Budget travelers know the struggle. Is it right to sacrifice comfort to save a few bucks? Is it right to break the bank for just a few days of luxury? The answer to both questions is no. Thus, more and more boutique hotels are opening in key cities around the world to provide guests with a break from brand-name rates while maintaining quality and memorable stays. Hotel Karashy in Seoul, South Korea does exactly that and does it well, with only a few minor hiccups.
Opened in 2013, this property is fairly new and caters to a wide range of clientele, including solo tourists, couples, and business travelers, as well as locals looking for a stay-cation. Given that a significant amount of guests are locals, the majority of staff only speak Korean and broken English. During our stay, we found communication to be a slight issue. But, to be fair, whenever you stay in another country language barriers should be expected and handled with patience and understanding.
The biggest draw of Hotel Karashy is its location – close to a major train station (but not so close that it’s noisy) and a large array of shops and restaurants are just a few steps away. However, if you’re hungry and don’t wish to leave the hotel, look to the on-site eatery of Bel Ami, which serves only 2 dinner options: Marinara Spaghetti for ₩18,000 ($15USD) and Grilled Australian Sirloin for ₩25,000 ($22USD). My review partner and I ordered both and were incredibly surprised at the flavor and portion.
A lot of fuss is made about the rooftop lounge which boasts a sitting area and a hot tub. Though the views of Seoul are beautiful from up there and the space is peaceful, the fact remains that it’s rather small and isn’t suitable for any kind of gathering. However, it is good for a couple or perhaps just a few close friends who can admire the romantic setting, have a drink and lay about, or take some time to soak in the hot tub.
Hotel Karashy offers 4 types of rooms and 1 suite configuration. The Standard ($88USD/night), The Deluxe ($104USD/night), Twin ($118USD/night), and Premium ($134USD/night) rooms are basically all the same with minimal changes between them. There are double beds in every room (no kings or queens), just one double in every room with the exception of the Twin room, which features one twin and one double. Only the deluxe and twin rooms feature balconies.
The hotel also offers a suite, called the Garden Spa Suite. These accommodations also have one double bed but make up for it with a feature item of a beautiful and unique in-room spa as pictured below.
Having stayed in the Premium Room, which is one of the nicest, we were surprised by the absence of a terrace. To offset that minor disappointment, we found the beds to be comfortable, the view to be gorgeous, and the bathroom to be clean and fully stocked with toiletries.
We at BHDT would not recommend this hotel to large families looking to share a room. This is because…well, there isn’t a lot of room to be shared with the average room scaling only 27.5m². The guest bedrooms are incredibly small and are only suited to 2 people maximum. Even at two people per room, both guests will need to feel very comfortable with each other as the layout of each suite is an open concept, meaning the bedroom and bathroom are separated only by a small wall (made of glass, not a door), as pictured below. With this being said, for the price, families could reserve two or more rooms as Hotel Karashy provides connecting suites.
PROS: 1) The price is unbelievably low for a great stay. 2) Friendly staff members that are always willing to help. No matter what language you speak, they will try to do their best to understand and accommodate your requests. 3) The entire resort is spotlessly clean. 4) Beds are comfortable and topped with soft linens.
CONS: 1) All areas of this hotel are very dimly lit. We realize its the aesthetic of the hotel, but we felt as though we needed night-vision goggles. It tends to be hard on the eyes after a while. 2) Rooms are very small, but this is also part of the charm.
Overall, for those on a budget, this is a great hotel if you can live with the small inconveniences. Even if you’re not on a budget and are just visiting Seoul for a few days, you can still be quite happy at Hotel Karashy.