CONTRIBUTED BY SIBO LUNGU
Spring is around the corner and with that comes many festivals that will be held all across the country. When you want to avoid traffic and need to get across the country quickly, Korail or Korean Railroad is the best option. For me, if my trip is going to be longer than 2 hours by bus, then I start look at train options. You can easily buy your tickets in advance on the Korail website, pick them at the station, and you will be on your way.
If you Google Korail, there are a couple of different webpages you may land on, all with various links about reservations, Korail passes, and tourist trains, making where to begin a bit confusing. I will try to break it down as simply as possible.
This is the English Korail informational home page: http://info.korail.com/mbs/english/
There is a lot of information about the business side of things, but more importantly for us travelers are the links to the national railroad lines and also the types of trains available.
There are four national railway lines and four KTX lines spread across the provinces. On this page there is a map that shows the major stations. If your destination isn’t a Korail stop then you would just pick the closest station to your destination. Once you are close enough, there are always buses and sometimes subways (in bigger cities like Busan, Seoul, Daejeon, etc.) to get you right to your destination.
From the home page, under the Railroad Information header, you can click on the links to see the different types of trains. There are pictures and descriptions of the Mugungwha, Saemaul, Nuriro, and KTX trains, and also the different ticket classes in each of those trains. Quick breakdown:
Mugungwha: It’s the cheapest, has standing tickets, makes more stops, and is slowest of the four. I take it to Seoul sometimes but probably wouldn’t take it to Busan again. It wasn’t bad but it took forever. Another reason to book early before the good trains sell out!
Saemaul: A grade above the Mugunghwa. Fast, comfortable, and tickets are reasonable.
Nuriro: I have never been on the Nuriro, but it sounds similar to the Saemaul but with better disabled person access.
KTX: The most expensive, fast, comfortable, and boy is the ride quiet and smooth! It’s the recommended way to go to Busan.
In order to buy tickets, you’ll need to first know what you are looking for: a pass or a ticket. A Korail pass (KR Pass or Happy Pass) is a multiple-use ticket. You can buy a 1, 3, 5, 7 or 10-day pass. This is an economical option if you will be visiting several places and need to hop on and off the train. For example, you can get a 3-day pass and make overnight stops all for one price rather than purchasing three separate tickets.
From the home page and the train detail pages, you will see the KORAIL PASS RESERVATION header which is a link to reserve those types of passes.
However, if you want a regular ticket, then this is the link you need: http://www.letskorail.com/ebizbf/EbizBfTicketSearch.do
For Travel Category, I select Normal unless I want a Happy Pass or the DMZ train. And for Travel Type, I select Direct. Over Lunar New Year, I had to try selecting Transfer because most direct routes were all sold out a month before the holiday.
Add your information and click the blue Inquiry button. If you aren’t sure what cities to input, you can click on the search icon next to the departure/arrival text box. A pop up window with a list of stations will show up. Not all cities are valid Korail stops so if you get an error, then that may be the reason. For Songtan residents, Cheonan and Suwon are the closest stations.
Pro Tip: Daejeon is only an hour away from Pyeongtaek by bus and 2 hours by KTX from Busan. It’s a great connecting option!
Another cause for confusion on The Korail website is when selecting tickets. After your ticket search, you will get a list of options. Under First Class and Economical Class, you see the word ‘Select’. If it’s blue, it means that tickets are available. You can click on the blue ‘Select’ word to continue with your booking. If the word ’Select’ is gray, that means there are no tickets available. Clicking on the search icon under FARE will show you all ticket prices.
If the tickets are available, click the blue ‘Select’ word for the ticket option you want and you will go to the booking page where you will enter your personal details. It just needs one name for the reservation even though there may be multiple travelers. It asks for passport number which is unusual, but you don’t have to have your passport to pick up your tickets. Just an ID and the reservation number will be sufficient.
The last step is to pay for the ticket. I have used both my Korean debit card and my American debit card before. Both work just fine. Despite putting in your email address, you won’t get an email confirmation. (At least I didn’t, unless it’s somewhere in spam world.) Just copy your reservation number. I take a photo with my phone and then I just hand them my phone at the ticket window. You can always look up your reservation under the MY RESERVATION link by entering your passport number, name and nationality.
Pro Tip: On travel day lines can get long, so be sure to arrive early. I haven’t had any luck with the automated ticket machines in the terminal so I always go to a real person, hand them my phone and they print out the tickets.
Hopefully this post gives you a bit of help on how to get your tickets easily. Happy travels!