Most foreign tourists enter South Korea through Incheon International Airport. There’s another international airport in South Korea, Gimpo International Airport, but it only serves visitors from Shanghai, China, and Tokyo, Japan. Gimpo is more popular for local or domestic flights like those going to Jeju or Busan.
For purposes of this post, I will only tackle the modes of transferring from Incheon Airport to Seoul, more specifically to Myeongdong which will be my base in Seoul for the second leg of my trip. I will come up with another entry about transferring to Busan from Incheon Airport including transferring to Seoul from Busan.
In the meantime, as is similar with my other posts about South Korea, I will try to be as comprehensive as possible so please bear with me if this is going to be another long post.
INCHEON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
There are two terminals at the Incheon airport, Terminal A and the main terminal. Most of the international flights arrive in Terminal A. If this is the case, then you will need to take a free shuttle train to transfer to the main terminal where immigration and the arrival hall are located.
So upon arrival at the main terminal, you will need to go through immigration. To be allowed entry, you need to show your passport and valid visa (in case you’re from a country where a pre-approved visa is required like the Philippines). The immigration officer will take a photo of you and scan your fingerprints before you can proceed. The line is usually long but it moves efficiently. Make sure you look at the screens above the immigration booths to know which line you should be standing in. Once you pass immigration, you can then claim your baggage at the luggage carousels.
By then, you would have officially entered South Korea and you can begin transferring to your destination. Read further to know the different transfer options available.
Both Incheon and Gimpo airports are connected to Seoul Station through the Airport Railroad. Seoul Station is like the gateway to Seoul. It serves the most number of passengers given that it is the terminal or hub for almost all trains. So the first option to reach Seoul is to get through the Airport Railroad and get off at Seoul Station.
There are two types of airport trains, the nonstop express line and the multi-stop commuter line. The express line to Seoul Station is available only from Incheon airport. This means that if you are stopping somewhere, you may take the commuter line.
EXPRESS LINE (AREX)
The express line is also known as AREX, short name for Airport Railroad Express train. The whole nonstop ride from Incheon airport to Seoul Station is 43 minutes. The fare for adults is 14,300 won. As far as I know, children below 6 years old ride for free.
The seats are more comfortable than those in the commuter train. You’ll also find ample storage for your hand-carried items and there is also room for larger pieces of luggage at the ends of each train car.
If you purchase a one-way ticket, you will need to pay an additional 100 won. Take note also that you will need to pay a 500-won deposit but that you can refund it from the Seoul Station through a refund machine.
MULTI-STOP / ALL-STOP COMMUTER LINE
The other type of airport railroad is the multi-stop or the all-stop commuter train and it is an efficient, convenient and cheap way to travel from Incheon or Gimpo airports to Seoul Station. It stops at major subway stations along the way and it can get you nearer to your final destination.
Where the AREX ride takes 43 minutes to reach Seoul Station, the commuter line will only take 10 additional minutes. Total travel time from Incheon airport to Seoul Station is 53 minutes, while that from Gimpo airport to Seoul Station will take 20 minutes. You can also travel between two airports using the commuter line and the ride will take about 33 minutes.
The fare from Incheon airport to Seoul station is only 3,950 won. Same as with the AREX, if you’re purchasing a one-way ticket, there’s an additional 100 won that you need to pay for. Also, there’s a 500 won deposit that you can refund when you reach your destination.
AIRPORT LIMOUSINE BUS
The airport limousine bus is the ideal choice over AREX or passengers who need to carry heavy luggage around. As said above, AREX has Seoul Station as the ultimate destination. Thus, for example, you are heading out to Myeongdong or Hongdae, the airport limousine bus will be more convenient for you than getting on AREX. This is because you can get nearer to your destination without having to carry around your luggage and/or transfer subway stations.
There are again two types of airport limousine buses. The first type is called KAL, short for Korean Air Lines. These are deluxe buses which are bigger and more comfortable. They stop at major hotels in Seoul. The second type is the standard bus. They are not as big nor comfortable but they cost cheaper and they make more stops. This will bring you much closer to your final destination. The key here is finding out which bus to take. To help you on that, you can check out the airport limo bus website.
You can purchase your bus tickets from the stands at the first floor of the Arrival hall close to Gates 4 and 9. There are also ticket stands outside the terminal near Gates 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 13 and 9C. If you are a first-time traveler to Korea, it is advisable to get your tickets from the stands. However, note also that you can purchase the tickets from the drivers themselves by using cash or T-money. T-money is a transportation card that is re-loadable and you can purchase it from convenience stores. There are several convenience stores located inside Incheon airport so you can get your T-money from there.
Your ticket will tell you the bus number as well as the gate number where the bus stop is located. There is a letter beside the gate number. “A” means to the left (of Gate12 for example) and “B” means to the right. When you get to the bus stop, you need to confirm your bus stop number, the bus number and destination. The bus stop sign will show the destinations as well as the timetable.
Make sure that you are boarding the correct bus. The bus will have a huge sign of the bus number so that you won’t miss it. At the airport, the bus driver will usually go down the bus to assist you in your luggage and to get your ticket.
Travel time to Seoul will take about 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic conditions and where you are heading to. It also depends whether you are on a KAL bus or a regular/standard bus. Don’t worry too much even if it is your first time. The bus stops will be announced in both English and Korean and your driver will help you with your luggage at your destination.
The most convenient or hassle-free way to reach your destination in Seoul is to take an airport taxi. However, if you are a solo traveler or coming in Seoul as a couple, it might not be the most cost-efficient option for you. Based on my experience, taking the airport taxi is more cost efficient if you’re traveling in big groups. For my last two trips to Seoul, the first one being in a group of 12 with 7 senior citizens, and the second one being with a group of 13 friends including a toddler and 2 children, we made use of the jumbo airport taxi and we paid only 80,000won per taxi. When we split the cost among ourselves, it turned out that our share each costs less than the AREX fare which was then about 14,000 won.
There are a lot of orange taxis around the airport and downtown Seoul but not all orange taxis are international taxis. A real international taxi is one that has a label “International TAXI” on both burglar alarm lamp and sides of the taxi.
Trips between Incheon International Airport and Seoul has a flat fee rate and the fee depends on the zone of your destination. If, for example, you’re going to Myeongdong which is in Jung-gu, the flat fee fare in Zone B applies which is 65,000 for a medium taxi.
If you are getting the large or luxury ones, at least 24 hours prior reservation is needed. You can book your taxis from the website for online reservation. But if you plan to get an medium (orange) international taxi, there is no need to book in advance. Here’s how to get a medium international taxi directly from the airport.
AIRPORT REGULAR TAXI
You may also decide to get a regular metered taxi. Just follow the signs towards the taxi bay from the exit of the passengers terminal. You will find a desk there with staff who speak English and they will help you get the correct taxi for your destination.
A regular taxi can take up to 4 passengers and the base fare is 2,400 won for the first 2 kilometers. There is a surcharge of 20% when you travel between 12 midnight and 4:00am. Deluxe taxis can also take up to 4 passengers but the base fare is 4,500 won for the first 3 kilometers. There’s no late night surcharge for deluxe taxis. If you need to pass by toll gates, then you will also need to pay for applicable toll fees.
Here are metered taxi fare estimates from The Seoul Guide:
Seoul City Hall – 60 minutes
Standard : 44,000
Late Night : 52,800
Deluxe : 80,000
Jamisil Lotte World – 75 minutes
Standard : 55,000
Late Night : 66,000
Deluxe : 90,000
Yeongdeungpo Station – 55 minutes
Standard : 43,000
Late Night : 51,600
Deluxe : 70,000
Gimpo Airport – 40 minutes
Standard : 34,000
Late Night : 40,800
Deluxe : 52,000
Dongincheon – 35 minutes
Standard : 25,000
Late Night : 30,800
Deluxe : 42,000
Incheon Bus Terminal – 40 minutes
Standard : 28,000
Late Night : 34,800
Deluxe : 48,000
HOW TO GET TO MYEONGDONG FROM INCHEON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Going to Myeongdong from Incheon International Airport by airport railroad is not the best choice for most people because you will need to change train lines at Seoul Station to get to Myeongdong Station. It is not convenient if you have many pieces or heavy luggage with you. Transferring alone from the AREX line to Line 4 of Seoul Subway to get to Myeongdong Station will already take you to walk for more than 5 minutes. Then you will need to go through a high flight of stairs. Escalators in subways are kinda rare in Seoul.
But if you still prefer to take AREX, here’s how you get to Myeongdong:
- Take AREX from Incheon airport to Seoul station.
- At Seoul Station, transfer to Line 4 of Seoul Metro Subway and get off at Myeongdong station. Myeongdong station is just 2 stops away from Seoul station.
Effective March 2015, there’s a new passage from the AREX platform that’s opened for transfer to Line 4. The new passage way has shortened the transfer walking time from 15 minutes to 5 minutes.
A one-way AREX ticket to Seoul station costs 14,300 won plus 500 won refundable deposit. From Seoul station to Myeongdong station, the ticket price is 1,250 won. In total, this is only less by 1,000 won than the airport limousine bus which is more convenient.
VIA AIRPORT LIMOUSINE BUS no. 6015
Bus 6015 route is below:
The Myeongdong Station bus stop is in front of Nine Tree Hotel near Exit 8 of Myeongdong subway station.
RETURNING TO INCHEON AIRPORT FROM MYEONGDONG
You can take the same Bus 6015 from Myeongdong going back to Incheon Airport. You can catch Bus 6015 at the location above in front of Nine Tree Hotel in Myeongdong.
VIA AIRPORT TAXI
You can take the airport international taxi for a flat fee rate of 65,000 won. Alternatively, you can hail any standard metered cab. From Incheon airport to Seoul station, the fare is approximately 44,000won to 50,000won. Seoul station is about 2 metro subway stops away from Myeongdong so by approximation, the fare is around 50,000won to 60,000won. If taking a taxi, I personally prefer getting the airport international taxi because of the flat fee feature which disregards any bad traffic condition in downtown Seoul.
If traveling with family or friends, especially if you have senior citizens or kids in your group, I would really advise booking a jumbo international taxi online. If you look at the lump-sum amount of booking fee, you may get discouraged. But if you think about how many persons can split up the cost, you may end up having to pay just a few bucks more than getting the AREX or airport limo bus. The extra cost translates to more convenience and less wasted energy because you don’t need to transfer subway stations, or walk from the bus stop to your hotel or guesthouse. The taxi will drop you off exactly at where you are supposed to go.
In all of my travels except for my Hong Kong trip last 2016 where I took the airport train, I have always transferred to the city by taxi. I choose to book airport taxis because I want to conserve my energy and use that up for more important things in the city. I will probably take Bus 6015 and/or AREX for the experience but it looks like I will always be partial to the airport taxi.
Finally, let me share that airport taxis are not your only option because there are several online travel sites that offer great value packages for airport transfers. It’s up to you to decide whichever is it that you find to be the most efficient method of transferring to downtown Seoul:
- Klook KAL Limousine Bus from Incheon Airport to City Hall, Namsan, Gangnam, COEX, and Jamsil (note that Bus 6015 is not included in the promo), P558
- Klook private van rental Airport Pick up or Airport Drop off (12-seater Hyundai Starex that can seat 7 passengers, with child/infant seats, and accommodate 6 pieces of luggage), P3,955
- Funtastic Korea private van rental from Incheon airport to any place in downtown Seoul, price starts at 70,000 for a 4-seater taxi
- Trazy AREX discount coupon, Incheon Airport to Seoul Station for only US$6.50
- Trazy private van rental from Incheon airport to any place in Seoul, price starts at US$79 for a 4-seater van
Hope this post is helpful. Stay tuned for my next 🙂