Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cost of living for students in Korea

First published in The Hindu Business Line, July 25th 
South Korea is increasingly seeing international students flocking to its universities for undergraduate, graduate and research programs. There are about 400 national and private universities, some of which have research facilities in several emerging scientific fields.

With many scholarship options available, more Indian students are choosing to study in Korea and the community is slowly increasing in size.

While most choose universities in Seoul, there are also a few who consider other reputed organizations in Daejon, Gyeonggi Province, and Busan.

If you have got admission to a university in Seoul, undoubtedly the first question that pops up in your mind would be the cost of living. While it is true that Seoul is an expensive city, it is still cheaper than most popular student destinations in Europe, Australia and South-East Asia.

Accommodation options

It is ideal to be able to stay on campus in a dormitory, which most scholarships provide for. However, one may also explore options of living outside the campus in a one-room flat or boarding house for students, which will cost more.

While the monthly rent for a 900 sq. ft. furnished apartment in an expensive area of the city is around 2.5 million KRW (1$=1,100 KRW) with a deposit of 10 million KRW, smaller accommodation near universities that cater to students is much cheaper. On a sharing basis, you might have to shell out 300,000-500,000 KRW per month with a deposit of 5 million KRW. Utility bills — gas, electricity, Internet — will put you back by an additional 60,000-100,000 KRW.

Quick public transport

South Korea has a well-developed public transport system with a metro and bus system that is convenient and quick. The basic fare on public transport is 1,150 KRW, and Taxi is 2,400 KRW. It is best to get a travel card (T-card).

Most Korean food is non-vegetarian but one can also find vegetarian food, other international food, fast food as well as Indian restaurants. University campuses have canteens at reasonable rates. Simple Korean meals in small restaurants will cost you around 6,000-10,000 KRW. The University cafeteria may charge you 2,500-3,000 KRW.

Fancier meals may cost about 20,000 KRW and if you are a coffee addict you will have to spend 4,000-5,000 KRW more.

In bars, a bottle of beer is 7,000 KRW and a cocktail is about 10,000 KRW. The cheaper option is buy your beer at convenience stores, where a Korean beer will cost around 1,500 KRW, and imported beer will be double the cost.

Grocery prices

As in most developed countries, the price of daily commodities is high compared to India. If you plan on doing your own cooking, vegetables prices are seasonal but can be expensive depending on the place of sale.

Here’s a quick rundown of the prices of some basic items. A loaf of bread costs 2,500 KRW; a litre of milk: 2,800 KRW; a dozen eggs: 3,500 KRW; 1 kg tomatoes: 8,000 KRW; 1 kg potatoes: 3,000 KRW.

Toothpaste costs around 3000 KRW; shampoo: 7,000 KRW; 1 box of 32 tampons 10,000 KRW, deodorant: 7,000 KRW (very hard to get since Koreans hardly sweat and do not use deodorants);a men's haircut: 10-15000 KRW. Traditional barbershops are cheaper at 6,000 KRW, but are now getting extinct.

A movie ticket on weekends will put you back by 9,000 KRW. But there are many affordable options to sightsee and spend your holidays.