Accommodation Options In Korea

Korea’s accommodation options are somewhat different to what you might find I a typical British town. While you can find normal, luxurious hotels around plenty of the business areas if you’ve got a bit of cash to splash (and you’ll need it in the major cities), there are plenty of cheaper and much more interesting options up for grabs. Amongst others, you can stay with local families, experience the bizarre world of love hotels and enjoy traditional accommodation, which often entails sleeping on an Ondol heated floor. Here’s the full round up of what you’ll find in a typical Korean city:

Standard, Westernized Hotels: Korea’s cities are far from cheap when it comes to the upmarket, brand name hotels, but if you’ve got the money you can expect some serious luxury. The Park Hyatt in Seoul, for example, is one of only a handful of ‘six star’ hotels in the world, and the luxury reflects this. You’ll find similar accommodation in all the big cities, if you fancy taking a trip on a big, big budget.

Love Hotels: Everyone who visits Korea should drop in to a Love Hotel at least once. These seedy places are a route around Korean sexual taboos, and are largely used as quick stop offs by young lovers with nowhere else to go. Foreigners, though, can use them as hotels, and they often work out as one of the cheapest options. As a bonus, they can be intensely entertaining, and despite being seedy, are usually clean and surprisingly pleasant inside. You will have to deal with the idea of finding sex toy machines in the corridor and pornography on the televisions, but if you pick well, you’ll also get heart shaped beds, the occasional sauna and even Jacuzzis in the room, and often at no more than £20 a night. No arguing with that! Spot them by looking for the parking areas hidden by flaps of fabric.

Minbak: Minbak accommodation is accommodation provided by families that want to make extra money by renting out rooms in their own house. Typically, you’ll be offered a room with an Ondol (heated floor and duvet) style and use of the bathroom, but little more, and in many cases the Minbak is actually very much part of the owner’s house. In rural locations this can be the only option, while for budget travelers it might prove the best way to travel. Don’t expect luxury, but the prices can be great. From about £8 a night upwards, though very much location dependant.

Guesthouses: Korea is not a common backpacker destination, and outside the very biggest cities you won’t find a lot in the way of guesthouses or youth hostels. In the bigger cities, though, this can be a good way to meet people, and also the cheapest option. From about £6 a night.

Homestays: by far the most culturally interesting experience, bed and breakfast homestays can give you a great chance to make the most of Korean hospitality, as well as getting very involved with a local family. You’ll find most families extremely friendly, though you’ll end up paying more for it than some of the hotel options, so don’t see this is a cheap alternative. If you are going to undertake a homestay, we’d suggest one out in the sticks where you can focus on more traditional culture and lifestyles rather than the fast-pace of city life. From around £20 per night.

Hanok: Traditional hotels are known as Hanok, and consist of tiny rooms spread around a traditional courtyard, often with kimchi pots slowly fermenting the national dish in the centre, along with traditional farming tools. You’ll find the wooden-floored rooms extremely bare, with just a few pieces of bedding stuck in the corner. Make them into a bed and enjoy the heated floor – it’s a great experience, and far more comfortable than you might expect. Prices start extremely cheap (perhaps at £15), despite the traditional view that this simple kind of accommodation is fairly aristocratic.

Mountain Huts: If you’re into your hiking, mountain huts spread across the ranges of the country offer something a little different and a little special. They’re basic and often booked out in advance (certainly don’t head to a remote one relying on getting accommodation – Koreans really love hiking). While the facilities are limited, they allow some epic hikes and cost very little. On the flip side, you’ll have to provide almost everything besides the roof over your head.

Korean Saunas: As ridiculous as this option might seem, it’s often a good one for the odd night. For a fee of no more than perhaps £5 you can stay the night in one of the traditional sauna venues, though you will find the facilities for sleeping are somewhat less impressive than those for bathing. Shared facilities and a fascinating cultural experience are the good sides, though you’ll have to get used to public nudity on the bathing side of things. There are TVs, DVDs and even restaurants in the bigger saunas, though good luck getting anything other than Korean drama on screen!

Temple Stays: More a cultural event than a genuine accommodation option, temple stays are available throughout Korea, and usually come complete with strict rules and regulations that you have to follow in order to stay. Some of them are completely free, while others are fairly pricey, but it’s all about the Buddhist side of the experience. You’ll find yourself spending large chunks of time meditating, talking to monks and taking advantage of the incredibly chilled out atmosphere that the temples create. Don’t expect to sneak out and enjoy the surrounding sites, though: temple stays are more of a temporary lifestyle commitment than simply somewhere to stay.