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The Solo Traveler Blog

Solo Travel Destination: Busan, South Korea

We are pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Stephanie, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Stephanie is from the United States, and submitted the following report about Busan. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!

Solo travel rating: 1.5 (1 is easiest, 4 is most difficult. Please see chart below)

Languages spoken: Korean

photo, image, gwangali bridge, busan

Gwangali Beach and the Diamond Bridge.

Reasons to go:  Often ignored in the shadows of its big brother, Seoul, this second largest city of Korea is one that should not be missed. If your travel time allows for a visit to both, I would highly recommend it. After living in Korea for nearly two years I’ve been to Busan at least 10 times and I fall in love all over again each time I visit. There’s a more relaxed, laid-back feel compared to Seoul and there’s always something to do. Temperatures will be hot in summer but the ocean breeze does provide a bit of a reprieve. I’ve traveled the city both alone and with friends and never had a problem. Transportation is easy, people are friendly, and the city is safe.

Beaches

Haeundae is the most “famous” beach in Korea but also the most overcrowded. WARNING: If you plan to visit in the summer be prepared for crowds. The view of the beach is basically just the tops of sun umbrellas. Gwangali is around the harbor from Haeundae and a little less crowded, although quickly becoming just as popular. The main attraction here is the “Diamond Bridge” which offers a spectacular view at night. Songjeong is recommended for a ‘beach day’ as you can avoid some of the crowds but it is also harder to get to (take the #180 bus from Haeundae or Jangsan station).

Temples

Haeundae Yongungsa is the most impressive temple in Busan, in my opinion. It’s a 30-40 minute bus ride (#180) from Haeundae beach but well worth the effort. Beomeosa is further from the city, up in the mountains, but is one of the most famous temples in Korea.

Shopping

Shinsegae is the “world’s largest department store” and worth checking out. I would recommend ‘eye shopping’ as they call it in Korea as prices here will be on the high side. Jagalchi, a fish market, and Gukje, an international market, are both located in Nampo-dong. Jagalchi provides more sights than actual shopping opportunities while the international market offers clothes, shoes, souvenirs, and traditional goods.

Other

Spa Land is located inside Shinsegae department store. Here you can enjoy up to four hours of pure relaxation for a mere 13,000 won, or about $13.

Dongbaek Island is located west of Haeundae beach beside the Westin hotel. It features a beautiful park and coastal walk, and is home to the APEC house and mermaid statue.

Yongdu Park in Nampo-dong is a great place to spend the afternoon. You must pay for entrance to Busan Tower,  but for only 3,000 won it provides some spectacular views of the city.

Food

Raw Fish (Hway) is plentiful as you’re only steps away from the ocean. Hotteok is street food found all over. The best is near BIFF square in the international market. It is a sweet dough filled with brown sugar and syrup. There are restaurants on every corner – test your luck or ask a local which one is the best. Don’t be afraid of the street food!

Transportation

The entire country has an impressive transportation system so Busan is no different. The subway is easy to navigate and will get you to most locations around town. The bus is slightly harder to figure out but still easy and cheap. It is my recommendation for travel as it’s like a free city tour as well as a mode of transportation. Taxis are not terribly expensive but fares can add up quickly while winding through busy streets and lots of traffic.

I recommend buying a transit card (T-Money, Cash Bee) available at most convenience stores (7/11 or C for U) which can be recharged in the subway stations. Maps and bus routes are available with English translations.

Accommodation

Hostels and Motels are available in just about every corner of Busan. If you prefer to book ahead, Hostelworld or Agoda could be of help. If you’re the more adventurous type, just show up and test your luck. Motels with flashing signs line the streets of Haeundae, Seomyeon and many other neighborhoods.

photo, image, street food, busan

Don’t be afraid to try the street food.

photo, image, temple, busan

Haedong Yonggungsa, a most impressive temple.

Solo Travel Destination Rating System

Safety - 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)

Language - 2 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)

Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)

Culture – 2 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)

Average Rating – 1.5 (1 is easiest, 4 is most difficult)

 

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  • Kaylin

    Used to live in Busan teaching English and mostly agree with this, although I would say that English speakers are not the easiest to find there (or anywhere in Korea outside parts of Seoul). You can’t even rely on the “white people=English speakers” stereotype in Busan, because there are LOTS of Russians there. It IS super easy to get around (all transit has English translations on the signs, English announcements in the subway when approaching your stop/train is approaching the platform, and the ticket machines have English options too) and is typically very safe (although you should watch out for drunkards trying to pick fights in the street or in the subway especially on late night weekends).

    The main cultural things that are very different and hard to adjust to are:
    - if you are not Korean, people- esp old people- WILL stare at you. *Particularly* if you: have darker skin, are tall, are plus-sized, or have light-colored (red/blond) and/or curly hair.
    - For the love of god, don’t sit in the elderly/disabled seats on the subway. For any reason whatsoever. If an old person gets on and wants that seat, you are about to get an earful of angry Korean. Basically, just stay out of the way of old people.
    - Girls, don’t wear anything that remotely shows any cleavage. Anything below your collarbone is risque. Shoulders should generally be covered too, although thicker strap tank tops (if they are higher-necked) don’t cause too much of a stir. Spaghetti straps are a no-no. Any length skirt or shorts is fine though (literally, your ass can practically be hanging out and it’s no biggie). Don’t ask me why.

  • Stephanie Boedecker

    Thanks! If you’re at all interested in Korea you can read more in my blog ~~ http://www.greendalegoeskorean.blogspot.com

  • elite charters21

    nice post.. wonderful.. awesome. waiting for ur other post

  • http://www.thestrayphotographer.com/ Francis Cassidy

    I spent a couple of weeks there ad I’d agree with Stephanie. Ireally enjoyed my time there, and even tried my first Jimjilban in the city! It’s definately a good alternative to the much busier Soeul, and the seafood is fantastic!

About Janice Waugh and Tracey Nesbitt

I'm an author, blogger, speaker and traveler. I became a widow and empty-nester at about the same time. And then, I became Solo Traveler... Here's the full story. >>

Tracey Nesbitt I’m a writer, editor, food and wine fanatic, and traveler. On my very first trip abroad I learned that solo travel was for me. Here's the full story. >>

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