When we were planning our trip and searched around for alternatives to flying from South Korea to Russia we had quite some trouble finding reliable information on the options. Therefore, we decided to provide future travellers with updated travel information on the ferry from South Korea to Russia as of February 2018. Below you find what we learned along the way 🙂
We found that DBS Cruise Ferry is the only ferry connection between South Korea and Russia. The ferry departs every Sunday at 14.00 local time from Donghae International Passenger Terminal (although they seem to have cancelled departures from late February until mid March due to scheduled maintenance). Planned arrival in Vladivostok is Monday at 15.00 local time.
The same ferry comes from Sakaiminato in Japan, and it appears that quite some travellers takes the ferry all the way with a 4 hours stop in Donghae. However, we found that it was cheaper taking the ferry from Hakata to Busan – you can read more about that trip here. Notice that you then need to travel from Busan to Donghae. Direct buses run throughout the day from Busan Central Bus Terminal which is everything but central (located at the end of the orange metro line north of the city) Tickets should be around 30.000 KRW and it takes about 5 hours.
We mainly found information on the DBS website, and we ordered our tickets by emailing the address on that page (firstname.lastname@example.org). We got a quick reply with a request to see passport copies, and then our tickets where booked and we received an invoice by email.
We booked economy class, and without asking we got a 35% discount. We still don’t know why. Thereby, the price ended up being 144.300 KRW per person + 2500 KRW in terminal tax per person. We paid by credit card in the passenger terminal when checking in before departure. We booked about two months ahead. We met a few passengers on the boat who booked 5 weeks ahead and were told that economy class were sold out.
Boarding the ferry
Getting to the ferry terminal was quite easy. We just asked at our hostel what buses run to the harbour, and learned that most buses in Donghae does. The bus stop is just in front of the terminal area. The train station is about 10 minutes walk from the terminal.
Boarding procedures was a little chaotic due to the number of people in the terminal, but quite simple. First, pay your ticket and get boarding cards at the ticket counter (remember passports for all passengers in your group). The counter opens at 12.15 (even though they ask you to be in the terminal at 12). Thereafter, you can go to the waiting area, and 12.40 they open the security check. On the day of our departure both were delayed about 10 minutes.
The security check is quite slow with only one scanner for your bags, but otherwise it works pretty much like in an airport.
Beforehand, we could not really find any information on items prohibited on the ferry. In security we learned that you cannot bring knives onboard (not even small Swiss knives), and we were asked to hand them in. However, you receive a small ticket which you can use to get your items back at the information desk onboard the ferry upon arrival in Vladivostok. Besides that we brought food, fruit, vegetables, and snacks onboard without problems. For campers it is worth to notice that you cannot bring gas canisters and other fuels onboard.
After security you go through Korean immigration and they check your passport. For us it was no hassle.
Onboard you find your cabin (room number and bed number is printed on your boarding card – and nice employees are helping you as well). For some reason we were upgraded to 2nd class, and ended up in a small dorm room with 8 beds. Economy class seems to be either a very big dorm room (70+ beds) or Japanese style rooms with around 20 futons.
Onboard the ferry
Facilities onboard includes a café/bar selling cheap food (less than 10.000 KRW) and a selection of Russian beverages. There is also a restaurant which is open 18-19 Korean time, 7-8 Vladivostok time and 12-13 Vladivostok time. We tried the dinner, which costs 10.000 KRW and is a buffet of different Korean dishes. Breakfast is slightly cheaper: 7000 KRW. We did not try it. You need to buy a ticket for each meal onboard. You do that at the information counter. We got our restaurant tickets around 16.00 and it was no problem, but on crowded departures they may sell out. Here you can also borrow a locker, and charge your devices (1000 KRW).
There is also a male and a female “sauna”, which seems to be more like a Japanese onsen, but at our departure there seemed to be no water in the basins. Besides that there is a night club, and two karaoke rooms (we tested neither of them), a very small mart with cup noodles, chips, and toiletries, and some small duty free shops.
Onboard you can pay in US dollars, Korean won, and Japanese yen. They use a simple conversion system where 1 USD = 100 JPY = 1000 KRW. We did never figure whether you can actually use credit card.
Arriving in Russia
As we arrived in Vladivostok it took some time to prepare the boat for off-boarding. We could leave the boat around 15.30. The Russian immigration was quite confusing with the officials asking us a lot of questions that we did not understand. After some minutes of questioning and no answers from our side we got our stamps and were let through.
We hope this information will help future travellers on this route 🙂