Pyeongchang Olympics February 2018 Update

Seollal update: multiple visitors have reported being unable to even obtain standing tickets out of Seoul on the 14th & 15th, and back to Seoul on the evenings of the 17th & 18th. If you’re still looking for KTX tickets on the remaining days of the Seollal holiday (until the 18th), remember to also check availability to/from Cheongnyangni Station & Sangbong Station. If that’s still no good, try buses from Dong Seoul Terminal (next to Gangbyeon Station on Line 2)

The Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic halfpipe at Phoenix Park

The Pyeongchang 2018 opening ceremony is now just a week away, but plenty of tickets are available and it’s still possible to put a last-minute plan together to come to the Olympics. Reasonable accommodation is pretty booked up in Pyeongchang, but there’s loads available in Seoul and the new KTX bullet train makes Seoul a feasible base (note: perhaps not so feasible between Feb 14th – 18th due to the Lunar New Year holiday, see red box below)

Pyeongchang 2018 Accommodation

Rooms remain available in Pyeongchang and Gangneung, but at steeply inflated prices. Donghae and Wonju are mostly booked out; Sokcho still has decent (and reasonable) availability, and Seoul has plenty.

See here for a full guide on where to stay

Pyeongchang 2018 Transportation Updates

Opening Ceremony: ‪obviously this should’ve happened weeks ago (and would’ve saved a lot of hair-tearing if it had!), but better late than never I suppose – Korail have put 4 more trains on back to Seoul after the opening ceremony, departing Jinbu at 23:29, 1:10, 1:15, 1:45. Jump on it!‬

Closing Ceremony: the closing ceremony is also in need of extra trains, though these haven’t materialised yet. Watch this space… update: trains have been added, post-ceremony departures from Jinbu now scheduled for 23:49, 0:10, 0:34, 1:45

Lunar New Year situation: the Korean Lunar New Year holiday of Seollal falls on February 14th – 18th, so those dates had a separate reservation system and are mostly booked out.

This caused a good deal of anger & frustration, especially for Pyeongchang Pass holders who bought their passes without realising priority booking for those dates would then be given to people booking from within Korea.

Hopefully you’ve managed to get workable reservations on the dates you need; if not, you’ll have to try and get standing tickets. These can only be reserved in person in Korea, and there’s no clear information about exactly how many are available on each train so if you do need standing tickets it’s probably a good idea to make that the first thing you do after arriving (i.e. go straight to the KTX counter at the airport to book the trains you need)

Korail are confident the capacity is high enough for the combined demand from Seollal travel & Olympics spectators; let’s hope they’ve got their calculations right.

Update: multiple visitors have reported being unable to even obtain standing tickets out of Seoul on the 14th & 15th. If you’re still looking for tickets out of Seoul, remember to also check availability from Cheongnyangni Station & Sangbong Station. If that’s still no good, try buses from Dong Seoul Terminal (next to Gangbyeon Station on Line 2)

Olympic Shuttle Buses
You can see the shuttle bus diagram here (scroll down). There are also some free shuttle buses from Seoul to the venues for ticket holders, but advance reservation is required and you need a Korean phone number to register on the app. See here

The new KTX line to Pyeongchang & Gangneung started service in December; you can see the full schedule here (pages 5 & 6 for the Olympic dates, and page 9 for the Paralympic dates), and you can search & book online here

For full details on the new KTX see here

Where to Eat & Drink in Gangneung

If you’re spending some time in Gangneung during the games, there’s a handy list here of places to eat & drink

Where to Ski

With the Olympic host mountains being closed (or partially closed in the case of Yongpyong), if you want to do some skiing yourself while in Korea see here for the best places to do so.

Visiting Seoul in Winter

Check out the Snow Guide Korea guide to visiting Seoul in winter!

Olympic Hospitality Houses

See here for a roundup of what’s on offer at the various hospitality houses.

Any questions? Leave a comment below!


35 comments on “Pyeongchang Olympics February 2018 Update
  1. Vince says:

    Hi Simon,

    The email chain in the other thread has gotten too long so starting one here instead, mainly because I’ve read all your blog posts about the Olympics, Seoul, DMZ, places to eat and drink in Gangneung, even the post about Hospitality Houses. I’m beyond excited!

    Doesn’t look like I’ll make it back over to Seoul before the 20th due to Seollal. Hoping a sampling of it will take place in Olympics land.

    I’ll try to book a DMZ tour on the 20th and will let you know. We can certainly communicate via WhatsApp if easier (can exchange #s by email).

    Thinking about getting a Airbnb close to Seoul station as a strategic spot, regardless if I get on a tour or not. AREX is my best choice back to Incheon-T2 correct? However, I’m open to recommendations before I finalize things just before the Opening Ceremony.

    Again, thanks for all the tips and tricks.

    • Simon Norton says:

      Yeah, usually you’d take the AREX. There’s a non-stop train which takes 45 minutes, or a commuter train which takes about an hour (but sometimes with that you have to change trains along the way and lose another 15 mins or so), and I think Terminal 2 is an extra 10 mins.

      (You could also take the KTX but it isn’t any faster than the non-stop AREX for that section, as they run on the same tracks)

      I don’t use WhatsApp (the messenger app in Korea is KakaoTalk), but I’ll send you an email.

      Cheers!

      • Vince says:

        Hi Simon,

        Can’t believe the Olympics are actually here! It’s been helpful to see the venues on TV to get a sense of what to expect. I still haven’t bought any tickets for outdoor events, only because it’s been notoriously windy the last few days (with some events being postponed). I’ll take my chances playing it by ear once I’m on site. For me a trip to Phoenix Park is definitely worth a stop or two based on all the actions!

        Looks like you’ve already been to a number of events. Any surprises from what you expected going on? I’m hoping there’s decent wifi everywhere. I suppose the KTX payment methods are separate from the Olympics (Visa only)? Checked out any of the hospitality houses? Heineken House looks like a party site.

        I’m 3 days away from departing and it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to squeeze in a JSA tour. There are loads of DMZ tours, but based on your post, the JSA stop is key. Plus I don’t feel like waking up super early in the morning so I can make the trek to Seoul, check-in, and travel to the meeting site (by 9 am). I’ll be in Seoul on the 20th for sure, though haven’t purchased my KTX return trip.

        Did I read correctly that AREX-Express has to be bought on site and cannot use a T-card? Looks like it’s cheaper than KTX back to ICN (from Seoul station where I’ll be staying).

        I can’t wait. It’s really hard to focus on work because all I’m thinking about is packing, printing documents, Olympics, and Korean food!

        • Simon Norton says:

          Hey Vince,

          I didn’t have any surprises really while visiting Phoenix Park, it was all very smooth except the line to enter the venue was pretty long & slow. The wifi onboard the KTX is good, but I couldn’t get it working in the stations. If you find yourself near Alpensia Holiday Inn at some point, the lobby has good wifi and a comfortable seating area. Selection of restaurants & cafes near there too.

          You can pay for KTX with all normal payment methods, the Visa-only thing is only within the Olympic venues.

          I’ve actually been invited to US House on the 20th, so I’m afraid I won’t be able to hang out in Seoul that day. Then I’m gonna go to the hockey on the 21st, and hopefully check out Heineken House or Canada House afterwards. Yeah, Heineken House looks like the place to party! That was certainly the case in Vancouver too (I didn’t go, but friends did and got very drunk)

          You can use T-Money card for the Arex all-stop train, but if you take the non-stop express then yes you do have to buy a separate ticket. And yes that’s cheaper than the KTX, without taking too much longer (as KTX doesn’t go full speed through the urban Seoul area)

          Hope you have a good journey to Korea, and let me know how you get on with transport etc once you’re here. Cheers!

  2. Eric says:

    Thanks for all the great info on your site – as someone form the Inited States it is invaluable!

    I will be coming into Seoul from Bangkok on my way back from a business trip on the 16th through the 18th, and found a place very near Phoenix park. My biggest concern is how to get from Incheon airport to there. It looks like trains are booked up? the Phoenix Park site lists a ski bus- but it appears I can’t book out that far yet?

    Any suggestions would be great, this trip has come up very late (yesterday 😄 ) and now I am scrambling a bit.

    • Simon Norton says:

      Hi Eric,

      Awesome mate, you’ve found a good place by the sounds of it. The transportation is going to be a little tricky though due to the Lunar New Year holiday falling on your dates; forget about the ski bus on the Phoenix Park site, that’s not running during the games.

      For the train, you need to get off at Pyeongchang Station. Trains run there from 3 stations in Seoul – Seoul Staton, Cheongnyangni, and Sangbong. Coming from Incheon Airport, Seoul Station is the most convenient by far, followed by Cheongnyangni, and make Sangbong your last choice.

      So yes, the train seats are basically fully booked on your dates, but you can still try for standing tickets. These aren’t visible on the booking site, and you can only book them in person at the stations in Korea. After you clear immigration, go straight to the Korail KTX counter at the airport and buy your tickets (you can buy the return ticket at the same time).

      Obviously I can’t make any 100% guarantees on Korail’s behalf, but they seem to be confident they’re going to have enough standing capacity… what time are you landing?

      • Eric says:

        Simon,

        Wow, thanks for the info and replying to everyone!

        I arrive into Incheon at 8am on Friday the 16th.

        Was hoping to somehow get a ticket to get me to Phoenix Park via train or bus, before leaving the states (I’m good with traveling a bit by the seat of my pants, but the thought of not having a ticket from Seoul to the mountain is causing me a bit of stress 😄 )

        • Simon Norton says:

          Hi Eric,

          Sorry but you won’t be able to get the train booked before arrival – the 16th is during the Lunar New Year holiday, and train seats are already sold out. You can still buy standing tickets, but you can only do so in person in Korea. So basically when you land head straight to the train ticket counter at the airport and buy the best available ticket!

          It’s good that you’re landing early, as it gives you a lot of trains throughout the day to try for. Hopefully you won’t have to wait too long to be able to board one…

          (See this page for more info on the trains)

          • Eric Kuhn says:

            THANKS!
            Will do.

            • Eric K says:

              I was just able to purchase a KTX ticket on-line from Incheon to Pyeongchang for tomorrow at noon. Breathing easier now!

              THANKS AGAIN for all your info.

              • Simon Norton says:

                Great, glad to hear you’re sorted! Hope you have a great trip. Cheers!

                • Eric K says:

                  Thanks, and just arrived in Seoul and was able to get a train today 2 hours earlier, and booked return train for Monday early AM (Sunday is all sold out including standing room in case others are wondering).

                  Glad i got that all sorted!

                  Now the big question is where is the best place to get a Pint at Phoenix Snow park that is close to the slope style course 😄

                  • Simon Norton says:

                    Hey Eric,

                    Good to hear you’re all sorted!

                    And I can help you with getting a pint, too! Directly opposite the Phoenix Park entrance (where the shuttle bus boarding points are) there’s a row of decent-looking cafe/bar/restaurants where you can get a pint and also find better food than in the event venue (judging from the menus & pics displayed, anyway)

                    Enjoy!

  3. Paul says:

    Do you think they will offer cots at the Gangneung/Jinbu/PyeongChang rail stations for all the people that can’t get on the train since the trains are fully booked? I have many late night sessions that end around 2100-2330 and so if the one and only last train is full, which is often the case, I guess I am sleeping at the station until the morning? Clearly they need to look at adding more trains!!!

    • Simon Norton says:

      Hi Paul,

      No I don’t think so, because I don’t think they’re expecting that to happen – Korail appear to be confident they have enough standing capacity available on the trains, and if they cease to be confident about that I guess that’s when they’d schedule additional trains (as they did for after the opening ceremony tomorrow night)

      Remember there are also trains to Sangbong and Cheongnyangni stations in eastern Seoul – many trains terminate there rather than Seoul Station, so do check for availability to those stations too. Also remember that the post-midnight trains show on the booking system as the following day e.g. if you have a late event on the 12th, search for trains on the 13th at 0:00/1:00. If there still aren’t any seats available, then you’ll have to try for standing tickets once you arrive in Korea (they can only be booked in person at stations) – I’d suggest doing this as soon as you clear immigration, at the Korail ticket counter in the airport.

  4. David Golike says:

    Hi Simon,

    So if not booked at this point, it seems unlikely to be able to book either a Korail pass or daily roundtrip (morning and evening) KTX tickets from Seoul to Pyeongchang and back during the time of the games?

    Any other options for traveling daily from Seoul to the games? Or must stay in Wonju or somewhere else?

    Thanks.

    • Simon Norton says:

      Hi David,

      You can’t get a pass at this point, but you can still book single tickets. Just yesterday I bought tickets from Seoul to Pyeongchang & back for Monday 12th, no problem other than having to stand on the way back.

      The standing tickets can’t be bought (or seen) online, which is what’s causing so much worry for people who aren’t here yet and trying to work everything out. The dates 14th – 18th Feb are going to be crazy due to the Lunar New Year holiday, but for other dates it doesn’t look too bad.

      You can buy standing tickets in advance as soon as you’re here, so I’d advise going straight to the Korail counter at the airport after you land and booking train tickets then & there for every day you need. (Remember you can also use Cheongnyangi & Sangbong stations in eastern Seoul, which have more departures & arrivals in addition to Seoul Station)

      The train ticketing’s been a bit of a mess, but don’t let that put you off coming. Let me know if you have any more questions

  5. Max says:

    Thanks so much for this page. Was left more than a little confused after going through the official English sites (for both Olympics and Korail!)

    Wonder if anyone has much luck/ tried to book the standing tickets upon arrival?

    Am in a bit of strife as made a last minute trip to Seoul – got a ticket to the morning events on Sun 11th – but all bookable routes to the venue that’d get there on time appear booked out. Hen the problem of getting back…

    Will land tomorrow late 9th so hopefully can find out! Good luck everyone!

    • Simon Norton says:

      Hi Max,

      I just bought a standing ticket yesterday for the 12th (there were seats available on later trains too, but didn’t want to be waiting).

      When you land on the 9th, as soon as you clear immigration go to the Korail counter in the airport train station and buy all the train tickets you need in one go. And remember you can use Cheongnyangni & Sangbong stations in eastern Seoul (they have more arrivals & departures), in addition to Seoul Station. Seoul Station is preferable if you can get it, otherwise Cheongnyangi is more convenient than Sangbong.

      Hopefully you can get workable train times, let me know how you get on!

      • Max says:

        Yep. Landed and went straight to the KTX station at the airport and got standing tickets to and from… while lining up some other tourists tried to grab tickets from the machine – only to find out the machines only take Korean Credit Cards! Anyway… will see what happens at the games now!

        • Simon Norton says:

          Good stuff, glad you got sorted. Enjoy the Games!

          (For anyone wondering about the ticket machines, while they don’t accept foreign credit cards some do also accept cash – it’s usually written above the machine e.g. “card only” or “cash and card”)

  6. Eric says:

    Thanks for this guide – it has really helped my first trip to South Korea so far. I wanted to relay a few observations from my experiences yesterday in getting to Yongpyong and taking the shuttles.

    1. Not all shuttles run every day. The online guide clearly notes the in-service dates, but not all station signage or navigation apps reflect the irregular schedules. Double check before assuming a shuttle will be available for your destination.
    2. Knowing that the direct link from Jinbu to Yongpyong (TS5) would not be running on 10 Feb, we tried to take TS30 to TS8, transferring at the PyeongChang Olympic Plaza station. This transfer is a bad idea for the reasons below.
    3. There are two distinct stations at the Olympic Plaza – North Gate and East Gate. The two stations are a 10-15 minute walk apart. The POCOG transport app shows the correct locations.
    4. The official volunteers are extremely nice but as of yesterday were still getting the hang of the transport system. We were directed to the wrong location a couple of times. Which leads to…
    5. We gave up on the busses and took taxis. With help from a volunteer we flagged one on the street in PyeongChang. The information booth at YongPyong called a taxi for us (about a 10-minute wait).
    6. Fare from the PyeongChang Olympic Village to YongPyong Dragon Plaza was about W10,000. The drive took about 10 minutes. Fare from YongPyong to Jinbu/Odesan Station was W30,000, and took 25-30 minutes.
    7. If the intervals say 10 minutes, they mean 10 minutes. When we arrived at Jinbu Station at around 12:30p on 10 Feb, there were about 150 people in line for the TS30 shuttle. The fully loaded shuttles waited until each 10 minute interval before departing. As a result, we didn’t leave the station until after 1pm.
    8. Last note – carrying ski gear onto KTX as pretty painless. On the way out, we had seats near the end of the car and stowed the gear behind the last row. On the return, we leaned the gear in the wheelchair/luggage area. While there are walk-through metal detectors in use at most stations, the security personnel were extremely accommodating with our gear (you’ll understand in person).

    Hope this helps the next rider/skier. Thanks again!

    • Simon Norton says:

      Hey Eric,

      Thanks for sharing this, really useful tips for anyone reading. Cheers!

      (and I’ll add I’ve also taken my snowboard on the KTX no worries, likewise stashing it behind the last row of seats)

  7. Mike Mirelli says:

    Anyone see event tickets being sold person-to-person? Or do all tickets have to be purchased via the official sources? Watching events on TV it appears there are many empty seats. Wondering whether any measures are being taken to help fill seats. Pricing adjustments or anything like that.

    Also, how are the crowds on the trains to/from Seoul? Is everything consistently really full for seating and standing or does there appear to be room for more riders (in general)?

    Thanks for all the great info.

    • Simon Norton says:

      Hi Mike, I had a standing ticket back to Seoul last night but found a couple of empty seats so was able to sit. The trains are certainly busy, but not anything remotely horrendous – however that may change during the Lunar New Year rush.

      There were several large groups of school kids at Phoenix Park the other day, which may or may not have been to fill empty seats. Not sure though, as I was at the halfpipe and it was apparently sold out. I’m not aware of any pricing adjustments or (officially) cheap tickets etc (but then I haven’t really checked). There is however a fan-to-fan sale system on the official Pyeongchang site, so try there, and check craigslist too as there’ve been some cheaper tickets showing up on there

  8. Hilda G. says:

    Thank you all for this information. I will be arriving 5am from Manila on the 21st but need to be back early on the 22nd so I really have one day to see the Olympic. All morning KTX trains are booked so I will attempt standing ticket. If I have a standing ticket and there are seats available (perhaps some missed their connection), can I sit? Also, how bad is standing in for two hours on a train? Are the train on time? Thank you for any information you may have.

    • Simon Norton says:

      Hi Hilda,

      Yes I had a standing ticket 2 days ago but spotted some empty seats after we left so was able to sit. There are also some pull-down seats in the standing areas between carriages, so if you board early you might be able to grab one of those.

      Personally I don’t mind standing for 2 hours at all, but I’m a natural stander! It’s certainly much easier to stand for a long time on the KTX than it would be on a subway train, as the KTX is very smooth – no harsh braking or jolting from track to track.

      The trains are usually very punctual, although there’ve been some short delays (5 to 10 mins) during the Olympics.

      Hope you have a great trip!

  9. Clem says:

    Amazing site, thanks for all your hard work!

    I will be heading there from 22 to 27, got some questions..

    Im only able to get tickets for events on the 23rd.. a ski cross that starts at 11:30, ends at 3 then on to speed skating at 7..

    I will be staying at 40 minutes away from gangneung Olympic park..So If I were to take the TS, should I get up at like 7 in the morning just in case there’s gonna be a long queue? And would 3 hours be sufficient for me to get back from Pyongyang to gangneung?

    Also.. i do plan to snowboard at yongpyong on the 26.. and I read somewhere online that there’s a better discount to get the pass and gear rentals at nearby private shops.. is that true? If so do you have any to recommend with address?

    Thanks!!

    • Simon Norton says:

      Cheers Clem!

      Yeah you should be good to make it from Phoenix Park at 3 to the speed skating at 7. You can do the whole way by free shuttle bus (maybe 3 hours total with 3 transfers), but would be faster to use the KTX (shuttle TS6 to Jinbu Station, KTX to Gangneung Station, walk to Gangneung Olympic Park, maybe 2 hours total. KTX ticket’s only around 7 dollars)

      Likewise, if you use the KTX to get to Phoenix Park in the morning it’ll be faster, and easier to plan because you can get your train ticket in advance and have a precise departure time & arrival time at Pyeongchang Station. I found shuttle TS15 from Pyeonghcang Station to Phoenix Park to be very efficient, but yeah the line at the venue might be long so you want to arrive at Pyeongchang Station more than an hour before the event starts. There’s a train from Gangneung at 9:40 arriving Pyeongchang at 10:11, I suggest you book that.

      For riding at Yongpyong, it’ll be way easier to rent at the resort because the shuttle bus drops you right near the building where the rentals are. There aren’t any independent shops in the immediate vicinity, and if you want to visit one in Daegwallyeong you’re going to spend loads of extra time dealing with it.

      You can actually get a discount on your lift pass & rentals at the resort by buying a prepaid resort card, and then using that card to pay for pass & rental gets you 40% off (and any spare balance on the card you can use for food)

      Let me know if you have any more questions!

      • clem says:

        thanks for the reply simon! probably gonna take up your suggestions and go with KTX both ways.

        just want to clarify for snowboarding tho, since im currently working overseas in asia and will be heading to korea from here..all my gears including snow pants, gloves and jacket are back home.. do they provide those as well?

        as for the prepaid card.. its the gift card listed on their official site right? Do i just purchase them there on the day of?

        thanks again!

        • clem says:

          i will be going with my girlfriend.. and lets say we can only snowboard for half a day.. according to the site, with gear rental.. the total would be 174000 won..and if i get 40% off with the gift card.. I would still need to get the 300000 won gift card in order for it to cover everything.. but that means it would leave me with about 180000 won left which i suppose is way more than I need for food…am i right or theres a better way around this

          • Simon Norton says:

            I don’t think there’s any kind of 1-person 1-card limit or anything, so just buy however many 50000 won cards are necessary to cover everything, and use any spare balance for lunch (if you try this and they say no, please let me know!)

        • Simon Norton says:

          Hi again Clem, yes you can rent everything there, and the cards are sold at the ticket windows. You can literally buy a card and then immediately use it to buy your lift pass from the same staff member!

  10. Ash says:

    I just arrived in Korea and went to the ktx station and was told that all tickets including standing were sold out. The woman was really unhelpful. So now i am missing part of my event. So frustrating.

    • Simon Norton says:

      Hi Ash, I’m really sorry to hear that. Did you try from a different station (Seoul Station, Cheongnyangni Station, Sangbong Station all in Seoul) or manage to find a bus or other alternative? And have you booked any other train tickets you need for the rest of your trip?

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