How to Purchase KTX Tickets for Tourists [2022 & 2023]

A popular question for our readers is how to purchase KTX tickets for your visit to South Korea. The KTX fast train is a great option to get around South Korea and is a fun experience in its own right, so should definitely be included in your trip planning.

Korean railways are relatively easy to work out as they are all operated by the government under a single system. As a result it can be easy to work out how to get around in South Korea, but the official Korail English website is very clunky to use – even just to search for the KTX train schedule, let alone making your actual booking!

Many of our readers have had issues where their non-Korean credit or debit card is not accepted when trying to purchase Korail tickets. You will be happy to learn that there are alternative options to get around this issue which are detailed below.

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Korea Train Map

You can see the detailed Korean train map below which shows the KTX train lines, which are also used by other trains. There are also additional train lines for standard trains which are not shown on this map. Below is an overview of the different types of trains in Korea, to help you better understand the options for Korea train tickets.

  • KTX Trains. The Korea Train Express (or KTX) trains are the Korean bullet trains, able to reach a speed of over 305km/hr / 190 mph and only stop at major stations. As a result they are the fastest (and most expensive) option to get around South Korea. From Seoul they depart from Seoul Station on the western side of Seoul or Yongsan Station on the southern side of Seoul.
  • SRT Trains. The Super Rapid Train (or SRT) trains are an alternative Korean bullet train, as they are able to reach a speed of 300 km/hr or 186 mph. From Seoul they depart from Suseo Station, which is located further south in Seoul near Gangnam and they only operate on two train lines.
  • ITX Trains. The InterCity train eXpress (ITX or Saemaeul) trains are slower than the KTX trains, and operate at 165 km/hr / 103 mph on three main train lines.
  • Mugunghwa Trains. Are essentially local trains which stop at all stations big and small, and as a result are a lot slower to get from place to place.
  • Tourist trains. South Korea has many scenic railways which operate at slow speed to enable passengers to take in the views. Click here to learn more about the various scenic train options.
Chugun, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to Purchase KTX Tickets

Your options to purchase KTX Korea train tickets as follows:

  • Purchase individual tickets online through the official Korail website up to one month prior to the train departure date.
  • Wait until after you arrive in South Korea and go to a KTX station to purchase your tickets at the counter. This option is fine as long as it is not a peak time or period, and as long as you allow extra time to queue to get to the counter.
  • Purchase a Korail Pass through a third party provider such as Klook.

We always prefer to pre-book our tickets before we depart, as when we travel we do not want to waste time having to work out transport! Below we have further details on each of the options.

Purchase Individual Tickets through the Korail Website

Before you start I suggest you first go to the Rome2Rio website and search for your transportation options for your planned route. Don’t use Google Maps as it only shows the KTX train options, and none of the other trains. Trust me that it is much easier to search and find the specific option you want before making your Korail booking!

An example is to look for trains from Seoul to Busan on your specific date, as shown in the screenshot below. You can see all of the options to make the trip, including train options, bus, driving and flying.

Rome2Rio Seoul to Busan Train Options
Rome2Rio Seoul to Busan Train Options

Click on the ‘See Schedules’ option for the train, it will then ask you to select your date of travel and will then show you the options, including travel time and number of changes required. Scroll down to the options and click on the options of interest to learn more. Ensure you add your specific departure and arrival location to work out the best option. For example, choose your specific accommodation addresses as that will provide you with a better estimate of travel times as there is also time required to travel across a larger city which the tool will then factor in.

Rome2Rio Seoul to Busan Train Schedule Options
Rome2Rio Seoul to Busan Train Schedule Options

Then go to the official Korail Website, and you will see the Ticket Reservation page as per the below screenshot. You can select the type of train, date of travel, departure and arrival point, type of train (select the train type you found when you searched earlier) and the number and type of passengers. Adults are people aged 13 years and older and children are aged 6-12 years old. Children under 6 years old travel free. Then click on the Inquiry button. You may need to scroll down to see the results.

Korail Website Ticket Reservation Search Screenshot
Korail Website Ticket Reservation Search Screenshot

You will now see a list of search results as per the below screenshot. For each service you will see the time, and whether there are First Class or Economy seats available – they will be highlighted in Bold and Blue if they are available.

Korail Website Ticket Reservation Search Results Screenshot
Korail Website Ticket Reservation Search Results Screenshot

On the far right hand side is a small magnifying glass symbol. Click on this symbol to see details about the cost of the fare for each service, and a popup box will appear with the details in Korean Won. You can use a tool like xe.com to convert this price to your local currency and better understand the fare cost.

Korail Website Ticket Reservation Fare Popup
Korail Website Ticket Reservation Fare Popup

You can then click on the KTX Korea tickets you would like to purchase, and you will then need to add your personal information, make sure you also select the checkbox that you agree with the terms and conditions. Note that your password can only be numbers, no letters or other characters. Now select your payment method (either Credit Card issued Overseas or Credit Card issued in Korea) and select the NEXT button.

You will then see a popup to enter your payment details, which requires 3D Secure Password. Tick the checkboxes at the top of the popup and see if you can finalise the transaction. I do not have that feature so have been unable to complete my booking. It says to contact your bank if you have any issues completing the payment. As a result buying KTX tickets for foreigners can be an issue.

Korail Website Ticket Payment Popup
Korail Website Ticket Payment Popup

If the above process does not work, your plan B can be to wait until you arrive in South Korea and plan to go to the counter at the train station to purchase your train tickets Korea. This option is fine as long as it is not a peak time where some trains can book out in advance.

If you go through the process to contact your bank and are still unable to complete your booking I suggest you now check out the below options.

Purchase a Korail Pass through Klook

A 2, 3, 4 or 5 day Korail pass (a special rail pass for foreign visitors) is a great option for tourists when travelling to South Korea, and can be booked using your normal payment methods. As a result this is a great option to overcome the issue mentioned previously where people have had issues using their non-Korean Debit or Credit card to make payment on the official Korail website.

For us, the biggest benefit of purchasing a Korail Pass is that you can pre-reserve your seats before you depart on your trip, and then easily change your reservations as required without needing to work out refunds or pay any extra money.

From a cost comparison perspective, you can also save money when you use a Korail Pass. For example (in Sep 2022), the cost for a single adult for a 2 day flexible Korail Pass through Klook is $US87. The cost for a one way Economy Class KTX trip from Seoul to Busan (purchased on the Korail website) is Korean Won 59,800, which converts to $US 43. Therefore a Seoul to Busan return trip using the KTX is also $US 87. If you add on any other train trips you will therefore be saving money.

You can choose either consecutive days or flexible days within a 10 day period when purchasing your Korail Pass. If you are travelling as group you can also access additional savings for groups of 2-5 people. The Korail Pass can be used on all intercity trains with the exception of SRT trains, and also includes the tourist trains. The Korail Pass options are as follows:

  • Consecutive Day Passes. You can purchase either a 3 or 5 day consecutive day pass, with pricing for adults, youths and children. Children aged 5 years old and younger travel free.
  • Flexible Passes. You can purchase either a 2 day or 4 day pass which can be used on any days within a 10 day period, with pricing for adults, youths and children. Children aged 5 years old and younger travel free.
  • Group Saver Pass. If you are travelling as a group of 2-5 people you can get approximately a 10% discount by selecting the Saver pass option (note that only adult fares are available with the Group Saver option)

Once your Korail pass has been issued you can then log into the Korail website to make all of your seat reservations.

Our personal example of using a Korail Pass was that we used our 2 Day Flexible Korail pass to pre-book our two major travel legs in advance – Seoul to Jinju and Busan to Seoul.

Unfortunately a typhoon came through which was going to have a major effect on Busan, and we decided to instead return to Seoul early and hope that there would be less rain and wind in that location. We were able to easily change our reservations online and get on with our trip without any hassle.

A Korail pass comes with a range of other benefits including free or discounted entry to a range of museums, attractions and tours as well as discounts for a range of hotels and duty-free shops.

Note that the Korail Pass is not valid during national holidays and peak summer seasons, usually between late July to early August. On the Klook website it shows available dates.

Click here to check out and book your instant confirmation Korail Pass through Klook. You can cancel this booking up to 72 hours prior to your activity commencement and get a full refund. You can also choose to add the Klook Flex Plus Flexible cancellation option for a small additional fee which will enable you to get a 60% refund after the free refund period with no questions asked.

Klook Korail Pass Booking Page
Klook Korail Pass Booking Page

After you select your preferred pass and have added it to your shopping cart, when you go to finalise your payment you will need to add extra information to enable your booking to be completed. You will need to add the specific information for each person, including name, passport number, gender, date of birth and nationality. Once this information has been added you can also choose to add the Klook Flex Plus Flexible cancellation option for a small additional fee, choose to add any loyalty or promo code discounts before making payment to finalise your booking.

How to Make Seat Reservations With Your Korail Pass

Once you have received your Korail Pass confirmation from Klook, you can now go to the official Korail website to make your seat reservations. To log in you will need to enter your Korail Pass Number. If your group is using more than one Korail pass you will need to enter each pass number separately to make your bookings.

If you are travelling on a flexible Korail pass you first need to select your dates of travel.  Select your Korail pass and then click on the ‘Details’ Button.

On this screen you can set the first date of travel with the Korail Pass, and for the flexible pass you can also select each individual date of travel.  This is an essential step to enable you to reserve your seats online.  This screen also has the details of all people travelling on this Korail pass, including their passport details (which you supplied when purchasing your Korail Pass through Klook).

After those details have been set, return to the Seat Reservation page option.  You can now select your date of travel, type of train, departure and arrival point, and number of passengers – it is essential for the number of adults and children to perfectly line up with the details on your Korail pass, otherwise it will not let you proceed with making your reservation.

Click ‘Inquiry’ and you will then see the available options.

Your Korail Pass enables you to travel in Economy, so select the Economy option for the train you plan to reserve. If you have entered all of the information correctly it then shows you your seat allocation for each person on the Korail Pass, with no additional cost required. 

If you wish to proceed click on the ‘Next’ Button.  It then generates your boarding passes for each person on the Korail Pass.  At this stage you can Print your boarding passes and confirm your booking.  Job done!  When you click ‘Confirm’ it then returns you to your main booking page. When you have made your seat reservations you will need to generate either a printed or mobile voucher to use when you travel.

If you need to change your Korail reservations, again log in to the ‘My Reservations’ page and click on the ‘Usage History’ Button, you will then see all of your confirmed seat reservations.  To cancel a seat reservation, click on the Select button to the left hand side of the reservations you wish to cancel and click the ‘Refund’ button.  You have to take this action for each individual seat reservation, and the status will progressively change from ‘Sale’ to ‘Return’.  You can then make new seat reservations as you wish.

You can also use the above screen to reprint your seat reservations if required.  Click on the ‘Details’ button, and it will show you a more detailed overview of the reservation, and also has a button you can click to print the train details.

If you need to get your seat reservation reissued, click on the relevant booking and click on the ‘Reissue’ button.  On this screen you can click on the Reissue button to get a new print of your seat reservation. 

If you have any issues, you can also get your seat reservation reissued at the train station counter up to 20 minutes prior to your departure time.

Then all you need to do is to arrive at your departure station prior to the departure of your train. Your ticket identifies your car and seat number, so look for the car number, board, find your seat and you are ready to go!

How to Purchase KTX Tickets for South Korea

Join the South Korea Travel Planning Facebook Group

You are also welcome to join our South Korea Travel Planning Facebook Group – it is a great resource to enable you to ask questions about your upcoming trip to South Korea!

South Korea Travel Planning

Disclaimer:  This article contains affiliate links.  If you book after clicking on one of these links then we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.