KTX

The largest railway operator is Korail. KTX is the express railway service between Seoul and Busan, Seoul and Gyeongju (Singyeongju), Seoul and Mokpo and other destinations between these. Similar to a Japan Railway Pass or a Eurorail Pass, a KR Pass is available to foreigners. More information is here.


SEOUL SUBWAY

Seoul has a modern and efficient system of public transportation that includes both subway trains and buses. Seoul has nine major subway lines that run all throughout the city and even go into the suburbs and surrounding areas.   It is a great system, the trains come about every 5 minutes and are clean.  If you're not use to subways you may find it a little daunting, but don't get worried - it's actually very easy.  As an added convenience, the signs are in both Korean and English. 

Seoul Subway Map 

 If you plan to ride on the subway, there are several things to keep in mind:

1.  It is very popular because it avoids road traffic.  The trains themselves will be packed during peak hours. To stand a chance of a seat, try the very end most cars and avoid peak hour travel wherever possible. 

2.  Fares within Seoul cost between 900 (basic fare for 10km)  and 1,500 won. Sub-way tickets can be purchased with cash from an Automatic Vending Machines (ATVM) dispensing machine located at every subway station.  Instructions are provided in Korean and English at such machines. However it is best to use a prepaid transit card to obtain a discount. The most frequently used transportation card is the ‘T-money Card'. It is available for purchase at ticket windows of subway stations or at convenience stores and vendor kiosks that post a ‘T-money’ signboard. By using the T-money Card, instead of cash, the card user can get an approximately 10% discount on the regular fare. The price of the T-money Card is 2,500 won, and the card can be easily recharged for amounts ranging from 1,000 won to 90,000 won.

 3. How to use the system -

If you are traveling with a paper-type ticket with magnetic stripe attached on the back, insert the ticket into the ticket slot as you enter a station entrance  turnstile gate. If you are traveling with a transit card instead, simply tag the card on top of the sensor. Upon entering the turnstile gates to depart at the starting station, the paper-type ticket will come out of the slot on the opposite side of the gate. Check gates carefully and be sure to take the returned ticket with you so that you can use it to pass through the gates at the arrival station.

When transferring, you do not need to pass through a turnstile, and you will not need to purchase another card. 
 

4.  Always carry a subway map (see link above for an online version) which are available from tourist offices and look it over before trying to embark on your journey so that you are aware of your destination line, noting any transfers required. Please note that usually there is a yellow box next to the ticket window which contains free subway maps that you can take and keep. 

5. The subway lines are color coded. To find information about your destination look for the display maps in the subway station which are located above the ticket windows. Most, not all,  subway maps are written in both Korean and English - so carry your own subway map, just in case. The numbers next to the name of each station on the map indicate the subway fare for the destination from the present station.  

6. Most cars have seats for the elderly, pregnant or disabled. Don't sit there unless you are (elderly, pregnant or disabled). If you are bringing a bicycle onto the train, the only place to store it is either at the front or back cars. Do not use the other cars on the train.

7. The pre-recorded voice announcements inside the trains indicate the upcoming station, possible line transfer and exiting side. These announcements are in Korean followed by English, and in some cases Japanese then Chinese.


BUSES

Seoul has four different bus categories which are also color coded. The colors are Blue, Green, Red, and Yellow. Bus numbers indicate districts in Seoul, enabling passengers to identify the bus departure point and destination. For instance:

Yellow Buses circulate in the Central Business District (Downtown area), connecting major tourist, shopping and business area. 

Yellow buses have a 2-digit number only to identify them. For example: 2-digit number: District + Bus ID (1~9) (1~9)

Example) 01
0: This bus circles District Area 0 (Jongno, Junggu, Yongsan)
1: Bus ID number

Blue buses connect  Seoul's suburbs to downtown Seoul

Blue buses travel on major arterial roads (long distances) within Seoul and serve more than two districts. Blue buses have a 3-digit number which represents: Departure + Destination + Bus ID (0~9)

Example) 048
0: This bus starts from District Area 0 (Jongno, Junggu, Yongsan)
4 : 4: This bus heads for District Area 4 (Seocho, Gangnam)
8: Bus ID number

Green Buses connect residential areas, subway lines and bus terminals and circulate within a district.

Green buses operate on branch lines within one district of Seoul, carrying passengers to transfer points. These buses are privately operated. Green buses have a 4-digit number, similar to the above, except for the Bus ID which ranges from (11~99).

Red Buses are EXPRESS buses for commuters

Red buses do not offer discount benefits even with a transportation card. These buses seat every passenger and are useful to access places such as Suwon and Incheon.

N.B: Local knowledge is quite important, and it would not be advisable for a new comer to assume bus travel will be simple.


T- CARD

The cheapest way to use public transport is to use a T card, which is an integrated fare system which is transferable from bus to bus, bus to subway, or vice-versa. A discount is made available if passengers use this card so that payment by cash is discouraged.  (No discount is offered on Red bus). To transfer to another bus or train, the card must be scanned over a card terminal upon exit within a 30 minute timeframe before transferring. 

The T- card can be either prepaid or postpaid (through a credit card). The prepaid card is 2,500 won. They can be purchased from the automated machines in every subway station or convenience store. T- cards can be recharged for amounts from 1,000 won to 90,000 won. Users departing Seoul can get a refund for any remaining amount on the card (less 1,500 won) at a T- card vender.



SEOUL CITY PASS

This pass is similar in use to the T- card but it also enables tourists to access the Seoul City Tour Bus that take you around the downtown and palaces. By using the SEOUL CITY PASS you can board and get off from the bus at any time or place you want, all day, as many times as you like. With this pass tourists can also use the public bus and rail system up to 20 times per day ie metropolitan subway and Blue/Green/Yellow buses.

  1 day pass   2 day pass   3 day pass
 Price  15,000 won  25, 000 won  35,000 won
 Seoul City Tour Bus  No limit, 1 day  No limit, 2 day  No limit, 3 day
 Subway/Bus  Up to 20 times a day

 Up to 20 times a day

for a total of 40 times

Up to 20 times a day

 for a total of 60 times

Note: The SEOUL CITY PASS cannot be refunded once sold but malfunctioning cards can be exchanged from where it was purchased. The pass is used in the same way as the T- card, that is,  by electronic sensor operation.



FREE INTER-CITY SHUTTLE FOR FOREIGNERS

An intermittent FREE shuttle service is offered by Dongbo Travel from central Seoul to selected destinations such as Jeonju.  Tickets are offered on a lottery basis to foreign passport holders ONLY, and an application for preferred dates must be completed on their website at least 3 days prior to the travel date. 

As of April 2014, the following shuttles are available:

Jeonju (plus selected festivals in Jeonbuk province).  Apply for tickets here.  Ask questions via the Facebook page.

Gangwon province (various destinations, for festivals).  Ticket applications open April 17, 2014.  Service begins May 2, 2014 and is planned to continue until January 2015.  Check the website for information, schedules and to apply for tickets.