Transportation in South Korea

Transportation in South Korea

If you’re already from a rather large city in any country, you probably already know how amazing the convenience of traveling by public transportation is. However, for people like me who came to cities in South Korea, or anywhere really, from suburbs or smaller towns, this place is like transportation Heaven. Back home I’m from a sizable suburb, but everywhere in Texas is so spread out even if you’re in the city you can count on driving for a good minute or two to get anywhere. And I mean anywhere. I would have to get in the car to get anywhere I wanted to go, even the grocery store was at least 7 minutes away in the car with 3 lights in between and traffic to boot.

Here in Korea I’ve only heard of one teacher having gotten a vehicle, and it was because they were in a very small town and 3 schools to go between during the week. About 99% of teachers simply use buses, taxis and the train to get where we need to be. If you’re not sure how to use the public transportation in your town, here’s where your co-teacher will come in MEGA handy if they haven’t already. In my case, we walk a good 25 minutes to work everyday, but we have several friends who take the bus everyday to school. Luckily for us, outside of going to school, Chungju has a bus and train station not too far from each other and a taxi stand about 5 minutes from my apartment to get us there. Our co-teachers went above and beyond (Again. God, I seriously love them with all my heart) and printed and drew us up maps to get to both the stations when we first needed to get around Chungju. Now that we’ve been here for a while we’ve experienced many different types of transportation, including the train, bus and Seoul subway which is like Korea’s version of the stairs in Hogwarts.

For shorter distances, and even slightly longer ones, taxis are the way to go in Korea. They’re all extremely cheap compared to back home, and if you split the cab with even one other person it balances it out to not bad at all. The most I’ve paid for a cab since I’ve been here was 8,000 won (roughly 8 American dollars) and that was for a 40 minute taxi ride to Hongdae with 2 other friends. Not only is it cheap, it’s super easy and mega convenient. There are taxis literally EVERYWHERE, especially parked outside of busy areas late at night when lots of people are going to be leaving. The bus is definitely the cheapest if you’re going longer distances. Once you get to the bus station you simply purchase your ticket at the counter to where you want to go. You can look up the bus schedule online in English at which will also tell you the price and how long each bus is going to take. Now that I’ve taken the bus more than a few times I can say that it’s not a bad way to travel, if not a little slow. It took us two buses and about 9 hours to get to Jindo which is basically the Southernmost part of Korea, not counting Jeju. 9 hours doesn’t sound like long to get across a whole country until you’re on the bus for 9 hours going across the whole country. As for taking the train, luckily Chungju has only one big train station so you can’t really get directed to the wrong one, but if you’re going to Seoul from anywhere there’s a lot more choices so you want to be careful about telling whoever you’re buying your ticket from about your specific location. My new favorite way is writing things down and just showing it to them or showing them on my phone the ticket time I want.

And, of course, there’s the Seoul subway system. I’ve mentioned it briefly in previous posts about how insane it is, but seriously your first time riding it should definitely be with a partner. I had a partner who also had no idea what they were doing and we would have died if not for the random stranger who helped us. You can always use the app Jihachul which is an absolute LIFESAVER not going to lie, especially since there are so many people it can get chaotic fast if you don’t know where you’re going. All in all, public transportation in Korea is awesome, it’s relatively safe, cheap and, minus Seoul, easy to use. When in doubt, write it down and show whoever you need to where it is. I have my address written down on a card in my wallet just in case ish gets real and I need to hop in a taxi somewhere. If you’ve got the chance to take it, public transport is the way to go. At least then you can avoid climbing mountains.

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