A budget trip to Busan is absolutely possible. Find out how to cut costs while enjoying the best sights and foods with this four-day itinerary.
This article was first published on Skyscanner.
Going on a budget getaway does not mean that you’ll miss out on great experiences. Neither does it mean that you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment.
Here, we’ll take you through a 4D3N budget-friendly itinerary across Busan where you’ll discover how to make the most out of a tight wallet without compromising on fun and comfort.
How to get to Busan
There are a variety of flight options for travellers who are starting their trip at Gimhae International Airport (PUS) in Busan. Budget travellers, don’t just pick the lowest-priced option – there are a few other considerations you need to take.
Firstly, how many stopovers does the flight have? Most of the lowest-priced options from Singapore have one stopover, which is quite reasonable for a cheaply-priced flight. Flights with two or more stopovers will inevitably take longer and cause more hassle, so avoid those.
Secondly, does the flight involve one or two airlines? In the case that you will be transferring between airlines, take note that you’ll have to retrieve your luggage and complete another round of check-in.
Thirdly, is it a budget airline or a full-fledged carrier? The base price for flights on budget airlines (eg. Scoot and AirAsia) does not include baggage allowance, food on board and in-flight entertainment. If you are the type of traveller who can go without those on a flight, go ahead and save your money by opting for a budget flight. Otherwise, factor in the cost of the additional services you require and compare the final prices to that of a full-service flight. Sometimes, going on a full-fledged carrier is actually more economical than taking a budget flight.
Weighing options can be taxing so we’ve made the decision-making easier for you. Use the Skyscanner app (available on iOS and Android) to search for your flight to Busan. On the app, you can view the itinerary details (see screenshot above). It will inform you of key details such as whether it’s a red-eye flight and whether it has an early or a super-late arrival. As a cheap flight may be too good to be true, we’ll make sure you are aware of what the prices mean.
If you also have Seoul in your itinerary, do a multi-city flight search where you fly from Singapore to Seoul at the start of the trip, and fly home from Busan at the end of the trip. This saves you the cost of the return ticket between the two cities; called an open-jaw itinerary.
Seoul and Busan are connected by a 55-minute flight that can cost anywhere between SGD 40 to SGD 100. Don’t forget to factor in the waiting time at the airport. With that taken into account, you might find that the 2.5-hour high-speed KTX train which costs around 56,000 won (SGD 67.50) is more convenient. Those who are not pressed for time can also skip the KTX train and hop on the five-hour Mugunghwa train which costs 28,000 won (SGD 33.70).
The best area to stay in Busan based on this itinerary would be near Seomyeon Station, which is located at the intersection of two metro lines: Line 1, which will take you to Busan Station and Nampo, and Line 2, which will take you to Haeundae. Highly-rated yet affordable places within walking distance from Seomyeon Station are Seri Inn Guesthouseand AAngel Hotel. Both of these options have double rooms and free breakfast for around 50,000 won (SGD 60.30) per night for two.
You could also stay around Busan Station, which affords convenient train and flight connections to and from Busan. Recommended stays include Busan Station Dino Hotel (SGD 71 per night for two), Marina Motel Busan Station (SGD 41 per night for two) and Gwang Jang Hotel (SGD 66 per night for two).
If you want to have shopping, dining and entertainment at your doorstep, then the Nampo area would be ideal. At SGD 66 a night for two, K-Guesthouse Premium Nampo 1 parks you right in the midst of all the happenings in downtown Busan. For an even cheaper option, base yourself at Grand Motel (SGD 44 a night for two) which, unlike its name, is actually a simple and no-frills stay in the busy district.
Flight: The plane tickets would form the bulk of your trip expenses. As a general guideline, you should be able to score return flights to Busan for around SGD 600.
Accommodation: Based on the suggested accommodation options listed above, a night in Busan will cost an average of SGD 30 per person. This adds up to SGD 90 for three nights.
Transport: To get around Busan with ease, it’s best to purchase a prepaid transportation card called Cashbee for 4,000 won (SGD 4.80). This itinerary involves getting around by public buses and trains, which shouldn’t cost more than 5,000 won each day. Therefore, 24,000 won (SGD 29) would be a reasonable sum to set aside for transportation within Busan.
Food: A meal at an inexpensive restaurant in Busan will set you back about 6,000 won (SGD 7.20). Assuming that you’ll find an accommodation with free breakfast, you’ll have around seven meals to pay for in Busan. That would make 42,000 won, but round that up to 50,000 won (SGD 60.30) to include all the street food you’ll sample along the way.
Sightseeing: Most of the attractions in this itinerary are free to visit. Adding up the ones that are not or those that include some form of purchase (Busan Tower, map at Gamcheon Culture Village and Danubi Train at Taejongdae Park), you should put aside 12,000 won (SGD 14.50) for attractions.
In summation, flights, accommodation, transport, food and sightseeing for four days in Busan would account for less than SGD 800. Any additional budget you have can be spent on a shopping spree, splurging on an expensive meal, or paying for additional attractions that you’d like to visit.
Now that we’ve got the budget out of the way, let’s dive into the itinerary.
Busan Itinerary – Day 1
Start your first day in the south of Busan at Gamcheon Culture Village. You can reach the village by taking the metro to Toseong Station and switching to Bus 2 or 2-2. Built on a steep hilltop, the houses in this village are decked with bright murals, creating a scene right out of a children’s storybook. Head to the tourist information centre at the entrance to purchase a map for 2,000 won (SGD 2.40). With this map, you can make a self-guided tour following a winding course to various locations where you’ll collect stamps. Upon completion of the stamp tour, the staff at the final location will award you with a postcard of Gamcheon.
Your next stop is Taejongdae Park. To get there, take the Seo-gu 2 (서구2) Bus to Chungmu Market, changing to Bus 30 towards Taejongdae Elementary School at the Chungmu-dong Intersection. Once you reach Taejongdae Park, hop on the colourful Danubi Train. For 2,000 won (SGD 2.40), the Danubi Train will take you on a course around the park, saving you the time and energy to hike along the trail.
The two best stops to drop at are Taejongdae Observatory and Yeongdo Lighthouse. The observatory offers unblocked views of the ocean; on days with good weather, you can glimpse Tea Kettle Island which is shaped like its namesake. The iconic Yeongdo Lighthouse is a photo-spot where you get both the steep cliffs and ocean in one photo. There are several galleries surrounding the lighthouse that you can pay a visit to.
We suggest heading back to the area around Busan Station for dinner. There is an abundance of street food carts and good restaurants around the station. To try Korean fare, you can opt for dinner at Food Café, a chain restaurant that offers the popular deopbap (rice topped with meat) and jjigae (various types of soup) at affordable prices.
Busan Itinerary – Day 2
Start your morning with a trip to the Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. To get there, take Bus 181 from Haeundae Station and continue by foot from the Yonggungsa Temple Bus Stop. The total journey time is around 50 minutes. Before you begin your sightseeing, make a quick stop at the food carts near the temple for some light bites.
A Buddhist temple built in 1376 during the Goryeo Dynasty, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is perched on cliffs overlooking the sea, giving one of the best views in Busan no matter the season. In spring, however, the lush foliage becomes adorned with cherry blossoms, amping up the “wow” factor. Here, you’ll find golden statues, pagodas, and impressive architecture.
Return to Haeundae by bus. If you’re getting hungry, make a beeline for Haeundae Market to cherry-pick between fresh seafood and traditional Korean street food like gimbap (rice rolls) and mandu (dumplings). Even though this market is touristy, the prices are reasonable. Another option is to order out some Korean fried chicken and beer from one of the restaurants in the area and enjoy it at your next stop, Haeundae Beach.
A visit to Busan is not complete without frolicking at Haeundae Beach. The water is usually calm, making it suitable for both swimming and sea sports. There are many photo spots available along the beach, especially in front of the huge Haeundae signboard, so get your camera ready. Lounging under one of the parasols require a small fee, but splaying on the sandy shores with your picnic is free. You can also take a stroll to the nearby Dongbaek Park to take in the view of the entire Haeundae coastline.
For your dinner, drop by Gukbap Alley to find a stretch of restaurants offering Busan’s signature dish, gukbap (rice with broth). Not sure which one to enter? Step in Wonjo Halmae Gukbap, a famous eatery that has been serving beef gukbap for over 40 years. Otherwise, you can walk to Gosami to sample godeungeo gui (grilled mackerel) with a variety of side dishes at wallet-friendly prices.
Busan Itinerary – Day 3
Start the day at Yongdusan Park near Nampo Station. You can choose to climb the stairs up the hill or opt to have a leisurely ride on the escalator. There is plenty to see, such as the Flower Clock, the Statue of the Great Admiral Yi Sun-sin, and the Locks of Love at the base of Busan Tower. The 120-metre-high Busan Tower itself is an iconic landmark and it’s well worth the 8,000 won (SGD 9.70) to enter the observatory for a bird’s eye view of the city.
Your lunch stop is Jagalchi Fish Market, Korea’s largest seafood market. Here, tourists can take their pick from the fresh seafood on the first floor before heading to the second floor and paying a vendor to cook it for them. Unfortunately, this spot has been labelled as a tourist trap numerous times, so you need to be careful if you’re planning to eat here.
Fish and live octopus starts from around 10,000 won (SGD 12), while crabs are priced at around 40,000 won (SGD 48.20) per kilogram. Bargaining is essential. Then, you’ll have to throw in the cooking fee of around 5,000 won (SGD 6) per dish, plus a table fee of 4,000 won (SGD 4.80) per person. Too expensive? Head straight to the second floor and look for Jacky’s Seafood, Chungmu Hoetjip, or any other stalls with an English menu and prices listed clearly.
After your fill of fresh seafood, continue your way to BIFF Square, where the Busan International Film Festival used to be held. Other than checking out the handprints of famous Korean actors and directors, the street is also lined with reasonably-priced street food. Follow Nampodong Street to take in the heart of all the action. This is where you’ll find familiar Korean cosmetics brands such as Tony Moly, Missha and Etude House.
Then, get lost in the huge Gukje Market where you can find all sorts of items from apparels and kitchen appliances to toys and souvenirs. You can have an early dinner along the Gukje Market Restaurant Street, which offers a variety of authentic Korean food at a steal. The open seating on low stools is typical of an authentic traditional Korean market. The area’s speciality is chungmu kimbap, which is seaweed stuffed with rice and served with boiled squid and spicy radish.
When you’re done with dinner, take the subway to Gwangan Station and walk down to Gwangalli Beach. Sit back, listen to talented buskers singing their hearts out, and enjoy the lights on Gwangan Bridge which glows spectacularly against the dark skies.
Busan Itinerary – Day 4
If you have enough time before your flight or train out of Busan, Oryukdo Skywalk will be a great final stop to conclude your trip. It’s accessible via Bus 27 from Busan Station. The 15-metre-long glass bridge is set up on a 35-metre-high coastal cliff, allowing you to see strong waves crash beneath your feet. Look up to take in the sweeping ocean and the distant Daemado Island in front of you. Best of all, admission here is free! Take note that this skywalk has a maximum occupancy of 120 persons and it’s on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Busan on a Budget: Check!
As you can see from this budget itinerary, a fulfilling trip to the second largest city in Korea need not break the bank! Even with limited funds, you’ll have a taste of the beaches, city sights, seaside temples, and of course, Busan’s speciality foods. Enjoy!
Enjoy a worldwide fees-less travel experience!