Life in Korea: traveling by train from Seoul to the rest of Korea

Traveling by train is one of the best and fastest ways of getting out of Seoul and to the rest of Korea. Seoul has two excellent train stations, both clean and able to get you where you want to go – but not every destination is available from each station. That’s because each train station works with a limited number of lines. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting to the train station, only to realize you needed to be at the other train station. I thought I would take some notes (and pictures) at the two train stations to make it easier to travel the country.

Korea has a fairly long history using trains, which has led us to the numbers of train and subway lines. The very first railroad, between Seoul and Incheon, was opened 18 September 1899; other lines were created during the Japanese occupation after being damaged during the Korean War. Gradually, railroads began building momentum during the 1970′s and 1980′s, and in 1974 the first subway line in the country was built. More lines were added in Seoul, along with other cities, and continues to expand and grow even today.

The 300kph KTX is still surprisingly new, only having operated since April 1, 2004; the rest of the train system varies in age considerably, but all stations have or are being updated almost continuously. It’s sometimes amusing to see a couple different generations worth of signs, each saying the same thing in their own way.

Note that the blue (or red) numbers refer to prices for the given trip during the weekends or holidays (about a 6.5% more to travel on the weekends or holidays). Also note the publishing date when using this information – if you’re accessing this page more than a few months after the publishing date the prices or signs may have changed.

From Yongsan Station, starting with the popular KTX Honam Line:

The regular Honam line runs both the Saemaeul and Mugunghwa trains:

The Gyeongjeon line runs west-east along the southern coast of Korea (trains to get there use the Honam line :

The Jeolla line goes through both Jeolla provinces:

The Janghang line goes as far south as Iksan, and a part of the line connects the Seoul subway system as far away as Sinchang on the subway’s line 1:

From Seoul Station, your options include the Gyeongbu line, the Donghaenambu line, the Gyeongjeon line, and the Chungbuk line.

If you’re taking the KTX from Seoul Station, you’re taking the Gyeongbu line (again, the red and blue prices are the prices on the weekends or holidays):

For the Saemaeul and Mugunghwa trains, the Gyeongbu line makes a few more stops (note that only the Mugunghwa train stops at some stations):

The Donghaenambu line splits from the Gyeongju line at Daegu, going as far southeast as Pohang:

The Gyeongjeon Line
The left and center columns are Saemaeul trains (2nd class), while the right column is Mugunghwa (3rd class):

The Chungbuk line connects Seoul to the middle part of the country in Chungcheongbuk-do; Until you get to Jochiwon you’ll use the Gyeongbu line to get there.

The 누리로 (Nooriro) line isn’t exactly a seperate line. It follows line 1 of the subway gonig south from Seoul Station, but provides a Muganghwa-like train – you’re paying a bit extra for the speed and comfort, and won’t make as many stops as the subway would:

As far as buying tickets go, the electronic ticket system at every train station is the fastest and most efficient to find times and buy tickets. I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you how to use it since it’s quite easy; try it once and you’ll figure it out. Bear in mind that it will let you buy tickets from any place to any place – in other words, if you’re at Seoul Station it won’t just show you the trains leaving from Seoul Station. Double-check both your departure and arrival stations to ensure you don’t do a mad dash across town or have to get a refund.

So travel away, expats! And pay attention to the time of the last train – it’s no fun trying to get home when the last train leaves in 5 minutes.

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