When I arrived at Incheon Airport from New York – read my full review of the journey here – I had only a vague idea on how to get to Seoul city center from there. Like many of the large airports for supercities, the airports that serve them are quite a while away from the city itself. In the case of Seoul, the closest international airport is in the city of Incheon, around an hour away by public transportation.
There are many ways, at many costs, to travel from Incheon Airport to Seoul. However, before you do anything, I cannot recommend stopping in at the 7-Eleven outside of the arrivals doors and purchasing a T-Money card enough. They cost around ₩3000, and allow you to use any form of public transport across Korea. You simply purchase the card, then load cash onto it – I recommend putting ₩20,000 ($16) on it to get you started. In Seoul, subways and buses cost a standard ₩1350 per journey. You have a 45 minute window each time you use it, regardless of if you have to switch buses, subways, or even from one to the other. If you’re taking a train or limousine bus into Seoul, the likelihood is that you will have to travel on to your hotel from one of the main stations. Being prepared with a T-Money card with some cash already on it saves the hassle of doing this in the city where you’ll be fighting through crowds and a likely a little overwhelmed.
My second recommendation before travelling would be to download the Korea Subway App. You can download the entire subway system for free, use it without data or wifi, and punch in starting and destination stations. The app will give you the quickest route and a time estimate. This will also help you maneuver your way from either Seoul Station or one of the AREX stations where you will need to convert to the subway. If you’re not sure which subway station is closest to your hotel, just email them and they will send over the name and the number/ color of line to you.
The AREX express connects both terminals at Incheon Airport, Gimpo Airport and Seoul city center. You can use your T-Money card to board the train, and the amount that your journey costs will be deducted at the end of your trip. There are two types of trains to take, first the Express Train and second the All Stop Train. The former costs between ₩4150 and ₩4750 dependent on the distance you travel, and the latter costs a flat fare of ₩9500 each way. The Express bus takes around an hour, and the All Stop Train can take up to an hour and a half. Whilst this is probably one of the easiest means of travel, it is pretty expensive, so I would recommend for backpackers to take the All Stop Train to a stop that carries a subway line close to their hotel and switch to avoid further costs.
Essentially just a luxury coach, the limousine buses depart every 20-40 minutes from Incheon Airport. There are tens of them, with each arriving at a different district or landmark in Seoul city center. It is important to find out which district you are staying or intending to stay in to ensure you get your money’s worth out of these buses, as they’re not cheap. The buses cost between ₩5000 and ₩15000 depending on how far you’re travelling. You can pay at the airport, where the companies have desks, or you can pay on the bus by credit card, cash or T-Money card.
The great thing about the limousine bus, especially compared to the train, is that you just jump on and don’t have to worry about getting off until the bus stops. You know your luggage is safe in the hold below, and don’t have to worry about it falling all over the place on the train. There’s WiFi, chargers, and comfortable seats. Although they are a little pricier than the train, if you intend on taking any form of public transportation with younger children or older people, I highly recommend taking this option.
Depending on where in Seoul you’re planning on staying, and how many of you are travelling, will both determine the taxi fare from Incheon to the capital. A rough estimate for a four person taxi is ₩45000, usually ranging from ₩35000 to ₩50000, but regardless of your fare you will also be charged a flat ₩7900 toll fare on top of it.
If you intend on using taxis to make your way around Korea, then I highly recommend downloading KakaoT for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, it is essentially Korea’s version of Uber, so you can know the price of your fare before reserving it. With that, comes the relief of knowing that you won’t be ripped off by taxi drivers. Lastly, many taxi drivers prefer or can only read directions in Korean, so with KakaoT they already have the route in their GPS and it prevents a language barrier from you not getting from A to B.
For more posts on getting around in Asia, Europe and North America, you can read my ‘Getting Places’ tab by clicking here.