There's plenty of accommodation in all price brackets in South Korea. Note that prices in Seoul are typically about twice that of anywhere else in the country.
Some higher-end hotels offer a choice of both Western-style and Korean-style rooms. The main feature of Korean rooms is an elaborate Korean-invented floor-heating system known as ondol ì¨ë, where hot steam or, these days, water or electricity heats stone slabs under a layer of clay and oiled paper. There are no beds; instead, mattresses are laid directly on the floor. Other furniture is typically limited to some low tables you're also expected to sit on the floor and maybe a TV.
While not as common in South Korea as in other parts of Asia or the world, hostels and guesthouses can be found. Major cities, such as Seoul, will have a few dozen, while smaller cities may have a handful. Prices can vary widely, even within one hostel. In Seoul, mixed dorms average W15,000 to W25,000 per person; private rooms with a shared toilet and shower average W20,000 to W30,000 per person; and private ensuite rooms average W25,000 to W40,000 per person. Many hostels will have a common room with free TV, games, computers, and internet; some will have a public full kitchen and other amenities.
Full-service hotels can be found in all larger towns in Korea. Cheaper hotels blend into motels with rooms from W40,000, while three and four star hotels are closer to W100,000-W200,000 and five-star luxury hotels can easily top W300,000. Outside peak season you can often get steep discounts from the rack rates, so be sure to ask when reserving.
In rural areas in and near national parks, you can find a minbak ë¯¼ë°. Most of these are just a room or two in someone's home - others are quite fancy and may be similar to yeogwans motels or hotels. Generally, they have ondol rooms with maybe a TV and that's about it. You don't usually get your own bathroom in your room, although some of the fancier ones do have an en suite. Minbaks usually run around 20,000 won off-season though the price may go up quite a bit during high season.
Some of the cheapest accommodation in South Korea are in what are locally termed motels ëª¨í motel or yeogwan ì¬ê´, but these are rather different from motels in the West and closer to Japan's "love hotels". Motels in South Korea are generally very cheap hotels targeted at young couples aiming to spend 'time' together away from their elders, complete with plastic beds, occasionally vibrating, with strategically placed mirrors on the ceiling, as well as a VCR and a variety of appropriate videos. However for the budget traveller, they can simply be inexpensive lodging, with rates as low as W25,000/night.
The easiest way to find a motel is to just look for the symbol "â¨" and gaudy architecture, particularly near stations or highway exits. They're harder to find online, as they rarely if ever show up in English-language booking sites, but Hotel365 (http://www.hotel365.co.kr) Korean only has comprehensive listings for the entire country.
In some motels picking your room is very easy, as there will be room numbers, lit pictures and prices on the wall. The lower price is for a "rest" í´ì hyusik of two to four hours, while the higher price is the overnight rate. Press the button for the one you like, which will go dark, and proceed to check-in. You'll usually be expected to pay in advance, often to just a pair of hands behind a frosted glass window. English is rarely spoken, but the only word you need to know is sukbak ìë°, "staying". You may or may not receive a key, but even if you don't, the staff can usually let you in and out on request — just don't lose your receipt!
For the budget traveller public bath houses known as jjimjilbang ì°ì§ë°© can offer a great way to sleep. Entrance costs around W5,000-W10,000 to get in, and includes a robe or pajamas to wear. Inside the facilities can be expansive, including showers, public baths, restaurants, computer/video game rooms, a room with DVD movies, and places to sleep, although this often means little more than a quiet, warm room with maybe some wooden blocks to rest your head on. These places are more often meant for families or couples coming in for the day and as such are not perfectly catered to travelers. When you leave you have to take everything with you, and pay to get back in. There is no secure place to leave your things except a single locker. Aside from these drawbacks, jjimjilbang offer a very relaxing place to sleep and bathe.
Jogye ì¡°ê³ì¬, Korea's largest Buddhist sect, runs a popular Temple Stay program where visitors get to spend 24 hours living at a Buddhist temple. Korean ability helps but is not necessary at some temples, but you will be expected to work at the temple and get up at 3 or 4AM to participate in morning prayer. In exchange for three meals and a basic bed for the night, a "donation" of W50,000-80,000 is expected. Reservations are necessary and can be made at the Temple Stay site (http://eng.templestay.com/) or via Korea Travel Phone, tel. +82-2-1330
Very similar in concept to a Minbak, these aren't limited to just rural areas or near national parks. Since the World Cup in 2002, many families around the country have opened their doors and hearts to foreigners looking for a good place to sleep and a breakfast included in the price. These can run between 30,000 and 35,000 won per night. Try eg. Homestaykorea (http://www.homestaykorea.com) or LABO (http://www.labostay.or.kr).