Life in Korea: finding a cheap place to sleep

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Author’s note: ‘Life in Korea’ posts are written towards those expats new or newer to Korea. If you have a more experienced perspective, feel free to show what you know in the comments.

Minbak, yeogwan, yeoinsul, motels, and hostels can be found in virtually every area of the country. With prices that rarely top 50,000 won a night, it’s proof that traveling Korea doesn’t have to be expensive. Wherever you stay, come with cash in hand – things just work easier that way.


Author’s note: ‘Life in Korea’ posts are written towards those expats new or newer to Korea. If you have a more experienced perspective, feel free to show what you know in the comments.

Minbak, yeogwan, yeoinsul, motels, and hostels can be found in virtually every area of the country. With prices that rarely top 50,000 won a night, it’s proof that traveling Korea doesn’t have to be expensive. Wherever you stay, come with cash in hand – things just work easier that way.

You already know what a hostel is – dorms with bunkbeds, or sometimes private rooms. Sometimes called ‘youth hostels’, most aren’t limited to young’uns (they may be able to get a discount off the already low price, however). They’re fine places to sleep, if you can handle the guy on the top bunk snoring or the girl on the other bed tossing and turning all night. Private rooms may include en suite bathrooms (bathrooms in the room instead of down the hallway), but check before booking. Prices start at $10 per night a person, and don’t move much past $30 per night per person. Among others, hostelsweb.com and realadventures.com offer excellent places to make reservations and book places online.

민박 (minbak) are worth discovering, if you’re looking for a traditional Korean experience. Think of a 민박 as a mom-and-pop bed-and-breakfast, usually without the free breakfast. Most are fairly bare-bones facilities with shared bathrooms and 온돌 (ondol) floors, but their locations make them worth a bit of inconvenience. For example, a number of 민박 dot the shores of Chuam Beach near Donghae in Gangwon-do – perfect for seeing Donghae’s famous sunrise. If you’re looking to practice your Korean, check out minbak.co.kr to find 민박 all across Korea. A 여인술 (yeoinsul) is similar to a 민박 in both price and amenities.

Motels (also called hotels or love motels) are arguably the best bet for the weary traveler. Conveniently located near virtually every bus terminal and train station in the country, they’re often identifiable by a bowl of water with steam rising from it:

(photo credit: Andie Vaughn)

Commonly called ‘love motels’ for a, um, common purpose, love motels are cheap (20,000 – 50,000 won per room per night, although fancy hotels can get expensive), designed for two people, and supply plenty of basic necessities during your stay. They’ll feature a Western-style mattress and bathroom, so it’ll feel a bit like a Holiday Inn or Motel 6. Worth noting: In 2 1/2 years of traveling across Korea and primarily staying in love motels, I’ve never lost sleep to an excess amount of noise coming from other rooms. Keep your eyes out for the number of 모텔 or 호텔 near the bus terminal or train station where you arrive. I’ve never needed (or had) a reservation – if you’re traveling during a holiday or heavy traveling period, you may need to do a bit more looking than usual.

여관 (yeogwan) and love motels have a lot in common. The only real difference is the name – prices and amenities offered are very similar.

Finally, it’s worth noting that plenty of 찜질방 (jjimjilbang) are open 24 hours. These spas / saunas offer resting areas for getting your 8 hours sleep, although it’s unlikely to be much more than a space on the wooden floor and a foam pillow. While 찜질방 are great for relaxing and the amenities, the hard wooden floors are not for everyone. Note that saunas and motels use the same ‘bowl of steam’ logo – the place’s name can help you figure out which one it is.

The least you need to know: there’s plenty of places to rest your head once you get where you’re going – no reservations required.

Creative Commons License © Chris Backe – 2010

This post was originally published on my blog,Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.




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