Tips & Recommendations: Pyeongtaek Massage

One of the most common questions we get at South of Seoul is, “Where should we get a massage?” Over the last three years, we have seen this question pop-up almost monthly in the Pyeongtaek Food & Fun group as well as in private messages. In addition, our blog Beautiful Thai Massage has been our most popular post ever. Lot’s of new people want to know where to go to either relax or get help with their broken down bodies. However, even after getting recommendations, many people still don’t feel comfortable taking action.

We thought about this issue a lot and finally realized we need to provide a more complete picture of how to choose a good massage studio and what the experience is going to be like. We need to address unspoken fears and concerns that many have when they arrive in a new place and don’t know how things work. Let’s be honest, we were super scared the first time we went to a massage studio in Pyeontaek. It’s an incredibly vulnerable experience and we spoke no Korean. We were 100% sure we were going to screw up and accidentally end up in a brothel. With that truth bomb out there, let’s get started on what you need to know.

Tips for Avoiding Questionable Establishments

Avoid Red or Pink Lights: This is the first thing to look for. If you enter and it’s pink or red you need to leave. Very likely not actually a massage studio.

Go with your friend or spouse: Reputable massage businesses have rooms that hold more than one person. This allows safety in numbers. In Korea women and men usually go with a friend, partner, or even their kids. You will be in a room together so you can feel safe and comfortable.

Support Local Businesses and Local Ads

Pay attention to the neighborhood: If you are near the glasshouses or business club districts, you are more likely to find massage studios that are not massage studios. If you are in Sosabeol it’s most likely going to be legit.

Ask a local friend: When we first arrived we asked one of our friends who is from Pyeongteak where she and her friends went. She has continued to offer excellent advice on the topic over the years. In addition, we always check the Naver reviews, have a friend help with this as well. You can make local friends by attending local language exchanges and social events.

What is Normal at a Massage Business in South Korea?

Cost: You can expect to pay between 30,000-80,000 won an hour for basic massage and 60,000 – 110,000 won for oil massage. Usually, if you pay more than this, you are paying for the decor or proximity to a special neighborhood like a US Military base or fancy, new neighborhood and not the quality of massage.

Cash Discounts: Personally, we have never been to a Korean owned massage shop that didn’t offer discounts for cash. Usually about 10%, so come prepared.

Early Bird Specials: Maybe 1/3 of the places we have visited offered deep discounts if you went before 6:00 pm. Always be on the lookout for this.

Clothes Provided: Every massage studio we have visited has provided special clothes for the massage. This is not a nude massage culture although there have been some places that have zippered shirts where the backs unzip for the oil massages. You will get a sensible t-shirt and a pair of loose shorts. If you are over a size 14 we recommend bringing our own freshly washed, loose-fitting shorts and t-shirts with you since they often don’t have larger sizes.

Showers & Changing Rooms: An estimated 75% of the massage studios we have visited have had a shower area with shampoo and such. However, some to do. It’s not a guarantee. Maybe 90% have had locker rooms. A few have just had us change in the room where the massage bed was.

Slippers: You will change into slippers AT THE DOOR!!! Do not walk into the business with your shoes on.

24 Hours: Many massage studios are open 24 hours a day. This does not automatically make it sketchy. In fact, we have taken advantage of this feature more than once when we were in terrible pain and couldn’t sleep. If you show up after 11 you often have to wait for 30 minutes since the massage therapist are on call.

Friday and Saturday Nights Can Be Noisy: If you go late on a Friday or Saturday, don’t be shocked if it’s NOT relaxing. The staff does their best to manage them, but a lot of drunk groups go for a massage. It can be a circus. The other customers are fine once they are settled in (except for the snoring at times), but they can be quite noisy as they enter and get settled in. We have just learned to not go during those times.

English Shouldn’t be Expected: Don’t expect anyone to speak English. Often they will have an English menu but communication will be via Papago or Google Translate. Also, don’t expect them to speak a lot of Korean since the massage staff is often from Thailand or China.

Naps: Sometimes, if they aren’t busy, they will just let you take a nap after your massage. We have taken advantage of this a few times.

Temperature: In the winter the room is often not heated. Instead, they have heated beds and blankets. If you are cold communicate this with them. In the summer the air-con can get cold so ask for a blanket. Be prepared to communicate about the heat or cold.

English is a luxury: Don’t expect to communicate in English. Usually, this isn’t a problem. The front desk almost always has an organized menu of services that makes picking what you need and clearly understanding the price very easy.

It’s about Relaxation / Not Working a Specific Area: Sometimes they will ask if there is a specific area you have a problem with, but generally, the massages are about relaxation or following a particular style. It’s not the a la carte massage experience that’s often popular in the west. Don’t expect to give a lot of feedback. That said, Thai massage is the best thing we have ever done for our hips and backs. The stretching at the end does wonders and when we tell them a certain part to focus on, the results are surprising.

It’s going to be different than what you are used to and scary the first time. There is just no way around this. The culture is different and what people in Korea want from their massage experience is different from what someone from England, India, Canada or the US might want. There will be some things you like more about it and some things you might like less. Just don’t panic and try to relax into the experience.

Our Three Favorite Places

Create Wellness – Near Camp Humphreys

This is the newest addition to the list and almost completely mimics a US-style Sports Med Clinic experience. Very clinical. Which is why we tried them after a recent injury. We had very specific issues that need handled and focused on. Still, for us, it had been over 8 years since we had visited a western style massage therapist so we were nervous in the opposite direction. lol. Even though it’s different than what we are used to now, we liked it.

The first thing we like about Create Wellness (especially for new arrivals) is that you can easily make an appointment in English either on the phone, via their website or via the South of Seoul app. That’s right, we actually added a Request Appointment form for them right in our app. We did this because we believe in them so much. Their physical therapist worked miracles for one of us over the last 3 months. The fact their massage is one point is just icing on the cake. A cool part about the South of Seoul form itself is that it auto fills your basic info after your first submission so you don’t have to fill as much out the next time. What can we say, we are lazy typers.

Next, we loved how fresh, clinical, and bright the space was. They have a beautiful office that the keep looking sharp. Not going to lie, it builds confidence. The receptionist was welcoming and helped with translating the specific injury, type of pain, and what needed to be worked so that there weren’t any communication issues with the massage therapist. The result was a seriously product hour of massage that addressed the serious issues we were dealing with. She dug in with all her strength and elbows (because we asked her to).

This is also the only place that we know of that will work with foreign insurance companies. So if you are here with the US Military it’s your best option.

There is no doubt that this is the premier place for western style, massage therapy near Camp Humphreys. English speakers will love how easy it is to work with them.

(CLOSED) Countryside Thai Massage – Near AK Plaza

We have been visiting this little gem for years now. There is nothing fancy about this family run shop. It’s located above their Thai restaurant and has some of the happiest workers I have seen at any of the shops. They are always relaxed, friendly, and kind and comfortable with their boss and customers.

In addition to being personable (although not a lot of English), the massage staff also seems to be better trained in the stretching and twisting aspects of Thai Massage. They don’t mess around on this part. This is why we use them. Our backs and hips feel like new after they finish with us.

To top it off, the prices are crazy good. If you go before 6:00pm you can get 1.5 hours for like 60,000 won cash. Mind-blowing. It means we can go here every other week and not break the bank.

Finally, a huge bonus benefit of going here is the aforementioned Thai restaurant they have on the ground floor. The best in town if you ask us. Race right down there after your massage and stuff your face with Pad Thai.

(CLOSED) Thai Massage – Near Songtan City Hall

This is 24 hours, near our house, and always reliable. It’s been a solid Thai massage experience for years. It’s also the fanciest and spa-like of all the three recommendations. The perfect place to take your wife for an anniversary present or to go with the girls for a night out because it feels quite opulent. Read the big old blog about it by clicking here.

Now, go get a massage and leave your reviews!

Now that you are empowered to get massages, we can’t stress this enough, leave reviews! It changes lives. Especially for things like massages, hospitals, clinics and other services where new arrivals feel vulnerable but also a great need. Leave tips on cultural differences you experienced and how you handled it. Share what made you smile or what made you scared. Information is how everything gets better.