Travel Cost Comparison USA vs. South Korea

USA or South Korea: which country is more expensive?

This comparison of travel costs between South Korea and the USA examines average prices across multiple categories. Please visit each country's individual budget page for more detailed information.

  • Average Daily Cost Per person, per day
    USA $226
    South Korea $105
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    USA $108
    South Korea $54
  • Food Meals for one day
    USA $41
    South Korea $22
  • Water Bottled water for one day
    USA $14
    South Korea $2.11
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    USA $37
    South Korea $13
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    USA $51
    South Korea $20
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    USA $18
    South Korea $8.76
Should you visit the USA or South Korea?
South Korea is a modern, cultural, and moderately priced Asian nation with a diverse number of sights and activities for its relatively small geographical size. Here you can experience big cities, rural countryside, beautiful mountains, unique national parks and relaxing beaches. Modern, western conveniences are all around, and at a price that is a little cheaper than Europe or North America, but still more expensive than many other destinations in Asia.

The United States offers much of the same, only on a larger scale. Urban areas offer music, restaurants, nightlife, museums, and more. The countryside has plenty of beaches, mountains, and wildlife.

In both countries, there is something for everyone along with a high standard of luxury and quality. But in South Korea, the conveniences of luxury come at a much more affordable price.
When is the best time to visit the USA and South Korea?
New York City New York City
The United States is a vast country that covers a wide variety of landscapes and climates. You can really find somewhere to visit any time of the year.

The southern United States and parts of California are lovely places to visit during the colder winter months, as temperatures are still fairly warm. Many cities also have interesting holiday decorations if you're planning to be in the country during that season. Skiing and winter sports are also popular in the mountains.

Summer months can become very hot in the southeast, but the northern states are often quite pleasant, even during the hottest months. In general, national parks are most crowded during the summer months. Visiting the busiest parks during the shoulder seasons is recommended if you want to avoid the crowds.

South Korea experiences four seasons, and winter can be cold with a decent amount of snow. However, skiing in the mountains is quite popular, so don't let winter turn you off. However, with warmer summer temperatures, this means that South Korea's peak travel season is from May to September. During this time you can expect more crowds and higher prices, but also more comfortable temperatures and more activities.
Why is the USA more expensive than South Korea?
In general, the US is an expensive place to visit. The high cost of living and the vast size mean that transportation costs can be quite expensive. If you really want to see a lot of the country, flying is really your best option. Amtrak is the most well known train system, but it is limited to where it goes and prices are quite high. In some situations, flying is cheaper than taking the train. If you want to explore the country's impressive national park network, a rental car is a must.

Hotels in the United States are also quite expensive. There are very few hostels throughout the country, particularly when compared to European countries, so accommodation prices can be more than you might expect. If you're driving, there is an extensive network of budget hotels along the interstate highways, so prices between cities can be reasonable.

While South Korea's economy and cost of living are higher than average for Asia, the country is still growing. This means relatively lower prices all around compared to some of its economically prospering neighbors. Due to the strong supply of tourist-related businesses, along with this still growing cost of living, South Korea is often considered an inexpensive and affordable (but very modern) tourist destination for visitors from the U.S., Europe, or Australia.
What are the most expensive and cheapest cities and regions in the USA and South Korea?
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple and the Haeundae Sea in Busan, South Korea. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple and the Haeundae Sea in Busan, South Korea.
In the United States, the larger cities are some of the most expensive places to visit. New York City and San Francisco are notoriously expensive because of their high hotel costs and expensive restaurants. Still, there are plenty of affordable restaurants in these larger cities, so it is possible to save some money. Free entertainment in the larger cities can be common, and this can help you keep costs down.

By far, the most expensive areas in South Korea are resort destinations. In the winter, skiing around mountain areas such as Pyeongchang can get very pricey, as hotels, restaurants, and entrance tickets charge a hefty penny. In the summer, various beach resort areas can experience similar price increases.

Seoul can be expensive if you desire luxury. Although, with any large city comes diversity. So, inexpensive options for accommodation, food, and activities are plentiful. Just shop around if you're on a budget, as good values can be found at any price range.

South Korea's rural countryside offers a good opportunity to view gorgeous mountains or rolling hills at an affordable price. Many smaller cities and towns are inexpensive while still providing plenty of fun activities and an authentic atmosphere.
How you can save money when visiting the USA and South Korea?
Many larger cities in the US have cheap public transportation systems that can save you money. And in South Korea, it's cheap, fast, and clean. Consider this when you plan your route and schedule, especially if you intend to rent a car for a portion of your trip.

Hotels in the center of cities are more expensive, so look for options that are a little further out, especially if public transportation is available.

In both countries, making reservations for hotels or hostels will usually save you money. Shop around for the best prices. Locally owned places are not always cheaper, but do tend to have more interesting charm.

Eat with the locals. Local restaurants serving Korean food tend to be much cheaper than places serving western fare. Korean restaurant owners have figured out that many visitors don't care for Korean food, and will price their menus to take advantage of it. Find some Korean food that you like, and don't be afraid to experiment. Your tummy and your wallet will like it!

Use public transportation whenever possible.

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