The following pages will give a general overview of the transportation options in Korea. As applies to all pages on this website, to see more details and other transportation options, please download the free PDF below.
Called transport cards, transportation cards, or even sometimes traffic cards, 교통 카드 (交通 카드, gyotong kadeu) are the norm. They will speed up your usage of public transportation and will provide free transfers between subways and buses, and buses with other buses. They also give users a lower rate for riding public transit and can be used in taxis, convenience stores, and some vending machines.
T-money and Cash-bee are competing companies both offering transport cards. They used to operate in different parts of Korea with T-money focusing on the greater Seoul area and Cash-bee everywhere else. Today they can be used interchangeably through most of the nation. Purchasable in convenience stores, in some subway stations, and other random stores, they are well worth the money. Cards can come empty or with an initial balance. Cards are refilled in subway stations at ticket machines and in convenience stores. As it is much more convenient for people to tap a card against a reader in a bus as opposed to counting cash and getting change from the bus driver, and offering free transfers between various modes of public transportation, they have all but erased cash purchases and single-use tickets in subways.
Single-use subway tickets are still available and could be a plastic token or a plastic card, depending on the city. If you purchase a single-use plastic card ticket, it includes a deposit of 500 won, which is returnable via machine after existing the subway stalls. Single-use tickets have different prices for different distances. Make sure to chart your course and get the correct ticket, otherwise the system will block you from exiting.
The content on this page has been taken from the 2019 edition of Living in Korea. The book was created in support of our international researchers and has been completely rewritten. The book is available as a 6 MB download here and in paperback form in IBS Centers.