Welcome to the Luxury Backpack Guides! These guides bring you the best of a destination on a shoestring budget. Our ethos is that you can experience luxury for less, you just have to know the secrets, and through these guides all will be revealed!
Each guide will be a Q&A written by a different blogger who is an expert on luxury backpacking in the destination. If you would like to be featured please get in touch.
Hi Jen, Tell me about yourself and why you’re an expert on luxury backpacking in Busan, South Korea!
“I have been travelling since I was less than a year old! I have traveled solo all over Asia on a pretty modest budget, and saw a lot of places in a short period of time! In this particular post I am talking about the 2nd largest city in Korea. I have lived in Korea for a year, so I have more in depth knowledge of travel there, since I was a resident in the country.”
What made you choose to travel to Busan?
“I traveled to Busan during Seollal, which is the Lunar New Year in Korea, and it is a very popular time for people to travel. I did not know how many vacation days I would have to spare, so I didn’t bother booking any travel outside of Korea. There was a last minute schedule change at my work, and it turns out I got 5 days off. That was at least enough time to make a small trip to Japan. Then I looked at how much the tickets cost, and went “NOPE, that’s not happening”… then I thought to myself, “Well… I could just stay within Korea…where have I not visited yet?” Then I remembered I never made it to Busan.”
Why should people visit Busan?
- Scenery- Located by the seaside you get to see some wicked views
- Nightlife- Considered the Miami of Korea, plenty of places to drink and dance
- Beaches- The two major being Gwangalli and Haeundae
- Food- Hot pork bone soup, seafood and Korean pancakes (hotteok) to name a few
- Hot Springs- This is what I spent my entire trip doing!
- Gorgeous Temples- This city has some of the more unique temples I’ve ever seen
Getting there…what is the most effective and best value way of getting to Busan?
“If you are coming to Busan from Seoul you have a few options. Busan has regular flights from Incheon airport, the only negative is the airport in Busan is not very centrally located. Pricewise, it is the same as taking the KTX (Korea’s high speed rail). When I travelled to Busan, I took the more economical option of the bus. I decided to take the night bus, so I could spend my time sleeping on it, however I ended up arriving into Busan at about 4am. Time your bus or train journey carefully!”
Tell me about the best hostels and low budget hotels that deliver luxe for less…
“As I mentioned above, I ended up arriving in to Busan MUCH earlier than I had originally expected. The wonderful thing about Korea, is you can crash at spa/bathhouses called jjimjilbangs. They are super inexpensive, and depending on which one you are going to, some you can definitely sneak in some zzz’s! When staying overnight I chose to stay at a wonderful hostel called Blue Backpacker’s hostel. It was incredibly quaint, had a great kitchen for use as well. The location of the hostel was in a pretty lively part of the city (Seomyeon).”
What did you love most about the food in Busan? Are there any must-try dishes?
“Busan is known for its seafood, as well as its pancakes named Ssiat Hotteok. Both of these foods you can get from Jagalchi Market.
When visiting you must go visit Gukbap Alley within Haeundae Market, it has rows of little restaurants serving up pork bone soup, which is also one of Busan’s specialties.
Another recommendation is Changseondong Meokja Golmok which is eating alley, you can eat delicious food made right in front of you in little stalls!
There were, however, 2 restaurants that I absolutely adored; there’s this little bakery called OPS that serves up breakfasts for -₩5,000, it included coffee, toast and quiche or salad ($1 USD is approximately -₩1,100)! Near the hostel I stayed at I had some of the most delicious Asian fusion at Pan Asia. It was a bit tricky to find, but oh so worth it when we did!”
Drinking & Nightlife
“Busan being a party city, it has countless places to drink. There was an interesting bar near the hostel I stayed at called Sake Dining Bar. The decor inside was Japanese themed with lots of sake bottles displayed.
To check out bars, it is best to stick to areas you are planning to stay out all night, or close to your accommodations, otherwise cab rides will get expensive.
You can give a ring to the handy Korea travel hotline (dial 1330) and ask for the best nearest bar near you!
Busan is known for its nightlife, so there are many areas within the city you could go out for a night of fun. There are areas where you could party with students and are most economical, which are near Busan National University and Kyungsung University. Close to both Haeundae and Gwangalli beaches are the more upscale cocktail bars and clubs.”
What do you recommend for the adventure traveller?
“I recommend right off the bat hiking to Seokbulsa Temple. This hike takes about 4 to 4.5 hours depending on your fitness level. Once I reached the entrance, it was absolutely worth all the effort I went through. Buddhist figures were carved right onto the face of the mountain I was standing on! It was magnificent, I actually could not believe what I was looking at! Those carvings were not only huge, they were detailed.”
What are your picks of the tourist spots?
“Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is a total must.
This temple was etched into seaside cliffs. When I arrived there it was even more beautiful than what I was expecting! There were parts of the temple that were being renovated and was under construction. However, it did not matter, the natural beauty of the seaside combined with the traditional Korean architecture made for a breathtaking experience.
Hur Shim Chung Spa is possibly the most relaxing place I have ever visited period!
This jjimjilbang was located within a hotel. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but once I was inside I was completely blown away! This place resembled one of those massive roman baths! With high glass ceilings and marble statues adorning the place. I didn’t even know where to begin!
I took turns trying out all the different hot tubs and saunas.
One of the things I noticed here was they had a waterfall wall. People stood under and positioned themselves accordingly to massage themselves with the pressure of the water. I had to try it out! The water pressure felt great!, I could understand why people didn’t want to give up their spots easily.
Next up I visited the outdoor hot spring, man did this feel nice!
Especially since I was visiting in the winter, when it is cold outside. The difference in the outside temperature and the water felt divine! Next I went back inside to check out the different saunas. There were both wet and dry saunas here. There was also showers with hot and cold water, that has multiple jets to give you a full body experience. I ended up spending 5 hours at this jjimjilbang! I didn’t want to leave, and the only reason I did was so I could get some dinner. I felt like this was it, there was absolutely no hotspring jjjimjilbang that will impress me more than this place did! Oh and did I mention the admission fee was only 8,000 won!”
Are there any great markets or shops you recommend?
“Near the hostel I stayed at, there was a large underground shopping center (Seomyeon underground mall). You’ll find a lot of fashion and beauty related goods here, for pretty awesome prices.
For getting a more traditional market experience from Korea try visiting Busanjin Market. They are well known for hanbok, which is the traditional attire in Korea. This is by far the best play to get your souvenirs and many, many stalls to choose from!
I also recommend checking out Shinsegae Department store within Centum city. If shopping in a mall doesn’t do anything for you, this place is also home to Spa Land, which is a total MUST visit while in Busan (it was featured on CNN!).”
Where would you go to capture some great photographs?
“I can recommend checking out Haeundae beach for an awesome sunrise. While you are in the area make sure to check out Vesta Spa, this spa was on my list, because it was supposed to have a magnificent view of Haeundae Beach. The view was indeed magical. Seeing the beach lit up from the bird’s eye view was just amazing.”
Hints and Tips…
Do you have any tips for luxury backpackers in Busan?
“Busan is in Korea, and Korea is actually very easy on your wallet if you know where to go! Busan is known for its beaches and hot springs. Neither of these options will hurt your wallet! Also eating in Busan is very cheap, just make sure to go where locals are and avoid eating foreign foods to stay on budget.
Busan also has an amazing public transportation system, so there is really no need to worry about getting around. If staying out late, cabs are pretty inexpensive.”
And lastly: describe Busan in one sentence!
“Busan is incredibly scenic and cheap!”
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