If you’re visiting Korea specifically for the Winter Olympics and are trying to work out the Pyeongchang 2018 accommodation situation right now, chances are you’re bouncing all over the internet and not having much luck.
Fact is, the situation still isn’t entirely clear as things stand; on this page I’ll try to provide an overview of the situation as it is now, list the options with relevant links, and post regular updates as & when more information becomes available.
Pyeongchang 2018 Accommodation: overview
As you’ll no doubt already be aware if you’ve bought tickets, the events are split between the Mountain Cluster and the Coastal Cluster, with the Mountain Cluster events spread across 3 established Pyeongchang County ski resorts & 1 purpose-built new resort in neighbouring Jeongseon County, and the Costal Cluster events in the city of Gangneung. For more detail see here
The Pyeongchang ski resorts of Alpensia, Yongpyong, and Phoenix Park all have huge hotel / condo developments at their bases, but you’ll be very lucky to find anything available there at this stage (it may not even be possible at all, with block bookings for all the corporate / IOC etc beds required). Likewise, expect available rooms in Gangneung to be thin on the ground.
Additionally, there are a few more ski resorts in the region which aren’t Olympic venues, but which have accommodation and aren’t too far away – namely, Oak Valley Park (near the city of Wonju) and Welli Hilli Park (not too far from Phoenix Park), and High1 (an hour or so south of Gangneung by road) – but again, expect availability to be thin on the ground. Still, it can’t hurt to be aware of them and to check them along with everything else.
Pyeongchang 2018 Accommodation: latest situation
As Pyeongchang is a rural area with very little accommodation available away from the ski resorts, and Gangneung is a small city without much of a tourist industry, it was always likely that accommodation was going to be an issue for Pyeongchang 2018 – and organisers recently admitted that that is indeed the case. They’ve announced that several more hotels are under construction and will be ready in time to provide thousands of extra beds, but there’s been scant detail available about what or where exactly these hotels are, or if any of those extra beds will even be available to the general public.
It does seem to be the case that Olympic Games hosts these days tend to look like they’re in disarray, only to pull everything together in the nick of time; furthermore, if you spend a bit of time in Korea you’ll get to know the phrase “pali pali” (meaning roughly “hurry, hurry”) which goes hand-in-hand with a tendency to get things done at the last minute! So extra beds may very well materialise, be they in new hotels, university dorms, or whatever. This page will be updated as soon as (or if) they do, and if you’re still searching by then you may be able to score something – but do be prepared to pay a hefty amount.
In the meantime, you’d surely much prefer to get something nailed down rather than be waiting for those extra hotels to show up; if you can land something in Pyeongchang or Gangneung, great, and lock it in! If not, you can look at options further afield.
Pyeongchang 2018 Accommodation: where to stay
With the above in mind, a quick briefing on the geography; Gangneung’s on the east coast, with Pyeongchang just inland from there. Seoul is over near the west coast, near the main Incheon Airport; the city of Wonju lies roughly halfway between Seoul and Gangneung. Along the coast from Gangneung are the cities of Sokcho (50km to the north) and Donghae (20km to the south). With the new Gangneung KTX bullet train (see details) connecting Seoul & Wonju to Pyeongchang & Gangneung, all of these are feasible bases (depending where you’re attending events).
Red line: Gangneung KTX
Green: venue clusters
Blue: main accommodation options outside venue clusters
1: Oak Valley (check accommodation and see resort guide)
2: Welli Hilli Park (check accommodation and see resort guide)
3: Bokwang Phoenix Park (check accommodation and see resort guide)
4: Jeongseon Alpine Centre (no accommodation; see details)
5: Yongpyong/Alpensia (many accommodation options; see resort guide for full details & links)
6: High1 (many accommodation options; see resort guide for full details & links)
Airbnb: if you’re going to stay in one of the cities, remember to check Airbnb as well as the hotel listings. It’s a particularly good option in Seoul, where there’s a huge number of places available, and Airbnb’s really convenient in Korea – hosts usually have it set up so you can arrive & check in by yourself without having to wait around or meet anyone, and the housing standards are decent with underfloor heating and excellent internet connections as standard. If you haven’t used Airbnb before, you can get a 35-dollar discount off your first rental by signing up through Snow Guide Korea; simply click on this link and register!
Airbnb also has listings near Welli Hilli Park, Phoenix Park, Alpensia & Yongpyong, and High1, some of which are still showing availability for the Olympics as of October 2017.
Seoul: it seems likely that many (if not most) Olympic visitors will wind up staying in Seoul, and travelling to the events on the new Gangneung KTX bullet train line. The line is now complete and is due to enter regular service in December 2017; travel time from one end to the other i.e. Incheon Airport to Gangneung will be around 2 hours, while travel time from Seoul to the Mountain Cluster will be about an hour. Bear in mind that you’ll also need to take a shuttle bus between the train station and the venue you’re heading to, and there will also be a subway or taxi ride in Seoul, depending which part of the city you stay in.
And that’s a key point – if you’re staying in Seoul and concerned about journey times or late arrival back in Seoul following late-finishing events, try to stay as close as you possibly can to Cheongnyangni Station. Cheongnyangni is in the northeast of the city so isn’t particularly convenient for the main shopping & sightseeing areas, but it has the greatest frequency of service for the new KTX and is the terminus for the midnight trains back from Gangneung (so staying nearby would save you some long taxi rides if you’re attending late events before heading back to Seoul).
However, if your main concern is easy access to nightlife & sightseeing etc rather than journey logistics, it’s better to stay near Seoul Station and accept you may end up having to take a taxi home from Cheongnyangni when returning from Pyeongchang.
Cheongnyangni and Sangbong are both located in the northeast of Seoul; Sangbong is a smaller station and a bit further out, so Cheongnyangni is the better option of the two for good connections to the rest of the city, in addition to having greater frequency of KTX service.
If you stay south of the river in e.g. Gangnam, you’re looking at a 30 to 40 minute subway ride just to reach Seoul Station or Cheongnyangni, so try to avoid that.
(Note: 청량리 is correctly romanised as Cheongryangri due to Korean spelling rules but the correct pronunciation is Cheongnyangni. Bit of a mouthful either way! You’ll see it written both ways)
Be aware that concerns have been raised about the capacity & schedule of the trains (update: Korail have announced that standing tickets will be available, greatly increasing the capacity). With service expected to be from 5am to midnight, it could pose a problem for those needing to get back to Seoul from late-finishing events; if you’re attending an evening event, check the likely finishing time and bear this in mind when considering accommodation & transportation. Update: the schedule has now been confirmed, and the last train back to Seoul leaves Gangneung at 1am, stopping at Jinbu (near Yongpyong & Alpensia) at 1:24. This means that those attending the later-finishing events can still make it back to Seoul the same night (reaching Cheongnyangni at 2:34).
Also due to capacity limitations, it’s strongly advisable to book your train tickets in advance on the Korail site if you want a seat (not yet possible – advance booking is available one month before the travel date. Try to make bookings as soon as you can!) If you’ll be doing this journey repeatedly, take advantage of the Pyeongchang Rail Pass to keep costs down.
Wonju: the largest city in Gangwon-do, Wonju is halfway between Seoul & Gangneung and fairly close to the Mountain Cluster venues, so if you can find accommodation there it should be workable. One issue could be that although the Gangneung KTX stops in Wonju, the trains coming through from Seoul could already be at capacity; if you end up having to go by road, it’s about 50km from Wonju to Phoenix Park, 70km to Alpensia/Yongpyong, and 100km to Gangneung. The distances aren’t huge, but the traffic is likely to be heavy so it could be slow going; still, if you’re struggling to find accommodation in Pyeongchang or Gangneung but don’t want to travel all the way from Seoul, then Wonju could be a good option as long as you’re prepared for possible transportation snags. It’s definitely not an ideal solution if your events are in Gangneung, but those attending the freestyle events at Phoenix Park should definitely look at Wonju as an option.
Yangpyeong: the small city of Yangpyeong lies halfway between Seoul & Wonju, and with 15 KTX trains per day in each direction could make a good base. However the last few trains of the day skip it, so late-finishing events would likely mean a lengthy taxi ride from Wonju; bear this in mind if considering it.
Mountain Cluster ski resorts: the in-resort accommodations at Alpensia, Yongpyong, and Phoenix Park will be very hard to book, if possible at all. There are some small pension-style places and motels in the nearby towns, they’re all fully-booked already of course but if you keep checking you may just be able to grab a vacancy. See here for details on options in & around Yongpyong / Alpensia, and here for Phoenix Park.
Other ski resorts in the region: Welli Hilli Park is only about 20km from Phoenix Park, and they’re located near adjacent stops on the Gangneung KTX (Dunnae Station and Pyeongchang Station). It would probably work quite well as a base at least for Phoenix Park, and perhaps the other venues too – if you can get a room! You can check their accommodation availability here (if you see anything, I’d jump on it); a nice point if you stay at Welli Hilli is you’ll actually be able to ski there as it’s not hosting any events so will be open as usual.
Oak Valley’s just outside Wonju and located quite close to Manjong Station on the new KTX line; if you can score a room there and if you get train tickets, it’s a good option (and again, you can actually do some skiing while you’re there). Without trains tickets though, the transportation gets tricky as Oak Valley’s on the wrong side of Wonju – to reach the venues by road, you’d have to take the Oak Valley shuttle bus (or taxi) to Wonju, then continue by bus or taxi from there. You can check their room availability here
One more option is High1; if you want to do some skiing, with closures elsewhere High1’s by far the best place to do it during the Olympics. There’s a lot of accommodation in and around High1, see here for details; again, it’s pretty much booked out already but if you keep checking you might just get lucky. However, High1’s probably a bad call for Mountain Cluster events due to the transportation (unless some special buses are made available direct to the venues, but that doesn’t seem likely to be the case at the moment); it would work for events in Gangneung though, being about an hour away by road (again, a lot could depend on whether extra buses are scheduled – if not, long taxi rides could end up being necessary). Update: High1 have confirmed that no special transportation arrangements are planned for the Olympics, so keep that in mind. If you do want to stay there, remember to also check hotels & Airbnbs in Gohan/Sabuk towns (see here)
Gangneung (Coastal Cluster): search for Gangneung hotels here. If you find something within your budget, snap it up! Gangneung’s well-placed for any of the events, and you can suss the transportation later i.e. once the organisers have actually sussed it!
Donghae: this port city 20km south of Gangneung makes for a good base if you’re attending Coastal Cluster events in Gangneung. For Mountain Cluster events, the dogleg through Gangneung makes the transportation tricky (Wonju would be better)
Sokcho: as with Donghae, the port of Sokcho should work well enough for Coastal Cluster events, though it’s a bit further away (50km) than Donghae is; I’d consider it a last resort for Mountain Cluster events though (Wonju or Seoul would be better). Yangyang is just south of Sokcho and is home to the nearest (very small) airport to the venues, so that’s another possibility.
Any questions about the Pyeongchang 2018 accommodation situation? Leave a comment below!
Snow Guide Korea’s Pyeongchang 2018 page; more details on the Gangneung KTX; and the best Korean resorts to ski at during Pyeongchang 2018