| |

Busan or Jeju Island? Which South Korean Gem Should You Choose?

Busan or Jeju Island – the ultimate showdown for your next Korean getaway! Planning a trip to South Korea but torn between the city and beachy vibes of Busan and the tranquil natural beauty of Jeju Island?

In this post I’m going to break down these two South Korean gems, weighing the pros and cons to help you decide on your dream destination!

With insider tips and firsthand experiences having recently traveled around South Korea, I’ll help you make the decision that is best for you.

From beachside seafood feasts to mountain hikes, interesting cities to serene landscapes, spoiler alert, no matter which destination you choose there is plenty to explore.

Let the Busan vs. Jeju Island showdown begin!

South Korea Travel Essentials 

  • Now, staying connected is a must, right? Pick up a 4G SIM card with unlimited data (KT) or 4G SIM (SKT) at Seoul or Busan airport. But if you prefer to connect multiple devices, rent a 4G Pocket WiFi. Reserve in advance to save time!
  • Grab your T Money Card from the airport to make getting around South Korea a breeze. Your T Money card is your ticket to Korea’s subways, buses and taxis. Easily top up your card at the subway station machines. 
  • Buy a discounted KTX pass for unlimited high-speed train rides. It’ll whisk you from Seoul to Busan in under 2.5 hours. Now, that’s the way to travel!
  • Book your airport pickup in advance for a more cost-effective journey. Gimhae Airport is far from the city centre and Uber’s aren’t available, plus a taxi will cost you big bucks. 
  • Google MapsRome 2 Rio and Kakao Maps will be your best friends for getting around South Korea

Check out my Ultimate 10 Days In South Korea Itinerary now!

Busan or Jeju Island? The Ultimate Comparison

Now, let’s unravel the intricacies of these two incredible South Korean destinations, providing you with the insights you need to make the decision between Busan and Jeju Island.

Getting There from Seoul

So, you’re ready to explore South Korea beyond Seoul? Well, you’ve got two awesome options: Busan or Jeju Island. Let’s talk about how to get there.

First up, Busan. Getting to Busan from Seoul is a breeze. You can hop on the KTX bullet train from Seoul, and in just over two and a half hours, you’ll be soaking up the sun on Busan’s beaches. This is what I did and it was super convenient and affordable.

If you prefer flying or are arriving from somewhere other than Seoul, Gimhae International Airport has got you covered.

Now, onto Jeju Island. Getting to this paradise is a bit different. You’ll likely need to catch a flight from either Gimpo or Incheon International Airport.

Or, for a more scenic route, take a ferry from the mainland. But this will take a tad longer, I’m talking anywhere from 3-5 to 11 hours.

🏆 Arriving From Seoul Verdict

Ultimately, it is cheaper, faster, and easier to hop on a train from Seoul to Busan instead of flying or catching the ferry to Jeju Island. Point to Busan!

Things To Do: Busan vs Jeju Island

Alright, let’s dive into the fun stuff!

In Busan, you’ve got a ton of options. Whether you’re a beach bum, history geek or foodie, you won’t be bored.

Hit up Haeundae Beach for some sun and surf, explore ancient temples like Beomeosa and Haedong Yonggungsa, get lost in the colorful Gamcheon Cultural Village, or chow down on fresh seafood at Jagalchi Fish Market. And don’t forget to check out the vibrant nightlife and shopping in Seomyeon!

Must-Do Activities in Busan

✔️ Gamcheon Cultural Village
✔️ Haeundae Beach
✔️ Jagalachi Fish Markets
✔️ Haedong Yonggungsa
✔️ Shopping and Nightlife in Seomyeon

Grab your 5 days in Busan itinerary now!

Now, onto Jeju Island. Get ready to be blown away by Mother Nature.

From hiking the dramatic Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak to exploring lava tubes at Manjanggul Cave, there are plenty of epic outdoor adventures.

And if you’re into culture, don’t miss the Jeju Folk Village Museum or the quirky Jeju Stone Park. Oh, and did I mention the beaches? They mimic the beaches of Hawaii.

Must-Do Activities in Jeju Island

✔️ Hike Hallasan Mountain
✔️ Explore Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak)
✔️ Relax at Hyeopjae Beach
✔️ Manjanggul Lava Tubes
✔️ Check out Jeongbang Waterfall

🏆 Things To Do Verdict

Busan offers loads of attractions to explore and boasts a faster-paced vibe compared to Jeju Island. On the flip side, Jeju is all about embracing a slower pace, immersing yourself in breathtaking nature, and indulging in outdoor adventures. It’s up to you!

Transport: Busan and Jeju Island

Getting around Busan is a piece of cake thanks to its awesome public transport system. Even I found it easy and I can be a tad geographically challenged when it comes to public transport! Hop on a bus or the subway, or just flag down a taxi (they are pretty affordable).

Although, Busan isn’t the most walkable city as it is quite spread out, so getting around on foot to each of the top attractions isn’t really an option.

As for Jeju Island, transport is a bit more varied and can be a little messier. Renting a car is the best option and gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace, but if you’re not comfortable behind the wheel or don’t have the funds, don’t worry!

➡️ Rent your car for your trip to Jeju Island here!

Jeju has a solid bus network but no metro. Just be prepared to spend a little more time getting around if you stick to public transport. But hey, if all else fails, there are always taxis!

🏆 Transport Verdict

If you prefer public transport Busan is better, alternatively if you like the freedom of driving, consider Jeju Island.

Local woman cooking authentic Korean street food in Busan


Let’s talk about food. In Busan, it’s all about the seafood. Seriously, you’re in for an experience tasting steamed live octopus at Jagalchi Fish Market. And then there’s dwaeji-gukbap (pork soup with rice) – it’s to die for!

Over on Jeju Island, you’re in for a treat. Literally. Black pork is the name of the game here, and you’ll find it in everything from barbecue to hot pot. And of course, you can’t visit Jeju without trying some fresh seafood. From haemul pajeon (seafood pancake) to grilled abalone, you’re going to eat well here.

🏆 Food Verdict

If you’re a foodie, Jeju Island is for you!

Views from an apartment building in Jeju City one of the best spots to stay
Jeju City


I found finding a place to crash in Busan an easy and surprisingly affordable process. The city offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference.

Whether you’re looking for a luxury hotel in Haeundae Beach with breathtaking ocean views or a cozy guesthouse in Nampo Dong, you’ll find it in Busan.

Popular areas I recommend you stay include Haeundae, with its beachfront resorts, and Seomyeon, known for its vibrant nightlife and convenient location.

My Recommended Stays in Busan

📍 Park Hyatt (Luxury hotel in Haeundae with unbeatable views!)

📍Lotte Hotel Busan (Mid-range Hotel Seomyeon with all the amenities)

📍 The Shire Hotel (Located in Seomyeon this budget hotel is best for convenience. This is where I stayed!)

Over on Jeju Island, you can choose from luxury 5-star resorts in Jeju City, charming boutique hotels along the southern coast, or budget-friendly guesthouses scattered across the island.

If you’re into nature, consider staying in a cozy pension in Jeju’s countryside. Or, for a more laid-back vibe, opt for a beachfront bungalow overlooking the ocean.

Popular areas in Jeju include tranquil Seogwipo, convenient Jeju City, and beautiful Udo in the countryside.

My Recommended Stays in Jeju Island

📍Grand Hyatt Jeju (Luxury 5-star resort in Jeju City)

📍 J Raum Resort (Mid-range hotel in Seogwipo with sea views)

📍 Hundert Hills (3-star resort in a gorgeous location)

🏆 Accommodation Verdict

Busan offers more budget-friendly options, while Jeju Island provides a more unique stay in nature. If you want resort living where you barely need to leave, Jeju Island is for you.

Busan and Jeju both have stunning mountains but the mountains in Jeju are far superior and better for hiking.
Jeju Island Mountains

Cost: Jeju Island Vs Busan

Let’s talk moolah, shall we?

When it comes to cost, Busan is generally more budget-friendly than Jeju Island. You’ll find a wide range of accommodation options to fit every budget, from affordable guesthouses to mid-range hotels and luxury resorts. Dining out is also wallet-friendly, with plenty of cheap eats and street food stalls serving up delicious Korean cuisine at bargain prices.

Plus, getting around the city is cheap thanks to its public transport.

Jeju Island, on the other hand, can be a bit pricier, especially during peak tourist season. Accommodation rates tend to be higher, especially for beachfront resorts and luxury hotels. Dining out can also be more expensive, although you’ll still find plenty of affordable options if you know where to look.

That said, the cost of transport can add up fast, especially if you’re relying on taxis or rental cars to get around the island. But hey, with all the natural beauty and unique experiences Jeju has to offer, it’s totally worth splurging a little!

🏆 Cost Verdict

Busan tends to be more budget-friendly, while Jeju Island may require a bit more spending for its unique experiences.

Nightlife: Busan or Jeju Island?

Ready to paint the town red? Busan’s got you covered with its vibrant nightlife scene. From trendy rooftop bars and cozy pubs to bustling night markets and live music venues, Busan has the variety.

Head to Seomyeon for a taste of Busan’s nightlife, or hit up the beachfront bars and clubs in Haeundae for a night to remember. And don’t forget to finish the night with some late-night snacks at a local pojangmacha (street food stall) – because nothing beats a bowl of steaming hot tteokbokki after a night of partying!

Jeju Island may be more laid-back than Busan, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in nightlife. In fact, the island boasts a vibrant nightlife scene of its own, with beachfront bars, cozy cafes, and live music venues scattered across the island.

Head to the bustling streets of Jeju City for a taste of the local nightlife, or relax with a cocktail at a beachfront bar overlooking the sea. And if you’re feeling adventurous, why not join a traditional Jeju folk music performance or try your hand at some Korean karaoke? The possibilities are endless!

🏆 Nightlife Verdict

Busan offers a vibrant more typical nightlife scene, while Jeju Island provides a more laid-back yet still memorable scene

Haeundae beach in Busan is one of the best spots in Korea to visit during summer
Haeundae Beach, Busan

Best Time to Visit

When’s the best time to visit Busan? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for.

If you’re itching to hit the beach, the summer months of June to August are ideal, with warm weather and plenty of sunshine, perfect for swimming. Plus, you can catch some epic beach festivals and events, like the Haeundae Sand Festival and the Busan Sea Festival.

Spring and autumn (when I visited) are also great times to visit, with mild temperatures and fewer crowds, perfect for exploring all the other key attractions. And if you’re visiting Busan in winter there is still plenty to do with its festive atmosphere.

As for Jeju Island, autumn is undoubtedly the best season. It’s perfect for hiking and lounging by the beach.

Whilst you may think Spring is also a great time, the air quality is notoriously bad.

If you’re into hiking, consider winter, with fewer crowds and the chance to see snow-capped mountains and icy waterfalls.

🏆 Best Time To Visit Verdict

Busan’s can be enjoyed year around whereas autumn is by far the best season to enjoy Jeju Island.

✔️ Flights: Book your flights on Skyscanner 

➡️ Car rental: Rent your car on DiscoverCars

✔️ Travel insurance: I recommend World Nomads

➡️ Accommodations: Book your stay at booking.com

✔️ Activities: Arrange your adventure trips and tours

Pros and Cons of Busan and Jeju Island

Jeju IslandBusan
Pros– Stunning natural landscapes– Vibrant city life
– Beautiful beaches– Gorgeous beaches
– Unique volcanic terrain– Rich cultural heritage
– Peaceful atmosphere– Delicious seafood
– Diverse outdoor activities– Exciting nightlife
Cons– Remote location may require longer travel– Crowded during peak tourist seasons
– Limited public transport– Limited natural attractions compared to Jeju
– Accommodation can be more expensive– Less tranquil compared to Jeju

Outdoor markets at Jagalachi Fish Market in Busan
Jagalchi Fish Market, Busan

FAQs: Busan vs Jeju Island?

Moving onto some commonly asked questions about traveling to Busan or Jeju Island.

Which is better to visit Busan or Jeju?

Ah, the classic dilemma! If you crave city vibes, bustling markets, jam-packed itineraries, and vibrant nightlife, Busan’s your spot.

But if you’re all about natural beauty, serene beaches, and laid-back island life, Jeju Island is where it’s at.

Both have their charms, so why not visit both and experience the best of both worlds?

Is it worth to go to Jeju Island?

Absolutely! Jeju Island is like a little slice of paradise right here in South Korea. From stunning beaches and dramatic landscapes to unique cultural attractions and mouthwatering cuisine, there’s something for everyone here.

Jeju Island is definitely worth a visit.

How many days do you need in Busan and Jeju?

Well, it really depends on how much time you have and what you want to see and do.

In Busan, you could easily spend a few days exploring the city’s diverse neighborhoods, soaking up the sun on its beautiful beaches, and eating all the delicious cuisine. Personally, I recommend spending at least 3 to 4 full days to see it all.

The same goes for Jeju Island, you’ll want at least 3 to 4 days to fully experience its natural beauty, from hiking its scenic trails to exploring its charming villages and attractions without feeling rushed.

Of course, the longer you stay, the more you’ll be able to see and do, so why not make it a week-long adventure?

Why is Busan so popular?

Ah, where do I even begin? Busan has it all – from gorgeous beaches and seaside markets to historic temples and colorful towns.

It’s got a little something for everyone. Plus, its convenient location on the coast makes it the perfect jumping-off point for exploring other parts of South Korea.

So it’s no wonder Busan is such a popular destination – once you visit, you’ll see why everyone’s talking about it!

The Wrap Up: Busan or Jeju Island?

And there you have the ultimate comparison of two incredible South Korean gems. Whether you chose Busan or Jeju Island you’re in for the perfect getaway!

Throughout this post, we’ve explored the unique charms of each destination, weighing their pros and cons. Whether you’re drawn to Busan’s cultural attractions or Jeju Island’s mountains, you really can’t go wrong with either.

Just remember, if you chose Jeju you’re best to grab a rental car whereas in Busan you can easily get around with public transport.

Safe travels!

Read more about traveling South Korea!

Is Busan Worth Visiting: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Busan
Seoul or Busan: Which City Should You Visit?
Seoul or Tokyo: Which City Should You Visit?
Busan 5 Day Itinerary: South Korea for First Timers
Day Trip From Seoul to Busan – 1 Day Itinerary
Is South Korea Safe For Female Travellers? A Complete Travel Guide
The Ultimate South Korea Itinerary 10 Days!
How Many Days in Busan Do You Need? The Perfect 4 Day in Busan Itinerary
16 Best Things to Do in Busan in Winter 2024 (+ Interactive Map!)
2 Day Busan Itinerary For First Timers (+Interactive Map)
17 Free Things to Do in Busan, South Korea (+ Hidden Gems!)
Safest Places to Stay in Busan, South Korea (From A Solo Traveller) + A Map
What is Busan Famous For? 16 Reasons It Is Known For!

Similar Posts