Nathalie and I had a similar summer vacation so we decided to do a small trip together. We were suppose to go to Busan and Jeju but due to problems like the ferries not running we had to scrap our trip to Jeju for the time being. So we headed to Busan for 4 days. Busan is the second largest city in South Korea and is located in the South-East. Busan is a port city and despite being on the other side of the country from where we live it only took us 3 hours to get to Busan from Seoul.
There are a couple different ways to get to Busan from Seoul, you can drive (approximately a 4 hour drive), take a bus (about 6 hours), fly from either Gimpo or Incheon airports (2 1/2-3 1/2 hours) Or you can take a train. We took the KTX train. We caught our train at Seoul Station (which is pretty big so give yourself time to find the KTX within it). The KTX has about 6 different stops but luckily Busan is the last stop for the Gyeongbu line. The KTX runs at about 300 Km per hour which is about 186 miles per hour and the train can go faster.
The ride went by both quickly and slowly. At first, by what felt like fate we ended up in a foreigner row. A train full of Koreans and the four foreigners (4 Americans) all ended up sitting together. The two other young women sitting on the other end of the aisle were on a short trip to Busan before going home after a month in China (and a few days in Seoul). We talked a lot before deciding to meet up later.
The rest of our trip was very quiet. The train had fallen asleep the way I’ve noticed most subway rides go in South Korea. I read, Nathalie watched stuff on her phone and our new friends napped.
Quick suggestions for the KTX ride
- Bring water or something to rehydrate you
- bring food and/or snacks
- Nathalie wished she’d brought her neck pillow
- Bring something to do.
- arrive early so you can easily stow your luggage without having to find a space somewhere else in the train. ( small bags can go above)
Nathalie and I stopped into a Lotteria for lunch and grabbed a meal of burgers, fries, and soda and it was really disappointing. The burgers were cold and so were the fries and the soda dehydrated us by the time we got to Busan. Sadly since it was a hot day every vending machine we passed was sold out of water bottles. And we didn’t think to buy any from the trolly that went by. There is a trolly service on the KTX that sells snacks and drinks (banana milk, coffee, probably water)
On our return trip to Seoul we made sure to be better prepared, we stopped in a Storyway (convenience stores found around Korea and in many train stations) and stocked up on water and snacks and I got a sandwich at a Paris Baguette.
When we arrived in Busan we grabbed our luggage and headed out. I kept looking back to see if our new friends would be joining us but couldn’t seem to find them. Busan was hot and sunny and the station was a lot smaller than Seoul Station. We stopped for a while to check out a large art piece fountain that kids were playing in before heading to the subway.
At the entrance to the subway we ran into our new friends and saw all their bags, their whole lives sitting on the edge of the steps. The closest entrance to the subway from Busan station has a ton of stairs so we looked around for a escalator or elevator and found one a block away. So grabbing one of their bags we headed into the subway together.
Now T-money cards are a Seoul thing so we weren’t sure if they’d work in Busan. We found a machine to get day tickets but it was a nightmare. The station was hot and the machines only took change. Off to the side there was a change maker machine like they have in arcades but if you weren’t fast enough putting in your change the machine would delete your order, return all of the change you’d put in and go back to the home screen. I fought with it for awhile. Luckily we’d split up so with one person watching all the stuff the other two went off to see if they could find out if our T-money cards worked or at least a machine that took cash. Which thankfully Busan trains and buses take T-money cards. I did have to put more money on mine but we just went into a train station convenience store and they reloaded it for me.
The Busan Metro is a lot simpler then Seoul’s, with only 5 lines all different colors and only one not a number. We rode it often and just switched our Seoul Subway app over to Busan which made everything super easy to map out.
While in Busan we did a ton of walking, took taxi’s rather often. Which most of the time was great because it was so hot and it was so refreshing to get into an air condition cab instead of having to hike back to the metro station. We had an interesting mix of taxi drivers. The first one we took, we stood at a taxi spot for awhile without anyone coming and an elderly man who’d been watching us for a while got up stood out in the street and hailed us a cab. It was like magic. But our taxi driver didn’t appreciate being tricked into picking us up rather than an elderly Korean man. We had another driver who was fine but on both sides we were very quiet for the long ride and we had an amazing driver who talked to us using the best English he could and we tried to piece in the best Korean we could. I never really figured out the proper way to summon a taxi while we were in Busan but luckily most of the time we needed one we were able to get one pretty easily either on our own or with help.
We also took the bus once, usually because it took longer than if we took a cab or a taxi. But the bus was similar to the ones in Seoul, though there were a lot more single seats on the one we were on and we went down hill and hit a lot of bumps which caused us to constantly slide forward and out of our seats.
Busan was absolutely lovely, remarkably hot and humid but a ton of fun. We stayed at an airbnb that was cheap and the owner was friendly but it was out of the way and required a lot of walking up steep hills in the heat. There were cats around though, and weird small doors along the way.