By: Shelley of Travel-Stained
In Korea, graceful hanoks and peaceful temple stays vie for your attention along with landlocked cruise ships and ramen cup beds. There’s a ton of unique and downright wacky places to rest your head when visiting the country.
If you’re on a budget though, you’ll most likely end up sleeping in a minbak or pension, rather than inside a giant soju bottle. Sad, but true.
The Suncruise Resort: in case you ever wanted to go on a cruise to nowhere.
A minbak is pretty much as bare bones as you can get, but a Korean pension is equivalent to a self-catered apartment in the west. It provides good value for groups of people traveling together, with private bathroom and a kitchen stocked with everything you need to cook a meal. It will also have most of the comforts of home, like television, ac and wifi.
But that’s where the similarity ends.
Here are 3 tips for surviving a night in a Korean pension.
BRING YOUR OWN TOWEL
In Korea, from east to west, and north to south, people across the country are drying themselves off after showering with a piece of cloth no bigger than a hand towel. So no, the tiny towel they give you for showering isn’t a strange joke pension owners play on foreign visitors.
You’ll typically receive a few of these small towels, and you can usually take as many of them as you need from the reception area of the pension.
However, if you need more than a napkin to dry off after a bath, like I do, bring your own bath towel. You’ll be happy you did.
How many tiny towels does it take to dry off?
ALL THE AMENITIES EXCEPT…
Sure, the miniscule towels might be disappointing, but on the other hand, you can pretty much show up at your pension with just the clothes on your back.
Your room will be fully stocked with almost everything you need for a night away. I’ve found shampoo, body wash, and a Korean scrub towel in every pension I’ve stayed in. And some have even provided disposable toothbrushes, razors, toothpaste and conditioner /rinse for the hair.
The one thing that’s almost always missing though is a shower curtain. If you’re not used to a wet bath, prepare for everything to get drenched. Make sure your clothes and toilet paper are out of harm’s way before showering, and lay one of those tiny towels outside the bathroom door to dry your feet when you’re done.
PREPARE TO SLEEP ON THE FLOOR
You might be surprised to walk into your pension, after a long day of traveling and discover there’s no bed. Don’t panic. I promise you there’s somewhere for you to sleep. It’s just not what we’re used to in Western countries.
All the yos in the world still don’t make the floor comfortable to sleep on.
In Korea, a good percentage of people still chooose to sleep on the floor, on a “yo.” It’s esssentially a mattress pad that’s unfolded and placed on the floor each night, and then folded up every morning. You’ll usually find it stored in the bedroom closet, along with blankets and pillows.
The comfort level of the “yo” varies, but if you like a soft bed, you’re going to have a rough night. Because you might as well be sleeping on the floor or a rock hard mattress. You can try to deal with this by piling as many yos as possible on top of one another, but I’m not gonna lie. I’ve personally never managed a good night’s sleep on a yo.
Now you’re fully equipped to survive a night in a Korean pension. Maybe next time, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to sleep inside that soju bottle…
Shelley and Agri are the couple behind the blog, Travel-Stained – www.travel-stained.com. They met in Canada and are currently residing in South Korea. They have a beautiful daughter who also likes to travel!