South Korea

Scenic and Historic Destinations Worth Every Won

Scenic and Historic Destinations Worth Every Won

Busan is a city in southern South Korea. With a population of over 3 million, Busan is the second largest city (by population) after the capital Seoul. The city’s location along the coast makes it a popular summer destination for locals and tourists alike. However, many people still jog, walk, and even swim at the beach during the cooler months of the year. The city itself has a lot to offer tourists for a few days. There are ancient temples, beaches, scenic trails, quaint sidewalks, vibrant street food, the Busan International Film Festival and other attractions. Here, you can also visit other popular tourist destinations like Gyeongju.

Guangari Beach.Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler
get a visa

You will need a visa to enter South Korea and travel on your own; however, there are some exceptions that allow you to visit South Korea without a visa. First of all, Filipinos need to fly in and out of Yangyang International Airport with a travel package booked through a designated travel agency. Filipinos can also enter Jeju Island visa-free, as long as Jeju Island is also their point of entry and exit.

If you intend to obtain a visa, the following are general requirements:

  • application form
  • 1 passport-sized color photo
  • original passport
  • Copy of passport personal data page (page 2)
  • Original and photocopies (if applicable) of valid visas and entry stamps for the past five years to OECD member countries
  • Original personal bank certificate (must include account type, current balance, account opening date, ADB)
  • Bank statement (original or certified true copy of the last three months)
  • Copy of ITR (Income Tax Return) or Form 2316

Requirements vary depending on your category.

*You can check the embassy website here to see which category you fall into.

*The embassy announces that applicants must make an appointment online. Read more announcements here.

*You can make an appointment online through the following methods.

*You can also apply for a visa through an approved travel agency. This is a list.

Into Busan

Philippine Airlines (PAL) has direct flights from Manila. Book during seat sales to get the lowest possible prices. You can also choose to fly to Seoul first and then catch another flight to Busan. If you feel that two air tickets are too expensive, you can take the land route from Seoul to Busan. There is a direct bus from Incheon Airport to Busan. The fare is about KRW45,000 and can be booked at the airport. If you are already in Seoul, you can take the train. The fastest train to Busan is KTX; the one-way fare is as high as KRW60,000. Slower trains are cheaper but take longer (of course) and cost around KRW32,000. If your flight departs from Seoul, you can return the same way.

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Overlooking the urban sprawl of Busan.Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler
Around Busan

With its railway and bus network, traveling around Busan is easy and convenient. My public transport of choice is the subway, even though some stops are 1km or more from my actual destination. The metro network is easier to navigate than taking the bus. You can buy a day pass for around 5,000 won. With this ticket, you can walk from one end of Busan to the other. It’s cheap and convenient to do as much sightseeing as possible during your visit. However, some attractions need to take the bus. You can use your Cashbee or Tmoney card whenever you take the bus or subway. A card costs about 2,500 won. You can top it up when you run out of money.


I like Busan more than Seoul. It’s a big city, but some parts of it are right next to the beach. Its location along the coast gives the city a cool vibe. A day pass for the Metro makes it easy and affordable for tourists to get anywhere they want in the city. It’s also a hub for trips to nearby cities like Daegu and Gyeongju that you might want to visit. For this guide, you will visit the latter for at least two days.

*This tour assumes you start with a full day.

first day

Spend your first day by exploring the urban sprawl of Busan. As South Korea’s second most populous city, you’ll find plenty of markets and sidewalks for locals and tourists alike. Nampodong Market, BIFF, Gwangbok-ro and Seomyeon are some great places to eat, shop (or actually shop) or just walk around. Here you will find local restaurants, shops, fast food restaurants, street food and neon lights. There is a subway station near the west, and Nampo-dong, Guangfu Road and BIFF are all near the Nampo subway station and can be reached on foot. Not far from Nampo Station is another famous market in Busan – Jagalchi. The latter is a huge fish market (actually the largest in Korea). Vendors sell a variety of seafood that you can buy. Then you can cook it and serve it. Portions are large and good for groups.

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40 steps to the Cultural Tourism Theme Street.Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

Take the subway to Jungang and head to the quaint parts of the city. Go to Level 40 Cultural Tourism Theme Street. This seemingly ordinary staircase is actually very important to the city’s history during and after the Korean War. Many refugee families will be reunited on these steps. This area is now home to a number of cafés and shops. Not far away is Baoshuidong Book Lane. It started with just one bookstore, and more have popped up since the 1950s. Although most of the books here are in Korean, it’s a nice place to wander.

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Baoshuidong Book Lane.Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

End the first day of Gamcheon Cultural Village tour. This quaint neighborhood features colorful homes perched on the cliffs. During your travels here, you’ll find art shops, cafes, restaurants and more. The best time is just before sunset, when the changing colors of the sun provide the perfect backdrop for the colorful houses. It’s quite far from the city center, but you can get there by public transport. Get off at Doseong Subway Station and walk to Busan National University Hospital. Take the 2, 2-2 or 1-1 bus at the stop near the hospital.

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Gamcheon Cultural Village.Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

day 2

Spend the second day visiting several beaches and a temple. Haeundae and Gwangari Beach are popular attractions in any season. Depending on the season, you can go for a walk or swim and other water activities along the coast. If you want to grab a snack or have a picnic, there are restaurants and food stalls nearby. Depending on the pace of your day’s travels, you could easily spend hours at either stop. You can also walk all the way from Haeundae Beach to Dongbaek Island, as a short walk, with the city as the background and a panoramic view of the coast.

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Dongbaek Island.Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

From Haeundae Subway Station, take bus No. 181 to Haedong Yonggungsa. This striking temple on a cliff is one of the most beautiful in Korea. Its history dates back to 14day century (circa 1370s). During a tour of the complex, you’ll find common statues and structures related to Buddhism. The temple’s popularity attracts crowds throughout the day, but it’s still a noteworthy addition to your itinerary. You can end your day here watching the sunset.

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Haidong Longgong Temple.Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

3rd day

Visited several temples on the third day in Busan. Take the metro to Tongdosa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, then head to Nopo Station. Go to the central bus station and catch a bus bound for Tondosa; the fare is approximately KRW2,500 one way. This destination is one of the Sambosa Temples in Korea, the other two being Songgwangsa Temple and Haeinsa Temple. It dates back to 646, when a monk established it after traveling in China. The entrance fee is KRW3,000.

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Tondoza complex.Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

Return to the subway station and get off at Beomeosa. After leaving the station, you can take the No. 90 bus to the temple. The temple complex is part of Caoxizong. The complex is beautifully landscaped and peaceful with halls, pagodas and gates.

Return to your accommodation to retrieve your luggage before taking the bus to Gyeongju. There are direct buses from Busan to Gyeongju. Take one from the Central Bus Terminal near Nopo MRT Station. The one-way fare is about KRW4,800.

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Detail of the temple.Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

fourth day

Gyeongju is a small city compared to Busan and Seoul, but it is a city with a rich history.It was the capital of the Kingdom of Silla when they ruled most of Korea in the 7th centuryday to 9day century. Fast forward to today, and you’ll see remnants of the city’s rich history, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, during your tour.

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Zhanxingtai.Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

Gyeongju is small enough to do it all in one day, but I recommend two full days so you don’t have to rush all over the place. Once in the city center, you’ll immediately notice ancient tombs dating back to the Silla Kingdom. You can enter one of these mounds for about KRW3,000. Inside you’ll see displays of ancient relics. You can see Cheomseongdae in a few minutes’ walk.The latter is a century-old observatory dating back to the 7th century ADday century. Another nearby attraction is the Moon Pond, which was once part of the palace complex during the reign of the Silla Kingdom. The entrance fee is KRW3,000.

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mound.Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

You can add Bulguksa Temple and Seokguram to your itinerary. Take bus No. 10 or No. 11 from the Intercity Bus Terminal to Bulguksa Temple. Then you can hike to Seokguram. Both temples are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The entrance fee for each attraction is KRW5,000. These sites also feature walking trails that are scenic.

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Seokguram.Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

fifth day

Take a half-day tour from Gyeongju to nearby Yangdong village. Take bus No. 203 from the Intercity Bus Station to the village. The entrance fee is KRW4,000. The village is centuries old, dating back to the 15day century. Here you will see the traditional houses where nobles once lived against the backdrop of nature. Walk around and soak up the atmosphere while learning about how Koreans used to live. If you have time, you can enjoy a traditional meal or stay overnight here. After a few hours in Gyeongju, board a bus bound for Busan.

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Yangdong Village.Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler

sixth day

Depending on your flight time and whether or not your flight back to Manila is in Seoul, shop for last-minute souvenirs in Busan.

How much will you spend?

You can work with a budget of KRW45,000 or around P1,800 per day. You’ll stay in hostel dormitories, dine at local markets and occasional restaurants, and take public transport for a short walk. You can also visit multiple attractions on this budget. This does not include flights. Depending on your overall budget, spending can be reduced. Busan and Gyeongju are affordable and good value Korean destinations. It is possible to combine the two with a longer trip that includes Seoul. You’ll spend more if you stay in a private room, take taxis, shop, go out every night, and eat at restaurants for all your meals.

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East Market.Photo by Joshua Berida/Rappler
budget tips
  • Consider living in a dorm instead of a private room.
  • Buy day passes to visit different parts of the city.
  • Visit most of Busan’s attractions for free, such as the beach and Gamcheon Cultural Village.
  • Buy food from some stalls in Busan and Gyeongju markets.
  • Choose accommodation within walking distance of a subway station.


Joshua Berida is a writer who loves to travel. His blog is at

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