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Is it expensive to live in Seoul Korea?

The Cost of Living in Seoul, Korea


Living in Seoul, Korea’s capital, is an experience unlike any other. The city offers a unique blend of ancient traditions and contemporary living, making it a popular destination for tourists and expats alike. However, one question that often arises is whether or not it is expensive to live in Seoul. In this article, we will explore the cost of living in Seoul, including housing, transportation, food, and entertainment.

Housing Costs

One of the most significant expenses in Seoul is housing. The average price of a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is around 1,000,000 KRW ($897 USD) per month. However, prices can vary significantly depending on the location and quality of the apartment. Many expats choose to live outside of the city center to save money on rent.

Transportation Costs

Seoul has an extensive public transportation system that includes buses, subways, and taxis. The cost of a single subway ride is relatively cheap at around 1,250 KRW ($1.12 USD). Buses are even cheaper, with fares starting at 1,200 KRW ($1.08 USD). Taxis are also affordable compared to many other major cities, with base fares starting at 3,800 KRW ($3.41 USD).

Food Costs

Food prices can vary widely in Seoul depending on where you eat. Street food and local markets offer some of the cheapest options with prices starting at 3,000 KRW ($2.69 USD) per meal. However, dining at a mid-range restaurant can cost upwards of 20,000 KRW ($17.94 USD) per person. Western-style restaurants tend to be more expensive than Korean cuisine.

Grocery Costs

The cost of groceries in Seoul is relatively high compared to other cities in Asia. A liter of milk can cost around 2,500 KRW ($2.24 USD), while a loaf of bread can range from 2,000-4,000 KRW ($1.79-$3.59 USD). Fresh produce is also more expensive than processed foods, with prices varying by season and availability.

Entertainment Costs

Seoul offers a wide range of entertainment options, from museums and parks to shopping and nightlife. Many of these activities are free or low-cost, such as visiting public parks or attending street festivals. However, admission to popular attractions like Namsan Tower or Lotte World can cost upwards of 10,000 KRW ($8.97 USD) per person.

Education Costs

Education costs in Seoul can be quite high, especially for international schools. Tuition fees can range from 15,000,000-30,000,000 KRW ($13,470-$26,940 USD) per year, depending on the school and grade level. Public schools are significantly cheaper but may not offer the same level of education as private institutions.

Healthcare Costs

Korea has one of the best healthcare systems in the world and offers both public and private options. The cost of healthcare in Korea is relatively low compared to other developed countries. A visit to a general practitioner can cost around 20,000 KRW ($17.94 USD), while specialist visits can range from 30,000-50,000 KRW ($26.91-$44.85 USD).

Taxes and Insurance

Residents in Seoul are required to pay income taxes and national health insurance fees. Income tax rates range from 6% to 42%, depending on income level. National health insurance fees are based on income and can range from 33,000-110,000 KRW ($29.63-$98.67 USD) per month.

Utilities Costs

Utilities costs in Seoul can vary widely depending on the size of the apartment and usage. Basic utilities such as electricity, gas, and water can cost around 150,000 KRW ($134.56 USD) per month for a one-bedroom apartment. Internet and cable television packages can range from 50,000-100,000 KRW ($44.85-$89.70 USD) per month.


Overall, living in Seoul can be expensive but is manageable depending on your lifestyle choices. Housing and education costs tend to be the most significant expenses, while transportation and food costs are relatively affordable compared to other cities. It’s essential to research and budget accordingly to ensure you can enjoy all that Seoul has to offer without breaking the bank.


1. Numbeo (2021). Cost of Living in Seoul. Retrieved from
2. Expatistan (2021). Cost of Living in Seoul. Retrieved from

How much do I need to live comfortably in Seoul?

In Seoul, South Korea, a family of four is estimated to spend $4,058.4 per month (₩5,302,168.2) on living expenses, not including rent. For a single person, the estimated monthly cost is $1,122.5 (₩1,466,477.3) without rent. Compared to New York, Seoul is about 21.9% cheaper (excluding rent).

Is rent expensive in Seoul?

For accommodation in major cities like Seoul or Busan, you can expect to pay between 40 to 80 dollars per night. However, if you choose to rent a more high-end furnished place on a monthly basis, the cost could be as much as 120 to 200 dollars per night.

How much does a 1 bedroom apartment cost in Seoul?

As of February 2021, the average monthly rent for one-bedroom apartments in Seoul, South Korea increased to approximately 510,000 South Korean won from the previous month’s average of approximately 480,000 South Korean won.

Is $100 dollars a lot in South Korea?

Based on my personal experience in Itaewon, $100 per day is sufficient, although it may be more expensive compared to other areas in Seoul and bargaining is recommended.

Is it hard to live in Korea as a foreigner?

Moving to South Korea can be a straightforward process if you plan ahead. Although the country used to be hesitant about foreign migration, this has changed in recent years as more international companies have entered its borders.

Is it expensive to live in South Korea for an American?

South Korea has a reasonable cost of living, although it is not as affordable as some Asian countries such as Laos or China, nor as expensive as Japan or Singapore. Generally, living expenses in the capital, Seoul, are the highest in the country.

Job Opportunities

Seoul has a thriving economy and is home to many international corporations, making it an attractive destination for expats looking for work. The job market is competitive, and fluency in Korean is often a requirement for many positions. However, there are opportunities available in fields such as English teaching, IT, and finance.


Seoul has a humid continental climate with four distinct seasons. Summers can be hot and humid, with temperatures reaching as high as 35°C (95°F). Winters are cold and dry, with temperatures dropping below freezing. Spring and autumn offer mild weather and beautiful scenery with cherry blossoms and fall foliage.

Cultural Experience

Living in Seoul provides a unique cultural experience with endless opportunities to explore traditional Korean culture. The city is home to many historical sites such as Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bukchon Hanok Village. Korean cuisine is also a significant part of the culture, with delicious dishes like kimchi, bulgogi, and bibimbap.


Seoul is one of the safest cities in the world with low crime rates compared to other major cities. The city is known for its efficient public transportation system and well-maintained streets. However, as with any city, it’s essential to take precautions such as being aware of your surroundings and not leaving personal belongings unattended.

Language Barrier

One challenge that many expats face when living in Seoul is the language barrier. While many Koreans speak English, it can be difficult to navigate daily life without some knowledge of the Korean language. It’s recommended to learn some basic phrases and consider taking language classes to improve communication skills.


Living in Seoul can be an exciting and rewarding experience with plenty of opportunities to explore the city’s culture, history, and cuisine. While the cost of living can be high, it’s possible to manage expenses with proper budgeting and research. With a thriving economy and job market, Seoul offers a unique blend of modernity and tradition that continues to attract expats from all over the world.

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