South Korea's long suffering rail network is showing fresh signs of life. Main line improvements are ongoing and high-profile bullet trains have been added to the mix. Today, Korail, the national passenger rail service, operates trains between Seoul, Busan and 650 other locales including popular tourist destinations like the East Coast's "Ocean Route" and Gyeongju, former capital of the ancient Korean kingdom of Sila. While bus travel is a popular choice among South Koreans, visitors often consider the country's trains to be safer and more easy to use. Train times, ticket prices, and travel booking are available online.
At a glance
Korail's super-speed KTX (Korea Train eXpress) corridor is the heart of the country's rail network. KTX bullet trains race along at 186 mph (300 km/h) between Seoul and Busan (formerly Pusan), via Daejeon and Daeju, in less than 3 hours. Slower, cheaper, and often more scenic, Saemaul express and basic Mugunghwa routes reach beyond KTX to popular rail destinations like Incheon, Yeosu, Gangneung, Jeonju, Changwon, Jeongseon-gun and Mokpo (ferry to Jeju Volcanic Island). Commuters are served by Tonggeun local trains. Several tourist trains, including the new O-Train and V-Train, offer sightseeing tours.
Train tickets can be purchased online or at station kiosks. Economy and 1st-class travel by rail is available (Mugunghwa, Economy only). Train tickets are available 1 month in advance. At least 1 day's advance booking is advised, especially for weekend train travel. Visit the Korail website for train times, ticket prices, and travel booking. For non-resident foreigners, KR Passes (available from STA Travel) offer 3, 5, 7 or 10 days of unlimited travel (2nd-class, upgradeable) including KTX. Discounted KR Passes are available for ISIC Student Card holders and children, ages 6-11.
Contact Korail to inquire about wheelchair access and bicycle transport for your specific train. Korail Travel offers several guided rail tours.