10 Ways to Eat in Korea for Less than $5 USD a Meal


If you’re coming to live in Korea, one of your goals might be to save some money. Meals, however, can take a big portion of your budget. Don’t worry, Korea has tons of options for eating on the cheap. Here are 10 ways to eat in Korea for less than $5 USD a meal!

These tips are for the budget friendly newbie to Korea who is eating out. Hope you save a lot!
Note: As of August 3rd, 2012, $5 USD is approximately 5,600 won.
Click images for sources (featured image source here)

1. Kimbap Restaurant

Kimbap restaurants are pretty much Korean fast food. They offer food that is cheap, fast and quick. But where kimbap restaurants differentiate themselves from McDonalds in Korea is their menu. Kimbap restaurants sell so much variety, from kimbap (of course), ramyeon noodles, bibimbap, fried dumplings, kimchi jjigae and a whole lot more. And of course, many of the items on the menus of kimbap restaurants can be had for less than 5,500 won. Variety and cheap = bomb.

2. The Average Korean Restaurant

The average Korean restaurant in Korea will have something on the menu that can be had for less than 5,5000 won. Even galbi restaurants, where galbi can get expensive, will almost definitely have dwenjang jjigae (된장찌개) for a very sexy price of around 5,000 won. Sundae (blood sausage) restaurants will have expensive sundae dishes, but will also have single serving options such as sundaeguk (blood sausage soup) for cheap as well. Most Korean restaurants will have affordable options for those budget conscious.

3. Convenience Stores

Convenience stores are found everywhere in Korea, and this is good for hungry people in a rush. You can find triangle kimbap for less than 1,000 won; instant ramyeon noodles for around 1,000 won; sandwiches for less than 2,000 won; and for the really hungry folks, a whole doshirak (lunch box) meal complete with rice, side dishes, and main course. Perfect for those in a rush or maybe even culinarily-challenged bachelors :)

4. Take Out Pizza

Pizza can be quite expensive in Korea. Pies from Domino’s, Papa John’s and Pizza Hut can go upwards of 30,000 won. But look for small local take-out pizza shops like Pizza School. These student favorite pizza joints will sell entire pizza pies for as cheap as 5,000 won, and they’re big enough to feed 2-3 people as well. At 5,000 won a pie, this might become a local favorite if you’re going to live in Korea on a budget.

5. Supermarket Sushi

This might be tastiest and healthiest of these cheap eats in Korea. If you head over to mega supermarkets like E-Mart or Home Plus, there are usually sushi corners that let you pick and choose pieces of sushi for as low as 500 won a piece. Get 10 pieces for a decently healthy meal. Oishi!

6. Bakeries

Korean bakeries offer more than just bread. Bakeries in Korea usually have bread fashioned into a semi-meal with slices of ham, corn, and other toppings or fillings. All these can typically be had for less than 1,000 won a piece. If you’re not into corn on bread, many bakeries like Paris Baguette or Tous les Jours have sandwiches for less than 5,000 won. Couple that up with a carton of milk for 1,000 won, and you got yourself a meal!

7. Bunshik (Street Food)

One of the simplest meals that can be found anywhere in Korea is bunshik, Korean street food. These Korean street food trucks can be found pretty much in any city in Korea, and for the most part they sell the same things. Get an order of tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), twigim (fried snacks) and an odeng (fish cake) all for less than 5,500 won. Portions are decent enough to feed two!

8. Supermarket Sampling [free]

Large scale supermarkets in Korea are famous for their many sampling stations. Walk around the entire floor of a Korean supermarket once, and you’ll have the chance to sample dumplings, seafood soup, udon noodles, samgyupsal, curry, and everything else in one go. It might not be enough to fill you up, but really… are you going to argue with free? 😉

9. Doshirak (lunch boxes) Take Out

Doshirak are lunch boxes, and some places in Korea specialize in only selling these super cheap, very delicious doshirak sets. Pop into a place like Hansot Doshirak (한솥도시락) for tons of Korean food options all for very cheap prices, many under 5,500 won. Super convenient, super cheap, but best of all, super Korean!

10. Microwavable Foods

Korea has a number of options for microwavable foods that are of course super quick and convenient that can be had at home anytime. This is the perfect option for those who don’t like cooking and want to eat as fast as possible. Go to the supermarket and stock up on spicy octopus (낙지볶음), instant curry, meatballs, and even spaghetti. A perfectly budget friendly food for those looking to save money in Korea.


Which one do you want try the most? 😀

Keith Kim is a Korean-American living in Seoul, Korea. He likes espresso shots, photography art and he loves his Playstation 3. He started seoulistic.com as a hobby site, and is now in the process of turning it into a full-time business. Wish him luck! Check out his blog for an uncensored view on entrepreneurship, dating and life in Korea. Personal Blog: gyopokeith.com Facebook: facebook.com/gyopokeithkim Twitter: @gyopokeith Youtube: "Gyopokeith e-mail me anytime at: gyopokeith [at] gmail.com


  1. Ana says:


    This looks soo good! :) Can’t wait to taste the food there. Only 42 days left until my trip to Korea 😀 I’ll like to try most Kimbap, Street food and Doshirak. Thank’s for the post! Now I’ll have more money for gifts 😀

  2. Dominik says:

    Only 42 days? That sounds great. I have to finish school first before I can go to South Korea :(.

  3. synthia says:

    nice post!!! i’m going to Seoul on October. this will be my second visit, and yeah there’s a lot of cheap but delicious food in Seoul. i specially like the street food, soondae with ddeokpokkgi sauce nom nom

  4. Karen says:

    Thank you for sharing! Useful Info :)

  5. kurlykolly says:

    That’s all good, but if you eat like this every day, your blood pressure will be through the roof. Korean food is mega salty.

    • Just a random Korean University Student says:

      Yup. Most Korean foods are salty. It’s something every Korean knows, but doesn’t care much about.

      It’s a cheap way for restaurants to get costumers satisfied. Everyone knows it’s not that good, but it’s generally tastier(at least for Koreans). It’s like fat on American meals.

      • Just a random Korean University Student says:

        Ah, and about ‘mega salty’ thing….lots of Koreans find some foods like cream sauce pasta to be mega greasy hehe 😉

  6. fifi says:

    Doesn’t look like much option for those who don’t eat meat. Everything appears to hv ham, beef, chix or pork. Even the seafood dishes are cooked with beef or chix broth.

  7. Alex says:

    This is fine for tourists on a budget but if you live here and actually eat like this you will send yourself to an early grave.

    If you live here it’s time to grow up and learn to budget/cook like an adult.

  8. jinny says:

    Thanks for this post! Gonna stay in korea for the next 5 months and I think I’ll really need this. :) I want pizza! haha

  9. Gal says:

    How about halal food there? Is there any halal restaurant there?

  10. bluegirl87 says:

    I would like to go to eat out everything korean here is so expensive here in our country….

    Nice post by the way =)

  11. Yani says:

    i’m a muslim…so any vegetarian / halal food restaurant to recommend?

  12. Keith says:

    I don’t know enough about halal food, so I’m not 100% confident to give you any answers 😛 Here’s the Korea Tourism Organization’s guide: http://www.visitkorea.or.kr/ena/CU/CU_EN_8_1_6.jsp

  13. Lissa says:

    Hi Keith, I would really appreciate it if you can make suggestions for cheap/affordable vegetarian or seafood meals.. I only know one good place –>Loving Hut.
    Thank you very much.
    Seoulistic is just amazing. I learnt so much from this site :)

  14. Lissa says:

    Your comment…

  15. Den says:

    My top favourites were always something from GS25 or C-U convenience stores. The lunch box is exceptional. Meat, vege1, vege2, kimchi, rice, and many times if there is a sticker on the outer box with some drink, yes you get a FREE drink. Usually the drink retails 800-1000 Won. The price of the box meal (doshirak?) is 2500 to 3500 Won. So sometimes the cost of the food is just 1500 Won minus the actual cost of the drink. WOW!! In a First World Country, you can never get this price. This is the most efficient (and thus affordable, think about it) system that channels the cost saving to the citizenry. Wow A+ Korea. I love it.

  16. SeoulMate says:

    Right ~! Many Korean people also enjoy eating Doshirak (lunch boxes) especially Hansot Dosirak. It is very cheap and you can have a varied menu : )

  17. Dan says:

    Keith, I’m going to be nitpicky – bunshik (분식) is not so much street food as it is food without rice. Way back in the day, Korea used to have one day a week as bunshik day – if you went to a restaurant on bunshik day, you’d get an apology, no rice, and a choice of an alternative. A lot of places served this stuff called five-grain rice (오곡밥) that I really liked, but often the ajumma would offer to sneak me some rice if I really needed it.

  18. Concetta says:

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