Why simply watch the 2018 Winter Olympic games on television when you can be there in person and feel feel the energy of the crowd?
The 2018 Winter Olympic Games kick off in Pyeongchang, South Korea on Feb. 9, 2017. Athletes from roughly 90 countries, as well as hundreds of thousands of fans are expected to descend on the region for the 17 days of intense competition in sports like ice hockey, skiing, figure skating and curling.
As with any popular event, you’ll need to start planning and booking your trip in advance for the best experiences and values. Booking site Fareness.com has already seen an uptick in searches to South Korea during October, indicating people are planning potential travel.
Whether you’re looking to splurge on a front-row experience to see your favorite sports or simply get by on a shoestring budget, Money scouted the options and priced out what it really costs to spend a week at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
$915: Average flight cost from the U.S. to Seoul’s Incheon International Airport
$200: Pyeongchang Rail Pass from Seoul
$1,870: Average cost of a hotel for a week near the Games
$1,548: Four ticket packages to alpine skiing, pairs figure skating, speed skating, men's hockey match and snowboarding
Scoring tickets to the actual events is still possible, but prices can vary widely depending on what you want to attend and which seating section you opt for. For example, tickets for the Opening Ceremony start at just over $400, but a front-row seat is currently selling on Stubhub for as high as $5,946. Depending on which countries make it to the medal rounds, you may be able to score resale tickets cheaper closer to various events.
For U.S. residents, there are still plenty of event tickets left on the Games’ official vendor, CoSport/Jet Set Sports. For example, you can purchase a two-day package that includes ski jumping and figure skating for $480. But keep in mind that the medal rounds for popular sports command a high price. A ticket package for a men’s hockey playoff game and medal ceremony is going for about $1,739.
Flights from the U.S. to Seoul are averaging about $915 for the timeframe around the Olympics, according to airfare prediction app Hopper. And despite it being about 125 miles from the Olympic Stadium in Pyeongchang, Incheon International Airport is really your best bet to get to the Olympic Games on time, says Fareness founder and CEO Scott Wainner.
Out of major U.S. cities, Fareness found that a seven-day trip from L.A. to Seoul was currently the cheapest at a mere $694 for those leaving Feb. 10 or 12, 2018. But flights from cities in the middle of the U.S. are usually higher—for example, Austin during roughly the same timeframe and for the same duration were about $1,080.
“Travelers should keep in mind that most flights are going to take over 12 hours so make sure that you book your hotels and transportation to account for time zone changes,” Wainner says.
Before booking your flight, check what time it's set to land both in South Korea, as well as what time that would be in your home city. It could be a cheaper flight gets in at 3 a.m. your time. That's an especially important consideration if you're the type of traveler who doesn't sleep well on flights. You may want to spend an extra night in Seoul to recoup and get acclimated before heading onto the Games.
Book your 2018 Winter Olympics hotel as soon as possible, Wainner advises, noting that accommodations are limited and neighboring towns can be over an hour away by local transit.
If you’re planning to stay in Pyeongchang where the opening and closing ceremonies are taking place, the lowest rate available is $117 a night at the Oclaire Pension, according to Booking.com. If you’re willing to splurge, a night at the upscale Mamestar Pension—which includes an outdoor pool and free wi-fi—starts at $449. Some rooms even include spa bathtubs and kitchenettes.
Want to stay closer to the action? The hockey, figure skating and and speed skating events are taking place in Gangneung, about 13 miles east of Pyeongchang. The most budget friendly option in this town is at The Ocean Capsule Hotel, where a room for the night will set you back $269.
The easiest way to get from Seoul to the Olympic Games is via the newly expanded bullet train route, which reduces the travel time from 2.5 hours by car to about an hour by train. You can purchase a 7-day pass from around $200. That's a good deal, considering a one-way ticket from Boston to New York during peak times can cost around $120.
Once you’re at the Olympic venues, you’ll be able to use spectator shuttle buses. Connecting the cities of Jinbu, Hoenggye and Gangneung, ticket holders may use spectator shuttles on the day of the event. The buses are scheduled to start running the day before the Opening Ceremony and operate through the last day of sporting events.
While you may end up grabbing a snack or a quick meal at one of the venues before or after an event, there are other dining options. Generally, meals at inexpensive restaurants are about $6, while a 3-course meal at a mid-range restaurant is about $18 per person, according to cost estimate site Numbeo. The Team USA friends and family guidebook recommends checking out the Gyo-Dong region (near Wonju University) in Gangneung, which is a quick cab ride from the Olympic Park. Here you’ll find small restaurants and coffee shops.
In Pyeongchang, there are several well-known restaurants worth checking out, according to MyBucketlistevents.com. The 30-year-old Paldo Myeon Ga restaurant offers meals for around $10, including broiled eels and spicy stir-fried chicken. The slightly more expensive Youngchun Garden is also recommended. Try their famous stewed chicken dish using traditional medicinal herbs for around $18.
Currency Exchange Rates
The South Korean currency is the won (pronounced wʌn). Currently a U.S. dollar is worth about 1,110 won, but the spending power of the dollar against the won has been on a steady decline over the past year. Expect that trend to continue into the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“Exchange your currency early at your local bank,” Wainner says. And make sure you do this in advance, as your local bank may have to special order won, which could take up to a week. If you wait and exchange your currency at the airport you could be paying an exchange fee, whereas many banks in the U.S. don’t charge their customers a fee for this service.