How to travel from China to Korea by Boat
Getting to Qingdao
The first step in travelling from China to Korea starts in Qingdao. Qingdao is a major port city in north-eastern China and is serviced by air and rail links to the rest of China and beyond. The city can be reached from Beijing and Shanghai in 5 or 6 hours by fast train:
|Route||Duration||2nd Class||1st Class|
|Beijing to Qingdao||5 hours||¥314||¥474|
|Shanghai to Qingdao||6.5 hours||¥522||¥822|
Qingdao – More than just a beer!
Qingdao is a pleasant seaside city with a very European feel to it due to its German colonial past and if you have time to explore before your departure then you won’t be disappointed.
Getting to the port
The port building is located a few kilometres north of the train station. From the centre of town, a taxi will take ten minutes and cost around ¥20, or you can take bus number 6 for ¥1 (takes 15 minutes).
We arrived at the port around 09:00 and went straight to buy our tickets which was a quick and easy process. We deposited our bags at the left luggage (¥10 per bag) and went off to explore Qingdao for a few hours before returning for customs and border checks at 15:00.
Facilities at the port
- Convenience Store (water, instant noodles etc)
- Currency Exchange
- Left Luggage
- Toilets (including western style)
The company that operates the route is Weidong Ferry.
Buying a ticket for the China to Korea Ferry
It is not possible to buy tickets in advance online for this sailing and you must go to the port to buy your ticket.
We arrived early the day we wanted to sail and there were plenty of tickets. If you or someone you know speaks Chinese, it is possible to call the office in advance and reserve tickets. Contact number for the Incheon office is (+86) 0532 82803574 or see the booking guide for more information.
However, if you would rather secure a ticket in advance, then it is possible to book online with our partners at Direct Ferries for the services from Lianyungang, Dalian and Yingkou.
China to Korea Ferry Sailing Times
The Qingdao to Incheon sailing leaves China every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The ferry departs Qingdao Port at 17:00 and is due to arrive at Incheon Port near Seoul at 10:00 the next day, HOWEVER, we didn’t dock until after 13:00 and it was after 14:00 by the time we were on Korean soil and through customs, so better to be a little flexible with your onward travel.
NB: If you are going to be spending any time in South Korea’s bustling capital, check out this great Seoul itinerary from Hoponworld.com!
Important: Ensure you are at the port by 15:00 to do the necessary customs and border checks before embarking.
|Economy||50 Bed Dormitory||¥750|
|Business||5 Bed Dormitory||¥890|
Note 1: The prices do not include port tax (¥30) and fuel surcharge, both payable at the port. A 5% discount is applied if you book a return journey.
Note 2: Economy and Business class rooms are segregated into male and female-only rooms.
We opted for the business class which was more than comfortable with two sets of bunk beds and one mattress on the floor. The room was on the 3rd floor, above deck and with a porthole window, television, power supply (Korean), sink and fridge with free bottled water.
China to Korea Ferry – The Vessel
New Golden Bridge V
Facilities on board
The vessel is large and comfortable with seating areas in the main lounge, a small restaurant selling Korean food, a small convenience store selling drinks, snacks and travel accessories and a duty-free shop. There is also a bar and cinema and seating up on deck.
China to Korea – The Sailing
We arrived back at the port at 15:00 and were led through to the customs area. I queued for 20 minutes or so at passport control (make sure to fill out the Chinese exit slip first) and we were soon through. After making our way through the small terminal we were told to wait for a bus to take us the 20 metres or so from the terminal building to the ferry across the tarmac as large trucks were loading the vessel of cargo.
We entered the ship and ascended two escalators up to the main concourse where we were directed to the reception desk to sign in and collect the key to our room. I deposited my bags and went to have a look around the ship.
A blast of the horn dead on 17:00 indicated our departure and I went up on deck as the tug led us out of the harbour, past China’s fleet of shiny black nuclear submarines and coast guard ships. The sun had started to set casting a golden glow from the skyscrapers along the shoreline I was headed out into the open ocean.
Being February it was windy and bitterly cold, but the sunset over the Yellow Sea was spectacular. I started to feel a little queasy with the swaying which I think had more to do with the beers I had the previous night as I rarely get seasick.
Overnight on the Ferry from China to Korea
For dinner, we went to the small restaurant on the top deck and I opted for a seafood carbonara and my girlfriend had the ramen noodles (both tasty).
After dinner, we seated ourselves in the main lounge and settled down in front of a film playing on one of the television screens. The boat was eerily quiet as it was Chinese New Year and most people were at home with families rather than sailing the seven seas!
I was sharing a room with four other people, but my girlfriend’s room was empty so I settled on the mattress next to the window in her room and tried to get some sleep, though the swaying of the ship was still making me feel a little uncomfortable. I think I snatched a few hours sleep and awoke around 07:00.
We breakfasted on pot noodles bought before the journey and had a wash in the sink. We already knew that the boat would not be arriving until 13:00 and spent the morning idly resting in the cabin and wandering around on deck.
When we finally docked and were ready to disembark our temperatures were taken as we left the vessel to ensure we were not suffering any sort of fever before entering South Korea.
The customs process was straightforward (make sure you have filled out the entry card and customs declaration provided when boarding).
Arrival in Korea – Incheon to Busan
Our plan was to simply get to Busan in the South of the country and pick up a ferry to Japan. We would have time to explore South Korea on the return journey a week or so later.
You might like: Complete guide on travel from Seoul to Busan.
We made our way via metro to Incheon Exchange Terminus where conveniently there was a bus to Busan within a few minutes (16:02) and arrived there 4.5 hours later at 22:30. We booked into the Kimchee Hostel for the night before taking the JR Beetle ferry to Fukuoka in Japan the next day which you can read about in my Korea to Japan Ferry article.
Incheon is very close to the capital of South Korea, and if you will be staying there for a few days check out this guide on day trips from Seoul.
About the author: Steve Rohan, originally from England, has lived in China for over six years. He has lived in the frozen city of Harbin, the ancient capital of Luoyang, the tropical paradise of Sanya and Hong Kong.
He has travelled extensively across Europe and Asia, mostly by train, and has written about his travels for this blog as well as self-publishing his first book, Siberian Odyssey.