Although major city streets can become very congested during the day, designated bus-only lanes on major thoroughfares keep city bus traffic moving quickly. Korea has 3 major types of city buses:
Village: These buses are quit small and travel only within their given village area. Village bus fare is about 400 won. Bus transfers are not given.
Regular: This bus has some seating and lots of standing room. Bus fare is 900 won. Bus transfers are not given.
Express: These buses have lots of comfortable seating and little standing room. Express bus fare is about 1500 won. Bus transfers are not given.
In major cities, multi-transit cards can be bought and used on all buses and subways. Pre-paid cards can be bought and recharged at any subway station and many newspaper kiosks near a bus stop. Patrons can put as much money on the cards as they desire and get a slight reduction in fares.
Inter-city express buses run between Seoul and all other population centers throughout Korea and are very cheap. Limousine buses run regularly from all major hotels to the major airports.
All major cities have subways systems, but Seoul’s subway system is the largest in the world. It has 8 major subways lines (and several branch lines) crisscrossing the city and extending out to the suburbs and satellite cities. Because of frequent traffic congestion, subways generally offer the fastest transportation method.
All stations are numbered and station names are printed in Korean and English. Transfer stations are designated by the symbol below that looks similar to a ying-yang symbol. There is no cost for transferring.
The fares for transportation within Seoul proper begin at 1000 won but can be more for traveling longer distances. Transportation from one remote area to another all the way across Seoul may cost up to 1,600 won. Fares can be paid with transportation cards or subway tickets. Subway tickets are good for either single (yellow) or multiple (orange) trips. Single use tickets can be purchased from ticket vending machines or ticket windows in the subway stations. Multiple use tickets must be purchased from ticket windows and come in 5,000, 10,000, and 20,000 won denominations with an additional 10% added (a 20,000 won ticket renders 22,000 won worth of fare). The discount rates of transportation cards are 7-8% of the original price and they can be bought and recharged at any subway station.
Visit the Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corp. site for this interactiveSeoul Subway Map.
Major cities have 2 main types of taxis:
Regular: Regular taxi fares starts at 1,900 won for the first 2 kilometers. Each additional 144 meters costs 100 won. An additional 100 won is added each 35 seconds of traffic congestion (if the taxi travels slower than 15 kph). An additional 20% surcharge is added between midnight at 4:00 a.m. The fare between Incheon International Airport and downtown Seoul is usually around ￦50,000 (including toll) though it could be higher if traffic is congested .
Deluxe: Deluxe taxis are easily identified by their black color and yellow taxi sign on the roof. Deluxe taxi fare starts at 4,500 won for the first 3 kilometers. Each additional 164 meters costs 200 won. An additional 200 won is added each 39 seconds of traffic congestion (if the taxi travels slower than 15 kph). No surcharge exists between midnight at 4:00 a.m. and drivers can provide a printed receipt. The usual fare between Incheon Int’l Airport and downtown is about ￦80,000 won (including toll).
Taxis are abundant throughout all major population centers in Korea. The easiest way to catch a taxi is not to call for one but just to stand on the street about a foot away from the curb. Most taxis will honk to you and slow down as they near you. Simply hold out your arm and the taxi will stop.
Call-taxis can be requested to pickup at a specific location for a 1,000 won charge. Surcharges are added when crossing city lines, usually about 5,000 won. Tips are not required.
There are three mainly used trains for transportation between cities in Korea:
Mugungha (regular): The Mugungha train has seats throughout each car but also permits passengers to stand in the isles. During slow the car is quite quiet, but during holidays and other times when people travel a lot, cars can become quite crowded and seating scarce. Prices are very low, with the longest fare, Seoul to Pusan, for less than 24,000 won on the weekend. The Mugungha train has no dining car, but a refreshment cart with snacks and beverages comes through very regularly.
Saemaul (express): Saemaul train is the luxury train in Korea and does not permit any sitting in the isles. Most times Saemaul tickets are easy to get, but during big holidays the tickets are very hard to come by unless bought in advance. Fares are higher than the Mugungha train, with the longest fare, Seoul to Pusan, costing about 37,000 won. The Saemaul train has a dining car which can prepare meals and alcoholic beverages, and a refreshment cart passes through each car regularly.
KTX (high-speed): On April 1, 2004, Korea’s new high-speed train opened for business. This new high-speed train has been designed to reach speeds of 350 km per hour. It currently operates around 300 Km per hour, cutting travel time almost in half. In the past, traveling by train to Busan took approximately four hours and ten minutes. Thanks to KTX, the travel time for this trip is reduced to two hours and forty minutes.
State-of-the-art video and audio systems, vending machines for beverages and snacks, luggage compartments, and bathrooms have been designed with comfort in mind. The first class second car has been specially designed to aid physically challenged passengers with a handicapped accessible bathroom, two seats designated for handicapped passengers, and a storage area for wheelchairs. Physically challenged passengers will receive a 50% discount on tickets.
Seoul Station and Yongsan Station have become the major hubs for the KTX in Seoul.