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If you’re traveling to Korea and wondering where to stay in Seoul, finding an affordable place to stay might be difficult. But it shouldn’t be! Korea has tons of places to stay that are very budget friendly. All the locals know what’s up, and lucky for you we’ll let you in on the know! Here’s a number of accommodations that will fit pretty much anyone’s budget
Note: As of July 17th 2012 $50 USD is approximately 57,000 won.
This cheap accommodation is known by people that are even vaguely familiar with Korea. But just in case you didn’t know, jjimjilbang is a Korean style sauna where people go to sit in really hot rooms and sweat it out. You can watch tv, grab some food and drink, and just overall relax. People get so relaxed that jjimjilbangs offer sleep over rates, which typically stay under 10,000 won. If it’s a really nice jjimjilbang, it’ll cost you maybe another 1,000 won or so. Yo… “luxury” for an extra few 1,000 won? Yea!
Jjimjilbangs are great places to stay in Seoul (or in any other part of Korea) for a single night. Most people probably won’t want to stay longer than that as you have to sleep on the floor in a room with a bunch of other strangers (some who love epic snoring). But it’s probably the cheapest place to stay in Korea. For 10,000 won you get a locker, showers and sauna, free tv, computer access (for an extra 500 won) and a yoga mat to sleep on! Fantastic for 1 nighters, probably not awesome for anything more
If you can read and type Korean, finding jjimjilbangs is easy. Go to Naver.com (Korea’s number 1 search portal) and search “area name” + “찜질방” and you should get a list of all the jjimjilbangs in the area you’re looking for.
This one is the most obvious choice. Seoul guest houses offer the same amenities that guest houses around the world offer: wifi, tv, laundry and all that other good stuff. There is dormitory style rooming or private rooms, but both options are typically less than $50 a night, and you can’t beat that price if you’re looking for a cheap place to stay in Seoul. Some guest houses in Korea are actually housed in traditional style Korean homes, complete with ondol (floor heating). Some even offer Korean style breakfasts for a full traditional Korean-style inn experience. Try to look for these kinds of guest houses when you’re looking for a place to stay in Seoul! Also, guesthouses are well advertised in English on the Internet. Google it!
Tip 1: Most guesthouses in Seoul are located north of the Han River. North of the river is where most of the tourist spots in Seoul are, it’s the more traditional part of Seoul, and there’s generally more stuff to do for Seoul tourists north of the river.
Tip 2: Hongdae, Myeongdong, Insadong are popular spots for tourists to visit and are also places where there are tons of guesthouses located near each other. Alternatively, Gangnam (south of the Han river) might be harder to find a guesthouse.
If you’re searching for specific guesthouse recommendations in Seoul, check out our list.
Yeogwans are Korean style motels. These motels typically have been around for a while, and they are rarely located in new buildings, so they’re not the most modern or cleanest places to stay. But for those traveling to Korea on a budget and not wanting to stay at a guesthouse, this is another option. The great thing is these are located everywhere throughout Korea (as opposed to guesthouses) and they don’t require any reservations, so this is another option to consider if you’re wondering where to stay in Seoul. It’s also kind of cool because these are extremely Korean (aka old); at many yeogwans you have the option of sleeping on the floor with Korean style blankets on top of ondol (Korean-style floor heating system). Just like you’re in the 1970’s!
Just an honest warning though, these motels can sometimes be pretty ghetto. Yeogwans have a bit of a seedy reputation as… well… you know when you see people go to really ghetto motels to do lots of sinful things in the movies? You won’t get murdered or anything, but yea… kind of like that.
Tip 1: These are really good options for traveling within Korea. They’re everywhere, cheap, and no reservations.
Tip 2: If you’re staying longer than a night, many yeogwans will be open to haggling prices.
(Generally, you won’t find these advertised on the internet. These motels usually rely on walk-in business, so you can just walk right in and get a room.)
The people behind motels finally got smart and took the “love” out of “love motel.” And although you might be discouraged to stay at a place that was formerly labeled a shag pad, you shouldn’t dismiss this as a viable place to stay in Seoul because a lot of motels are crazy nice! Sometimes they’re nicer than their more expensive cousins (hotels). Many have entertainment options like video games, jacuzzis, computers, karaoke machines and big flat screen tv’s, and some even have wacky themes like “Inca Sun” and “Fairy Tale World.” It’s a huge step up from yeogwans for only a little bit extra. These are fantastic options if you’re wondering where to stay in Seoul on a budget.
Just like yeogwans, these can also be found everywhere in Korea. However, some do require reservations. You might not find these advertised on English websites, so if you can, get a Korean friend to help you find one. Or if you can read Korean, here are a few websites you can try out: yanolja.com and moga.co.kr.
Tip 1: Many of these are still very functional as love motels (hourly rates). So be sure to find out beforehand if a longer-term stay is possible (leaving your stuff in the room/not having to check in and check out).
Tip 2: If you do find one that can take you during your trip to Korea, many motels will be open to haggling prices depending on how long you plan on staying.
Finally, if you’re looking for specific hotel recommendations, check out our list for best hotels in Seoul.
Keith Kim is a Korean-American living in Seoul, Korea. He likes espresso shots, photography art and he loves his Playstation 3. He started seoulistic.com as a hobby site, and is now in the process of turning it into a full-time business. Wish him luck! Check out his blog for an uncensored view on entrepreneurship, dating and life in Korea. Personal Blog: gyopokeith.com Facebook: facebook.com/gyopokeithkim Twitter: @gyopokeith Youtube: "Gyopokeith e-mail me anytime at: gyopokeith [at] gmail.com