10 Things to Know When Traveling Solo in Busan, South Korea

The author along the coast of Busan

Updated April 14, 2017 — Filipinos love to do things in groups: eat, study, stroll, and most importantly, travel. When we see seat sales, we drag our family and friends along and hope our bosses would allow us to take a leave on the same date for the same excuse.

But what happens when suddenly none of your supposed travel companions could come? Anything could happen: too much work, denied visa, or no cash to spend.

It’s what happened to me recently when I embarked on a trip to Busan, the second biggest city of South Korea. I’ve traveled solo before in the Philippines, but I’ve hesitated to consider an outbound travel on my own.

Luckily, Busan is a very safe city. Its level of crime is “Very Low” in almost the same level as Seoul, according to Numbeo, which aggregates user-generated data on cities and countries. Unlike Seoul, though, the city has a mix of laid-back and metropolitan culture that you can liken to how Cebu is in the Philippines.

It’s definitely worth a shot for solo travelers especialy women. And here are a few things to know on how you can further enjoy your stay in the city:

1. Busan’s convenient transport system

Just like Seoul, Busan implements a prepaid card that you can use for train, bus, and taxi and to purchase items in convenience stores. I used Cash Bee throughout my stay in Busan.

READ: 6 Itineraries to Try in You First Time in South Korea

2. When lost, ask the next kid you see on the street

View from Busan Tower

I’ve noticed that English-speaking locals are hard to come by in Busan. You’d notice a language barrier, although there are some general signages and voiceovers in English. When you ever need information from locals especially when you get lost, ask among the younger locals, who are more attuned to English. That would avoid you getting lost in translation.

Aside from the ever-reliable Google Map (best to search for your train and bus itineraries), bringing a hard copy of a map can still be essential and convenient. You may find a free one in tourist information centers. A map also makes for a lovely souvenir, reminding you that you’ve survived solo travel in Busan.

3. Busan has a mega fish market

Jagalchi Fish Market

Local markets provide a glimpse of Busan’s daily trade. One of the most popular, the Jagalchi Fish Market, is similar to our dampa and Tokyo’s Tsukiji market. I like Jagalchi more Noryangjin Market in Seoul.

Fish served here are the freshest, and it should rightly be:the market distributes somewhere between 30% and 50% of South Korea’s fish requirements, according to the Korea Tourism Organization.

4. When eating alone, you could order half

When eating alone and the menu mostly gives you for-sharing items, ask if you could order half.

Typical Korean sashimi mixed with shiso leaves and offered with a myriad of kimchi side dishes in Busan

5. Beating the loneliness by meeting fellow solo travelers

With newly found friends from China and Switzerland

One of the things that removes the loneliness in solo travel is the opportunity to meet fellow travelers like you at the hotel. I stayed at a backpacker’s hostel in Nampo District, near Jagalchi Fish Market, where I made friends with fellow solo travelers from China, South Korea, and Switzerland. Try to hang out with your newfound friends over Korean draft beers or Magkeolli, if you want something other than Soju.

6. Busan’s coast is perfect for sunset viewing

Haeundae Beach in Busan is perhaps South Korea’s most popular beach destination, with most visitors coming between June and August during summer. Stretching 1.5 kilometers long, it is the perfect place to hang around on a lazy afternoon after your day tour before heading for dinner or the hotel.

Aside from Heundae Beach, you can also hang out in Taejongdae, with its marveloues cliffs that you’ll love!


7. Koreans have their own spa

jjimjilbang korea spa sauna bath bathhouse busan
Update: Hill Spa is one of the most popular jjimjilbang facilities in Busan

Like Taiwan and Japan, Koreans have their own public baths called jjimjilbang where you can stay for as long as 12 hours for a very affordable price. Plenty abound in Busan that you can try, including this one.

8. You should visit nearby cities outside Busan

Cliffs surrounding Busan offer a fantastic view of the strait between Korea and Japan

Travelers often underestimate the power of planning out one’s itinerary. A principle I often follow is to visit the farthest destinations first, which gives me enough flexibility in my last days that I can use for shopping or last-minute attractions to see. Outside Busan, you may want to explore first the nearby cities of Daegu, South Korea’s third largest city; or Gyeongju, host to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites; or even Seoul, which you can reach via train or bus.

READ: Gyeongju: The Forgotten Korean Capital

9. Busan is very near Japan

Did you know there are regular ferries between Busan and Fukuoka, Japan? The 3-hour travel time across the Tsushima Strait is not cheap, though, so it’s best to assess whether this is a practical option over taking the plane.

10. There are no zombies in Busan – definitely SAFE. 😝

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7 thoughts on “10 Things to Know When Traveling Solo in Busan, South Korea

  1. Pingback: 7 new hotels to look out for in 2016 in the Philippines | WorkaLife

  2. Pingback: 3 ways to get around in Busan – Workalife

  3. Mabuhay! What an excellent post! So cool that you got the chance to tour around Busan on your own. What did you think about the coffee culture there? SO many coffee shops! I love coffee but in the Philippines I always look for aircon to enjoy my coffee because the heat is too much for me.

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  4. Hi Alana, that’s a nice observation. Yes there are loads of cafes in South Korea, and their coffee appreciation seems to be deeper (not to mention a little bit more expensive) than in the Philippines. You can easily find cafes offering drip coffee and advanced techniques aside from dozens of retail brands some of which like Caffe Bene, Cafe Pascucci, and Tous Le Jours are already in Manila. Exciting place to satisfy your caffeine fix!

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  5. Pingback: How Far Can Your Budget Take You? In South Korea, 6 Destinations in 8 Days – Workalife

  6. Emily Anne

    Lovely post! I’ll be traveling Busan alone this coming August. Since I won’t be staying in a hostel, I was wondering if you knew of other means to get in contract with other solo travelers or even locals willing to meet foreigners?

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