(Disclaimer: Hello! Since I’ve been getting a lot of queries on this post, I want to clarify that this article was based on our travel experience. What applied to our travel situation doesn’t have to apply in every situation. I cannot answer every question, because I’m not an official representative of KTX. But from a traveler to a traveler, I will try to be as helpful as I can! So just send in your questions, and I’ll try to help and answer you as much as possible. 11/16/15)
In the ideal world, we’re efficient travel planners that we smartly booked a plane ticket from Manila to Incheon, and another one from Busan to Manila. However, in the real world we’re just a bunch of Korea fanatics who grabbed the first chance to book a flight to Seoul. It isn’t so bad though, because no matter what we booked, we’d still be boarding the Korail Express to go to Busan.
Since we had seven days in Korea, in the middle of our planning we realized that we had enough time to go to Busan. No chance to change our ticket, though, since we got it through a promo. Hence, the long planning of how to work about our schedule commenced.
In the end, we decided to spend five days in Seoul and two full days in Busan. It may not be enough, but our time only allowed two days. Thus, our hectic planning on how to ride the train from Seoul to Busan and vice-versa began. I decided to share it with you since I know that a lot of people are planning to go on the same adventure. To get to Busan, we decided to ride the KTX express from Seoul that made the five-hour trip via bus or regular train down to a little more than two hours. Honestly, it costs quite a lot, but I promise that it’s worth every Korean Won.
Using Korea Rail Pass or Korail Pass from Seoul to Busan
(Main Website: Letskorail.com)
There are tons of KTX passes, and I’m honestly just as confused then as I am now about everything. But after days of research, we decided to get the Korea Rail Pass that would take us from Korea to Seoul. The Korail Pass allows foreign tourists to travel unlimited times within a number of dates in the Standard Seats of the KTX, KTX-Sancheon, ITX-Saemaeul, Saemaeul, Mugunghwa and Nuriro trains. Passengers can choose among the 1, 3, 5, 7 and 10-day passes. According to the website, it must be used on consecutive days.
(UPDATE 04/17/2018) There are now 2-day and 4-day select passes that are more flexible than the other passes. You don’t have to use these passes on consecutive days, which made it easier and a lot simpler to just buy. This is especially useful for those who plan to stay in Busan for more than two days. I used it the last time I went to Korea in 2017.
We chose the 3-day KR Pass since we’d be traveling to and fro Busan within two days. There were four of us, so we were entitled for the Saver Pass which can be availed by groups of 2-5 people. Now that I’m writing this post, we should have gotten the Youth Pass, which is only available for individuals aged 13 to 25.
Basically, we could drop by in other provinces along the way, but we decided that we’d focus on Busan. It would be a pity to just spend an hour or two in a province.
You can learn more about it here: Korea Rail Pass. Do not forget to read the limitations of use! (Edit: 11/16/15)
How to avail and use the Korea Rail Pass:
The website provided clear instructions but here’s how I did it:
1. Book from the website.
Besides your name, you’ll also be asked to provide your passport number. The same thing will be asked from the other passenger you’re booking the ticket with. I suggest that you don’t book way ahead of your travel, but instead, wait a week before your travel period to book for it. You can pay via credit card.
2. After booking, print out the voucher/e-ticket provided.
You’ll be given a voucher after booking, which needs to be exchanged before you’ll be given the pass. Take note of the date till when you can use it. It’s valid within 180 days since date of the booking. Payment will only be credited once you exchange the e-ticket for the Pass.
3. Exchange the voucher for the passes in Seoul Station.
Upon arriving at Seoul Station (Subway Line 1 or 4, Exit 1), head to the Information Center where you have to exchange the voucher for a pass. Make sure to bring the credit card you used and your passport. This is very crucial, especially the passports, because only foreign tourists can use Korean Rail Pass. Foreigners who live in Korea can only use the Happy Rail Pass.
4. Avail your KTX express ticket with your Korea Rail Pass.
Go to the ticketing booth and present your Pass when availing the ticket to Busan. You’ll be given the next earliest time of departure. Sadly, you won’t be able to choose your seats, but you can say that you like to sit together. Don’t lose your ticket, because it’ll be checked once you’re already inside the train car. Keep your Korea Rail Pass safe because you’ll be needing that once you’re booking your return ticket to Seoul in Busan Station.
5. Go to your platform at least five minutes early.
Because the trains to Busan from Seoul leaves on time! Actually, all the trains leave on time. Make sure to sit on your assigned seats, too. However, the Koreans who sat near us were kind enough to exchange seat numbers so we could sit together. One also explained the seat situation to the train stewardess who checked our seat numbers. So yes, all the stories you heard about Koreans being nice, they’re all true.
6. And when it’s all confusing, don’t be afraid to ask around!
So off we go to Busan! We didn’t arrive in Seoul Station as early as we hoped, but still, we had an early start. Since we’d be arriving in Busan around lunch and we ate breakfast early, we bought some snacks in the station and some kimbap from an ahjumma we met outside. Lunch boxes and rice rolls are sold near the platform. We couldn’t be more excited to start our two-day Busan adventure!
Without a doubt, the view that welcomed us in Busan was breathtaking! It was a nice preview of the awesome days ahead of us.
On our last and second day in the home of Jung YongHwa and Reply 1997, we trooped back to Busan Station with heavy hearts. We enjoyed our stay so much that we actually regretted only staying there for two days. It’s our time to go back to Seoul and leave behind the place that nurtured some of my best memories of travel.
We arrived at around 7PM, and to our dismay, we learned that the earliest time of departure we could get was 10PM. That means we’d be arriving in Seoul past midnight! We had the option of being standing passengers at an earlier departure time, but we realized that it would be stressful since we were carrying heavy bags. While waiting, we ate our dinner in Lotteria.
We honestly spent a lot of time waiting. Staying in Lotteria way too long was a bit embarrassing. We already stayed there for about two hours. Good thing there’s a wide waiting area near the platform, and Wi-Fi was also available. That’s what I love about Korea, you can pretty much find Wi-Fi everywhere.
We arrived in Seoul way past midnight. By then, the subway was already closed, and that’s the only mode of transpo we knew. The line for the taxi was so long that we decided to take the bus instead. A high schooler informed us that the bus going to Hongdae already stopped its operations. Back we went to the taxi line.
The taxi driver dropped us in a street unfamiliar to us, we spent around 30 minutes trying to find our way to the hostel. With barely any soul around, we were glad to came across a Mini Stop. The kind stranger who looked like Jung YongHwa (must bet the Busan effect!) walked us back to our hostel.
And as much as loved our two days in Busan, getting lost in Seoul still made us feel glad to be back in our beds at Hongdae Housetel.
Other way to book buy a KR Pass:
Aside from the Korail website, you can also purchase a KR Pass on Trazy.com. Just read up on the full details on their website. It’s pretty much the same thing, but you’ll only be booking a different website.
What’s great about this is that you only need to present a valid passport for identification to claim your KR pass. Yes, you won’t have to worry about bringing the credit card you used for booking.
Other important readings on KTX:
For more questions on how to travel from Seoul to Busan or Busan to Seoul, you can comment below or you can send me a quick message on Facebook.