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Getting There

South Korea - Getting There


By plane

South Korea has 8 international airports: Cheongju, Daegu, Gimhae (Busan), Gimpo, Gwangju, Incheon (Seoul), Jeju and Yangyang. The largest is Incheon International, located approximately 45 minutes west of Seoul. This is arguably the best run and best designed airport in the world - a pleasure to use. Among the others, only Gimhae (Busan) and Jeju field significant numbers of international flights, links from the rest being limited to nearby major Japanese and Chinese cities.

Korean Air and Asiana are the principal carriers to and from South Korea.

United Airlines and Northwest Airlines serve Seoul Incheon (ICN), principally through their connecting hub in Tokyo Narita (NRT).

Also, United Airlines flies non-stop to Seoul from San Francisco and Delta operates a non-stop flight from Atlanta.

Northwest also flies from Busan to North America via Tokyo.


By train

Travel from North Korea (and hence anywhere else in Asia) to South Korea by train remains impossible in practice. There have been a few test runs on the newly rebuilt railroad connecting the two, but it will likely remain more of a political statement than travel option for some time to come. However, for travelers coming from or continuing on to Japan, special through tickets are available, giving discounts of 30% on KTX services and 9-30% on Busan-Fukuoka ferries as well as Japanese trains.

By boat

There are fairly frequent ferry connections from Busan to Japan. JR's Beetle hydrofoil service from Busan to Fukuoka manages the trip in just under three hours with up to five connections a day, but all other links are overnight slow ferries, such as Pukwan Ferry Company's services to Shimonoseki from cost from $US60 (one-way). A Busan-Osaka ferry is operated by Panstar Line Co., Ltd..

Towards China, there are ferry links between Incheon and Weihai, Qingdao and Tianjin in China. The largest operator is Jinchon, but Incheon Port has full listings on their website. These ferries are similar to miniature cruise lines and are complete with karaoke rooms, Playstation games (for a fee), DVD rentals (private rooms only), and a nightly grill on the back deck. Inside, accommodations are a hit and miss. If you have an economy ticket, which will set you back approximately €180 (roundtrip), you can request a sleeper bunk where you have a considerable amount of privacy. If these are all taken however, the other option for an economy ticket is the sleeping deck where everyone who is crammed on the floor like sardines in a can. To avoid being relegated to the sardine room, get to the terminal early, 2 or 3 hours should be sufficient. This is definitely worth it as the ferry can take as much as 24 hours depending where you go. To make the most of this ferry ride, take a good book, work, and/or a laptop to pass the time.

There are also weekly departures from Sokcho (Gangwon-do) to Vladivostok from $US270 operated by Dong Chun Ferry Co. Ltd.


By land

Due both to its location at the end of the Korean peninsula and the political situation with North Korea, entering South Korea overland is practically not possible. The border between North and South Korea is considered the most heavily fortified border in the world, and while some crossings have occurred at the truce village of Panmunjeom, one of the cases (a Soviet defector in 1984) was shot at by both sides and, although he survived, you might not be so lucky. In the 80's and the early 90's most of those who crossed the border either way would be arrested and prosecuted for reasons mostly referred to as 'threatening national security'. These days it is possible to do limited trips into North Korea from the South (see details under North Korea), but not vice versa.


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