I'm 28 & This Is How Much I Spent On My Trip To Jeju Island In South Korea

Welcome to Travel Diaries, a Refinery29 series where we tag along as real women embark on trips around the world and track their travel expenses down to the last cent. Here, we offer a detailed, intimate account of when, where, and how our peers spend their vacation days and disposable income: all the meals, adventures, indulgences, setbacks, and surprises.
This week's travel diary: A 28-year-old content writer from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia visits South Korea's Jeju Island and indulges in K beauty and sightseeing.
Editor's note: All prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
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Age: 28
Occupation: Content Writer
Salary: $14,500
Travel Companion: My best friend of 9 years, B
Hometown: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Trip Location: Jeju Island, South Korea
Trip Length: 6 days
Annual # Of Vacation Days: 16 days
Companion’s # of Vacation Days: 22 days
Costs: Direct return flight via Airasia. We departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (klia2) and landed at Jeju International Airport. Flight duration was 6 hours. Airasia return flight with luggage ($145). Since it was a 6 hour flight, we added food, a set meal for our departing and returning flight ($11).
Total: $156
In Seogwipo we stayed at Winstory Hotel, $108 (inclusive of 10% tax) for 3 nights. We stayed together in a standard twin room and split the cost. So I paid $54 for my part. In Jeju–si we stayed at Ellui Hotel Jeju, $66 (inclusive of 10% tax) for 2 nights. We stayed together in a deluxe twin room and split the cost. So I paid $33 for my part.
Total: $87
Pre-vacation spending: Got a foldable beach tent online for $12

Day One

3.30 a.m. – My sister, who happens to be my resident driver because I travel a lot, is once again kind enough to send me off. I am lucky because it’s pretty hard to find transportation like Grab (South East Asia’s equivalent to Uber) that early in the morning and I save myself a $16 fee. My travel buddy B is already at the airport when I arrive. Our flight is at 6:00 a.m. so we check in our bags and self-print our boarding passes so we can begin to go through security. We both ate before leaving home so there is no need to buy breakfast that early at the airport. Plus, we have food waiting for us on the plane!
5:00 a.m. – We get to our terminal and wait to board the plane.
1:50 p.m. – A 6-hour flight that features us eating Häagen-Dazs0 ice cream while watching Netflix finally takes us to Jeju International Airport. After passing through immigration, we rent a portable WiFi router for 6 days ($2.8 per day) to share because we need to stay updated on the ‘gram. It is half the price of buying a sim card and can connect up to 3 devices. You just leave your credit card details and they charge your card once you return the WiFi router.
Since we plan to travel via the impressive bus system, we buy a public transport card called T–Money at the airport’s 7-Eleven. We split the transport money that includes a $3 card fee and $40 worth of money for the both of us to travel around ($21.50). Tip: the T-Money card can also be used for taxi rides. We board the airport bus limousine ($4.5 deducted from T–Money card) parked right outside the airport arrival door to head to the south part of the island called Seogwipo which takes around 40 minutes. $21.50
5.30 p.m. – After a quick shower at our nice hotel called Winstory, we take a 10-minute walk to the main shopping district of Seogwipo, near the food market. We opt for a dinner of Korean stir fry called dakgalbi where the chef cooks rice, vegetables, chicken, and a special spicy sauce in a big grill in front of you, served with a side of kimchi, of course. I order some bottles of soju ($4) to accompany my meal and we split the price of the dakgalbi ($11). The friendly owner of the stir fry place suggests a dessert joint down the street called Sulbing. We nibble on some Korean toast and custard buns in the shape of fish ($3). $18
8.00 p.m. – We spend time after dessert just walking around town as our hotel is close to the Seogwipo Maeil Olle Market that sells Korean snacks and fruits. Since we're going hiking the next day, we stock up on some snacks like water, bread, and another bottle of soju (I need a night cap) from a mini mart before heading back. If you ever enter a neighborhood mini mart in Korea, go straight to the tea section and be amazed. So many types of tea infused with ingredients like oranges and ginger. I get the one with ginger ($6 a box) because I need a remedy for my tummy. $8.60
Daily Total: $48.10

Day Two

8.00 a.m. – That morning, I convince B to move our hiking trip to the next day and do more relaxing activities for day two. We saw a cool looking cafe yesterday (near the Sulbing dessert place) that opens early and take a breezy morning stroll to get their coffee and bagel promo. $5
9.00 a.m. – We take a cab ($2.6 deducted from the T–money card) to the Jeongbang Waterfalls which is surprisingly, only eight minutes away from our hotel in Seogwipo. After paying the entry fee, we descend a flight of steps towards the rocks, where the water from the waterfall join to the ocean. Fun fact: this is the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the sea. It is a beautiful sight and we even get to see a rainbow near the waterfall! $2
After posing for pictures, we head to the tourist information counter near the ticket counter to inquire about the beaches close to our neighborhood. The lady at the counter basically gives us an intro on how to read the bus system while suggesting routes to get to a couple of beaches on the island. The intercity buses cost a flat rate of $1 every time you hop on, regardless of how many stops you pass. But note that everything and I mean everything is in Korean so better download that translation app.
10.30 a.m. – After grabbing our beach gear from the hotel, we hop on the bus ($1 deducted from the T–money card) towards the west side of the island. We plan to stop at Camellia Hill, a vast garden filled with Camellia flowers that are grown in abundance there. But unfortunately, we miss our bus stop. Remember to always ring the buzzer on the bus when your stop is approaching because the driver will not stop if you do not indicate. We end up stranded at a bus transit point in the middle of nowhere with the next bus to the west arriving two hours later. Thankfully, we meet a guy and his mum at the bus stop who are heading the same direction as we were. The four of us end up sharing a taxi together and splitting the cost. $2.50
1.00 p.m. – The guy we share a taxi with (handsome fellow, I might add) tells us about a park near the beach we are heading to called Hallim Park. The entrance to the park is less than a 5-minute walk from the beach so we decide to check it out first. The entry fee per person is $10. The park is huge, divided into five sections like the desert plant section and bonsai garden section. I have aspirations to grow a cactus garden after visiting the cactus section due to the amazing variety of cactus plants in all shapes and sizes. A pleasant surprise are the Ssangyong caves inside the park, once underwater limestone caves that are worth visiting. $10
3.30 p.m. – By the time we finish Hallim Park, we are starving and headed to Hyeopjae Beach to get some lunch. Many of the Korean joints are closed because lunch hour is over and dinner openings only begin at 6:00 p.m. So we opt for a burger place named Burger 307, serving homemade patties and a side of french fries ($12). We grab some snacks as well at the convenience store for our beach bumming session. The gummy selection in South Korea is amazing and their fruit flavors are intensely delicious ($4.50). $16.50
6.00 p.m. – We lounge on the sand for a couple of hours, not much swimming as the weather and water temperature is cold despite it being summer. Hyeopjae is a rather small beach and we are thankful to visit on a weekday where there is less people. After some sunbathing, we walk along the stretch to find some quaint gift shops selling everything from vintage knick-knacks to handmade soap. I end up purchasing some Camellia scented candles ($15.50) and some hand-painted postcards for my sister ($3.50). I have my coffee fix ($4.50) at Swimpyo Cafe by the water, just in time to catch the sunset before our bus back ($1 deducted from the T-money card). $23.50
Daily Total: $59.50

Day Three

8:00 a.m. – We plan on taking an early bus ($1 deducted from the T-money card) to hike up Jeju's highest peak called Seongsan Ilchulbong. Shops around our hotel area open later in the morning so we grab breakfast at McDonalds next to the Seogwipo bus terminal where we’re departing from. $4
10:00 a.m. – After an hour and 15-minute bus ride to the east part of Jeju, we finally arrived at Seongsan town. The mountain and surrounding waters are breathtaking. We see the bluest of seas and a mountain with unique erosions due to the crashing waves. The entry fee is $2 per person and it takes us 25 minutes to reach the peak with a huge deck overlooking the crater on top. To be honest, I find the view while descending to be more spectacular than the peak itself. All the greenery and the emerald waters next o Seongsan town look like a painting waiting to happen. $2
12:00 p.m. – Numerous pictures later, we grabb a bibimbap lunch at one of the many restaurants in town ($8) that is just a short walk away from the Seongsan Ilchulbong entrance. There are some gift shops close by so I buy Jeju-related souvenirs like tangerine tarts (tangerines are native to Jeju), tangerine chocolates, and Camellia-scented hand cream. ($20). $28
1:00 p.m. – While waiting for the bus to the port ($1 deducted from the T–money card), I get my coffee fix at Paik’s Coffee which ends being the cheapest cup of Venti size coffee I have in Jeju ($2.60). Two stops from Seongsan town is the ferry port to go to Udo Island. Udo Island is a small island off the coast of Jeju with rocky beaches and sprawling hills. I see many locals heading there for photo sessions or just visiting to grab a bite at a nice cafe. We register our passports at the marina and buy a ferry ticket ($7.30 per person) which runs every 30 minutes. $9.90
2:00 p.m. – On the ferry, we secure spots on the top deck to get a great view of the waters. The top deck has benches to sit on but I am surprised to find no chairs in the indoor seating on the 2nd floor. Everyone is casually sitting cross-legged on the floor, very different from the ferry rides I experienced in Hong Kong and Istanbul. The ferry ride is only 15 minutes and we arrived at Udo island, known for its peanuts. You can see bags and cartons of peanuts by the port when you dock, ready to be shipped throughout South Korea. Though there is a bus system on the island, B and I each rent an electric bicycle for two hours ($8.60), easy to find at the many shops near the Udo port entry, and just cycle along the coast as the island is small. There is a road that goes around the edge of the island that cyclers can navigate through in order to see the island from every beautiful angle.
We see so many colorful cottage cafes dotting the coast as we cycle around. The electric bicycle is surprisingly easy to work and allows us to cruise by the water at a good speed. The waters against the rocks, the clear blue sky, and the cooling sea breeze made me understand why locals love this little island so much.
The cafe menus on the island are all in Korean but you see signs by the road with words like ‘“ice cream” or “coffee” that give you an idea of what they offer. We stop at one colorful little cottage by the white lighthouse to taste the famous peanut ice cream ($3.50). The ice cream is more of a vanilla soft serve with a nutty flavor, sprinkled with crushed peanuts on top for texture in a. The flavor was not as sweet or intense as a peanut butter ice cream but just enough nuttiness to tantalize your palate. I would bring back gallons of that stuff if I could. $12.10
5:10 p.m. – After circling the whole island (13km of road to be exact) by electric bike and hurting my bum in the process, we return our bike rentals to catch the 5:30 p.m. ferry back to the mainland. Last ferry ships out at 6:30 p.m. but we want to avoid the crowd. We arrive back at the port and take the bus ($1 deducted from the T-money card) back to Seongsan town where we return to the gift shop (next to Dunkin' Donuts where the seller, thankfully, speaks English) to get more Jeju specialty snacks like chocolate made from cactus fruit and more tangerine tarts. I think the seller is smitten by B and gives us free small gifts on top of our purchases. $17.20
6:30 p.m. – Seongsan town has some pretty big skincare shops from prominent Korean brands like Nature Republic and Innisfree. I’m a skincare junkie and thus begins my shopping adventure. I spend the most at Nature Republic where I get this huge pack of 60-piece sheet masks ($26). Many products are on sale so I stock up on some aloe vera stuff like a cleansing balm ($8.50), sunstick ($9.40), and facial mist ($4.70). Innisfree also has some cool products made from Jeju-sourced ingredients so I get myself a foaming facial wash made from Jeju barley ($8.60). $57.20
Daily Total: $130.40

Day Four

9:30 a.m. – After packing our stuff to head north later in the afternoon, we do one last stroll around Seogwipo to get some shopping done while scouting for breakfast. Many shops only open at 11 a.m., so we have some vanilla latte at Vetro Coffee ($2.60) while killing time. We see a cute stationary shop called Artbox across the street and go check it out. Get your credit cards ready because South Korea is a master of adorable novelty knick knacks and I buy everything from bear-shaped memo pads to banana pattern socks and a lighter with a cute shark on it ($24.20). $26.80
11:30 a.m. – After all the excitement at ArtBox, we head to a popular Korean cosmetic shop called The Saem where they have a promotion on their sunscreen (you can never get enough SPF) and snail masks. I already bought 4 bottles of sunscreen but I’m not mad because I live in the tropics where it’s sunny all year round. $29.40
12:30 p.m. – Wandering around we find a cobblestone road heading downhill filled with artisanal souvenir shops. The stuff there is more on the pricey side and we prefer the kitschy stuff from ArtBox so we concentrate on food. Along that road called Art Street is an inconspicuous restaurant called Pasta Studio Jeju. The chef serves handmade pasta cooked with local Korean ingredients like their own cheese and mushrooms. I order a delicious plate of risotto with a glass of fizzy hallabong (jeju tangerine) ade. $16
1:30 p.m. – On the way back to our hotel, we walk through the Seogwipo Maeil Olle Market for the last time. We turn right on the second junction to exit the market and our noses catch the smell of freshly baked goods. We meet a lovely woman who takes out a fresh batch of muffins. She doesn’t speak a word of English and the only thing I caught from her muffin explanation was the word ‘hallabong’ or tangerine. I buy a 6-pack of muffins and trust me it’s the best muffin I’ve ever tasted in my life. $3
6:00p.m. – The bus ride ($1 deducted from the T–money card) from Seogwipo to the main city Jeju-si takes a little over an hour and after check-in, we have some rest time before starting our Jeju-si exploration. Jeju-si is Jeju’s main city, a more cosmopolitan neighborhood compared to the sleepy town of Seogwipo.
We walk downtown and are aiming for Korean fried chicken but the popular fried chicken chain, Kyochon is under renovation. We find a ramen place down the street, instead, which was more Japanese than Korean but hey, we are hungry. I have a lovely bowl of udon with beef, steaming with flavorful broth that warms me up. $5.60
7:00p.m. – Since the restaurant is at the city centre, we walk around and continu our shopping adventure. I personalize my own 4-pan eyeshadow palette at Innisfree ($20). I also browse through the Olive Young pharmacy where I buy some makeup stuff and a mini travel hair straightener ($24). I finally find a lip tint (a lip product popular in South Korea) with my shade of pink at Clio ($6). I thought the beauty selection in Seogwipo was nice but the shops in Jeju-si are abundant and stock a better variety of Korean skincare and makeup products. $50
I'm also a big thrift shopper and stumble upon two vintage shops, Hangout and Turn Up. They sell vintage goods from Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Carhartt, and Levi’s, which are popular among the youngsters in the city. I manage to bag cute vintage Tommy Hilfiger button up shirts $17
9:30 p.m. – All that shopping makes us hungry again so we go to this cute dessert place called Jeju Alice for some Korean dessert called bingsu, which is flavored shaved ice. We have the green tea flavor with a whole slice of cheesecake as the topping. It’s a pricey dessert but I split the bill with B. $9
10:30 p.m. – After dessert, we walk along the back alleys to enjoy the neon lights and take some pictures. We check out this bar called Para Disco, a hidden bar with a blue door where the neon lights mix beautifully with the vintage decor. Thankfully, the bartender speaks English and I indulge in a drink called 'New Folder' made of gin which is strong and leaves me with a good buzz. By 11.30 p.m., we head out and walk home as the bar isn't far from our hotel, just 600m away. $8.50
Daily Total: $165.30

Day Five

10:00 a.m. – Our beach plans for day five take a turn for the worse as a downpour decides to show up, forecasting its continuation until night time. So we forego our beach trip and walk back downtown to check out the famous dollar store called Daiso. The Daiso in Jeju-si is its own building with six floors of adorable goods. We need an extra carry-on bag anyway because all our stuff doesn't fit in our luggage anymore. Surprisingly Daiso stocks souvenirs like coasters, stickers, passport holders, and maps done in a more artistic aesthetic compared to the tacky ‘I Love Jeju’ tees you find on the roadside. With that, you can guess how much more stuff I buy. $26.40
11:15 a.m. – Next, a quick stop at Missha cosmetic store to find some clay masks. I find one, the SOS Peel Correct Crea.m. Mask, that helps tackle angry acne during those hormonal times. $5.10
11:45 a.m. – The previous evening, we discovered a brunch place near our ramen eatery called Grumpy Baby. It caught our eye as it was one of the few restaurants with an English sign. So we head there for some omelettes and pancakes served with a side of homemade marmalade sourced from local Jeju tangerine. The mother and daughter owners were so hospitable, giving us tips on the coolest gift shops while serving us delicious food. $9.50
2:00 p.m. – After eating, we take a bus ($1 deducted from the T–money card) uptown to the Chilseong-ro shopping district where the guys from the vintage shop recommended we find the hottest sneakers. Sneaker culture is big in Korea where you can find a pair on almost every hip person on the street. The chic outdoor street is lined with shops from numerous sneakers brands like Reebok, Fila, Nike, and New Balance. I even get a pair of Reebok Club C for a discounted price ($48.30). There are also some stores that are equivalent to a Zara or Mango where I buy a cute tote bag ($25) from this brand called 8 Seconds. The final shop we stop at is a four-story Artbox store with a whole floor dedicated to games. I purchase 2 packs of cards and an Uno card game with adorable Korean cartoon designs ($11.60). $84.90
5:00 p.m. – We Google Korean fried chicken because we will not leave without tasting it and find a Kyochon (a popular fried chicken chain in South Korea, like KFC) close to the shopping district. We have a whole chicken marinated with honey and fried to crispy perfection. After dinner, we’re both tired and head back downtown to our hotel via the bus ($1 deducted from the T–money card). $6.50
Daily Total: $132.40

Day Six

9:45a.m. – So after evaluating our shopping items, we realize that our current airline luggage weight of 20kg wasn’t going to cut it so we go online to purchase an extra 10kg luggage which we split ($7.25). While my friend is getting ready, I need my coffee fix and stroll through the city one last time to get my latte from the convenience store ($1.30). $8.55
11:00 a.m. – The taxi drive to the airport ($4.25 deducted from the T–money card) from our hotel was only 10 minutes so we have ample time to check our luggage and go find some food. B returns our portable WiFi router and his credit card is charged for a 6-day renting fee that totals $16.80, which we split ($8.40). Our last meal in South Korea is at the fast food joint, Lotteria where I order a cheeseburger with fries and Coke ($6.50), not very Korean but the most appetizing choice at the airport food court. $14.90
2:15 p.m. – We board our flight for the six-hour journey back to Kuala Lumpur, happy to be going back to a warmer climate and solidifying the fact that I’m a tropical girl through and through. My sister, the ever punctual driver arrives just after we grab our luggage. Again, I’m thankful to avoid hailing a cab or booking a Grab thanks to my sister’s kindness. B hitches a ride with me and we stop by this local eatery near his house where we are happy to be eating our local food of rice with creamy butter chicken before dropping him home.
Daily Total: $23.4
Do you have credit card debt as a result of booking this vacation?
How did you prepare for this trip?
I looked at travel blogs, Instagram location tags, and suggestions from friends.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
I hate hiking, but the Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak was an amazing sight. Even if you don't hike all the way up to the peak, walking along the hills gives you the same breathtaking view.
What was the best meal or food you ate while you were there?
The risotto at Jeju Pasta Studio. The pasta was handmade and they used locally sourced ingredients like their mushrooms, bacon, and cheese.
What advice would you give someone who is traveling to the same location?
Download the Naver app which is their form of Google Maps. Navigating the bus system and finding restaurants is easier through the app. Also, you need to understand that not many people there speak English so install a translator app or learn basic Korean to make it easier.
Is there anything about your trip you would do differently in retrospect?
The bus rides were long, like more than an hour so I would have stayed in various neighborhoods to explore what each had to offer instead of traveling so far from the main city.
Would you stay at your hotel again?
Yes to the hotel at Seogwipo because it was close to 3 bus stops and the market. Plus the staff spoke good English and were helpful with directions. For Ellui Hotel in the main city of Jeju-si, I would have opted for a nicer place even though the location was good.
Where were you located and would you recommend staying in that part of town?
Our first location was on the south side of the island called Seogwipo. It was a lovely quaint town but I feel like if you want more shops and restaurants, Jungmun in the south is more happening. Jeju-si is the main city and I stayed downtown near Jeju City Hall. It’s like their Times Square with many shops, bars, and karaoke joints all in one area. I loved that place and would stay there again.
Is there anything you wished you had time to do, but didn’t?
Due to the rainy weather, I would have loved to explore more beaches on the island. Plus there's have an underground mall in the city selling Korean fashion at bargain prices. I didn’t get to explore that part of the city.
Do you feel like you were there for the right length of time?
I think our time there was sufficient. But if you rented a car and drove around yourself, you wouldn’t need to spend up to six days like us because you would be saving loads of time from traveling the island via public transport.
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