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Travel Guide Budget and Itinerary for Busan

Busan was atop my list on this return trip to Korea. This coastal city has a laid back and blue collar ambiance compared to the cosmopolitan vibe of Seoul. I was eager to kick star my trip so I spent the night near Incheon Airport. The following day, the hostel owner was nice enough to take me to the airport and bus station for buses departing straight to Busan.



Guide

The bus ride was around 5 hours with only one short stop that was approximately 15 minutes. The trip was uneventful and before I knew it I was already in Nopo Station in Busan. I then realized it was another 40 minutes to reach Busan Station. The station was near my accommodation so I decided to stay there. I really thought the bus would go all the way to Busan Station. Thankfully, Nopo Station was right next to a metro station.

I arrived at the hostel late in the afternoon, tired but still eager to explore. I checked-in and decided to head out.

Places of Interest

Busan is a beautiful city with a lot of ancient and modern attractions. The public transportation is also convenient as most destinations are within walking distance of a bus stop or metro station. Never had to use a taxi to get anywhere.

Beomeosa Temple





This beautiful Jogye Order temple is easily accessible by metro and bus. The complex has a number of colorful Buddhist structures and you'll also find many relics inside. It was established several centuries ago at around 678. It was a good day out when I went with two Dutch women I met on the way to Tongdosa.

Entrance Fee: Free

How to Go: Alight at Beomeosa Station and take exit 5, it's the stop before Nopo Bus Station. Look for a small bus stop where you'l most likely find other tourists waiting for bus 90.

Tongdosa Temple






This UNESCO-listed temple is worth a visit because of its history and culture. This temple is one the Three Jewels Temples along with Haeinsa and Songgwangsa. You'll find pagodas and courtyards while exploring the complex. Monk Jajang established the temple after his trip from China several centuries ago in 646.

Entrance Fee: KRW3000

How to Go: Get down at Nopo Metro Station and make your way to the central bus station. You can buy a ticket to Tongdosa for KRW2500 one way. The trip takes just around half an hour.

Haedong Yonggung Temple






The original temple was built in the 1370s and it also went under a different name, Bomun Temple. The Japanese destroyed the temple during their invasion from 1592 to 1598. Reconstruction and restoration took place several centuries after in the 1930s. It got its current name Haedong Yonggung in the 1970s. The complex is beautiful but can get really crowded during peak times from mid morning until just around sunset.

Entrance Fee: Free

How to Go: Get down at Haeundae Station and take exit 7. Look for the bus stop and board the 181 bus bound for the temple.

Gwangbok-ro





This district, Nampodong and BIFF are within walking distance from each other and have the usual neon lit streets, shops and restaurants you'd find in different parts of Korea. You'll see many locals and visitors hanging out here to eat, drink and be merry.

How to Go: Get down at Nampo Station and follow the signs and people.

Nampodong Market




This shopping and commercial area has the usual shops, restos and stalls that serve street food. It gets busy and neon lit at night. I spent a couple of hours just wandering in and out of Busan's markets.

How to Go: Alight at Nampo Metro Station and follow the signs.

Jagalchi Market




This fish market is considered the largest in the country. The building itself is beautiful; once you go inside you'll see many vendors selling all sorts of seafood. You can have your choice of prawns, fish and others cooked and served directly. Better to go with a group because the servings are huge.

How to Go: Nampo or Jagalchi Station are the closest stops to this famous seafood market.

BIFF




BIFF Square is a showcase for the city's cultural heart by showing various movies. Other than the film festival and theaters nearby, the square also has many shops and restaurants for leisure travelers.

How to Go: You can reach BIFF from Nampo Metro Station.

Seomyeon




Seomyeon is a shopping and dining district where locals and tourists alike hunt for bargains or shop until they drop. There are many food stalls and restaurants in this area that serve a variety of food.

How to Go: This shopping and dining district is accessible from Seomyeon Station. There are signs directing you where you can go and get out.

Texas Street and China Town 



This area is another dining, entertainment and commercial district. Not as popular as the other market areas.

How to Go: The closest metro station to both Texas Street and China Town is Busan Station.



Gamcheon Culture Village




This village has some art shops, stores, cafes and restaurants, but most people visit just to get an overlooking view of the colorful houses. I visited just before sunset to get good photos.

Entrance Fee: Free

How to Go: Take the metro and get down at Toseong Station and then take exit 6. Make your way to Pusan National University Hospital. Look for the bus stop near the hospital and board bus 2, 2-2 or 1-1.

40-step Culture & Tourism Theme Street




The staircase doesn't look like much in fact it is very ordinary; however, it played a crucial role in Busan and the country's history. The stairs acted as a place for refugee families to reunite during and after the Korean War. Fast forward to today, there are some shops and quaint cafes within the area. There are also markers telling the story of the refugees and the Korean War.

How to Go: This destination is within walking distance from Jungang Metro Station.

Bosu-dong Book Street





This area is another relic of the refugees that survived after the Korean War. Book Alley started as one book store then grew to many after interest in books soared. There are many shops still around and there are some cultural events held here. It was a quaint area to explore, but most of the books sold here are in Korean. I found a few books in English.

How to Go: Nearest metro station is Jungang. I had to ask for directions on how to find book alley, but it was around 15 minutes walk from the metro.

Busan Tower



This 120m high tower is a famous city landmark. It has an observatory that provides stunning overlooking views at night and in the morning.

Entrance Fee: Going to the observatory costs KRW8000 for adults (ages 13 years old and up) and KRW6000 for kids.

How to Go: You can reach the tower via Nampo or Jungang Metro Stations.

Value Hotel (for the views)





I included this hotel because it provides visitors with bird's eye views of major landmarks like the Jagalchi Market, Busan Tower, Lotte Mall, the bridge and the port area of Busan. You can include a couple of the major landmarks in one frame from the restaurant.

How to Go: Near metro stations are Jungang and Nampo, you can see the hotel across the Yeongdodaegyo Bridge. Cross the bridge and head up to the restaurant.

Yeongdodaegyo Bridge



This bridge has become a tourist attraction despite its practical use of connecting two islands. Some people watch the bridge raising at around 2pm whenever ships pass.

How to Go: Nearest metros are Nampo and Jungang Stations, just follow the signs to reach the bridge.

Haeundae Beach




This beautiful beach is the go-to destination of locals and visitors alike. It comes as no surprise because the shore has fine sand and stunning views. You can hang out here eating a snack, going for a jog or stroll, wade in the waters or eat at the nearby establishments.

How to Go: The closest metro station is Haeundae. Once at the station just follow the signs leading you to the beach, you can't miss it, most people are going to the beach when they arrive.

Dongbaekseom Island




The island is an easy walk for those who want a short but pleasant nature trail that provides views of the city and coast.

How to Go: The closest metro is Haeundae. The island is within walking distance from the beach.

Gwanggali Beach





The beach has powder-like sand and fetching views of the coast. You can also see the Gwangan Bridge from here. The view of the bridge during the day and at night is one of the reasons people visit. Many locals also hang out here for a jog, walk or a dip in the waters.

How to Go: The closest station is Geumyeonsan. From there the beach is a short walk.

Dadaepo Beach




It was dark and rainy when I visited, but since it was quite far I made the most out of my trip. The 2nd time I went, I waited for the fountain light show. Most of the people who came to watch it were locals with their families. It was a good way to kill time before moving on.

How to Go: The nearest metro station is Dadaepo, from there the beach is a few minutes walk.

Lotte Mall



It is a big mall with plenty of the usual shops, restaurants and theaters inside. There is a also a floor that provides overlooking views of the city.

How to Go: The nearest metro station is Nampo, you can walk to the mall just before crossing the bridge.

Itinerary

There are several other places to see in Busan. I would love to return to see more of the city, but for this trip I had roughly 4 days.

Day 1

You could do the markets listed here and Lotte Mall in one full day or in the evening since they are interconnected.

Day 2

You can spare and entire day for Haeundae and Gwanggali Beach to hang out, laze around or just spend a few hours to soak in the coastal city vibe. You can include Haedong Yonggung Temple and the nearby island.

Day 3

Spend another day visiting Beomeosa and Tongdosa Temples before going to Gamcheon Culture Village to view the sunset and see the colorful houses.

Day 4

Spend a leisurely day exploring the Jungang area for Book Alley, the 40 Steps and Busan Tower. You can also head on over to Dadaepo Beach in the late afternoon to evening.

Day Trips

Busan is an easy city to explore on your own, but you can also book tours if you want a stress-free day.

  • Gyeongju Day Trip - Visit the ancient city of Gyeongju as a day trip from Busan to see remnants of the Silla Kingdom. You'll see UNESCO Heritage Sites during the trip and will have transportation and a guide. Stops include Bulguksa, Seokguram, Anapji and Yangdong Folk Village.
  • Busan Day Tour - This tour takes you to various attractions in the city such as Gamcheon Culture Village, Jagalchi Market, Yongdusan Park, Taejongdae, Oryukdo Skywalk and others. It includes transportation from your hotel and back.
  • Busan Night Tour - Busan transforms at night when its buildings and some structures are illuminated. See overlooking views of the city and visit famous city landmarks. Some of the stops include Gwanggali Beach, The Bay 101 and Yeongdo Seaside Park.
  • Explore East Busan - See the attractions of east Busan with a guide and return transfers. Stops include the beautiful Haedong Yonggung Temple, Oryukdo Skywalk, Gijang Traditional Market and Jukseong Dream Church just to name some places.
  • Busan Highlights - This tour takes you to some of the city's highlights such as Haedong Yonggung Temple, Gamcheon Culture Village, Songdo Beach Skywalk and others. The tour includes round trip transfers and other inclusions.


Getting Around

Busan is an easy city to explore, there are numerous metro and bus stations that go to various parts of this bustling metropolis. I took the subway and buses all the time. You can buy a metro day pass for KRW5000, I bought it and it was definitely good value. I saved a lot of money because of this. You can get one from the machines in the metro. Change the language to English.

The day pass doesn't cover bus rides, for these I bought a Cash Bee card that I topped up with cash. You can recharge it at metro stations or convenience stores. T-Money cards are also convenient to use. You can buy either one for KRW2000. There are many signs in English that point you towards places of interest once you leave the metro or bus station. There are also signs that tell you which exits to take. These small things make it easy to explore the city despite the language barrier.

Metro Map App I Used

I used an app to help me navigate Busan, I downloaded one from Google Play Store. It has the Busan logo on it. I chose it because I could use it offline (no Internet needed) and it was free.





It also displayed a map of the metro and tells you an approximate time it arrives at your stop and how much it would cost.


It also shows where you need to make a transfer before reaching your destination.


Many Koreans and other tourists use Naver, but I didn't use it.

Paying for Stuff

One of the things I liked about traveling around Korea is that I can use my VISA card for almost everything. I used it at convenience stores, entrance fees, accommodation, restaurants, supermarkets and others. In some establishments there's a machine where you just insert your card to pay. I found paying using my card convenient so I don't have to carry a thick wad of bills to pay for things.

How to Go

I took the direct bus from Incheon Airport because I arrived late at night already. The fare was KRW44900 and took approximately 5 hours one way. The bus leaves from platform 11A-1, you have to buy a ticket in a booth inside the airport first.

Busan is also easy to reach from Seoul. The KTX is the fastest but expensive way to reach this coastal city. An economy ticket from Seoul Station costs about KRW59800 for adults and around half the price for children. The slower but cheaper option is to go by bus from Dong Seoul or Seoul Express Bus Terminal, fare varies from KRW23000 to KRW34000 depending on the class.

Where to Stay

I stayed in Orange Guesthouse during my trip. A bed in the dorm was cheap and the facilities were OK. It was a decent place to spend the night in and it was very close to Busan Station (KTX and metro).

There are many accommodations in Busan from hostels to hotels.




Where to Go Next

Seoul



The capital is the likely first stop and base of many visitors to Korea. Seoul has plenty of attractions, nightlife and other things that make it a premier destination in Asia. I first visited the city in 2016 and was happy to return.

Link to my first trip (2016): Seoul trip

Daegu



This laid back city quickly became a favorite because of its chill vibe. I enjoyed walking around the market areas, going to Palgongsan Park and hanging out and eating at Seomun Market.

Gyeongju



This ancient city is worth more than a day trip. I spent a few days here to see the old temples, the burial mounds and the folk village. You can easily reach Gyeongju by bus from Busan, the trip takes just around an hour.

Link to post: Guide to Gyeongju




Expenses

Everything's in Korean Won

16000 - Transportation
15000 - Day pass for 3 days
44900 - Bus from Incheon Airport to Busan
49870 - Food and drinks
2000 - Cash Bee card
5000 - Round trip bus to Tongdosa
3000 - Entrance to Tongdosa
31900 - 3 nights in Orange Guest House
5400 - Bus to Gyeongju                                  

173070 - Total for 3 nights and 4 days

Money Saving Tips

  • Use a day pass for the metro to save money.
  • Stay near metro stations so that you can just walk to them whenever you explore Busan.
  • Eat at convenience stores to save money on food. There are many good value meals and sandwiches sold here. Eating street food can get expensive.
  • Use a T-Money or Cash Bee card for buses.





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