One of Those Days: a comedy of errors when taking the JR Beetle

Busan Harbor Bridge

Busan Harbor Bridge

*If you’re looking for full details on the JR Beetle ferry between Busan & Fukuoka see my page here*

So the other week I had one of those travel days where everything fucks up – and it was mostly my own fault. I’d done the JR Beetle hydrofoil trip between Busan (South Korea) and Fukuoka (Japan) several times before, so I knew exactly I where I was going and what I was doing – or so I thought.

Doing this crossing on regular weekdays you can usually rock up at the port and buy a ticket for the next departure (there are three per day in each direction), but as I was travelling in the Golden Week holiday period and only a had one day spare on my Korean entry stamp, I figured I should book ahead to avoid any headaches. As turned out, booking ahead resulted in major headaches!

Since my previous passage on the Beetle, they’ve for some reason taken down their English website, so I had to use the Japanese one (Korean is also available); I can read schedules in Japanese well enough, so it wasn’t such a problem. But while checking it out, I spotted the discount internet fares… “Hello, what’s this?” I thought, had a read through, and managed to book myself a round trip for 16000 yen instead of 28000 yen, entirely in Japanese. High five to me! Or so I thought…

So a couple of days later I zoomed down from Seoul to Busan on the KTX (the Korean bullet train), arriving two hours before departure; plenty of time for some food and coffee and a nice 20-minute stroll down to the ferry terminal, the location of which I knew well from my previous times passing through the port of Busan.

Except that terminal is now the Busan Domestic Passenger Terminal, for overnight car ferries to Jeju Island. The Beetle these days sails from the brand spanking new Busan International Ferry Terminal, which all Japan-bound sailings switched to last year! I guess if JR Beetle still had an English page, this would’ve been explained; and I guess the port information is probably explained on the Japanese page, but thinking I already knew the information I just booked my tickets and left the site (although I can read Japanese to an extent, I’m not remotely approaching native level – it takes me a fair bit of effort to fully decipher a web page, and information often won’t leap out at me if I’m not specifically looking for it).

Thankfully there was a helpful lady at the now-domestic terminal who spoke good English (my Korean is minimal) and was able to equip me with a map to the new international terminal – which, naturally enough, is exactly where I’d just walked from! i.e. just behind Busan Station. I didn’t really have time to walk back, so jumped in a taxi for 3000 won (the driver was cool; he spoke Japanese, so we had a little Japanese chat about how much we both love Kyoto) which got me there in 5 minutes.

Bit of a fuck up, but, I figured, a mostly harmless and fairly amusing one; arriving at the enormous new terminal, I saw it’s well-furnished with cafes and a food court, and would’ve been perfect for the coffee and lunch I’d wanted before sailing.

(Full info on the new Busan terminal here)

“Ah well, all’s good, at least I know for next time and can update the info on 4corners,” I thought, as I approached the checkin counter.

So imagine my face when they told me my reservation that day was for sailing from Fukuoka to Busan! I’d only gone and booked my discount internet tickets in completely the wrong fucking direction, the exact opposite of what I wanted! She asked if I wanted to cancel my reservation, and obviously I wasn’t about to board a ferry in Fukuoka, Japan, given that I was physically standing there in Busan, Korea, so I had no choice; but that got me only a 50% refund due to the cancellation terms. I then had to purchase new tickets at the full regular fare (thankfully at least a few seats were still available that day despite it being a few days before Golden Week), so that little mistake cost me 200 dollars all in. I say little mistake, because it was one single kanji (Chinese character) word on the booking screen that I’d failed to catch – the column I’d thought was for the destination was actually headed 出発地 i.e. point of departure. I should’ve spotted it really, but I’d failed to pay attention to a single word and thus entered my destination ports as my departure ports. Motherfucker!

That’s the problem with speaking a language, but only partially – you think you’ve done it right, but miss one little thing and you end up totally screwing up.

It was painful handing my credit card over… I even found myself thinking (shock horror) that I should’ve just flown…

But you’re probably here because you don’t want to fly; so, here’s an updated ‘how to’ for travelling by JR Beetle between Busan and Fukuoka, and here’s my detailed guide to all ferry routes between Korea and Japan.

JR pass banner

Have you taken the JR Beetle recently? Any more changes future overlanders should be aware of? Any questions? Leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

Click here for more posts on Japan and Korea

For my Japan snowboarding guide, click here, and for my Korea snowboarding guide click here

Check out my guides to hiking in KyotoTokyo, and Seoul

Also see my overland travel guides for Japan and Korea

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