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Seoul - South Korea

From corporate executives to budget-conscious backpackers, travellers to Seoul are sure to find accommodation with services, facilities and prices suited to their needs. What's more, you can be certain that the hotel management will provide not only a clean, comfortable room with plenty of hot running water, but also a high level of service, because to Koreans, guests are considered one of the family and treated as such. This emphasis on traditional hospitality makes being a visitor to Seoul a unique experience.

The city's luxury hotel are really just that—luxurious—featuring all the comforts expected of world-class lodgings. The largest concentration of deluxe hotels is around City Hall Square, conveniently located within walking distance or a short bus ride from Seoul's many sights and tourist attractions. Most of these hotels can be reached directly by the KAL Limousine Bus Service that operates from Kimpo Airport. Booking transportation is not necessary, as buses run at intervals of 15-20 minutes from 6:10am until 10:15pm. With the business traveller in mind, these top-flight hotels provide business facilities second to none, including special business centres, Internet access, interpreter and translation services, secretarial services and much more. Rooms tend to be large and well equipped. The hotel staff members will make every effort to ensure that your stay is a comfortable one, and most of them speak English. Rates range from KRW270,000 to KRW310,000 for a single, and a little more for a double. Suites begin at KRW360,000 to KRW700,000. More lavish accommodation are available, such as Hotel Shilla's presidential suite, but it will cost a pretty sum, on the order of KRW6,000,000,000. In general, the more you pay, the more you get. The usual checkout time is 11am or noon for deluxe hotels. Most accept major credit cards.

A notch below luxury class, you will find moderately-priced hotels with single rooms that run from KRW110,000 to KRW200,000. Hotels in this price range often have special indoor services, such as golf training, health clubs, jogging tracks and swimming pools, among many other facilities. Some also offer a special discount of 10-20 percent off the regular room rates for bookings made on-line. At times, price seems to be the only difference between the deluxe and moderate hotels. For great service at an affordable price, consider staying at the Hotel Holiday Inn, highly recommended for its quality. Many of the hotel staff speak English, so you should find it easy to have your questions answered or problems solved. Or if you are looking for a moderately-priced hotel convenient to nightlife, the Itaewon district may be the place for you. Dozens of local nightspots are located near Itaewon's noticeable landmark, the Hamilton Hotel. The area's large foreign population ensures that many exciting events are happening throughout the day as well.

Budget hotels, or motels as they are sometimes called, are the place to be if you seek quality rooms at cheaper prices. The Jeonpoong Tourist Hotel and the River Park Tourist Hotel, for example, offer single rooms from KRW75,000. Rooms are clean and cosy with that homey feeling. They come equipped with a TV, radio, telephone and private bathroom. Still another spot you might want to try is the Kaya Hotel, a quaint place that is rough around the edges but still respectable. Rooms here are only KRW48,000. Although the facilities may not be as great as those found at higher priced hotels, the staff's warm smiles and kind hearts will make your stay an unforgettable one.

Also quite popular among budget travellers and students are the city's youth hostels. Rooms are inexpensive, ranging from KRW11,000 to KRW22,000 per night for members and slightly higher for non-members. A great place to visit is Youth Traveller's A, where the rooms are homey and clean. They offer 26 dormitory beds in rooms for two to six persons. While most of the deluxe hotels require a reservation, the budget accommodation and hostels do not.

Those who wish to experience grassroots Korean hospitality will enjoy staying at a yogwan or Korean inn. Instead of a bed, you are given a mattress called a yo, a quilt blanket and a pillow filled with buckwheat husks. On a cold night, the floors are warmed by a subsurface heating system referred to as an ondol. Yogwans do not have restaurants, but food can be served in the room for an additional charge, or you can order take-out. Nowadays, modern yogwans provide beds, private bathrooms with hot running water, and televisions. Room rates are fixed by law and should not vary much from one yogwan to the next. They start at KRW25,000 per person, and for each additional person there is a charge of KRW5,000 extra. Reservations are not necessary and you can check in at any time. Checkout is usually by 11am.

Another way to experience Korean lifestyle and make a friend or two is by participating in a homestay, such as Jaychan's Homestay. The hosts will make you feel welcome, and they offer unique services, such as free airport pick-up service, free tickets for a Korean traditional music performance, free tour maps and even a Korean traditional instrument called a danso. Room rates run from KRW30,000 to KRW55,000 per night.

One last note: you may notice fancy buildings with brightly lit neon signs around Seoul, what Koreans refer to as “Love Hotels.” Recently, these hotels have become increasingly popular. They offer the choice of staying overnight or renting a room for a couple of hours. Why a couple of hours? Your imagination can best answer that question. But no matter what form of lodging you choose or how long you visit, your stay in Seoul is certain to be a great one. Enjoy!
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