Korean equivalent of a bed and breakfast is room rental in a private home


May 15, 1994|By New York Times News Service

Q: I intend to visit South Korea, particularly Seoul. Am I likely to find bed and breakfast accommodations there?

A: The equivalent of bed and breakfast in South Korea is the

minbak, a system under which families make one or more rooms in their homes available to paying guests.

Traditionally minbak, found only in the countryside, have been used only by Koreans, and typically breakfast is not included.

But under a program set up by the Korea National Tourism Corporation, hundreds of families who live in cities and who have a working knowledge of English have been recruited to offer a room and breakfast to foreign tourists. (Breakfast in Korea is a variation of other meals of the day: meat, vegetables, soup, rice and kimchi.)

Room charges, which include breakfast, are $25 a night for one person, calculated at 807 won to the dollar, $37 for two people and $43 for two people and a child age 6 to 12 (no charge for a child under 6).

Reservations must be made through the Korea National Tourism Corporation, 2 Executive Drive, Seventh Floor, Fort Lee, N.J. 07024; (201) 585-0909, fax (201) 585-9041; or through the corporation's offices in South Korea. It is best to make a reservation at least a month before you plan to arrive.

A reservation form is included in a booklet, available free from the corporation, called "A Traveler's Guide to Yogwan and Minbak."

The booklet also contains an agreement covering the program, which specifies, among other things, that visitors must arrive at the minbak before 8 p.m. and leave by 9 a.m. on the final day.

The booklet reminds visitors that the "host family" has its own private life and advises tourists to "behave as if you were a guest of a distant relative." It also advises that as Koreans traditionally sit, eat and sleep on the floor, shoes are always removed when entering a Korean home.

Unless otherwise arranged with the family, visitors are asked to vacate the home during normal business hours.

At countryside minbak, rates range from $10 to $37 a night without breakfast for up to four people in a room. Reservations can be made before leaving or, in Korea, through the local agricultural or fisheries cooperatives, the telephone numbers of which are contained in the booklet.

Yogwan, which are budget-priced Korean-style inns found in every city, town and tourist resort throughout the county, would make a good alternative to minbak. The corporation's booklet lists a number of small and medium-sized inns considered suitable for foreign tourists.

Yogwan are not as luxurious as most tourist hotels and their facilities do not include restaurants, coffee shops, health and beauty shops or room service.

Usually there are no facilities for cooking, and eating food in your room should be avoided, the corporation says. Some yogwan, however, do offer meals for an additional price and these are served in your room.

Guests may choose between Korean-style or Western-style rooms. Room rates range from $19 to $37 a night for one or two people in a room.

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