Korea’s transportation system is perhaps one of the most convenient in the globe. This is due to the vast network of transport facilities which include buses, railroads, bicycles, and other means. In this article, we will guide you through the must-know things about how to move around in Korea. Those also include some apps we recommend installing prior to your trip, as well as some Korean phrases you will probably need to use.
Thanks to the integrated nature of Korea’s transportation system, T-Money Card (transportation card) can be used pretty much everywhere. A transportation card can be used in the subway, buses, and taxis. On top of that, you can even use it as a method of payment at some convenience stores. The best part is— you can buy this card right once you arrive at the airport in Incheon. But don’t rush to leave the city as it also has a lot to offer! Click here to see our recommended tourist locations in Incheon.
To purchase a T-Money, just simply go into any subway station (including the one at Incheon Airport) or drop in any convenience store (such as 7-Eleven, GS25, CU, etc.) You can also top it up there as well. The price of a T-Money card is 2,500 won. T-Money cards do NOT have an expiration date, so you can keep it until your next trip. Otherwise, you can get a refund of the remaining amount at the convenience stores.
Say NO to Google Maps
First and foremost, you do NOT want to use Google Maps here, since you may experience a lot of inaccuracies and problems trying to find the best route. To facilitate your navigation, there are two better alternatives to choose from used by the locals: Naver’s Daum and Kakao Map, both supporting an English interface. We especially recommend installing the latter since it is linked to South Korea’s No.1 leading messenger – Kakao Talk. It is easier to set an appointment as you can track your friends’ shared location on Kakao Map. Both apps provide all the necessary information, including the real-time bus/train tracking system and the subway maps of the cities other than Seoul.
Taxis in Korea
There is NO Uber available in Korea (There is a service called UT[Uber Taxi] but it’s quite a different one from the Uber in any other countries). But if you need a cab and do not want to go through the hassle of hailing one, simply install Kakao Taxi. To use the app, you will need to verify your account through your Kakao Talk profile. Kakao Talk is a Korean messenger which we would advise you to install prior to your trip to Korea as well. One of the reasons why you should go for the app instead of getting a taxi on the street is that some taxi drivers can intentionally take a longer way round to increase the fare. With the app, the approximate amount you will pay for your trip will appear on the screen, so you will know if the driver goes off the initial route. Upon your arrival, you can pay either by cash or using your foreign debit card.
Other taxi service apps also include Tada which also accepts foreign phone numbers. However, be mindful that the app only operates within Seoul.
For those who prefer getting around on their own, there are many options available as well.
Foreigners can rent a car in South Korea as long as they can present a valid International Driving Permit (IDP). Car rental fees start from about $60.
For shorter distance trips, consider the below options as well.
Public Bike Sharing System Ddareungi (Seoul)
You can rent a bike available at multiple stations all across Seoul. To do so, just install the app Ddarengi (따릉이) and opt for the option that says Foreigner, and follow the instructions. You can only rent a bike for 2 hours at most. The price of a 1-hour pass is 1,000 won and 2,000 for two hours. Additional charges will be applied if you exceed the allotted time.
How to travel to different cities in Korea?
You can use either a train or a bus to go to destinations outside of Seoul. For bus booking, install 시외버스 (Intercity Bus) and 고속버스 (Express Bus). For trains, install KorailTalk. Of course, you can always purchase your tickets right at the stations as well.
Useful Korean phrases you may need for your travel
I’m getting off here
기사님 저 내릴게요 [gisanim jeo naerilgeyo]
Does (this bus) go to (destination’s name)
(…) 까지 가요? [kkaji gayo]
Please pull-over here
여기 세워주세요 [yeogi sewojuseyo]
It’s also considered polite if you thank the driver when you get off the bus. So don’t forget to say 감사합니다 [gamsahamnida]!