Over the last couple of years I came across and visited a number of spas and saunas. There were Turkish, Hungarian, Czech, Japanese and a more simple more, which I’d like to call gym-style. My favourite one is still Korean Jimjilbang. Koreans take their kimchi seriously, and so they do their saunas.
Here are a few things you should know about local saunas:
1. Pay the basic entrance fee at the entrance. This will give you a swipe key, a couple of small towels and also shorts and t-shirt to wear at the main sauna area. Main area is open for both sexes, whereas spa/steam room/washing areas are gender separate. For all other purchases inside the sauna, such as snacks, massage chairs, any treatments, all you need to do is to swipe the key and settle the bill upon leaving.
2. Shoes inside are a no-no, so make sure you are wearing clean socks. There are special shoe lockers as you come in, and your number will be provided with the key.
3. Make sure you are using the correct changing room! Ladies room is usually indicated by a red flag, and guys by blue.
4. Stay clean and take a shower before entering any sauna/hot room areas.
5. Be prepared to show off your best assets, in the nude. Of course it only applies to the same-sex areas, with spas, hot pools, steam room etc. But know no shame, if you wear togs, you’ll be the only one wearing them. So embrace.
6. As I mentioned earlier, all additional treatments cost extra, and things like body scrub will set you back 20-30 dollars, massage chair two, manicure around thirty and full body massage close to a hundred. Cost of snacks depends on a place, but again you’ll be looking at a few dollars for a small thing to around ten for a meal.
7. If you get very tired or missed the last train to get home, saunas are also a good and cheap place to stay overnight. Most saunas are open 24-7, and have a separate sleeping area. Otherwise, the biggest hall is good enough for a snooze. Occasionally there is an additional charge of about two dollars if you stay in sauna for over 12 hours, but even that makes it super affordable. Be prepared to sleep on a mat with a tiny pillow with a dozen or so others in a room. Can you beat a night in a megalopolis for 6-15 dollars including the spa? Nope.
8. The only thing you really need to bring is some cleaning products, such as scrubbing glove, shower gel and a tooth brush. No problems if you forgot it though, as everything is available for sale in the changing room area (reasonably priced).
My favourite spa is Dragon Hill ( a seven-story monstrosity), is located by Yongsan Station in central Seoul and costs between 10 and 13 dollars depending on the time and day. It is open 24/7, seven days a week. There are plenty of smaller saunas in residential areas too, and it will set you back around 7 dollars.
Here is how to make a cool Korean jimjilbang head towel. Only in Korea! 🙂