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Subways

How to ride Korea's subways to and from the bike paths.

Korea has five subway (metro) systems that serve six cities and a few suburbs. Seoul (서울), Busan (부산), Daegu (대구), Daejeon (대전), and Gwangju (광주).

A picture of the inside of a subway in Seoul, South Korea.
Stick you bike in the front or back cars of a subway on the weekends.

However, second-tier cities have fewer lines. Daegu has three lines. Both Daejeon and Gwangju have only one line.

The systems in Busan and Seoul extend beyond their city limits. Seoul, in particular, has 23 lines that cover Seoul (서울), Incheon (인천), and Gyeonggi-do (경기도), the province surrounding Seoul.

Map!
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Subways and Bikes

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.

If you’re in a metropolitan city, subways will rush you and your bike across town. And both the Cross-Country and Western Routes pass through metro equipped cities.

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

To get aboard, just grab your bike and walk down (or up) the stairs. If you’re not in the way of a disabled person, use the elevator. Avoid the escalator.

Buying Subway Tickets

Once you’re in the station, head to a teller machine and buy a ticket. All machines 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 grant easy access for Seoul riders to get out and explore the countryside.

The most popular are the Gyeongchun (경춘선) and the Gyeongui–Jungang (경의·중앙선) Lines. Operators removed seats in the rear and fore cars and installed railings for bikes.

The Gyeongchun Line (경춘선) carries passengers all the way to the city of Chuncheon (춘천), along the Bukhangang Bike Path.

The Gyeongui–Jungang Line (경의·중앙선) runs to Yangpyeong (양평) and beyond, along the Hanam to Yeoju bike path.

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.