Sunday, January 9, 2011

Taking the train in Korea

The KTX speed train reaches speeds of 300 kmp, thats 168 mph!
Taking the train offers great views of Korea, such as the Han river.
   South Korea has an amazing railroad system with a wide variety of comfort levels and prices. Once you figure out how to get around by train, exploring Korea will be a piece of cake. You can travel virtually anywhere in the country in about 2-4 hours thanks to the newly improved Korea Train Express (KTX) which will allow you to travel from Seoul to Busan in only 2 hours and 30 minutes. So sit back, relax, and enjoy great views of the Korean country side via the Korean railway.
    My first experience on the Korean railway was this weekend when I took a train down to Daegu to visit a good friend of mine. I took a Muganghwa class train which is an older train to save some money. I actually saved around 70,000 won by not taking the KTX, and it only took me an extra hour and a half. My ticket on the Muganghwa train was 22,000 won instead of the KTX price of 45,000 won, and my ticket back to Seoul was even cheaper at only 16,000 won because the train was booked and I could only buy standing class tickets. Yes, you can buy tickets where you have no seat reserved and they are even cheaper, therefore if all the seats are taken you could be standing. This happened to me on my train back to Seoul, but I didn't want to stand for 3 and 1/2 hours, so I chose to sit casually on the cozy carpeted floor of the dining car.

A view of a KTX train from a platform in Seoul Station.
     Two days before the trip, I used Korail's online booking service through their website. Luckily, this is one of  a few Korean travel sites that has an English page. Simply enter in your desired destination, select your train type, and provide your passport number, Alien Registration Card number, and your credit card info to book a ticket up to one month in advance.
    There are five different train types that will take you around Korea. They each have their perks and flaws, which are important to know before booking a ticket. Lets take a look at what each type of train has to offer:

KTX passengers are offered a luxury travel experience.
    The KTX (short for Korea Train Express): KTX is of course the fastest way to travel in Korea, but it is also the most expensive. For a one way KTX ticket from Seoul to Busan it will cost you about 52,900 won if you sit in standard class. The train runs at a top speed of 300 kph, which is about 186 mph!  KTX trains make fewer stops, but they also run to fewer locations. So they are good to take if you are traveling far distances in a short period of time. KTX makes it easy to plan any day trip from Seoul down to southern parts of the country. (Source: Wikipedia) 

    The Saemaeul-class (새마을): These trains used to be the fastest way to travel around Korea before KTX opened in 1992.  Saemaeul trains are just as nice as KTX trains, but they take a longer. A one way Saemeaul ticket from Seoul to Busan will cost about 39,000 won which is only about 12,000 won cheaper than KTX. This may seem like a high price to pay, when the train takes about 5 hours total. I think your better off taking KTX than Saemaeul trains because you don't save that much by taking a Saemaeu, but the total travel time is a lot longer.

Standard seats inside of a Mugangwha train.
    The Muganghwa-class (무궁화): Old Muganghwa trains are clearly the 3rd class train in Korea, however they are the most affordable. These trains also have giant seats and plenty of space which makes up for the longer travel time, but they are not as nice as KTX or Saemaeul trains. A one way ticket from Seoul to Busan will only cost you 26,500 won and will take about 6 hours. The train will make more stops to smaller cities and stations in Korea. If your willing to tack on some extra travel time, the low price can be a real incentive. I recommend booking this train at 5am in the morning, and then you can just sleep the entire ride!

Mugangwha trains have a more colorful exterior.
    The Tonggeun (통근): These trains are commuter trains, and only run a few specific routes. Most of the routes run to smaller and rural areas such as the northern Gyeonggi-do areas. This  includes the Gyeongwon Line (Dongducheon-Sintan-ri) and the Gyeongui Line (Munsan-Dorasan). But don't get confused this with the subway line of the same name. Keep in mind that you cannot reserve a seat on commuter trains.

    The Nooriro-class (누리로): this  is a new class of trains that will eventually replace longer route Mugangwha trains.  This train actually runs on the same line as line 1 of the subway system,  but it makes fewer stops than the subway does. You pay the same price as the Muganghwa-class train, but you only get there a little faster. So as an obvious result, they aren't very popular yet.

A huge Korail sign in Seoul Station.
If you have any questions or comments about "Taking the train in Korea" please leave them in the comment box below or email them to

Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

    14 개의 댓글:

    Anonymous said...

    thanks a lot for the info. very useful.

    Anonymous said...

    not sure if you answer questions in your comments but i checked out ktx prices for a seoul to busan trip and it's 55000 won ONE way. Did the prices double since you posted the article?

    Marie W said...

    Hi! The price I listed is based on the Muganghwa-class train! KTX is double the price, but gets you there way faster! The Mugangwha-class is good if your looking to save money and have plenty of time! : )

    anonymous2012pinoy said...

    Can I ask you some questions: I'll be in Korea in January 2013.

    If I don't take KTX in Seoul, but wanting to take KTX train in Busan KTX Station, can I still buy KTX ticket in Busan or in Seoul? Eventhough we're foreigners (we're both Filipinos but I'm from Australia and my younger cousin is from the Philippines)...

    How do I get reserve KTX tickets? (I know I can do it online) but can I buy 2 ONE WAY tickets for me and my cousin in Busan, for getting back to Seoul? I will buy one maybe in December for January 2013.

    Anonymous said...

    How much is the food (on an average) on the KTX?

    Anonymous said...


    Anonymous said...

    Stumble upon your blog while researching on trains in Korea. Not sure if you still reply your comments, hope you still do!
    I'll be going to Korea next month, plan to take the train from Andong to Gangneung, do you think its save to purchase the train tickets 2 hours before the departure time? Or its better if I buy it the day before? I'll be there on the 28th of oct, Monday, a weekday, not during festive time. Also, I've read about "standing tickets", what are they called in Korean? I want to avoid buy those tickets.

    Thank you so much!

    Marie W said...


    If you only have 2 hours you might want to purchase them in advance depending on what day you are traveling. If it is a public holiday or some other event than it could be very crowded so make sure to check your travel dates! Otherwise, yes it is very easy to get tickets without booking in advance online.

    입석 (Ip Seok) is the name of a standing ticket in Korean.

    Anonymous said...

    i plan to take munghwa train from busan to seoul on 24 nov 2013,expected to arrive in busan from malaysia around 4 in the evening,.. still there a train at night to seoul?... help me, my mail;

    Marie W said...

    Hey Ya'll! The KTX prices have gone up. From Seoul to Busan a one way ticket will cost you about 52,900 Won for a standard class ticket. Enjoy!! : )

    me said...

    Hi. How do I take the nooriro train from seoul to suwon? Is the train station in the same building as the seoul subway station? Do I have to book tickets in advance?

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