Busan travel guide hand drawn map of Korea in purple. Busan is marked with a red dot.

Busan Travel Guide, South Korea. Korea’s second largest city and most famous sea-side city. There’s something for everyone, hiking, swimming, drag shows, art villages, fire food shows…are you ready to buy your tickets yet?!

Index

Busan is about as far from Seoul as you can get. But it’s also the next most popular place to visit! And we’re going to explore why that is – Check out the details in the Busan Travel Guide.

Top 5 Things to Do

1. Igidae Coastal Walk (Free!)

Igidae in Busan travel guide a rocky shore in the foreground and left with azure waters lapping at rocky sand. As the water becomes deeper the blue darkens and leads up to the city and mountains on the other side of the bay.
I can practically smell the ocean air from here!

The Igidae Coastal Walk is named after two women in the late 1500s who led invading Japanese generals to the side of a cliff and threw themselves (and the men) over the side. This story is something you encounter a lot along the southern coast of Korea but it doesn’t take away from the picturesque views the cliffs have. The walk only takes about an hour at a reasonable pace. However, beware of construction, which lead you unintentionally up a mountain for what may feel like forever. Just turn around!

2. Haeundae Beach (Free!)

A cloudy day with waves a shade of jade green and rough. The sand is also rough and damp looking, with a tree covered low mountain outcropping into the sea.
A cloudy day but that just means no sunburns!

There are two main beaches in Busan, but Haeundae is probably the most famous. It certainly is beautiful, with glitzy skyscrapers on the left, and gorgeous mountain outcroppings to the right. Be careful though, the water can be shockingly rough here, and I rarely see a lifeguard actually paying attention. It’s a beautiful place to sit on a blanket or dip your toes in.

3. Gamcheon Cultural Village (Free!)

hundreds of brightly colored buildings descend down the mountain valley. The valley leads to the sea, which can just be seen in this Busan travel guide. Telephone wires are positioned steeply down the mountain.
One of the most cheerful views of Busan

You may have heard of the mural villages that just about every Korean city has. They each have different reasons for coming into being, but I like Gamcheon’s story the best. It was first built in the 1920s. The Busan government wanted to relocate all their poor laborers away from the main part of the city, but close enough to still work (*rolls eyes*). However, the residents decided to make it a tourist attraction, and painted their houses bright, cheerful colors. It’s a great place for finding local artist shops and installations!

4. Shinsaegae Department Store (Free!)

a view up the center of the Shinsaegae Centum City department store. Each floor is white with bright strip lighting and a giant circular chandelier hangs down all 10+ stories.
Over 10 floors with this giant chandelier in the center

This attraction gets a lot of attention but it depends if you like shopping. It’s supposedly the largest department store in the world, but it doesn’t really feel like it. It is over 10 stories tall, and it has an entire Korean spa attached to it. But something about the way it’s all built makes it feel like a mere large department store. The first floor is fantastic for seeing the rich in lines for Louis Vuitton, and Cartier which only allows people in one at a time. Personally, the basement is where it’s at. Great food markets and casual restaurants, along with most of the clothing the average person could afford.

5. Bibibidang Cafe (5,000krw+)

a purple tablecloth with three dark wood trays. Each tray has a traditional snack on a leaf plate. Pumpkin shaved ice, yellow tea, and blackberry iced tea.
Some of the best cafe snacks in Korea

This is my absolute favorite cafe in Korea. Gyeongju’s No Words comes close, but no cigar. Not only is it one of the few places in Korea that will serve you actual tea, it has the most amaaaaazing views. It’s high up and overlooks the ocean and its waves crashing into the cliffs. I’ve been on a full moon night and it was incredibly magical. The traditional pumpkin bingsu is also delicious, and the tea is traditional Korean Yellow Tea. Everything you order comes with a traditional Korean snack. You need to go!

Other Things to See and Do

  1. Gwangalli Beach If you have no interest in making the trek to Haeundae, this Busan Travel Guide recommends you head to Gwangalli. Gwangalli is a lot…thinner? Of a beach, but the water is gentler and the view of the bridge across the bay is pretty spectacular. Just be careful if it’s particularly windy, something about the sand here sends it straight into your eyes!
  2. BIFF Square This is your best bet for delicious streetfood and random shopping. They have some of the best hotteok (a kind of donut with honey and seeds inside) I’ve ever had. The streets are incredibly windy and it can be difficult to find whatever you’re searching for so give yourself time.
  3. Bosu-dong Book Street – it’s definitely a great place to stop into if you have the time. Particularly if you’re interested in learning Korean. The books are all Korean and there are many children’s books available that are all very cute. There was also a stall that had many books that I would call “coffee table books” that are great for flipping through. I picked up a book on the Art of Totoro!
an alley lined with bookshelves. Many books are on benches to display their covers Busan travel guide. The alley is paved with grey blocks and is covered with tarps.
A view of the book-alley – I got the cutest Totoro art book here!

Busan Basic Costs

  • Local Bus:Β 1,450 (most common)
  • 10 Minute Taxi Ride:Β Around 5,500
  • Subway: 1,300

  • Coffee:Β 5,000
  • Meal:Β 6,500 and up
  • Hostel Room: 15,000
A view of a giant gold Buddha statue pressed back into a tree covered mountain. The city sprawls below and the sky is blue.
Still have no idea what’s with the Buddha but it’s cool!

Budgeting

Estimates are for a weekend in Busan, the most common type of trip to this city. Busan is incredibly spread out so you’ll need to use the bus or subway a lot. The Korean exchange rate is currently around 1,150krw to 1usd.

Backpacker (76,000krw)

  • Hostel: 15,000 a night
  • 8 Local Bus/subway Rides: 12,000
  • Train from Seoul: 29,000
  • Food: 20,000

Explorer (109,000)

  • Guesthouse: 44,000 a night
  • 4 Local Bus/subway Rides: 6,000
  • 2 Taxis from Seomyeon to Haeundae: 20,000
  • Train from Seoul: 29,000
  • Food: 20,000

Splurger (172,000)

  • Hotel: 90,000
  • 4 Taxi Rides: 35,000
  • Fast Train from Seoul: 60,000
  • Food: 20,000

Where to Stay

Most Koreans use Booking.com for booking their stays so all of the links are through that site. If you sign up for an account, you can earn Level 2 Genius status after only a few bookings and receive discounts. It’s saved me over $100 so far!

Hostel

This is where I stayed. It is the only hostel in Suwon and it’s well located next to the handicraft streets and the main square. It’s a little pricey for what you get, there were extra fees for running the air conditioning if you like. There is only one older shared bathroom. But it was a good night and the owner is very nice, and again, it’s the only hostel in town πŸ™‚

Taken from the doorway, two bunkbeds on either side of the a red curtained window. Suwon travel guide the bottom bunk has a plaid folded blanket is visable.
A look at the rooms! Should have turned on the light, sorry πŸ˜›

I have stayed here to catch my flight to Japan and it was well worth the extra cost. It includes a free breakfast, but also a shuttle to the airport at no extra charge! It is a little difficult to find, Kakao Maps seems to send you the back way down a sorta sketchy alley but it all worked out. If you are leaving from the Gimhae Airport, this is the best place to stay.

Guesthouse

This is your best choice for a guesthouse. It’s cheap, in a great location in Seomyeon, and it even has airport shuttles! It’s the best of every world.

Hotel

This hotel is definitely a luxury splurge. But it’s often on sale from crazy prices (like 480,000) to these lower prices. The hotel is literally on the Haeundae beach and the views can’t be beat. If you have a Marriott account with points, you might want to use them on a night here!

If you are wanting a bit more luxury (i.e., a double bed instead of a single) this is your best option when balancing cost, location, and value! Right next to the Busan train station, included breakfast, clean and nice!


Where to Eat

Tony’s Cheesy Pajeon

A wood table with many graffiti-like carvings. The pajeon is in the center on a circular plate. An aerosol canister is held above, being lit with a match that creates fire on the plate.
This is probably the most tame that Tonys displays ever get…

This is quite the experience. Pajeon is normally made with egg and many spring onions. But there are many variations out there – Tony’s in particular. This place serves cheesy pajeon with a twist….lots and lots of fire! It’s amazing the place hasn’t burned down, honestly, but it is a ton of fun. When you order pajeon he comes over with an aerosol can and a lighter and lets loose!

Kyoto Donburi Bocheom

A black bowl with red/brown marbled stripes. Breaded pork with a slice of eel on the side.
The meal that convinced me eel was pretty good, actually!

If you’re wanting to expand your food horizons, this was the best. I tried eel for the first time (actually really good) and raw salmon (also surprisingly good). Their less flavorful menu is also great, I loved their cheese donkatsu. It is “Japanese” but in the same way that most Japanese restaurants in Korea are….heavily Koreanized. Give it a try!

Slice of Life

Some of the best pizza to be had in Korea. That’s it. Just go. The pizzas are large, crispy, and tasty. For some reason in Kakao they’ve spelled it Seulrayiseuohbeu Life. Which is awful to say but there you are. A slice will set you back 9,500 won but they’re really big (easily split in two). They also have tap beer options! It’s right on Gwangalli beach and has great views of the bridge and beach.


Busan Travel Guide Best Nightlife

HQ Bar

7PM-2AM

Remember that whole “drag show” line from the beginning of this post? Yeah, this is one of the places that offers the best LGBTQ+ happenings. Regular drag shows, cabaret, and other “alternative” events that are pretty unusual in Korea! The staff are super friendly, their food is surprisingly good, and the drinks are well made πŸ™‚ Even if there isn’t a show on, the views of Gwangalli Beach are pretty stunning in and of themselves.

U2 Lounge

This is technically a hookah bar but their cocktails are super delicious and pretty inventive! The setting is really psychedelic and they were friendly to foreigners. Right on Haeundae, if you’re tired of wandering the streets aimlessly looking for something that just isn’t beer, give this place a shot! Kakao doesn’t have it listed so far as I can see, so just follow the address:

The Standard

This is generally regarded as one of the best cocktail bars in Busan. And it’s right around the corner from U2 Lounge if you’re looking to hop. Cocktails are not standard fare in Korea so if a place is well known for them, they kinda have to be good! They use high quality alcohol, know their classics, and still have time to be creative!

Output

This is your best option for a club in downtown Busan but honestly clubbing in Busan is a bit hit or miss in general. Some nights it’s good, others not so much. I’m not a huge fan of this club, it has a high cover charge at 15,000 when I went but it does include a drink. They play a lot of EDM which is fine but the DJs are often local and some are muuuuuch better than others. Honestly, the highlight of this club is the amazing bathroom. It has a waiting room covered in mirrors, a red flashing disco ball, and air conditioning. Frankly, I just hung out in there with my friend for the majority of the night! There are one or two clubs in Haeundae supposedly, but I haven’t been to them yet πŸ™‚

How to Get There

Most people will be coming from Seoul so I’ll give prices and times for Seoul. RometoRio is a good option for estimating routes and costs, but they are not always accurate so expect a bus ticket to cost a few thousand won more.

By train:

Use the letskorail website to book your tickets up to one month in advance. There will be three options for trains.

  • KTX: the fastest and most expensive. A ticket from Seoul to Busan will be around 60,000w and take around 2.5 hours.
  • KTX-Saemaul: The middle range. A ticket from Seoul to Busan will be around 42,000 and take around five hours.
  • Mugunghwa: The cheapest. A ticket from Seoul to Busan will be around 29,000 and take 5.5 hours.

By bus:

Head to your nearest intercity bus station. You can try to check the bus times on the T-Money Bus website but I would generally avoid booking tickets through it.

  • From Seoul: It will take you around 5 hours and will cost you around 37,000krw

General Korea Tips

Getting Around

There are two main apps for getting around Korea; Naver and Kakao. Google Maps does not work. I recommend Kakao as the romanization spellings are more consistent and the features are generally better in my opinion.

You may need to type in Korean to find some destinations so make sure you download a Korean keyboard.

Kakao app bus schedule. Shows 16 stops, estimated time before the bus comes, and what the estimated arrival time will be.

When you go to catch a bus, it will tell you when the bus is arriving and how many stops you have. If you hit the bell icon in the upper right hand corner it will highlight which bus stop you’re currently at, and it will alert you when you need to get off. It’s amazing.

What to Pack

Depending on the season, Korea is either hot and humid or chilly and humid. In general, just take out the winter clothes for summer and add some leggings and a coat for winter.

  • 2 pair shorts or skirts
  • 1 pair jeans or comfortable trousers
  • 1 pair leggings
  • 4 shirts (crop tops are not a common sight in Korea, I would avoid outside of Seoul)
  • 1 dress or nice shirt for going out
  • 1 swimsuit (bikinis are basically unheard of but foreigners wear them frequently – just accept the stares :P)
  • 6 pair socks (fresh socks are the best)
  • 1 pair sneakers
  • 1 pair flip flops/slides for showers and out and about
  • 5 pair underwear
  • 1 travel towel
  • Toothbrush
  • Deodorant (it can be difficult to find and expensive)
  • Small lock for lockers
  • Universal plug adapter
  • Period products – if you prefer an option besides pads they can be difficult to find
  • Tissue packs – surprisingly difficult to find
  • General pain killers/common over the counter medicines – also can be a little hard to find depending on what you’re looking for. Not all pharmacists speak English and it can be very trying to attempt to communicate about medicine when you’re in pain.

Just about everything else is very easy to find, there is no need to buy shampoo, toothpaste, etc. It’s all right there in a Daiso or supermarket for reasonable prices. Of course, if you have a preference, that’s something you should bring as well.

Safety

Korea is an incredibly safe country. Women often walk alone late at night and theft is almost unheard of. You should always be cautious, but in general Korea is one of the safest countries in the world.

Basic Korean Guide

Hello: an-yawss-ay-yo (μ•ˆλ…•ν•˜μ„Έμš”)

Where is: awdi-ay _______ (어디에)

Thanks: kam-sam-nida (κ°μ‚¬ν•©λ‹ˆλ‹€)

Goodbye: an-yeong-i-kay-sayo (μ•ˆλ…•νžˆ κ³„μ„Έμš”)

Alphabet

Korean is a very easy language to read. It is almost entirely phonetic so each symbol equals one sound. It’s good to learn because many things are English words just written in Korean. Like 컀 is a very easy language to read. It is almost entirely phonetic so each symbol equals one sound. It’s good to learn because many things are English words just written in Korean. Like 컀피 “kawpi” is coffee.

Vowels

  • ㅏ “ah” cat
  • γ…“ “aw” sought
  • γ…£ “ee” me
  • γ…‘ good
  • γ…— “oh” boat
  • γ…œ “oo” you
  • γ…” “ay” May
  • ㅐ “eh” yes

Consonants

  • γ„± “g” get
  • γ…‹ “k” cat
  • γ„΄ “n” none
  • γ…… “s” snake
  • γ…ˆ “j” juice
  • γ…Š “ch” chase
  • γ…‚ “b” bus
  • ㅍ “p” pet
  • γ„· “d” dog
  • γ…Œ “t” test
  • γ…Ž “h” hat
  • ㅁ “m” mat
  • γ…‡ “ng” or silent*

Double/Y-Sound

  • γ„² Hard “k”**
  • γ…† tense “s”
  • γ…‰ “tch” tsunami
  • γ…ƒ tense “b”
  • γ…‘”yah”
  • γ…•”yaw”
  • γ…› “yoh”
  • γ…  “yoo”
  • γ…– “yay”
  • γ…’ “yeh”

*Korean is written in syllable blocks. When you start a syllable with a vowel, like μ•ˆ you put the γ…‡ symbol as a silent placeholder.

** Double vowels aren’t really important right now, people will know what you’re trying to say.


Other Korean Cities to Visit

If you enjoyed this Suwon Travel Guide, you should check out my other guides to cities in Korea!

Gyeongju Travel Guide: Korea’s Pyramids

Gyeongju Travel Guide photo of lotus covered pond in front of fall trees in front of a double tomb mound. The red trees reflect into the water.
A beautiful fall scene featuring the tomb mounds of Gyeongju!

Tongyeong Travel Guide: Seaside Bliss

A view of Tongyeong through some winter trees. Bits of pastel buildings and the harbor with mountains in the background.
Tongyeong, a lovely casual sea town!

Boseong Travel Guide: The Little-Known Tea Fields of Korea

Rows of tea bushes with a pine tree forest in the background. A pink flower tree is on the right.
Also they’re some of the most beautiful tea fields ever!

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