How to get from Seoul to Busan: for every budget

How to get from Seoul to Busan

Are you planning for a longer South Korea itinerary and don’t know what is the best way to get from Seoul to Busan? Or do you simply want to spend one weekend in Busan and are looking for the fastest way to get there from Seoul?

During our year spent in South Korea, even though we lived in Seoul, we absolutely loved Busan, thus we went back as often as possible.

We tried several options depending on the time we had to spare on the road, and we are here to help you make the best and most informed choice.

How much does it cost to travel from Seoul to Busan, what is the fastest way, how long does it take – you will find all the answers here!

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How to get from Seoul to Busan: the full guide

Getting from Seoul to Busan by plane

PROS:

  • Plane prices are often the cheapest between all the other transportation options on this list
  • Airports are conveniently linked to the city center both in Seoul and in Busan
  • The flight time is only 45 minutes
  • Plenty of daily flights to choose from year-round

CONS:

  • You must factor in the time spent on the road to the airport and the fact that you must arrive at least one hour before the flight’s departure
  • Luggage costs extra when you travel for a longer period
  • When you travel with hand luggage only, you must comply to the packing restrictions and must pay attention to any liquids you carry etc.

On our first trip to Busan, because we were going to spend only 3 nights in the port city, we chose to travel by plane.

Originally, the plan was to travel by KTX (fast train) but at the time we looked for tickets, the price for the train was double that of the plane ticket.

In Seoul, internal flights depart from Gimpo International Airport. Getting to the airport is easy by subway from Seoul Station.

The Airport Railroad (blue line) links Seoul Station to both Gimpo International Airport and Incheon International Airport.

Depending on your departure point and where you choose to stay in Seoul, the train ride will last longer or not. From Seoul Station to Gimpo the ride takes 23 minutes and costs 1450 won (1550 won when you pay cash).

When you don’t have any luggage to check in, most companies will allow online check-in. We always do that because we don’t want to waste extra time at the airport waiting in line.

If however, the company doesn’t have this option, at Gimpo Airport, as soon as you enter the departures terminal you will find check-in machines. The process was fast and easy every single time!

How long does the flight from Seoul to Busan take

The flight is very short and it only takes less than one hour.

Once again, since we were leaving relatively close to the airport, the total time we spent on the road made it worth it to go with this option.

We strongly suggest we do a simulation from your hotel in Seoul and see how much time will it take to get to the airport before you purchase your flight ticket.

How much does a plane ticket from Seoul to Busan cost

As we all know, the price of a plane ticket depends a lot and it is influenced by a number of variables.

How much time in advance you purchase your ticket, is it during the peak time, are you leaving on a crowded day with high demand, the time of the day you prefer to fly out, and so on.

All this being said, and as mentioned above, in many cases, the plane ticket from Seoul to Busan will cost less than KTX or going by car.

Just to give you a rough idea, for our trip in May (outside of the peak season, but not a low season either) we bought the ticket on May 10th and flew out on the 21st.

Only 11 days before the flight, hand luggage only, and we paid 170,400 KRW for 2 people for a return flight. That’s roughly 140 USD.

How to find the best flights from Seoul to Busan

We always check Skyscanner for the best flight options, because in some cases flying our with one company and in with another might make more sense.

Jeju Air, T’Way, JinAir, and Air Seoul are all companies operating flights between the 2 largest cities in South Korea.

We flew with Jeju Air and our experience was just fine.

How to get from Busan airport to your hotel

Busan is operated from Gimhae International Airport, which is set a little bit outside of town, in the northwestern part.

Getting from the airport to Busan city center or your hotel is easy by subway.

Busan Subway

The purple line – Gimhae Light Rail Transit – links the airport to the Sasang subway station. From there, you can change to the Green line, Blue line, or Red line, depending on your final destination.

Getting around couldn’t be easier, and you can use your TMoney card to pay here as well. You can also buy single tickets or daily passes.

See the whole list of prices here!

If you prefer to save time and get to the hotel as soon as possible, you can always take a taxi from the airport. We never had any problems in South Korea with taxi drivers trying to make us pay more than what the ride was worth.

Just make sure to have the name and address of your hotel printed out (or on your phone) in Korean characters – we often had issues with drivers who couldn’t find addresses written in English.

Even though the subway might take longer and might require at least one change, traveling by car or taxi could sometimes be slower than expected because of the traffic situation.

Getting from Seoul to Busan by KTX

This might be the fastest way to get from Seoul to Busan, but it depends a lot on your departure point in Seoul.

Of course, trains are leaving from Seoul Station, but from where we lived it took roughly 45 minutes to get to the station.

However, if you choose a hotel in the central area, KTX will be the fastest way to get from Seoul to Busan. It is a bullet train for a good reason after all.

PROS:

  • Fast
  • No luggage limit and no regulation with regards to liquids and cosmetic sizes
  • It leaves you close to Busan’s city center
  • You travel in clean and comfortable conditions and can get to do some work
  • Various train options to choose from throughout the day

CONS:

  • Pretty expensive in general, and even more so when you buy the ticket from the train station
  • Factor in the time it needs to get from your hotel to the train station

We always prefer taking the train whenever we travel to developed countries that offer great options (Italy, Germany, South Korea – only to name a few).

Trains are not only fast, but they offer clean and comfortable conditions, you have more space for movement, you can walk around, take some fresh air, and even work or stay connected to your friends and family.

Of course, it all comes with a higher price, but when you book your ticket ahead of time, you can mitigate some of that risk.

How much does a KTX ticket cost?

As mentioned above as well, sometimes train tickets can cost much more than plane tickets. However, expect to pay more for tickets during the weekend and peak seasons, when demand rises.

Another time you want to book your ticket in advance is when you are planning to travel during the Korean holidays. If that’s the only time you can make it, it is what it is, but if you can be flexible with your schedule I strongly suggest you book other dates for your Busan escape. Or at least book your tickets way ahead of time.

As with any place, there are ways of making sure you catch the best deal, and in general you can do that by booking in advance.

For example, if I were to look now (March) for a train departing in 4 days or even 10 days, I would get the following price, for a one-way ticket.

It is also worth knowing that on the website you can only book trains with a maximum of 10 days in advance, as for my searches.

Another thing worth knowing is that this price is not fixed and it depends on the time of the year and the season. For example, I remember the KTX ticket was roughly 80.000 won for a person one-way when I tried to book it during May. I would expect the prices to go even higher during the summer season.

How and where to book your KTX Ticket

On the official Korea Rail website, select the normal travel type, direct trains, your departure date and time, and you can either select KTX under “Type of Train” or leave it to “All”.

You will see plenty of KTX train options popping up, marked in intense pink. A train departs roughly every 30 minutes.

Select your train and time by clicking on First Class or Second Class and you will be taken to another window from where you can enter your details, you get allocated a seat and a car, and you choose your payment information.

The good news is that Korail accepts also cards issued overseas. If you are not familiar with South Korea, that is something that doesn’t happen a lot with online payments. Most companies and shops only accept cards issued within Korea.

Select the first option and proceed to the payment.

Once you have your ticket confirmed, you will be asked to print out your ticket and have it with you on the train. We had read about the Airport Express train as well on our first visit as tourists to Seoul, but truth be told, you can also have the ticket on your phone.

Have it saved in your virtual wallet or do a print screen and you will be ok.

We know that printing the ticket would be complicated especially when you are traveling for a South Korea vacation itinerary.

OPTION 2: Trip.com

Even though the official site is in English, if you would have to exchange the ticket or have any questions, we wouldn’t be 100% sure you could contact someone in English.

After all, their hospital section for foreigners had a robot answer only in Korean…

If you, however, want to have access to a website with multilingual customer support, that accepts payment in multiple currencies and offers updates in real-time via email, you should try booking through Trip.com.

Prices are shown in USD, and you have the peace of mind that someone will be able to help.

OPTION 3: KOREA RAIL PASS

Another great option for when you are planning to take more train rides, want to book on an international site, and use your card, is Klook.

They offer Korea Rail Passes for 2/3/4/5 days – the days don’t have to be consecutive, you can use KTX and KTX-Sancheon High-Speed Trains, along with other types of trains.

OPTION 4: AT THE TRAIN STATION

If you would rather purchase your ticket in person, you can always go a few days before the trip and buy the ticket from the counter or from the vending machine.

You can also purchase the ticket on the day of your trip, but that would be stressful and you would need to be there at least 30 minutes in advance.

We always prefer to book everything online, because it is far less stressful and it allows us to organize our trips in advance.

How long does the KTX train ride from Seoul to Busan take

The train ride takes between 2 hours and 20 minutes and 2 hours and 45 minutes. All rides are direct and you should not worry about having to change trains.

Getting from Seoul to Busan by normal train

Of course, in South Korea there aren’t only fast train options, they do have “normal” trains as well.

PROS:

  • fares are more affordable for the normal trains – sometimes as little as almost half the price of a KTX ticket
  • you still get to travel in comfortable and clean conditions
  • you still get to walk and work
  • don’t waste time at the airport

CONS:

  • trains are also much slower and you can expect to spend anywhere between 4 to 5 hours on the road
  • not so many train options throughout the day

These trains will show up on the same websites mentioned above and you can choose between the following 2 options:

  • Mugunghwa – intercity train, that stop in many stations along the way from Seoul to Busan, and only has Economy Class options. They do offer free wifi and power sockets.
  • ITX-Saemaul – express train. Before KTX, this was the fastest train option. This train has only Economy Class as well, and have larger and more comfortable seats. They do offer free wifi and power sockets.

As you can see, there are not so many options as compared to KTX trains, but these are good to have in mind when you are traveling on a budget or you have enough time to spare.

Where to buy tickets for the normal train from Seoul to Busan

As mentioned, you have the same 2 options available, either on the Korean Railway website or on Trip.com.

How long is the trip by slow train from Seoul to Busan

That depends on the train type you choose and it can be anywhere between 4 hours and 40 minutes (for ITX-Saemaeul), or even close to 6 hours ( for Mugunghwa).

How much does a train ticket cost

The train ticket can cost between 29.000 and 42.000 won depending on the train and time of day/week.

Where do you take the slow train from in Seoul

Both Mugunghwa and ITX-Saemaeul trains depart from Seoul Station and stop in many more stations along the way.

Getting from Seoul to Busan by car

PROS

  • you are in (almost) full control of your timetable and itinerary
  • you can stop along the way and explore other destinations as well
  • you can see South Korea from one end to the other and will have the car to further explore Busan’s surrounding area

CONS

  • you will need to allocate at least 7-8 hours for the drive, with pit stops along the way
  • traffic can get crazy during certain times of the day, especially in and around Seoul
  • on top of the gas cost you must factor in the highway fees as well
  • speed limit in South Korea is of maximum 110 km/h on the highway, with most portions having a limit of 80 hm/h

On our second trip to Busan, since we spent one week in the city, we decided to travel by car. We planned to go on several day trips from Busan, thus the drive made sense for us.

However, we wouldn’t suggest you drive for a shorter than one week vacation. Any of the above transportation options would make much more sense when you only spend 3-4 days in Busan.

We chose to stay at a hotel that offers free parking including in the price, and we only took the car out for day trips outside of the city.

When you drive in South Korea make sure to understand how lanes are marked as you approach tolls:

  • blue lanes are for the people that have a Hi-Pass subscriptions – you won’t get a ticket as you pass through this lane and you won’t be able to pay later, thus you will receive a fine if you don’t have a subscription and pass through this lane.
  • red lanes are for tricks and large size cars – you can pass through this lane but chances are the machine won’t feel you and won’t issue a ticket (that happened to us in a few ocasions)
  • unmarked lane – that is the one you must choose when you don’t have a Hi-Pass. The machine will issue a ticket, and once you exist the Express way, you will have to pay for it, depending on the distance.

Another thing worth knowing is that on the highway you are not allowed to drive on the lane marked with 2 blue lines. Those are the lanes for intercity buses.

Both Naver Maps and Kakao Maps will estimate the amount you should expect to pay throughout your drive from Seoul to Busan. Depending on the itinerary, you can expect to pay around 20.000 won one way.

How long is the distance between Seoul and Busan by car

Depending on your departure point in Seoul and destination in Busan, the distance is roughly 425 kilometers.

How much time does it take to go by car from Seoul to Busan

That also depends mainly on the time of the day you choose to leave Seoul. Most part of the traffic will be in and around Seoul, thus as soon as you manage the exit the city, you will find the expressway much less crowded.

Travel early in the morning, and you can be in Busan in roughly 5 hours. Start your drive a bit later and you can expect to be there in 6-7 hours.

Getting from Seoul to Busan by bus

PROS

  • comfortable and clean travel option
  • the most affordable way to travel from Seoul to Busan
  • it offers you the flexibility to read, work, or do other things while you travel
  • no luggage limitations

CONS

  • the bus station is not really close to the city center in Seoul
  • the ride takes longer than KTX
  • you don’t have the flexibility to stop on the way to Busan
  • depends a lot on the traffic conditions

If you don’t feel like driving, but you would prefer a car over the train or plane, there is always the option for taking a bus from Seoul to Busan.

Buses in South Korea are very clean, have comfortable chairs that turn into beds, have plenty of room for luggage, and are overall great transportation options.

Moreover, as mentioned above, buses have special dedicated lines on the highway, and they usually manage to travel much faster and avoid getting stuck in traffic much less than normal cars.

Where does the bus from Seoul to Busan leave from

Buses from Seoul to Busan leave from Seoul Gyeongbu Express Bus terminal (경부고속터미널). The terminal is on the subway lines 7, 3, and 9, and you need to factor in the time you need to get there.

How long does the bus ride from Seoul to Busan take

That depends on the traffic, but a bus ride from Seoul to Busan should take roughly 4 hours.

Of course, depending on the time of day and traffic, you can expect delays.

Where can you buy bus tickets and how much do they cost

You can buy your bus ticket online here, or you can buy it in person from the bus station.

We would always suggest purchasing your tickets online ahead of time because you never know how much time you will have left on the morning of your departure.

Change the website to English and do the following search:

All the available bus options will pop up and you can choose the one that suits you best. As you can see, prices range from 24.200 won to 56.100 won for late-night premium buses.

Traveling from Seoul to Busan in a nutshel

What is the fastest way to get from Seoul to Busan

That is by far traveling by KTX.

What is the cheapest way to get from Seoul to Busan

Traveling by bus is the cheapest way of getting from Seoul to Busan.

How far is Busan from Seoul?

Busan is roughly 400 kilometers away from Seoul, but the distance depends a lot on your departing and destination point.

Other Busan Travel Resources

One day in Busan, a weekend in Busan itinerary, or 3 days in Busan itinerary

What to do in Haeundae

Where to stay in Busan for first-time travelers

The complete list of Instagrammble places in Busan

Busan to Gyeongju day trip

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