I won’t drive in Korea and you can’t make me.
Whenever possible, I avoid driving long distances in Korea. This country is wonderful, but driving here requires a unique knowledge of unspoken road rules that I just don’t understand.
Even if I do manage to drive a long distance, I have to find parking. I can’t stand having to find parking, it doesn’t matter what country I’m in.
When our family decides to adventure more than an hour away from Camp Humphreys, we like to use Korea’s amazing train system – Korail.
Using Korail is easier than you think it is!
Korail supports the city subway systems, but it also offers train service between mid-size and large cities. The process of buying Korail tickets, getting to the train station, finding your train, and getting to where you need to be is daunting at first.
Never fear though, I’m happy to help walk you through the entire process so you can enjoy using Korail!
Three Ways to Purchase Tickets from Korail
Visiting the ticket counter
You can purchase tickets at the station ticket booth. I usually do this for last-minute, same-day train tickets.
Trains can be busy during commute times (mornings and evenings) and on weekends, so always be sure to ask two important questions when purchasing your tickets:
- Are the tickets I’m buying next to each other? This is important if you are buying a ticket for your child and want to make sure they are sitting next to you.
- Are these standing or seated tickets? Trains that sell out of seats become standing room only. In a pinch, I’ve purchased a seat, had my kiddo sit in my lap, and my husband had a standing-only ticket.
You can ask the ticket agent to help you find the next available train with seats available. Standing isn’t bad for the 45-minute ride from Pyeongtaek to Seoul, but it’s not great for a four- or five-hour trip to Busan!
Using the App – KorailTalk
The KorailTalk app is good if you’re not near a computer but it’s not user-friendly in some ways.
Keep in mind that you can’t download an e-ticket from the app. You’ll have to show your confirmation email and passport at the train station ticket booth to pick up your physical tickets.
Using the Website – www.letskorail.com
I’ve created a detailed tutorial on Slideshare to help you go through the steps of purchasing a Korail ticket. You can check it out here:
This information doesn’t apply to subways.
I know the subway is a great way to get around, but it’s not for me. If I’m traveling in Seoul, especially with my kiddo in tow, I’m taking cabs. As you read this, remember I’m focusing on city-to-city Korail purchases, which is quite a bit different than using the subway systems in various cities in Korea.
A few things to keep in mind about buying Korail tickets
- You can make a Korail ticket reservation up to 31 days in advance.
- If your plans change, you can request a refund online or at the ticket counter. There are some rules and minor fees that may come out of your refund depending on how close it is to your travel day.
- Don’t try to travel without a ticket. In the dozens of times we’ve used the train, we’ve only had our tickets checked twice. That said, I would never chance it. Fines are hefty and you can be banned from using the Korail entirely. Don’t be that person.
It’s an affordable way to travel!
Have you seen gas prices in Korea? I had sticker shock when we first moved here!
Korail is affordable. An adult ticket from Pyeongtaek to Seoul, one-way, is 4,700 won. An adult is considered anyone 13 or older. Kids ages 6-12 pay an even lower rate, and kids under the age of 6 accompanied by a paying adult ticket holder travel free!
I usually buy a ticket for our 4-year-old, though he can travel free. Every so often we’ve been on a night train next to a humorless 20-something who has just gotten off work and doesn’t think it’s so awesome to be sitting next to a parent with a loud kid in their lap. To avoid the passive-aggressive sighing, and to make sure hubby and I are comfortable too, we just get Little Dude a ticket. This guarantees he has a spot to sit or, in a pinch, it gives us an extra spot to put shopping bags, a stroller or other stuff.
There’s an even cheaper option if you’re going to use the train a lot…
Foreigners get the extra sweet option of purchasing something called a Korail pass. I haven’t used one yet, but if you’re going to be inter-city trains a lot and going long distances, it might be the best option for you. Passes are available for two, three, or five days of consecutive travel. You can learn more on the Korail Pass website: http://www.letskorail.com/ebizbf/EbizBfKrPassAbout.do
Three types of trains in Korail!
There are multiple types of trains in the Korail system, but there are three main types you’ll see a lot of.
Mugunghwa-ho trains are the standard train system – a little bit older and slower, but they’ll get you there on time!
ITX or Saemaul are Intercity Train eXpress trains and are part of the high-speed rail system.
KTX are Korea Train eXpress trains and are part of the high-speed rail system, too.
You can purchase all three types of train tickets using the Korail app (KorailTalk) or website. The only difference is that ITX and KTX trains will get you to where you want to be more quickly!
Here’s a handy map of KTX train routes: https://info.korail.com/mbs/english/subview.jsp?id=english_050401010000
Other amazing train features
Korean trains have a variety of features like:
- Clean restrooms
- Handicap restrooms
- Nursing rooms
- Cafe cars to purchase snacks
- Reclining seats
- Rotating seats
Not all trains have the same features but you can rely on the restrooms and nursing rooms, which is so nice!
You can see pictures of all the amazing fanciness on the Korail website: https://info.korail.com/mbs/english/subview.jsp?id=english_050301000000
I’ll be posting more tips for using Korail soon, but in the meantime, give it a try on your own! You can do it! Have a great time on your trip!