In fact, the office is located in the middle of a commercial business district. It takes about 10 minutes to walk to the company's Jongno Examination Institute. The examination institute costs ₩500,000 a month (free of deposit). Now it has moved to the Hoegi station, which is about 18 minutes by subway from the Jonggak Station. This institute has single room suites with a larger space and offers a better quality of living. It costs ₩400,000 (guarantee ₩1,000,000) a month. 

Many Korean usually go with two ways to find affordable accommodation options.

Daily commute

Many Koreans commute to work for more than an hour. As you go further out from the city center, the housing price drops. The monthly rent fee is not too high if you live just outside of Seoul. They usually trade their time with money.

High margin

Everyone should know that South Korea has a unique housing system. Most young people use a high-margin approach as a way to live in Seoul. What does it mean? They sign a contract with the landlord for a certain length of time and determine the price of your monthly fee based on the amount of money you can pay the landlord.

My friends have rented a house in the Gangnam District. One of my friends rented a spacious room in the Gangnam district. The transportation options are great. She pays about 500,000 rooms Won for renting a room per month. She signed a two-year contract with the landlord and prepaid a deposit of 10 million Won.

Another friend of mine recently rented a house in the Dongdaemun area and signed a three-year contract. He has not paid any monthly rental fee for the past three years. He pays the chunk of the price of the rent (50 million Won).

The high margin has become many landlords' personal investment. They can use the chunk of deposit and use it for other investments within a certain period of time as a substitute for rent. However, this part needs to be agreed between the tenant and the landlord, and the landlord must provide certain financial proof to the tenant in advance.

The above post was about the Seoul price index. The price can vary slightly depending on where you travel in South Korea, and where you live. But as long as you stay in Seoul, the price range should be valid.

The price gets cheaper you travel down to the south. You would think Busan is much cheaper than Seoul, but metropolitan cities like Busan might not be as cheap as you think. Compared to Seoul, the price index in Busan will be either the same or slightly cheaper.

 Will see you again in my next post.

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