During my recent trip to Seoul, South Korea I spent over a week staying at Bunk Guesthouse Hongdae.
Having spent days puzzling over the best accommodation to book, I messaged Rose (Where Goes Rose) for her approval. She quickly got back to me with a suggestion I hadn’t even considered and later that night I’d received my booking confirmation.
Complete with its own rooftop, free breakfast and custom tours it sounded like the solo traveller’s dream.
Here’s what it’s like to stay at Bunk Guesthouse Hongdae:
Staying in Hongdae
Hongdae is the university area of Seoul and, in my opinion, the absolute BEST place to stay. Here you can find an array of Korean eats from BBQ to Jokbal. No matter what time of the day there’s always something going on. Whether it’s late-night karaoke or a sugar-loaded bubble tea to kickstart your morning. Also, there are more boutiques, vintage stores and places to blow your money than I could count.
If you have more time to play with you might consider splitting your time between Hongdae and another area. But, honestly, I just couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of moving. Add to this an incredible subway system that makes it easy and affordable (around £2 for a return journey) to travel between areas I really don’t think it’s necessary!
Getting to Bunk Guesthouse Hongdae
You’ll be pleased to know that getting from the airport to the guesthouse is pretty straightforward. That’s IF you know where you’re going. You’ll want to jump on the airport line (from either Incheon or Gimpo) to Hondik University, which costs around £3. Then when you exit the station be sure to make your way out of exit 6. The hostel is a 5-10 minute walk downhill from there depending on how heavy your bag is.
Note: Seoul is the only country in the world where Google Maps doesn’t work to it’s full capacity (you can blame the ongoing conflict with N. Korea for this). So it’s worth downloading local mapping apps Navar and Kakao and familiarising yourself with the interface before you leave.
The dorm rooms
There are a variety of rooms at Bunk starting from mixed dorm rooms (the cheapest) all the way up to a private penthouse room aptly named ‘The Sky Pent’. I’d initially booked to stay in a female dorm, but as I changed the date of my flights had to switch to a mixed dorm as there was no space left.
Despite there being six of us in the mixed room it never felt like we were in each other’s space. Each of us had a locker big enough to fit our valuables (just remember to bring your own padlock!). Incidentally, I didn’t use the lockers and my camera and laptop were not thieved during my stay, but it’s always best to er on the side of caution. You will STRUGGLE to find travel insurance that will cover electronics.
If I had to give one downside it would be that the beds were HARD, but this is pretty typical in a lot of Asian countries. After some time out of travelling, I’d just gotten used to my squishy British bed.
The beds are first come, first serve so if you can get there as close to 3 pm (when the reception opens) to score yourself the coveted bottom bunk.
The rooms start at £12 a night for a mixed six bed dorm (the room I chose), which also includes a breakfast of toast, eggs and spreads each morning. I’d have loved to have tried it one day but alas sleep prevailed. Go figure.
One thing I love about staying at hostels is the different activities each offer. If you’re travelling alone they’re the perfect opportunity to get to know your dorm/hostel mates. The hostel owner at Bunk Guesthouse, Brian, regularly runs tours and group dinners. I only managed to make it to one on my stay but it was well worth it.
Traditional Korean BBQ
For £16 we were treated to a traditional Korean BBQ cooked by Brian’s wife accompanied by unlimited beer and soju (distilled clear alcohol made from rice, which is deceptively strong so tread lightly). We all hungrily looked on as his wife grilled slices of pork belly, an assortment of vegetables and a mountain of garlic.
As the BBQ was served we were instructed on the traditional way to eat. In the final form, I guess you could say looked a bit like a Korean burrito. We began by spreading doenjang-jjigae (soybean paste) into large perilla (similar taste and texture to mint) and salad leaves, then heaped in the meat and vegetables before finishing with a healthy amount of kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage that is served with EVERYTHING). Bonus points if you can devour in one mouthful.
Over dinner, Brian took great delight in plying us with a constant stream of soju bombs (beer served with a shot of soju and then slammed on the table so it becomes a frothy texture). He joked “North Korea might have nuclear weapons but it’s okay because in South Korea we have soju bombs that are far more deadly”.
After we’d eaten more BBQ than we could manage Brian’s wife whipped up the leftovers into a bokkeumbap (fried rice). Of course, served with kimchi. As there were only six of us at the dinner it gave everyone a chance to learn about each other’s stories. From Australian students to embassy workers – what an interesting bunch we were!
I found it funny that despite how different we all were we all came to Seoul, among other reasons, for the food.
How to book
I booked my stay through Booking.com, which these days is my platform of choice for pretty much all of my travel bookings. I also always use the free browser plugin Honey. This nifty tool automatically adds any working discount codes to your basket AND gives you cashback across thousands of online retailers, including Booking.com, which you can cash out for store gift cards.
Final thoughts on Bunk Guesthouse Hongdae
Bunk Guesthouse really was everything you’d want from a hostel. Social without loud parties that stole your precious hours of sleep (in case you doubted that I’m now past my mid-20s). It had a homely feel, but also loads of spaces (like the rooftop, ‘pub’ and patio area) for hanging out.
Although the hostel was fully booked for a few nights of my stay it never felt overcrowded. You never had to wait long to use amenities, which can often be a problem with some larger hostels. As a solo traveller, I found it very easy to make friends and spent most of my time in Seoul with my roommates.
Any small grievances I did have (brick bed I’m looking at you) were more than made up for by the experience overall. Brian couldn’t have done more for his guests from providing advice to remembering and addressing everyone by their names. As we said our goodbyes Brian wished me good luck and told me he hoped I’d come back one day.
When I do return to Seoul I know there’s nowhere I’d rather stay.
If you want even more Seoul tips be sure to check out my Instagram highlights where there are THREE dedicated to my time in Seoul and helping you get the most out of your trip!
What about you? Have you visited Seoul? Would you like to visit?
Let me know in the comments!
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