Jacuzzi rooms and century-old traditional buildings, there are many accommodation choices in Korea. One might say, too many.
This post will help you find the best room (or glamping trailer) to fit your needs.
I’ll start with the most unique experience you can have as a visitor.
Staying in a 100-year old traditional house with a heated floor is peak Korea.
You’ll likely enjoy a continental breakfast in a lush garden while soaking in the culture.
- Price range: 100 to 200 dollars
- Perfect for: culture enthusiasts
2. Jjimjilbang (sauna)
If hanok stays are out of your budget, but you want a real local experience, jjimjilbang might be up your alley.
You get both the sauna experience with multiple hot and cold rooms and pools, and you can stay overnight!
Not for light sleepers, but if you think snoozing is best done in groups and don’t mind the floor, this is for you.
I’ve slept in saunas a few times when I was too tired/broke/drunk to get home.
You can be too drunk for these (they won’t let you in for “health reasons”), so don’t rock up at night three sheets to the wind.
- Price range: 10 to 20 dollars a night
- Perfect for: budget travelers
3. Motels (yeogwan if you’re old school)
Seedy love motels, fairy tale themed rooms and everything in between, these cover a lot of ground. They have ones with changeable colored lights and Jacuzzi tubs right in the middle of the room. Classy.
Motels aren’t always cheaper than western style hotels.
You might be treated to second hand smoke and late night shenanigans heard through the paper-thin walls (I’ve seen and heard some things in these). On the flip side, you can get messy too!
If you’re coming to Korea to get loose, these will fit the bill.
- Price range: 40 to 100 dollars a night
- Perfect for: budget conscious libertines
6 signs you’re staying in a love motel
- It’s located in a discrete side street, near houses of ill repute
- There’s no website and HOTEL with a monosyllabic word like “pop”, “king”, or “queen” are displayed in bright neon
- Parking garage is covered to conceal license plates
- You never see the staff, either the front desk is covered with tinted glass or it’s a just an auto key dispenser
- Your room comes with some fun adult balloons
- There’s a mirror on your ceiling and your bed moves
Why do these exist? Koreans tend to live with their parents until marriage. Koreans are also human and would like to get intimate once in a while. Hence, love motels.
Also, extramarital affairs. Up until a few years ago, adultery was illegal. Stepping out had higher stakes and a bit more zhuzh, so I’ve heard.
Like with motels, there’s a wide range of hotels. As I get older, I prefer these since they have better beds, furniture, sound proofing, and consistency.
For the best value, a nice boutique hotel in a residential neighborhood will offer a restful night at a decent price.
Lotte City Hotel Mapo has been my go-to for a decade, the location and value can’t be beat.
- Price range: 50 to 400 dollars a night
- Perfect for: business and luxury travelers
Young, single, and ready to mingle? If you said yes to two of these, then hostels are what you’re looking for.
You’ll have no choice but to meet people. You can find all the classics, including four bed female-only shared rooms and 16 person bunk bed mixed halls.
There are also private rooms if you want to meet people, but don’t want to hear them snore (bring some earplugs just in case!).
Newer hostels around Hongdae are good options.
They often come with the added bonus of having the owner/manager give personal restaurant and activity recommendations.
- Price range: 20 to 50 dollars a night
- Perfect for: extroverts on a budget
Works the same as it does in other countries, except you’ll get some nifty bathroom slippers.
I’ve found good deals with a kitchen and proper living room. They’re great for stays over a week.
Make sure yours is in a residential area away from big streets for the best results.
Avoid rooftops in summer and basements anytime.
- Price range: 50 to 100 dollars a night
- Perfect for: longer stays
Picking one of these is like hitting the old Google “I’m feel lucky” button.
Each are their own thing, but I think they’re the same in different sizes. Kind of like how Mexican food has taquitos, tacos, and burritos. I’m oversimplifying a bit here.
They’re usually run by an older person in the countryside. They’ll either be really nice or ornery. There’s no in between.
- Minbak are often a spare room in someone’s house, like an analogue Airbnb
- Guesthouses are larger and sometimes shared, like a Koreanized hostel (they sometimes throw parties for younger guests, so be ready to socialize)
- Pensions are the biggest of all and good for large groups and families who are comfortable sleeping in front of each other
These may or may not come with beds and if not, you get a heated floor!
They may or may not be on booking.com under “BB”, but you can often just walk in and book a night off peak season.
The walls will offer little to no sound insulation, so hope that your neighbors are monks.
Asking to look inside beforehand will be hit or miss (not common among locals) depending on the aforementioned temperament of your host/hostess.
I personally prefer to get a hotel with some standardization and not deal with the whims of the owner.
Even so, it’s nice having the option. Some have cool themes, so feel free to try one out.
- Price range: 50 to 200 dollars a night
- Perfect for: spontaneous trips and last resorts
Want to spend more than you would for a 5-star hotel while roughing it (sometimes at a 5-star hotel)? Glamping and caravans have got you covered.
But seriously, there’s something to be said about enjoying the outdoors in comfort and style. These have popped up over the last few years and can be a lot of fun.
Caravans, despite the negative connotation in western countries, are the pension version of glamping. They’re great for families and big groups and often have kitchens and private bathrooms.
I’d recommend grounds with spaced out units so you can enjoy the tranquility as intended.
- Price range: 50 to 200 dollars a night
- Perfect for: semi-outdoorsy types
Want to find inner peace overnight? Or perhaps you’re in the market for some sweet vengeance and want to train martial arts? (maybe not that last one)
You can spend a night or two in a genuine Buddhist temple.
Temple stay is a potentially life-changing experience that’s sure to shake up your routine.
These are all over the country including Seoul, but the fighty ones are closer to Japan for some reason I can’t imagine…
- Price range: 40 to 50 dollars a night
- Perfect for: spiritual types
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Did we miss anything?
Let us know your thoughts or questions about accommodation types in South Korea!
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