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Transport in South Korea

Getting There
There are five international airports in Korea: Incheon, Gimhae, Cheongju, Daegu and Jeju International Airports. Incheon International Airport is located 52 km west of Seoul, with flights to parts all around the world. The others serve only Asia. Airport tax is 15,000 won for international flights, and 3,000 or 4,000 won for domestic flights.

Incheon International airport completed with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities aimed at offering comfortable and convenient passenger services. Its modern facilities are not only designed for air transport but will also fulfil diverse needs such as business and leisure facilities. Incoming passengers go through passport and immigration formalities on the second floor, then proceed to the ground floor to claim their luggage and report to customs officials before exiting to Welcome Hall. Departing passengers will complete the embarkation process, including seat assignment and baggage check-in, security and passport check, on the third-floor departure lounge in the passenger terminal before boarding their plane.

Domestic flights connect from Incheon to Busan and Jeju. To reach other areas in Korea, take a taxi or non-stop bus to Gimpo Airport. It is necessary first to observe normal immigration procedures and then to go, via the Welcome Hall, to the third floor departure lounge for transit to Gimpo. Luggage must clear international customs and then be checked in again at a domestic flight counter.

KAL limousine buses and airport limousine buses link the Incheon Airport to most of the big cities in Korea at reasonable rates. Tickets are available at hotel counters or airport limousine counters. Travelers with large luggage may use these buses with ease. City coach buses are also available to various parts of Seoul as well as suburban areas such as Suwon, Uijeongbu, Ansan and Yongin. Fares are lower than airport limousine buses. You can purchase tickets at ticket offices at the airport or pay right on the bus.

The Korea City Air Terminal (KCAT), located in the extensive World Trade Centre Seoul (WTCS) Complex, provides check-in service and passport inspection for passengers who are departing from Incheon International Airport and flying Asiana Airline, Korean Air or any of 10 foreign airlines including Northwest, Kufthansa, Singapore, American, Cathay Pacific, etc. A limousine bus service operates between KCAT and Incheon Airport.

Busan (previous spelling "Pusan") is the country's largest port and second-largest city. This international seaport is the main gateway to Korea for visitors who arrive by ship, usually from Japan. Another international port is Incheon which features service to China. The Bugwan Ferry (Tel : 02-738-0055), Korea Ferry (Tel : 02-775-2323), and Korea Marine Express (Tel : 02-730-8666) provide regular services between Korea and Japan, while the Weidong Ferry (Tel : 02-3271-6753) and Jinchon Ferry (Tel : 02-517-8671), etc. provide regular service to China. High-speed hydrofoil services have also begun between Busan and Hakata, Fukuoka. Temporary entry is allowed for private cars with proper documentation belonging to all visitors to Korea arriving by ferry.

Getting Around
Fast and reliable highway buses operate on expressways throughout the country, connecting almost all major points. Two express bus terminals serve Seoul. The Seoul Express Bus Terminal is the main bus depot for trips out of Seoul to other major cities, conveniently located on Subway Line 3. Dong Seoul Bus Terminal is near Gangbyeon Subway Station on Line 2. Superior express buses are somewhat more expensive than regular buses, but they are popular for their spacious seats and facilities such as mobile phones and VCR Televisions.

Korea has excellent intercity bus services connecting virtually every city and town. Since no English language schedules are available, it might be advisable for the foreign traveller who wishes to take this kind of bus to get help from a Korean friend. Various tour companies offer bus services to most of the well-known tourist sites for visitors who prefer not to use the intercity buses. For details about these tours, contact the travel agencies scattered throughout the city.

Other alternatives for travel around South Korea are by air or by sea. Boats are one of the most interesting ways to travel around the country. Ferries ply the waterways between Busan and Jeju, Mokpo and Hongdo, Pohang Ulleungdo, etc. Korea also has a well-developed domestic flight network served by Korean Air and Asiana Airlines linking 17 major cities.

Finally, when you arrive in a city you will have two options for travel within most – taxis or city buses. Seoul has an extensive subway system as have Busan, Daegu and Incheon but bus or taxi is the norm.

The city bus systems differ slightly from city to city in Korea, but most cities have local and express buses. They are numbered but since their signs are only in Korean, finding the right bus may be confusing to a first-time visitor. It is advisable to request assistance to find the bus stop and number that you need. The bus fare can be paid with either coins and bills or a bus card available at booths near bus stops.

Local buses are the most common means of transportation in Seoul. They are frequent, reliable, and inexpensive. Seoul's bus network serves every part of the city. The adult fare is 600 won regardless of distance. City coach buses, called jwaseok bus, more comfortable and they are air-conditioned. They stop less frequently and travel through congested areas faster.

Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive in Korea, clean and safe. There are taxi stands in most busy city areas, and taxis can also be hailed on the streets. As well, certain taxis can be requested by phone but the fare for these special call taxis is somewhat higher than regular taxis. An increasing number of taxi drivers speak some English. The fare system is based on both the distance and the time taken. Fares are 1,600 won for the first 2 km and 100 won for each additional 168 m. If the taxi is going less than 15 km per hour, an additional charge of 100 won per 41 seconds is added to the fare. The fare between Incheon International Airport and downtown Seoul is usually around 47,000 won (including toll) though it could be higher if traffic is congested. Fares increase 20% between midnight and 4 a.m.

Deluxe taxis, called 'mobeom' taxi in Korean, are black with a yellow sign on the top and the words "Deluxe Taxi" written on the sides. They offer more passenger space and a high standard of service. Fares are 4,000 won for the first 3 km and 200 won for each additional 205 m or each 50 seconds if the speed drops below 15 km per hour. The usual fare between Incheon Int'l Airport and downtown is about 67,000 won (including toll). Receipts are given. There is no late-night surcharge.


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