Seoul is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. Not only is it more expensive than both London and Tokyo, but real estate costs are skyrocketing. Knowing this information, it can be hard to imagine studying here as a student. However, finding cheap student housing in Korea may be easier than you think!
Despite being so expensive, student housing in Seoul can be relatively affordable. While it depends on what you’re used to, I found the rental costs in Seoul to be significantly more affordable than in New Zealand.
While apartment prices in Seoul are ludicrously high, rental prices can start as low as 300,000 KRW monthly. That’s 75,000 (about $60) per week! While apartments at this price certainly won’t be very fancy, they can provide housing for students on a tight budget.
However, along with one-room apartments, many other student housing options exist in the city. In this article, I want to dive into each type of housing. I will cover everything that you need to know, from the costs you can expect to how to find housing in the capital.
If you are planning to move to Korea and are wondering about the overall cost as a student, I recently wrote an article on the cost of living in Seoul. It covers not only housing but all the other costs you can expect to incur as a student studying in Seoul.
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Images in this article were provided by Ziptoss, 42Share, and Goshipages.
Types of Student Housing in Korea
For students in South Korea, there are a few main housing options. The most obvious of these is the dormitory. Dormitories can vary significantly in quality and price. As such, it’s hard to generalise them and discuss them all here. On top of that, I only have personal experience with the Korea University dormitories! Therefore, I won’t discuss dormitories in this article and will instead be focusing on off-campus accommodation.
Other than dormitories, there are three main options that students have for housing. These are as follows:
- Goshiwon: Similar to an off-campus dormitory
- One-room: Small apartment, often called a ‘studio apartment’ in other countries
- Sharehouse: A full-size apartment with shared facilities or rooms.
All of these housing types have different upsides and downsides, and it’s up to you to decide which is best for you. In this article, I will do my best to inform you about the differences between the three as well as which type of housing is better for which student.
Although somewhat arbitrary, I have tried to sort out the four main housing options in Korea in the table below. These are based on my personal experiences and those around me. This table should provide a quick comparison of the main housing options in Korea based on your priorities.
|Types of Housing||One-room||Goshiwon||Share House||Dormitory|
|Ease of Management (utilities, etc)||Hard||Medium||Medium||Easy|
Goshiwons are not true ‘housing’ but are more like an off-campus dormitory. Often called goshitels, goshiwons are buildings usually located around universities. They have many rooms, joint kitchens, and a joint lobby. Some will also have joint bathrooms, but this is quite rare these days (and only found on the most budget goshiwons).
Goshiwons are usually very small and contain a bed, desk, some storage space, and a bathroom. The bathroom will typically be small with a shower, toilet and sink in a small, enclosed space. Many goshiwons don’t have great ventilation or natural lighting.
Goshiwons are the cheapest housing available in Korea. Goshiwons in Seoul usually begin at around 250,000 KRW a month. Depending on the location though you may be able to find these rooms even cheaper!
The average price is a bit higher, typically sitting between 300,000 – 450,000KRW. However, at these rental prices, it’s often worth getting a one-room instead. Nice one-rooms begin at about 450,000KRW, and they will provide far more freedom than a goshiwon.
If you are very tight on money, a goshiwon is a good option for affordable housing. This is the reason many students pick goshiwons – while the monthly costs may be the same or similar to cheaper one-rooms, they typically don’t require a deposit. If they do, it’s normally minimal (such as one month of rent). You also don’t need to worry about the hassle of dealing with a realtor and paying utility bills.
If you want to learn even more about Goshiwons and what life in them is like, check out the ultimate guide on Goshiwons!
Korean Words: Goshiwon – 고시원. Also named a goshitel – 고시텔.
One room in Seoul. Images provided by 42Share.
When looking for Goshiwons you may also come across the term ‘Hasuk Jib’ (하숙집). While these aren’t very common anymore, they are another possible housing option. Hasuk jibs are similar to goshiwons in that they are small and have shared facilities.
The difference between a hasuk jib and a goshiwon is that hasuk jibs also offer meals included in the rent payment. This usually means that you will get two free meals per day. However, hasuk jibs are a less common option for two reasons. They are pretty rare these days, and they often have little to no advertising. This means you will rarely (if ever) be able to find them online.
It is worth mentioning here that many goshiwons will offer some kind of free food, but this is normally limited to rice, and maybe kimchi. It’s not really enough for a meal, but with a few added ingredients you can easily make the most of this free food!
Benefits And Downsides
Goshiwons often offer a variety of free food.
Goshiwons are great for a few reasons, primarily because they are cheap and easy to manage. This is because utilities such as internet and water are usually covered in your rent. Goshiwons are also very easy to move in and out of. Often you can find a room (and move in) all on the same day.
Further, goshiwons come furnished and will usually contain furniture such as a bed, desk, and shelves. Sometimes they will also come with a fridge, but this depends on the particular goshiwon.
The biggest downside is that goshiwons usually have strict rules. Rules including banning visitors, requiring tenants to be silent, and having gender-separated floors are not uncommon. Everything depends on the specific goshiwon, but, commonly, they will have many rules to ensure the comfort of everyone in the building.
Another factor to consider is that goshiwons can be quite dirty at times. This is definitely not the case for every goshiwon, but there are dirty rooms out there. Due to this, it is essential to ALWAYS view the room before signing a contract. This is the same for all housing but is particularly important for goshiwons.
My single biggest piece of advice for those moving to Korea is to inspect the housing before signing a contract.
Seoul one-room apartment.
The price and ease of goshiwons make them one of the best types of student housing in Korea. Generally, goshiwons can be found for around 300,000-500,000KRW per month. The best part is that you often don’t have to manage any utilities, and they are usually included in the cost.
Further, goshiwons usually need no deposit money. This makes them an excellent option for many students. On top of this, goshiwons in Korea will usually also provide free WiFi to the residents.
Finding a Goshiwon
Otherwise, you can search for the words 고시원 (goshiwon) and 고시텔 (goshitel) on Google Maps. Usually, talking to the owner is your best option in getting a room at a goshiwon. This means you don’t have to involve (a sometimes costly) third party.
Finding a goshiwon on arrival in Seoul is the most common practice. There are some great websites listing goshiwons. However, there are a few possible downsides.
Firstly, they can charge more than goshiwons found locally. These extra costs usually occur due to one of two reasons. Either because they involve a third party or because the goshiwons have paid to advertise online. Due to this, you may pay more if you find a goshiwon online.
While coming to Seoul with no place to stay may seem like a bad idea, usually, goshiwons are not hard to find and move into. Often you will be able to move on the same day that you find a suitable place! As such, it’s possible to move to Seoul, find, and move into a goshiwon within a few days.
My best advice is to get an Airbnb for a day or two and, in that time, find the ideal goshiwon to live in. I once had a friend move into a goshiwon near Korea University the same day that he started looking! The benefit of this is that you will have no hidden surprises. Having the comfort of knowing that you already have housing sorted is great. But, the flip side is that often you don’t know what you are getting into.
Coming to Seoul and browsing goshiwons before moving means no hidden surprises. It is for this reason that I usually recommend this plan of action.
However, if you want to browse your options online or are insistent on getting a goshiwon in Seoul before arrival, there are a few options!
Goshiwons and share houses usually have a shared kitchen like the one above.
The best place to find a comfortable and cheap goshiwon in Seoul is Goshiwon Pages.
The website has a lot of options around all the popular universities. There are a lot of options available. Browsing through options near Korea University, there are some as low as 180,000 KRW per month. That’s about 150 USD! Most options sit between 250,000 and 400,000. If you are looking in a more popular area (such as Hongdae), the options begin at around 250,000 KRW per month. The average is about 350,000 – 500,000.
Another option is Goshitel. This site also has many options for nearly all of the universities in Seoul. From Korea University goshiwons to Sogang University, Chungang University, Sookmyung Women’s University and more. Choose your preferred location and price range and send them a message. They will do their best to set you up with something that fits your requirements.
A third website for finding goshiwons in Seoul is Gosiwonstory. This website is similar to both Goshitel and Goshiwon Pages in that it provides many different goshiwon options around the major universities.
Using these three options you should have ample choices for finding a goshiwon in Seoul!
However, all the sites above list their goshiwons by the closest university. Since they are usually aimed at students, this makes sense. But what if you want an Itaewon goshiwon, or a goshiwon in another place further from a university?
If that’s the case, Craigslist is often the best option. Whether you are trying to find a goshiwon or a one-room in Seoul, Craigslist is always a good place to look. Unfortunately, there tends to be a lack of English websites to find housing in Korea. Due to this, many of the options end up advertised there instead.
But a word of warning: Craiglist can be a great resource for finding housing in Korea. However, it is also home to some scams. For this reason, make sure to be careful when finding housing there.
A goshiwon in Seoul from Goshipages.
In short, a goshiwon is an off-campus dormitory. They are small, cheap, and usually have shared facilities. They are also easy to manage and great for many students.
Since goshiwons often share buildings with other businesses, goshiwons are often in fantastic locations. This is made even better by the fact that goshiwons are aimed at students. Meaning they are often located close to universities. In these areas, one-room rent can be much more expensive.
A Goshiwon Is Great If:
- You don’t mind living in a small space.
- You are looking for cheap housing.
- You don’t mind sharing some facilities, such as the kitchen, washing machines, and lobby area.
- You are looking for somewhere close to your university.
- You don’t want the extra effort/cost of managing utilities separately.
A Goshiwon Isn’t so Great If:
- You don’t like small spaces or find them uncomfortable.
- You don’t want to share facilities.
- You want to manage your utilities. For example, if you want a particular internet plan.
- You want more freedom. For example, to have friends over or to cook inside.
Another option for student housing in Seoul is shared housing.
Next up, we have one-room apartments. These are the preferred option for many students as they are bigger and also have more privacy and freedom.
The cost of a one-room in Seoul starts at about the same cost as a goshiwon (300,000 KRW). But, the cost is usually exclusive of utilities such as electricity and gas.
Apartments can come in a variety of forms. From villas to officetels, to actual apartments (usually meant for families). Villa one-rooms are common in Seoul and are usually older, smaller buildings that are 3-5 floors high. These are popular with students as they are cheaper than officetels. Yet, they have all the other benefits of an apartment.
Benefits and Downsides
Despite the name, one rooms usually have two rooms., a bathroom and a main room.
Usually, there won’t be strict rules for single-room apartments as long as you are reasonable. This means not being too loud at night and keeping shared areas clean. Otherwise, you are usually allowed visitors and guests. They can usually even stay a few nights if you discuss it with your landlord first!
Some studios will have a monthly (fixed) utility cost, while others will make you manage all of your utilities separately. Studio apartments are located everywhere, and it is always possible to find one in the location you desire.
Furthermore, studio apartments (often referred to as ‘one rooms’) are often partially or fully furnished. Usually, they offer medium furnishing (bed, fridge, washing machine, and other essentials). However, some come fully furnished with all the essentials, often including air conditioning, a desk, and other helpful items.
The catch? Any kind of apartment will usually involve a deposit (also called key money). A deposit is a fee that you must pay when moving into the house but that you will receive back when you move out. For example, you will have to pay 3,000,000 KRW when you sign the contract. Once you move out, though, the landlord will give you the money back. This money is usually intended for the landlord to invest while you are living in their building.
The deposit can range wildly, but usually, a higher deposit will mean less monthly rent. This means that you can choose between a higher initial deposit or higher monthly rent.
Further, there are usually contracts involved. This means that you are bound to pay for rent for 12, 18, 24, or more months. The biggest downside of studio apartments and officetels is that they need a contract to be signed. While this is usual with housing in all countries, it can be a significant obstacle if you don’t speak Korean.
Korean Words: One room (studio apartment) – 원룸. Villa – 빌라. Officetel – 오피스텔.
English Realtor in Seoul
If you are looking for a fantastic English Realtor in Seoul with a reasonable price, check out this post on the Best English Realtor in Seoul. Ziptoss is a service that covers everything from finding an apartment all the way to signing the contract – in English. KakaoTalk ID: ztdrcs03
No matter how trustworthy a realtor or landlord seems, NEVER sign a contract by yourself. Make sure to have someone fluent in Korean (and on your side) review it first. If you don’t know anyone fluent in Korean or need assistance, I recommend checking out an English realtor.
As mentioned above, rent for a one-room in Seoul can vary greatly. Usually, you will be looking at 300,000 KRW+ per month and 3,000,000 KRW+ for a deposit. It is possible to find places cheaper than this though, so don’t feel discouraged. However, the options are limited, and the furnishings may also be lacking.
The price of a one-room in Seoul is very dependent on location. You can often save a lot of money by looking at one-rooms that are a ten-minute walk from your university.
For example, one-rooms around Anam (Korea University) are often more expensive than one-rooms in the Sungshin area. An area that is only a 10-15 minute walk from Anam. Since university areas are in high demand, my biggest piece of advice is to look not only in the direct vicinity but also in nearby suburbs.
In a recent survey I did, the average one-room rent in Seoul was 550,000 KRW per month. This survey was answered primarily by students attending Korea University.
Finding an Apartment
Ziptoss housing map.
Finding an apartment is usually the biggest challenge for a foreigner coming to Korea. Unless your Korean is fluent, I would NEVER recommend doing this process alone. Ask a native Korean friend (or you can even pay someone) to help. When it comes to signing contracts, it’s always worth being certain.
You can either visit local realtors (budongsan – 부동산) to find apartments or use the internet.
Unfortunately, finding a one-room in Seoul has similar difficulties to finding a goshiwon. There aren’t that many options available for finding housing online. Often the best variety and budget-friendly options can only be found locally. Also, similarly to finding goshiwon accommodation, one-rooms in Seoul are very fast to move into.
Many websites charge extra fees (or have a higher rent cost). Due to this, I again recommend arriving in Seoul a few days early and visiting some local options. Since the whole moving process often takes less than two days, it is possible to stay in an Airbnb while you browse.
However, some services are out there to help foreigners transition to Seoul. My favourite of these services is Ziptoss. They offer everything in English and have a massive variety of housing options. The staff are friendly and helpful; their service is also very efficient and quick.
Seoul Homes offer some great options for rooms in Seoul. They have more expensive, family-orientated options. But they also have a few options for students. While they don’t have the most extensive range, it is an excellent website to browse.
Another option is Eden Realty. The website doesn’t look like much, but this site has some of the best options for student housing. The apartments listed are often more budget-orientated. As such, they are more suitable than many of the other options out there. The owner is also amiable and kind!
Lastly, another popular option is Urseoul. While the one-rooms they offer tend to be more expensive, they are a good website to browse and consider.
There are, of course, other websites out there. However, these are the most common sites that I hear about. Craigslist is another option that many foreigners use. Generally, though, the options above are safer as they are all run by official agents within Korea.
Korean Words: Realtor – 부동산. Apartment – 아파트. House – 주택.
A one-room is a fantastic option for students wanting more freedom and privacy. While they are generally more expensive than goshiwons, it is possible to find one-rooms cheaper than goshiwons (minus the deposit).
The biggest difficulties of living in a studio apartment are managing the utilities and signing the contract. Thankfully though, the contract only needs to be signed once. After this, it’s all straightforward!
A Studio Apartment is Great If:
- You want the freedom to live (relatively) how you want.
- You want more room to live in.
- You want more privacy.
- You don’t want to share some facilities.
- You want to be able to cook food and eat at home.
A Studio Apartment isn’t Great If:
- You don’t want to spend more money.
- You don’t want to have to worry about managing utility bills (although this depends on the apartment)
- You are in Korea for a shorter period than one year.
Officetels are buildings with commercial spaces below.
Officetels on the other hand, are the newer, taller buildings you will see around Seoul. Usually, they have a door that requires a passcode to enter. Conveniently, many villas have been updated to include these also.
Officetels are similar to villas except for being (generally) more costly and modern. The key difference of an officetel is that they usually aren’t purely residential. Instead, they are shared buildings that have businesses on the lower floors.
While this has downsides, it also can have some significant upsides. Officetels often have cafes or restaurants located below.
Both villas and officetels in Korea usually come either partly or fully furnished. Furniture such as a fridge, desk, bed, washing machine, and often AC is usually provided.
Officetels have similar positive and negative aspects to one-room apartments. The biggest difference with officetels is that they usually cost more than villa apartments. This is because they are more modern. On top of that, the buildings are often nicer, and this drives the price up further.
Share House Bedroom
Officetels are like one-room apartments in that they involve a deposit on top of the monthly rent. This is also similar to one-room apartments in that the higher the deposit, the lower the monthly rent. The biggest difference is that officetels usually start at about 600,000 KRW.
42Share Student Housing communal area.
Finally, there are share houses. I don’t personally have any experience with them, but I have heard about what they are like from friends.
Usually, you will get either a private or semi-private room, and the rest of the house will be communal. This can be great if you have just come to Korea and feel homesick or lonely. There will always be people around you can talk to. Often 4-8 people will live in these houses, and you will share facilities. These are often cheaper than apartments but also come with the upsides and downsides of living with others. How you will enjoy the housing is, unfortunately, highly dependent on whom you live with.
A great site that provides share houses without the language barrier is SSH42Share.
Luckily, share houses have a solid online presence. As many try to attract foreign students, they recognise that it is vital to advertise online. As such, there are a few excellent services for finding a share house in Seoul.
Firstly, Simple Spaces is a great choice and the share house that I would recommend. I recently wrote an entire post on Simple Spaces Share House in Seoul, which has more details. Simple Spaces makes moving to Korea extremely easy and convenient. They also have a great community which removes the feeling of isolation that moving to Korea can bring.
Another option is Come & Stay. Currently, they are working on adding a house matching function which will allow visitors to specify their requirements and Come & Stay will find them suitable housing. In the meantime, they also offer a large variety of share houses in Seoul. They often have 30+ options with many price ranges included.
Finally, if you are looking for a sharehouse in Hongdae, HouseKorea has some options. While they don’t have the variety of the two sites mentioned above, they offer quality share houses around Hongdae. This is perfect for anyone looking for a share house around Yonsei University! Most notably, they offer accommodation from 12,000 per night (with a minimum stay of 30 days). This is a great option if you need some medium-term accommodation.
Utilities are a significant monthly cost for students.
Something to remember with both officetels and one-rooms is that you have to pay for utilities. Monthly utility costs include electricity, water, and gas, all of which are cheap.
Depending on the month, gas can be as low as $0 and as high as $50 in winter. Korean apartments usually have ondols, which is underfloor heating. That’s not a bad price considering that it is around $50 for constant heating throughout the winter months.
Electricity is the same. It is usually a minimal cost of under $15 in winter, but in summer (with AC and fans), it can go up to $50 easily.
These costs sound far more expensive than it usually is. If you use AC constantly throughout the summer, you will probably face an electricity bill of over $100. The same goes for the heating – if you keep it at a high temperature all winter, you can expect to pay a lot for gas. But
But, if you are conservative and keep the heating at 24 degrees (or less), your winter gas bill will usually be less than $40. Similarly, I keep my AC on for about 6 hours daily in summer and have never paid more than $30.
A typical Korean electricity bill.
The best way to save money in summer is to purchase a fan and use that instead of AC when possible. In winter, use a space heater instead! Since one-room apartments are often tiny, a space heater is efficient and cheap.
I have found that my utility cost is usually around $80 per month. On average, I pay $35 for internet, $20 for electricity, $10 for gas, and $10 for water. In winter, the gas cost will increase, and the electricity cost will decrease, and vice versa in summer. Further, if you don’t mind using blankets and fans instead of heating and AC, you can keep utility costs low all year.
Something to remember with Korean electricity costs is that they are exponentially increasing. This means that while using X amount of power might cost $5, double that amount of power may cost $25, and double that might be $150.
This is usually great for students because the costs are meager. But in summer, you should always be wary.
The final cost of utilities, if you are a student living in Seoul, is water. I’ve found that even when using a large amount of water your costs will barely be $15 per month. Overall, utilities in Korea are very affordable as long as you manage them well.
Ziptoss housing form.
When visiting a 부동산 (realtor), make sure you are in the area you want to live in. Each 부동산 will usually only be selling houses in their proximity. Remember to shop around also; 부동산 are incredibly common. Usually, you can find 5+ that overlap in an area and each will have different listings.
Keep in mind that sometimes the price is negotiable. Not always, but since the landlords are only human, it is possible. I’ve managed to drop my monthly rent by 100,000 because I discussed it with the landlord and my 부동산.
The second option to find an apartment is to use the internet. Craigslist always has options, but I wouldn’t use it myself. Often the information is incorrect, and sometimes the sellers won’t even reply.
Instead, I would use proper housing websites such as this site or the apps Dabang and Zigbang. This will involve talking to the 부동산 or landlord who listed the house, though, so be ready with your Korean or Korean friend!
Finding and moving houses in Korea is far easier and faster than expected.
The biggest hurdle is the initial language barrier (at least if you want an apartment). However, everything is usually straightforward and fast once you cross this barrier. I once moved out of an apartment and into a new one on the same day! With no planning at all.
Please let me know if you have any questions or need assistance with any part of the housing process. I will do my best to help you and answer any questions you may have!
Don’t Speak Korean?
There are a few options if you need assistance with the contract signing/house-finding process. Ziptoss is a service that will help you in every step of the housing journey – all the way from finding the right house to signing a contract. All in English!
While there are other English realtors in Seoul, I recommend Ziptoss because they have many user testimonials and provide a fantastic platform and communication.
If you want assistance with inquiring into housing, or if you need help contacting realtors, I recommend checking out Gowonderfully. They are a fantastic personal assistant service that can help bridge the language barrier.
Student Housing FAQ
Below are some frequently asked questions about student housing in Seoul. If you want more detailed answers on each, please read through the relevant sections of the post above, as it has more in-depth answers.
However, if you are looking for a quick answer, please read the questions below!
How Expensive Is Student Housing in Seoul?
Student housing in Seoul is relatively affordable and can be found as low as $200 per month. However, rents this low will usually only be found at goshiwons.
One-room apartments usually begin at around $300 per month and utilities will cost an additional $100 per month. While it is possible to find cheaper one-rooms, they will come with downsides.
Are One-Rooms Furnished?
Nearly all one-rooms and other student housing in Korea will come either partly or fully furnished. Every apartment I have experienced in Korea has come with a desk, washing machine, and other essential furniture.
However, some furnishing such as AC and beds will not always be provided. If they aren’t (but you feel they are needed), you can discuss the matter with the landlord or realtor. Often you can get furniture that you need from them for no extra cost.
How Much Do Utilities Cost?
Although this depends on your specific uses, utilities can be managed to cost less than $100 per month. This includes gas, electricity, internet, and water.
What Types of Student Housing Exist in Korea?
In Korea, there are a few main types of student housing. These are goshiwons, share houses, one-rooms, officetels (also one-rooms), and dormitories. To learn more about these types of housing, please read this article.