Traveling around a country where you don’t speak the language can be a bit daunting, even in a country with such a convenient transport system as South Korea. When I first arrived in South Korea, I didn’t know any more Korean words than “hello” and “thank you.” I was 21 years old, fresh out of college, and it was my first time in another country aside from my own and Canada. During my first few months in the country I didn’t leave my city, out of fear that I would get lost if I ventured out too far.
It wasn’t until my second year that I started traveling. both inside and outside Korea. Now that I have started travelling around the country, I really enjoy it and wish I had started sooner. Korea is a small country with efficient and affordable public transport. There’s plenty to do and see to fill up a weekend and makes for a good hobby while living here. That said, it can be a bit difficult to get around without knowing Korean outside of the big cities, and public transportation is less frequent in the countryside. These resources are some of the things that help me when travelling within Korea:
Daum maps — If Google maps isn’t helping when looking for how to get from place to place in Korea, Daum is the way to go. It’s only in Korean, but after reading this English guide to the site written by blogger Liz in Translation, I now use Daum when I need to find a bus route to get somewhere in Korea.
ga82.com — I really wish I had known about this site sooner. Provides the bus schedule between all cities in Korea. A lot of the routes it recommends are really odd, but it does provide a lot of options. Changing the maximum number of transfers from “1” to “0” will narrow out a lot of the strange routes it comes up with, unless of course there is no direct bus or train between the two cities you will travel between.
Korail English site — Has train schedules and booking in English.
Rome2Rio — Provides transport links between cities and towns all over the world. Includes prices and travel times. Usually it says to transfer through Seoul even when not necessary but occasionally can be useful.
Korea Tourism Organization English site — Provides information for specific tourist attractions all over Korea. Includes details on how to get there, how much it costs, and opening/closing hours.
The Tourism Help Line — Just dial 1330 for any and all questions related to transportation or general travel in Korea and they will help.
If you wish to travel around Korea without having to make transport or accommodation plans yourself, joining expat travel groups like WINK Travels, Seoul Hiking Group, and Adventure Korea is a very good idea. These groups are based out of Seoul, but there is also WINK Busan based out of Busan and Enjoy Korea based out of Daegu. Simply join the Facebook group and you will get updates on their trips to various parts of Korea.
It is quite easy to get around within cities such as Seoul and Busan with their awesome metro systems, and getting between different cities with the KTX or Mugunghwa is a snap. However, smaller cities and towns can be a challenge, especially without knowing the language. Hopefully these links can assist any new teachers in Korea who wish to see more of the country they live in.