Arriving in a new city can be overwhelming, and what can be even more overwhelming is arriving in a new city without knowing how to get to your destination. You surely don’t want to find yourself scrambling around the airport last minute trying to figure out where to go next, especially with a language barrier and a handful of luggage. That’s why it’s important to learn what modes of transportation are available in Seoul before you actually land at the airport.
Incheon International Airport is the largest airport in South Korea and the 22nd busiest airport in the world. It is located 47 km away from Seoul Station, which is considered to be the center of Seoul. Seoul Station serves as a major transportation hub, which allows you to reach any area of Seoul via various modes of transportation.
We will run you through a list of different transportation methods to reach downtown Seoul and discuss the best options for your specific needs.
Public transportation Cards
First, let’s talk about the easiest way to pay for transportation within the city. In Seoul, like many other cities, they offer discounted travel fare prices with the purchase of a “money card.” Seoul has many different options but the most popular for travellers are the T-Money Card and the Seoul City Pass Card.
Seoul City Pass Card
₩ 15,000 – ₩ 35,000
The Seoul City Pass is a great option for tourists, as it allows you to frequently use the bus or subway up to 20 times a day for a cheaper price than regular fares, regardless of the distance, and you can take advantage of the Seoul City Tour Bus that visits many landmarks and palaces as many times as you wish. In addition, the Seoul city pass offers many benefits, such as discounts or freebies for many participating stores, restaurants, theme parks and performances around the city.
The Seoul City Pass comes in three different card options, the 1-day pass, the 2-day pass, and the 3-day pass, ranging from 15000-35000 won.
The T-Money Card is a rechargeable transportation money card that can be used to pay public transit fares in Seoul, as well as many other cities around Korea with ease. It can be purchased at the airport, subway station, and most convenient stores around the city. The T-money card can be used to pay for the subway, bus, taxi, and can be even used as payment at some participating stores. Users of the T-money card receive a discount on bus and subway fares and can transfer without additional charges. The T-Money Card is the cheapest and most practical card to use to get around the city.
Airport Railroad Express (AREX)
43 minutes – Direct
The Airport Railroad Express (AREX), is undoubtedly the fastest way to get from the airport to central Seoul. The Express Train travels non-stop from Incheon International Airport to Seoul Station. To take this train, you must purchase an Express Train Pass from the airport at the express train information center. The Airport Railroad Express is a first-choice for many travelers because the seats are pre-assigned and much more comfortable than the seats on the All-Stop Train, especially after arriving exhausted from a lengthy international flight. There is overhead storage for smaller, carry on sized luggage and room for larger sized luggage at the ends of each train car, making the Express Train a comfortable and convenient option.
Pro: Free Wi-Fi, pre-assigned seat system, faster than the All-Stop train, discounts for a group of travelers, avoids road traffic.
Con: More expensive than the All-Stop train, low frequency (train departs every 30 to 45 minutes), operates only until 21:45, doesn’t take you directly to your hotel.
58 minutes – Multiple Stops
The All Stop Train is very similar to the Airport Railroad express, but it makes a total of 10 stops at all the subway stations along the way from the airport to Seoul Station. Six of the subway stations allow transfers to other subway lines, making it a practical option if you are stating outside of the city. To take this train, passengers must use a transportation card like the T-Money Card, single ride cards may also be purchased. Although the All-Stop train is nearly half the price of the Express train, it takes an additional 15 minutes reach central Seoul than the express train does. However, the All-Stop train is still a faster and much cheaper way to get to central Seoul compared to taxis.
Pro: Cheaper than the Express train, runs every 5 to 15 minutes, allows to transfer to other metro lines along the way, operates almost until midnight, avoids traffic.
Con: No pre-assigned seat system, takes longer time than the Express train to reach Seoul station, will most likely have to stand during busy hours, doesn’t take you directly to your hotel.
Incheon Airport Buses
65 to 80 minutes
₩ 9,000 – ₩ 10,000 for standard bus
₩ 14,000 – ₩ 16,000 for deluxe bus
₩ 16,000 for the night bus
Taking an airport bus is a comfortable and affordable way to go from the airport to central Seoul. Even though it’s slightly more expensive than taking the Airport Express train, it’s a more relaxing way to reach your destination. The Airport buses are equipped with comfortable seats and air conditioning, which makes it a perfect choice for those who want to relax or take a nap after a long flight. There are two types of airport buses available, standard and deluxe.
The standard buses make more stops along the way, therefore reaching your destination slower than deluxe buses. Standard buses are cheaper than deluxe buses but are also more crowded. The standard buses do not take you directly to your hotel, but in many cases, they can take you a lot closer to your destination than the airport trains can.
The deluxe buses, which are provided by KAL Limousine company, are more spacious and make fewer stops, which means they reach your destination faster than standard buses. Another great advantage of airport deluxe buses is that they take you straight to your hotel, as long as it’s on the list of hotels, while the airport express trains can only take you as far as a subway station.
You can purchase bus tickets at the Airport Bus Ticket Booth outside the Arrival Area on the 1st floor next to Gates 4 and 9. Additionally, there are stands outside of the terminal along the curb at Gates 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, and 9C.
Pros: more comfortable, guaranteed seats, can get you closer to your destination, affordable, less crowded than the trains, Deluxe buses can take you directly to your hotel.
Cons: More expensive than the airport trains, takes longer to get to your destination, traffic.
Incheon Airport Taxis
60 to 70 minutes
₩ 55,000 – ₩ 75,000 International Taxi Service
₩ 60,000 – ₩ 100,000 Standard Taxi
Although taking a taxi into central Seoul is at least 7 times more expensive than using the Airport Express train, you’ll be taken door-to-door to your hotel so you won’t have to wander around the streets with your luggage, trying to find your hotel.
Taking a taxi is not an ideal option for solo travelers but can be a good deal for those who travel in groups of 3 to 4 so that the cost can be split by the group.
You can either use the International Taxi service at the airport or pick up a regular taxi. There is a number of advantages of using the International Taxi service such as lower costs, flat-rate fare, no additional fees for luggage, no midnight surcharges, and the driver is English-speaking.
In order to book a taxi, exit the airport through any gate of the Arrival Area, cross the street and approach the taxi stands.
Pros: Takes you door-to-door to your hotel/destination, Available 24/7
Cons: Very expensive
Public transportation Cards: The two most popular transportation cards for travelers are the Seoul City Pass Card and the T-Money Card. The Seoul City pass card is a better option if you plan on doing a lot of the touristy things as there are many discounts on tours and palace visits, and allows you to ride the subway or bus up to 20 times a day. The T-Money Card is much cheaper and more practical for people who already know where they want to go and aren’t as interested in the tours.
Airport Railroad Express (AREX) is the fastest way to get into Seoul. It travels non-stop from Incheon International Airport to Seoul Station.
The All-Stop Trains are about half the price of the AREX. The train makes 10 stops at the subway stations along the way from Incheon International Airport to Seoul Station, therefore is slower than the AREX but faster than buses and taxis as it avoids road traffic.
Incheon Airport Buses are slightly more expensive than the AREX and All-Stop Trains but are very comfortable and convenient. They have assigned seats so you are guaranteed a seat, designated luggage space and, the Deluxe Buses even drop you off at your hotel.
Incheon Airport Taxis will take you directly to your destination but are also the most expensive and not recommended unless necessary.