Transportation – how to get around in South Korea
1. Transportation at the airport
South Korea has one of the best transportation systems on earth. Sure, the public transport can be crowded and the roads of South Korea can be daunting with the Seoul traffic but getting to places is very easy and affordable by any means if you know how. Let’s take a look at what options we have with transportation in South Korea.
1) Arex (Airport train):
First of all, the AREX is the cheapest option to get into Seoul from Airport. There is an express train and all-stop train. It costs around 4,150- 8,000 won (4-8 USD) and you may be eligible for the discounted rate depending on your destination and status. There are limited stops and it may require you to transfer a few times to get to your final destination.
|Commuter Line||53 mins||From 4,150||x|
|Express Line||43 mins||8,000||Free Wifi
2) Airport limousine:
You can go just about anywhere in Seoul with airport limousine. It is called “limousine”. Please don’t expect the black stretched limousine with some wine selections. In fact, it is a premium shuttle bus that travels from Incheon airport to many different places in and out of Seoul. However, it is very convenient and well-organized service. The drivers are very professional and helpful and the ride is affordable. The seats are spacious with arm and foot rests and safety seat belts (you have to wear the seat belts on the bus since it goes on the highway).
As soon as exiting the baggage claim area at the Incheon airport, you will see signs where you can buy the airport limousine tickets. The cost range from 10,000-15,000 won (bout 10-15 USD) per ride, depending on which part of Seoul you are traveling to. It will cost around 20,000-40,000 won (20-40 USD) to travel outside of Seoul, depending on where you go. The bus will take you to major cities and areas in South Korea and it comes frequently. Also, you can pay Korean cash (the amount must be exact) or tab the T-money Card (Public transportation card) as you get on the bus. Buying the card at the booth will save you about a dollar for the ride.
Once you get the ticket, you will know which bus to take. Each stop signs have letters and numbers, depending on the neighborhood. Find the appropriate number and you can get in line at the stop. The sign will also have the route where the bus is traveling and the timetable from the airport. You will have two free luggage to store in the cargo. After the 2nd luggage, it will cost 7,000 won. There’s a staff helping you to load your luggage. Also, you will get a sticker with numbers to identify your bag when you get off the bus. The driver will help you to find your luggage if you let him know that you stored it in the cargo.
3) Private Van:
Airports are quite far away from Seoul (1-1.5 hours away). It will cost quite a lot to grab a cab or call Uber (Uber service is limited in Korea). There’s a popular Korean hailing app, Kakao Taxi, but it is hard to navigate the app or talk to the driver if you have limited Korean language skills.
Nonetheless, if you want the most convenient and quality services, I would book a private van in advance for the pick-up service at the airport. This will help you to get to the destination comfortable and safe. For this option, the drivers provide 5-star services and the price is quite reasonable for the services you get. You have options to choose different sizes of the car and those generally have more rooms for your luggage. You can book to use this services from or to the airport or you have an option to book a day tour with multiple destinations. If you have a limited time in South Korea, but still want to go as many places as possible, hassle-free, I would look into this option.
2. Transportation in Seoul
1) T-money Card
T-money card is a pre-paid transportation card. You can get this at any subway station bending machine and this works for all of the public transportation including taxi in Seoul.
The subway system in Seoul is excellent. The subway signs are well-organized. The subway is very timely, frequent, well-wired throughout the city and the price is affordable. The signs are self-explanatory but it may take some time to get used to them. You will see signs in English and Chinese including the subway maps in each station.
On the subway
1.Priority seats: The Korean people like to respect designated disability and pregnant seats. And you will often see that people give up their seats for elderly and children on the subway.
2.Multilingual Announcement: In each stop, you will hear the announcement where you are approaching in Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese. Also, You will see the digital signs of where you are and which direction you are going above the door or near the door.
3. Rush hours: Rush hours are usually between 7 – 9 AM and 5 – 7 PM. Therefore, you will want to avoid rush hour as it tends to be extremely crowded where people stack up shoulders to shoulders.
Most of the major stops have digital signs indicating which bus numbers are approaching and how long you will have to wait. It is updated real-time which I find it extremely convenient.
On the bus
1.Priority seats: You want to respectful of the disability or pregnant seats as people tend to be very respectful about it.
2.Not so foreigner-friendly: I recommend riding the bus if you are comfortable with the Korean language and the destination. On the bus, you will hear where you are approaching in Korean and some bus may have English digital signs near the entrance. However, I found the bus system is less catering to the foreigners than the subway system.
3.Don’t forget to tap again: If you are using the T-money Card(prepaid card), make sure to tab again before leaving the bus to avoid the over-charge.
Regular taxi service
Taxi is a convenient transportation if you can manage to communicate your destination in Korean to the driver. All taxis run on meters and there’s a base fare. The fare goes up 20% between 12am-4am.
|Regular Taxi||3,000 won (2km)||100 won / 142m|
|Premium Taxi (Black Cab, Van)||5,000 won (2km)||200 won/ 164m|
Also, try to avoid traffic hours, Seoul traffic can be brutal during the rush hours. Taxis are everywhere in Seoul and you will see a plant of them on the street any time in 24 hours. You can simple hail when you see a car with a taxi sign on top of the car on the street.
5) Private Van
If you are looking for premium transportation services without any hick-ups, I highly recommend booking a private van. Tolls, parking, fuel costs, even tips are included to the cost so there’s no hidden fee. In addition, the drivers speak basic English and they are very friendly and professional.
Time is precious when we travel. Make smart choices depending on times available, comfort level you are looking for or price concerns by mix and match the transportation options in South Korea. Consider cutting out the hassle by taking the shuttle services available at funtastickorea.com. You will be able to focus on observing, discovering, and enjoying by not having to worry about so much how to find a place or language issues.