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Moving to Busan

As the second-largest city in South Korea, Busan is a popular alternative to fast-paced Seoul. Expats moving to Busan will enjoy good weather and the beaches, making the city an alluring prospect for expats who can't face the extreme winters the northern provinces suffer. 

Living in Busan as an expat

Busan houses the country's largest port. This generates a booming economy, which has led to a healthy job market. Although many expats find work related to shipbuilding or logistics, the city is also one of the most popular choices for young expats moving to Korea to teach English.

With the city divided into 15 gu districts, expats will have many expat-friendly neighbourhoods to choose from when it comes to accommodation. That said, apartments tend to be smaller than many expats may be used to. Public transportation options in Busan are vast and efficient, making it easy to navigate the city's subway and bus systems. Taxis are also widely available and affordable. 

Even though Busan is best known for its beaches, it also hosts numerous festivals and cultural events throughout the year, making it a cultural hub. The lifestyle in Busan is surprisingly diverse. The city has a mix of huge shopping malls and traditional street markets. Expats can eat Korean food quite cheaply at local restaurants, and there is also a wide selection of international restaurants.

Cost of living in Busan

Although Busan is slightly cheaper than Seoul, the city is expensive to live in, and this is reflected in its ranking of 68th out of 227 cities in Mercer's 2023 Cost of Living Survey. This makes Busan pricier than European cities such as Stuttgart and Barcelona but more affordable than Taipei and Shanghai. Fortunately, salaries are competitive, and employment contracts also frequently cover accommodation and schooling, saving expats a lot of money.

Expats will discover transport, locally manufactured goods and Korean restaurants are extremely affordable, while all foreign goods and foodstuffs come at a high price. Eating at Korean restaurants may even at times be cheaper than buying groceries for one person. This is partly due to Korean groceries being sold in bulk, which may not be an option for a single expat.

Families and children in Busan

Expats with children will find the city family-friendly, with many attractions that will keep tots and teens entertained. There are also a few international schools in the city, which expats generally opt for rather than local Korean schools due to the language barrier. The American curriculum and the International Baccalaureate are taught at many of these schools. There is also a Japanese school in the city.

Climate in Busan

Thanks to Busan's far south location and its proximity to the sea, winters are slightly warmer than in the rest of the country. Temperatures rarely drop below freezing, and accumulated snowfall is rare. That said, the warmer months are hot, humid and wet, with the monsoon season lasting for much of summer. Typhoons are also possible towards the end of summer in Busan.

Busan is a beautiful South Korean coastal city, boasting a rich history and culture. Those who try to learn the language will be welcomed with open arms. Friendly locals, low crime rates and great amenities make moving to Busan a comfortable experience even for first-time expats.

Pros and cons of moving to Busan

When people consider living in South Korea, Seoul is naturally the first city that they think of as a destination. That said, moving to Busan can be a great alternative for those who want to have the conveniences of big-city living without being overwhelmed by the enormity of a megalopolis like Seoul.

Though its population is dwarfed by Korea's capital, Busan is still a hidden gem of Southeast Asia despite being a city of around 3.4 million people. Below are some pros and cons of living in Busan.

Getting around in Busan

+ PRO: Affordable, reliable options

Busan is home to a considerable public transit system that makes it easy for everyone to travel in and around the city. Six metro lines connect to all the major parts of Busan and a few of its surrounding cities. For those who prefer to be above ground, there are a variety of bus routes that can conveniently get people to any part of the city.

In a pinch, it's easy to grab a taxi at a fare far lower than one would find in other cities of Busan's size. For those looking to travel, Busan is well connected to the rest of Korea by intercity buses and trains, including the KTX bullet train connecting Busan to Seoul.

- CON: Limited international travel options

Nearby Gimhae Airport offers non-stop flights throughout East Asia and has broken into Europe with flights to Helsinki, though travellers will have to transfer to larger airports for longer trips. Compared to Seoul, international flights through Busan may feel limited. Some flights may also be pricier. Expats often choose to travel to Seoul and then fly from there, which can add to travel time and expenses.

Weather in Busan

+ PRO: Warmer winter weather

Thanks to Busan being far enough south and close to the sea, winters are slightly warmer than in the rest of the country. Temperatures rarely drop below freezing, and accumulated snowfall is rare. 

- CON: Extreme weather in summer

Summers are when Busan experiences its most extreme weather. Humidity starts to creep up as early as May and monsoon rainfall occurs from June to September. Recently, Busan has been affected more frequently by typhoon storms that have passed through the area as late as September and November.  

Cost of living in Busan

+ PRO: Lots of cheap local options available

Busan has a robust variety of restaurants for Korean food at cheap prices. This makes it easy and affordable for expats to try out the local cuisine.

- CON: Western food can be expensive

While there's plenty for those who want to experience Korean culture, it can be tricky at times to find the comforts of home. Western products can be found at stores like Costco and major supermarket chains, but shoppers should be prepared to pay higher prices for things like cheese and spices. While it's fairly easy to find popular international options like Italian and Japanese food throughout the city, more niche cuisine is typically limited to touristy places like Haeundae Beach.

Lifestyle in Busan

+ PRO: Wide variety of events

Busan has made great strides to make itself an entertainment hub. Whether it's a sporting event, concert, art exhibit, gaming expo, theatrical performance, or cultural festival, Busan offers a variety of events throughout the year to make a stay in the city memorable. 

- CON: Limited international options

Expat residents can enjoy international artists, such as international touring productions at the Dream Theater and movies at the Busan International Film Festival. That said, they should be prepared to travel to Seoul to catch most musical acts going on world tours.  

Accommodation in Busan

+ PRO: Affordable housing

Unlike Seoul, Busan offers a variety of accommodation options at a lower cost than can be found in South Korea's capital. The quality of housing in Busan can also exceed that found in Seoul, making it one of the best cities to live in South Korea. 

- CON: Difficult to find suitable expat housing

While accommodation in Busan may be more affordable, finding a home in the city can be more challenging. There are few websites targeted at expats specifically and fewer English speakers than one might find in Seoul. Therefore, it becomes essential for expats to hire a real estate agent to facilitate the rental process. 

Education in Busan

+ PRO: Excellent teaching standards and facilities 

As the language of instruction in Korea's public schools is Korean, most parents opt to send their children to international schools in Busan. These schools typically boast exceptional teachers and school grounds, and they usually offer globally recognised curricula, making them a fantastic option for expat children. 

- CON: Fewer international school options

Busan is currently home to only three international schools, meaning parents have limited options. The low number of international schools in Busan also means that space constraints in the city are genuine. 

Healthcare in Busan

+ PRO: Several international clinics 

As part of their coverage under South Korea's National Health Insurance (NHI) programme, expats living in Busan can access international clinics with services explicitly aimed at foreigners living in South Korea.

+ PRO: English-speaking and interpretation care services are available 

Local hospitals and clinics will usually also have English-speaking doctors and interpreters on staff, making it possible for expats to access Busan's exceptional healthcare services. 

Working in Busan

Busan houses South Korea's largest port. This generates much economic activity, which in turn has created a healthy job market. Those who don't enjoy the fast-paced work environment in Seoul often choose to settle in sunny Busan. The job market attracts a wide variety of expat employees, from English teachers to marine engineers.

With its laid-back atmosphere, friendly locals and competitive salaries, competition for expat jobs in Busan can become fierce.

Job market in Busan

With Busan being a port city, it makes sense that the city's economy is heavily driven by the port sector. Aside from shipping and logistics, expats can also find employment in the information and communication sector, finance, information technology and education. Busan also hosts several international and multinational companies like Renault and Samsung.

Like in most of South Korea, most jobs available to English-speaking foreigners tend to be focused on teaching English. Expats who want to work in other industries besides education must have a high level of education or be experienced in a highly specialised field. 

Many large companies in Busan have a policy that managerial staff must be able to speak English. This makes doing business in Busan easier. That said, Korean society doesn't necessarily follow the same rules most Westerners may be used to. Expats should do their research and try to keep up with the country's cultural and social practices to make their work life successful.

Finding a job in Busan

It's standard for expats to find a job before relocating, as this is often a necessary condition for receiving a work visa. Korean employers typically provide key support, such as helping expats find accommodation and applying for the required visas.

Many expats find employment through the various job portals available online. The large number of expats looking to teach in Korea has resulted in the establishment of many recruitment companies that organise placements on behalf of schools, of which there are many in Busan.

Work culture in Busan

Traditional social practices and etiquette still have an important role in South Korean business. If expatriate businesspeople want to be accepted by their colleagues, they must be aware of Korean business practices and willing to engage in the social codes that are at the foundation of business culture in South Korea.

There is an elaborate system of hierarchy that imbues business culture in South Korea that is based on position, age, prestige and, to an extent, gender. Saving face is also an essential part of business practice, and expats should therefore not expect a direct negative answer from Korean people if they can't help or don't know. This is done to maintain honour and dignity. 

Koreans want to trust the people they are doing business with, and social relationships are directly linked to business success. For this reason, prospective business partners spend a lot of time getting to know each other. Dinner invitations, after-dinner drinks and karaoke will also likely feature at some point and should not be turned down.

Teaching English in Busan

Teaching English as a foreign language is by far the most popular form of employment in Busan. Many young English-speaking foreigners move to the city with the hope of saving money, paying off student debt and getting the chance to travel around Southeast Asia. 

Due to the large number of private English schools (hagwons) in the city, job opportunities are in abundance, but there are strict rules that go with the job. Expats will need an E-2 visa to legally teach in South Korea, and it is only available to UK, US and South African citizens. Applicants need to meet basic requirements and aren't allowed to have any other form of employment while on this visa. Recently, the government has been cracking down on foreigners who teach English without the proper visas.

Competition for good schools in Busan is fierce. Expats should also be careful of being scammed while looking for a teaching job. For these reasons, expats should ensure they work with a reputable recruiter who will negotiate the best salary and benefits on their behalf. 

Accommodation in Busan

Most expats moving to Busan won't have to go through the process of finding their own apartment, as many employers provide their employees with suitable accommodation – this is especially true for expats teaching English in Busan. Those who want to rent their own accommodation will find that Busan is quite affordable compared to Seoul.

Due to the short-term nature of expat assignments, most people tend to rent rather than buy property. Rentals tend to move quickly in Busan, and expats should therefore research the processes involved in securing accommodation in the city ahead of time.

Areas and suburbs in Busan

Busan is home to 15 autonomous districts and more than 200 neighbourhoods, making for an interesting mix of areas and suburbs. Young and single expats will enjoy living in the trendy and hip suburbs of Centum City, Marine City, Nampo-dong and Gwangan-dong. These areas boast some of Busan's best cultural, shopping and lifestyle attractions. 

Geumjeong-gu is surrounded by the Geumjeongsan Mountain and makes an excellent base for sports enthusiasts looking to engage in activities such as mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing and hang gliding regularly. The popular Haeundae-gu is a perfect mix of family-friendly living and countless attractions, including Haeundae Beach, that serve to attract tourists as well as expat families looking to keep their little ones entertained. 

While many of Busan's neighbourhoods cater well for younger expats, families will also find suitable suburbs to call home in the city. Perched in western Busan, Sasang-gu is a nature wonderland filled with various forest parks and trails. It is ideal for expat families looking to escape city life while maintaining proximity to key business centres. Consisting only of islands, Yeongdo-gu is another family-friendly district in Busan that has plenty of opportunities for experiencing nature and exploring the city's history. 

See Areas and Suburbs in Busan for more on the city's neighbourhoods. 

Types of accommodation in Busan

Like in other Korean cities, most people in Busan live in apartments. Large multi-storey apartment blocks (apateu), as well as smaller apartment buildings (yeollip jutaek), can be found across the city. 

Less popular forms of accommodation include individual houses (jutaek dandok), officetels and villas. Owing to space constraints, single-family homes and villas are hard to come by in Busan. Officetels are mixed-use properties that house residential and office spaces, and these usually have more modern amenities and security. 

Finding accommodation in Busan

Expats who aren't provided accommodation by their employer may struggle to find a place to live in Busan. That said, using newspapers, such as the Korean Times or Korean Herald, expat social media groups or online property portals may be useful.

Although most real estate agents in Busan (budongsan junggaesa) don't speak English, they may still be the best option for expats to find accommodation. These agents act as mediators between the property owner and the tenant. Expats are more likely to find English-speaking agents in neighbourhoods popular with expats. Asking a Korean friend or colleague to assist in finding housing may also ease the process.

Renting accommodation in Busan

Making an application

Once expats have found a property that meets their requirements, the next step would be to sign a lease and secure the accommodation. It's essential for expats to ensure they have all their documents and fees ready, as the rental market in Busan is fast-moving. Newcomers must produce their residence card, proof of employment and passport to rent an apartment in Busan.  

Leases, costs and fees

A typical lease in Busan is signed for one year. Renters have to give at least three months' notice if they want to move out. Tenants renting under the jeonse or banjeonse systems have to pay a large deposit (or 'key money') to secure a property. There is usually a minimum amount that needs to be paid, but the larger the deposit one puts down, the lower the rent. Any damages to the apartment will be paid for out of the deposit when moving out. The remainder of the deposit is returned to the tenant.

See Accommodation in South Korea for detailed information on the rental process in the country. 

Utilities in Busan

Utilities aren't typically included in the monthly rent, so expats must include these costs in their monthly budget. These bills can be paid via bank transfer at the bank, ATM or through a mobile app. Some bills can even be paid at convenience stores.

Electricity and gas

South Korea's sole electricity provider, Korea Electricity Power Corporation (KEPCO), supplies the electricity in Busan. New arrivals can register an account with the entity by visiting their local office or their website or by mail. They will need to submit proof of identification to secure a connection, and the account should be registered within 24 hours. Expats can expect to receive a monthly bill. Some expats may be lucky enough to have their electricity included as part of their management fee and will, therefore, not need to register an account. 

Busan City Gas is Busan's main gas supplier, and the company pumps natural gas to homes through pipes. Newcomers to Busan will need to supply the company with their residence card and proof of identification to get hooked to their building's supply. The company will send a service agent who will set up the connection, check for leaks and ensure that the line is safe.

When moving out, expats will need to call out a service agent again to disconnect the apartment. Depending on if their meter is indoors or outdoors, expats must send their monthly usage to the gas company, which will then send them a bill. 


Most of Busan's drinking water comes from the Nakdong River, and the supply is managed by the Busan Metropolitan City Office of the Water Supply. Only expats moving into single-family homes will need to set up a water connection. Those moving into apartments, officetels or villas will likely have a connection ready and will simply need to change the bill to their name by calling or visiting their local waterworks office. 

Bins and recycling

South Korea's rubbish disposal system mandates that all the rubbish that individuals and businesses produce be paid for and disposed of properly. Rubbish in Busan is separated into different coloured regulation bags. These regulation bags are available for purchase from supermarkets or convenience stores, and in more rural areas, they can be purchased from the local government office. 

There are several waste categories in Korea, including general, recyclable and food waste. General waste typically includes items such as old clothing and shoes and used hygiene and sanitary products, while recyclable waste is usually plastic, paper, cans and bottles. 

Food waste in Busan works differently than in the rest of Korea. The city uses reusable food waste bins rather than special plastic bags. The bins will usually be marked with a chip or sticker to indicate that the food waste removal fee has been paid. Larger apartment buildings will typically have freestanding food waste bins that are placed in a common area or included as part of a contraption that weighs food waste and calculates the cost accordingly. Smaller complexes may require residents to buy their own bins and chips. 

For larger rubbish items such as furniture, expats living in large apartment complexes can liaise with their building management to pay for the removal and disposal of the waste. Those living in smaller buildings can contact their local district office, pay a fee and place the item in the designated collection area along with the payment sticker provided by the district office. 

Rubbish collection days will differ in each of Busan's 15 districts, but the collection is usually done late in the evening. The general waste bags will also have collection days printed on them. 


Busan has excellent telecommunications infrastructure and even offers a free Wi-Fi service at key tourist, cultural and sports facilities as well as the city's beaches. There are also several providers offering reliable and fast mobile and internet services. 

See Keeping in Touch in South Korea for more information. 

Areas and suburbs in Busan

Apart from being a popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia, Busan is also home to a large expat community, and as such, the city has a welcoming rental market. While the city's rental market may be welcoming to foreign residents, expats may struggle to find suitable rentals and have to scour the different areas and suburbs in Busan before finally finding a home. 

Busan is divided into districts (gu), further separated into neighbourhoods (dong). If an area has the suffix '-gu', it's a larger area made up of various dong. If the name has '-dong' at the end of it, then it refers to a specific neighbourhood.

While the choice of which neighbourhood to live in will depend largely upon where new arrivals are working, below are some of the most popular expat areas and suburbs in Busan. 

Areas popular with young expats in Busan


Centum City and Marine City

Just down the coast from Haeundae Beach, these two areas have become two of the most prestigious areas to live and work in the entire city. Both are located just two metro stops away from each other.

Centum City has become a hub of both commerce and entertainment. While living in high-rise apartments, residents can take a short walk to the Shinsegae Department Store, the Busan Museum of Art, the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center, the Busan Cinema Center, and other attractions.  

Marine City is a collection of high-rise luxury apartments on the coast near the mouth of the Suyeong River with its set of shops, parks, and restaurants. It's a small community unto itself.


Gwangan-dong has become one of the most popular gathering spots for foreigners and locals alike, while nearby Gwangalli Beach offers iconic views of the Diamond Bridge. 

The beach features many seaside cafés and restaurants for residents to enjoy. The number of affordable housing options has increased considerably as more apartment buildings are constructed and renovated. While not as trendy as the more upscale areas of the city, there are several expat bars in the area. Cheaper accommodation and many entertainment options make this a sought-after area for younger expats.

Pusan National University

Pusan National University is one of ten national universities in Korea. Its main campus is conveniently located in the north-central part of the city. One of the original hubs of Busan expat social life, the area remains a destination for music, art, food, and culture. People living in this area can easily get to other areas in the northern part of the city, such as Oncheonjang Hot Springs, Geumjeong Fortress, and Sajik Baseball Stadium.


The downtown area of Busan is a convenient central area with access to any part of the city. Located at the junction of Metro Lines 1 and 2, people living in Seomyeon will find the commute around Busan simple.  

While businesses in this area don't specifically cater to foreign patrons as much as more tourist-friendly parts of the city, the area still offers plenty of options for food and shopping. In particular, Jeonpo Café Street has plenty of food and drink options and has become a trendy gathering spot.  

There are also many affordable apartment options. Residents living in this area would be just one metro stop away from the Busan Citizens Park, the Dream Theater, and the Busan International Finance Center. 

Family-friendly areas in Busan


Haeundae District (Haeundae-gu) contains some of the more foreigner-friendly neighbourhoods in the city. There's a large variety of shops and restaurants catering to both Korean and foreign tastes. Residents can also enjoy being adjacent to the beaches and coastal parks of the area, while nearby Jangsan Mountain is a well-liked hiking destination. 

Haeundae-gu is also one of the more family-friendly areas of Busan and is home to the Busan Foreign School. While affordable housing can be found here, the general cost of living is slightly higher than in other parts of the city. The area can also become congested with tourists, especially in the summer.


Largely considered a country town, Yeongdo-gu is an ideal area to raise a family while maintaining proximity to a big city. As is the case in most of South Korea's major cities, the accommodation here is largely apartments. Expats will discover magnificent views and green spaces at the nearby Taejongdae Resort Park while plugging into a tight-knit local community. 

Healthcare in Busan

The standard of healthcare in Busan is high. Hospitals are equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, and staff are well trained. Many hospitals in Busan are attached to universities. There are also many reputable private clinics throughout the city.

South Korea's National Health Insurance programme is a compulsory social insurance system that covers the whole population. Foreigners are required to register for the national scheme if they have lived in the country for six months.

Doctors and specialists will claim most of the costs of a consultation from the NHI, and expats will have to pay only a portion of the cost. Prescription medication and traditional medicine (including acupuncture) are also covered and will therefore also incur small costs.

Expats don't have to be concerned about language barriers when it comes to healthcare in the city. Most large hospitals and international clinics have English-speaking staff. It's also common for hospitals to have interpreting services available.

Pharmacies in Busan are also plentiful and easy to find throughout the city, but they are rarely attached to hospitals and seldom open 24 hours. Korean pharmacies, called yak-guk, are usually indicated by the yak symbol displayed at the front of the store or in the window. It's advisable to have a Korean friend or colleague write down what is needed in Korean, as many pharmacists don't speak English well.

Read more about Healthcare and Health Insurance for expats in South Korea

Hospitals in Busan

Some of the most reputable hospitals in Busan include:

Dong-Eui Medical Center 

Address: 62 Yangjeong-ro, Busanjin-gu

West Busan Centum Hospital

Address: 226 Saebyeok-ro, Sasang-gu

Kosin University Gospel Hospital

Address: 262 Gamcheon-ro, Seo-gu

Inje University Haeundae Paik Hospital

Address: 875 Haeun-daero, Haeundae-gu 

Busan St Mary's Hospital

Address: 25-14, Yongho-ro 232beon-gil, Nam-gu 

Education and Schools in Busan

Education and schools in Busan are highly regarded. Public schools in the city are known for having a strict approach to teaching and pressuring students to excel, which makes them a less attractive prospect for expat parents.

Public schools in Busan

The language of instruction in public schools in South Korea is exclusively Korean, and for these reasons, most expats send their children to international schools in Busan.

International schools in Busan have an excellent reputation, but there are heavy school fees that come with this reputation. In most cases, school fees don't cover extra expenses such as uniforms or school excursions. Expats should therefore try to negotiate a schooling stipend as part of their employment contract.

See Education and Schools in South Korea for more on the national education system. 

International schools in Busan

Expats moving to Busan with children will find that international school fees are their most significant expense. Though Busan doesn't have such a variety of schools as Seoul, the schools all have high standards of education. Most of these schools cater to English-speaking families and follow American or International Baccalaureate curricula. Some of these schools do offer ESL classes to students who aren't native English speakers. Busan also has schools following Japanese curricula.

Generally, classes are small, giving students a better opportunity to learn. That said, expat parents should be aware that the South Korean culture of pressuring students to achieve academically does spill over into international schools to some extent. Because of this, expat children might feel more pressure to excel academically than they did in their home countries. 

Expats sending their children to international schools in Busan should research possible schools long before they move. Parents should contact schools as early as possible, as schools could have long waiting lists. Expat children might have to be interviewed before they are accepted into an international school.

Read more about International Schools in Busan.

Special-needs education in Busan

By law, children in South Korea cannot be refused admission or discriminated against by any school because of disabilities. Education is also free for children with physical and intellectual disabilities from the ages of five to 18 in South Korea. While there are special needs schools throughout the country, and Busan is no exception, many children with disabilities attend mainstream schools. Students who spend a lot of time in the hospital can also study online while receiving medical treatment. 

For a child to attend a school for special needs, they must first be registered as a child with a disability at their local district office. Parents can then apply to a school of their choice. Not all international schools cater for children with special educational needs, so expat parents should check with the relevant school.

Tutors in Busan

Tutors can be helpful for expat children transitioning into a new school environment. They can be hired for anything from general assistance with school subjects to help maintain a child's mother tongue or assist them with learning Korean. Differences in education systems may result in expat children being behind in some areas of their new curriculum, and tutors are an excellent way to catch up.

South Korea's tutoring industry is huge, so expats can research different options before selecting a tutor. Tutoring can be done one-on-one, through online classes and videos, or by attending a hagwon (private after-school academy). Many schools will have a list of tutors or hagwons they can recommend.

International schools in Busan

Though there isn't a wide variety of international schools in Busan, the schools that are available boast high standards. Most of the schools offer US or International Baccalaureate curricula. Spaces at international schools in Busan are limited, so expat parents should start applying early to secure a spot for their child.

One of the biggest benefits of international schooling is that expat children get to continue their home-country curriculum. The most well-known schools in Busan are the American schools, and there are also schools offering Japanese curricula. Small class sizes are another advantage that most international schools pride themselves on. This results in students being cared for individually.

International schools also boast a more comprehensive range of extra-curricular activities and complementary state-of-the-art facilities. Students at these schools are often able to explore more of their interests and hobbies, leading to the development of holistic individuals. Parents should know that this does not come cheap, so they should consider the cost of living in Busan and budget well.

Proximity to their children's schools is another consideration expat parents will make when choosing an area and suburb in Busan. While public transport in the city is exceptional, commute times can be long during rush hours, so it's best to rent accommodation close to children's schools and one's workplace.

Below is a list of some of Busan's best international schools.

International schools in Busan

Busan Foreign School

With 26 years of experience, Busan Foreign School has honed its ability to develop lifelong learners who are academically successful. The school boasts an average class size of 14 students and an 8:1 student ratio. Busan Foreign School's mission is to provide quality education to each of its students regardless of their social or financial standing. 

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American (including AP)
Ages: 3 to 18

International School of Busan

The International School of Busan offers the globally recognised International Baccalaureate programme at its over 30,000 square meter campus in Busan. The school is passionate about developing digitally literate life-long learners who go on to become creative leaders who contribute to the development of a sustainable world.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Busan Japanese School

Established by the Busan Japanese Association, Busan Japanese School is home to a few students, making for small class sizes and personalised learning. The school offers various extra-curricular activities to widen children's socio-emotional and cultural experiences and perspectives. 

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Japanese
Ages: 6 to 18

Lifestyle in Busan

Built among the eponymous pot-shaped mountain range on Korea's southeastern coast, Busan is a continually expanding city that takes full advantage of its natural setting while providing all the amenities of modern urban living. 

Shopping in Busan

Busan's most complete shopping experience can be found in Nampo-dong, which is just a few subway stops away from Busan's KTX bullet-train station and international ferry port. The streets are filled with stores featuring the trendiest brands from Korea and abroad. Shoppers looking for bargain products can spend hours in the Nampo Underground Mall, which features more traditional mom-and-pop stores.

For one of Busan's more unique experiences, it's just a short walk to Jagalchi Market, Korea's largest seafood market, where many go to try the fresh fare on offer. Fashionistas seeking trendy offerings in Busan should look no further than Gwangbok-ro Fashion Street in Jung-gu. This fashion hub is home to plenty of stores selling hip clothing and is considered a tourist attraction. 

Another of Busan's popular shopping areas is Centum City, an urban development area that has become a hub of Busan's commerce and tourism. The centrepiece of Centum City is Shinsegae Department Store which holds the Guinness World Record for the world's largest shopping mall. In addition to its fashion shopping complex, grocery store and food courts, Shinsegae also contains a luxury spa, an ice skating rink and other cultural centres hosting activities for both adults and kids.

For more general shopping, there are a variety of options for different shoppers. Western products can be found at Costco and the other larger chain stores like Emart and Homeplus. The more discerning shopper can find deals for their fresh grocery shopping among the many outdoor markets scattered throughout the city.

Nightlife and entertainment in Busan

Day or night, Haeundae Beach is an attractive spot for both Koreans and expats. During the day, visitors can rent a parasol to relax on this popular beach, or they can check out the array of sea life at the Busan Aquarium and its efforts towards rehabilitation and conservation of the underwater world. At night, one can hop between Haeundae's many clubs, bars, and restaurants catering to both Korean and Western tastes. Haeundae also has one of Busan's three casinos that caters to foreign guests.  

Offering a similar atmosphere, with smaller crowds and lower prices, is Gwangalli Beach. While this beach isn't as popular for swimming during the day as Busan's other beaches, it offers a view of Busan's Diamond Bridge, made famous in the film Black Panther. Whether it's a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop, there are many places from which to see the iconic view of the lit-up bridge against the night horizon. Gwangalli is also the location of the Busan Fireworks Festival. A million people fill the beach each year to see the hour-long fireworks show that incorporates the notable bridge.

At the heart of the city is Seomyeon, Busan's downtown area. At the junction of Subway Lines 1 and 2, Seomyeon mixes a variety of traditional bars and restaurants with modern stores and clubs. One can wander the many side streets finding whatever suits their tastes, whether it be a dance club or street-side food carts.

Outdoor activities and sports in Busan

With mountains, coastlines and everything in between, Busan has no shortage of outdoor activities. Hiking is one of the most popular activities for young and old in Busan, with countless paths that wind around the Jangsan, Geumyeongsan and other mountains. Coastal hiking trails can also be found in Igidae and Taejeongdae.  

With five major beaches, Busan residents have access to many water sports. People can often be seen surfing, kayaking and jet-skiing at Haeundae and Gwangalli Beaches. Expats without a surfboard or kayak can also find rentals at these beaches.   

For those looking to play sports, expats can easily find pickup games of beach volleyball or basketball around the city. The city also has clubs for sports such as Ultimate Frisbee and Gaelic football.  

For those who enjoy being a spectator, attending a Lotte Giants baseball game and being among Busan's famously energetic fans is a memorable experience. There are also opportunities to see professional football and basketball, among other sports.  

See and do in Busan

As the second-biggest city in the country, Busan is one of South Korea's most popular destinations and offers plenty to see and do throughout the city. Below are some of the best things to see and do in Busan. 

Gamcheon Culture Village

For a memorable mix of art and the outdoors, expats can travel to Gamcheon Culture Village. This neighbourhood was initially formed by houses built into a mountainside, which have been restored and repainted to become one of Busan's most picturesque views. While exploring the steep streets and twisting alleys, visitors can find brightly painted murals, sculptures, and cafés in this artists' haven.

Busan Museum of Art

Busan is home to plenty of art galleries and museums, the largest of which is the Busan Museum of Art near Centum City. The museum showcases art from both Korean and international artists and hosts featured exhibitions throughout the year.

Dream Theatre

In 2019, Busan opened the Dream Theatre, its first mega-scale theatre to host touring international and local musical productions.

Geumjeong Mountain Temples 

The Geumjeong Mountain is dotted with prominent historical sites, including some fascinating ancient temples. Visitors can either hike or take a cable car up to the mountain trails. Once there, they'll see the gates, walls, and watchtowers of Geumjeong Fortress, and on the eastern end of the mountain is Beomeosa, the largest Buddhist temple in Busan.

United Nations Memorial Cemetery

This park honours UN soldiers from 21 countries who were killed in the Korean War. There are monuments throughout the park dedicated to many of the nations and their citizens who fought in the conflict.

Busan Citizen Park

At around 500,000 square meters, Busan Citizen Park is the largest in Busan. Formerly an American military base, Busan's government converted the land into a spacious park with 29 attractions scattered around its many walking paths in 2006.

What's on in Busan

Though Busan is best known for its beaches, the city is also a vibrant cultural hub that hosts an abundance of cultural festivals, creative events and shows throughout the year. Below is just a small sample of the best events in Busan.

First Sunrise Viewing (January)

One of the most significant Korean traditions is to ring in the New Year by watching the first sunrise. Busan has a few options for those hoping to join the early morning festivities. Two of the most popular venues for this are the Haeundae and Gwangalli beaches. Events usually include cheer performances, new year's greetings and an air show. There are also vendors selling tteokguk (rice-cake soup), which is traditionally eaten to celebrate the New Year in the hopes of bringing good fortune.

Busan International Short Film Festival (April)

This was the first short film festival to appear in Korea. In the beginning, only Korean films were screened during the festival, but by 2010 the festival had become an international affair and began accepting films from across the world. The festival aims to introduce outstanding short films and inspire up-and-coming producers and filmmakers. 

Joseon Tongsinsa Festival (May)

This festival symbolises the peaceful cultural exchange between South Korea and Japan. Expats can learn more about the history of South Korea and Japan through street performances, cultural exchange performances, and a peace procession.

Dureraum Saturday Outdoor Concert (May to September)

This is an outdoor music festival that takes place every Saturday at Busan's Cinema Centre. This event is free of charge and is a fantastic way to support local musicians. 

Busan Fireworks Festival (October)

Arguably one of Busan's most popular events, the Fireworks Festival draws more than a million visitors each year. The festival takes place along Gwangalli Beach, and programmes include cultural events, laser light shows and colourful firework displays.

Busan Christmas Tree Cultural Festival (November)

Annually the Busan Christmas Tree Festival is held in the streets of Gwangbok-ro in the Jung-gu district. Families will be mesmerised by grand LED light displays, a giant Christmas tree, street performances and much more.

Frequently Asked Questions about Busan

Expats moving to Busan usually have many questions, often about what to expect from expat life. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about living in Busan.

How bad is the pollution in Busan?

Like many Asian cities, Busan has its fair share of pollution, but expats will find that it isn't as bad as it is in Seoul. It's very common to see South Koreans wearing face masks to protect themselves from pollution or illnesses. The only time it's strongly advised to wear a mask in Busan is during the 'yellow dust season', which is generally their spring. Yellow dust originates in China and contains several industrial pollutants as well as fine soil particles.

Is public transport available 24 hours a day?

Though Busan is known for its excellent public transport, the subway and most bus routes don't run past midnight. There are late-night buses, but it's recommended that expats research which routes the buses drive at night as they may need a taxi to get to their destination. Metered taxis are always available, and many drivers understand some English. They are cheap for short trips but can be expensive over a longer distance. Expats can hail a taxi from the street or order one on the cellphone app Kakao Taxi.

Is it easy to get out of Busan for a weekend?

South Korea has a very well-developed railway and bus network. This makes it convenient and easy to travel to other cities. It's possible to get to Seoul in about three-and-a-half hours with the KTX high-speed train. Smaller towns are inexpensive to visit but may be harder to get to. Locals are usually willing to help foreigners who look lost.

What is Busan like for children?

With Busan being right by the beach, it's a great city for children. There are many public parks scattered across the city with fun playground equipment. Korean culture is truly child-centred, and locals often dote on Western kids. Therefore, Busan is a child-friendly city and a safe and interesting place for children to grow up. There are also many international schools in the city for expat children to attend. 

Where can I meet other expats?

Busan has quite a large expat community. Many foreigners hail from English-speaking countries like the UK, USA and South Africa. Most expats are very open to meeting new people, and they, therefore, shouldn't find it hard to make friends. The city has several expat bars where foreigners are known to get together over weekends. Many bars for foreigners host other events, such as weekend markets or quiz nights. There are also language-exchange groups that bring expats and locals together.

Will I be able to communicate with locals?

Unfortunately, it's true that life in South Korea goes hand-in-hand with a significant language barrier. That said, as Busan is the second-largest city in South Korea, the odds of finding locals who speak some English are higher than in rural towns. Expats will find that most locals, especially taxi drivers, do understand and speak some English, but it is still recommended to learn basic Korean, like greeting or directions, to make life easier.

Getting Around in Busan

The most convenient way of getting around in Busan is by using public transport. Though Busan isn't nearly as congested as Seoul, there can be significant traffic jams closer to the popular beach areas, so most expats choose public transport over owning a car.

The subway system is smaller than in Seoul, but it's still extensive and an excellent way to get across the city conveniently and affordably. Public buses are another efficient way to get around. Street signs and subway signs in Busan are usually written in both English and Korean.

Public transport in Busan

Expats can easily take advantage of the integrated public transport system in Busan. It's possible to get almost anywhere in the city by using the subway or bus. It's also inexpensive, and the city offers a rechargeable T-money card. Transportation rates are lower with the card than purchasing a single-ride ticket. The card can be used for both the subway and bus systems and even in some taxis.


The subway system in Busan is extensive and can be used to get around most of the city. Passengers can buy single-trip tickets from vending machines at any subway station. That said, the T-money card, which can be purchased at subway stations and some stores, is more convenient for those who regularly use the subway. Another advantage of the T-money card is that it can be used on all subway systems throughout Korea, making inter-city travel highly accessible. 


Busan recently converted most of its bus fleet to electric buses, and the city plans to convert its remaining diesel and compressed natural gas buses to hydrogen vehicles by 2025.

Smaller green or blue buses only travel in their home neighbourhoods, while larger buses travel longer distances throughout the city. Major bus stops will have an electronic board showing which routes pass through the stop and when the next bus will arrive. Passengers pay when they get onto the bus with their T-money cards, or they can use cash. 

Taxis in Busan

Taxis in Busan are incredibly convenient and not too hard to come by. It's possible to hail a cab from the street or through Kakao Taxi – a local taxi-hailing app. All taxis run on a meter, and expats can pay their fare either with a credit card, local bank card or in cash. It's also sometimes possible to use a T-money card to pay for a trip if the passenger swipes it at the start and end of the journey.

Many drivers don't speak English well, so it's always a good idea to have the address or destination written down in Korean to show the driver. Some taxis advertise a free call-in interpretation service which English-speaking passengers can use to explain where they want to go.

Driving in Busan

While Busan may be home to often confusing access, winding and mountain roads, driving in the city is largely safe and enjoyable as most drivers and pedestrians keenly follow road rules. That said, purchasing and driving a vehicle in the city will be largely unnecessary and more inconvenient since Busan boasts an efficient and comprehensive public transport system. 

Expats who choose to drive will need to contend with the costs of maintaining and running a car, as well as the process of securing a South Korean driving licence. Alternatively, those looking to explore some of Busan's hidden gems may benefit from hiring a car rather than buying a car. 

Useful links

Cycling in Busan

Although not the most bike-friendly city, expats can get around Busan by bike. However, it is recommended that expats cycle on the shoulder of the road to avoid pedestrians, mopeds and parked cars. Busan offers free public bike rentals and repairs throughout the city.

Expats can rent bicycles for a maximum of two hours and return them to one of the 11 shops sprinkled in the city. Expats will also have to consider the city's hilly nature. If they are prepared to break out a sweat, cycling is a good and free option for getting around in Busan. 

Useful links

Air travel in Busan

As the second-largest city in South Korea, Busan is home to 18 airlines and the Gimhae International Airport. This airport hosts both local and limited international flights to East Asian and European countries. Travelling by air across South Korea is one of the fastest ways to get around the country, and domestic flights from Busan are affordable.