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Travel Hack in South Korea - Skip Hotels and Stay in a Jjimjilbang | Ummi Goes Where?

[UPDATED: November 2020]

A jjimjilbang is a Korean public bathhouse, where people go…to take a bath…with strangers. Because apparently bathing at home is not enough. The Koreans take beauty and personal care very seriously. If you’ve seen their 10-step beauty regime, you’ll get what I mean. I barely have the motivation to clean my face every night.

But a jjimjilbang is not merely a communal bathtub, it is more like a spa. A typical jjimjilbang would feature hot and cold soaking pools, massage tables, different types of saunas, Jacuzzi, steam rooms, entertainment lounges, restaurants, and even sleeping halls!

That’s right — a jjimjilbang is usually open 24 hours, and if you like, you can squeeze in a few hours of sleep there or, if you’re a budget traveler like me, spend the whole night.

Where to Find a Jjimjilbang

Sleeping in a Jjimjilbang in Seoul | Ummi Goes Where?
Dragon Hills Spa & Resort, Seoul.

There should be at least a few of them in each major city. Some of the best ones in Seoul (as listed on The Culture Trip) are:

  • Itaewon Land Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
  • Spa Lei (females only) – Jamwon-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul
  • The Spa in Garden 5 Munjeong-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul
  • Siloam Sauna Jungnim-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul
  • Dragon Hill Spa Hangangno 3(sam)-ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Click here to read the full reviews.

How Much Is It?

This, of course, varies from one spa to another, depending on their facilities and location. In the bigger spas in the city center, expect to pay around KRW10,000 – KRW14,000 (USD8.50 – USD11.90) for 12 hours, and KRW 1,000 for each subsequent hour. Extra services such as body scrubs, massage, facials, etc will be charged a separate fee.

I went to Dragon Hill Spa & Resort, which is the biggest and most tourist-friendly jjimjilbang in Seoul. It has been featured in various media including the CNN and The New York Times. Due to this fame, they may be more expensive than the other jjimjilbangs in the area, but still very affordable. Here are the latest admission fees as stated on their website:

  • Day (5 am – 8 pm): 13,000 won (Adult) / 7,000 won (Child) 
  • Weekend & Public Holiday (5 am – 8 pm): 16,000 won (Adult) / 7,000 won (Child)
  • Night (8 pm – 5 am): 16,000 won (Adult) / 7,000 won (Child)

Free parking is available for up to 5 hours for day customers, and until 11 am the following day for night customers. Click here to see their special packages.

Yongsan Dragon Hill Spa Jjimjilbang Admission Ticket | Ummi Goes Where?
Credit: Seoul PASS

What to Expect

Registration

The first step you need to do once you arrive is to register at the front desk. You will be given a wristband, a locker key, a towel, slippers, and a change of clothes to be worn in the communal areas (apart from the bathing areas).

The number on your wristband corresponds to the number of your locker. This wristband also acts as your ID and credit card while you’re in the spa. Because you’re going to keep all your valuables–including cash–in the locker, all transactions made during your stay will be put on your tab, which you will pay during checkout. All you have to do is show them the number on your wristband.

So, you might want to take good care of it, because if lost, not only will you need to pay a replacement fee, someone may even try to score free spa treatments at your expense.

Dragon Hill spa jjimjilbang Seoul | Ummi Goes Where?
The wristband. Photo credit: Dragon Hill Spa

Getting Ready for the Bath

The jjimjilbang is gender-segregated (sorry!). So, make your way towards the designated floor/section for your gender. Unfortunately, South Korea is still pretty conservative when it comes to gender identities, so non-cisgenders might have some problem with regard to this.
 

Next, find your locker, secure all your belongings, and…strip to your birthday suit! A fact that both surprised and delighted me was that everybody walked around naked in the bathhouse. I know it can be terrifying for a first-timer, but just remember that everyone else is naked too, regardless of their ages, shapes, and sizes.

Besides, they have probably been doing this every week since they were kids. The sight of your naked bottom won’t be anything new to them. So, embrace your curves (or a lack thereof), and flaunt what you’ve got, because none of us is perfect and all bodies are beautiful.

How to visit a Korean bathhouse for the first time - Ummi Goes Where?
Credit: Lonely Planet
 
Can you wear a bikini or a swimsuit instead?

Nope. In the bathing areas, you’re prohibited from wearing anything. Period. This is to preserve the cleanliness of the pools.

For the same reason, you also need to take a shower and clean yourself properly before getting into the pools. Be considerate to others. If you have any contagious skin issues, please do not get into the shared bathing area.

Dragon Hill spa Korean bathhouse | Ummi Goes Where?
Photo credit: Dragon Hill Spa

Soaking in the Pools

Once you’re clean and ready, it’s time to enjoy the many different facilities available. If you’ve never gone skinny dipping before, this is your chance to experience it. Each of the pools has a temperature indicator so that you know what you’re getting yourself into.

And what do you do in the pool? Just sit back and relax. Close your eyes if you need to. You may feel awkward if you’re the only foreigner around or if you’re the only one without a partner to talk to. Well, if it’s any consolation, no one knows you there, and you’re not going to see them again.

I didn’t make any friends there either. It’s pretty hard to mingle when you’re butt naked. And I imagine it must be impossible to maintain eye contact with anyone when their naughty bits are staring back at you.

Scrubbing And Other Treatments

As mentioned earlier, the jjimjilbang is not only a place to take baths, but also to get other spa treatments such as body scrub, massages, facials, ear candling, and manicures. They have professionals to provide these services to you at an additional fee.
 
However, I didn’t try any of it because I was on a tight budget and was just there to get cheap accommodation. According to Melissa from Heels and A Backpack and Calvin from Seek the World, body scrubbing is a pretty serious business in South Korea. They really know how to make you shed like a snake. It’s also quite common for strangers in the bathhouse to help scrub each other’s backs, so if you get offered assistance, just say yes!
 

Sleeping in the Jjimjilbang

Dragon Hill Spa sleeping hall - Korean bathhouse | Ummi Goes Where?
The sleeping room. Photo Credit: Dragon Hill Spa
 
Sleeping in the jjimjilbang is not a luxurious affair. You’ll be lying on the floor, with only a pillow and a tatami mat for padding. Nonetheless, the hall was clean and well-maintained. It was way better than the only alternative I had, which was to sleep at McDonald’s (this was before I discovered Couchsurfing). Besides, sleeping on a flat, hard surface can be good for your back.
 
As to why they provide sleeping accommodation to their customers, I have no idea. It doesn’t make sense to me why people would go to a bathhouse and sleep there instead of going home. Unless you came from somewhere far. But then, it perplexes me why anyone would travel all that distance just to go to a bathhouse.
 
Sleeping in a Korean bathhouse - Dragon Hill Spa | Ummi Goes Where?
Feeling refreshed after all those baths

In A Nutshell

If you’re not looking for luxury and don’t have much luggage with you (the lockers are small), this is a perfect way to save money on accommodation. But in any case, I think the jjimjilbang is a must-try experience when you’re in South Korea, whether or not you choose to sleep there. I really wish I had tried the body scrubbing service though.

Dragon Hill Spa - Sleeping in a Korean bathhouse | Ummi Goes Where?
Time to leave 🙁

Have you been to a public bathhouse before? Share your experience in the comments below.

Posted in South Korea

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39 Comments

    • ummi

      Haah kat tempat mandi mmg takleh pakai apa2. Tapi memang selesa la Korean bathhouse ni kalau nak buat full-body pampering, sbb ada massage, spa, sauna semua.

    • ummi

      Me too, girl. My livelihood depends on travel. Really hoping for this to be over soon. In the meantime, you can check out my other blog posts for more ideas and travel tips 😉

    • ummi

      Haah murah je. Kira dua dalam satu la. Sambil dapat tempat tido, dapat servis spa sekali. Sesuai untuk budget traveler. Jimat duit untuk hotel satu malam.

    • ummi

      Ya, I’ve heard of the Japanese onsen too, but haven’t had the chance to go. So, next time you go to Korea, be sure to check out the Korean bathhouse 🙂

  1. Wui Kathy

    Interesting that i had not been to the any Korea public bathhouse. Yes for Taiwan hot spring bath and cold spring bath. Next round travel to Korea , mouse mommy wanna try this out as well.

    • ummi

      Oh yes, I remember trying the hot spring bath in Taiwan. Very soothing! And yes, you should definitely try the Korean bathhouse on your next visit to South Korea. 🙂

  2. Zaza

    Korean and their bathhouse. Best gila siap bole lepak2 makan.. Tido mana2.. Ada sauna individual. Ada pool.. Ada jakuzi… Bila malaysia nak buat? Hahhahha

  3. Shreya Saha

    OMG, I am surely going to stay at least a night in a Jjimjilbang when in S. Korea. I love spas, and skinny dipping there in the pools with different temperatures is a great idea. I would rather save money spending in a hotel and use that for buying a massage or spa treatment in a jjimjilbang. Thanks for such an amazing information.

    • ummi

      You’re welcome, Shreya! Yes, I think that’s a great way to spend money. I’d go for a spa treatment over expensive hotels anytime. I hope you’ll get to experience a night in a jjimjilbang once it’s safe to travel again. 🙂

  4. Jamie

    I’ve heard this recommendation before, to stay in the Jjimjilbang, the bathhouse. At the time I was traveling with friends who didn’t want to but I always regret not doing it. Loved reading about your experience and recommendation. It looks like such a great opportunity and I love the detailed guide so thanks for sharing your incredible experience.

    • ummi

      You’re welcome, Jamie. Staying in a jjimjilbang was a great experience and I’d totally recommend it to anyone. I hope you’ll give it a try the next time you go to South Korea! 🙂

  5. Danik the Explorer

    OK, I never been to Korea, it is on the plans and now I know I can get a decent spa/bathroom treatment as it seems the whole country loves doing it. I love doing this sort of thing on the road so this is very handy to know. Now the word – Jjimjiibang….how to say this? 😛

    • ummi

      Well, I may be wrong but I think it should be pronounced jim-jill-bang, rhyming with lung. Or you can say bathhouse. 😀 Now you know where to go for some self-pampering time on your future trip to Seoul.

  6. Chloe Beaver

    I had to re-read your first sentence a few times to make sure I had understood it correctly! I always find spa and self-wellness in other countries to be very interesting. I remember my first Thai massage and the rituals that came with it – it was fascinating! I would love to give a Jjimjilbang a try, and the sleeping arrangements didn’t seem all that bad!

    • ummi

      It wasn’t bad at all, Chloe! I slept pretty well, in fact. Like you, I also love trying out all the different massages and treatments when I travel and Thai massage is one of my favorites. I hope you’ll get to experience a jjimjilbang on your next visit to South Korea. 🙂

  7. Marielle

    This is so interesting!! We’ve been to S. Korea but never did this. I love this concept of a Jjimjiibang (however you say it haha). Nothing more relaxing than a little spa and bathhouse during a trip. Reminds me of something we did in Hungary actually in their bathhouses! We’ll definitely look into this when we return to S. Korea.

    • ummi

      You definitely should, Marielle! I’ve heard of those bathhouses in Hungary too. I have yet to visit the country yet, but when I do make it there, I’ll be sure to include that on my itinerary. 🙂

  8. Subhashish Roy

    Wow this is completely a new learning for me. Never knew anything about jjimjilbang. Interesting concept and I would certainly love to try out this experience whenever we visit South Korea.

  9. Paula

    I love this kind of places and would absolutely love to stay here. Nothing is more relaxing than a spa treatment and sauna. I am from Finland where the sauna culture is very deep. Being naked while going to sauna in a spa or swimming facility is very normal and natural there. I had never heard of jjimjilbang before so I enjoyed reading this.

    • ummi

      Thank you, Paula, and glad you enjoyed the article. I’ve heard about the sauna culture in Finland. It sounds very intense, to be honest, although I would love to experience it too someday. A jjimjilbang will be different for sure, but im sure you’ll love it as well. 🙂

  10. Umiko

    Oh my gosh! I want to experience this. Probably with my sisters though, not friends. lol. And I would add massage and scrubbing as well. After all, when you spend a night here, you have extra money to splurge from your accommodation budget.

    • ummi

      You’re absolutely right, Umiko. Since you’ve saved on accommodation, you might as well splurge on spa treatments. I think I’d feel more self-conscious in front of my family than my friends though. Hahaha.

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