Seoul to Busan by KTX high-speed train
 

Seoul to Busan (Pusan) by KTX high-speed train

Trains & ferries to, from & within South Korea...

This page explains how to travel by ferry from Russia, China or Japan to or from South Korea, then how to travel around Korea by train.

small bullet point  Travel from the UK & Europe to South Korea by Trans-Siberian Railway

small bullet point  Ferry travel from Russia to South Korea - Vladivostok to Donghae.

small bullet point  Ferry travel from China to South Korea - Beijing to Seoul via Tianjin/Qingdao.

small bullet point  Ferry travel from Japan to South Korea - 'Beetle' ferry from Hakata to Seoul.

small bullet point  Train travel within South Korea - including Seoul-Busan KTX high-speed trains.

small bullet point  Hotels in Seoul, Busan & South Korea

On other pages... 

small bullet point  Train travel to North Korea:  Trains from Beijing & Moscow to Pyongyang.


large bullet pointUseful country information

Train operator:

Korean Railways: www.korail.com or www.letskorail.com, including the high-speed KTX train Seoul-Busan.

 

Ferry operators:

Vladivostok-South Korea:  www.dbsferry.com

Japan-South Korea: www.jrbeetle.com.

China-South Korea: www.weidong.com

Time zone:

GMT+9 all year.

Dialling code:

 

+82.

Currency:

1 = approx 1,450 won, $1 = 1,200 won.  Currency converter

Visas:

UK, EU, US, Australian & NZ citizens do not need a visa to visit South Korea for up to 90 days, but an onward or return ticket must be held.

Tourist information:

english.tour2korea.com   Hotels in Seoul & South Korea   Tripadvisor S Korea page

Page last updated:

7 January 2021


large bullet pointEurope to Korea without flying

It's perfectly feasible to travel from the UK to South Korea overland using the Trans-Siberian Railway via either Moscow, Vladivostok and a ferry from Vladivostok to Donghae in Korea, or via Moscow, Beijing, then a ferry from Tianjin in China to Incheon in Korea.  The journey will take about 14 days.  See the Trans-Siberian page for details of the London - Vladivostok & London - Beijing journeys, then see the Vladivostok-Korea or China-Korea sections below.  You can also travel from Japan to Korea, using a ferry from Hakata to Busan.

large bullet pointFerry between Vladivostok & Korea

The Trans-Siberian connection...

A weekly ferry links Vladivostok with Donghae in South Korea, run by DBS Ferry, www.dbsferry.com.  The ship is the 1993-built 'Eastern Dream', equipped to a good standard.  The service started in 2009.

IMPORTANT UPDATE:  In February 2020 it was reported that after being temporarily suspended during November, December & January 2019, this ferry has now been permanently discontinued from February 2020 onwards.  The only alternative is to divert via Beijing and take a ferry from China to South Korea.

Vladivostok Donghae (Korea)  Service discontinued

From March to November, the ferry sails from Vladivostok on Wednesdays at 14:00, arriving Donghae at 10:00 on Thursdays.

From December to February, the ferry sails from Vladivostok on Tuesdays at 17:00, arriving Donghae at 14:00 on Wednesdays.

Donghae (Korea) Vladivostok  Service discontinued

From March to November, the ferry sails from Donghae at 14:00 on Sundays, arriving Vladivostok at 13:00 on Mondays. 

From December to February, the ferry sails from Donghae at 14:00 on Sundays, arriving Vladivostok at 15:00 on Mondays. 

Fares & how to buy tickets

Fares start at 150 one-way in economy class with a berth in a shared sleeping room, rising to 310 for a deluxe cabin.  See the official site, www.dbsferry.com/02_ticket/ticket03.asp for details & booking, or you can now book at reliable UK ferry booking website www.aferry.co.uk/dbs-cruise-ferry-uk.htm.  Alternatively, you can call DBS Ferry in Seoul on 00 82 2 5485502.  Ask for an English speaker, reserve your place by phone, and collect and pay for the tickets at the ferry terminal in Vladivostok.

Train connections...

At Vladivostok:  For information on train travel from London & Moscow to Vladivostok, see the Trans-Siberian page.

At Donghae:  Donghae has both rail and bus links with the rest of South Korea.  Trains link Donghae with Seoul Cheongnyangi station (note not Seoul's main station) 6 times a day, journey time around 5 hours, see www.letskorail.com (language selector top right, then click Rail tickets).  To find these direct trains, use Cheongnyangi as your origin/destination, not 'Seoul'.

However, the journey from Donghae to Seoul (this time the main station) takes only 2h27 if you change to a high-speed KTX train in Gangneung.  Use www.letskorail.com again but make sure you change Travel Path from Direct to Transfer.

large bullet pointFerries between China & Korea

There are several ferry services from China to South Korea, including one from Tianjin to Incheon twice a week, and one from Qingdao.

Beijing ► Seoul via Qingdao

Seoul ► Beijing via Qingdao

Beijing - Seoul via Tianjin

large bullet pointFerries between Japan & Korea

There are several ferry services between Japan and South Korea.  The suggested options are:

To reach Korea from Japan...

The beetle ferry between Japan and Korea   Seats on the beetle ferry between Japan and Korea

The Beetle ferry between Hakata in Japan and Pusan in South Korea.  The Beetle is a fast Boeing jetfoil, which rises out of the water on hydrofoils when it gets up to speed.  Courtesy of Philip Dyer-Perry.


large bullet pointTrain travel in South Korea

  Seoul to Busan KTX high-speed train

All major towns and cities in South Korea are linked by an efficient railway.  For train times and fares visit www.korail.com.

In addition, Seoul and Busan (the older spelling is Pusan) are linked by a new high-speed train service known as KTX.  The KTX runs on a new high-speed line built using French TGV technology.  Trains run frequently, taking just 2 hours 35 minutes.  The fare is 45,000 won (25) one way 2nd class, 63,000 won (35) 1st class.  For times, fares and online booking of KTX trains, see www.korail.com.

Right:  The high-speed KTX train from Seoul to Busan.  Photos courtesy of Shigeyuki Kaneko.

For train times, fares & online tickets see www.letskorail.com.

First class on the Seoul to Pusan KTX train   2nd class on the Seoul to Busan KTX train

KTX first class...

 

KTX second class...

The South Korean Railpass...

New private operator Seoul-Busan:  Super Rapid Train (SRT)...


large bullet pointHotels in Seoul & South Korea

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

Backpacker hostels...


large bullet pointTravel insurance & VPN...

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

 

Confused.com logo

Always take out travel insurance...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least 1m or preferably 5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash and belongings, up to a sensible limit.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

UK flagIn the UK, reliable insurers include Columbus Direct.

UK flagIf you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

UK flagYou can use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

  Australian flag New Zealand flag  Irish flag    If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  US flag If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

A Curve card saves on foreign transaction fees...

 

Curve card

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then charge you a currency conversion fee.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, 500 per month at time of writing.  The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:  1. Download the app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself - I get some commission if you sign up to Curve, but I'm recommending it here because it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card - they'll give you 5 cashback through that link, too.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy and I use it myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription, and I get a small commission to help support this site.


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