Hotels vs Hostels

Do you prefer hotels or hostels? A regular traveller might go for the option of hotels, especially if they are used to travelling on business. On the other hand, those who are backpacking, and most likely on a budget, will usually choose between airbnb and some kind of hostel.

I must admit to rarely using hostels these days. Although I went through a brief period in my twenties of using them, I stopped when I realised I could often travel to countries and stay at people’s houses using the Couchsurfing site. Where that site has declined, the monster that is Airbnb has filled its place.

While I’m well aware of the pros and cons of airbnb, I find that the difference between hostels and hotels is often harder to nail down.

With hostels, I usually know what I will be getting. There will be a common area, with a kitchen, some very well-used appliances. The beds will be bunk beds, if it’s a dormitory. And the advantage of such places is obvious. I can meet other travellers, whilst knowing I am saving money at the same time.

Yet, the benefits of hotels needs to be re-stated. Are we not in danger of forgetting some of the wonderful things that make travelling so fun, and indeed, the very things that we lose when we step into a private home that the owners have decided to advertise on airbnb in the optimistic hope of making some money?

So why should you spend the extra money on a hotel? Here is the first reason.


If I stay in a hotel I can be sure that I can come any time I choose. If it’s late at night, someone will be at the reception desk. If I want to come early, I know that i can leave my luggage at the desk while I wait for my room to be prepared.


The best thing about hotels is that everything is done for the guest’s convenience. The beds are soft and the pillows are large. There is a TV because, hey, sometimes after a ten hour flight and a one hour taxi from the airport it’s nice to just pass out to the soothing sounds of Japanese news.

If I forgot my toothbrush, i can be sure that the hotel will be provide one for me. There are the complimentary shampoos and soaps which are sometimes better than the ones in the shops, especially when the hotel makes their own products. If I sleep late, I will receive a call from downstairs quietly reminding me that I need to come down to the desk if I’m checking out. Its so much nicer than having someone tell me to my face that I should have left 1 hour ago when I’m still bleary-eyed and hungover. And on the subject of check out times, is there a reason why I must check out by 10 am when check-in is not until 4pm?


Stay in a hostel and you have to clean up after yourself, in the kitchen, bathroom, and especially the dormitory. And you thought you were on holiday? But if I stay in a hotel I can trail wet towels on the floor, spill crumbs on the bed, leave condoms in the sink, knowing that the maid will have tidied up, tucked the corners of the sheets in, and made a neat pile of my clothes. If I used any of the toiletries, they will have been replenished. Compare with Airbnb, which charges me an additional cleaning fee, for the cleaning they do after I leave, which doesn’t even benefit me.

Extra services

DO you want breakfast? At a hostel you have to cook it yourself. Good luck finding something edible in the communal fridge which hasn’t been cleaned since the Backstreet Boys last had a hit. But with a hotel there’s often a free breakfast available. Go nuts. After all, it’s free.

Do you need a bus to the airport? They usually have free limousine services to the airport outside the hotel. Good luck wheeling your luggage from the hostel, which whatever they say, is always in the shittiest area of the city, where the drunks and the prostitutes fear to go.

There is a whole generation for whom comfort and convenience have become something of an embarrassment. Meanwhile, the hotel industry are providing excellent levels of service to the people who still appreciate it.

Getting lost in Busan

I have been here for nine months now and I thought that I would feel more at home here by now. Actually it’s more like the opposite of that situation. It seems that the longer I stay here the stranger it seems. And the things that I don’t like become more unappealing. Not that I don’t like it here. I would never have come all this way if I didn’t like it here. But if you stick around in Busan longer you can find more things to dislike.

Land of the old and ignorant

The old people that ride the subway every time of the day, barging through everyone, are something I can never understand. Aren’t these the same old people who spend their weekends trekking up mountains, who at 65+ are entitled to free transport, when everyone else has to pay for the privilege of having to stand up for most of the journey.

I can understand the old people for not being able to speak English, but for the young people to be barely conversant with even basic spoken English is something I find hard to get my head around, when you consider how important English is for almost every job.

The land of shopping malls and overpriced coffee

The consumerism is something else. There are more shopping centres than museums and theatres combined. Almost Nothing is free. Every item of clothing has to be brand new-looking. It’s not possible for Korean people to wear anything that might be even a little faded or ripped (although somehow clothes that have been artfully distressed escape this injunction). The concept of wabi-sabi, something along the lines of beauty in imperfection, does not apply here.

If its coffee, it has to be drunk in the most expensive cafe. You want to buy a cake and you end up spending double the cost of a lunch. Fruit is so expensive that I’m going with out fruit. Everything comes bundled in plastic polystyrene and good luck finding a rubbish bin.

All kimchi’d out

The food is good, but it’s hard to get excited about trying the same varieties of kimchi jiggae, samgyeopsal, and fried chicken. A chef in Korea must have the most boring job in the world, because there is no room for innovation or change in traditional Korean restaurants.

Dating Hell

The Korean system of relationships, with its taxonomy of dating conventions, is baffling to any outsider. The concept of couples wearing matching outfits would be fine if it was Halloween, but on any other occasion it is simply daft.

I’m seeing adverts warning men about taking photos of women’s underwear. I Guess they’re aimed at Korean men, supposed protectors of women’s dignity against foreign playboys. I guess it would be nice to take a photo of some of these women though, and besides what is the problem of a harmless picture?

Office ostracism

I’m also in the difficult position of being one of the only non-Korean teachers at work. And even though most of the teachers can speak more than enough English to have a conversation, they would rather spend their time speaking Korean. I’m sick of being ignored when it comes to sharing snacks, eating lunch, conversations, all because I’m not Korean.

My life is non-stop boredom and hard work, and relationships that fail to blossom. And that’s why it can be so hard living here. There are so many occasions where it could be possible for things to be better, but it doesn’t change.Somehow, I doubt I will be working here next year.

Sexless Korea

Is it possible that I got it wrong about Korea? Specifically, that it’s really easy to get with women if you’re white?

Whilst there are those who would say otherwise, here are a few reasons why it’s actually hard, really hard, to get even a date here as a foreign male.

  1. The culture is totally different. Yes, it’s obvious, but any of the rules in other countries don’t apply here. The hook-up culture is not the same. For example, Tinder is used as much to make friends as it is for actual dating (or so I’m told).

Some Korean women won’t date foreigners. You could have excellent Korean, be successful and good-looking, but some Korean women won’t date you because you’re not Korean. Although you will see WMAF couples, you won’t see many really top-level Korean women going out with anyone not Korean. As much as I hate it, it’s just a fact of life here.

The clubs are as much for dancing as they are for meeting people. On the two occasions I have been to clubs, I saw that most people were staying in gender-segregated groups. Men were definitely not approaching woman to dance. It would be completely different back home. It’s even harder to approach people in bars, because people sit on separate tables and don’t even place their orders at the bar. Although there is less opportunity to take a girl home here (most people still live at home) Koreans use the same phrase for one night stand, showing that they are at least aware of the concept.

Koreans have a rigid dating culture, and to approach someone randomly on the street, or in a cafe, isn’t really done. Although I have tried it several times, in most cases I could feel that the women didn’t really want to have a conversation with me and made a point of moving on as soon as possible.

The sheer amount of foreign students and English teachers has made foreigners less of a novelty. In fact, I feel largely ignored here, and somewhat invisible, to the point where I can be in a room of Koreans and nobody will acknowledge me.

The possibility that women will feel judged if they go out with foreign men possibly puts them off approaching them in the first place.

Lastly, the fact is that there are some sickos out there who will date a korean woman and flood sites with articles like ‘Korean women are easy’. This sort of thing does nobody any favours. Whilst you must always take something like that with massive grain of salt, whether it’s even true – and ask yourself whether someone who was actually sleeping with a lot of women would want to tell others about it online – it’s going to only make it harder for everyone.

One thing I am seeing is that there are much more Korean men with western women. I guess its because men are much more comfortable dating out of their culture than women here.

Meanwhile any men moving to South Korea in search of easy sex should do an instant reality check.