For whatever reason, you need a place to stay in Seoul for longer than a month and isn’t already arranged for you. Don’t panic! It may seem stressful to think about coordinating a place to live when you’re not in the country, and factoring in time zones, you could be nearly a day out of sync with anyone you may come in contact with. Finding a temporary home while you’re abroad is rough, but by tripping a bunch trying to do just that for my study abroad experience, hopefully, you won’t have to!
Before we start, let’s go over some key terms and examples of each:
One-Room/Officetel (원룸/오피스텔): This is equivalent to a studio apartment. These usually have a small kitchen, bathroom, a bed (or bed equivalent), and a desk. The building may offer free rice and kimchi. The deposit varies, but rent is quite cheap!
Goshiwon (고시원): Smaller than a one-room, may or may not have a bathroom inside, mini-fridge, bed, table, TV. Building usually offers free rice and kimchi. Deposits and rent will be the cheapest here.
Share house (쉐어하우스): Non-related people live in a big house or apartment together. Deposits and rent vary. Singles usually go for around 500,000 won a month, shared rooms from 360k-450k. Deposits can be anywhere from zero to a few months rent.
Hasookjib (하숙집): This is similar to a share house, only there is usually an older woman that will cook you breakfast and dinner. These are harder to find online and you’ll mostly find these when you walk around your desired neighborhood.
Apartment (아파트): Kind of vary, these can have anywhere from 1+ rooms, but the key money is HUGE. I’m talking at least 5,000,000 won (~$4,400 USD), and that’s pretty cheap as it is.
Okay, now that we know what kind of places are available, where do you even start? Great question! If you’ve ever looked for a place to live wherever you’re from, it’s pretty similar. Here are some things to keep in mind.
What is your housing budget?
Ideally, you’ll already have a budget for how much money you want to spend during your time in Korea and all things related, so this step shouldn’t be too complicated. In case you haven’t, think about what’s a reasonable amount of money to spend per month, and in total. Keep in mind that deposits vary depending on the type of residence you choose. It’s best to keep this at a range since there may be some flexibility. For example, you can get your own room in a share house for as little as 400,000 won/mo plus utilities in some neighborhoods, but others may leave you looking at 700,000 won rent, which is sometimes enough to get your own place!
What kind of environment do you want to live in?
One thing I didn’t take into account when moving into my place, an apartment with 5 other girls, was how much I value personal space. I’ve always had my own room, being the youngest of my mom’s kids, and not having my own room was really annoying. I didn’t mind sharing the bathroom and such, but when it came time for midnight cramming, I was struggling to focus and often retreated to the 24-hour cafes nearby. Don’t skimp out on money if you know you can’t live with too many people, but don’t be afraid to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
How soon do you want a place to live?
If you’re anything like me, knowing I have a place to stay before I leave the country is an absolute must. I was open to staying in an Airbnb while I scoped out the neighborhood for a longer-term option, but my mom’s worried face every day was enough to cave in. A lot of the cheaper places won’t have options for more than a month before arrival, while other sites let you reserve a spot months in advance. Keep in mind that unless you put down a deposit, it’s very unlikely renter will hold your spot long enough to let you look at the space in person.
How do you want to pay?
This sounds a little weird, but it’s completely valid. Some places let you pay via PayPal, bank account, wire transfer, or even credit card, but other places really only take cash. Do your research to make sure you can accommodate what your renter wants.
Websites to start
These are all of the websites I used to look for places before I settled where I lived. Everyone should be able to speak English and be sure to ask all the questions you need to be answered before giving money to anyone!
Housing Search Links
Links Given by My SNU Buddy
Housing Inquiry Resources
Hopefully, you found something useful out of this post! I did my best to make this guide as easy to use as possible since I know my brain works a little differently than others. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me on my social media!