How to get a taxi in South Korea

how to get a taxi in south korea

South Korea’s public transportation system is excellent and easy to use, but let’s be real. You’re on holiday, and nothing’s easier than a taxi. Here's how to get a taxi in South Korea.

Types of taxi

Broadly speaking, there are two types of taxi in Korea: standard and deluxe (also known as “moim”). The standard taxis have yellow licence plates and roof signs that read ‘TAXI’ (dead giveaway). Deluxe taxis are the swish version (fancier vehicle, higher level of service, more expensive). These tend to be black, and they don’t have roof signs.

International taxis are another thing entirely, and cater specifically to tourists. Their drivers can speak a variety of different languages, and they’re often found at international airports — though they can also be booked in advance online. Unless conversing with your driver is particularly important to you, getting a regular taxi is so easy in Korea that you don’t really need this dedicated service.

Are taxis expensive in South Korea?

Fares vary from city to city, but all taxis operate with a base fare, which will usually take you up to 2 km in a standard taxi or 3 km in a deluxe taxi. The fare will show on the taxi meter.

Seoul is the most expensive city for taxis, but it’s still pretty reasonable. The base fare for a standard taxi is about 4,800 won (£3.00 / USD $3.70). For a deluxe taxi it’s about 7,000 won (£4.30 / USD$5.40).

Beyond this, you can expect to pay about 100 won (£0.06 / USD $0.07) per additional 150 metres in a standard taxi or roughly double that for the same distance in a deluxe. Be aware that there’s a surcharge for night-time taxis between 10pm and 4am.

Receipts are available in all taxis, and it’s a good idea to ask for one. That way, if you leave something in a cab, you can contact the driver directly to get it back.

Should I tip?

Tipping drivers is not customary in South Korea, and could even be considered rude.

Where can I find a taxi?

South Korea has taxi stands like anywhere else (often at bus terminals, subway stations or shopping malls) and you can hail a vacant cab from the side of the road — but by far the easiest way to get a taxi is to use a smartphone app called Kakao.

Kakao: South Korea’s answer to Uber

In a country as hi-tech as Korea, you can bet they’ve got their own easy-to-use and seamless app for getting a ride.

Just search for Kakao T wherever you get your apps, download it to your smartphone, and make an account. The app won’t allow foreign cards, so unless you’ve got a Korean bank card, you’ll need to choose ‘pay the driver directly’ to be able to pay them in cash.

The app is available in English and is fairly intuitive. Just like with Uber or Lyft, you enter your pick-up and drop-off points and select from among the available vehicles in your area. One thing to note is that entering addresses in English is less reliable than putting them in in Korean. You can use Google to help you do that by copying the Korean address, or, if you know where your pick up and drop off points are, just move the pin in the app itself.

Kakao cars can include general taxis (the cheapest option), deluxe (slightly better than general), black (slightly better than deluxe), venti (‘wide and comfortable’), or even blue (which means they can’t cancel your journey – handy for if you really need to get somewhere). Once you’ve selected your vehicle, you just pick your payment method (directly through the app, or by cash or card to the driver) and request your ride.

One great benefit of using Kakao is that you’ll be able to see roughly how much your ride will cost before you book it (again, much like Uber or Lyft). It also means unscrupulous drivers can’t hoodwink tourists by going the long way round — and you don’t need to worry about communication issues as your driver can see exactly where you are and where you want to go.

If you’re planning on using the app regularly, you’ll have the option to review drivers after your trip. You can say whether you’re happy to be matched again, or if you’d rather not be (if they were rude, for example).

Our favourite thing about Kakao is that every time to take a trip you earn a little badge. If you’re anything like us, it might just get you addicted.

Heading to South Korea? Our Essential South Korea itinerary is a great place to start, but we can plan a trip to suit your needs and budget — just get in touch with one of our travel consultants to start planning today.

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