Months prior to our trip, I’d bought our ferry tickets from Fukuoka/Hakata*, Japan, to Busan, South Korea, online at http://www.aferry.com/jr-kyushu-beetle-ferry.htm. This site makes buying international tickets easy for English-speakers and I found the fares to be actually cheaper than on the Japanese and Korean sites. Both Japan and Korea offer daily ferry routes between Hakata and Busan. The Korean fare is slightly cheaper, but the Japanese “JR Beetle” runs twice daily and offered a more convenient time for us, so I went with that.
[*Hakata is the former name of the city of Fukuoka and both the train station and a port are still called Hakata. This can be a bit confusing when you’re looking for trains as well as ferries since the natural inclination is to look for the name of the city as it is currently known.]
Instructions with our tickets informed us that we needed to be at the port at least 45 minutes prior to departure with printed ticket receipt in hand. Our hotel recommended we arrive an hour early. On a rainy morning, we caught a cab from the truly-lovely Grand Hyatt Fukuoka to the Hakata Port and found ourselves in a nearly-empty modern facility. Apparently, we had more than enough time.
At the service counter, we exchanged our printed receipt for a real ticket and we were charged an expected fuel surcharge of approximately $20pp then escorted to a nearby machine to pay an additional $5pp for a government tax.
We were directed to a 2nd floor waiting area where we eventually showed the receipt from the machine to emigration along with our passports before being allowed into a second waiting area with several duty-free shops. Downstairs from this waiting area was yet another waiting area by the entrance to the pier.
I’d seen photos of the JR Beetle, but I was still a little surprised at how small the hydrofoil seemed for this 3-hour crossing of the Sea of Japan. With the weather increasingly inclement from yet another typhoon to the south, I had to wonder how smooth this crossing would be.
We were a little disappointed to find the so-called “food service” offered no more than a few snacks and a pack of sandwiches. Opting for the sandwiches and a beer, we settled into our lunch soon realizing that eating was a little tricky in the not-all-that-smooth ride. We hurried to finish our lunch before we got further out into open waters.
Within 15 minutes of departure, a couple across from us was visibly sick. They disappeared not to be seen again during the voyage. Moments after they left, a woman walking down the aisle fell into David’s tray, sweeping his beer to the floor. She refused to stay down, though, getting up to fall several more times before a ferry attendant got her back to her seat. But not for long. She was up and falling several times during the journey. Meanwhile a young couple ahead of us started making multiple trips to the bathroom, he gripping her upper arm firmly in support. David and I watched all this, hoping we wouldn’t be next. Fortunately, we were fine and even dozed off during the jostling ride.
Despite the rough trip, we arrived in Busan on time. The terminal in Busan is even larger and more impressive than the Hakata Port.
It’s an easy walk from the Busan ferry terminal to the huge Busan train station. Turn left out of the ferry terminal past the taxis and then cross the drive into the terminal before taking the crosswalk across the main street to the blue-windowed Busan Station. The first elevators you come to will go up to the north side of the station, but you’ll have to go around to the front to enter the station. A second column of elevators (further down the main road away from the ferry terminal) will take you to an entrance to Busan Station main hall (and a nice viewing platform offering photo ops of the new Harbor Bridge). Our hotel, Almond Busan Hotel, was just beyond Busan Station, so cutting through the station made for a quick, easy walk.