Goshiwons are one of Korea’s best-kept secrets (that aren’t really a secret!). From less than 20,000KRW per night, find out how you can stay in Korea on a budget!
In this post I will cover goshiwons in detail, covering what they are, what their benefits and downsides are, and who they are a good accommodation choice for. I have also covered other types of housing in some other posts:
If you want to learn more about housing in Seoul and what options there are other than goshiwons, please check out those articles for further information.
What Is a Goshiwon?
goshiwons are very similar to an off-campus dormitory with private rooms.
A goshiwon is essentially a small room with everything that you need to live. Often they are referred to as ‘off-campus dormitories’, and from experience, this is a great comparison.
These small rooms will have a bed, desk, and sometimes a bathroom, fridge and TV. While they are small, they are also extremely cheap and contain everything that you need to live – all for one low price.
Goshiwons were originally meant as a place for students to study for exams. However, they have now become a common housing type for a large variety of people.
Not only are goshiwons a great option for students, but they are also a great choice for tourists travelling on a budget.
For anyone wondering, goshiwon in Korean is 고시원. While 고시원 is the most commonly used word, the word 고시텔 (goshitel) is also used. There is no difference between the two – they are just different words for the same thing.
Goshiwon pricing starts at around 250,000KRW per month. That’s $210 USD at the time of writing! The average pricing is 350,000-400,000 per month. However, cheaper options are not too hard to find.
So… Why wouldn’t you live in a goshiwon?
Benefits of a Goshiwon
Some of the upsides of a goshiwon are instantly apparent – the price for example. However, there are also a lot more hidden benefits!
While you may also encounter other benefits with goshiwons, I have sorted this list into sections discussing what I have found to be the biggest benefits of goshiwons.
- Goshiwons are easy.
- Goshiwons come fully furnished.
- Goshiwons have fantastic locations (often, not always).
Goshiwons are Easy
Before listing some of the benefits you will need a bit of background knowledge on housing in Korea. In fact, I recommend that you read this article on student housing in Korea to get a good basis.
- In short, one-rooms (studios) and other apartment types in Korea require a deposit. The deposit widely varies but is almost always over 3,000,000KRW ($2500). This makes it a big reach for many people.
- Apartments in Korea also require contracts. From one year to three years or more, you have a fixed term that you must pay for the apartment.
Why do I mention this? Well, goshiwons require neither. If you live in a goshiwon you don’t need to worry about the contract or finding the money required for a deposit.
- Further, the duration of your stay is flexible. While not every goshiwon will accept short term stays (under a month), there is a large amount that will. You can either plan the period beforehand or just let the owner know a few weeks before you move out.
- Finally, you don’t need to worry about extra bills. Gas? Electricity? Internet? No worries. In a one-room, you will often have to pay these separately.
Not only is this inconvenient, but it means that apartments have hidden costs. Even if your rent is only 400,000KRW, expect to pay a further 100,000KRW monthly for utilities.
Goshiwons, on the other hand, include all of these costs! You pay what you see without the worry of hidden costs.
For this reason, goshiwons are an easy accommodation option.
Goshiwons come with all of the essential furniture. Although this room is much larger than the average goshiwon.
This ties in with the above point but deserves its own area as it is a vital part of the appeal of goshiwons.
Every goshiwon is fully furnished. This means you will get everything you need – a desk, bed, cupboards, etc. Many goshiwons will also have a TV/monitor in the room!
Some goshiwons will have shared bathrooms (toilet/shower), however, you can also find goshiwons with private options. Often the price will increase with the addition of a private bathroom.
Kitchens are usually provided for communal use. Due to the safety and cost concerns, you should expect to share a kitchen with other members of the building/floor.
Goshiwons are often located in areas where a one-room would cost you a LOT more. While this isn’t always the case, many goshiwons have prime locations.
Since goshiwons are designed for students, they are often in areas where students want to be. This means close to universities!
A great example is Hongdae. Getting a one-room around Hongdae area is going to be far more expensive than a goshiwon. Not only that, but the goshiwons are often located in far better areas within Hongdae.
Free food is one of the best bonuses when living in a goshiwon.
There are also a whole host of other benefits that goshiwons provide. For example, most goshiwons provide free food!
The food offered varies greatly depending on the goshiwon in question, however, usually, they will offer at least a few basics. This means rice, kimchi, and often eggs! Water is also usually free.
This might not seem important, but water can easily cost 10,000KRW+ per month otherwise! Other goshiwons may even provide other foods free for tenants.
Independent living with a shared life. In a goshiwon you live alone, you have your own private space. However, it’s also easy to meet others and make friends in the communal areas.
It can be incredibly hard to make friends in foreign countries, and anyone who has studied abroad will know this.
Goshiwons can help negate this problem, however. By having shared communal areas there is a possibility to meet new people every day – people who may become your friends.
Downsides of a Goshiwon
Although goshiwons are a great accommodation choice, they are by no means perfect. Most of these downsides are acceptable, given the cheaper price of such accommodation, however, some people may find living in a goshiwon very difficult.
The biggest downside is usually space. There isn’t much of it. If you find yourself needing a bigger living area then you will probably have more luck looking into one-rooms and other living options.
The biggest downsides of goshiwons are the following:
- Goshiwons are small.
- Goshiwons are only semi-independent.
- Goshiwons often won’t have good sound-proofing.
- Goshiwons often won’t allow you to have visitors.
Goshiwons are Small
This is a larger-sized goshiwon. Often they will be smaller.
This is what makes them so cheap! However, it is also undeniably a downside for many. If you are claustrophobic, then a goshiwon is not for you.
Even if you aren’t, many people find that goshiwons are too small and cramped for comfortable living. However, there are also some bigger goshiwon options that are the size of a small one-room.
Realistically (on a normal student budget) any housing option in Korea will be small. Most student accommodation will be under 20m².
The size isn’t a big deal for many people. However, it is also very important for some people. If you need more personal space, look for a bigger goshiwon or a one-room.
While a one-room will generally allow you more freedom (think cooking, visitors, etc), a goshiwon will usually have some rules.
A key example of this is cooking – goshiwons will not allow you to cook in your room. They will also sometimes not even allow you to have food in your room. While there is a shared kitchen, this is something to consider.
Another rule is that you will often not be allowed visitors. Again, this depends on the goshiwon. But often only tenants will be allowed inside the building.
Many of these downsides can be negated by the low price of a goshiwon. But they are all worth keeping in mind – goshiwons aren’t ideal for everyone.
The images pictures in this post are available from 450,000 per month.
Goshiwon prices vary from 250,000 to over 500,000. But what actually influences these prices? Let’s have a look!
What Affects the Price?
- The biggest influence on goshiwon prices is, of course, location. Busier locations that have more demand will be more expensive than areas with a lower demand.
This means that goshiwons located very close (> 5-minute walk to university) will often cost more than goshiwons located a longer walk (5-15 minutes) away.
- Another major factor is the bathroom. Does the room have a private bathroom or a shared bathroom? If the room has a private bathroom you can expect the price to be 50,000 or 100,000KRW more expensive than a similar room without a bathroom.
- On a similar note, the facilities of a goshiwon will also affect the price. The quality of the kitchen or the presence of a laundry, for example, will both push the price higher.
- Another big factor is the presence of a window. Many goshiwon rooms won’t have windows at all, and this allows them to offer rooms for a lower price.
However, if you need a window, it’s worth paying more. The presence of a window can also push the price up 50,000 or 100,000KRW depending on the goshiwon in question.
- Finally, (and maybe obviously), the size of the room will affect the price. A bigger room will cost more. The same goes for how modern the room is – has it been renovated recently or is it older?
How to Find a Goshiwon
Looking for a goshiwon in Seoul? You’ve come to the right place!
Generally you won’t be able to find Goshiwons in advance. Much the same as one-rooms and other housing types, you often can’t ‘reserve’ housing. That is to say, in Korea you will usually find it harder to get your housing in advance.
The good news is that you can find, pay for, and move into a goshiwon all in one day.
Thankfully, finding a goshiwon in Seoul is very easy these days thanks to a few great tools. While you can physically find a goshiwon yourself (quite easily too!), there is no need to.
Goshipages is a fantastic site which helps students and travellers find a goshiwon to live in. They have hundreds of goshiwons listed and they have many options around every major university in Seoul.
Goshipages has tons of goshiwon options.
The biggest reason that I recommend them, however, is because they will help you for FREE. Goshipages does not make money from people finding accommodation, but rather from the goshiwon owners.
Where you will usually have to pay 100,000-200,000 for assistance finding the perfect location, goshipages will help you for free. They offer services in English, Chinese, and Japanese currently.
All room options and utilities are shown, making browsing very easy.
Many goshiwon owners don’t speak English, and Goshipages acts as an intermediary that can make sure communication is smooth between the two parties.
You really have nothing to lose by trying them!
If you would prefer to find a goshiwon in person then you are in luck! Goshiwons are located all over the city and are remarkably easy to find. Especially in and around university areas.
Simply look for the words 고시원 and 고시텔 located on signs outside buildings. These are goshiwons. Often, you can just walk in and there will be a manager or owner located in the lobby.
The biggest issue is that more often than not you will find that they only speak Korean. The good news is that they are usually friendly towards foreigners and using phones as translation assistance it is generally manageable.
However, to make sure that everything is clear, I would advise taking a friend who is fluent in Korean. Who knows, the goshiwon owner might even be able to speak English!
Finding Tourist Accommodation
If you are looking for cheap accommodation in Seoul as a tourist, then a goshiwon is your best bet. Accommodation can be found for 15,000KRW per night if you are lucky – the only other accommodation that cheap are backpackers.
The benefit to a goshiwon is that you get a private room and facilities. On top of that, you even get some food. There really is no reason to stay at a backpackers in Korea.
Not every goshiwon will accept short term stays. However, there are a lot that will. You can either contact the owners or Goshipages and they will let you know what the minimum stay is (if there is one).
Goshiwon Room Tour
Goshiwon shared kitchen.
For a goshiwon tour of a goshiwon in Sincheon (near Yonsei University), check out this video. In it they explore the whole goshiwon including the facilities and the rooms. The goshiwon is a bit bigger and more modern than many others, however, so keep that in mind.
More Information about Goshiwons!
Do you have any questions that weren’t answered in this post? If so, please feel free to check out this video! Alternatively, if you have any further questions feel free to reach out to me at Ethan@seoulinspired.com or leave a comment below.
I will answer as soon as I am able to!
Disclaimer: This post was written with the assistance of the staff at Gooshipages. However, the post is not sponsored. Opinions expressed in this post are my own and after personally seeing how Goshipages operates I believe it to be a great service for foreigners in Seoul.
All images in this post were provided by Sinchon Guest Oneroomtel. If you are interested in staying, you can visit their page.
What Is a Goshiwon?
A gohsiwon is a small fully-furnished room that has everything you will need to live. These rooms are often compared to dormitories, and in many ways they are very similar. They are often very small, but contain the essentials. They are a good way to live privately at a low cost.
Some Goshiwons will have toilets and showers, however, this isn’t always the case. Usually kitchens and the laundry will be shared amongst all residents of the building.
How Much Does It Cost to Live in a Goshiwon?
Goshiwons can be found as cheap as $200 per month. However, the average is around $300-$400 per month depending on the location. The good news is that this cost includes all other housing-related costs also (electricity, gas, water, internet, etc). The price that you pay for rent is everything you need to pay.
Who Can Live in a Goshiwon?
Everyone. There are no overall restrictions on who can live in a goshiwon. However, there are some restrictions on a per goshiwon basis. For example, some are male/female only, and some are only for students. Most goshiwons will accept anyone, however.
Can I Use a Goshiwon as Travel Accommodation?
Yes! Many Goshiwons will allow you to pay per day. Due to this, they are one of the best ways to save money while travelling Korea. You can find Goshiwons for as low as $15 per night.
Where Can I Find a Goshiwon?
Goshiwons can be found all over Seoul and other cities in Korea. The biggest issue is that many have no online presence and many owners only speak Korean. Luckily, some website such as Goshipages exist to let people search Goshiwons online (in English!).