Public transportation in South Korea is world class. South Korea is home to 8 international and 6 domestic airports. It operates the KTX high speed train and several international ports. The subway systems that can be found in 6 of its major cities combined with its extensive bus and rail system make getting around the country very easy and cost effective.
South Korea has an excellent railway system running throughout the country linking cities and making travel easy, affordable and efficient. The first railway system was built in 1899 linking Seoul and Incheon. Additional lines were built and some even connected to the Trans Siberian Railway. During the Korean War many of the lines were badly damaged but later rebuilt and improved. Today railways are one of the primary methods of transportation that Koreans use for long distance travel within the country.
The sole passenger railway provider in South Korea is KORAIL
The Saemul-ho service makes the fewest stops and has the most comfortable seating.
The Mugunghwa-ho service is the most popular service, stops at most of the stops but not all, and offers a variety of seating options which include reserved and unreserved seats.
The Commute service is the cheapest service and stops at all the designated stops and offers no reserved seating.
The Korea Train Express, or KTX as it is commonly known, was put into service in April 2004 with some of its sections incorporating pre-existing track. Full service on all of KTX’s fully separated tracks is planned to commence in 2010. The KTX can reach a top speed of 300 Km/h on a specially fitted high speed track. There are two lines that the KTX utilizes, the Gyeongbu line and the Honam line. The two most expensive fairs are from Seoul to Busan at a cost of 44, 800 Won and Yongsan to Mokpo at a cost of 38, 000 Won.
Until 1968 the masses utilized streetcars when>the first basic subway line was introduced. There is a subway system operating in full operation in 4 Korean Cities. These cities include Seoul, Busan, Daegu and Incheon. Gwangju and Daejeon have subway systems still under construction.
Almost all towns in South Korea regardless of size are served by the regional bus service.
Gosok (High Speed) – These buses operate over the longest distances and make few if any stops.
Shioe (“Shee way”) – Operate over shorter distances, are slightly slower and make more stops.
There are two local bus services in most cities and towns. Bodh services operate on pretty much the same routes, make the same stops and operate the same frequencies.
Jwaseok (“Seat”) – More expensive, more comfortable as each ticket gets you a seat, and there are no standees allowed on the bus.
Ilban (“regular”) – Cheaper fare, have fewer and less comfortable seats, and standees are permitted.
Incheon Airport Bus Service
There is a large network of high speed buses that transport people directly from Incheon International Airport to many major cities throughout the country.
South Korea is home to one of the world’s largest ship building industries and is host to a vast system of ferry services to the public. South Korea has one of the largest merchant fleets in the world sending regular services to China, Japan and the Middle East. Off the South and West coasts there are many islands that are served by smaller ferries. There are 4 major ports for ferry service in Korea which include: Incheon, Mokpo, Pohang and Busan.
Taxis in Korea are clean, safe and reasonably inexpensive. There are taxi stands in many of the busy areas of most Korean cities. Alternatively, they can be hailed down in the street by raising your arm palm down. Some taxi services will come directly to a predetermined pickup spot for an additional service fee.
There are two main types of taxi service operating in South Korea, Regular and Deluxe “Mobeom”. The Deluxe service is typically found in the larger cities so the bulk of the taxis one would see are the Regular service taxis.
Taxis in Korea operate on metered fares and pre-determined agreed fares. Metered fares will vary based on the type of taxi, the distance traveled and the time of day traveling. Make sure to negotiate and agree to a rate if the taxi does not have a meter. Most medium to large cities have metered taxis.
Many taxi drivers can speak some limited English but it’s a good suggestion to get a Korean friend or co-worker to write down your destination on a piece of paper in Hangul so that you can offer it to the taxi driver in case he does not speak any English at all.
It is very common for a taxi driver to stop and pick up additional passengers heading in the same direction as you. This is called “Hapseung” in Korean. The original passenger pays the metered total amount, and the added passenger pays the metered amount not including the fare when they entered the taxi. Although this is technically illegal, taxi drivers still persist in running their business this way. The added passenger fare is pocketed with no audit trail. It is also beneficial to the passengers during rush hour when taxis are hard to flag down empty. Deluxe taxis do not taxi share.