Will I need to drive my own vehicle to conduct my everyday life (work/school/shopping) at my destination?
Public transportation is excellent in Seoul, so having your own vehicle is not a necessity, but many foreigners do choose to drive. The traffic is pretty heavy during rush hour, so the subway and buses are a good alternative. All of the international schools in Seoul have extensive school bus routes that cover all major expat housing areas, so it is not necessary to personally drive children to school. There are also defensive driving courses available for expats.
How can I legally drive a vehicle in this city?
There are two ways to legally drive a vehicle in Seoul: 1. International driver's license 2. Korean driver's license.
International Driver's License
This needs to be applied in your home country or country of residence and is typically valid for 1 year. The advantage is that you are able to drive immediately upon arrival to Korea. The disadvantage is that this type of license is usually valid for only 1 year, so if you are planning to stay in Korea for longer, you will need to renew your international driver's license. Otherwise, you can apply for a Korean Driver's License prior to the expiration of your international license.
Korean Driver's License
If you are planning to stay in Korea more than 1 year, it is recommended that you apply for a Korean driver's license, which is valid for nine years. The following documents are required in order to exchange your current valid driver's license for a Korean driver's license:
Foreign D/L exchange for Korea D/L process
1. Original foreign license
2. Confirmation issued by embassy to certify the authenticity of the foreign driver's license.
3. Immigration certificate and passport (for Koreans)/passport (for foreigners)
4. Identification Card
5. Three (3) color photographs
Please note that upon receiving a Korean driver's license your original foreign license must be handed over to the DLA. In order to retrieve your license, you must show an airline ticket back to home country or country from which the driver's license was issued.
What side of the road do people drive on?
Right side of the road, steering wheel is on the left side of the vehicle.
Describe typical public transportation an expat might use to get around the city.
Seoul's main public transports are the subway, buses and taxis. Rates for the subway and buses are relatively cheap, so traveling in these is an economical form of transport. You can buy stored-value passes, called T-Money Card, for multiple trips or single-value card each time you travel. The T-Money fare card system can be used for both subway, bus and train travel and enjoy rebates with valid transfers made between subway and bus within the time allowed. T-Money can be purchased at vendor kiosks selling bus tickets near most city bus stops or at most convenience stores. If the card runs out of money, passengers can use the automated refilling machines located at every subway station in Seoul.
The Seoul subway system is one of the most heavily used rapid transit systems in the world, with over 8 million trips daily. It is a very extensive and efficient mode of transportation, currently there are 11 subway lines color coded with a number of transferable stations. The subway runs from 5:30am to midnight and typically runs in intervals every 2.5 - 3 minutes during rush hour and 4 - 6 minutes in off-peak periods. Ticket prices start at 1000 won for a trip up to 10 km, with 100 won added for each subsequent 5 km. Half-priced children's tickets are available. Senior citizens and disabled people qualify for free transit and can get a free ticket or enter and exit using side gates rather than turnstiles.
Seoul also has an extensive bus service. There are four different kinds of buses: yellow, green, blue and red. Yellow buses have a short circuit usually around tourist areas. Green buses travel around neighborhoods and connect with the subway. Blue buses go across town, while red buses are intercity buses. Buses will only stop at designated bus stops and will not wait for indecisive travelers. Adult fare is KRW 1,000 for cash or KRW 900 for T-Money Card. This is a very popular mode of public transportation for Koreans. There is a great interactive bus map to assist foreigners wishing to make sense of all the bus routes: http://bus.congnamul.com/SeoulRouteWebApp/view_english/map.jsp
Taxis are also widely available. They were once relatively inexpensive but the fares have increased considerably since 2009. There are four types of taxis with varying rates.
- Regular Taxis are generally silver or white in color. Fares start at KRW 2,400, with 100 won added with each additional 144 meters or 41 seconds. An extra charge of 20 percent is added between midnight and 4am.
- Deluxe Taxis are called "Mobeom" taxis in Korean and are black in color. Fares start at KRW 4,500 for the first 3km and increase 200 won for each additional 164m or 39 seconds if the speed drops below 15 km per hour. There is no late-night surcharge.
- Call Taxis are run by both Regular and Deluxe taxis and should be called 10-15 minutes before you wish the taxi to arrive.
- International Taxis - the taxi drivers speak at least one foreign language (generally English) fluently. This was introduced in May 2009 and has gained popularity with foreigners. There are over 200 drivers that have been selected through interviews that test their communication skills. They use the same basic fare as regular taxis, plus an additional 20%.
Could an expat also use public transportation to get out of the city—to surrounding towns, recreation areas or suburbs? If so, list options.
There are many options for using public transportation to travel around Korea: buses, trains and planes that will take you pretty much anywhere on the peninsula. For a train, go to Seoul Station and try the KTX, Korea's high-speed trains, or if you prefer a bus you should go to one of the three main bus terminals: Gangnam Express Bus Terminal, Nambu Bus Terminal, or Dong Seoul Bus Terminal. Domestic flights out of Seoul depart from Gimpo Airport.
Korea Train eXpress (KTX) is South Korea's high-speed rail system, operated by Korail. Construction began on the first section of the high-speed line from Seoul to Busan in 1992. The first phase of the project was completed and KTX services were launched on April 1, 2004. KTX has been increasing ridership and market share ever since, now transporting over 100,000 passengers daily. The travel time between Seoul and Busan is 2hr 18min.
The second phase of the Seoul–Busan line entered service on November 1, 2010, with two sections crossing urban areas to be completed by 2014. Construction of a second high-speed line to Mokpo began in December 2009, and is to open in 2014. Other new lines and upgraded conventional lines are in various stages of planning or construction.
On September 1, 2010, the South Korean government announced a strategic plan to reduce travel times from Seoul to 95% of the country to under 2 hours by 2020.
In regards to transportation, are there any safety issues I should be aware of?
Traffic accidents are probably the number one safety risk in Korea. There are about three million registered vehicles on the streets of Seoul.
The roads are well-paved, traffic lights are functional, and most drivers comply with basic traffic laws. However, Korea has a significantly higher traffic fatality rate than the majority of OECD countries. Causes of accidents include excessive speed, frequent lane changes without signaling, running red lights, aggressive bus drivers, and weaving motorcyclists. You should be aware that motorcyclists sometimes drive on the sidewalks, and drivers of all types of vehicles do not always yield to pedestrians in marked crosswalks. It is safer to use pedestrian underpasses and overpasses where available.
Where do I buy tickets/tokens/etc. for the major public transportation?
You can buy a ticket for the subway at each station. To ride the bus, you just pay as you get on the bus. A more convenient way is to purchase a pre-paid transportation card, called T-Money Card. The fare is automatically deducted from the card every time you ride the bus or subway. These can be purchased at most convenience stores.
Crown Relocations has made every effort to present accurate information. However, regulations, rates and other variables are subject to change and Crown Relocations cannot accept responsibility for the errors that might result. Should you have any questions or need additional information, please contact your local Crown representative.