How far can Go make his budget stretch on a one-night stay?
Our Japanese-language reporter Go Hatori loves to travel, but being a member of the staff here at SoraNews24, he doesn’t do anything by halves. That’s why he’s decided to go on a series of vacations with an extremely strict budget of just 50,000 yen (currently US$350.83). That includes the flight, accommodation, food, transportation, sightseeing costs, and even souvenirs.
It doesn’t sound like much, but Go managed to stretch his budget well beyond his expectations in both Taiwan and Thailand. For his latest trip, however, he was headed to Seoul, South Korea. Would 50,000 yen get him as far? Let’s find out!
Go used Expedia to book his July flights back in March for 31,100 yen. That’s mega cheap, but there’s a reason for that: the flight to Korea departed from Tokyo’s Haneda airport at 2:10 a.m. He had to get to Haneda at midnight, which meant he would be traveling for half the night.
That also meant he’d be arriving in Seoul at 4:40 in the morning. Of course, nothing would be open then, not even exchange counters, so he would have to wait for things to open up before fully starting his vacation.
The return flight was also set to hard mode. He’d be leaving Seoul at 10:35 at night. While this was great because it extended his time in Korea, it also meant he would arrive in Tokyo at 12:55 a.m. when all the buses and trains would have already stopped, leaving him to either wait out the night for the trains to start running again, or to spend the money to take a taxi home.
That’s why the flight was so cheap. But it was a sacrifice Go thought worth making.
He also reserved his hotel room on Expedia. Though there were super cheap dormitory-style options that he could have chosen, Go has a personal rule that he must always stay in a private room with an attached toilet and shower, so he booked a single room at a hotel called Shinchon Seongdo outside the city center for 3,322 yen.
In the end, this ended up being the right decision, especially since Seoul has a very reliable and easy-to-use subway and bus system, and you don’t need to spend the extra money to stay in the thick of things. The only complaint Go had was that they would only allow check-in after 9 p.m., but that was something he could work with.
In total, for the flight and accommodation, he spent 34,422 yen. That left him 15,578 yen for spending. He hoped to get a massage, and Korea is pretty famous for its delicious street food. How far would he be able to stretch that 15,000 yen?
▼ “Here I go!”
Go arrived without a hitch in Seoul. Since the exchange counters were closed, he found an ATM and used it to withdraw money from his Japanese bank account, getting 15,578 yen’s worth of won. Then he proceeded to a convenience store within the airport to get a T-money Card, the equivalent of a Japanese Suica card, for 5,000 won (about 552 yen or US$3.83).It doesn’t come charged, so also he had to add 10,000 won to the card. The menu screen had Japanese as a language option, so he was able to navigate it easily.
With his finances sorted, Go he hopped on a train from the airport, and after transferring once…
He arrived in the bustling shopping area of Myeong-dong. The cost of transportation from the airport to Myeong-dong, with a transfer at Seoul Station, was a total of 3,900 won.
Go’s first destination was a famous breakfast stand called Isaac Toast & Coffee. Though it was still only eight o’clock in the morning, there was a fairly large crowd of people outside. Go ordered the Ham & Cheese Toast, which was 3,900 won.
After a bit more of a walk, he found himself at a 7-Eleven, where he purchased a Cafe Latte to round out his breakfast for 2,200 won.
There was a nice little seating area just outside, so he took a minute to enjoy his sandwich and coffee.
“So this this Korean Toast,” Go thought as he munched happily away.
It was really tasty and even had a pleasant sweetness!
Afterward, Go killed some time exploring a nearby park, then, as a major 100-yen shop fan, he headed to the Korean Daiso, where he spent a full hour exploring every nook and cranny. It was absolutely huge, and it had a ridiculously large selection!
By the time he was done there, it was lunchtime, and after all that walking, Go’s stomach was nice and empty. He decided to stop in a place named “元祖”, which in Japanese, means “Pioneer”. It turned out to be a restaurant serving Samgye-tang, or chicken ginseng soup.
This restaurant is pretty famous for its Samgye-tang and has been in business since 1971. They had many different kinds of soup on the menu, but Go decided on the one labeled “Best” on the menu.
It was the “Sansam Peyangun Samgye-tang”, which was a luxury dish with a whopping 24,000 won price tag, but Go hadn’t come to Korea to try only the most “okay” food. He’d come for the best!
And it was the best! It was steaming hot and completely delicious!
Afterward, he headed for the Gyeongdong Market, which Google called “an old market that sells herbs and produce”. This was when he discovered the distinct advantage of using buses in Seoul. There are so many bus routes all around the city, and Go would say they’re the best way to get around. The fare was cheap too, ranging from 900 to 1,200 won per ride.
They were also easy to use. When you board, simply tap your T-money Card, and when your stop is coming, you simply push the “Stop” button, then tap your T-money Card again as you get off.
Go’s purpose for visiting the Gyeongdong Market was to find a particular Starbucks cafe, but…
It was rather hard to find…
Wait, there it is!
It was like a completely different world!
Go enjoyed a leisurely time there with a caramel latte that cost 5,900 won. It was one of the coolest Starbucks he’d ever been to, and the journey to find it was a treat, too, so he was glad he went.
When he felt properly caffeinated, he hopped on the bus and headed back to Myeon-dong. This trip cost him 1,200 won, and since he was starting to worry about the balance on his T-money Card, he charged another 5,000 won.
His objective this time was to get a relaxing massage. After some very thorough research, Go determined that whole-body massages throughout Myeong-dong all cost the same: 38,000 won for 60 minutes.
While exploring the area looking for a good place, he heard a voice calling out to prospective customers in Japanese. When he approached that person, he learned they were actually from Japan and had come to Korea to work. Emboldened, Go decided to follow them to their parlor…
Where he requested a 38,000-won full-body course. It started with a foot bath…
And then they wrapped his feet in plastic bags…
And after that the full-body massage commenced. Go had absolutely no complaints. It felt amazing! As he left, he realized there was a line waiting out the door, so perhaps it’s actually a really popular place.
Feeling rejuvenated, he hopped on the bus once again.
His destination: the Gwangjang Market.
And that’s where he found something absolutely delicious. It was mung bean buchimgae, Korean savory pancakes, and it looked mouthwateringly good, so Go ordered one.
The lady working the stand realized Go was by himself, so she gave him a half-size, which was perfect for him. It cost 5,000 won.
It was piping hot and utterly masissoyo (which means “delicious” in Korean)!
Afterward, Go had a craving for something sweet, so he did a circuit around the market looking for something tempting. Soon he spotted one stall that had a nice line forming alongside it.
It was called Gwangjang Market Twisted Donuts, and they sold freshly fried donuts in a twisty shape for 1,000 won. They’re pretty famous, so it was no surprise to see a line there. It took 10 minutes for Go to finally get his.
It looked so good!
It was soft and chewy and so delicious. Go could totally understand why people would line up for this. In fact, it was the most delicious thing he’d eaten all day; if you visit Seoul, you have to try it!
Now that he was nice and full, he was ready to hit the hay. By the time he walked to the subway station, boarded the train, and arrived at the station where his hotel awaited…
It was already getting dark outside.
By the way, the cost of his fare was 1,250 won. Go couldn’t help marveling at how easy, cheap, and convenient traveling was around Seoul.
On his way to find the hotel, he stopped at a convenience store and bought a Coke to take with him, although he was shocked at the price. It was 2,300 won for an ordinary 500-milliliter bottle!
He also bought water for tomorrow (1,100 won) and a significantly cheaper Baskin Robbins Mint Chocolate Chip drink (1,200 won) as a nightcap.
All that was left for the day was to rest. At that point, he’d already walked 30,000 steps, since he’d more or less been walking since four o’clock that morning. He was more than ready to get into bed!
Soon enough he found the hotel. Since 9 o’clock had come and gone he was able to check in easily. In fact, when he gave his name to the man at the counter, he seemed to be expecting him and quickly handed him a welcome bag along with his key.
And as for the room…
It was a bit small, but it had a desk, a TV, a toilet, and a bathtub shower, and it even had a mini-fridge and an HVAC unit! What more could you want?!
Go took a shower, drank his Coke and the Baskin Robbins Drink, and promptly went to sleep.
Then it was time to start Day 2!