Korea is the master of public transportation. Whether you take the train, bus, taxi or you’re hiking- they’ve got you covered.
First things first – Having a T-money/ Money Bee or Debit/Credit Card. These are essential in using public transport. All buses and trains/subways accept the T-money card. Until recently all taxis used T-money. Now taxis might not accept T-money any longer, but they will accept your debit/credit card.
- What is T-money or Money Bee?
T- Money and Money Bee refers to a preloaded transportation card. These cards can be purchased at any convenience store. You can recharge your card at any convenience store. You can also recharge these cards at subway stations and bus stations. It is very convenient and 30 000 Won can take you a long way.
2. Subway and KTX
You can use your transportation card to travel via train. You can either swipe it at the turnstile where you enter the platform, or you can buy a ticket at the automated machines at the station entrance. For KTX I would advise you to buy the ticket since you will have clearer instructions as to where to get on and off or where to transfer lines.
For KTX I would advise you to buy the ticket since you will have clearer instructions as to where to get on and off or where to transfer lines. KTX is the express train and by far the fastest option to travel between major cities like Busan and Seoul.
To take a bus in Korea is the easiest and most convenient form of transport. Bus stops are clearly indicated, with maps and bus numbers showing you which bus travels on which route. Swipe your transportation card when you get on the bus, and swipe it again when you get off. If you do not swipe when you get off you might be charged for the whole route. The busses are clean, air-conditioned and rarely overcrowded. On the bus, you will find a red button at every other seat. Press this when you are nearing your stop. The bus does not automatically stop at every bus stop en route. If you want to get off let the driver know at least one minute from your stop by pressing the red button.
For longer travels, 3+ hours, I would highly recommend the Express Bus. This is amazing. The bus is fast, comfortable and I had a better seat than any plane I’ve ever been on. You will also find that your seat can recline, you have a footrest and a USB port to charge your phone.
You can flag down a taxi in any town/city in Korea. A lot of times taxi drivers in smaller towns are shy to speak English, or scared of being embarrassed so they will pretend that they don’t see you. This is OK, there will always be somebody who will stop. To communicate with the driver: Greet them in a friendly way, give them the address, when you pay, thank them for their service. If you are very happy with the driver ask him for a business card. This might help you in the future when you struggle to get a taxi. Here are some useful phrases if you want to try out your Korean:
Fill in the blank with a place to tell the driver where you want to go.
Please take me to _______.
You might also find this useful:
Please go straight.
Please turn left.
Please turn right.
Please make a U-turn.
For a full breakdown on taxi lingo, visit SweetandtastyTV.
4. Hitch Hiking
Although hitchhiking is not considered a safe way to travel in most of the world, I would not hesitate to catch a ride with a Korean person. Hubby and I missed the 2 pm bus to town one Saturday, and the next bus was only at 6 pm. We stood next to the road feeling sorry for ourselves and contemplated calling our regular taxi driver- but the idea of paying 30 000 Won for a return trip to town was not appealing. Trying to make the best of a bad situation we started jokingly waving at passing cars. Two pulled over. The first one we were too scared to approach, so we just waved them on. The second one we did approach. Two middle aged guys with three English words in their vocabulary basically signed that they would take us to town. We were very scared and giggled the whole way. They were super nice and dropped us at the bus terminal. When we wanted to pay, they refused. They waved, we waved and that was that. I would not recommend this as a regular form of travel, but when you are in a pinch and traveling with a mate this could be a possible solution.
I hope that you will find this post useful. Happy travels – be safe!