Title: Everything you Wanted to Know and More about this Hotel!
This is a comprehensive review of the hotel, including the rooms, the staff, the food and the Kal Bus and taking subways and taxis' from the hotel, not in any particular order. Everything here is in one way or another related to staying here. I think you will find the information very useful if you are considering to stay here.
This hotel is not bad but not great, it is not a 5 star hotel by any means, but it is reasonably priced for the services it offers, the lobby is nice. The guest service personnel varies, some are good some are not. However, most are willing to help you.
This hotel is located at the top of a hill near Dungguk University. The Subway station near the hotel is Dungguk University Station. It is convenient to most major shopping attractions around the city, as well as palaces, and interesting things in Seoul.
Our stay here was just ok. There are pluses and minuses. If you want a top hotel don't stay here, if you want somewhere convenient, you can consider staying here as it is centrally located. I think if you can manage your expectations, this hotel might just suit you well depending on why you are in Seoul.
Bottom line is you should not expect too much. The hotel is clean, fairly comfortable, with friendly staff with reasonable to good English abilities. I would actually give it a 3.5 if I could, it isn't really a 3, but it is not really a 4 either.
I will also say the housekeeping staff on our floor was good. We had a little problem, her English was terrible but we managed through gestures and things to understand each other. I left her a tip also as she was incredible, a little effort goes a long way, they are willing to help if you are patient.
The rooms vary. BEWARE group packages through travel agents book you in something called a Classic Room, note you cannot even find this room on their website, and no pictures are available, why? Because these rooms are being phased out and renovated, slowly. We were booked in one of these rooms but were able to change it before we arrived to a deluxe room. There is little difference other than the Classic rooms being old looking with old furnishings. However all the rooms, at least superior and deluxe are just so so. But this is not a 5 star hotel either, so you should not expect a 5 star room. The rooms were ok, nothing fancy; though the great thing about the deluxe rooms were the fact that they had a separate shower and bath.
The classic and superior rooms DO NOT have free internet services. The deluxe rooms and above do.
Also BEWARE, breakfast is not included in group tours made by travel agencies, at least not ours, and be prepared to fork out 36,000 won for breakfast. Yeah! They tell you it is 22,000 on the phone, but when you get your bill, it is 36,000 a person. We only ate their once, forgoing breaking most of the week we were there and opting to get up late and eat lunch instead outside somewhere or buy breakfast and put it in the mini-fridge in the room.
There is little food around the hotel and the food in the hotel is terrible at best, there is another word I would like to use, but this website is public and respected, so I will refrain from using it. We ate at Cafe de Chef, they cannot make or cook a hamburger to save their life and service is terrible. We did not want to eat western food while in Korea, but the night we went here it was pouring rain outside and there was no other choice. We didn't want to go out, there is literally nothing around the hotel, and the staff is no help. They told us there is one BBQ place that students and some of the staff go to behind the hotel, we opted not to go there, though we sort of wish we had at least tired it, I am sure it would have been better than Cafe De Chef. The WORST burger we have ever had!'
We only ate the the Cafe de Chef, so perhaps my comments above are biased, but at the very least, don't eat there. The other resturants may be ok.
The concierge desk is great, informative, helpful and will look things up for you if you ask. For example, we wanted to know which subway exit we should exit from for one of the tourists' sights, they were very helpful. Kudos to Mr. Kay Kim, every helpful.
Also, BEWARE, if you are taking the KAL bus to the airport, you should be standing outside waiting by the sign with your luggage 15 minutes before the bus arrives. Even though this is the buses first stop, you had better be waiting. Some staff will tell you honestly you should be ready with your luggage otherwise the bus will leave, and indeed that is the case, they do not wait. Do not listen to the staff that tells you it may be too early to go outside, just go and be there; even if it is cold, otherwise you could miss the bus. Standing outside just waiting and then running inside to get your luggage when you see the bus may end up in you missing the bus! I personally witnessed this at another hotel, I happen to see out the side window that this exact situation happened at an upscale hotel along the way to the airport. I was going to pipe up and say something to the driver, but by the time I saw this the bus was turning onto the main street, it was too late, so do not be fooled and do not miss the bus, wait outside WITH your luggage!
You can book the bus on checkout, there are time cards available for the bus schedule, just ask the desk for one.
I would rate this hotel a 3.5 if I could. It's gets a 3 because it is not up to a 4. However, I think perhaps we would consider staying here again.
The subway station is a steep 5-8 minute downward walk from the hotel. Getting back to the hotel is about a 7-10 minute walk as it is uphill. My minutes may be off, but the station is really close to the hotel. If you choose to walk on the same side as the Ambassador hotel, you had better be ready to hike, as it is steep. We choose the exit on the other side of the street, I think it was exit one instead of exit four, and walked up slowly, a lower grade walk, and then crossed the street at the first traffic light back to the same side as the hotel. This just takes less exertion, same distance, just a little bit less of a steep climb.
The subways to us are a little more complicated than in Tokyo, I do not know why, maybe we are getting older and slower. We felt confused for the first four days, unlike Tokyo we figured out in one day. Also, note the stations are laid out much like Tokyo, it takes you 5-15 minutes to reach the platform by walking and another 5-15 minutes once you arrive at your destination stop to reach your subway exit. Each station varies. Be prepared to walk. However, the subways are clean, old, but clean, and a very convenient way to get around the city. It costs 1000 won for up to like 12km. We never paid more then 1000 won per trip. Just remember to take your cards to the refund machine to get back your 500 deposit for the cards if you do not have a T-money card. The machine will charge you 1500 per card as they want the card back, so you will get 500 won refund when you leave the station, just look for the machines. If you have a t-money card, you do not need to worry about the refund machine issues.
If you choose to take a cab keep this in mind white/sliver taxis = cheaper, little English 2880 won to start. Black taxis = more expensive, 5880 won to start. I think the fare will only be 3000 won more total, I do not think they charge more afterwards. Black taxis probably can speak more English, better English at least, and have a better knowledge of the city, thus they are more expensive. If you have a deadline departure for a tour and want to be sure you get to the place on time and the driver knows where it is, take a black taxi. If you are going to Dongdaemun, take a sliver/white taxi, normally not more than $3000 won. It is very close to the hotel by the way, no more than about 5-7 minutes. Note some of the department stores in Dongdaemon do not open until around 8pm. Moreover, some of them offer tax refund services, take receipts to a special counter to get your cash back.
We needed to get to the USO office by around 7pm, the staff recommended we take a black taxi as they said they trust them more that they can find the place, the USO office for example is a little bit tricky to find, make sure you leave early enough otherwise if you get lost you may miss your trip, this goes for any of the tour groups, not just the USO office. I only mention this because the USO office is on Military Drive, and most taxi drivers have no idea where it is. You can also take a subway, and risk getting lost also, so six in one half a dozen of another, just leave early no matter what you plan to do.
Just an example of taxi fees. To the USO office at 6:40am is about 8000 won by black taxi. To Dongdaemon at 11pm it is about 5000 won for a black taxi. To Dongdaemon by white/silver taxi will be around 3000 won. From the Changdeokgung Palace, it is about 5000-6000 won by silver/white taxi during the daytime when there is little traffic. Note this price is from actually another palace's entrance within the Changdeokgung Palaces grounds, sorry I do not remember the name of the palace, if you are going from the main entrance to the Changdeokgung Palace, and it may cost you 6000-7000 won by silver/white taxi. Still reasonable, but it is just an estimate of how much it should cost.
A VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: If you expect you will want to take a taxi from anywhere in Seoul back to the Grand Ambassador Hotel, before you leave the hotel ask the staff to write the following in Korean for you on a piece of paper, or on the hotel's business card. "This hotel is located on the top of a hill next to Dungguk University and Dungguk University Subway Station." The reason is because there are many Ambassador hotels in Seoul, and many of the taxi drivers were not 100% sure where to go. In addition, most of them could not speak a word of English, so you need to be prepared. We had the staff do this for us, and then there were no issues. The drivers knew where to go.
Also note that even though this hotel was formally known as Sofitel, we found it little helpful to tell the taxi drivers, however, you should still mention it just in case, as every one's experience and situation is different.
Keep in mind that Seoul is a walking city just like New York or Tokyo; you will get a lot of exercise, keep hydrated, bring water with you and take it easy. I think we must have walked at least 5km each day we were there. It was worth it as we also ate a lot.
Food in Seoul varies, we ate at two BBQs, one was 45,000 won for two people, and one was 118,000 won for two people. Depends on what you eat, beef is more expensive in Seoul for some reason. It just depends on what you like to eat.
Please note this review is only about referring to the hotel and the services and food in the hotel. It is not related to Seoul in general. Feel free to send me a message about Seoul, this hotel or other things. Also, if you liked this review, please mark it that it was useful to you. This is the first time I have written such a long review and would like to know if it was helpful to folks or not. Also safe the review for your future reference so you can find it if it was useful to you, thanks for reading the whole review hope it was helpful to you.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Grand Ambassador Seoul associated with Pullman is centrally located in Seoul and has easy access to major shopping, entertainment, and business areas such as City Hall, Gwanghwamun, Dongdaemun, Myeongdong and Namsan. We boast 413 rooms offering free WiFi, 6 restaurants, 12 meetings and conference rooms, and a large fitness center which includes a swimming pool and spa. Aesthetically appealing with a modern and attractive decor, the hotel is an ideal choice for both business and leisure travelers. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Grand Ambassador Seoul Hotel Seoul
- Grand Ambassador Hotel Seoul
- Sofitel Seoul
- Seoul Grand Ambassador Hotel
- Seoul Sofitel