Life in Korea – Is it expensive? Vegetarian/vegan lifestyle?

Hi guys!

I’m back with another blog post with questions and other things you might want to know about staying in Korea a longer time period. You can find another blog post with more random information here.

#1 Is Korea expensive?

Yes and no. I would say if you live here long-term, it’s expensive. Rent, groceries and basically everything you need for an everyday life is very pricey summed up. Especially most of fresh fruits, vegetables and a lot of groceries aren’t cheap, because they have to get imported. Sometimes it’s actually cheaper to eat outside than cooking at home for that reason.

Regarding apartments – you have to pay a deposit starting from 2.000-5.000€ before even renting a place. An alternative are Air Bnbs, which are more expensive in the end though. On the other hand you have a host, that is responsible for the costs of internet, water and heating and you don’t need to worry about that.

So long story short: if you want to live in Korea and enjoy your time and not only survive – you gotta have money.

#2 What’s affordable in Korea?

In comparism other things are affordable! You can find cosmetics and cute fashion pieces nearby the bigger university areas for a reasonable price. Districts I can recommend for that are e.g. around Ewha Women’s University and Hongik University.

Also korean skincare is very cheap here. Yet again western brands can be more expensive because it is imported. A lot of stores have discounts or special events like 1+1 or 10+10, which means you buy one product and get another one on top for free. I always use these discounts to stock up on my sheet masks.

Other things that are quite affordable compared to western countries are getting an (ear-)piercing or even a tattoo. Ear piercings start around 9.000 Won which is around 7€.

Going to a plastic surgery or getting a treatment done is more affordable here as well. Before Corona there was a whole medical tourism going on for that reason – people literally only came to Korea to get surgery done and then fly back home. In the fancy district of Gangnam alone are more than 500 plastic surgeries located.

Of course K-pop and other Korean popculture related items are cheaper here, because there are no import costs.

#3 You’ll miss certain foods

Trust me, I never missed cheese or legit bread more in my life. Most of the time the cheese that is used here in dishes is kind of “sweet” – same for bread. I never felt more betrayed in my life when I tried a garlic bread and it tasted sweet, haha. You can purchase legit cheese or bread of course, but you either have to spend a lot of money on that in a fancy food section inside a department store or find small businesses targeted to that (which are also expensive).

#4 Vegetarian/Vegan lifestyle

Oof. As a vegetarian or vegan you might have a difficult time, not gonna lie. Especially a lot of korean dishes contain meat, sea food or at least the sauces do. I think good alternative dishes are Bibimbap, Curry or specific noodle dishes, which can be ordered vegetarian/vegan easily. Besides that, I can’t think of any other korean dish that is vegan friendly – if you know other ones, write it down in the comments!

Yet again, there are vegetarian/vegan friendly places – most of the time in fancier districts like Gangnam or the international area of Itaewon. But it can get quite pricey to eat there.

#5 Public transportation

Take advantage of the super convenient public transportation system, such as subway, busses or taxis! You can purchase a prepaid card called “T-money” card, that can be easily recharged on ticket counters or inside convenient stores. Even taxis are cheap compared with Europe! When I can’t make it to catch the last subway (which is at midnight), I’ll easily go for a taxi. But be prepared to show them the korean address on your phone or at least be able to tell them the address in korean. Most taxi drivers can’t speak English. A 20-30 minute taxi ride is about 20.000 Won (18€).

Do you have any other questions about staying in Korea for a longer time? Let me know in the comments!

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