With the proportion of visitors in South Korea traveling individually continuing to rise -- reaching some 75 percent last year -- catering to their needs has become crucial in recent years, all the more so with the hosting of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games next month.
The country’s state-run railway operator and the tourism agency have been stepping up their moves to improve convenience to foreign tourists who are traveling independently.
In March, in anticipation of the hosting the games and the consequent influx of foreign visitors, the nation’s railway operator Korail signed on with the Korea Tourism Organization to jointly develop tourism packages and contents using the railway, along with the renewal of its website at www.letskorail.com.
As part of the move, Korail created a PyeongChang Korail pass that allowed unlimited rail travel for five- and seven-day periods. It announced last Friday that it would make it available again from Feb. 1 until March 25 for 168,000 won ($156.20) for five days, with a seven day pass at 195,000 won exclusively for foreigners.
The first Seoul-Gangneung KTX bullet train departs from Seoul Station at the opening ceremony on Dec. 22, 2017. (Yonhap)
Including previous releases, over 5,000 people have purchased 3,796 PyeongChang Korail passes, including group purchases, as of Monday, Korail said.
Benefits of the pass are: unlimited use of trains nationwide including KTX, and ITX express trains Saemaul and Mugunghwa; city tours in Seoul, Busan, Jeju, Incheon, Gyeongju and Daegu; chargeable transportation cards and guidebook giveaways.
For enhanced accessibility to PyeongChang, Korail will run a total 51 high-speed train services of the newly opened route from Seoul to PyeongChang in February, the company said.
The high-speed train will take about an hour and 40 minutes from the Incheon Airport to PyeongChang, 180 kilometers east of Seoul.
To promote rural regions and attractions near PyeongChang, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has rolled out three tourist-only train tour packages.
The three programs -- day-long, two-day long, and eight-day long -- include visiting the Wind Uiyaji Village and Red Clay Gudeul Village.
The one day train tour is priced at 52,000 won for those over 13 years old, and 46,000 won for under-12s.
The government has also released the Korea Tour Card 2018 exclusively for foreigners, a limited edition of the Korea Tour Card that has been sold since January last year.
A user can charge the card to whatever amount and can use it in all public transportation including buses, express buses, subways and taxis. The card can also be used in transit of different transportation means.
The card’s holder can also enjoy between 5 to 50 percent of discount at 2,240 stores run by 178 affiliated companies including for shopping, lodging, tourism sites, performances, exhibitions and food and beverages.
Details on the card can be viewed at http://www.koreatourcard.kr/
Meanwhile, the KTO in August has also published a Korean subway travel guide in languages of English, Japanese and Chinese.
The guide includes travel destinations located within 1 kilometer radius of 10-minute walking distance from a subway station and descriptions of relevant history, culture and shopping facilities.
It also provides important transportation information such as how to go and transit on the subways, as well as the locations of subway gates, distance and travel time, while being able to search routes and foreign exchange rates.
The guidebook is available on the mobile app Korea Travel Books, which can be downloaded free of charge from Apple Store and Google’s Play Store. The app also offers some 160 types of e-books published by the KTO and municipalities.
By Kim Bo-gyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)