Planning a Trip
The nearest airport to Gyeongju is Ulsan Airport; Busan's Gimhae Airport is a bit farther away, but it offers far more flights. Intercity buses from Gimhae leave for Gyeongju Terminal daily every hour, 8:30am to 8:20pm, and cost W9,000 ($10/£5). Daily buses from Ulsan Airport run four times a day and cost W4,500 ($5/£2.50) -- they take about an hour.
Gyeongju lies at the junction of two minor train lines run by the Korean National Railroad (Korail). The Jungang line has Mugunghwa (local) trains that start from Seoul and end at Gyeongju twice a day during the week, costing anywhere from W17,900 to W22,700 ($19-$24/£9.65-£12). Saemaeul (express) trains from Seoul run three times a day during the week, take 4 1/2 hours, and cost W33,700 to W38,800 ($36-$42/£18-£21). There are more services on weekends and holidays. If you want to take the KTX express train, you have to transfer to a Mugunghwa or Saemaeul train at Dongdaegu, but you'll cut your travel time by about 80 minutes. The Daegu-Busan section of the KTX line is slated to be completed by 2010. When it does, the train will stop at Singyeongju Station, in Geoncheon-eup south of Gyeongju's city center.
You can also take an express bus from Seoul, which will take about 4 hours and 20 minutes. Regular express buses run daily from 6:05am to 8:05pm, costing W17,500 ($19/£10). Woo-deung express buses (deluxe buses) run daily every 30 to 40 minutes from 6:05am to 8:05pm and cost W26,000 ($28/£14). The Gyeongju Express Bus Terminal and Intercity Bus Terminal are right next to each other. Buses from Seoul go to the express terminal, as well as those to and from Busan, Daegu, and Daejeon. Also, buses from Busan, Daegu, Gangneung, Uljin, and Ulsan end up at the intercity terminal.
The bus terminals and train stations are within 20 minutes walking distance from each other.
There are local buses available that can get you to all of the sites, but if you have limited time, you may want to hire a taxi for a day. Taxis can always be found outside the bus and train terminals. Negotiate with your driver, but rates are usually around W80,000 to W100,000 ($86-$108/£43-£54) for 6 to 8 hours. The driver likely won't speak much English, but he will know exactly where to take you, and you'll be able to hit the historic sites quickly and easily. Regular taxi fares start at W1,500 ($1.60/80p).
If you have time to spare and want to be environmentally savvy, you can rent a bicycle for a day or two. There are some biking trails and biking on the regular roads is pretty safe (which is definitely not the case in major cities like Busan or Seoul). Some trails around Namsan are rather hilly, but there are new bike paths in the flood plains, which are fairly flat. Be aware that the bike paths are side by side with walking paths and are marked in red, while the pedestrian paths are marked green. One such trail connects the central business district with the university area (a shortcut compared to the regular road). Another links the city to the Lake Bomun Resort area. As you go farther toward Bulguksa, the road gets hillier and more degraded thanks to increased traffic from visitors. Bicycle rentals are widely available (there are almost a dozen in the downtown area alone, including a few each near the train station, the bus terminal, and Lake Bomun), and rates are pretty much the same wherever you go. Rentals cost W5,000 ($5.40/£2.70) per hour or W10,000 to W12,000 ($11-$13/£5.40-£6.45) per day.
Gyeongju is also not a bad city for walking. Most locations of interest are located close to one another, making it relatively easy to explore on foot. For those sites outside of town, it's best to take a local bus or a taxi.
Gyeongju's tourist information offices (daily 8:30am-6pm) are located in key places throughout town. They provide both brochures and maps in English and have friendly staff who speak English well. The booths are located in front of Gyeongju Train Station (tel. 054/772-3843), in front of the bus terminal (tel. 054/772-9289), at the entrance to the Bulguksa parking lot (tel. 054/746-4747), and next to the Chosun Hotel in Bomun Lake Resort (tel. 054/745-0753). The city's official website is at www.gyeongju.gyeongbuk.kr (click on the tiny "English" link on the top right-hand corner).
Cheonma Tours (tel. 054/743-6001) offers two different daily tours of the city, one from 8:30am to 4pm and another from 10am to 6pm. Tours start at the city's express bus terminal and go to the Bomun Lake Resort, Bulguksa, the Folk Craft Village, the Bunhwangsaji temple site, the Tomb of General Kim Yu-sin, the Poseokjeong Pavilion, the Gyeongju National Museum, Anapji Pond, the Cheomseongdae Observatory, and the Cheonmachong Tomb, ending at the bus terminal. The tour costs W12,000 ($13/£6.45), or W10,000 ($11/£5.40) for students.
Banks, Foreign Exchange & ATMs -- There are a handful of banks in the downtown area of Gyeongju, including the Daegu Bank at 222-5 Seobu-dong, Gyeongju-si. Most banks are open Monday to Friday 9:30am to 4:30pm. Most major hotels will also exchange foreign currency and traveler's checks.
Internet Access -- Most large hotels, and even a couple of the lower-priced motels and youth hostels, offer Internet access. If you don't have your own computer, your cheapest option is the PC bahngs in town. Just look for the letters PC -- you'll find most of these Internet "rooms" above restaurants, on the second or third floors.
Post Office -- The post office (open weekdays 9am-5pm) is located on the south side of Hwarang-no, about a block west of the train station