South Korea
May 2024
1 week

Busan

A plentiful serving of mountains, beaches and kimchi.

[Local Time}
{Temperature}
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[Description}

With origins dating back to the 5th century, Busan is now South Korea's second-largest city and the world's fifth-busiest container port.

Set against a backdrop of beaches, mountains, and rivers, it is a hub for both commerce and leisure in the region.

Verdict:
Worth it if in the area

Has everything required for an excellent summer destination if you plan on making the most from the beaches and mountains. Not enough to warrant flying exclusively for.

🌎
Verdict:
Worth it if in the area

Has everything required for an excellent summer destination if you plan on making the most from the beaches and mountains. Not enough to warrant flying exclusively for.

Verdict:
Worth it if in the area

Has everything required for an excellent summer destination if you plan on making the most from the beaches and mountains. Not enough to warrant flying exclusively for.

👎
Verdict:
Worth it if in the area

Has everything required for an excellent summer destination if you plan on making the most from the beaches and mountains. Not enough to warrant flying exclusively for.

🛫
South Korean Won (KRW)
3.4 million
🏝️ Great for a holiday
🧳 Would like to return

Summary

I always try to visit at least one city other than the capital to get a better feel for the realities of daily life in that nation.

Situated 325 km away from Seoul, on the country's southern coastline, Busan seemed like the ideal destination to glimpse another aspect of South Korean life.

Accommodation
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

I found there to be a much broader selection of apartments and hotels at competitive prices compared to Seoul.

I stayed at the Urbanstay Yeonsan, a national apart-hotel style chain, with well-priced, modern apartments. I'd definitely stay with them again, but I would opt for their location in Seomyeon where you are closer to more amenities.

For a prolonged stay during the peak midsummer season, a popular domestic holiday period, try to book your accommodation as far in advance as possible.

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New legislation
Recent changes introduced by the Turkish government has made short-term rentals for under 100 days more restricted. Keep an eye on Reddit threads for up-to-date assessments of how the new legislation is impacting short-term rentals in practice.
Places to work
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

Alongside the two WeWork locations in the city centre, there are a number of independent operators with options dispersed around other neighbourhoods.

There's no shortage of coffee shops that would make for suitable workspaces with locaitons like DAUNT coffee offering dedicated workspace areas.

International chain stores like Starbucks in the central districts can often be found open late into the evening.

Value
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

On every level, prices were in line with what you would expect in Seoul. The big difference was accommodation, where more affordable options within the centre could be found more easily.

Day-to-day expenses compare favourably with what you would expect to pay in Western Europe, with eating out representing particularly good value.

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The yen is currently at a 34-year low
While this is undoubtedly a negative for the Japanese, it makes for an exceptionally good time to visit Japan from abroad. Although this trend is unlikely to reverse significantly in the short term, it's still worth checking before visiting.
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View the cost of living
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Working hours
Great
Good
Ok
Bad

Korean Standard Time is +9 hours ahead of GMT, making it 7 hours ahead of CET during the summer months. In relative terms to other destinations in Asia, this is +2 hours on Bangkok and +1 on Kuala Lumpur.

I had already been working in the region for the three months previous, so it wasn't a huge change in working hours, but it's right at the edge of where you would class an acceptable working time whilst not impacting your daily schedule.

Similar to Seoul, the city has well-maintained public spaces with miles of uninterrupted cycle and bike paths lining its river and coastline.
Similar to Seoul, the city has well-maintained public spaces with miles of uninterrupted cycle and bike paths lining its river and coastline.
Sandy Gwangalli Beach is well-maintained and easily reachable by metro from anywhere in the city. The surrounding area has plenty of bars, restaurants, and cafes. The Gwangan Suspension Bridge, just out of shot to the right, is an iconic sight.
Sandy Gwangalli Beach is well-maintained and easily reachable by metro from anywhere in the city. The surrounding area has plenty of bars, restaurants, and cafes. The Gwangan Suspension Bridge, just out of shot to the right, is an iconic sight.
Haeundae Traditional Market, a short walk from the metro station, is lined with eateries serving local delicacies, with seafood featuring prominently.
Haeundae Traditional Market, a short walk from the metro station, is lined with eateries serving local delicacies, with seafood featuring prominently.

Where to stay

It may not appear so at first, but Busan is an enormous metropolitan area. I'd suggest staying close to one of the main hubs to get the most out of it.

I found myself making heavy use of the metro, so being in close proximity to a station would be beneficial throughout your stay.

Would avoid
Recommended
Seomyeon
It felt like the centre of the city, a hive of activity in the streets just down from the metro, with two WeWorks within easy walking distance. A safe bet.
Would avoid
Recommended
Yeonsan
Having stayed here, I can say it's worth considering if you find a good deal on an apartment. It's 10 minutes on the metro into Seomyeon. There isn't much of note in the immediate vicinity, but it's close to the canal and hiking paths.
Would avoid
Recommended
Gwangalli
If visiting during the summer months, this is unquestionably where I would head. A sandy beach with a lively strip of restaurants, cafes, and bars lining the shoreline.
Would avoid
Recommended
Haeundae
Separated from the rest of the main city by the Suiei-gawa River, Haeundae is home to many hotels and beaches. It would be a good spot for a couple of nights, but I'd rather be closer to the core of the city.
Would avoid
Recommended
Gamcheon
Fun for a day visit, but I would not suggest basing yourself there for the duration of your trip.

Where to work

WeWork - Seomyeon
Top Choice
☕️ Good Coffee
📍 Top Location
🥗 On Site Cafe
🧍Community Focused
⭐️ Quality Fit Out
🌳 Outdoor Space

Conveniently located next to the metro station, this was my preference between the two locations WeWork has within Busan. The third floor has the main lounge area for All Access members, with additional seating on another four floors above.

All the standard WeWork amenities are present, and there's a highly enjoyable futuristic massage chair available in the Wellness room. Being in the heart of Seomyeon, there's no shortage of places to eat and drink within a five-minute walk.

I spent an afternoon at the WeWork in the BIFC, and while it's a nice space, its location isn't as convenient, with not as many food and drink outlets in the immediate vicinity.

Remote work visa

No remote work visa
Remote work visa available
Remote work visa coming soon
If staying for a prolonged period, you may want to consider a dedicated visa for this destination.
This country is actively working on a visa support for remote workers.
Check your government website for details of how to obtain a tourist visa.

The F-1-D visa would allow individuals to stay in Korea for one year with the opportunity to extend for another year. Extension of stay would be handled by the local immigration office in South Korea.

To be eligible, you must be a remote worker employed by a foreign company, earning at least double South Korea's gross national income per capita from the previous year, which was around $64,000 for 2023.

Additionally, you must have worked in your current industry for at least one year, provide proof of health insurance, and have a clean criminal record. Accepted applicants can be accompanied by their spouse and children under 18 without additional visas.

View full details
To the best of my knowledge this information was correct as of 27th April 2024. If you notice something has changed drop me a message and I'll update it!

Citizen Remote is a great source of up to date knowledge for everything to do with remote work visas.

Safety

  • A safe and secure city.When looked at through domestic statistics, Busan has some of the highest crime rates within South Korea. However, on an international scale, it is far safer than most cities in Europe and North America, with nothing that should cause concern when visiting.

Off-work

Visit Gamcheon Culture Village

A settlement populated by Korean War refugees in the 1950s, Gamcheon became a densely populated hillside area with a labyrinth of narrow streets winding up the slope overlooking the port.

In 2009, the Government initiated a public art renovation to transform the area into a cultural hub. Art students, professional artists, and residents maintained, repaired, and decorated the village with art installations, painting the houses in vibrant pastel hues.

An ideal place to explore for a few hours on foot, easily accessible via several metro stations.

Learn more
Walk through Igidae Waterside Park

A well-maintained clifftop path runs around the bay south of Gwangalli. To access it, head to Namcheon underground station and take a short walk down. The path is particularly picturesque at sunset.

Visit Gwangalli Beach

The beachfront is worth visiting in the evening as much as during the day. At night, it becomes home to a range of light displays, with the Gwangan Bridge providing an illuminated backdrop.

Visit Gamcheon Culture Village

A settlement populated by Korean War refugees in the 1950s, Gamcheon became a densely populated hillside area with a labyrinth of narrow streets winding up the slope overlooking the port.

In 2009, the Government initiated a public art renovation to transform the area into a cultural hub. Art students, professional artists, and residents maintained, repaired, and decorated the village with art installations, painting the houses in vibrant pastel hues.

An ideal place to explore for a few hours on foot, easily accessible via several metro stations.

Walk through Igidae Waterside Park

A well-maintained clifftop path runs around the bay south of Gwangalli. To access it, head to Namcheon underground station and take a short walk down. The path is particularly picturesque at sunset.

Visit Gwangalli Beach

The beachfront is worth visiting in the evening as much as during the day. At night, it becomes home to a range of light displays, with the Gwangan Bridge providing an illuminated backdrop.

Duration & season

Early May saw a mix of perfect late-spring days and some miserable winter weather. I didn't see anyone brave the beach or the sea, but for hiking, the weather conditions were perfect.

If looking for a full summer experience, arriving after June would be best advised.

If you are looking for a summer destination to combine time on the beach and in the mountains, there's enough on offer for a month-long stay. Otherwise, one week felt sufficient.

Food & drink

Jeoryeong Coastal Walk
·
Walk
The west side of Yeongdo-gu features a great purpose-built coastal walk stretching from the Huinnyeoul Culture Village down to the Jungrin Sunset Observatory. On the east side, there is nothing noteworthy. However, due to the excessive number of stairs, it's not ideal for running.
Jangsan Hike
·
Walk
As the largest mountain within the city, this route begins by getting off at Seodong metro station and heading towards the paths which lead you to the opposite side in Haeundae.
Hwangryeong Mountain Hike
·
Walk
Numerous well-marked paths lead to the summit of this mountain, which is visible from across the city. A large outdoor gym can be found towards the summit, just off the main road. This route is ideal for a morning workout before heading to work.
Oncheoncheon Run
·
Run
There are well-paved cycle and running routes following the length of this tributary all the way down to the coast, making it an ideal spot for uninterrupted running.

People

Compared to Seoul, there were noticeably fewer foreigners within the city. There was a noticeable number of day tours and cruise ship visitors that could be spotted near some of the popular sites, but tourism seemed markedly lower than in the capital.

There was little evidence of a distinct remote work community in the city. At each of the WeWork locations I visited, I was the only foreigner appearing to be working from there on any given day.

Exercise

Jeoryeong Coastal Walk
The west side of Yeongdo-gu features a great purpose-built coastal walk stretching from the Huinnyeoul Culture Village down to the Jungrin Sunset Observatory. On the east side, there is nothing noteworthy. However, due to the excessive number of stairs, it's not ideal for running.
keyboard_arrow_down
Jangsan Hike
As the largest mountain within the city, this route begins by getting off at Seodong metro station and heading towards the paths which lead you to the opposite side in Haeundae.
keyboard_arrow_down
Hwangryeong Mountain Hike
Numerous well-marked paths lead to the summit of this mountain, which is visible from across the city. A large outdoor gym can be found towards the summit, just off the main road. This route is ideal for a morning workout before heading to work.
keyboard_arrow_down
Oncheoncheon Run
There are well-paved cycle and running routes following the length of this tributary all the way down to the coast, making it an ideal spot for uninterrupted running.
keyboard_arrow_down
Jeoryeong Coastal Walk
The west side of Yeongdo-gu features a great purpose-built coastal walk stretching from the Huinnyeoul Culture Village down to the Jungrin Sunset Observatory. On the east side, there is nothing noteworthy. However, due to the excessive number of stairs, it's not ideal for running.
Jangsan Hike
As the largest mountain within the city, this route begins by getting off at Seodong metro station and heading towards the paths which lead you to the opposite side in Haeundae.
Hwangryeong Mountain Hike
Numerous well-marked paths lead to the summit of this mountain, which is visible from across the city. A large outdoor gym can be found towards the summit, just off the main road. This route is ideal for a morning workout before heading to work.
Oncheoncheon Run
There are well-paved cycle and running routes following the length of this tributary all the way down to the coast, making it an ideal spot for uninterrupted running.

Verdict

Positives
  • Numerous white sand beaches are on your doorstep.Whilst not as idyllic as you may find in more exotic destinations, they are generally well-maintained and easy to reach. A huge asset during the summer months.
  • A haven for hiking.The city is characterized by mountains in every direction, with the city's various neighborhoods carved out around their perimeters. Paths are exceptionally well-marked, with outdoor gyms often to be found halfway up your ascent.
  • A top class city for coffee.Speciality roasters can be found all across the city, with Jeonpo Cafe Street being a consolidated area of numerous vendors.
  • Better value accommodation than Seoul.You've got a significantly better chance of getting a good quality apartment in Busan than Seoul, with more stock and less competition on Airbnb.
  • A more manageable size.Busan is deceptively large, but after a month there's a greater chance you'll have proportionally covered more ground.
  • Less international.When compared to the capital, there are markedly fewer tourists and expats in the city, which may be a positive or negative depending on how you view it.
  • The metro is expansive, clean and reliable.Similar to Seoul, a one way ticket costs 1,700 won (£1). Single-use tickets can be bought from the machines in the station with little hassle.
Negatives
  • Not as vibrant as Seoul.Missing some of the buzz, excitement and selection of nightlife which you encounter in the capital. Even if you are there predominantly for work, it feels a little on the quiet side.
  • Not the best place for working late hours.When finishing work at 23:00, compared to anywhere else I'd worked from in Asia, it feels like the day is really over. I found a sparse selection of places open by that time, making late night wandering around less enticing.
  • I would not want to be there in winter.Even in May there were a couple of days that would not have felt out of place in January, and the wind and murk from the sea was unpleasant and hampered your ability to make the most of the outdoors.
Tips
  • There is a metro link to the airport.If arriving or departing by plane, the metro takes around 40 minutes from the centre and is probably your best bet to avoid traffic. A taxi should cost around 19,000 won using Uber and is a good option outside of peak hours.
  • Google Maps is not fully functional within South Korea.Due to some bureaucratic issues, it cannot be used for anything other than public transport routing. If looking for walking or driving directions, Kakao Maps and Naver are national alternatives and worth downloading prior to arrival.
  • English is spoken sparsely.Outside of major retail environments and more foreign orientated restaurants do not expect to converse in English to any degree. Download Google Translate and pin it to your home screen on arrival.
  • Always carry around a physical debit card.Apple Pay only launched in 2023, with most outlets catering only for Samsung Pay. Lots of outlets will only accept card also, so bring a Visa or Mastercard with you at all times to be safe.
  • Not all ATMs accept foreign cards.I found I had the best luck using Woori Bank ATMs which could be found easily.
  • I found the best deal on an eSIM through Mobi Matter.A 30GB package cost $13.99. Airalo is available but expect to pay twice as much for a similar deal. If staying for any longer in the country, getting a Korean SIM could be useful for registering with local services.

Planning a trip?
I loved everything about this trip to Japan. I've put together some thoughts on my entire stay in the country, which may come in handy if you are planning a visit soon.
The downtown area surrounding the BIFC is a popular lunchtime retreat for office workers and a nice area to pass through on foot.
The KTX train from Seoul is fast, affordable and comfortable. Tickets can be booked in advance from https://www.letskorail.com/ or from any train station.
The coastline south of Gwangalli beach has well marked paths taking you all around the shoreline. I would suggest setting aside a couple of hours to get around the entire route.
If there's any data missing that you would like to see in these articles please leave some feedback and I'll aim to add it in.