There’s something about arriving by ship that you just don’t get with air travel; the excitement of first seeing your destination coming into view over the horizon as you take in the sea air on deck, the morning sun on your face, captures the romance of travel in a way an airport never will. Well… unless it’s subzero temperatures outside, or pissing rain as you dock; that’s not so nice. And the time I found myself peering through a heavy blanket of smog to make out the skyscrapers of Qingdao materialising through the brown smudge as the ferry chugged through the green carpet of Qingdao’s annual chemically-enhanced algal blooms wasn’t that nice either! But you get the idea. There’s no better way to arrive in Korea than sailing in under the majestic harbour bridges of Incheon (or Busan, if you’re overlanding between Korea and Japan).
China and South Korea are two countries very well-connected by sea – due to North Korea being North Korea, the land route between China and South Korea is completely cut off, which means extra cargo, vehicles, and people wanting to go by ship. More than a dozen overnight ferry routes connect ports on the northern half of China’s coastline with Korea’s west coast, providing a (usually) cheaper, more interesting alternative to flying, which takes you on overland routes through cities you might otherwise not see.
Specifically, China – Korea ferries go from the Chinese ports of Tianjin (near Beijing); Qinhuangdao, Yingkou, Dalian, and Dandong (northeast China); and Yantai, Weihai, Rongcheng, Shidao, Qingdao, Rizhou, and Lianyungang (located around the Shandong Peninsula).
On the Korean side, the port of Incheon (next to Seoul) handles the majority of ferries, though a number of services use Pyeongtaek or Gunsan further south.
The crossings are overnight jobs, taking anything from 12 to 26 hours depending on the distance and how shitty the ferry is. The routes most likely to be of interest to overlanders are the Dandong, Dalian, Tianjin, and Qingdao routes to / from Incheon.
I’ve personally done the crossings from Dalian and Dandong to Incheon, and both ways between Qingdao and Incheon. Of the three, I’d recommend the Qingdao crossing; Qingdao is probably the most interesting city to visit of the three, the ferry itself is actually better, and the Qingdao port is convenient. If however you’re definitely going to or from Northeast China, Dalian is preferable to Dandong; the terminal in Dalian is conveniently located, whereas in Dandong it’s right out of town and involves a long bus transfer. Also the Dandong – Incheon ferry is a floating piece of junk, very cramped indeed, and for whatever reason the passengers were a lot more rough and ready than on the other routes I did; my bunk was constantly invaded by my fellow passengers unless I was physically occupying it, and the legion of smokers on deck sent a constant rain of glowing cigarette butts flying over the railings. If you’re keen to visit Dandong for the chance to glimpse into North Korea, time permitting I’d still recommend taking the Dalian ferry, and visiting Dandong by train (Dalian – Dandong is a 2-hour train ride).
If you’re looking for the most direct option from Beijing, that would be the bullet train to Tianjin and the 26-hour ferry crossing from there.
The Weidong Ferry company which does Qingdao – Incheon also runs the Weihai – Incheon route; Weihai’s about 2 hours from Qingdao by train, so that route could be useful if the sailing schedule suits you better.
I’m not sure I’d fancy the rest of the ferry routes other than these five; the ports aren’t of much interest or any more convenient (in fact they tend to be industrial ports a long way out of town), and looking at the sailing times I reckon a few of those ferries are rustbuckets. An exception might be the Yantai routes, with Yantai’s centrally located port and its proximity to Qingdao making it a convenient alternative if the schedule suits you better.
Recommended routes from Beijing to Korea overland:
Beijing – Qingdao – Incheon (train 5 hours, ferry 17 hours)
Beijing – Tianjin – Incheon (train & subway 2 hours, ferry 26 hours)
Beijing – Dalian – Incheon (train 6 hours, ferry 15 hours)
Recommended route from Shanghai to Korea overland:
Shanghai – Qingdao – Incheon (train 6 hours, ferry 17 hours)
A few things to note when travelling by ferry between China and Korea:
Checkin & boarding times
You should always arrive at the port at least two hours before sailing time to deal with check in and immigration before boarding, and preferaby a little earlier than that (especially if you still need to buy a ticket – if you turn up one hour before departure, you may find the ticket counter is already closed).
Terminal fees & fuel surcharges
Also, be aware that there’ll be a port charge / terminal fee to pay in cash when you check in; it’s usually 30 to 40 RMB in China, and it ranges from 2,500 to 4,300 KRW in Korea. Under each listing below I’ve noted the port fee as per the ferry company websites, but in some cases the port fees for China aren’t given – you should still expect a fee of 30 or 40 RMB. Also, of course these fees are likely to increase over time; I’ll try to keep this page updated, but don’t be surprised if it’s gone up.
Additionally, there may or may not be a fuel surcharge added to the ticket fare; as of late 2018 most of the routes listed here have fuel surcharges of either 10,000 or 20,000 KRW (or 60 / 120 RMB from China). This can also be expected to change over time, again I endeavour to keep the information on this page up to date but be prepared for surprises.
When leaving China it’s probably a good idea to have at least an extra 200 RMB in cash (per person) to cover the port fee and any fuel surcharge; don’t worry about having Chinese money left over, as you can easily change it at one of the many money changers in Seoul’s Myeongdong shopping district (rates are decent, but walk around and check a few to find the best rate that day – best rate is usually at the places immediately in front of the Chinese embassy’s front gate). They won’t change small bills though, so make sure to use up all your crappy 1 and 5 kuai notes before reaching Korea.
Food & drink
All of the ferries have some sort of food available – at the very least, you’ll be able to buy snacks and instant noodles (with free hot water dispensers so you can make them) and cans of beer, and most of them have a restaurant doing buffet dinner & breakfast. I usually try to grab a bag of pastries, snacks, drinks, instant noodles etc from the shop before boarding.
Three of the routes listed here can be booked online using Direct Ferries: Lianyungang-Incheon, Yingkou-Incheon, and Dalian-Incheon. For the others you can try calling or emailing (or in a couple of cases using the reservation forms on their websites); see the details under each listing. Buying your ticket in person at the terminal should also usually be fine, though of course it can’t be 100% guaranteed.
Under each listing below I’ve given the contact number(s), usually for offices in Korea, sometimes China. Area codes are given in brackets; if calling from overseas, it’s +86 for China and +82 for Korea, and drop the initial 0. If calling domestically, include the area code if in a different province, drop it if calling from the same province.
Train schedules & tickets
I’ve given example train times from nearby major cities for each of the ports listed, but if you want to check them out in more detail, use Korail for Korean trains (excluding the SRT – see Pyeongtaek below) and Chinatrainguide for China.
China train tickets: buying train tickets in China used to be a complete pain in the ass, but thankfully it’s become easier in recent years. You still have to line up to show your ID and collect your tickets, but at least now you can search, book, and pay for the tickets online; you’re given a booking code which you just need to show at the ticket widow (along with all passengers’ IDs) in order to collect your tickets. Obviously it’s a good idea (if you know your dates) to book a bunch of journeys in advance and collect all the tickets at once. Without a Chinese ID you can’t use the official booking site, but Trip.com is a foreigner-friendly alternative.
Korea train tickets: in Korea there’s no need for ID checks, you can just buy a ticket at the station from a machine or ticket window, or book online on Trip.com. There’s actually not even any ticket barrier to pass through, you just go to the platform and get on the train; all very user-friendly (pretty much the opposite of China). Occasionally the staff on the train ask to see tickets (only happened to me twice in dozens of Korean rail journeys), so if you book online just have the e-ticket ready show on your phone or tablet if needed.
All information below is correct at time of writing. I will strive to keep this page up to date, but you must assume that things may have changed and be sure to double check as best you can to avoid any inconvenient surprises; be prepared to be flexible in the event that you encounter something unforeseen (don’t plan to catch a ferry on the very last night of your Chinese visa – that’s just asking for trouble!), and please let me know via comments or my contact form so I can update this information for future overlanders.
Most Useful China – Korea Ferries for Overlanders
Incheon – Qingdao & Incheon – Weihai
Weidong Ferry is the only ferry operator between China & Korea with an English website, and the only one offering their own online reservation in English (albeit via Facebook which is kinda weird). I once made a reservation with them by email as I needed to show it when applying for my Chinese visa at the embassy in Tokyo, and then cancelled the reservation once I had the visa (the email address I used back then is no longer valid, but thanks to this reader report we have the updated address of email@example.com, correct as of early 2019). I did then take the ferry, but just bought the ticket at the ferry terminal in Incheon on the day. When I went the other way, I also bought the ticket at the terminal in Qingdao on the day.
The New Golden Bridge V is a comfortable ship, sailing time is 17 or 18 hours, and I had a pleasant journey on both occasions (definitely the best of the three China-Korea ships I’ve been on). Listed price for cheapest tickets at time of writing is 120,000 KRW from Incheon, 750 RMB from Qingdao. She sails from Qingdao on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and from Incheon on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday; departure time is 17:30 from both ports (fares here, schedule here; double check on the Incheon Port site here (Korean), see below for help with reading the Incheon Port site)
Qingdao port details: The ferry terminal is just a couple of km from central Qingdao’s main strip on Zhongshan Road. Address is Qingdao Port Passenger Terminal, 6 Xinjiang Road (青岛港客运站, 新疆路6号, Qingdao Gang Keyunzhan, Xinjiang Lu Liuhao). When arriving in Qingdao you can take a taxi or bus to Qingdao Station (Qingdao Huochezhan, 青島火車站) or Zhongshan Road (Zhongshan Lu, 中山路); there’s a bus stop in front of the ferry terminal (same side).
Bullet train times from Qingdao: Beijing 5 hrs, Shanghai 7hrs, Tai’an 3 hrs (for Taishan mountain)
For Incheon Port details, see below.
Her sister ship the New Golden Bridge VII does three round trips per week between Incheon and Weihai, sailing from Incheon on Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday, and from Weihai on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Sailing time is 15 or 16 hours, cheapest fare is 110,000 KRW from Incheon, 750 RMB from Qingdao (details listed on the same pages linked to above for Incheon-Qingdao).
Weihai port details: head to Weidong’s check-in lobby located at Weihai Port, 288 Haibu Road (威海港, 海埠路288号, Weihai Gang, Haibu Lu Liangbaibashiba Hao), see here (bottom of page, the map pin appears to be incorrect though). It’s about 6km east of Weihai Station so a 10-minute taxi ride or so, or you can take bus #53 or 24 from Qingdao North Road / Huaxia Road.
Terminal charge is 38 RMB (double check at bottom of fare screen), with a fuel surcharge of 120 RMB (correct as of Sep 1st 2018, double check here) update: no fuel surcharge at time of this reader report (Oct 2019)
Bullet train times from Weihai: Qingdao 2 hrs, Beijing 6 hrs, Shanghai 8.5 hrs
Incheon – Tianjin
Jinchon Ferry’s Tian Ren (website, Korean only) does two round trips per week; it’s fairly easy to read the schedule as the weekday names are given in English, so you just need to know that 인천 is Incheon and 천진 is Tianjin, (발) indicates departure and (착) indicates arrival; crossing time is 26 or 27 hours.
For fares see here; cheapest tickets at time of writing are 115,000 KRW from Incheon, 888 RMB from Tianjin. You can also double check the information on the Incheon Port website here (see below for help with reading it – also ignore the map on that page, as they’ve accidentally included the wrong one)
If you’re not happy with just rocking up and buying tickets at the port, you can try making a reservation by telephone; even if calling from China, I would call the Korean number as it’s a Korean company, and you’re more likely to be able to get an English speaker. The number is (032)777-8260; it’s listed here, so check it hasn’t changed before calling.
Tianjin port details: don’t go to the cruise ship terminal! The correct port is Tianjin Xingang Port Passenger Terminal, 35 Xingang 2nd Road (天津新港客运站, 新港二号路35号, Tianjin Xingang Keyunzhan, Xingang Erhao Lu Sanshiwu Hao)
This port is located in the Tanggu District of Tianjin City, some 40km from central Tianjin; Tanggu has a bullet train station with direct connections to Beijing, and subway access to central Tianjin. From the main Tianjin Station you can take the Tianjin Metro to Citizen Square Station on Line 9, and from there take a taxi or catch bus number 513 (double check here) to the terminal (6km). If coming from Beijing, you can take the bullet train to Tianjin (35 minutes, very frequent departures) and proceed via Tianjin Metro as above, or take a direct bullet train to Tanggu Station (55 minutes, less frequent) and from there take a taxi or bus number 102 to the terminal (11km).
For Incheon port details, see below
Incheon – Dalian
Dain Ferry’s Biryong (website, in Korean only) does three round trips per week, sailing from Incheon on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and sailing from Dalian on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Departure is 5pm from Incheon, 6pm from Dalian; to see the schedule & fares on their website, click the ‘passenger info’ button then 여객운임 for fares and 운항스게쥴 for the schedule (you can double check the information on the Incheon Port website here; Korean only, see below for help with reading it).
This ferry can be booked online through Direct Ferries here, so that’s your best option. They usually have it for around 120 USD, so pretty much the same price as when you buy in person at the port.
Dalian port information: the termial’s a few km east of Dalian Station, easily walkable depending on luggage and weather – walk east along Changjiang Road (长江路) and Renmin East Road (人民东路). Otherwise just show or tell a taxi driver 大连港客运站, Dalian Gang Keyun Zhan. International and domestic (for Yantai) ferries go from different (but neighbouring) terminals, so you might want to clarify to your driver that you’re going to Hanguo, 韩国. Expect a terminal fee when leaving Dalian of around 50 RMB (I think it was 40 when I did it), and a fuel surcharge of 60 RMB (correct as of late 2018).
Bullet train times from Dalian: Beijing 6 hrs, Shenyang 2 hrs, Harbin 4 hrs, Dandong 2 hrs
For Incheon port details, see below
Incheon – Dandong
The Oriental Pearl VI, operated by Dandong Ferry, does three round trips per week between Incheon and Dandong. This one is a Chinese ship & company, with a Chinese-only website (which is pretty useless even if you can read a bit of Chinese). It’s easier to check the schedules & fares on the Incheon Port website here (Korean only; see below for details on using it).
Sailing time is 14 or 16 hours, departing Incheon at 6pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and departing Dandong at 6pm on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Cheapest fare is 1,110 RMB from Dandong, or 126,000 KRW from Incheon.
I had no trouble just turning up and buying my ticket on the day from their counter at Incheon International Ferry Terminal, but if you do want to try and make a reservation their numbers are listed here. The Korean number is (032)891-3322, the Chinese number is (0415)315-2666 (if you can’t speak Chinese, I’d probably try the Korean number even if calling from China if possible, as you’ve probably got a better chance of getting hold of an English speaker).
To be completely honest, I didn’t enjoy the ferry from Incheon to Dandong; it’s a bit of a floating piece of junk, the cheap berths are in a very cramped structure that looks like it was bolted on to the top deck some time after she left the yard, and my fellow passengers on that particular night were constantly invading my bunk, and sending a constant rain of glowing fag ends (cigarette butts, for my American readers!) into the ocean. The Dain Ferry to Dalian is a better ship, and Dalian is a more convenient port, so I’d recommend Dalian over Dandong if you’re heading to Northeast China (if you want to visit Dandong from Dalian to see the North Korean border, it’s only 2 hours on the new bullet train line).
Dandong port information: the port is actually located in the neighbouring city of Donggang at the mouth of the Yalu River (Dandong is an hour’s drive upstream), but is called the Port of Dandong, 丹东港, Dandong Gang.
This isn’t a passenger terminal, it’s an industrial port; immigration is done in the customs building some distance from the dock itself. When getting off the ferry in Dandong there’s a ridiculous scene as all the passengers compete to pile into the waiting shuttle buses to the customs building, where you have another scrum to get through immigration and another at the bag scanners. This all takes quite a while, and was really not what I wanted after a fairly lousy night’s sleep on that crappy boat. Once you finally get through, various buses are waiting; ask the ticket desk for tickets to Dandong. The price is 15 RMB (likely to increase over time, of course), and there is absolutely nowhere to change or withdraw money anywhere near the port; MAKE SURE YOU HAVE CHINESE MONEY BEFORE LEAVING KOREA! Sorry for shouting, but if you only remember one thing it needs to be that – oh, but if you want to buy food on the boat, make sure you also still have some Korean won too! The bus ride is quite cool though actually; as you drive through an utterly grim industrial landscape you catch glimpses of North Korea across the river and pass the infamous Bridge to Nowhere; after an hour or so the bus drops you in front of Dandong Station.
When leaving Dandong, be prepared for the port charge of 30 RMB and a fuel surcharge of 90 RMB (these are subject to change over time, so try to have a bit more just in case). Also, try to get some Korean won before heading for the ferry as they only accept won onboard, and the onboard exchange rate is brutal. Buses to the port leave from in front of the station, and I would advise you investigate and confirm the bus departure time at the earliest opportunity after arrival in Dandong.
Bullet train times from Dandong: Dalian 2 hrs, Shenyang 90 minutes, Harbin 4 hrs, Beijing 6 hrs
Incheon Port Details
Incheon Port is a massive facility, and international passenger services are split between two seperate ferry terminals (there’s also a domestic terminal).
International Ferry Terminal 2 (제2국제여객터미널) is conveniently located near Sinpo Station on the Seoul Metro’s Suin Line, which is one stop from Incheon Station on Line 1 (Incheon Station is the terminus of line 1, with direct trains from Seoul Station); Seoul Station to Sinpo changing at Incheon takes about 90 minutes. When you come out of the station, the entrance to the terminal is a few hundred metres east over on the right (south) side of the main road. (Map & directions in Korean here)
International Ferry Terminal 1 is less convenient, requiring a bus or taxi ride from the subway. If taking a taxi, you can catch one from Sinpo Station, just show / tell the driver 제1국제여객터미널 / Je-il Gugje Yeogaeg Teomineol; alternatively (if you’re in a rush), get off the Metro at Dongincheon Station (penultimate stop on Line 1) and take a taxi from there – this will cost an extra 2,000 won or so, but will get you there 10 or 15 minutes earlier. For the bus, you can catch number 12 from the stop near exit 2 of Dongincheon Station (the stop is just south of the exit on the main road in front of McDonalds, or at least it was last time I did it), and it takes about 30 minutes. If you’re not confident about finding the stop at Dongincheon, I’d suggest going to Terminal 2 and asking them how to get to Terminal 1 by bus; they’ll give you directions to the nearest bus stop, from where you can take number 12 or number 24 (15 minutes), but be aware this stop is about a 10-minute walk from Terminal 2. (Map & directions in Korean here)
There’s a big supermarket & McDonalds near the entrance to Terminal 2, a few minutes’ walk east on the other side of the main road; this is a good place to stock up for the journey. There isn’t much of that sort near Terminal 1, though last time I arrived in Incheon (from Dalian) I wandered along the harbour from Terminal 1 and scored some decent waffles & coffee in a cafe there before jumping in a cab to Dongincheon Station.
If you have some time to kill in Incheon before sailing, Incheon Chinatown is located near Terminal 2 (the main entrance is outside exit 3 of Incheon Station); naturally, lots of tasty Chinese food is available and it’s a good place for a pre-ferry meal. On the hill behind Chinatown you’ll find Freedom Park, with some nice harbour views and a memorial to General MacArthur (Incheon was the site of the American landing in the Korean War).
The terminal fee when leaving Incheon is 4,300 won, so make sure you have enough cash to cover that; from Sep 1st 2018 there’s also a fuel surcharge (which can be tacked on to the ticket price if you want to pay it by card) of 20,000 won.
Incheon Port Website
Incheon Port has a pretty thorough website, but unfortunately it doesn’t have an English version (Korean & Chinese only). It’s also terribly unreliable; if you get a server offline message, just wait 5 minutes and try again.
Fares are summarised here
The daily schedule is summarised here – you have to select arrival / departure at the top, and you can select a specific destination from the drop-down menu (the default setting, 전체, shows all destinations; see below for translations)
Although it’s all in Korean, you can check the information with the following words:
Departure: 출발 or 출항
Arrival: 도착 or 입항
Other Ferry Routes Between Incheon and China
In addition to the 5 routes with the above 4 companies, there are another 5 routes connecting Incheon with ports in China. All 5 have websites in Korean & Chinese, or Korean only; the Incheon Port website also has the fare & shedule details. I haven’t taken any of these ferries, and as explained above I wouldn’t unless they happened to be exactly where I wanted to go (one exception would be Yantai, as it has a proper ferry passenger terminal very close to its central train station, and is under 2 hours by train from Qingdao)
For each of these routes I’ve linked to the Korean homepage, and the relevant page on the Incheon Port website (see above for details on reading the Incheon Port website):
Incheon – Yingkou
Yingkou is the nearest port to Shenyang; however, due to the sailing time and the location of the ports, Dalian is more convenient for Shenyang – Korea overland travel (this goes for other northeastern cities like Harbin, Jilin, etc)
Yingkou Ferry: website here
Incheon Port page here
Sailing time: 26 hours
Departs Incheon: Saturday 12:00, Tuesday 24:00 (midnight Tuesday night)
Departs Yingkou: Monday 12:00, Thursday 12:00
The times given on the Incheon Port page and the Yingkou Ferry page are slightly different (1 hour discrepancies in 3 out of 4 cases); I’ve listed the earlier of the two to be safe. To check these yourself, it’s a little confusing; on the Incheon Port page it shows 출발/도착시간 (departure/arrival time) in the same column, but on the Yingkou Ferry page it show 입항 (enter port) in the first column and 출항 (leave port) in the second column (see above for a key on reading the weekday names)
Cheapest fare: 115,000 KRW (check here)
Reservations: fortunately you can book this ferry online with Direct Ferries but only from Korea to China for some reason. If you’re going the other way you can try booking online here (Korean only), or call them on the reservation numbers given here (Korea: (032)891 5858, China: (0417)626-9202)
Port information for Yingkou: the port is actually in Bayuquan (鲅鱼圈), around 50km south of Yingkou proper. Bayuquan has its own train station (on the Dalian – Harbin high speed line) and long-distance bus station, so there’s no need to go through Yingkou itself. At time of writing, terminal charge is 40 RMB and from September 1st 2018 there’s a fuel surcharge of 120 RMB (these are shown at the bottom of this page, below the fares)
Bullet train times from Bayuquan Station: Yingkou Station 20 minutes, Shenyang 1 hour, Dalian 1 hour, Harbin 3.5 hrs, Beijing 5.5 hrs
For Incheon Port information, see above
Incheon – Qinhuangdao
Qinhuangdao isn’t likely to be useful to most travellers, as Tianjin is more convenient for Beijing and Dalian is more convenient for Northeast China. The exception would be if you want to visit Chengde as your first or last destination in China, as it’s just a few hours by bus from Qinhuangdao, or if you want to visit Qinhuangdao itself (it does see some tourism, as it’s where the Great Wall meets the sea)
Qinin Ferry: website here
Incheon Port page here
Departs Incheon: Monday 19:00, Friday 13:00
Departs Qinhuangdao: Sunday 13:00, Wednesday 13:00
Cheapest fare: 115,000 KRW (check here)
Reservations: their reservation page is here, in Korean only. It explains that reservations can be made by telephone, up to 2 days before departure, and must be paid at the terminal by 16:00 the day before. The number (Korean) is (032)891-9600; no Chinese number listed. Otherwise, just rock up at the terminal on the day.
Qinhuangdao port information: you need to get to the Qinhuangdao-Incheon International Passenger Terminal (秦皇岛-仁川国际客运站, Qinhuangdao-Renchuan Guoji Keyun Zhan). It’s located around 6km south of Qinhuangdao Station, at 28 Haibin Road (海滨路28号, Haibin Lu Ershiba Hao). Be prepared to pay a port tax in the region of 30 to 40 RMB and a fuel surcharge of 120 RMB, so to be on the safe side I’d aim to have 200 RMB ready to cover them both; don’t worry if this leaves you with unused Chinese money, as you can easily change it at one of the many money changers in Seoul’s Myeongdong district (just make sure to use up any small notes i.e. the 1s and 5s, as they won’t change them)
Bullet train times from Qinhuangdao: Beijing 2 hrs. (Bus to Chengde approx. 3 hrs)
For Incheon Port information, see above
Incheon – Yantai
Yantai is located on the other side of the Shandong Peninsula from Qingdao, and is a convenient alternative; the port is right next to the train station, and there are bullet trains to Qingdao (1.5 hours) and beyond.
Hanjoong Ferry: website here
Incheon Port page here
Departs Incheon: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, all at 19:00
Departs Yantai: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, all at 18:30
Cheapest fare: 120,000 KRW
Reservations: If you’re not happy with just rocking up and buying tickets at the port, you can try making a reservation by telephone; the number for their Incheon office is (032)891 8880~4.
Yantai port information: Yantai Harbour is directly behind Yantai Station. There are two ferry terminals in the harbour, about a mile apart. The correct one for Incheon is the Yantai Port Passenger Terminal (烟台港客运站, Yantai Gang Keyun Zhan) a few hundred metres east of the station at 155 Beima Road (北马路155号, Beima Lu Yibai Wushiwu Hao), as shown here (bottom of page). Be prepared to pay a port tax in the region of 30 to 40 RMB and a fuel surcharge of 120 RMB, so to be on the safe side I’d aim to have 200 RMB ready to cover them both; don’t worry if this leaves you with unused Chinese money, as you can easily change it at one of the many money changers in Seoul’s Myeongdong district (just make sure to use up any small notes i.e. the 1s and 5s, as they won’t change them)
Bullet train times from Yantai: Qingdao 1.5 hrs, Beijing 6 hrs, Shanghai 8 hrs
For Incheon Port information see above
Incheon – Shidao
Located in Rongcheng at the tip of the Shandong Peninsula, Shidao is the closest Chinese port to South Korea; this means shorter ferry crossings, but longer train rides on the Chinese side. As the Shidao port is also quite far from the bullet trains at Rongcheng Station, it’s more convenient to travel via Qingdao, Yantai, or Weihai.
Huadong Ferry: website here
Incheon Port page here
Sailing time: 14 hours
Departs Incheon: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 18:30
Departs Yantai: Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, at 19:00
Cheapest fare: 113,000 KRW
Reservations: If you’re not happy with just rocking up and buying tickets at the port, you can try making a reservation by telephone; the number for their Incheon office is (032)880 3210
Shidao port information: Shidao is actually part of Rongcheng City (which also has China – Korea ferries docking at Rongcheng Port, sailing from Pyeongtaek, see below), which is the terminus of the Shandong Peninsula high speed railway; Shidao is 30km south of central Rongcheng. When leaving Shidao, the port fee is 30 RMB and from September 1st 2018 there’s a fuel surcharge of 120 RMB.
Bullet train times from Rongcheng: Qingdao 2.5 hrs, Beijing 6.5 hrs, Shanghai 9 hrs
For Incheon Port information see above
Incheon – Lianyungang
Lianyungang is the nearest port to Shanghai with ferries to Korea; however, due to the existing transportation connections and the locations of the ports, Qingdao is more convenient for Shanghai – Korea overland travel if you want to go through Incheon. That said, the Lianyungang – Pyeongtaek ferry (see below) may be preferable for certain destinations in Korea other than Seoul e.g. Pyeongtaek, Daejon, and southwest South Korea. A high speed railway is under construction which should connect Shanghai to Lianyungang sometime in 2020, at which point this becomes the best option from Shanghai.
Lianyungang Ferry: website here (you can toggle the schedule between the vessels Harmony Yungang for Incheon – Lianyungang, and Ziyulan for Pyeongtaek – Lianyungang. 인천 is Incheon, 평택 is Pyeongtaek, and 연운항 is Lianyungang – you may spot that it’s 렌원강 on the Incheon Port site but 연운항 on the Huadong Ferry site; 렌원강 is a phonetic rendering of Lianyungang, whereas 연운항 (“Yeonunhang”) is the Korean reading of the Chinese characters (连云港) for Lianyungang)
Incheon Port page here
Sailing time: 24 or 25 hours
Departs Incheon: midnight Tuesday night, Saturday 15:30
Departs Lianyungang: Monday and Thursday at 14:00
Cheapest fare: 110,000 KRW / 780 RMB as per here (make sure it’s toggled to Harmony Yungang)
Reservations: fortunately you can book this ferry online with Direct Ferries, and they usually have it for under 100 USD so this is by far the best option. Alternatively you can try making a reservation by telephone; the number for their Incheon office is (032)770 3700
Lianyungang port information: Lianyungang Port (连云港港, Lianyungang Gang), also known as Miaoling Port (庙岭港, Miaoling Gang), is located about 30km from the bus and train stations in central Lianyungang. Be prepared to pay a port tax in the region of 30 to 40 RMB and a fuel surcharge of 120 RMB, so to be on the safe side I’d aim to have 200 RMB ready to cover them both; don’t worry if this leaves you with unused Chinese money, as you can easily change it at one of the many money changers in Seoul’s Myeongdong district (just make sure to use up any small notes i.e. the 1s and 5s, as they won’t change them)
Train times from Lianyungang: it’s 3 hours by (slow) train to Xuzhou, from where you can continue by bullet train to Beijing or Shanghai (3 hrs), Xi’an (4 hrs) or Nanjing (2 hrs). For Shanghai and Nanjing, the bus direct from Lianyungang is cheaper and should work out a little faster.
China – Korea Ferries using Pyeongtaek and Gunsan (instead of Incheon)
In addition to the routes from Incheon, there are a handful of routes from Pyeongtaek to the Shandong ports, plus one from Gunsan. If you’re in central or southern parts of South Korea, Pyeongtaek or Gunsan may be more convenient than Incheon.
Pyeongtaek – Weihai
Sailing time: 13 to 16 hours (schedule here in Chinese; 威海 is Weihai, 平泽 is Pyeongtaek, 离港 is departure, 靠港 is mooring time)
Departs Pyeongtaek: Tuesday 20:00, Thursday 22:00, Sunday 18:00
Departs Wehai: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 19:30
Reservations: If you’re not happy with just rocking up and buying tickets at the port, you can try making a reservation by telephone; the number for their Pyeongtaek office is (031)684 5999, Weihai office is (0631)522-0639
For Weihai port information, see above
For Pyeongtaek port information see below
Pyeongtaek – Yantai
Yantai Ferry: website here
Sailing time: 16 hours (schedule here)
Departs Pyeongtaek: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 19:00
Departs Yantai: Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 18:30
Cheapest fare: 150,000 KRW (check here)
Reservations: If you’re not happy with just rocking up and buying tickets at the port, you can try making a reservation by telephone; the number for their Pyeongtaek office is (031)684 8827
For Yantai port information see above
For Pyeongtaek port information see below
Pyeongtaek – Lianyungang
Lianyungang Ferry: website here (you can toggle the schedule between the vessels Harmony Yungang for Incheon – Lianyungang, and Ziyulan for Pyeongtaek – Lianyungang. 인천 is Incheon, 평택 is Pyeongtaek, and 연운항 is Lianyungang – you may spot that it’s 연운항 on the Huadong Ferry site, but 렌원강 elsewhere; 렌원강 is a phonetic rendering of Lianyungang, whereas 연운항 (“Yeonunhang”) is the Korean reading of the Chinese characters (连云港) for Lianyungang)
Sailing time: 24 hours
Departs Pyeongtaek: Monday 22:00, Friday 19:00
Departs Lianyungang: Sunday and Wednesday at 15:00
Cheapest fare: 130,000 KRW / 780 RMB as per here (make sure it’s toggled to Ziyulan)
Reservations: fortunately you can book this ferry with Direct Ferries, but unfortunately they don’t seem to have the cheapest fares – it’s usually around 200 dollars on there, so if you want the cheaper berths you’ll have to either just rock up and buy at the port, or you can try making a reservation by telephone; the number for their Incheon office is (032)770 3700
For Lianyungang port information see above
For Pyeongtaek port information see below
Pyeongtaek – Rizhao
Rizhao is the second-closest port to Shanghai with ferries to Korea; however, due to the existing transportation connections, Qingdao is more convenient for Shanghai – Korea overland travel. Rizhao may still be a useful option if you’re not aiming for Seoul though, as the ferry docks at Pyeongtaek which is more convenient for Pyeongtaek itself (obviously), Daejeon, and points south. A high speed railway is under construction which should connect Shanghai to Rizhao sometime in 2020, at which point this becomes the best option from Shanghai apart from Lianyungang.
Rizhao Ferry: website here
Sailing time: 20 hours
Departs Pyeongtaek: Monday 15:00, Wednesday 19:00, Friday 20:00
Departs Rizhao: Tuesday 16:00, Thursday 18:00, Sunday 11:00
Cheapest fare: 110,000 KRW (check here)
Reservations: you can call their Incheon office on (031)686 5894
Rizhao port information: Rizhao Port (日照港, Rizhao Gang) is about 7km from Rizhao Station. Be prepared to pay a port tax in the region of 30 to 40 RMB. There’s also the possibility of a fuel surcharge, so to be on the safe side I’d aim to have 200 RMB ready to cover them both; don’t worry if this leaves you with unused Chinese money, as you can easily change it at one of the many money changers in Seoul’s Myeongdong district (best rates usually at the shops right in front of the Chinese embassy’s main gate; just make sure to use up any small notes i.e. the crappy blue 1 kuai bills, also the 5s, as they won’t change them)
Train times from Rizhao: it’s around 4 hours by slow train to Tai’an, from where you can continue by bullet train to Beijing (2 hrs). For Qingdao, or points south like Nanjing & Shanghai, the bus is faster and cheaper.
Bus times from Rizhao: Qingdao 2 hrs, Nanjing 5 hrs, Shanghai 6 hrs. See here for bus station information.
For Pyeongtaek port information see below
Pyeongtaek – Rongcheng
Rongcheng’s location at the tip of the Shandong Peninsula means a short ferry crossing, but longer train rides on the Chinese side. The port is also quite a long way from either Rongcheng Station or Weihai Station, so sailing through Qingdao, Yantai, or Weihai will be more convenient.
Dalong Ferry: website here
Sailing time: 13 hours
Departs Pyeongtaek: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 20:00
Departs Rongcheng: Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday at 19:30
Cheapest fare: 105,000 KRW / 580 RMB (check here)
Reservations: you can try booking online here (Korean only), or call them on (031)683 9300
Rongcheng port information: the port is Longyan Port (龙眼港, Longyan Gang), 45km north of central Rongcheng. It’s a similar distance from Weihai; Rongcheng is the terminus of the Shandong high speed rail line and Weihai is the penultimate stop, so if you’re going to take a taxi it’s probably best to travel through Weihai Station rather than Rongcheng Station. If you’re intending to take a local bus… good luck! (and let me know how it works out, so I can update this page for future overlanders)
When leaving Rongcheng, the port fee is 30 RMB and there may or may not be a fuel surcharge, so to be on the safe side I’d aim to have 200 RMB ready to cover them both. Don’t worry if this leaves you with unused Chinese money, as you can easily change it at one of the many money changers in Seoul’s Myeongdong district (best rates usually at the shops right in front of the Chinese embassy’s main gate; just make sure to use up any small notes i.e. the crappy blue 1 kuai bills, also the 5s, as they won’t change them)
Bullet train times from Weihai Station: Qingdao 2 hrs, Beijing 6 hrs, Shanghai 8.5 hrs (times from Rongcheng Station are the same, plus 20 minutes)
Pyeongtaek Port Information
Pyeongtaek is a city in Gyeongi-do province, about 70km south of Seoul, and may be more convenient than Incheon if you’re travelling to / from Daejeon or southern South Korea rather than Seoul (or even from certain parts of Seoul i.e. those near the SRT station (see below) at Suseo, such as Gangnam). It’s actually served by Seoul Metro Line 1 (but that isn’t the best way to get there); the port is 20km west of central Pyeongtaek.
This Pyeongtaek City website summarises ferry departures from Pyeongtaek Port (double check the times on the ferry companies’ pages against the times on the Pyeongtaek City site; if they differ, I’d plan around the earlier of the two if you can’t confirm the correct one directly with the company).
To get there, the fastest way is on the new SRT bullet train line which departs Suseo Station in southern Seoul and takes just 20 minutes to reach Jije Station in Pyeongtaek – it goes in a straight line through a tunnel for 50km, no messing about! From Jije Station, ride Metro Line 1 one stop south to Pyeongtaek Station, then take bus number 80 to Pyeongtaek Port International Ferry Terminal (평택항국제여객터미널, Pyeongtaek-hang Gugje Yeogaeg Teomineol) bus stop. The bus takes an hour, and goes from the bus stop near exit 1 of Pyeongtaek Station (this is correct at time of writing and I’ll try to keep this information up-to-date, but you should absolutely double-check locally both the correct bus number and the bus stop location)
Pyeongtaek Station can also be reached from Seoul by highway bus, regular train (Korail), or subway; this may be preferable if you’re staying in northern or western Seoul (as Suseo Station for the SRT won’t be convenient), or if you just don’t want to pay the extra for the bullet train. The regular trains take about an hour from Seoul Station (departures generally one or two per hour, check on Korail), highway buses take about an hour from Express Bus Terminal (departures every 20 minutes or so, check here (if the language is set to Korean, hit the 한국어 button at top right to switch it), when you arrive at Express Bus Terminal follow the signs for Gyeongbu Line), and the subway takes about 90 minutes. Approximate fares to Pyeongtaek: 2,500 won by Metro from Seoul Station; 4,500 won by bus from Seoul Express Bus Terminal; 5,000 won by Korail from Seoul Station; 8,000 won by SRT from Suseo Station.
From Daejeon or points further south, again you can choose between highway bus or regular Korail train to Pyeongtaek, or SRT to Jije (there’s no KTX).
(The SRT is operated by a separate company, so you can’t check the schedule on the Korail website; you can check the schedule here, language tab at top right if it’s in Korean)
When leaving Pyeongtaek, the port fee is 3,300 KRW and be ready for a fuel surcharge of 20,000 KRW.
Gunsan – Shidao
Note (2019): I’m not sure if this route is operating anymore, the Shidao Ferry website is down and I’m not in Korea at the moment so it’s not easy to check what’s going on. Will try and get confirmation either way from someone in Korea, but until then don’t head to Gunsan or Shidao without checking! (and if you do manage to confirm if it’s running or not, please let me know)
Gunsan is the southernmost Korean port with ferries to China, and therefore convenient for travel to / from southwest South Korea. However, as Gunsan only offers ferries to Shidao while Pyeongtaek offers multiple routes and is better connected by public transport, the ferries from Pyeongtaek (see above) will better suit the purposes of most travellers.
Shidao Ferry: website here (Korean)
Sailing time: 14 hours
Schedule here. Use this key to check it:
Departs Gunsan: Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday at 18:00
Departs Shidao: Saturday, Monday, Wednesday at 18:00
Cheapest fare: 96,000 KRW / 700 RMB (check here)
Reservations: you can try booking online here (Korean only), or call them on (063)441 1200 (Gunsan) or (0631)728-6666 (Shidao)
For Shidao port information see above
Gunsan Port International Ferry Terminal (군산항국제여객터미날, Gunsan-hang Gugje Yeogaeg Teomineol) is located around 10km west of central Gunsan city in Jeonbuk Province.
Gunsan can be reached by direct bus or train from Seoul; highway buses go from Seoul’s Nambu Bus Terminal and Express Bus Terminal, and direct trains go from Yongsan Station. It takes about 3 hours either way, with fares in the 12,000 to 18,000 range depending on class of train / bus. If going from Express Bus Terminal, it’s subdivided into three terminals; follow signs to the Honnam Line Terminal. Alternatively you can take the KTX to Iksan Station and transfer there to a regular train to Gunsan; this is faster, taking around 2 hours (depending on the waiting time in Iksan), but clocks in at over 30,000 won.
From Daejeon and points further south, again either take a highway bus, or KTX to Iksan followed by regular train to Gunsan.
Once at Gunsan, you can take a bus or taxi to the port. Bus number 7 takes around 50 minutes from Gunsan Station or 30 minutes from Gunsan Bus Terminal, and runs hourly.
When leaving Gunsan, the port fee is 2,500 KRW and there may or may not be a fuel surcharge of up to 20,000 won.
Have you taken the ferry between China and Korea? Any updates you can share for future travellers? Do you have any questions about China – Korea ferries? Leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you.
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