The Complete Guide to Train Travel in Korea – From KTX to Mugunghwa Lake

Train travel in Korea by train is an integral part of any trip to Korea. From the speed of the KTX to the coziness of the Mugunghwa Lake. Whether you’re looking for a scenic romance or a convenient way to get to your destination, don’t worry, with this guide, you’ll be able to navigate Korea’s trains with ease. From booking to boarding to transferring. We’ll even give you tips and tricks for each type of train, including the KTX, ITX, and Mugunghwa, so you can get started on your trip to Korea today. This article is part of our guide to traveling in Korea: 55 Tips for Getting to Know Korea for Foreigners series.

Types and Features of Train Travel in Korea

KTX/SRT – Fast and convenient high-speed rail

  • What is KTX/SRT: KTX is synonymous with high-speed rail in Korea. It was later joined by a line called SRT, which started operating from Seoul’s Suseo Station. KTX-Cheongryong connects major cities in Korea at speeds of up to 320km/h. It’s the fastest way to travel long distances, second only to airplanes. Like high-speed trains in Europe and Japan, it’s fast in Korea and passes through major hubs in many regions.
  • Routes and travel times: KTX covers major routes across the country, including Seoul-Busan, Seoul-Mokpo, and Seoul-Gangneung. It takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes (minimum 2 hours and 20 minutes) to travel from Seoul to Busan. New routes are being added all the time: SRT runs from Suseo to Busan and Suseo to Goal.
  • Features and benefits: KTX and SRT are spacious and comfortable, with outlets at every seat to charge your devices, free Wi-Fi on board, and convenience stores and cafes at every station to grab a bite to eat.
Train Travel in Korea

ITX – Comfortable Semi-High Speed Train

  • About ITX: It’s a train halfway between a high-speed rail and Saemaul, slower than KTX but faster than Saemaul, with comfortable cabins and low prices.
  • Types and routes: There are two types of ITX: ITX-Saemaeul and ITX-Cheongchun. ITX-Saemaeul runs long-distance routes such as Seoul Busan and Seoul Mokpo, while ITX-Cheongchun runs short-distance routes such as Seoul Chuncheon and Seoul Andong.
  • Features and benefits: ITX is not as fast as KTX, but the seats are wider and more comfortable, and the noise level is lower due to the extra space. In addition to the regular compartments, there are also special compartments with comfortable seats and services.
ITX 청춘

Saemaeul Lake and Mugunghwa Lake – How to enjoy the beauty of slowness

  • About Saemaeul and Mugunghwa: Saemaeul and Mugunghwa are conventional trains that predate KTX. They’re slow, but they’re as nostalgic as their long history. The seats are spacious and you can enjoy the scenery outside the window.
  • Routes and types: Saemaeul is used to travel between large and medium-sized cities, while Mugunghwa is used to travel between small and medium-sized cities and the countryside. Mugunghwa has express, regular, and other types. It takes longer, but the fare is cheaper.
  • Advantages and recommended routes: If you have time to spare, I recommend Saemaeul Lake or Mugunghwa Lake. You can enjoy the romance of train travel without being pressed for time. There are many scenic routes such as Gyeongbu Line Saemaeul Lake and Gyeongjeon Line Mugunghwa Lake.

Train travel tips for the masses

How far can you get on a train trip in Korea?

  • The railroad map below shows train stations for high-speed rail and some local railroads. First, choose the region you want to travel to and see if there is a train station in that area. You’ll find train stations in big cities like Seoul, Busan, Daejeon, Gwangju, Daegu, and Ulsan, as well as in cities near the sea like Gangneung and Mokpo, as well as in popular tourist destinations like Gyeongju and Yeosu.
기차 노선도

Book train tickets and issue tickets, even if you’re a beginner.

  • How to book a train ticket: You can book a train ticket through the KORAIL app or website, or directly at a station window or ticket vending machine. It is recommended to book in advance, especially during peak periods and weekends. The same goes for SRT.
  • How to get your ticket: Once you’ve made your reservation, you’ll need to get your ticket within the specified time. At the station window or ticket vending machine, enter your reservation number and print out your ticket. If you use a mobile ticket, you can board the train immediately without ticketing.
  • Seat selection tip: You can choose your seat when booking, so if you prefer a window seat, it’s best to book early. Please note that KTX cars 13 and 14-18 are located far from the station. There are also table seats for 4 people or single seats.

Things to know about transfers and boarding trains

  • Know your connection times and locations: If you have a train connection, make sure you know the time and platform in advance. It’s best to know your train time and destination so you have plenty of time to get there. Pay attention to on-board announcements and platform displays.
  • Luggage storage and carry-on: Do you have a lot of luggage? KTX has racks at the entrance of the train for large bags, and you can also use lockers at the train station, but be sure to carry your valuables with you in case they get lost.
  • Be courteous: Be considerate of other passengers on the train. Don’t talk or eat loudly, dispose of trash in designated areas, and take care of your personal items.

Services to make train travel easier

  • Amenities at train stations: Major train stations are well-equipped with convenience stores, cafes, pharmacies, and other amenities. If you have a long layover, check out the in-station lounges. They also offer free cell phone charging and Wi-Fi.
  • On-board amenities: KTX trains are equipped with a variety of amenities, including wheelchair access and nursing rooms. There are also cafes and kiosks where you can buy a quick bite to eat, and you can even order a meal at your seat if you’re traveling long distances.
  • Rail passes and discounts: If you’re traveling to Korea, a rail pass is a great way to get unlimited rides for a set period of time. There are different types, including the KR Pass and the Tomorrow Pass. There are also discounted passes for foreigners, so be sure to ask.

You’re confident about taking the train in Korea, right? Understand the features of each type of train and get the essential information you need beforehand. From booking tickets to changing trains to boarding. With this guide by your side, you’ll be well prepared. From the fast and convenient KTX to the romantic Mugunghwa Lake, you’ll be able to explore Korea on your favorite train. The beautiful scenery of Korea awaits you outside your window. Have fun and safe train travels!

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