Unlike China, South Korea doesn’t offer a variety of interesting neighboring countries one could simply take a train to travel to. However, it’s fairly easy to take a ferry and travel to Japan! Me living in South Korea now, I love this easy and affordable option to take a long weekend off and spend it in Japan! The following step by step guide is for everyone who would like to take advantage of the close proximity between South Korea and Japan. If you live in South Korea or you simply travel through: the Korea – Japan ferry routes are an adventure you shouldn’t miss!
Busan – Fukuoka: The Closest Route
There are a variety of different ports connecting South Korea with Japan but the ferry from Busan to Fukuoka is definitely the closest. You can reach Japan in only 2:55 hours!
Other available routes might include going to Shimonoseki (12 hours), Izuhara (1:55 hours), Hitakatsu (1:10 minutes) and Osaka (19 hours). I paid around 35,000 ($35) Korean Won one way for the ticket from Busan to Fukuoka. Prices may vary depending on the date and ferry company.
How to get to Japan from Busan in 5 easy steps:
Step 1: Getting to Busan International Ferry Terminal
If you don’t live in Busan, you need to find your way there first. This is easily done by taking the KTX (Korea Train Express) which goes down from Seoul in only 3 hours and stops at various other stations along the way.
Once you arrived at Busan station, you can either take a 5-minute cab ride or the available shuttle bus (which didn’t show up when I waited for it for over 1 hour) and go to the international ferry terminal.
Step 2: Going through Immigration
The international ferry terminal in Busan is very small and it’s super easy to go through immigration. First, you need to proceed to a ticket booth and get your boarding pass. I received both my ticket to Japan and back to Korea on the same day. You will have the option to choose a seat on the first or second floor. I always sat on the first floor which seemed like a better choice to avoid seasickness since the second floor might shake more.
Once you collected your ticket, you can proceed to immigration. Just like at the airport, you need to go through a passport and security check.
Step 3: Boarding the Ferry
You’re lucky besides a duty free shop there are only 2 “gates” at the Busan ferry terminal. Simply wait until you can see the status of your ferry has changed to “boarding” and present your boarding pass to be able to enter. You will need to climb a few steps and escalators to the boat.
Step 4: Enjoy the Ride!
Welcome on board! You are going to spend the next 3 hours on board a comfortable ferry boat. Leaving Busan, you can enjoy a view of the coatline of the city. The rest of the ride is relatively boring as you can see only water around you. The ferry boat is showing a variety of “safety and immigration” videos as well as a movie (mine was in Japanese).
You can buy drinks and snacks on board but meals aren’t served and nothing is free of charge. The ferry can get quite chilly with A\C being turned on. Don’t hesitate to ask for blankets which they keep in a special compartment.
Step 5: Welcome to Japan!
After a nice ride eastward, you will sooner or later notice some islands and buildings. That’s right: you’ve arrived at your destination! Once the ferry has docked, you can simply disembark and go through immigration and security check once more. For some reason, the Japanese officers checked my carry-on very thorougly. Either way, there was no problem and I was allowed to enter the country.
Simply follow the signs to the exit. There is an information desk at the first floor right next to the exit where you can exchange money, book hotels/trains/flights and even buy Japanese sim cards. They go for around $30 and are valid for 7 days. Don’t forget to take a free map of Fukuoka!
Right outside the Hakata Port (the name of the ferry terminal in Fukuoka), there is a bus stop and a taxi terminal. Most taxis also take credit cards – but you should ask before you board.
I highly recommend getting some Japanese Yen before you enter Japan as it is cheaper than exchanging it at the port. I only brought my Korean credit card and had an extremely hard time finding an ATM that had an English setting and that would take my card. If you want to withdraw money, try the ATM at a 7-Eleven where I was lucky to get money.
Make sure you know where you are going after you arrived at the port. Book your hotel in advance and have the address ready in Japanese for the taxi drivers. I have noticed that very few people speak English in Fukuoka!
There are many things to do in Fukuoka: great culture, beautiful temples and shrines, delicious food and just enough of the (in)famous craziness of the Japanese people! More in my upcoming post about Fukuoka!
Have you ever taken the ferry from Busan to Japan?
Is it on your bucket list now?