Transportation in Korea: Top 8 Ways to Get Around
One of the best features about living in South Korea is the affordable and accessible transportation. Whether you need to move across town, or travel to the other side of the country, there are so many options.
1. Public Bicycles
It’s not uncommon to find public bicycles available across the country in major cities. Usually, you can download an app onto your smartphone and then link a bank card to pay for the ride.
You’ll have to scan a QR code on the bike, and it will unlock automatically. Many of these public bikes are equipped with baskets attached in case you have something to carry. It’s a great way to move around the city while also getting some exercise. Conveniently, you can also check the app to see where the bikes are located. Depending on your location, you can expect to find some bike lanes, making your ride safer and more comfortable. Here’s a “How To” on renting bikes in Seoul City.
2. Electric Scooters
Similarly to bike rentals, you can also opt to travel by electric scooter. Some of the more popular choices are GCooter, Beam, and Swing. The scooters can travel up to 25 kilometers per hour. Typically, if you don’t link a valid Korean driver’s license to your account, the recommended speed limit is 17 kph. I think this is a great option for days when the weather is nice, because you can ride with friends and it’s so much fun! You can find some general regulations for e-scooters here.
3. The Bus
The bus network in South Korea operates in all cities and even in smaller villages and towns. The bus system is fairly easy to navigate, but can become difficult if your Korean is limited. Still, downloading navigation apps such as KakaoMaps or NaverMaps will help you get from point A to point B with ease. Just scan your T-money travel card (which can be purchased and reloaded at any convenience store) and you’ll be on your way!
The Korean subway system is praised for its efficiency worldwide. Subways are available in the five major cities consisting of the Seoul Metropolitan Area. This includes Seoul, Gyeonggi-do, and Incheon; Busan, Daegu, Gwangju, and Daejeon. It’s possible to buy a single journey ticket with cash, but you can actually save money by loading up a T-money card, and use it for taxis and buses as well. Subways operate from 5:30am to 1am the next day. Try to remember basic subway etiquette like waiting for passengers to exit before loading the car, not sitting in seats designated for the elderly or pregnant women, and not eating inside of the train cars.
5. Kakao T
Similarly to Uber and other ride services, South Korea uses Kakao Taxi for its private transportation services. If you are in a rush and don’t have time for public transportation, this could be a great option. You can download the Kakao Taxi app which has English services and an intuitive interface, making it easy to navigate directions. Using the app can also provide peace of mind to foreigners as then you can track the taxi route and make sure you have an estimate of the fare before taking the trip.
6. Airport “Limousine”
The airport limousine bus is a lifesaver for people traveling to Korea with loads of luggage. These buses are spacious and comfortable, and will take you closer to your final destination if traveling outside of Seoul. If you are leaving from the airport, you can purchase a ticket at the stands outside of the terminals. If you are headed to the airport, you can download an app to reserve a ticket in advance. The bus application to reserve tickets doesn’t operate in English yet, but it’s quite simple to screenshot the app and translate using Google Translate or Papago in order to purchase your ticket.
7. Express Bus and “Intercity” Buses
These buses are cheap, reliable, and operate in all cities and towns. These buses can take passengers from one city to another, which is the best option for weekend trips to take part in amazing activities like paragliding, bungee jumping, ATV, or botanical gardens!
8. KTX Bullet Train
KTX, Korea Train Express, is one of the best ways to travel between cities. You can expect a quiet and smooth ride while taking in the beautiful landscape of the country. The high speed train travels at an astounding 305 kilometers per hour and interconnects popular travel destinations. You can download the Korail app to purchase tickets. If you don’t feel comfortable booking on the Korean app, you can always use a service like Korean Train to book your ticket. You should expect to pay a bit extra in this case, but it does make it easier to book or later change your ticket if need be.
With so many affordable options to travel these days, seeing different regions of South Korea has never been easier!
Alexandra Skouras is from Pennsylvania, USA, and has been living in South Korea since April 2021. She studied Biology and Spanish during college but decided to embrace her love of travel and cultural diversity through teaching English in other countries. After spending one year teaching in Madrid, Spain, she decided to move to South Korea, and since then has been teaching Chungdahm April in Sejong. Her favorite part about teaching is connecting with students and seeing how much growth they can achieve in just a short period of time. Alexandra describes her Korean life as the perfect mix of comfortable and exciting, and is passionate about encouraging other people to take the leap of faith and try something new.