'Bullet Train' from Seoul to Busan
Getting to Busan from Seoul is really a cinch these days as you can take a high speed train to Busan for a third of a plane fare (45,000won or USD38). But there lies the caveat, contrary to their claims that it is even faster than the Shinkansen and that it was modeled after the TGV, the train was bloody slow! Also, having tried all the train systems, including the ones in France, I simply didn't see the similarity in efficiency. The seats were small for one and secondly, the speed was disappointing. It took nearly 5 hours to reach the city. However, I must add that I took the train during its maiden start . Hopefully, it has improved a lot by now. If not, just take the domestic plane@Gimpo Airport!
Where to buy your ticket
Seoul station, look for the counter marked "KTX Express" in English. Visa is acceptable.
The Gyeongbuseon Train Line, which connects Seoul to Busan and Gyeongju, begins from Seoul Station and ends at Busan Station
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Busan Train Station
It was only much later that I found out that Busan Station was newly built in September 2003 to accomodate the new speed train from seoul. Expect to see lots of space and fiddle with automatic ticket vending machines. The subway station is just outside of the train station so that will get you downtown.
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Travelling on Busan's subway and buses
Busan has quite a developed public transport network of two subway lines and multipal bus routes. There isn't as yet it seems map available showing bus routes like most major cities have.
Firstly the subway. There are two lines (Line 1 and Line 2) with the third now underconstruction, but running well behind schedual and due to be completed in 2006. The subway runs frequently and is easy to use with all stops clearly marked in English along with a number, aswell anouncement in English. The interchange point is at bustling Seomyeon station. Some stations are close togeather such as Jagalchi / Nampo-dong / Jung-ang-dong, which are also linked by a long walk through shopping arcade. There are readable maps and helpful "exit" plans on display inside all subway staions.
Buses, although quite frequent are a little more difficult for the first time user. The Hanaro card (see below) can be used, waved over the electronic register at boarding from the front entrance. Notes are eccepted, but avoid having 10,000 notes as often the drivers don't want to hand out change. Drivers also generally don't speak a word of English, and it seems are not to good at reading city maps. The departure point and destination along with a route number are displayed on the front of the bus. If your got the time getting on the wrong bus can be a good experience to view some of the city. Like the subway buses can be very crowded. They can only be boarded at designated stops, look for the green sign with route numbers on it.
The best method to travel on Busan's subway and buses is to purchase a Hanaro Card. They are available at all subway station ticket offices and initially cost 12,000 won, 2000 goes for the card, which can be refilled with credit once necessary.
Metro in Busan
The website below might help you with information not provided here.
We bought our tickets at a ticket booth and we used the vending machines. At a ticket booth, you explain which station you want to arrive at. One travel is generally 1,300 won in Busan (a little more than what it costs in Seoul). To use the vending machines, select English, select which direction and the number of tickets. You can then put bills or coins into the machine to pay. Don't use a denomination that is too large. The machine will give you change. Allow a minute for the machine to generate your tickets and your change.
You put your ticket in the gate machine and it spits back out after you pass through the gate. GRAB this ticket because you will need it later on to exit the Metro station.
Most subway maps are written in Korean, Japanese and English.
Foreign currency is not accepted at subway ticket windows, so make sure you have Korean Won.
Senior citizens, handicapped persons and children have priority seating. Senior citizens will also cut in front of you to enter the metro first and will also cut in line to get a ticket at the ticket booth. Complimentary ticket machine gives free metro tickets to senior citizens.
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Regular Train to Gyeong-ju
We took the train to Gyeong-ju, then to Ulsan and then back down to Busan. The last train from Ulsan to Busan was at 10pm or so.
The train ride from Busan to Gyeong-ju was about 2 hours and cost about US$10 per person. From Gyeong-ju to Ulsan about 45 minutes. Train ride fares change for the same distance depending on the time you are taking the train.
There is a KR Pass. Korean non-resident (foreign) pass for railroad travel by tourists. You wil need to show your passport. For 3 days, about US$76 and 5 days, about US$114 and additional costs of 50% for sleeping cabin and KTX First Class. So, do your math first to see if this is worthwhile for you. We did not purchase the KR Pass.
Busan City Tour
Busan City Tour is a good way to see the main tourist attractions of Busan. The buses depart from the main square in front of Busan train station. They operate every day, except Monday. The departure times are: 9:00, 11:20, 12:30 and 15:30. Stops include Busan Tower, Taejongdae and Jagalchi Fish Market. The Busan city tour is not as comprehensive as the Seoul city tour, so to see all of the city's tourist attractions, you will also need to take the subway.
Tickets are 10,000 won for adults and 5,000 won for children.
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Busan at night by Metro
I am not sure why I was surprised that Busan has a Metro since it is the 2nd largest South Korean city after Seoul.
Actually, it should be easy to get around but I had some difficulty perhaps because I was tired and I went the wrong direction. Usually I do not have problem with any metro whether in Paris or Tokyo but did not do my homework well to get around in Busan at night.
Driving from Seoul to Busan
Driving from Seoul to Busan is easy using Gyeongbu Highway, passing Daegu tourist district.
It is a great way to see South Korea as there are many UNESCO sites, palaces and temples along the way to Busan. All the major exits have Korean and English names. I found that Korean alphabets are easy to learn, so there is no harm in learning how to read "Seoul", "Busan" in Korean alphabets. All the car registrations plates have their place of origin in Korean and so it is good fun when you are following a vehicle to practise your Korean alphabet identification skills.
KTX Bullet Train
Korail operates the KTX (bullet train) and Korail (regular train). To sit in first class costs about US$20 more per person. The seats are more comfortable and lots more leg room. IT IS WORTH IT!
We traveled back to Seoul after a few days and I forgot to purchase the first class tickets. We ended up in tiny seats, legs jammed into the seat in front of us, more people filled in the seats. When traveling the KTX for a long distance like we did, make sure to select a direct route. The train will still stop at other stations but no detours that would cause your trip to take longer than necessary.
See my travelogue album on Train Ride to Busan for more pics.
The best way to travel to Busan is on the high-speed KTX train from Seoul, which also stops at Daejeon and Daegu. A single ticket costs 45,000 won. There are no discounts for return tickets. But, you should reserve your seats in advance, as the trains are often full, especially on Sundays. The ultra-modern Busan Station, which looks remarkably like Seoul Station, opened in 2003. There is a special desk where foreigners can buy tickets, and avoid the long queues, to the right of the main ticket counter.
KORAIL Gets You There Fast!!
Rather than go into too much detail on here: Check out the website and link to Travel for Foreigners.
To get to Busan from Seoul head for the Seoul Station (Taxi drivers all know where it is), there are two types of trains that head south. One takes about three hours and is perfect for a weekend getaway, the other takes twice the time (if you don't get your ticket ahead of time you'll end up on the slow train so plan at least a week out).
Seats are comfortable, the ride smooth, and plenty of snacks from vendors on board. Plus you'll get a view from top to bottom of South Korea depending on the time of day that you travel. Both Seoul Station and Busan train station's are linked to subway lines and easy to maneouver from.
Tickets Seoul>Busan can be purchased from 3-10 day increments and Student IDs can give an added discount. Remember to check for Korean holidays as the trains will be booked. (KR passes for foreigners also get you discounts to other venues so check out the added benefits with the card)
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Tour Guide Taxis
Taxi Drivers in Busan want to be your tour guide and will slow down to show you things and/or take the longer way to your destination - the scenic route. So, you should indicate you want to get to your destination by the shortest route. The valet at your hotel could probably relay this message to the taxi driver for you because most taxi drivers do not or will not speak English.
Do not take photos while riding in a taxi. The taxi driver will stop so you can take your picture and all the while, the meter is still runing.
Have your destination written down in Korean (if possible) so you can show the taxi driver where you want to go. If you don't speak fluent Korean, there is a HUGE possibility the taxi driver doesn't understand you.
There is no tipping in South Korea. You do not have to tip the taxi driver.
Ferries to/from Japan (Fukuoka)
Many other posters have commented on the fact that there are fast ferries between Busan and Japan (Hakata terminal in Fukuoka).
However, few have posted the proper phone numbers, either if calling from Japan or from Korea.
From Korea : 051-441-8200
From Japan : 092-281-2315
Travel time is scheduled at 2h55m on the fast Beetle ferry. Cost will be $75, plus $10~$15 for fuel surcharges and terminal fees. Fees are different depending if departing from Busan or from Hakata.
If the fast ferry is not your preference, nor within budget, Camillia Lines Ferries offer ~14hour slow trips between Busan and Fukuoka (Hakata port).
telephone - 051 466 7799
email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Depart: Hakata (Japan) 19.00 ~ Arrive: Busan (Korea) 8.30
Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday
Depart: Busan (Korea) 19.00 ~ Arrive: Hakata (Japan) 8.30
One-way prices 9,000 yen - 18,000 yen
092 262 2323 (Hakata/Fukuoka)
051 466 7799 (Busan)
Busan International Ferry Terminal is 5~10 minutes walk from Jungang-Dong subway stop.
Train Ride in Busan
Train station in Busan city is one of the cleanest I've seen. And each station names is translated to English so its convenient for Tourist.
There are 4 Subway Metro line and 1 airport rail and color coded.
Line 1 Orange Sinpyeoung - Nopo Dong (32.5 km)
Line 2 Green Yangsan - Jangsan (44.5 km)
Line 3 Red Daejeo - Suyeong (18.1 km)
Line 4 Blue Minam - Anpyeong (12.7 km)
Busan Gimhae Light Rail Transit in Pink - Sasang - Samgye (24 km)
There are some major points of each line that can be interchanged.
This is very important tip: If you use train station, make sure to know what EXIT NUMBER your destination requires you to get off because exit are labeled in NUMBERS (usually from exit 1 - 10).
Busan has a lot of ferries going to Japan, mostly Fukuoka, but also Shimonoseki, Osaka,Hiroshima, Kitakyushu and Tsushima.
We used the Beetle service between Fukuoka (Hakata port) and Busan. It takes just under 3 hours.
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