Throughout Korea, you can use the convenient public transportation system. Some big cities are densely populated and suffer from heavy traffic, yet the public transportation system is well developed in a systematic and up-to-date system. Various bus routes cover all corners of the city, and you will find that buses are a convenient way to get around the city once you get accustomed to the seemingly complex routes. Seoul city utilizes the bus-only lane system which allows buses to remain mostly unaffected by the city’s heavy traffic.
In addition, you can use the metro system in major cities in Korea. It is the most efficient and convenient method of getting around town. Not only it is cheap, the average travel time between stations is 2-3 minutes. In rush hours, it helps you get to your destinations much faster than using cars or buses.
You can also conveniently travel between cities using inter-city buses or trains. Traveling between regional cities has become more convenient with the addition of the high speed KTX train in 2004. In addition to the KTX, two major domestic airlines as well as several other smaller airlines provide flights to numerous regional cities on a daily basis.
a. Taking the Bus
(1) City Bus
Three types of buses cover routes connecting every corner of the city: Ilban bus, Jwaseok bus, and Maeul bus. Over 400 express and residential buses and 8,500 city buses serve Seoulites on a daily basis. Bus routes can be the hardest to master for newcomers. However, once you get accustomed to taking the bus, it may be easier for you to reach destinations not easily accessible by subway. Buses travel in five to fifteen minute intervals but it may take longer in busier parts of the city. Schedules vary depending on the bus routes but most routes start at 4:30 a.m. with the last bus of the day making its round at 1 a.m. One of the advantages of traveling by bus is that you can actually enjoy the sights and sounds of various neighborhoods around Seoul. If traffic worries you, bus routes do not get as congested as blue lanes marked in blue on streets of major areas in Seoul to provide a free flow of bus traffic. The drawback to taking the bus is jockeying for elbow-room or seating on a moving bus full of commuters.
(2) Intercity Bus
When planning a trip to regional cities, a bus is also one of the most convenient options to travel around the country. Buses are divided into express buses and intercity buses. The former will take you another region quickly through expressway( s ) without any stops, while the latter will go through express way( s ), national highway( s ) and/or local road( s ) via some regions. There are five bus terminals in Seoul: Dong Seoul, Sang Bong, Seoul Express, Seoul Nambu and Central City. You do not have to make reservations in advance to get tickets and since there is an abundance of buses for each route, if you wait a little you can get comfortably seated on the next bus. Express buses come in two types: ilban and udeung. While udeung buses cost a little more, they are more comfortable with a row of single seats to the left and double seats on the right. This provides much more leg room for those long rides. (http://www.kobus.co.kr
, Tel 1588-6900). Before travelling, confirm whether a certain region has separate express bus terminal and intercity bus terminal or an integrated bus terminal.
Metropolitan cities such as Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Gwangju, and Daejeon have subway systems. Most people use the subway as their main transportation as the subway networks are very well developed and highly convenient with many lines. Seoul Metro has 18 lines, but other metropolitan cities have fewer lines, 1 to 3, but they are still very convenient compared with other transportation systems.
Taxis in Korea are affordable, comfortable, and can be a convenient way to travel. In Seoul, taxis are broadly widely divided into common taxis and luxury taxis.
(1) Regular(Ilban) Taxis
While you can differentiate between a private and company owned taxi by the plastics caps on top of the cars, it is usually easy to spot company owned taxis as they have the company name and numbers on the side doors. The basic fare for these taxis is 3,000 KRW for the first 2km with an increase of 100 won per 142m. Keep in mind that there is a 20% fare hike from 12pm to 4am.(Each region has different fare rates. More information can be found at: http://www.taxi.or.kr
(2) International Taxis
International Taxis offer the most convenient and comfortable service both for foreign residents and visitors to Seoul.
(3) Mobeom Taxis
These taxis are black with yellow plastic caps on top of the car. Although more comfortable than regular taxis, these luxury taxis also cost more. The basic fare is 5,000won for the first 3km with an increase of 300won per 164m.
(4) Call Van
A call van is an advanced and new method of transportation in Korea.
* Differences between Taxis and Call Vans
- Taxi: Mainly for passengers, but may also carry luggage
- Call van: Mainly for passengers with luggage and freight, but can also carry only passengers
Several options exist for those looking to travel to regional cities from Seoul. Although express buses are one option, it is better to use trains or flights for domestic travel for the sake of overall convenience. Five types of trains exist in Korea: KTX, Saemaeul, Mugunhwa, Nuriro and SRT.
- KTX : The introduction of KTX in 2004 has made life easier for travel to regional cities.
These high-speed trains travel at 300 km/h and have 20 cars with 935 seats in total. The special section has 127 seats with three per section while the general section has 808 seats with four per section. Standing room is also available on the KTX.
- Saemaeul trains are the next fastest way to travel, taking Seoul riders to Busan in 4 1/2 hours. These trains are roomier and do not have standing room tickets available. Saemaeul trains stop at all major cities and were the fastest trains before the introduction of the KTX. These trains can be easily distinguished by their blue, green, and yellow colors. The length of the train can vary from five to twelve cars.
- Mugunghwa trains, named after the national flower of Korea, are the slowest and the least comfortable of the group. Standing room is available and the seating arrangements are not as spacious as the Saemaeul train. Mugunhwa trains were commonly used prior to 2004 and are still widely used since they make many stops not serviced by KTX or Saemaeul trains.
- Nuriro trains, incorporate ergonomically designed seats and moving steps that make the train compatible with both low and high platforms. To ensure a comfortable journey for all customers, a restroom for the disabled, devices assisting the disabled when boarding and exiting the train, and luggage racks are provided.
- SRT: SR(Suseo high speed Railway) is operating between Gyeongbu high speed railway and Honam high speed railway by SRT from 2016.
※ Source : http://www.korail.com
e. Domestic Flights
When considering domestic flights, it is important to check which airport nearest. There are 8 international airports(Incheon, Gimpo, Gimhae, Jeju, Daegu, Cheongju, Yangyang, Muan International Airport) and 7 local airports(Gwangju, Ulsan, Yeosu, Sacheon, Pohang, Kunsan, Wonju airport). Most international flights come through Incheon International Airport or Gimpo airport.
f. Driver License
(1) Procedure to obtain a driver’s license
Foreigners legally residing in Korea can obtain a driver’s license by following the procedures below. The written test can be taken either in English, Chinese, Japanese, German, and French. Test preparation books can be purchased at driver’s license agencies.
(2) Exchanging a foreign license into Korean license
An authorized foreign license can be exchanged in Korea into a Korean one. Firstly, all the required documents should be submitted and verified. Then, there will be a physical exam. The foreign license must be a full license: temporary, provisional, probationary,
permit, certificate or motorcycle licenses cannot be exchanged.
* More information can be found at Road Traffic Authority Driver’s License Examination Office.
- Website: http://dl.koroad.or.kr/license/en/index.jsp
- Tel. 1577-1120