For tourists going to South Korea, or Seoul in particular, booking a trip with a travel agent for a package tour would be the most convenient. And the priciest, too. Well, that's what the add-on amounts are for. Convenience.
But if you're on a budget and just want to discover the city and the country at your pace and your own itinerary, there are other websites where you can compare the prices, location and amenities.
So, as a mission for the Global Seoul Mates, which I am a part of, I tested this website maintained by the Seoul Tourism Organization:
It lets you choose your own accommodation. Be it a guest house, a hotel, a homestay, a Korean traditional house or a B&B (bed and breakfast).
Originally, I wanted to stay in a hanok, a Korean traditional house, right in the Bukchon, an area in the Jongno District where Korean traditional houses and architecture have been preserved. But I encountered a few problems while surfing the site as I searched for a preferred hanok.
The problems I encountered were:
- The 'search' function does not work. I typed the word 'Bukchon' and it even doesn't know what it is.
- The location maps of some B&Bs, especially the hanoks in Bukchon, are written in Korean. If this website wants to entice foreigners, they should put an effort to put a map with directions/landmarks written in other languages.
- I tried calling a hanok (the name of the place has three letters starting with 'D') to confirm a reservation email I received from its webmaster, but the English-speaking staff told me to call again because he was busy. WTF?!
- The segregation of the hanok guesthouses in the website is wrong. Some hanoks, whose address is in Bukchon, are classified under other places. The people who created the website either didn't care about the segregation, or they just didn't know how to locate them.
- One link says, 'The Others'. That is actually the title of a horror film which starred Nicole Kidman. It's my favorite horror film. If this is an English website, they should at least had it corrected for its grammar and spelling.
- Some places have no 'Booking' link. If you click 'Booking', it leads to nowhere. It must be ghost house.
- I sent an inquiry to a hanok guesthouse. It took them 24 hours to reply. By then, I had already decided on another place. Speed and promptness should be observed if you want to get the tourists to stay at your place.
So, after the inconvenience, waste of my time and the helplessness, I decided to abandon the plan to stay in a hanok.
I clicked the airbnb logo, looked for a place around the same area and then signed up with airbnb.com.
And I found this place, which looks like a studio-type apartment!
The place is right next to Insadong, Bukchon is just across the street, and right under the building is the Anguk Station! Convenient, reasonably priced and perfect! And for tourists coming in from the Incheon International Airport, the airport bus stop is just a few meters away!
I think I made the right decision! I will be writing another blog for this b&b place!
I hope the Seoul Tourism Organization is able to pick up a few of my pointers to improve their website. If you have any question, you guys know where to find me.