If you want to experience a completely new culture like a local, then there is no better way than through Airbnb (not a sponsored post, just genuinely happy with the experience). Don't get me wrong, I get why the hotel suite deals would appeal to most. But in my experience, I felt more connected living in a local apartment. I still get an internet connection, air-conditioning, access to public transport and local restaurants for a better price.
I was so surprised with the number of listings available in one Seoul district alone, ranging from $35 to $99AUD per night. Not to mention the discounts you can get for staying longer. If you know exactly where you want to stay in Korea, narrowing down the options is easier. I'm not too big on hostels or sharing a space so I always choose to stay in an entire apartment. I value my me-time way too much and the last thing I want to deal with after a long day of sightseeing is to be around people and their own homely habits.
When I visited South Korea in September 2017, I stayed in a duplex apartment in Hapjeong, Seoul and a studio in Jeju City. Both of my hosts were what they call Super Hosts and their apartments were pretty rare finds for that time of the year. Being able to look at the reviews, images of the place and all the features were incredibly helpful.
I booked them instantly and received messaged from both my hosts immediately. They sent me detailed documents, picturing exactly where the apartment was locating and how to get there from the landmarks around it. There was also information on which bus or subway line to take, local tourist spots around the area and the pin number to enter the apartment. I guarantee I wouldn't get such a personalised service from a hotel chain.
With the ability to message your hosts anytime, it also helps if you get a little bit lost or you arrive earlier than expected. I've always had an immediate response and they do what they can to help out. My host from the Jeju apartment worked around the corner, so he came to let me drop my bags off while he cleaned the place. He was also really happy to show me where the local tour bus was so I could spend some time exploring in the meantime.
Since my last trip, I have encouraged my other friends travelling to South Korea to sue Airbnb and they have an equally great experience. They even stayed in a traditional village out in the countryside. I've also stayed in an apartment in the middle of Tokyo and the experience was just as rewarding. Of course, everyone has their own preferences for travelling and if you find the whole practice of staying in a place other than a hotel daunting, then there is nothing wrong with that. For me personally, living like a local added to the entire journey and I felt safe the entire time. Check out some images of the apartments that I stayed in below. They each had their own unique touch from the owner, although the apartment in Seoul was truly up my alley when it came to aesthetics.