Busan Gimhae International Airport
With schools closed for winter break most foreigners are busy planning their winter getaways. While Seoul's Incheon Airport is Korea's main international hub, for those living in the south there is another option. Busan's Gimhae International Airport can provide you with destinations to Japan, China, and South East Asia, as well as connections for onward flights to North America, and is an easier, comfortable alternative to Incheon's mega airport.
About the Airport!
Similarly to Daegu International Airport, Busan's Gimhae Airport is a dual use military airbase. There is a constant stream of military transport planes departing at regular intervals. However unlike Daegu there is a much larger passenger base that also utilizes this terminal.
The airport is divided into the original terminal, now used for domestic departures to Jeju and Incheon, and the newer international terminal beside. The international terminal is a small comfortable modern terminal with only eight departure gates. There is a free PC internet lounge, restaurants, and the convenience stores charge the same prices as outside rather than doubling prices as some airports do.
There are also three money exchange counters on the arrivals level that open from 7am and deal with all East Asian currencies served by routes from the airport as well as US Dollars.
Where can you go?
The Wiki link below provides a list of destinations and airlines currently served.
Gimhae is the base of budget airline Air Busan which serves Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, and The Philippines. However, other budget airlines such as Cebu Pacific or Air Asia Japan can also take you to their respective hubs where you can connect to an onwards destination.
You can even travel further than East Asia. I was able to fly home one summer with a connection in Tokyo to an American Airlines flight to New York.
If you are flying east to Japan try to get a window seat on the right hand side. You will be rewarded with great aerial views of landmarks such as Busan harbour, Gwangalli Beach and the Diamond Bridge, as well as Haeundae Beach.
How to Get There?
The most frequently asked question is how to get to Gimhae Airport from Daegu.
1. The easiest option is by express bus. There is a direct bus from DongDaegu which stops right at the international terminal for 7600w. The journey time is about 1hr 20 mins.
Using the Kobus site select Daegu 801 and Gimhae Airport 740 to see bus times
I haven’t tried buying my ticket online for this route though I buy my return ticket at the airport counter before boarding my departure flight. This avoids line ups on arrival and possibly the bus being sold out. Also you should buy your departure bus ticket before your departure date to ensure you arrive at the airport on time.
The ticket counter is by the last doors on the arrivals level near the Popeye's Chicken restaurant and the Daegu bus boards right outside.
My only complaint is this bus should run every hour. It has irregular bus times posted and is always sold to capacity whenever I've taken it so there is more than enough demand to justify an hourly bus.
There are also other bus routes in the Gyeongsang region to nearby towns such as Gumi, Pohang, Gyeongju, Ulsan, and Masan.
2. The nearest train station is Gupo which is served by both KTX and local Muganghwa trains. I always take the Muganghwa which takes about 90 mins for 4600w.
The subway and Gimhae light rail line will start running from 6am and get you to the airport in time for an early check in. The Gimhae Light Rail airport station is right outside the international departures terminal.
Where to Stay?
If you have an early 8am departure the first bus or train will not allow you to arrive in time for check in so you will have to arrive from the night before. There are numerous motels in the Gupo area where I have paid about 30,000w each time I stayed there.
Quality can range from quite posh to seedy love motels. Since I'm only there for an early morning flight I'm not too fussy and a 30,000w love motel is fine. Alternatively, you can stay with friends or a jimjilbang which will be further in Busan city itself.
There is no need to make a reservation online ahead of time. Motels are plentiful and you can easily walk into any motel of your choice and find a room.
I've flown in and out of Gimhae many times and would much rather use this airport over Incheon. Its closeby, less crowded, and very relaxed compared to large international airports. After a long trip away it's nice to know I can be back home in my apartment in under two hours. If only all airports could be this nice.