There are a couple of different options for travelling between China and South Korea by overnight ferry. We read up on them over at The Man in Seat 61 but until we took the crossing ourselves we had a lot of questions we couldn’t quite find definitive answers to online. Now that we have travelled one of the routes I thought I’d share the process we went through for anyone else that might be considering it. If you are, hopefully it will answer some of your questions. And save you from being screamed at in Mandarin by an irate cabin mate as a bonus.
Route & schedule
We travelled from Qingdao in China to Incheon in South Korea with Weidong Ferry. This ferry only travels in this direction three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Your schedule for taking it would run something like this:
- 06:00 – Depart Beijing accommodation and take the subway to Beijing South Station.
- 07:10 – Train (category D) departs Beijing South Station.
- 12:22 – Train arrives at Qingdao Station (terminus).
- Transfer to Qingdao Port Passenger Station. It’s about 2.5km but there are no signs or directions. Your options are:
- Walk. We did this with the aid of preloaded Google Maps on our smart phones (GPS works even without a data connection). It takes 30 minutes if you don’t get lost on the way.
- Bus. According to Google Maps you can take the 8路 bus towards 康宁路 from the front of the train station. The bus itself takes about 11 minutes (3 stops) then it’s a 5 minute walk to the port.
- Taxi. You may want to have the address ready in Chinese if you take this option: 山东省青岛市北区新疆路6号.
- 14:30 – You need check in before this time and be ready to board.
- 16:00 – The ferry’s scheduled departure time. (Ours didn’t depart for another 2 hours.)
- 11:00 (following day, Korean time) – The ferry’s scheduled arrival time at Incheon. (Ours was about 1 hour late.)
- Transfer to Incheon Metro Station (a short walk or a very short taxi ride). Incheon is on the outskirts of the Seoul metro system and it takes about 1 hour to travel into the city centre.
The train is more likely to sell out than the ferry so definitely book your ticket to Qingdao in advance. We used China Trip Advisor and had the tickets delivered to our accommodation in Beijing. (China Travel Guide was also recommended to us for this service.) This seems to be a pretty common procedure but you should give your hotel a heads up in advance as a courtesy. (Or you can have a go at buying the tickets yourself.)
Unless you’re travelling during Golden Week you most likely won’t need to book the ferry in advance. By the the few accounts we found online it’s fine just to turn up at the port and buy your tickets on the day. However, we booked ahead because I just didn’t want to risk it. To make a reservation (we did this 2 days before we wanted to depart):
- Ring Weidong’s Qingdao office on +8653282803574 during business hours. It’s expensive to call from a Beijing number so we used Skype credit (using the app on a smart phone) and it cost 17p for an 8 minute call.
- There’s at least one lady who speaks some English at this office but you may want to enlist the assistance of someone who speaks both Chinese and English (hotel staff, a friend, maybe information centre staff) to assist with pronunciation of passport names and numbers so everything is clear.
- You will need to provide your passport number, name as shown on passport, date of birth, date of departure and desired cabin class (see note below).
- Regarding payment: foreign credit cards are not accepted and the website talks about paying by wire transfer but we didn’t know how to go about doing that. We asked if we could pay in cash at the port and this was fine.
You won’t receive a reservation number but the booking is linked to your passport numbers so you don’t need one.
You can read about the available classes and their prices at Weidong’s website but I think the prices might be out of date. Alex and I booked one way Business Class tickets and they cost 832 CNY each including Bunker Adjustment Factor (October 2012).
Note that Business and Economy Class are shared with other passengers and segregated by gender. If you want to stay with a travelling companion of the opposite sex you’ll need to book a Royal Class or Deluxe Royal cabin.
At the Qingdao Port Passenger Station
Weidong Ferry’s windows are on the left hand side inside the terminal. Show your passports at window 3 and the staff member will look up your reservation using your names and passport numbers, take your cash payment and print your tickets. (When we were there the girl that served us spoke a little bit of English.) If you get stuck you can go up the slightly dingy looking stairs in the corner and they’ll take you to the Qingdao Weidong Ferry office (that you phoned to make your reservation) and they should be able to help you.
After you buy your tickets you’ll need to pay a port tax of 30 CNY at a different window. (You’ll be pointed in the right direction.)
There are not many facilities at the port. You can buy a couple of snacks but if you want to bring your own food supplies on board it would be best to go shopping at a supermarket the day before you leave Beijing,
On the ferry
All prices are listed in Korean won. You can access boiling water from a coin machine but it only takes won. It was never very clear to us whether Chinese yuan were accepted at the shop or restaurants (they weren’t accepted at the cafe), but we later met someone who had been able to use yuan at the shop and received their change in won. If you want to be on the safe side, take some won with you or bring enough food supplies to last you for dinner and breakfast.
Important note! There is only one key per Business Class cabin. To avoid upsetting fellow cabin members (who may or may not scream at you in Mandarin like mine did), lock the door and return the key to reception whenever you’re not in the room. Normally the door is left unlocked while anyone is in the room.