Low-cost inns for the night
ONE of the best ways to get to know a country is to stay with a family who lives there.
Choosing to stay at a minbak gives tourists a glimpse into the Korean lifestyle and the added advantage of accommodation at budget prices.
Minbak have always been popular with Koreans on holidays within their country, but it was only recently that families began opening their homes to foreign guests on a large scale.
The Korean National Tourist Corporation can provide lists of approved minbak.
It is wise to opt for an authorised city minbak, where you can be certain your hosts can speak English.
In the countryside, host families will probably not speak a foreign language, so only go if you have a sense of adventure.
As Korean hospitality is renowned for its warmth, it will come as no surprise that during the peak summer season, from mid-July to the end of August, minbak rooms can be hard to come by.
Like the Japanese, Koreans remove their shoes before entering indoors. If you stay in a family home, you will be expected to do the same.
Group travellers looking for a reasonably priced alternative to luxury hotel accommodation, or visitors planning to stay for a long period could be in for a treat if they opt to stay at a yogwan, a Korean-style inn.
Many yogwan have private bathrooms with hot water and colour televisions, as a concession to modern living.
Most do not have their own restaurants, but food can be served in the rooms. Some also offer Western-style accommodation.
But it would be a shame to miss out on the chance to sleep on a Korean mattress, a yo, with a quilt, an ibul, and a hard pillow filled with wheat husks, a pegae. In chilly weather there is the ondol, or hot floor, the heating system which has been used in Korea for centuries.