Accommodations of all sizes, and eras
In Korea, there is a common saying that is frequently mentioned during summer vacation season: “Before choosing your vacation destination, choose where you are going to sleep first.” In a heavily populated country like Korea, finding a place, especially reasonably priced accommodations, can prove quite difficult. In recent years, many Koreans have looked toward alternative lodging facilities during summer vacation in order to escape the crowds and enjoy their time off in a unique setting. Ever since temple stay programs took off 10 years ago, vacationing in a scenic temple has been a popular getaway along with hanok, or traditional Korean housing, stays. While the cost of luxury hotels are at their peak this time of year, the Benikea chain hotels and Good Stay lodging, both affiliated with the Korea Tourism Organization, provide affordable stays with clean, modern rooms. The JoongAng Ilbo, along with recommendations by lodging experts including the Korea Tourism Organization, put together a list of the best alternative lodging facilities in Korea.
By Lee Suk-hee [firstname.lastname@example.org]
For foreigners and Koreans alike, one lodging experience that is unique to Korea is the hanok stay, where visitors can spend a day inside a traditional Korean house. Although hanok housing can be rather cold during the winter season with a different heating system from modern Western housing, during the summer months, hanok can be one of the coolest places you can escape to. With wide wooden floors and screens made of hanji, or Korean mulberry paper, most hanoks don’t even need air conditioning installed during the summer.
Staying at a hanok can also be an educational experience. Most stays are located inside a hanok village, featuring a cluster of traditional housing that have been kept for generations. Many offer
interactive programs including small tours of the particular clan the hanok belonged to.
Temple-stay programs in Korea started 10 years ago, around the time of the Korea-Japan FIFA World Cup in 2002. Since its inception, there have been over one million temple-stay participants from all over the world, according to the Korean Buddhist Culture Agency. The agency added that July and August are the most popular months for temple stays.
At the moment, there are around 100 temples in Korea that run temple-stay programs. When these programs first took off, “interactive programs,” in which visitors engaged in various activities inside the temple including 108 Buddhist bows, were popular.
Recently, “relaxation programs,” in which visitors just meditate alone, take a stroll or simply rest and rejuvenate, have become increasingly popular.
The Benikea hotel chain was developed by the Culture Ministry and the Korea Tourism Organization. It is the first tourist hotel chain of its kind that has government backing. The first Benikea hotel opened in September 2009 and at the moment, around 40 Benikea hotels welcome visitors. All the hotels are two- to three-star hotels and most are in famous tourist destinations outside of Seoul.
Each Benikea hotel goes through a strict evaluation process by the KTO before opening its doors to the public. The biggest advantage of these hotels is the price. For similar hotels in popular tourist destinations in Korea, one would need to pay around 150,000 won ($132) to 200,000 won for a standard room during peak summer season. However, Benikea hotels offer rooms at half these prices.
Like the Benikea hotels, Good Stay lodging facilities were also developed by the Culture Ministry and the KTO. As such, the Good Stay facilities also go through a thorough evaluation process to maintain standards.
Good Stay accommodations are similar to the Benikea hotels but more affordable and include motels and bed-and-breakfast stays.
There is no need to worry about rip-off prices due to Good Stay’s fixed room rates year-round. For example, one four-person room goes for 50,000 won to 100,000 won per night, depending on the location.