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Hotels & More

Beyond motels, learn about the more places to sleep while biking in Korea.

Motels are affordable and ubiquitous in Korea. But what are your other options for sleeping while biking in Korea? You’ve got plenty.

From luxury to authenticity, check out our list of additional accommodation types.

A picture of a luxury hotel along Korea's East Coast Bike Path.
Along the East Coast Bike Route, you'll find luxury hotels. If your wallet is a little light, you'll also find cheaper alternatives.

Hotel (호텔)

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Map | Hotel

Want to stay in one? Well, head to the big metro areas, like Seoul, Daegu, Busan. You also find some scattered along the resort cities on the East Coast Route.

A picture of the Sun Cruise Hotel and Resort along the East Coast Bike Path in South Korea.
The Sun Cruise Hotel and Resort near Gangneung offers an interesting landmark to the East Coast Bike Path in Korea.

Korea’s mega-corps like Lotte offer western-style hotels. You’ll also find familiar western brands like MarriottBest Western, and Ramada. Japan offers its efficient and discounted brand of hotel with their Toyoko Inns.

Want to stay in one? Well, head to the big metro areas, like Seoul, Daegu, Busan. You also find some scattered along the resort cities on the East Coast Route.

Korea’s mega-corps like Lotte offer western-style hotels. You’ll also find familiar western brands like MarriottBest Western, and Ramada. Japan offers its efficient and discounted brand of hotel with their Toyoko Inns.

Pension (펜션)

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Map | Pension

Pensions? Like a retirement account? While Korea does have those, pensions (펜션) refer to a type of accommodation.

What are they? Pensions are vacation homes. Families rent them out for a week or weekend during a break. They cook, eat, and sleep there, venturing out in the daytime.

A pension near the city of Uljin in South Korea.
Pensions come in many shapes and forms. From small bungalows, to hanoks, to retrofitted shipping containers.

Pensions? Like a retirement account? While Korea does have those, pensions (펜션) refer to a type of accommodation.

What are they? Pensions are vacation homes. Families rent them out for a week or weekend during a break. They cook, eat, and sleep there, venturing out in the daytime.

What’s inside a standard pension? Because pensions are temporary homes, they all come with kitchens (pots and pans included), sleeping spaces, and dining areas.

Some have separate bedrooms with beds. Many come with ondol rooms (온돌). The entire family or friend group huddles down on a common, open floor.

A picture of the Sanpoli pension near Uljin.
The Sanpoli pension near Uljin offers nearby crab restaurants and beaches.

Where are they? Pensions are getaways. Away from the city. Away from the traffic. Away from the concrete. They dwell near natural attractions. Beaches. Mountains. Lakes.

What do they look like? You’ll find standalone hanoks surrounded by forests listed as pensions. You can also see seaside bungalows split into two, or converted shipping containers along rocky coasts.

What about bike trips? Pensions are a good option for cyclists. You’ll find endless iterations along the East Coast Route. Though expensive, split the cost with three or four fellow riders.

Pensions work best for families or friend groups. They set up shop in one spot for a few days and return to their temporary home in the evening.

Beware, the best pensions sell out fast during peak season. Book ahead if you want to stay in one.

Hostel (호스텔)

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Map | Hostel

Like hotels, hostels (호스텔) are another import. They provide cheap accommodations for budget constrained travelers.

What’s the difference between a hostel in Korean and one in Amsterdam. Not much. 

What’s a hostel? Not familiar? Okay, trust fund. Hostels are broke-student-cheap accommodations where strangers sleep stacked upon each other in bunk beds. Bathrooms: shared. Kitchen: shared. Farts: shared.

You can find all varieties of sleeping arrangements. Four bed, female-only rooms. Eight co-ed bunk beds jammed into a living room. You’ll also find a rare twin or single bed setup.

In Korea, hostels proprietors range from professional chains with check-in counters to a gal with a big apartment who only accepts cash.

Hostel Pros

Why would you  sleep in a sixteen-person dorm run by a thirty-something in a stained t-shirt? Well, it’s cheap. About ten bucks a night.

Remember, more souls packed into a room reduces the cost. If you’re riding solo and don’t have friends to split the cost, you can’t find a cheaper bed.

(Don’t assume your hostel will fill every bed in a large dorm. You might get lucky. Nothing’s better than paying bunk bed prices for a semi-private room.)

Hostels are also the best place to make insta-friends. International tourists and young Koreans with English skills frequent hostels. Just hang in the common room. You’ll always find a fellow traveler wanting to chat the night away.

Hostel Cons

So why wouldn’t you book a hostel? You don’t need much imagination. If privacy is a necessity, hostels are your kryptonite. If you’re a light sleeper, they’ll poison your dreams.

Furthermore, hostels attract youths. What do youths do? Imbibe. Soju. Beer. Liquor. And bars don’t close in Korea. So if you book in Hongdae or Gwangalli, expect drunkards stumbling in at four in the morning. (Pray they find the right bed in the dark.)

Where are hostels? Because of popularity among international tourists, you’ll find them in major cities around the country’s highlights. You won’t find them in mid-tier cities or small villages.

If you want cheap, hostel-type rooms in the country, book a Guesthouse (게스트하우스).

A picture of a hotel designed to reflect the Roman colosseum.
That isn't the Roman colosseum. Pensions and motels in Korea compete for customers in creative ways.

Guesthouse (게스트하우스)

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Map | Guesthouse

What’s the difference between a guesthouse (게스트하우스) and a hostel (호스텔)? As the bard (probably) wrote, “a room crammed with bunk beds by any other name would be a room crammed with bunk beds.”

Guesthouses are owned by your average Joe or Jane (Min-jun and Seo-yun). They run them out of their homes, either an apartment or house.

You will find international travelers in guesthouses. But many Koreans are more familiar with guesthouses than hostels. So you’ll find a greater mix of domestic travelers. That makes them feel more like a Bed and Breakfast than grimy backpackers dorm.

Because they’re converted residences, each guesthouse offers multiple sleeping options, priced accordingly.

For family or a couple, you’ll spot a master bedroom available for a lump sum. You might find a backroom stuffed with bunk beds, a price on each bed. Or a smaller bedroom stuffed with three twin beds.

Guesthouse Pros

Guesthouses are great for solo travelers. Many proprietors hold events to build a sense of community. This attracts young Koreans seeking friends or more.

You can find guesthouses in less metro areas of the country. This makes them terrific budget options for riding the East Coast Route or Western Routes bike paths.

A hanok style house near the city of Daejin along the Gyeongbuk Bike Path in South Korea.
A hanok style house sits near the town of Daejin at the end of the Gyeongbuk Bike Path.

Hanok Guesthouse (한옥 게스트하우스)

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Map | Hanok Guesthouse
(한옥 게스트하우스)

Want an authentic Korea experience? Try a hanok guesthouse (한옥 게스트하우스).

What’s a hanok (한옥)? Think tiny cottages with decorated eaves and up-swung roofs. Yes. It’s the first thing you think of when you hear “traditional Korean house.”

Unlike guesthouses, you won’t need to share a room with strangers. Hanok Guesthouses will provide you with your own room. Some families or large groups can rent out standalone hanoks.

Like pensions, hanok guesthouses are getaways. They dwell in nature or traditional villages, near inland forests and babbling brooks. The city of Jeonju (전주) is known for their hanok village and traditional accommodations.

Hanok guesthouses appeal to those looking to escape modern life. They strip away modern conveniences and install gardens and butterflies. 

Expect some hanoks to exclude Wi-Fi, TVs, and air conditioning from their core package. You might find the rare case of buildings without electricity or running water.

Temple Stay

Hanok Guesthouses aren’t traditional enough for you? Try a temple stay.

Many Buddhist Temples throughout Korea, big and small, open their doors to travelers of all religions and backgrounds to experience the pared down life of a monk.

A picture of Bulgoksa Temple in Gyeongju, South Korea.
Temples big and small around Korea offer travelers from around the world the chance to stay the night and live humbly.

What do you do during a temple stay? Live the life of a Buddhist practitioner. Sleep in traditional dorms. Get up early. Attend a ceremonial service.

Meditate. Take a class. Eat a traditional meal. (All of it. Every last morsel. Use that piece of kimchi to scrape the bottom of your bowl.)

There are over fifty temples throughout Korea that offer programs. You’ll find packages available for one or a few nights. The per night cost is similar to a hotel.

Because temples design their stays to relax and disconnect, the proprietors will probably snatch your phone and hand you a set of plain robes upon entering the gates.

Learn more here.

Jjimjilbang (찜질방)

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Map | Jjimjilbang

We lied. Hostels aren’t the most budget friendly accommodations. If really want to pinch won, visit a jjimjilbang (찜질방).

Jjimjilbangs are traditional Korean saunas. Like steam rooms and hot tubs and naked people? 

Yes. Jjimjilbangs operate a lot like western saunas. They’re places for men and women (in separate facilities) to sweat out their stress.

So can I sleep in the jacuzzis? No. But every jjimjibang has a common room (침실) for taking naps or sleeping between hot and cold rooms.

What are the sleeping rooms like? Imagine an open space with an ondol style floor. Sauna goers claim a small space on the open ground, lay their mats, and conk out for an hour or two. At night they might dim the lights.

People stay overnight in the sleeping room? Yes. Jjimjilbangs are open twenty-four-seven. Some require customers to pay a few extra won to stay the night. But many saunas won’t monitor your stay. Pay regular admission and grab a long wink.

A picture of hotels along the East Coast Bike Path in South Korea.
Along the East Coast Bike Path, you'll find every combination of accommodations, from hotels to motels to jjimjilbangs.

Jjimjilbang Pros

Why would you sleep in a jjimjilbang? Well, it’s a sauna. You can detox and re-energize all in one ticket. And unlimited hot tub time is the best balm after a long bike ride.

Jjimjilbangs are also the cheapest of cheap. Lowly saunas in distant beach towns might charge under ten-thousand won per visit.

And like motels, there’s a jjimjilbang in every city, town, and village. All the rooms are sold out for the Chuseok holiday? You can always find a Korean sauna.

Jjimjilbang Cons

You thought sixteen people stuffed into a hostel room was bad? How about we remove the bunk beds and throw you all on the floor?

Though they keep the sleeping rooms warm, you won’t receive blankets. And your bed? Grab a thin mat and foam block for a pillow.

Because customers can come and go whenever they please, jjimjilbangs never settle. Sleeping rooms can buzz at any hour.

Lastly, jjimjilbangs don’t define sleeping spaces. You must rely on the courtesy of strangers to keep their distance. You won’t wake up inside of an old man spoon. But you might rub shoulders with an unfamiliar.

A Korean home with a lush garden.
Many home owners in Korea adorn their homes with gardens and more.

Minbak (민박)

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Map | Minbak

In the before times (before the West invaded with their donuts, soda, and action movies), there were minbaks (민박).

What’s a minbak? It’s a room in someone’s house. In the old times, they provided respite for weary travelers.

So, like a bed-and-breakfast? Exactly. But minus the doilies and (usually) the breakfast.

Because the concept of minbaks predate beds, you will often find ondol setups. Upon paying your fee, they’ll provide you with a room, blankets, and a soft floor.

Bathroom? You’ll share one with the residents.

The toilet? Book a room in an older home and discover the majesty of a squatter. What’s a squatter? The name speaks for itself.

Every minbak operates by their own rules. Some offer breakfast. Others provide excellent companionship. Many proprietors will struggle with English, but not with smiles.

You’ll find minbaks in smaller cities, where motels and hotels don’t tread. They are a great way to experience Korean culture.

A hotel along the East Coast Bike Route in South Korea.
Hotels in Korea offer western amenities, including room service, valet, and more.

Yeogwan (여관)

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Map | Yeogwan

Another entry from the before times, yeogwans (여관) are old-style motels or inns. The word translates to “hotel” or “inn.”

So why are some accommodations labeled motel (모텔) and some branded yeogwan (여관)? 

When western influence spread across the peninsula, many yeogwans switched over to the motel moniker. And most new accommodations called themselves 모텔 (motel). The businesses that maintain the yeogwan (여관) label are holdouts, relics from the past.

Therefore, assume that not only haven’t yeogwans updated their name, they probably haven’t updated their facilities in a couple decades.

Unlike minbaks, yeogwans are motels. You’ll have your own room and bathroom. However, the majority offer only ondol style rooms.

Why rent a yeogwan? You might hate the dated facilities, but you won’t hate the pre-inflation prices.

Also, yeogwans hole up in both big cities and small towns. They might be the only option in whichever village you find yourself.

Hey! After 100 kilometers, a bed is a bed. (Or, a floor is a floor.)

A hotel hear the city of Sokcho along the Gyeongbuk Bicycle Path in South Korea.
Hotels in Korea can range from upscale to more modest digs. You'll pay accordingly.