Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Destinations > Asia > Korea
Reload this Page >

Seoul to Busan: Train vs. Flying

Seoul to Busan: Train vs. Flying

Old Apr 6, 18, 5:04 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: TYS
Programs: Delta, AA, Hilton
Posts: 149
Seoul to Busan: Train vs. Flying

Hi all,

I'm trying to book some flights from the US for a work trip to Busan. I found a set of flights I like, but my travel office objected to the ICN to BUS leg because of the carrier (KE). There are other options available, such as going through NRT/NGO, but the flight schedules are much less desirable. I'm wondering if just flying to ICN and then taking a train to Busan is a viable alternative? Looks like it takes a little over 4 hours according to Google Maps. I've taken some buses on previous trips to Korea and I didn't find them to be too intimidating.
Grogs is offline  
Old Apr 6, 18, 8:59 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: BOS
Programs: DL Gold, Marriott Rewards Silver, Hilton HHonors Gold
Posts: 382
The train works well. I've taken the KTX from Seoul Station and the SRT from Suseo Station. I found the SRT to be a little more comfortable - more leg room, for one - but Suseo Station is not centrally located (I had meetings not far from it, so the SRT worked better than KTX for that trip).

I've also flown Air Busan a couple of times, though maybe your travel office also objects to them. Cheap, easy, and got me there on time. You'd need to take the train from ICN to Gimpo, but that's easy, and if you need to end up in the Gimhae area when you get to Busan this may be the better option.
rts123 is offline  
Old Apr 7, 18, 7:11 am
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: TYS
Programs: Delta, AA, Hilton
Posts: 149
Originally Posted by rts123 View Post
The train works well. I've taken the KTX from Seoul Station and the SRT from Suseo Station. I found the SRT to be a little more comfortable - more leg room, for one - but Suseo Station is not centrally located (I had meetings not far from it, so the SRT worked better than KTX for that trip).

I've also flown Air Busan a couple of times, though maybe your travel office also objects to them. Cheap, easy, and got me there on time. You'd need to take the train from ICN to Gimpo, but that's easy, and if you need to end up in the Gimhae area when you get to Busan this may be the better option.
Thanks. My company doesn't object to Korean Air specifically, just using non-US carriers when there is an alternative. Apparently "Delta flight XXXX operated by Korean Air" is fine, but booking "Korean Air flight YYYY" isn't. For whatever reason, there are no Delta code shares available from PUS-ICN that fit my itinerary. I imagine I would have the same problem with Air Busan.

I looked at the website for the conference I'm attending and they had directions for taking the KTX train from Incheon airport, so that's probably the way to go. I figure that after factoring in a 3-4 hour connection in Seoul the train doesn't take much longer and might give me a chance to see some of the Korean countryside. BTW, I was on Jeju Island last year and used the POP card to get around on the buses there. Do you know if that works in Busan? It still had some won left on it, so I may see if I can find it again if it would be useful for getting around Busan. I should have at least one weekend free to explore while I'm there.
Grogs is offline  
Old Apr 7, 18, 7:28 am
  #4  
Four Seasons Contributor BadgeHyatt Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Parts Unknown
Posts: 6,603
Originally Posted by Grogs View Post
Thanks. My company doesn't object to Korean Air specifically, just using non-US carriers when there is an alternative. Apparently "Delta flight XXXX operated by Korean Air" is fine, but booking "Korean Air flight YYYY" isn't. For whatever reason, there are no Delta code shares available from PUS-ICN that fit my itinerary. I imagine I would have the same problem with Air Busan.

I looked at the website for the conference I'm attending and they had directions for taking the KTX train from Incheon airport, so that's probably the way to go. I figure that after factoring in a 3-4 hour connection in Seoul the train doesn't take much longer and might give me a chance to see some of the Korean countryside. BTW, I was on Jeju Island last year and used the POP card to get around on the buses there. Do you know if that works in Busan? It still had some won left on it, so I may see if I can find it again if it would be useful for getting around Busan. I should have at least one weekend free to explore while I'm there.
Depends what time you get in. Trains don't always leave from ICN all the way down to Busan. Very specific intervals. May have to take the airport express and change in Seoul to KTX. You go 300km/h and the Korean countryside just passes you by lol.

If the POP card says T-money on it then it should work with the Busan transit system.
Aventine is offline  
Old Apr 7, 18, 9:21 am
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: TYS
Programs: Delta, AA, Hilton
Posts: 149
Originally Posted by Aventine View Post
Depends what time you get in. Trains don't always leave from ICN all the way down to Busan. Very specific intervals. May have to take the airport express and change in Seoul to KTX. You go 300km/h and the Korean countryside just passes you by lol.

If the POP card says T-money on it then it should work with the Busan transit system.
Yeah, it's a T-Money card. I just kept it as a souvenir, but it's good to know I can actually use it again.

Understand I may have to transfer to the train station. I'll look at the schedule once I have a pretty good idea when I'll get in. Most likely early on a Tuesday morning if I get the flights I want.
Grogs is offline  
Old Apr 7, 18, 10:24 am
  #6  
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: New York
Programs: AA Exp / Marriott Titanium / MLife Gold / Hilton Gold / Hyatt Explorist / United Silver
Posts: 874
Originally Posted by Grogs View Post
Thanks. My company doesn't object to Korean Air specifically, just using non-US carriers when there is an alternative. Apparently "Delta flight XXXX operated by Korean Air" is fine, but booking "Korean Air flight YYYY" isn't. For whatever reason, there are no Delta code shares available from PUS-ICN that fit my itinerary. I imagine I would have the same problem with Air Busan.
.
DL 7876 / DL 7877 / DL 7878 / DL 7888 are all ICN-PUS codeshares.

You could also try AA 8427/ AA 8429 for JL's NRT-PUS flights.

But isn't there a short-flight exemption for Fly America Act?
samwise6222 is offline  
Old Apr 8, 18, 3:07 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea
Programs: KE Skypass Morning Calm Member, OZ Club, JL Mileage Bank
Posts: 1,703
KTX stopped trains from Incheon Airport as of last month. So now you have to take AREX Express or all stop train to Seoul Station, then take KTX from there.

Its about 50-70 minutes to Seoul Station depending which AREX train you take. Express train is every 20 minutes, so even thought it “saves time” you might be waiting around for it thus defeating any advantage.

There are trains to Busan that depart every 15-20 minutes. At peak times, like early morning, after work, Sat AM, Sun PM trains do sell out. You can always buy in advance and even get a refund after departure minus like a few thousand won (maybe 10% fee after departure?) if you find yourself late for your train.
Transpacificflyer likes this.
mikesaidyes is offline  
Old Apr 8, 18, 8:14 pm
  #8  
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Somewhere in Y class
Programs: OZ D+ Lifetime
Posts: 1,100
You may want to consider where in Busan is your final destination. The Busan/Gimhae airport is located outside of Busan. If you are staying near BEXCO for a conference, the Busan rail/subway station is closer, but still a good 30-50 subway/bus/taxi ride to BEXCO area. If you fly in to Busan/Gimhae, well there is most likely an airport limo bus that can take you to BEXCO area. It will be an hour or more.

If I was in your situation, I would take the plane. Several reasons. No need to move luggage onto a train and make a transfer with luggage at Seoul station. Also, immigration can be done at Busan/Gimhae airport (assuming you have checked your bags all the way to Busan). Immigration at Seoul can get busy at times. Busan's international airport rarely gets crazy. Lastly, the airport limo bus from Busan/Gimhae airport to your hotel is usually stress free and relaxing. The chairs in the bus are comparable to domestic(US) business class seats.

Having said this, if you want to take a scenic tour though Korea, I recommend a window seat on the KTX (first class). Cherry Blossom trees are now blooming.
nme7 is offline  
Old Apr 9, 18, 4:37 pm
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: TYS
Programs: Delta, AA, Hilton
Posts: 149
Thanks for all the advice. I talked to our corporate travel office about it this morning, and I was told I could fly to Seoul and take the train if I wanted. I really liked the flights I had to Seoul, so I decided to go ahead and do it. One big bonus is that when the travel agent went to book the flights, the premium select / domestic first fares came out cheaper than coach. I had been planning to buy up on the long flights, so I can't complain about getting it for free. I'll be arriving really early (4 AM) on a Tuesday morning, and I don't have anything to do in Busan until dinner. Hopefully the train will provide a bit of adventure to help pass the time. On the way out, I'll catch a flight at around 6:30 PM in Seoul so I shouldn't have to get up super early.

I won't be going until June (so no cherry blossoms), but hopefully there will still be some scenery to watch. First class on the KTX might be a bit tricky since they'll only reimburse me for the cheapest fare. On a plane ticket, it's easy because there's already a receipt for coach and I just pay the upgrade price out of pocket. I'll have to ask them how to do it if I decide to go with the first class.

BTW, are you saying it's possible to connect through Seoul, but not do immigration until Busan? I had assumed it would be like my trip to Jeju last year: clear customs/immigration, drag bags on the bus to the domestic terminal, re-check bags, go through security again, etc. Doesn't matter for this trip, but if I ever travel to Busan again it would be good to know.
Grogs is offline  
Old Apr 11, 18, 12:59 am
  #10  
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Somewhere in Y class
Programs: OZ D+ Lifetime
Posts: 1,100
That is correct, if you have a ticket from ICN to PUS, then immigration is handled at the end, PUS. This was changed within the last few years and now ICN/PUS flights are considered international flights in Korea. The ICN/PUS ticket usually can only be purchased with proof of a flight arriving or leaving ICN. Saves the hassle of going through immigration at ICN, and then getting on a bus to GMP airport to take a domestic flight to PUS.

As for the first class ticket on KTX, I would recommend purchasing the normal economy fare. Then go back to the ticket counter to upgrade it to First class. Pay the difference out of pocket. You may be able to purchase the Tickets Online online before. It is maybe USD $20~25? In First class, the seat layout is 1-2 arrangement. 'A' seats are solo, while 'B' and 'C' seats are together. If you have a choice, the A seats are preferred as it is both Aisle and Window. Btw, it is First Class in name only! Seats are roughly comparable to domestic airline biz seats. But still worth the upgrade as economy is cramped and I would not want to be stuck there for 3 hours.
nme7 is offline  
Old Apr 13, 18, 7:27 pm
  #11  
Four Seasons Contributor BadgeHyatt Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Parts Unknown
Posts: 6,603
First class KTX tickets are sooo worth it.
Aventine is offline  
Old Apr 18, 18, 1:46 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,486
Taking train to Busan might be the best way to avoid the zombies!
HawaiiO is offline  
Old Apr 18, 18, 6:54 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Somewhere in Y class
Programs: OZ D+ Lifetime
Posts: 1,100
Originally Posted by HawaiiO View Post
Taking train to Busan might be the best way to avoid the zombies!
Haha, what was the name of that movie?
nme7 is offline  
Old May 18, 18, 5:26 pm
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: TYS
Programs: Delta, AA, Hilton
Posts: 149
Originally Posted by nme7 View Post
That is correct, if you have a ticket from ICN to PUS, then immigration is handled at the end, PUS. This was changed within the last few years and now ICN/PUS flights are considered international flights in Korea. The ICN/PUS ticket usually can only be purchased with proof of a flight arriving or leaving ICN. Saves the hassle of going through immigration at ICN, and then getting on a bus to GMP airport to take a domestic flight to PUS.

As for the first class ticket on KTX, I would recommend purchasing the normal economy fare. Then go back to the ticket counter to upgrade it to First class. Pay the difference out of pocket. You may be able to purchase the Tickets Online online before. It is maybe USD $20~25? In First class, the seat layout is 1-2 arrangement. 'A' seats are solo, while 'B' and 'C' seats are together. If you have a choice, the A seats are preferred as it is both Aisle and Window. Btw, it is First Class in name only! Seats are roughly comparable to domestic airline biz seats. But still worth the upgrade as economy is cramped and I would not want to be stuck there for 3 hours.
I was looking at the korail website and I saw they had an option for foreigners to purchase a day pass. It said you could then go in and reserve seats and pay to upgrade to first class separately. That sounds perfect for my situation. I'll explore it a little more closely before I go and make sure that option will work. It's probably a bit more expensive than just purchasing the tickets directly, but mostly work just cares that I'm not submitting a first class ticket for reimbursement.

Originally Posted by nme7 View Post
Haha, what was the name of that movie?
I watched Train to Busan this weekend, so I feel prepared now. I'm wondering if I can get away with carrying an axe in my checked bag just in case.
Grogs is offline  
Old May 20, 18, 10:52 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea
Programs: KE Skypass Morning Calm Member, OZ Club, JL Mileage Bank
Posts: 1,703
Originally Posted by Grogs View Post
I was looking at the korail website and I saw they had an option for foreigners to purchase a day pass. It said you could then go in and reserve seats and pay to upgrade to first class separately. That sounds perfect for my situation. I'll explore it a little more closely before I go and make sure that option will work. It's probably a bit more expensive than just purchasing the tickets directly, but mostly work just cares that I'm not submitting a first class ticket for reimbursement.



I watched Train to Busan this weekend, so I feel prepared now. I'm wondering if I can get away with carrying an axe in my checked bag just in case.
Be careful with the pay to upgrade/available seats part. There are many trains from Seoul to Busan, BUT obviously not that many first class seats, so they do sell out more quickly. All seats open 30 days out!
mikesaidyes is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread