So if you’re traveling in Korea, you’re going to need a place to sleep for the night. Fortunately, Korea has a variety of places to offer for a variety of prices.
Crashing at a friend’s place is by far the cheapest way to go. Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw as to whether or not you’ll know someone in that city and what conditions you’ll be sleeping. Some people have extra bedding, some don’t—but basically every foreigner I’ve met in Korea is willing to lend you their floor for the night. Friends are also great to help you pull an all-nighter if you want to just skip sleeping and stay out (bars, clubs, etc. don’t close until around 5/6am…and then there’s always a 24 hour restaurant of some sort where you can eat breakfast).
For a private room, these are the most expensive places to stay in Korea. They are all over Seoul and other major cities, but harder to find in the smaller areas. These rooms are always secure and safe, and come equipped with the standard queen-size bed, TV, and some type of sitting area (either a couch or two dining chairs). Prices range anywhere from about $60-$120. At check-in, you will get a complimentary toothbrush and razor. I’ve also received other bathroom products (toothpicks, ear swabs, etc.)
This is the cheapest type of room available for a private place to stay. Usually they are referred to as ‘love’ or ‘sex’ motels because they are so cheap ($25-40). (UPDATE: The REAL sex motels actually provide costumes. LOL) Most of them give you a complimentary condom at check in (or it’s waiting for you in the room). Depending on the location (city, location in city, etc.), you can get a really nice room or a really dingy room for about the same price…you can usually guess the type of room based upon its location and outside appearance. The rooms have always smelled clean with fresh linens and appear clean, but it’s up to your level of trust. Personally, I really like motels because they are affordable, there are more of them, and they are usually in convenient locations. Most of the ones I’ve been to come with complimentary toothpaste and 1-time use toothbrushes, but I’ve been to one that didn’t give me a toothbrush. >.<
Jjimjilbang (찜질 방)
If you want a very cheap place to crash ($5-10) and don’t mind sleeping around strangers, then this place is PERFECT. I also like these places but there are less of them. So these are cool for a number of reasons. First of all, you enter your appropriate gender locker room and your shoes get their own locker. Then, you go to the counter and get issued their sauna/scrub outfits and a locker for your stuff. After that, you can sit in a sauna, take a shower, or sit in a hot tub. (Some even have pools and workout rooms; rumor has it that there’s a massive one in Seoul but I’ve never been and it probably costs more.) The only downside is that if you’re a foreigner, all the old people of your respective sex, will gawk at you…and you get to see all of them in their unattractive nude glory. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to, and you can move on to go sleep. For sleeping, you go to a massive dimly lit open room where people of all ages and sexes are sleeping. There’s usually a respectable distance between everyone…after all it is public and public displays of affection are frowned upon. If you’re lucky, you can grab a mat AND pillow…if you’re not lucky, then you get the floor. Often times there are other rooms you can go: heated, air-conditioned, and brightly lit. Some jjimjilbangs even have the option of your own ‘private’ thing. Hard to explain…but basically small caverns in a wall (one on the floor, and one above) that you crawl into—if you’re short like me you can sit up hunched over. If you’re taller, then you just have to be careful when waking up and crawling back out. I found this comfortable and it also blocked out the noise of some people snoring. ^^. Anyways, if you feel adventuresome, I highly suggest sleeping in a jjimjilbang at least once.