Seoul to Busan by KTX high-speed train
 

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

Trains & ferries to, from & in 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  Europe to South Korea by Trans-Siberian Railway

small bullet point  Russia to South Korea by ferry

small bullet point  China to South Korea by ferry

small bullet point  Japan to South Korea by ferry

small bullet point  Train travel in South Korea

small bullet point  Hotels in Seoul, Busan & South Korea

On other pages... 

small bullet point  Train travel in North Korea


Useful 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 1,500 won, $1 = 1,250 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 February 2023


Europe 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.

UPDATE 2023Russia is virtually cut off due to sanctions, and travel to Russia is no longer advisable.  China remains largely closed because of its zero-Covid policy.  This route is currently not practicable.


Vladivostok to Korea by ferry

From 2009 to 2020, a weekly ferry linked Vladivostok with Donghae in South Korea, run by DBS Ferry, www.dbsferry.com.  The ship was the 1993-built Eastern Dream, equipped to a good standard.  In February 2020 it was reported that after being temporarily suspended during November, December & January 2019, this ferry was permanently discontinued from February 2020 onwards.

In 2022 it seems the ferry resumed between Vladivostok & Donghae under new ownership.  It may or may not be operating in 2023, probably not.


China to Korea by ferry

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

UPDATE 2023:  China is largely closed because of its zero-Covid policy.  Check the latest situation.

Beijing ► Seoul via Qingdao

Seoul ► Beijing via Qingdao

Beijing - Seoul via Tianjin


Japan to Korea by ferry

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.


Train 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.

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 2h35.  The fare is 59,800 won ($48) one way 2nd class, 83,700 won ($67) 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 times, fares & tickets see www.letskorail.com or 12go.asia.

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

Private operator Seoul-Busan: Super Rapid Train (SRT)


Hotels in Seoul & South Korea

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

Booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally use it to book all my hotels in one place.  I've come to trust booking.com's review scores, you won't be disappointed with any hotel that scores 8.0 or more.  Crucially, booking.com usually lets you book with free cancellation, which means you can confirm accommodation risk-free before train booking opens and/or you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when planning a trip.  I never book hotels non-refundably!

Tip:  It's sometimes worth comparing prices across multiple hotel booking sites:  HotelsCombined.com compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Agoda & many others.  If there's not much in it, I prefer to keep all my bookings together at www.booking.com, but it's sometimes worth checking!

Backpacker hostels

www.hostelworld.com:  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelworld offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in most cities at rock-bottom prices.


Travel insurance & other tips

 

Staysure travel insurance

 

Columbus Direct 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 with Staysure.co.uk myself.  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

UK flag  www.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection & gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flag  www.columbusdirect.com is also a well-know brand.

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

 

Maya.net logo

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a mobile data package for the country you're visiting and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM card so you don't need to buy a physical SIM, including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility listMaya.net is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.

 

Curve card

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate, then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  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 money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  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, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than digging a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you 5 cashback through that link.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  Why you need a VPN

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use 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.  I get a small commission to help support this site.

 

Anker Powerrbank

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, vaccination records and Interrail or Eurail passes are often held digitally on your mobile phone, so it's vital to keep it charged.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over if I can't get to a power outlet.  Buy from Amazon.co.uk or from Buy from Amazon.com.


Back to home page