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Smooth Sailing: An In-Depth Guide to Jeju Island Ferry Travel

by John Buckley
March 9, 2024

Explaining the Ins and Outs of Jeju Island Ferry Travel

Travel to Jeju Island: An Overview

Assuming you’ve made the decision to visit Jeju Island, South Korea, you’ll next be faced with an important question. 

How do I get there?

Unless you’re a really good swimmer, you essentially have two options: you can fly or take a ferry.

I’ll concede that the easiest option is to fly directly into Jeju International Airport (CJU). There are cheap, daily flights from most major Korean cities, as well as from several other Asian countries.

If you’re reading this from one of those other Asian countries with no intention of visiting mainland Korea, then your best bet is to fly. You kind of need to already be in South Korea to take the ferry (I checked).

However, if you’re reading this from South Korea or have plans to visit, I want to explain why Jeju Island ferry travel may be a better option for your trip.

I don’t work for the ferry union or anything, but in planning our trip last summer, there were several key reasons why it made more sense to take the ferry than to fly.

Exploring Jeju Island

Before I get into how to go there, you may first want to read about what to do when you get there.

If you’ve somehow found yourself here reading about how to travel to Jeju Island but don’t know what to do when you get there, I encourage you to:

Seongsan Ilchulbong UNESCO site - Jeju Island, Korea.

I also discovered that finding cool souvenir t-shirts wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, so I made some of my own. If you’d like your own Jeju Island t-shirt before or after your trip, please visit the Colorado Saram Store.

Jeju Island 'Couples' Unisex T-Shirt
Custom-made Jeju Island Products are available in our store

Now that you’ve read through an amazing itinerary detailing my 5-day Jeju Island adventure with wife and dog in tote, let’s get into why we opted to travel by ferry.

Benefits of Jeju Island Ferry Travel

Taking the ferry to Jeju Island, South Korea with my furry friend.
Setting Sail to Jeju Island

For us, it was pretty simple. We wanted to bring our dog, and we wanted to be able to drive ourselves around Jeju Island.

Of course, renting a car on Jeju is possible and is a very popular route to take for both Koreans and foreigners alike.

However, renting a car wouldn’t solve our Winnie (the dog) problem. Aside from the fact that we just wanted to have the lovable scamp along for the trip, boarding her for the week would have cost around $500 alone.

Therefore, when facing dog-boarding fees, airline tickets, and a rental car, the price just didn’t add up. Rather, it added up much too quickly.

Additionally, we wouldn’t get to have our faithful companion along for the trip. And as a border collie, Jeju Island was definitely her jam.

I realize that at this point, some readers may be thinking to themselves, “But I have neither a car nor a dog.

You’re in luck! Neither are required to travel by ferry, and most people just make the trip with their luggage.

However, I wanted to mention that it is possible to bring your own car and/or your pet, which could be a real selling point, as it was for us.

Traveling by ferry from Wando Port to Jeju Island, South Korea with a car and dog.
Winnie waits patiently to board the ship outside our car

I’ll break down the logistics of bringing the car and pooch a bit later.

Aside from the personal reasons I mentioned, here are a few more.

It’s affordable. Depending on the season and whether you want a private cabin or not, roundtrip tickets come in at around $100 per person. I’m reluctant to state an exact price because there are variables, such as the season, class of ticket, and whether you want to bring a pet and/or car.

It’s more of an adventure! I don’t care how much you value the convenience of flying; being able to channel your inner Jack or Rose is just much more fun.

Choosing the Right Ferry: Ticketing and Port Options

After deciding to travel to Jeju Island by ferry, you then have another decision to make. Which departure port is best for you?

The quick summary is that you can choose between Wando, Busan, Mokpo, Nokdong (Goheung), and Yeosu Ports.

I can’t really answer which is best for you, but you should start with how you plan to get to the port. If you don’t have a car, then the trip will likely involve buses and taxis.

You’ll also want to consider the sailing time. Ferry travel is fun, but the 12-hour, overnight trip from Busan (see below) could be a bit much. However, if you book your own private cabin, it might feel like a cruise!

Finally, keep in mind that some of the scheduled ferries have oddly late or early departure and arrival times. Make sure you understand them before completing your booking.

Online Ticketing

Is it possible to purchase a ticket at the counter on the day you plan to go to Jeju? Probably.

Would I feel comfortable taking the chance? Personally, no.

For simple day trips to other Korean islands, that may be a reasonable option, but I’m sure you’re not going to Jeju Island for the day.

If it were me, I’d only be comfortable with a pre-booked ticket. I stopped living on the edge years ago. Thus, I did my best to research the different ports and booking options to help you prepare.

Tip: Using Chrome, there is a translation feature that will allow you to navigate the Korean ferry sites (provided below) in English. I’ll be honest, though; even in English, things can get a bit complicated.

As with many things in Korea, having a Korean person assist you will always be beneficial, especially when it comes to completing the purchase online.

For those who live in Korea, IYKYK.

If you don’t have access to a helpful Korean, Direct Ferries is the best English-language booking site that I’ve found. The site is pretty straightforward in booking a basic ticket; however, I found some limitations in trying to customize things such as vehicles, pets, and cabin rooms.

Full disclosure: My wife did all of the booking legwork on the Korean site.

Ports of Embarkation

  1. Wando Port (완도항)
    • Ferry Operator: Hanil Express
    • Ferry Name: New Star
    • Schedule:
      • Wando <-> Jeju: daily, but the schedule may see seasonal changes.
      • Travel time (approx.): 2 hours, 40 minutes or 5 hours via Chujado Island
      • Inquiries: Hanil Express: +82-1661-9559
  2. Busan Port International Passenger Terminal (부산국제여객터미널)
    • Ferry Operator: MS Ferry
    • Ferry Name: New Star
    • Schedule:
      • Busan departure: Monday, Wednesday, Friday
      • Jeju departure: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
    • Travel time (approx.): overnight, 12-hour trip, typically departing at 7:00 p.m.
    • Inquiries: MS Ferry: +82-1661-9559
  3. Mokpo Passenger Terminal (목포여객선터미널)
    • Ferry Operator: Seaworld Express
    • Ferry Name: Queen Jenuvia
    • Schedule:
      • Daily (No departures on Sundays and on the second, fourth, and fifth Monday of every month)
    • Travel time (approx.): approximately 4.5 hours
    • Website: Seaworld Express Ferry
  4. Nokdong (Goheung) Port (녹동(고흥)항)
    • Ferry Operator: Namhae Gosok Ferry
    • Schedule: 9:00 daily
    • Travel time (approx.): Approximately 3 hours and 40 minutes
  5. Yeosu Port (여수항)
    • Ferry Operator: Camellia Line
    • Schedule: Varies
    • Travel time (approx.): 6 hours, Overnight
    • Website: Direct Ferries (I couldn’t find an official Korean site, but Direct Ferries has a Yeosu-Jeju booking option)

Since we live in Daegu, we opted to come and go from the Wando Port. I’ll admit, it made for a long day and night, taking about 4 hours to drive there. We also arrived really early due to having the car and dog. The ferry departed after midnight.

Because the ferry trip only took about 3 hours, we didn’t get much sleep and arrived in Jeju at the crack of dawn. Luckily, we were fueled by early-trip anticipation.

Leaving Wando Port en route to Jeju Island on an overnight ferry
Leaving Wando Port en route to Jeju Island on the overnight ferry

Helpful Tip: Check your arrival time and plan accordingly. We arrived on Jeju Island around 6am, much too early for our accommodation check-in. Luckily, with the car, we still had a nice morning and afternoon exploring, but after a long travel day, it was a relief to finally be able to check in and take a shower.

So, if you arrive early in the morning, plan ahead with something to do for the day, as you likely won’t be able to check in until around 4 p.m.

Boarding Procedures

My first tip is to arrive a bit early. Don’t go overboard; poor choice of words, but you won’t want to be late either.

The ferry port should have a nice waiting area, similar to an airport. I only have personal experience with Wando Port, but I’m assuming they’re all pretty similar.

You may have purchased an online ticket, but you should still check in with the ticketing agent (again, similar to an airport). In our case, they provided us with paper wrist bands indicating our ticket class.

Once they have announced boarding (even if you don’t speak Korean, you’ll notice the commotion), people will line up and prepare to show their tickets to an agent.

Again, this is all very similar to boarding a plane. If you drive your own car and/or have a pet, I’ll address that in a subsequent section.

Make sure you have your tickets and proper ID documentation (passport and/or Korean ARC). When you check in, you will likely be given a paper wrist band that indicates your ticketing group.

Once the line starts moving, just follow the crowd up to the ferry. At this point, depending on your ticket, employees should help you get to where you need to go (the wrist band helps with any language barrier).

That’s all there is too it. Settle in and explore the surroundings.

Onboard: What You Can Expect

I’m reluctant to promise too much here because each ferry is different, and there are differences in booking choices.

However, drawing from our experience, I can give you a basic idea of what to expect.

Because we brought our dog, we chose a pet room, but not a private cabin. Basically, we were given floor space in a large room with other passengers who had brought their pooch.

On the way to Jeju, we left late at night, and there were no other passengers in our pet room. We didn’t pay for a private cabin, but we lucked out.

This was the pet room on the ferry from Wando to Jeju Island. Expect floor space. Bring a mat.
A “Pet Room” on board the ferry from Wando to Jeju Island

On our return trip, we were in a similar pet room, though it was filled with other people with an assortment of dogs.

Despite that, it wasn’t overly packed and once we staked our claim to a piece of ground (nothing is assigned in there) we found it quite cozy.

Because the return-trip took place in daylight, we got out and explored much more than on the way there when we just tried to get a few hours of sleep.

In the pet room, you'll be given floor space among other passengers with canines.
Life in the pet room: Bring a mat, a pillow and a blanket. You’ll get floor space among other passengers and their canines.

Seating and Sleeping Rooms

Again, I’m reluctant to promise you what to expect because there are many different options. I’ll attempt to generalize.

General Seating

Like an airplane, there are seats grouped together in a big room. You probably won’t have an assigned seat, but finding an open seat or group of seats shouldn’t be a problem.

The seats are pretty roomy and comfortable, but don’t expect luxury.

Sleeping Rooms

Not to be confused with private cabins, there are also rooms available to spread out and sleep on the floor. Bring a mat, a blanket and perhaps some earplugs if you’re serious about your shut eye.

See previous section detailing the pet rooms.

Technically, you may need a ticket for one of these, but we found people in our “pet room” who just wanted to lay down, and the pet room offered more space. It seemed you could freely enter any of these and find your own nook, though I’m not 100% sure on the policies. Use your own judgement.

Private Cabins

It is possible to book your own private cabin, which has a bed and some privacy. I don’t want to quote an exact price because they differ, but obviously, these are more expensive than general boarding.

For our trip, we knew the sailing time was only around 3 hours, so we did not view it as worth the money. For a longer trip, we might have splurged on privacy.

Food and Entertainment

If you’re a picky eater, you’ll probably want to bring your own snacks along. However, our ship had a complete convenience store. If you’ve spent any time in Korea, you can expect to be able to buy just about anything on board that you would find in a 7-11 on the Korean mainland.

This includes ramen noodles, chips, drinks, beer, soju, ice cream, and more. Don’t expect 5-star dining, but you won’t go hungry.

I don’t have the personal experience to back it up, but I think many of the ferries also have restaurants and bars where you can relax and eat a proper meal (one that’s not pre-packaged.)

There are typically game rooms for kids, or big kids, and some even have private singing rooms (aka Norae Bangs).

Outdoor Deck and Seating

Of course, it wouldn’t be a ferry adventure if you didn’t at least venture out on deck to let the wind blow through your hair. Hang onto your hats, though; it gets windy!

The ferries have designated spots out on the deck where passengers are welcome to venture. Some even have open-air seating areas, similar to those below deck.

Depending on the weather and sailing duration, you may just want to enjoy the whole trip out there.

On the outside deck of the ferry from Jeju Island back to Wando Port, mainland South Korea
Having fun on the outdoor deck returning from Jeju Island to Wando Port

They even have an astroturf play area for dogs out there, but I’ll cover that in the next section.

Bringing a Pet: What You Need to Know

Can you bring a pet on the ferry?

Our dog, Winnie, enjoys the sea air on the deck of our Jeju Island ferry
Winnie Sails: I’m flying Jack!

As my own Winnie from the picture above can attest, the answer is yes, pets are allowed. With a few stipulations.

Click on the dog icon for details and information. Unfortunately, it is all in Korean (with some helpful pictures), but I’ll do my best to summarize the basics in English below.

Rules and Requirements

  • You must have a pet carrier. This doesn’t mean that the dog needs to stay inside during the whole trip, but you must have one in order to board with a pet. Dog strollers and pet bags are not accepted. It needs to be a proper kennel or carrier.
  • You should book a private room or a space in the pet room (see previous section).
  • You need a leash, and for bigger dogs, a muzzle.
  • You can keep your pet in your vehicle, but you won’t have access to the vehicle during the trip. Our border collie is far too anxiety-ridden to consider that option.
  • Only one dog is permitted per passenger, unless you keep them in your car. You will not be allowed to remain in your car during the trip, though.
  • Use your own judgement in keeping your distance from those who don’t seem comfortable with dogs.
  • If you’re in the pet room, keep your dog under control around the other dogs. We didn’t have any issues, and the dogs all got along.

Regarding the rule about the dog kennel or carrier, they are not flexible on that one. You will need one to board the ship.

If you have a small dog, one of those enclosed pet-carriers will suffice.

If your dog is big or medium-sized, like ours, you will need a full-fledged dog kennel. And yes, I had to lug that thing up and down the stairs.

You’re required to have it, though the dog doesn’t really need to be in it, unless they’re causing problems.

Waiting to board the Jeju Island Ferry with our dog. The kennel I'm sitting on is required.
If you want to bring a dog on the Jeju Island Ferry, you will need a kennel, similar to the one I’m sitting on.

Regarding the muzzle, I believe this only applies to big and medium size dogs. How do they decide this, I’m not sure, but I didn’t notice any of the small dogs wearing them.

I know your dog might hate wearing it. However, the good news is that you can generally just hold it in your hand and put it on the dog if someone looks at you sideways.

It is required to be on the dog, however, during the boarding process.

Once on board, we found that holding it in our hands generally put people at ease when walking around.

Muzzles are required for bigger dogs on the Jeju Island Ferry
Our own Hannibal Lecter in the required dog muzzle.
They don't need to wear them at all times, but your dog will need a muzzle to board the Jeju Ferry
They don’t need to wear them at all times, but your dog will need a muzzle to board the Jeju Ferry

Outdoor Play Area

I can’t speak for every Jeju Island Ferry, but our ferry, the Silver Cloud, from Wando Port, had it’s own outdoor dog play area.

Outdoor Deck Dog Zone

The Wando to Jeju Ferry has an outdoor, fenced in, dog play area.
The Wando to Jeju Ferry has an outdoor, fenced in, dog play area.

Bringing Your Own Car: What you Need to Know

As I mentioned in the opening, the ability to bring our own car to Jeju Island was a huge selling point in our decision to travel by ferry.

While renting a car upon arrival is certainly an option, having your own car significantly reduces travel-related hassles.

Aside from saving money on a car rental and giving us the ability to bring our dog, sometimes it’s nice to just have the comfort of your own car.

Of course, you would first need to be living in Korea and own a car for this section to be pertinent.

Inside the car loading area of the Jeju Island Ferry. You are not allowed to remain in your car during the trip.
A look inside the area where you leave your car during the trip.

Rules and Tips

  • You must arrive at least 1 hour before departure.
  • Vehicle loading begins 1 hour and 30 minutes before departure.
  • Upon arrival, you will need to check in and get further instructions.
  • If you have passengers, they must remain in the ferry terminal. Only the driver may load the car.
  • After checking in, there will be a line of cars that you will be directed to join.
  • Once they begin allowing cars to board, you will need to present your identification and ticket information before you are allowed to drive onto the ferry.
  • Once you are directed to proceed, there will be ship workers directing you where to go.
  • Once you have parked your car according to the directions of the staff, you will then lock your car and disembark the ship on foot.
  • You will not be permitted to return to your car until arrival. Don’t forget anything inside!
  • Once back on solid ground, you will take a bus back to the main terminal where the general boarding takes place.
  • Take a picture or a strong mental note for where you parked (and on what level – there may be multiple). I couldn’t find my car when we arrived! It wasn’t fun searching; especially carrying a dog kennel in my arms.
  • It sounds complicated, but even with my limited Korean-speaking ability, it went pretty smoothly.

The link below will take you to the Hanil Express website that we used. There are different rates for different sized cars. You may need some Korean to navigate the booking process.

Arrival Procedures

This may seem simplistic, but when the ferry nears dry land, a loud announcement will be made and an organized commotion will ensue.

Even if you don’t speak Korean, it won’t be hard to fall in line and find your way off the ship. There are employees to help you, but if you just play “follow the leader”, you’ll figure it out.

If you brought a car on board, you will need to figure out where you parked. I had an issue with remembering where I had parked on one leg of our journey, which was exacerbating in my tired state. None-the-less, I found it and driving it off the ship was easy.

Something to keep in mind, you may be arriving or departing at an odd hour, so make sure you plan ahead. If you arrive to Jeju Island at 5:00 a.m. with no forethought, you may have a wait to for the island to wake up.

Remember, if you’re checking into a hotel or pension, you likely won’t be able to check in until around 4:00 p.m.

Final Thoughts

If you live in South Korea, or are just visiting, Jeju Island should definitely be on your bucket list. I can’t believe it took me over 15 years of living in Korea to make there. Now that I have, we definitely plan to go back in the very near future.

For all of the reasons previously mentioned, I am sure that I would choose ferry travel again.

I’ll admit, there are a few extra steps involved, that may not be for everybody. However, if you can navigate the booking process (pun intended) and work out transportation to the nearest port, traveling to Jeju Island by ferry is an unforgettable experience!

Bon Voyage, Jeju Island! Saying goodbye to a wonderful trip.
Bon Voyage, Jeju Island! Heading home from a wonderful Jeju Island vacation.

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Border Collie Life in South Korea

John Buckley

Welcome to Colorado Saram! I'm from the ski resort town of Vail, but now I live in South Korea with my wife Lucy and dog, Winnie. I continue to live and value the Colorado lifestyle, but I do so while following my passion for international travel. I write about skiing, hiking, traveling, and more. I hope you'll find this helpful, and please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.