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Subways

How to ride Korea's subways to and from the bike paths.
A picture of the inside of a subway in Seoul, South Korea.
Riding one of Korea's subways with your bike on the weekend or holidays? That's allowed! Just keep to the the front or rear train cars.

The systems in Busan and Seoul extend beyond their city limits. Seoul, in particular, has 23 lines that cover Seoul and Gyeonggi Province (경기도).

However, second-tier cities have fewer lines. Daegu has three lines. Incheon claims two. And both Daejeon and Gwangju have only one line.

Subways & Bikes

In a metropolitan city? Subways will shoot you and your bike across town. Both the Cross-Country and Western Routes pass through underground-train-equipped cities.

Almost all subway and regional lines (not Korail trains) allow bikes on weekends (Saturdays & Sundays) and public holidays.

Here are rules universal to all bikes when riding a subway in Korea:

  • Use elevators when possible.
  • Use stairs if elevators aren’t available.
  • Never use escalators.
  • Use the front or rear passenger cars.
  • Secure your bike when riding.
  • You are liable if you nick a leg or smudge white pants.
A picture of bicycles on the Incheon and Seoul Subway in South Korea.
When boarding subways with your bike, enter in either the front of rear cars. Do you best to stay away from non-biking passengers.

City-by-City Rules

Every metropolitan subway in Korea has different policies towards riding with full-size bicycles. 

Read each city’s rules before riding. Some metro lines completely restrict full-size bikes. Other lines allow boarding during certain weekday hours.

Seoul

Follow these rules when riding the Seoul Metropolitan Subway system with your bike: 

  • All Seoul subway and commuter trains, including the AREX (Airport Railroad), allow full-size bikes on weekends and public holidays. One exception below.
  • Line 2 and Line 7 allow full-size bikes weekdays from 10:00 to 16:00.
  • Line 9 does not allow full-size bikes anytime between Sinnonhyeon (신논현역) and Central Veterans Hospital (중앙보훈병원역) Stations.
  • You can take collapsed folding bikes any time on all subway or regional trains.

Incheon

Check out Incheon Metropolitan Subway’s rules on bikes:

  • Line 1 permits full-size bikes on weekends and public holidays.
  • Line 2 does not allow full-size bikes any time.
  • You can take a collapsed folding bike any time.

Busan

The following are Busan Metropolitan Subway’s bike regulations:

Daegu

Listed below are Daegu Metropolitan Subway’s rules on bikes:

  • Line 1 and Line 2 allow full-size bicycles on weekends and public holidays.
  • You may carry a full-sized bike with its wheels removed onto Line 1 and Line 2 during weekdays if you hold your bike securely.
  • Line 3 runs smaller cars. It does not allow full-size bikes any time. However, operators may permit you to ride with your bike’s wheels removed.
  • You can take a collapsed folding bike any time.

Daejeon

  • Line 1 allows full-size bicycles on weekends and public holidays.
  • Line 1 allows full-size bikes during the weekdays outside of rush hour: 7:00~10:00 and 16:00~17:30.
  • You can take a collapsed folding bike any time.

Gwangju

  • Line 1 allows full-size bicycles on weekends and public holidays.
  • Geumnam-ro 4-ga (금남로4가역) and Culture Complex (문화전당역) Stations do not allow passengers with full-size bicycles to board at any time.
  • You may carry a full-sized bike with its front wheel removed onto Line 1 during the weekdays if you hold your bike securely. Excluding Geumnam-ro 4-ga & Culture Complex Stations.
  • You can take a collapsed folding bike any time at all stations.

Buying Subway Tickets

Head down to the station. Buy a ticket at a teller machine. They all have an English language option.

You have two choices. Buy a single journey ticket or get a T-Money card

Single journey tickets go for around ₩1,350, plus a ₩500 deposit. The machine will spit out a card for you to scan at the turnstile.

Once you reach your destination, exit the turnstile and head to a machine to get your deposit back.

We suggest the second option, though. Get a T-Money or Cashbee transportation card.

Transportation Cards

T-Money and Cashbee make transportation cards, debit card used for public transportation. They are like the Oyster Card in London or the MetroCard in New York.

You can fill each card with money and pay for subway or bus rides on ninety-nine percent of city buses and subways in every city in Korea.

You can also pay for taxi rides and convenience store shopping sprees. However, T-Money and Cashbee compete for market share. So convenience stores in Seoul accept T-Money. Taxis in Busan prefer Cashbee. (Again, every transportation network accepts both.)

You can pick up a card at a teller machine in the subway station or any convenience store, like GS25, CU, or 7-Eleven, for around ₩2,500 to ₩4,000. (You can also get scannable watches.)

Transportation cards look like a credit card. On subway turnstiles, you’ll find a card scanner. Just swipe your card. The light will turn green. Walk on through.

Each transportation card ride receives a discount of ₩100. So you’ll pay ₩1,250 for a subway or bus ride, instead of ₩1,350.

Transportation cards also make city bus transfers easy. Just scan your card when you exit. If you hop on another bus within thirty minutes, there’s no additional charge.

(Remember, bikes and city buses don’t mix.)

Subway Maps

Need a subway map? We’ve got you covered.

Many of Korea’s mapping apps, like Naver and Kakao, have subway maps. Even if you don’t have internet service, you can reference their maps.

One more option. Download a PDF map to your phone. This’ll remove the internet from the equation.

Boarding the Subway

Once you get your ticket or T-Money card, head to the turnstiles. Choose the wider handicap turnstile. Scan your card and walk through.

Try to walk next to your bike. If you push your bike ahead of you, the optical scanner might think you’re trying to slip two people through on one ticket.

If this happens, you might hear an alarm. Don’t worry. An attendant can help sort things out.

Now find your platform. Grab your bike and head down the stairs (or elevator).

Bikers can board the first or last train cars only. So choose. Walk to either end of the platform.

When the train arrives, choose the furthest door. Slip your bike inside and lean it against the back wall.

If the back wall’s occupied, find a space that won’t rub against other passengers. And don’t block the doors.

You want to ride during rush hour? Good luck getting in the station!

Regional Trains

A picture of a Busan subway train crossing over the bike path in the city of Yangsan along the Cross-Country bike path.
The Busan subway crosses over the bike path in the city of Yangsan along the Cross-Country bike path.

Seoul has a few regional trains that carry commuters to the outer boroughs. They can fly bikers out to the countryside for a little rural riding.

The two most helpful Seoul Metro Regional Lines are the:

On each train, operators removed seats in the rear and front cars and installed bike railings.

Gyeongchun Line

Like the ITX-Cheongchun train, the Seoul Metropolitan Subway System’s Gyeongchun Line (경춘선) carries passengers to the city of Chuncheon (춘천) along the Bukhangang Bike Path.

The line states in Cheongnyangni Station (청량리역) in Seoul and concludes at Chuncheon Station (춘천역).

Besides weekends and public holidays, the Gyeongchun Line allows full-size bikes aboard between 10:00 and 16:00 on weekdays.

Gyeongui–Jungang Line

The Gyeongui–Jungang Line (경의·중앙선) runs from Munsan Station (문산역), right next to the DMZ in Gyeonggi Province, sweeps down to the Han River in Seoul and into Yangpyeong County (양평군).

Though regulations often change, the line permits bicycles aboard only on weekends and public holidays.

The Gyeongui–Jungang Line runs both 8-car and 4-car trains. Bicycle racks are only available on 8-car trains. You won’t find bike racks on all 4-car and some 8-car trains.

Riding the Hangang Bike Path? The Gyeongui–Jungang Line can connect you with the Seoul and Seoul ⟷ Yeoju segment.

Beware of the peak times! This train gets busy!

Renting a Car

Want to rent a car in Korea? Easy!

All you need is your passport, driver’s license, and an International Driving Permit (IDP) from the country that issued your license. Hand over a credit card. You’ll hit the road in no time.

You want to bring your bike along? Hold up!

Most car rental companies don’t offer bike racks. You brought your own? And you want to strap chunks of metal with sharp bits to that fresh paint job? Don’t think that’s covered in your rental insurance.

Many rental companies forbid bike racks in their contracts.