The transportation system in Korea is nothing short of excellent. Due to the relatively close proximity of cities, it is easy to get around the country, and transportation is fast and reliable. The number of options for travel make it easy to explore within your city and take weekend trips to anywhere in the country. Not only is transportation easy and reliable, it is very well priced and affordable on your teaching salary.
Buses are great option for getting around and are very accessible in any Korean city. They run on a constant schedule and are a very reliable and inexpensive travel option. The fee for a bus ride is 1,000 W and this can be paid either by cash or by using a refillable bus pass. Buses are mostly used by middle school and university students and can become crowded during rush hour.
Inter-city buses or Express buses are an excellent way to get around the country. Reclining seats and air-conditioning are a couple of the great amenities you can expect when traveling between cities. The schedule is extremely accommodating and popular destinations see buses leaving every 15-20 minutes. Major Express Bus terminals are located in every Korean city and are foreigner friendly for both access and information. Tickets can be purchased on-line or at the terminal and are relatively inexpensive for the great service you will learn to expect.
*Please note that during national holidays and times such as Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) and Seolal (Korean New Year), traffic can be significant and it will take a lot longer to reach a destination. In some cases it will take twice the amount of time to reach your destination.
Buses always leave the terminal at the exact scheduled time. In some cases arriving even a minute late can result in missing your bus. Please make sure you always give yourself enough time and don't count that the driver will depart later.
Buses will always make a stop at the half way point of your destination to allow for a 15 minute washroom break and snack. Rest areas are very accommodating will often offer a few restaurant options and many food stands. Please remember to note the license plate number of your bus and don't be late!
For more information on terminals and schedules in your city, please visit: http://www.kobus.co.kr/web/eng/index.jsp
Subways are another quick and reliable option for getting around. This option is available in the larger cities and some of the mid-sized cities will only have limited routes. In Seoul for example, taking the subway can save you on travel times during the rush hours. Comfortable, clean, and easily accessible, subways are a good way to get around.
And for more tips on using the subway system, please click here.
Taxis are a very common transportation mode for foreigners. Many teachers use taxis as their only mode of transportation, based on the inexpensive rates and reliability. In smaller cities especially, taking a taxi might make more sense than taking a subway or bus. Taxis can be hailed or called ahead of time. Dispatchers speak Korean so it is a good idea to learn how to say your address in Korean.
Be aware of taxi sharing. In some cases, the taxi driver might stop and pick up another passenger on the way to your destination if they are going the same way. In times when finding a taxi is difficult (rush hours, rain or snow days) this can be a good thing. The taxi drivers are basically double dipping on the fare.
Most taxis have a sign on the passenger window advertising Free Interpretation. You can call the number provided to get an English speaking interpreter if needed.
For safety reasons, only the passenger side door should be used when getting into a taxi.
Taxi drivers are generally very honest and will do their best to get you to your destination fast and through reliable routes.
Some taxi drivers speak English at a low to excellent level. Do not expect this however and make sure you know how to say your destination or have it written down in Korean by a friend.
*One of the most important things to remember once you are settled into your Korean apartment is to know your address with you. You can ask a Korean friend or co-teacher to write it down for you in Korean. If you every happen to get turned around, all you need to do is find a taxi and they can bring you home.
Express Trains (KTX):
Express trains are now linking most large to medium cities in Korea and offer another fantastic option for getting around the country. Express trains are a bit more expensive compared to Express buses but have many advantages. They cut down your travel time significantly, are clean, quiet, air-conditioned, offer snacks for sale, and have washrooms. An express bus from Gwangju to Seoul takes 4 hours versus 2.5 hours on the KTX. When traveling during holiday times it is best to book your ticket well in advance to ensure a free seat. The advantage of paying a little more during these times is that you will avoid delays due to congested traffic.
Motorbikes and Scooters:
Motorbikes may seem like the last thing you would pick as your mode of
transportations, but you may find that there is a select group of foreigners
who can think of no better way to travel. Motorbikes are used in Korea
mostly by young people, university students, and delivery drivers.
You can purchase a used motorbike ranging in price from
200,000 - 1,000,000 KRW.
They are easy to upkeep and tend to be quite reliable and time saving.