Korea’s transportation system is comprehensive, efficient, and easy to use. There are many options for timely travel within your city, and throughout Korea. Korea’s small size and stellar transportation system make it possible and affordable to visit any area of the country, even if you only have a weekend to spare.
TRAVEL WITHIN YOUR CITY:
- Fare: 1,000 won
Every city in Korea has a comprehensive bus system. Riding the bus is easy, and can even be relaxing, once you get the hang of it. Bus maps and schedules are available at local tourist information centers. Don’t be afraid to ask your bus driver to let you know when you arrive at your destination. Some busses can be standing room only during peak hours.
- Fare can by paid in cash, or with a refillable transportation card (available at corner stores)
- Insert fare into fare box, or swipe card as you go in the front door
- If paying with cash, bring exact change.
- State you destination, followed by “_______ nae-ryo juseyo” to have your driver signal you when you arrive.
- Fare: Starting from 1,000 won (900 won if using transportation card).
In larger cities, the subway is the transportation of choice for many. The subway is a clean, safe, and reliable means of transportation that allows you to avoid traffic jams and reach your destination quickly. Many of Korea’s subway systems (including Seoul and Busan) have fully bilingual signage, making it especially easy to use. In Korea’s large cities, the subway systems are extensive. In Mid-sized cities, the subway routes may service only selected areas.
- Fare: starts at 2,200 won (make sure your driver uses a meter)
- In some cities, black taxis are more expensive, and provide services such as free telephone use.
Traveling by taxi is a relatively affordable option in Korea. Busy intersections usually have designated “taxi” areas where taxis wait for customers, but taxis can be hailed on the street at any time, or called in advance. Taxi drivers are generally friendly and honest, but many speak little or no English so be sure to write down your destination in Korean characters if you don’t know how to say it.
- Taxis can be difficult to find in bad weather, or during rush hour so leave yourself a little extra time.
- Korean taxi drivers tend to drive quickly!
- If you are not yet comfortable finding your way around a city, be sure to keep your address (written in Korean) with you. If, at any point you loose your bearings, simply flag down a cab and show the driver your destination.
- If you ever have trouble communicating with your driver, look for a sign on the window that says, “Free Interpretation.” You can call the number provided to reach an English speaker, free of charge.
Bike shops are scattered throughout every city. You can find a used bike in great condition for under 100,000 won. Many cities have bike paths, and the construction of more paths is planned in the near future as part of Korea’s plans to make its cities greener. Many subway stations have public bicycles for use free of charge.
Although riding around Korea’s cities by scooter or motorbike is not for the faint of heart, it is a popular mode of transportation among Koreans and those foreigners willing to brave the sometimes-erratic traffic. Used motorbikes can be purchased for around 500,000 won.
TRAVEL BETWEEN CITIES:
Long distance busses
Traveling by bus is a great way to see the country. Inter-city busses are spacious, comfortable and reliable. They can take you anywhere you want to go and are relatively cheap. Busses are frequent, with departures every 20-30 minutes for most destinations. Tickets can be purchased on-line, or at the bus terminal.
Inter-city bus tips:
- For Express bus schedules, please visit: kobus.co.kr/web/eng/index.jsp
- Busses leave almost exactly at their scheduled departure time- don’t be late!
- Inter-city busses have luggage storage areas below the bus and above your head inside the bus.
- On longer trips, busses will stop half way through at rest areas where food and washrooms are available. These stops usually last 15 minutes (again, departure is prompt). Make sure to note the license plate number of your bus as you leave so that you get back on the right bus.
- On major holidays, such as Chuseok and Seolal, most Koreans travel to visit their hometowns. This means that the roads are extremely congested. Travel time by bus can double during these holidays.
Taking the train is a comfortable way to travel, and allows you to see some of the beauty of Korea’s countryside away from the highways. Many trains have snack cars, public telephones, and special areas for the use of laptop computers. There are three major rail lines in Korea:
- KTX: high speed trains, which run between Seoul and Daegu
- Gyeongbu Line, which runs between Daejon and Mokpo
- Honam Line, which runs between Daejon and Busan.
- For train schedules, routes, and booking information, please visit:info.korail.com/2007/eng/eng_index.jsp
- On holidays, trains can fill up fast. It is a good idea to book in advance.
- Tickets can be reserved over the phone, on-line, or at the train station.
Korea has two domestic air carriers, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines. Both serve 17 cities, including Jeju island.
Korea’s coastline is scattered with beautiful islands, which are definitely worth a visit. Some are connected to the mainland by bridge, but many can only be reached by ferry. Korea’s favorite vacation destination, Jeju island can also be reached by ferry.