If you’re looking for a cheap and affordable place to stay in Seoul, be it for one night or one year, goshiwons make a great budget option!
Goshiwons are places offering small rooms, usually located in the more studenty areas of town like Shinchon, Hongdae, Ehwa, Seoul National Station etc.
A goshiwon will usually offer renters a small room with a desk, chair and cupboard for about 15,000-25,000 won/night (short-term) or 300-600,000 won/month (long-term).
Almost all of them will also offer free rice and kimchi for you to eat (and instant noodles and eggs too in the nicer places!)
Staying at a goshiwon
Staying at a goshiwon is a pretty unique Korean experience. The likelihood of bumping into Westerners isn’t that high and most of the people you meet will probably be Koreans living or working full-time in Seoul.
Having said that though, I do think that that can be a pretty unique experience to have and given that it is usually the locals who have knowledge of what’s going on in and around town, getting to know them a little better might just help you find a hidden gem or two.
The best time to meet people staying at the goshiwon will be in the evening when everyone is cooking dinner in the kitchens.
People tend to be pretty shy about their English, you might need to be the one to strike up the conversation, but I’ve found that people are usually pretty friendly and willing to talk once the ice is broken.
Kevin Brenneman made an informative little video about Goshiwon living a while back, which you can take a look at below.
How to find a goshiwon?
If you are already in Seoul, the easiest way to find a goshiwon will be to just walk around and look out for the goshiwon/one room/ livingtel signs (고시원/ 원룸/리빙텔) in the area you’re interested in staying at.
You can usually just walk in and ask directly if they have any rooms free and then take a look around and decide if you like it.
Sometimes there will also be flyers hanging around with addresses and numbers for you to call (though I suggest knowing some Korean or getting a Korean friend to ring the owners in this case as a lot of the owners are pretty poor at English.)
If you’re not in Seoul yet, then the easiest thing to do is to go on the Seoul Craigslist website. This used not to be an option, but as of recently, a number of places have started advertising there in the rooms for rent section.
Just send the owners an email stating the dates you’d like to stay and see if they have any vacant rooms. Make sure they have blankets and pillows for you to use during your stay and also agree a set price beforehand.
Don’t pay anything in advance so you don’t get scammed and make sure you take what you need to pay with you in cash, as it is unlikely they will be able to take card payments.
Useful Seoul Goshiwon Sites
I haven’t personally used these sites, as I usually find my goshiwons through the methods described above. The sites below are all in English though, which definitely helps if you don’t know any Korean!
HABANG – This site lists goshiwons and hasookjibs. Hasookjibs tend to be around the same price as goshiwons, but will usually have Korean style breakfast and dinner included which is cooked by the resident ajumma (older Korean lady/ house mommy). However, these are usually less likely to let you stay short-term.
GOSHIPAGES – This site is actually intended for students coming to Korea to study and staying long term, but if you search for where you’d like to stay (you can search either by the nearest subway station or university) then you can see that some places allow a minimum stay of 7 days.
Top tip: I wouldn’t take minimum stay requirements too seriously as whilst some landlords do stick adamantly to them, there are plenty of others who will be happy to rent out a room just for a couple of days.
// September 2018 Update: Please note that I no longer respond to Goshiwon search comments on this page due to the fact I have not been living in Korea since 2012. I am, therefore, not in a position to give you the most up to date status on the Goshiwon’s that are now recommended. Thank you for your understanding //