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Trains

Learn about Korea's trains, from slow to fast to bike friendly.
A picture of the KTX near the city of Yangsan in South Korea.
The KTX and SRT are not only the fastest train in Korea, they're the quickest cross-country transport.

Over the past forty years, Korea built a topnotch train system. Along with conventional trains, high-speed KTX and SRT zoom passengers up and down the bottom part of the peninsula.

In the past, a friendly attitude granted you and your greasy contraption access to many trains. It might’ve gotten you on the KTX.

Nowadays, unless you ride on a folding-bikes, most rains will turn bikers away.

However, there are a few select trains that offer passage to those with full size bicycles. Let’s take a closer look!

Timetables for trains that allow full-size bikes.

Check out the timetables and lines that allow full-size bicycles aboard.

Book train ticket for you and your bike.

How to book a ticket for you and your bike using Korail’s smartphone app and website.

Info for English-speaking embassies.

Embassy contact information for English-speaking nations in South Korea.

The Trains of Korea

There are four types of trains in Korea. Here they are and which bikes they allow.

All trains allow bikes. But ninety-ish percent permit only folding-bikes. You’ll often see metro commuters snap shut their collapsible wheels and tuck it into the luggage compartment, away from prickly passengers.

Have a full-sized bike? You have options!

Two classes of trains offer bike cradles for road, mountain, or hybrid bicycles.

One caveat. You must book a designated bicycle seat before you arrive at the station. The ticket assigns you a bicycle cradle to mount your bike and a passenger seat.

How do you know which trains offer bike cradles? Two options:

A picture of a train near the city of Yangsan in South Korea.
Trains conveniently follow the Cross-Country and East Coast Routes.

ITX-Saemaeul

The ITX (Intercity eXpress) are the new conventional trains. They run faster (165 km/h) than older Mugunghwa (무궁화) trains (140 km/h; 87 mph). But much slower than the KTX and SRT (305~330 km/h; 190~205 mph).

Compared to Mugunghwa, ITX trains include more amenities, wider seats, and make fewer stops.

ITX-Saemaeul runs on most of Korea’s major rail lines, including Gyeongbu, Honam, Jeolla, and Gyeongchun Lines. They serve more cities than the KTX and SRT.

ITX and Bikes

There is only one ITX-Saemaeul train that accepts full-size bikes: the ITX-Cheongchun, which runs only from Seoul to Chuncheon City (춘천시). More on that below.

All ITX-Saemaeul trains always allow folding-bikes. Just fold up your wheels before you board and store it in the luggage compartment.

ITX-Cheongchun

What’s the only bike-friendly ITX train? The ITX-Cheongchun.

The train runs on one line: the Gyeongchun Line. It travels from Yongsan Station (용산역), which connects to Seoul Subway Line 1 in Seoul, to Chuncheon City (춘천시).

The ITX-Cheongchun intersects with the Bukhangang Bike Path at Cheongpyeong Station (청평역). From there, it mirrors the certification bike path until Chuncheon Station (춘천역) at the end of the line.

Unlike the Mugunghwa workhorses, tourists flock to the ITX-Cheongchun to escape Seoul and explore Chuncheon, the self-described Romantic City.

The train class boasts the only double decker trains in Korea. Besides updated amenities, the train’s top speed reaches 180km/h (112 mph).

Cheongchun and Bikes

Plan on tackling the Bukhangang Bike Path? The ITX-Cheongchun is a convenient option when traveling to and from Chuncheon.

(Avoid the ITX-Cheongchun if you want to start the Bukhangang path at the southernmost point. It intersects the path a third of the way up to Chuncheon.)

Each ITX-Cheongchun has eight bicycle cradles (자전거거치대): four on the first train car. Four on the last (8th) car. Cradles let you dock any sized bike — road, MTB, touring.

I can just buy a ticket at the station, right? Hop on and dock my bike in a cradle. No.

You must reserve a designated bicycle seat in advance. The bike-designated ticket gives you a seat in the passenger car and an assigned bike cradle in the standing or dining car.

How do you book a seat? First check out our timetable listings to find a train. Then read our guide to booking a train ticket. It explains how to use the Korail smartphone app or website.

Seoul Metro Gyeongchun Line

Is booking a ticket too difficult? Ride the Seoul Metropolitan Gyeongchun Line (수도권 전철 경춘선). This commuter rail uses the same tracks as the ITX-Cheongchun. It travels from Cheongnyangni Station (청량리역) in Seoul to Chuncheon Station (춘천역).

The regional commuter train allows full-size bikes on weekends and holidays. However, unlike other subway and regional metro lines, the Gyeongchun Line lets big bikes aboard between 10 AM and 4 PM on weekdays. (All trains permit foldable bikes any time.)

Train Rules for Bikes

Beware when you bring your bike aboard! Other passengers may not welcome your smudgy, gear-toothed contraption.

Follow these simple rules to avoid bumps in your train trip.

  • Train doors are narrow. Be careful when boarding and changing cars. (i.e. Let others go first!)
  • First things first. Place your bicycle in its assigned cradle in the standing or dining carriage. Don’t lean your wheels on your seat!
  • Make sure your bike is secure in its bicycle cradle. Don’t prop it against the wall.
  • Smudged pants, smeared skirts, and scraped legs are your fault. You’ll bear responsibility and all costs.

Mugunghwa

A picture of a train near the east coast of South Korea.
Trains criss-cross the peninsula. However, it can be difficult to find one that accommodates full size bikes.

First operating in 1980, the Mugunghwa-ho (무궁화호) class of trains are the oldest still in operation in Korea. Once the most Premium class, now they’re the slow (140 km/h; 87 mph) workhorses in Korea.

The humble Mugunghwa runs on older tracks that weave throughout the countryside. They drop by country towns and metropolises alike.

The good! Is your destination a far-flung town? Mugunghwa trains stop at more stations than any other train.

The bad! Looking to get somewhere fast? Mugunghwa trains stop at more stations than any other train.

How slow are they? The KTX takes two-and-a-half hours (2.5) to travel from Seoul to Busan. Mugunghwa trains take five and a half (5.5) hours. More than double the time!

Mugunghwa and Bikes

Mugunghwa allows bikes on select routes. Bike friendly trains offer five designated seats for bikers.

How do you grab a seat on one of these trains? First reserve a bike-designated on a select train.

Use either Korail’s smartphone app or Korail’s website to book in advance. (You can’t buy a bike-designated ticket at the station.)

Bike-designated seat? What do they do?

Like the ITX-Cheongchun, the ticket gives you a seat in the passenger car and a bicycle cradle in a standing room or dining car. 

When you board, head to the standing car, securely mount your bike in your appointed cradle, then head to your seat in the passenger car.

According to schedules in 2021, you can find a few trains on the following Mugunghwa lines:

Check out our bike-friendly timetables for more specific info.

KTX

A picture of the KTX train near the city of Yangsan in South Korea.
The KTX is the first and one of the fastest trains on the peninsula.

KTX: the train with the fame. The Korean Train eXpress class of trains became the fastest on the peninsula in 2004. Traveling at 305 km/h (190 mph), the train became the quickest and most convenient way to get from Seoul to any other major city in Korea.

High-Speed Railway Lines

The KTX runs along three high-speed railways: the Gyeongbu (경부선), Honam (호남선), and Joella (전라선) Lines.

The Gyeongbu Line acts as the primary railway from Seoul. At Osong Station () in the city of Cheongju (청주), just north of Daejeon, the Honam Line breaks away from the Gyeongbu Line.

The Gyeongbu Line heads from Seoul Station (서울역) to Busan Station (부산역), on the southeast tip of the peninsula. Daejeon, Daegu, and Ulsan are major stops along the way.

From Osong Station the Honam Line meanders down to Mokpo Station (목포역), the most south and west city in the country. Iksan and Gwangju are two major cities along the way.

KTX and Bikes

In days gone, benevolent conductors might allow a biker to bring a touring bike aboard. They would’ve asked you to detach your wheels and stuff it in the luggage compartment.

But times change. folding-bikes are the only contraptions allowed now. Commuters can fold up their bikes, hop aboard, and store it with the other luggage.

SRT

The Super Rapid Transit (SRT) and the KTX have a lot in common. They’re high-speed trains that share the Gyeongbu and Honam Lines lines. In addition, Busan and Mokpo Station mark their final southern stops.

However, Korail, a public company, runs the KTX. The STR is privately owned and operated.

So what’s the difference? The SRT runs slightly newer trains and keeps their prices about 10% cheaper than the KTX. 

In addition, the SRT’s service begins at Suseo Station (수서역), just south of the Han River in Seoul. From there, the train runs on sixty kilometers of private track, 86% of which is underground.

The high-speed train makes two more stops at SRT-only stations. Dongtan Station (동탄역), near Osan (오산시), is Korea’s first underground train station.

Jije Station (지제역), near Pyeongtaek (평택시), is the last stop before the SRT joins the Gyeongbu Line.

SRT and Bikes

Like the KTX, the SRT enforces strict policies regarding bikes. You may store collapsed folding-bikes in the luggage compartment. No full-sized bikes.

A picture of a train along the east coast of South Korea.
Rail lines flow up and down the east coast. They provide scenic views to tourists.