The question that many new teachers interested in teaching Korea ask me is, is it possible to save money and travel in Korea? The answer is yes, and it really is up to you on what and where you choose to spend your money. People choose to come to Korea for various reasons but, one of the main reasons is saving money. Korea is one of the top ESL destinations for just this reason, and most teachers are motivated to come here just for that perk. Even if you want to just travel, the ability to save money is a nice extra bonus. Here are some tips on how to save money and enjoy your traveling abroad experience.
1. Internet and Phone
The internet in Korea has possibly the lowest fees in the world. The amount of unlimited cap you get per month for just $30 is unbelievable. Compared to other major cities, like New York and London, wifi accessibility is absolutely everywhere in Korea and it is almost always free! One of the easiest ways to save money on your phone bills is to buy a smart phone device and to use the wifi functions all the time. You can call loved ones on Face Time, Skype, or Kakao Messenger from work, any cafe or home using the wonders of unlimited wifi. Your phone bills shouldn't cost more than $60 per month if you are using all the tools at your disposal.
2. Gas, Water and Electricity
Utilities in Korea has possibly the lowest rates when being compared to other first world countries. Monthly, my utility bills that include water, gas, and electricity have never been more than $70 all together. The luxury too is that you can reduce these bills by simply unplugging all electrical appliances when leaving the house. In the summer months my utilities never cost more than $40 total. If you invest in a fan and turn off indoor air conditioning you could save even more money. In the winter months of January and February you really have to be careful how much heat you crank up, as this is the one time your bill could skyrocket. A big tip is to invest in an electric blanket and plenty of thermal underwear. This really helps you save money on your gas bill from indoor and under floor heating.
How much money you spend on buying food in Korea is really up to you and what budget you want to stick to weekly. If you like eating out, Korea is the perfect place. Kimbap restaurants and cheap BBQ restaurants are everywhere. A decent $10-$15 meal is really within your means since almost all Korean food comes with an array of side dishes. I spend about $40-$50 weekly on groceries. I tend to make a big shopping trip to Home plus or Lotte Supermarket once every two weeks and I go to the local street market for fruit and vegetables once every week. Buying your fruits and vegetables from the market saves a lot of money and you can also get good deals on nuts and eggs. A really good tip is going to grocery stores later at night between 10.30 p.m. and 12 a.m.. Generally, during this time there are great deals on end-of -day products like roasted chicken, fresh fish and vegetables. There will always be a for sale vegetable cart with great deals with almost everything reduced by 30%. Items in the vegetable cart broccoli, bell peppers, and boxes of strawberries.
4. Traveling locally
You can travel in Korea on a budget since transportation and motels are reasonably priced. Instead of going to big cities you can go to the countryside or smaller towns that are much cheaper and you can experience the 'real' Korea. In the smaller towns there are plenty of markets and the restaurants that are much cheaper than those in the city. Also, the Korean restaurant owners are always surprised to see foreigners and you are more likely to be welcomed with a friendly face and lots of extra side dishes for free! Local transportation in Korea is an easy to save money as you have the options of choosing an expensive or cheap transport. For example, traveling to cities like Busan or Daegu from Seoul can be cheaper on the slower and overnight trains called the munganhwa. The KTX (high speed train) is almost 3× the amount more expensive. Also, instead of catching an express bus at the Express Bus Terminal in Seoul you can catch buses that only take 30 to 40 minutes longer at Nambu Bus Terminal which are half the price. Jeju Island flights are pretty cheap if you book in advance and you could stay in a youth hostel for $20 per night and still enjoy the wonders of the island.
The amount of money you spend in Korea and save is really up to you and the lifestyle that you choose to live. With the salary that we make, it is possible to do both - travel and save - while living in Korea. That is why so many teachers stay for more than a year and it is one of the perks of choosing Korea as a destination.
It is no surprise that Tijana Huysamen, a South African born Capetownian, avid traveler and travel journalist, fell in love with South Korea and its people. After Tijana arrived in South Korea in 2010, she had the opportunity to live in the heart of the Korean countryside. During her time spent in Chungnam province she learned to speak Korean, prepare Korean food and experience the humble nature of the countryside people. After a year break in New York, Tijana jumped at the opportunity to return to Korea again, and is currently working at the CDI Jamsil Branch, in Jamsil, Seoul. Read Tijana’s Aclipse blog to gain a unique perspective on Korea and her shared experiences and adventures both in a major city and in the countryside. Follow Tijana on Twitter @TeeAnni or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information on teaching in Korea!