Travel around South Korea, fast-convenient-cheaper way

South Korea transportation system is really advanced. Railway system is reliable. They have KTX, equal to Thalys in Europe or Shinkasen in Japan. Also 2 other type of train : mugunghwa and sameul (the cheapest and slowest). Korea's major cities have metro / subway system too. (In a glance, the subway map for Seoul similar to the one in London.) Then buses. Some buses I notice are express buses (the one that has its own lane on express ways), intercity buses, city buses and tourist buses include intercity free shuttle for foreigner. Cost? KTX is the most expensive, but there's a way to solve this problem.

Korea Rail Company (Korail) offer KR Pass designated for tourists or new residents at the most bargain cost. For locals there is Happy Pass, similar to KR Pass but at higher cost. For these passes, they also give discount for a group of 2-5 persons travelling together.

Then there's T-money, a great way to pay and useful not only in Seoul. We can use T-money to pay subway, buses, convenient stores and few others with T-money logo. Similar to T-money is Seoul City Pass. With this card, we don't need to open our wallet to often. just flash the card and there you go. The empty card cost 2000KRW and you can top-up from 3000KRW onwards, at many vending machine in subway stations. the difference is, Seoul city pass is refundable and has shorter expiration date.

For a figure, here's what I did last weekend.

I want to travel on my own for 3 days to 3 cities : Busan - Seoul - Gyeongju. I bought single KR Pass for 3 days use at 84,600KRW. I made the booking online, they sent me reservation code to my email. At Busan Train Station I got a KR Pass card. With that card, I just asked them to provide me as many ticket as I need. I told them the dates and they print out my train ticket for each legs.
With KR Pass card, we are entitled to have economy seat. At peak season, we might not be able to get a seat without advance booking. I got this once. The option at this circumstances is pay a bit more for upgrade to first class (Busan to Seoul /vv need extra 20,000KRW) or go to standing coach. It means, they wont issue a ticket but instead we just show our KR Pass to ticket master when they check. There are 2 seats in every coach end without numbers. I was lucky to got it. Another traveller sat at the other seat and said she paid 45,000KRW for ONE journey, Busan to Seoul only.
Also with KR Pass, we are entitled to all kind of national rail system (not the subways/buses). It means, I can choose to always use KTX, the nicest and fastest train if I want to. As comparison, direct KTX Busan-Seoul only 2.5 hours. With slowest train, we might need to change coach and it takes up to 5 hours in total.

From Seoul to Gyeongju I got good seat. Same case from Gyeongju to Busan. Another good deal with this pass is, you don't need to worry to miss your train. Because, you can request another ticket for another schedule. It's for unlimited use (during the validity period) after all!

The value of train tickets I got in total was more than 100,000KRW. With the cancellation I did, it might be close to 150,000KRW. So I got over 30% off just from the KR Pass.


At Seoul station, I bought T-money card at the nearest convenient store for 2000KRW. Then at the vending machine I top it up another 20,000KRW. I guess it will be good for me even if I need to grab taxi once a while. With T-money, I save the time from the hassle of buying ticket for each subway journey. Just tap my card in the reading machine, off I go. I tried to use it on buses, taxis and stores too. it works real good! I hardly take out my wallet. Just hold the card in the front pocket for easy use.

T-money card has no expiry and can be used in Gyeongju as well! Bus from Singyeongju station (a bit outskirt from downtown) to Gyeongju's main attraction : Bulguksa temple (another side of outskirt downtown) only cost 1,500KRW each journey for about 30 minutes. As tourist from Singyeongju train station, you need bus no.700 that do circular line passing all the highlights of this historical city. But if you are not taking KTX, bus and regular train instead, you will be 'landed' at downtown. bus no 10 and 11 is your buddy to explore around.

Another option travelling in South Korea is taking intercity/express buses. For example, rather than flying from Busan to Seoul or taking train, from smaller city/town there's always be express buses. From where I live, Geoje Island, there is an express bus direct to Seoul that run few times daily at 60,000KRW return trip and take only 4 hours in total! This means, from the (almost) very south to (almost) very north of this country. Other cities has this too.

These 2 cards were my saviour. You might want to give it a go next time.













Comments

  1. Hi, here is more information about KTX in korea. If you are planing to travel to Korea especially, out of Seoul like Busan, Singyeonju etc. , I recommend to buy a 'Korail pass'. This pass is for day-using pass so if you have this pass, you can take all KTX whenever you want. There are 1day, 3days, 5days and 7days pass and also you have options for 'saver pass'(between 2 and 5 people) , 'youth pass'(between 13 and 25). Please visit this website 'http://www.letskorail.com/ebizbf/EbizBfKrPassAbout.do' for making a reservation and getting more information about pass. Thank you.

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