How to visit Jeju Island on a dime
Basking in the media glow of being recently appointed as one of the world's New 7 Wonders of Nature, Jeju Island is the cherished destination of everyone from Korean newlyweds to avid golfers to the extreme mountain trekker. But can a trip to Jeju island please your wallet too?
The answer is a resounding yes.
That’s right -– even on a budget, your next cheap thrill can be a vacation to Jeju.
As the biggest chunk of your budget, grabbing a deal on your flight is the first step.
Considering the ferry? Think again.
An inexpensive round-trip flight is easily cheaper than taking a ferry from Seoul to Jeju, or the KTX to Busan and then a ferry from there. Yes, ferries can be fun, but not as budget-friendly as you would think.
It’s also all about timing.
Flight tickets to Jeju almost double over summer seasons (early July to late August) and the holidays, and then drop significantly.
Smaller airlines, bigger deals: Start with T’way Airlines, Jeju Air and Eastar Jet. These airlines usually offer the best deals, especially if you look a few months ahead. For example, T’way is selling tickets to Jeju from Gimpo Airport up to late March, and tickets cost as little as ₩77,000 round trip (including taxes).
Even if you’re more of the spontaneous type, with sufficient research, you won’t need to spend more than ₩120,000 (approximately US$100) on a round-trip ticket.
More on CNNGo: 5 budget Korean airlines eat up domestic market share
A bed for the night
Finding appropriate accommodations, unlike airline choices, gets trickier. Prices vary depending on group sizes.
Guesthouses (often called "pensions" by Koreans) are a great wallet-friendly option for groups of all sizes.
Most guesthouses have “dormitory” style rooms, which range from ₩10,000 to ₩20,000 per night. These may be bunk beds or blankets on the floor, and are (almost) always separated by gender.
If you would like more privacy and frankly, a better bathroom-to-people ratio, then ask for family-style rooms, targeted for groups of four to six. At a similar price point, this is a much cozier option than the dormitories. Prices may rise in the summer.
Targeting foreigners, Yeha staff speak English and Chinese. Amenities include a free breakfast (toast, eggs and cheese), free international calls to 25 countries, public computers and Wi-Fi. It is located in Jeju-si, near the bus terminal.
561-17 Samdo-1-dong Jeju-si Jeju-do (제주특별자치도 제주시 삼도1동 561-17번지); +82 70 4012 0083; www.yehaguesthouse.com
This dormitory-style guesthouse is located right on the coastline along Olle route 17. Amenities include free breakfast (toast, jam, and orange juice), free shuttle service to the airport and the bus terminal, public computers and Wi-Fi, and best of all, friendly staff.
Dormitory beds cost ₩20,000/night, family-style rooms are ₩90,000 for four people.
719-1 Dodo-2-dong Jeju-si Jeju-do (제주특별자치도 제주시 도두2동 719-1번지); +82 64 743 8953; www.ollefriends.com/miracle_club.php
Walk along the staggeringly beautiful Olle Road. There are 19 main walking paths along the coast of Jeju, offering some of the best sights of the island. A casual stroll through one of these routes will take about four to five hours.
The best part? It’s completely free.
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Climb a volcanic shield
Another cost-free activity to check off your Jeju bucket list is climbing Korea's highest mountain, which is comprised of sheets of lava. Standing tall at 1,950 meters, Mount Halla has four trails but only two to the peak. Budget at least eight hours and ₩2,000 for the two rolls of gimbab for lunch.
If are 24 or under, ask for youth discounts at other Jeju attractions. You may receive a discount of up to 50 percent for most of the tourist sights like Sunrise Peak and Manjang Cave.
Eat at the markets
The best meals from Jeju come not from the latest luxury hotels, but from the market. A great bowl of knife-cut noodles and stir-fried spicy squid over white rice are both ₩6,000 at the Jeju Five Day Market, and generous locals will bring other delectable items (or a free bottle of makgeoli) to your table at no extra charge.
More on CNNGo: Best markets on Jeju Island