A breakdown of where to sleep after a long day of biking in Korea.
It’s well past sundown. North of 100 km, you conquered hills and filled your memory card to the brim. Exhaustion clouds your thoughts. You ask, ‘Where am I going to lay your head?’ Here’s a guide to finding accommodations while cycling in Korea.
Thankfully, Korea is dense. You’re never too far away from a good place to crash. From the bubbling Jacuzzis in love motels to Christmas light-festooned glamping tents.
Motels & Beyond
Korea is filled with motels. Look towards any red light district. You’ll find rows of motels draped in dancing LED lights.
Why so many motels? There isn’t much room for privacy in such a tightly packed country. Where should I take my significant other? Where should I take my other significant other? The motel industry answers those questions and then some.
Part of Korea’s small business, boom-bust culture, everyone opened motels in the 90s. Nowadays, every city (si; 시) and town (eub; 읍) in Korea has at least three motels. They might be clustered around bus stations, train stations or bar districts.
Because of their ubiquity, motels are the ideal crashing spots when cycling. They’re not too expensive and everywhere: polluting the Seoul skyline and flickering across the Nakdong River’s currents. You’re never too far away.
How Much Is A Room?
If you take a look at the room prices, you’ll often see two numbers:
- 숙박 (lodge) — stay the night
- 대실 (private room) — a few hours of fun
숙박 is the cost to stay the night. It can range from ₩25,000 for old motels in small towns, to ₩80,000 for luxury rooms in big cities.
대실 is the price to rent the room for three or four hours. Why would two consenting adults need a private room for three hours? Use your imagination.
Along the bike path, some motels are familiar and welcoming to riders. The concierge will provide a safe place to store your bike. They may even let you take it into your room.
Older motels come with what you expect. Heating/AC, warm shower, and Wi-Fi. Others might come with much more: jacuzzi, a mural of a Tuscan sunset over the bed, various LED lighting options.
Check the Fridge!
Every motel room has a mini-fridge. Inside you might find a few bottles of water, vitamin drink, or even a beer or two. It’s free!
Every room usually has a kettle with tea bags and coffee mix. Make yourself some ramen or cup of Korean coffee (70% sugar) in the morning!
You’ll often be given a pouch when you check in. The concierge will hand it to you or you can find it in the room. Inside, you can find toiletries and condoms.
There are a few different room types you should be aware of.
- 트윈 (twin) — room with two beds
- 온돌 (ondol) — room with no bed
- 침대방 (bed room) — room with a bed
- 이벤트룸 (event room) — room for a party
Twin (트윈) rooms are a great option for groups of two. Like the name suggests, these rooms have two twin-sized beds.
You can check the room-type using booking apps. You can also ask in person. The pronunciation is similar to the English: teu-weu-in (트윈).
An ondol (온돌) is a traditional Korean system of heating the room with underfloor hot water pipes. There aren’t any beds. You’ll be sleeping on the floor.
It’s not that bad. The floor isn’t usually concrete. It can either be wood or heat resistant laminate. They’ll provide a comforter or two to ease the firmness.
Ondol rooms are a great option for groups. You can comfortably fit three people in most rooms. You can stake out territories with your comforters and set-up camp.
Bed Room (침대방)
No. Not bedroom. Bed Room. 침대방 (chim-dae-bag) rooms are rooms with a bed. This distinguishes traditional ondol rooms from western-style rooms.
Most hotels nowadays are 침대방. They have beds. They can be called anything from deluxe to premium to VIP. However, there isn’t any consistency. They don’t mean much from motel to motel.
A standard room in Hanam city can have a jacuzzi. A VIP Room in a cheap motel might wreak of cigarettes and have a cabinet-sized big-screen from the 90s.
Event Room (이벤트룸)
Remember when mom rented out the local recreation center for your ninth birthday party? Well, in Korea you also have the choice to rent out a room in your local motel.
Event rooms aren’t exactly for children birthday parties. But they are an option for a young group of folks ready to party. Some of the more high-end rooms in Seoul feature anything from pools tables and pools. Many feature noraebang (노래방; karaoke) equipment and maybe a Jacuzzi.