Seoul frequently ranks as one of the world's most expensive cities. In the 2022 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Seoul was ranked as 14th most expensive out of 227 cities worldwide, outdoing cities such as London and Vienna to earn this spot.

All the same, salaries are competitive in Seoul, and employment contracts tend to cover accommodation and education. For expats who can find work here, this should go far in making the cost of living in Seoul more affordable. There are other ways to keep costs down, like using public transport, eating local food bought at smaller stores and markets, and shopping local products.

Cost of accommodation in Seoul

Accommodation in Seoul is costly, but expats' employers generally organise and pay for their accommodation. Expats who decide to arrange their own accommodation should be aware of the tradition of 'key money', a massive deposit that brings rent down a bit but leads to high upfront costs. Basic utilities such as gas, electricity and uncapped WiFi tend to be affordable.

Cost of transport in Seoul

As long as expats don't plan to travel around the countryside regularly, they typically find owning a car in Seoul unnecessary and inconvenient. Parking is hard to find, and there are frequent traffic jams in the capital.

Public transport in Seoul is world-class: extensive, clean, efficient, coordinated and relatively affordable. Using the rechargeable T-money card instead of buying individual tickets, passengers can take advantage of lower rates on the metro or buses.

Cost of entertainment and eating out in Seoul

Eating out is typically inexpensive for expats who stick to Korean cuisine, and due to the discounts for buying in bulk, single expats may find it more affordable than buying and cooking food for one. Eating at foreign restaurants will come with a higher price tag.

Cost of groceries in Seoul

Korean food and brands are generally affordable, especially when buying in bulk. Savvy expats will shop at markets and smaller stores, avoiding the mark-up that is often found at supermarkets. Dairy and fresh produce may go for more than expats expect, and those who don't buy in bulk will find the cost of groceries go up sharply. Furthermore, imported brands from Europe or the US are costly.

Cost of education in Seoul

Public education in South Korea is free until the last three grades of high school. That said, expats rarely enrol their children in public schools, citing the highly pressured, results-oriented learning environment as well as Korean being the language of instruction – although schools in Seoul are well known for their academic excellence.

International school fees in Seoul may very well be expat parents' largest expense after accommodation. Given the extensive expat population of diplomats and military personnel, there is a range of international schools with on offer.

Cost of living in Seoul chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices in Seoul for November 2022.

Accommodation (rent per month)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

KRW 1,100,000

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

KRW 3,500,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

KRW 770,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

KRW 2,200,000


Eggs (dozen)

KRW 6,800

Milk (1 litre)

KRW 2,700

Rice (1kg)

KRW 4,900

Loaf of white bread

KRW 3,700

Chicken breasts (1kg)

KRW 12,200

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

KRW 4,500

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

KRW 6,500

Coca-Cola (330ml)   

KRW 1,900


KRW 5,100

Local beer (500ml)

KRW 2,700

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two

KRW 70,000


Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

KRW 143

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable  – average per month)

KRW 27,400

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

KRW 115,000


Taxi rate (per kilometre)

KRW 1,000

Bus/train fare in the city centre

KRW 1,300

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

KRW 1,780

Expat Health Insurance

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