3 Ways to Buy Train Tickets in Korea
Train is one of the most convenient and affordable land transportation for traveling between cities and towns in South Korea.
There are a few different inter-province train services which are operated by Korail, KTX (Korea Train Express), ITX Saemaeul (ITX 새마을), SRT, and Mugunghwa (무궁화), to name some of them. KTX is the fastest in Korea with its speed of up to 300 km/h. Mugunghwa, on the other hand, is the cheapest with the widest network coverage.
How to Book a Train Ticket
No matter which train services you would like to book, it can be done via their website www.korail.com, ticket vending machines, or directly at the ticket counters. The booking procedures are generally similar to train services in other countries.
Purchasing Ticket at Ticket Vending Machines
Ticket vending machines are available at many stations. However, it only accepts payment with credit cards.
The machine has its interface in either English or Korean. First, choose Purchasing Ticket / 바로구매 menu. The date, time, and departure station are pre-selected to the nearest date and time (i.e. today) and the station where you are buying at. These options may be modified by pressing Edit button. Then, select the destination station and a time and train you want. Then, input number of passengers into each category (adult, child, elderly, disabled). Finally, insert a credit card and proceed for payment.
Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to try this. I bought my ticket directly at the counter instead.
Purchasing Ticket at Ticket Counters
While queuing, you may check out the information board above and decide the destination, date and time, and which train you want to take. You may buy ticket for the earliest trip (go show) or book for a later date.
Most ticket officers speak okay enough, albeit limited, English that you would have no problem understanding them. For clarity and quick purchase, you could write the destination, date and time on a piece of paper and hand it to them. Then they will check the available schedules and print all available options for you, which is a big plus in my experience. So you don’t have to put too much effort on deciphering what they say due to language and pronunciation barrier.
Payment could be made with cash (Won) or credit/debit cards.
Purchasing Ticket Online
To buy ticket online, we will need a computer, Internet connection, and a printer. This method is more feasible for planning your journey before departing to Korea. Ticket may be booked up to 90 days before departure date.
In Korea, you can usually rent a computer at a PC Bang (PC방) with pay-per-minute rate, or use a public computer provided at the hotel or guest house where you stay to print out your booking confirmation.
To purchase ticket online, you can visit Korail’s website at www.letskorail.com. There are two versions of the websites: one is for Korean, and the other is for foreigners in English, Japanese, or Mandarin languages. The English website lets you buy two kinds of ticket: a single one-way trip, and a multiple use pass (Korail Pass).
With Korail Pass you are allowed to get tickets and ride any train in Korea as long as the pass is valid. You can board Mugunghwa, ITX, and even KTX trains with Korail Pass. Korail Pass can only be purchased online at www.letskorail.com.
You still have to own a ticket to board a train. Ticket can be redeemed at ticket counters, the same way as if you are purchasing tickets.
Korail Pass validity which you could buy varies from 1, 3, 5, to 7 days. The validity is only counted when you got your first trip.
In my opinion, unless you are planning for a day trip or do two trips a day, it is not worth the price. Because one day Korail Pass validity is almost the same price as one way trip from Seoul to Busan with KTX, which is considered the most expensive train service.
On Board a Train
Train departure schedules in Korea is quite punctual. Furthermore, it doesn’t stop for a long time at each station. I observed that it only stop for roughly five minutes before continuing the trip. Therefore I really suggest you to be on the boarding platform at least fifteen minutes before stated departure time.
At the terminal stations though, it stays for about 20 minutes since arrival before departing again.
Also bear in mind that in stations in bigger cities such as Seoul and Busan, there are a lot of platforms. So make sure that you get on board the correct train! 🙂