South Korea Visa
Foreign nationals entering Korea are required to have a valid passport and a Korean visa issued by the Korean embassy or consular offices in their country. However, citizens from many countries are now permitted visa-free entry for a limited period under certain conditions. In order to check whether you are allowed to enter Korea without visa issuance and for other requirements, please contact a Korean embassy or consular office in your country or visit the following website to confirm.
www.hikorea.go.kr (Korean, English, Chinese)
Countries under Visa Waiver Agreement
The 107 countries listed on the website linked below are under a Visa Waiver Agreement with Korea. Depending on nationality and passport type, citizens from these countries can visit Korea with the purpose of tourism without a visa for 30 to 90 days.
Busan's International Gimhae Airport (PUS IATA) lies outside Busan, offering flights to many international destinations, and domestic routes to Jeju island, Seoul Incheon International Airport, Seoul Gimpo and Yang Yang. Seoul-Busan used to be among the world's busiest air routes, but since the introduction of KTX high speed train service, the number of flights has decreased quite a bit.
Busan is very well connected on the Korean rail network and a
main hub for the fast and efficient KTX trains.
KTX trains connect Seoul to Busan via Daegu and Daejeon. Journey times vary between 120 to 150 min (₩55,500). Tickets can be purchased at the counter but automated English-language machines are available to make purchases with too.
Tickets can also be purchased on the Internet Korail site with an international credit card and picked up at most stations. This is very useful when planning to travel at peak times, when all tickets can quickly sell out. You can pick up your ticket at the closest station beforehand if you prefer.
KTX passengers are expected to be quiet but this is not always the case. First-class provides a more comfortable seat and the upgrade can be purchased en route. Snacks can be purchased on the trains using the vending machines or from an attendant. Each car has a free Wi-fi connection that is fast although can cut out in tunnels.
Other trains, such as Saemaeul and Mugunghwa connect Busan with other major cities as well. They're cheaper although much slower than KTX..
four lines (1, 2, 3, 4) of the Busan Metro can connect you to most
places of interest in Busan. Other rides include Donghae and BGL
(Busan-Gimhae Light Rail). Rides are ₩1200 or ₩1400 depending on
distance (hang onto your ticket until you exit), and both signage and
announcements are in English so finding your way is easy. An one-day
ticket costs ₩4000.
Check carefully the direction you want to go, since once you go through the gate it may not be possible to change platforms in many stations. For example, the Green line (2) goes between Jangsan and Yangsan which is confusing to begin with.
Metro cars have specially designated seats (with obvious green stickers)
for elderly, disabled and pregnant passengers. You can sit in them as
long as you are prepared to give up your seat to someone who needs it.
If you are staying for a bit then consider buying a Hanaro card (하나로카드). T-money cards and some other metro cards for other cities also work for the Busan metro.
By Light Rail
The BGL meets up with lines 2 and 3. The light rail provides a convenient way for transiting to Gimhae International Airport. Apart from the airport and Gimhae town, there are not many places of interest on this line. The light rail ticketing is not integrated with the Busan Metro, and therefore a separate ticket is required to change between them. The Hanaro card can still be used to pay for tickets.
has a good, efficient and comprehensive city bus system, although
unlike the metro system it is only in Korean which makes it very
challenging for foreigners to use. The front of the bus has the
destination displayed in Korean, English and Japanese. Inside the
bus the route maps are only in Korean, and the bus driver is
unlikely to be able to speak English. If you plan to spend a long
time in Busan then it is definitely worth learning how to use since
it will open up locations to you that are not seen by most tourists.
Bus fares are ₩1,200 (1,080 with a Hanaro card) for local buses (colored blue or green), and ₩1,800 (1,700 with a transportation card) for chwaseok (seated) or express buses.
It is worth using a Hanaro card (see Metro Section) since these can be used for transfers between buses and metro trains: just swipe your card when leaving the bus.
The front seats of the bus have yellow seat covers, which mean they are designated for elderly, pregnant or disabled people. You are allowed to sit as long as you give it up when a more deserving person boards.
The ride on the bus can be very bumpy on Busan's hills, therefore at rush hour you may find yourself standing up for a long journey and swaying about the whole time!
The Busan municipal government publish a smart phone application for Android - 부산버스 (Busan Bus) - that makes planning your bus journey very easy (provided you can read basic Korean). You can enter your origin and destination in Busan, and it will provide the fastest route with real time updates on the location of the bus.
There are plenty of taxis prowling the streets of Busan. Flag drop
is ₩2200 for the first two kilometers, then the meter starts ticking
at ₩100 for each 143 m or every 34 seconds if the taxi is going
under 15 kph. Deluxe "mobeom" taxis (coloured black and red) charge
₩4500 for the first 3 km and then ₩200 for each 160 m or 38 seconds.
Fares increase by 20% between midnight and 4AM.
If you look like a foreigner, then you are liable to be directed towards a black "mobeom" at a popular taxi rank. There is no problem however to use a cheaper 'plain' taxi instead.
You can use the Hanaro public transport card to pay for taxis as well. There is however no discount.
Most taxi drivers do not speak English, although some may speak Japanese, so if you can show the name in Korean of your destination it will help a lot. In Busan almost all taxi drivers are friendly towards foreigners, although they often assume that a foreigner wants to go a long distance such as to the airport.
Finding and catching a taxi in good weather is easy. When it is raining then you will be waiting a very long time before an available taxi stops for you.
There are some unscrupulous taxis that may attempt to charge much higher fixed fares, as much as ₩20,000, in some areas such as around the Busan port area. Insist on the meter and take a different taxi if your driver refuses to use it.