Ferry boats surround the peninsula and shuttle out to Korea's many islands. The main ports include Incheon, Mokpo, Pohang, and Busan. The most popular destinations are Jeju-do and Ulleungdo. However even at peak times, the mostly undiscovered and scenic islands off of Incheon can seem almost deserted. Foreigners as well as locals will opt for the warmer shores of the South and East.
National train operator Korail (http://www.korail.go.kr) connects major cities in South Korea. Neglected for a long time, a large amount of money has been plowed into the network in recent years and trains are now quite competitive with buses on speed and price, and much safer and more comfortable to boot. The main problem is that the network is still a little limited and services in rural areas are limited, with trains only once every few hours.
Particularly useful are the high-speed Korea Train eXpress KTX (http://ktx.korail.go.kr/) services between Seoul and Busan via Daegu, Daejeon and often Ulsan, which use French TGV technology to zip along at up to 300 km/h. The fastest non-stop trains cover the distance in just over two hours. The KTX trains have 18 cars with the first 3 being first class and the rest reserved economy seating except the very last car number 18 which is open seating. There are drink vending machines on board and an attendant that comes by with a snack cart which includes reasonably priced beer, soda, cookies, candy, sausages, hardboiled eggs, and kimbap rice rolls.
All prices off-peak Mon-Thu, small surcharges apply for peak Fri-Sun
Non-KTX trains are poetically ranked as Saemaeul ìë§ì, "New Village", Mugunghwa ë¬´ê¶í, "Rose of Sharon" and Tonggeun íµê·¼, corresponding roughly to express, semi-express and local services. Saemaeul trains are a little pricier than buses, while Mugunghwa are about 30% cheaper. However Saemaeul trains are extremely comfortable, having seats that are comparable to business class seats on airplanes. Though with the introduction of the KTX, there are much fewer Saemaeul and Mugunghwa services, they are worth trying them out. Tonggeun, formerly Tonggil, are cheapest of all, but long-distance, non-aircon services have been phased out and they're now limited to short stopping commuter services. Most longer-distance trains have an entertainment car with a small cafe/bar, computers with internet access W500 for 15 minutes and a few trains even have private compartments with coin-operated karaoke machines!
Smoking is not permitted on any Korean trains or stations including open platforms.
Seoul also has an extensive commuter train network that smoothly interoperates with the massive subway system, and Busan, Daejeon, Daegu, Gwangju and Incheon also have subway services.
Tickets are much cheaper than in Japan but more expensive than other Asian countries - although the damage can be lowered by travelling on local trains rather than KTX. Buying tickets is fairly easy - self-service terminals accepting cash and credit cards are in multiple languages and are very simple to use. Station staff can usually speak basic English. Most stations are clean, modern and have good signposting in Korean and English, and compared to China or Japan, Korea's rail system is very user-friendly.
Pre-booking any train tickets a day prior be they KTX or mugunghwa is recommended for weekend trips, as all trains can be booked out for hours on end. On Sunday in particular, all but local trains have begun to completely book out regularly. Failure to reserve tickets in advance when departing busy hubs such as Seoul or Busan may see your options reduced to "unallocated seating" on the slowest local trains sitting on the floor in the unairconditioned space between carriages, or standing in the toilet for much of the trip. You are, however, free to sit on any seat that seems free until someone with the ticket to that seat shows up. If you are confident in your Korean, you can ask to reserve seats on sections that are available and travel standing up the rest of the way..
South Korea is small enough that flying is more of a luxury than a necessity, with the notable exception of connections to the island of Jeju. The long-standing domestic flight duopoly of Korean Air (http://www.koreanair.com/) and Asiana (http://www.flyasiana.com/) was broken in 2005 by the arrival of low-cost competitors Hansung Airlines (http://www.hansungairline...) and Jeju Air (http://www.jejuair.net/), which offers flights not only to Jeju, but also serves the Seoul-Busan sector with lower fares than the KTX express train.
Buses ë²ì¤ beoseu remain the main mode of national transport, connecting all cities and towns. They're frequent, punctual and fast, sometimes dangerously so, so fasten the belts you'll often find in the seats.
There is a somewhat pointless division of long-distance buses into express buses ê³ ìë²ì¤ gosok beoseu and inter-city buses ìì¸ë²ì¤ si-oe beoseu, which often use separate terminals to boot. In addition, local inner-city bus ìë´ë²ì¤ si-nae beoseu networks often connect directly neighbouring cities. The express vs. intercity bus differentiation comes down to whether the nation's toll expressways ê³ ì gosok are traversed. In practical terms, express buses are marginally faster on long runs, but inter-city buses go to more places. For additional comfort, look for Udeung buses ì°ë± ë²ì¤ which have just three seats across instead of the usual four; these cost about 50% extra. A fourth layer of bus exists, which is the airport limousine bus, a seperate network of express buses that ferry people directly to and from Incheon International Airport. Note that the airport limousines typically run from seperate pickup points again to the intercity or express bus terminal.
No Korean buses have toilets, and rest stops are not standard on trips of less than 2 hours duration, so consider thinking twice about that bottle of tea at the terminal.
Korean Express Bus Lines Association (http://www.kobus.co.kr/we...)
Timetables and fares of the Express bus routes in South Korea
An International Driving Permit IDP may be used to drive around South Korea. In general, road conditions are good in South Korea and directional signs are in both Korean and English. Car rental rates start from â©54400 a day for the smallest car for about a week. Traffic moves on the right in South Korea.
However, if traveling in the big cities, especially Seoul, driving is not recommended as the roads are plagued with traffic jams, with parking expensive and difficult to find, and many drivers tend to get reckless under such conditions, weaving in and out of traffic. Drivers would often try to speed past traffic lights when they are about to turn red, and several cars including fully-loaded public transit buses will typically blow-through the light after it has turned red whether pedestrians are in the crosswalk or not. Driving habits in Korea, while not the best, are still significantly better than in China. Note that road courtesy is almost non-existent in Korean cities and it is best to read up on Korean road culture before attempting to drive.