Tl;dr – 2 buses, having just enough money to pay ferry fees, signing a form to say it was our fault if we got deported from Korea, last minute flight booked, bumpy boat on stilts, surprisingly easy border control, relaxing coffee, thinking we’d missed the last bus and walking to the metro, seeing another bus after setting off, walking into a ghetto, finding the subway, walking to the hostel, Google Maps getting it in the wrong place, spotting the sign purely by chance.
We had finished our time in Japan (sad face) and it was time to head to our next country – South Korea. We had enjoyed the relative ease of staying at ground level so had booked the boat rather than fly.
We checked once more to make sure our “flight” wasn’t cancelled and it was still ok according to the website of the ferry company. The first of our 2 buses set off from right beneath our hotel so we headed in that direction. There was a bus waiting for us which was handy so we jumped straight on. The bus actually drove past the port but it was an express bus so we needed to get on a non-express to head back to it. At the transfer stop we jumped off and crossed the road and in no time at all we were heading to the port.
When we got to the port we started chatting to a lady from El Salvador who was getting the same boat. She reminded us that there was a terminal tax and a fuel surcharge to pay. I had read about these but had chosen to forget when planning for spending the last of our yen. We had no idea how much each one was going to be but didn’t think we had enough as it looked like it was ¥1500-¥2000 each and we had a measley ¥2200 between us, and that was supposed to be for lunch.
When we got to the desk to check-in this became the least of our worries. We were asked how long we were spending in Korea and if we’d booked an onward flight. We said no and this opened up a can of worms. It turns out an entry requirement to Korea is an exit strategy. With us not having one we had to sign some forms. At first it read as if we had to pay ¥170,000 (£1277.24) each to come straight back once we got to Korea. After some difficult conversation it became clear this was only if we didn’t get let in. El Salvador lady advised that we book a flight through Expedia as they offer free cancellation within 24 hours so we could show border control and then cancel it. So we did. Turned out they don’t offer free cancellation with budget airlines but it didn’t matter, we just booked a flight to the Philippines for a day we thought would work so we wouldn’t be deported.
Then came the taxes. The terminal tax was ¥500 each and we needed to pay that at a vending machine. The fuel came to a very pleasing ¥300 each. We had enough! We even had enough to buy a bottle of pop each, a packet of nuts and a packet of crisps. The perfect lunch.
After hanging round in waiting area #1 for a while we called to go through border control into waiting area #2. Shortly afterwards we realised there was a waiting area #3 we needed to board from so promptly headed there before we were let loose onto our boat.
The Kobee Hydrofoil has a very underwhelming appearance in the port. Once we set off they began to play some safety videos with pictures of the boat from the outside and suddenly I had a newfound respect for little old Kobee.
Considering there was a typhoon approaching the crossing was pretty calm. At one point I fell asleep and woke up with a start on hitting a wave, narrowly missing headbutting Kate in the face, but it was largely very pleasant. It made a nice change to get the boat and it was nice not having to check luggage in but the waiting beforehand and the border at each end was no different to flying, so it wasn’t really any more convenient. More fun though!
We made a stop on the way on a small Japanese island in the straight and eventually got into Busan slightly behind schedule, which was nothing for us oft-delayed Brits. I’m sure the Japanese passengers were hotrified.
We walked through the terminal with a sense of fear after signing those forms, despite having now booked an exit route. I got to the border control guy firsr and stood on the footprints, looked at the camera and put my 2 index fingers on the scanners. No words were said to me and I was through. Kate did the same. We wondered if we would need to prove our departure to get through customs but we declared we had nothing to declare and we were set forth onto Korean soil. So we didn’t need to book anything! I was so glad we had though, I have seen too many border security programmes to take the whole process lightly!
Once in Korea we needed some money, some info and a sit down. We got the first easily and headed to tourist info. After picking up handfuls of leaflets we asked how to get to our hostel’s nearest subway stop and were told we needed a bus to a subway station on line 1. Before we got the bus we sauntered into a coffee shop in the terminal for hot beverages and some snacks to try and add some calories to our less-than-perfect lunch. After this was all consumed we went to the bus stop.
We arrived at the bus stop at 18:48. A sign on the glass seemed to say the last bus was at 18:45. We hung around to see if it was a little late but we didn’t fancy our chances. It appeared as if we were within easy walking distance of either a small subway station or the main Busan Station with attached subway. We went down to the bottom level of the port and headed towards them. When we looked behind us a bus had just turned up. We found out later they probably ran all evening.
Our walking route took us closer to Busan Station due to the position of the exit from the port and it wasn’t long before we saw the giant glass building we were looking for. As we were coming from the sea and the vast majority of passengers enter from the other side our route into the station was not obvious. We passed a small group of drunk homeless guys and saw nothing but some rickety stairs and a lift. Whilst we decided between the two options a businessman strolled straight past the homeless group and us into the lift and we hastily followed.
Once in the station we needed to find the subway. Turned out it was further still, in a seperate building. We walked through a large square complete with fountains and fancy lights…
…and finally found our subway line. Once we’d found our correct ticket machine, and then a change machine, and then figured out the ticket machine, we got our shiny yellow tickets and pointed ourselves towards our hostel.
It was a long way with one change in the middle, which got us a bit muddled. Subway line 2 in Busan has 2 termini: one is called Yansang, one is called Jansang. Whoever thought that was wise needs a stern telling off. We quadruple checked we were heading for the right ‘ansang and got our final vehicle for the day.
On emerging from the subway we could sense this ordeal of a travel day was drawing to a close. It was a 5 minute walk towards the beach and a 2 minute stroll along the beach road to the hostel. We got to the spot Google Maps said we would be sleeping but there was no hostel. We carried on for a bit but still nothing. We were going to start looping back on ourselves but thankfully Kate spotted a view of a sign for The View along the next road. I looked at my email and it said “The View Hostel”. This sign said “The View Guesthouse”. We thought our chances were high it was the same thing and headed to floor 5. When we got out of the lift and were greeted by a man asking if I was Mike, I let out the biggest sigh of relief anyone has ever managed to muster. It was done.
11:34 bus from Hilton Sea Hawk Hotel to Okunodo: ¥460 (£3.46), 21 minutes
11:59 bus to Hakata International Ferry Terminal: ¥380 (£2.85), 16 minutes
14:00 ferry to Busan Port: £104.87 plus ¥600 (£4.51) fuel surcharge and ¥1000 (£7.51) terminal tax (total £116.89), 3 hours 38 minutes (8 minute delay)
18:50 walk to Busan Station: 20 minutes
19:13 subway to Geumnyeonsan: ₩3000 (£2.16), 32 minutes
19:51 walk to The View Hostel: 11 minutes
Total time in transit: 5 hours 18 minutes
Total travel time: 8 hours 28 minutes
Total cost: £125.36 (£62.68 each)