Info as of May 30th 2012
There are about 100 hostels in Seoul, over half of which are in the Hongik University area. During my trip I stayed at the 1st, 2nd, and 5th rated hostel on Hostel-world.com
All three of these hostels have a dozen reviewers claiming that each one is the best hostel they've ever stayed at in any country. I did all three in a weekend, here's the rundown.
Rating: 94% 56 reviews
Price 18,000 KRW
I waited at Exit 3 of Hongdae station for less than 10 minutes before a black BMW pulled up in front of me. What kind of hostel owner drives a BMW, and why such a big SUV in Seoul? The man named Panda, as cuddly as his name and panda-socks suggest chauffeured me to his hostel and cooked me eggs how I liked them.
Bibimhouse rests in a quiet neighborhood ten minutes on foot from Hongik University subway exit 2. It's out of the way for certain- including a walk through the subway, it takes about 15 minutes to get from the hostel to the fun part of Hongdae.
The kitchen is free use, and you can make yourself eggs or toast at any time, but in the morning Panda or Konda will make them for you. There is a bathroom on both floors, though the wall mount for the shower head seems to have been purposely broken. Everything is clean, and both hosts are very nice. They speak great English and take their time to acquaint you with the city and recommend restaurants. They brief you with a very well put-together survival guide. Also provided is a towel and small locker.
***Konda is hooked up with Nanta, so Bibim guests get a 20k won discount to see that musical. The wiki has me sold it on already, I'll be staying here again for that discount.
Good for a quiet, cozy homestay feel.
Verdict: A cozy hostel run by hosts that go above and beyond. Bibimhouse will always be a top hostel in spite of it not being centrally located which is a testament to what great hosts Panda and Konda are.
Rating: 99% 18 Reviews
Price: 20k, 16k on weekdays, 10k for roof tents.
Located on the 3rd floor of a building seconds away from M2 and Qvo, the best trance club in Hongdae and a hip-hop club above it, this hostel tops the ratings list of Hostel World.
It's only a few months old, and is run by an ex-programmer named Ed. He is the only employee, and that's all it needs. His enthusiasm and entrepreneurship impressed me even more than the Panda and Konda's hospitality, and trust me I did not believe that was possible. He doesn't keep eggs in the fridge, here are a list of things that are stocked and free at all times: Raisin Bran, milk, good ramen, tea bags, bottled water, beer, soju. He only keeps a few bottles, but it is free.
Ed bragged about the quality of everything in his hostel from the brand of water to the tents, the bunk beds, and the rating on hostel world, and rightfully so. He has several 1-2 person tents and a 9-person tent that can be rented for half the price of a dorm stay. Also on the roof is a small hot tub.
The most amazing thing about Ed House is twice a month, Ed throws a free BBQ on the roof with various cuts of beef. He doesn't like pork, and doesn't mind paying top dollar for domestic beef, sausages, pineapples, and vegetables to grill out. This guy is a BALLER.
+Central location, seconds away from M2, the best trance club. Ed knows how to run a fucking business, he spares no expense to make spoil you for hostels. Free beer, soju, and food. Cheap roof-tent option available.
-Ed is not always at the hostel and lives an hour away. This hostel tends to be more social due to its location, attracting mostly young people, so it can get loud.
Verdict: The best hostel out of the three I tried, hands down.
Big Tree Guesthouse
Rating: 97% 12 reviews
They lied about being conveniently located at the heart of Hongik university area. This hostel was the furthest out of the way and the hardest to find. About a 15-20 minute walk from Exit 1. It's a good hostel aside from the location, but what good is good when there's so much great for the same price? It's clean and spacious with two floor, including a female only dorm and a double bedroom. There are two public computers and free wifi. The sister who runs it is hot, though I didn't meet Jay.
The bad: The place is not always staffed. It's quiet and the room was hot and humid when I woke up. There's a lot of annoying passive aggressive signs everywhere which makes the place feel less friendly and more like a hostely. Compare that to Ed House which feels like you're staying at a dude's sweet ass apartment rather than a business. The only free food is breakfast bread.
I'm aware that my complaints about this place are total first world problems. The existence of shitty flea-motels on Khao San road is irrelevant. I'm reviewing 3 hostels in the top 10 hostels in all of Seoul, there's not going to be much bad to say.
Verdict: Worst of the three. Jay's sister will be pissed if you come home drunk around 6AM and forget the door code, but you won't cause she's hot, tall, and skinny. She's a nice lady, I hear Jay is nice too, probably also hot if he's related to her.
Warning: Second hand info time
There's a really popular hostel, two actually, called Hey Backpacker in central Hongdae. I hear the original is crappy but Hey Backpacker 2 is better. I wanted to mention this place because Marcel stayed at the original last December and said it was decent apart from the weird manager.
The story goes: The owner is a friendly but eccentric fellow, confirmed by online reviews.You stay there a while and you find out he likes to take pictures of guests while they sleep. LOTS of pictures. The weirdness escalates when you meet the woman who's had one too many surgeries on her face and applied her make up with a shotgun. This allegedly ugly older Korean woman turned to Marcel and said, “Hey I want to have sex with you,” to which the hostel owner said, “Yeah you should do it, I'll film it,” to which Marcel replied, “No.”
He said that the lady and the host would go into a room and make weird noises, not just sex noises but yells of, “Put your hands in the air!” She'd come out, get something from a kitchen cabinet and go back inside. He wasn't saying it was lube, but he wasn't saying it what he thought it might have been either.
Here's all the pictures I took, too lazy to format them properly.