How to get from South Korea to Russia without flying
If you want to get to Russia from South Korea and you don’t want to fly in a rusty old tin can of an airplane or pay a ridiculous amount of money to fly on Korean Airlines I’d recommend the Eastern Dream ferry from Donghae to Vladivostok. It’s operated by a Korean company called DBS Ferry and connects Japan, South Korea and Russia.
In the summer the ferry leaves once a week on Sunday from South Korea and arrives in Russia on Monday afternoon. There are several types of room accommodations ranging from economy bunk beds with up to 100 other people or for much more moolah, the Presidential VIP suite. We went the economical route and opted for the bunk beds. When we got on the boat we decided to inquire about an upgrade to a semi-private room. Luckily, they had a 4-person room available and since it wasn’t occupied at all, they gave it to us for an additional 6000 won which is a little less than $60 USD. We got a private room with a sink and mini-fridge all to ourselves. Score! The trip is 22 hours and even though the bunks would’ve been just fine, having our own room was priceless since we were both feeling the effects of our seasickness medicine.
Overall, it was a pleasant trip and a great option if you have time and are travelling on a budget.
Ferry trip tips:
– You can get to Donghae from Seoul by taking a bus from the Gangnam Express Bus Terminal. The buses run every 40 minutes but if you want to take a cheap bus then make sure to check the schedule for the “general” bus that runs every few hours. The trip is a little over 3 hours and you end up at the Donghae Bus Terminal where you can get a taxi to a nearby hotel for less than $5 USD.
– We opted to arrive at Donghae one day before our ferry departure to give us time to rest and stock up on food from Emart. We stocked up on fruit, tea, coffee, cup noodles, granola bars, and seaweed since we were getting on the Trans-Siberian Train in two days.
– Book the cheapest option and then try to get an upgrade on the ferry. The boat really isn’t very packed and I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the private and semi-private rooms were empty. If you hesitate a bit after the crew member quotes the price for the upgrade, she might even give you a discount like she did for us.
– Bring your own food. The hamburgers that we had for lunch were much better than expected, but their food selection is very slim. We decided to eat our cup noodles for dinner rather than paying $10 for them to “cook” a package of dry noodles.
– When boarding starts, don’t bother to get in line. Just wait for everyone to finish. You have to go through security and immigration and you’ll just be standing around with your stuff waiting and waiting. You might as well relax in the waiting area until the line dwindles down. You have assigned bedding/room on the boat anyway so it’s not like you’re getting a better seat if you get on first.
– If you have problems with sea travel, pick up a Kimite patch at the pharmacy in Donghae and put it on the night before. It’s 3500 won for 2 patches rather than $25 in the US for only one patch. It works beautifully.
– Disembarking is as joyful as embarking. You might as well hang out in your room until the last minute. It’s more comfortable than standing in line with a big backpack on your back.
More ferry pictures here.