FREE SHUTTLE BUSES FROM SEOUL TO PYEONGCHANG & GANGNEUNG
If you’re still struggling for train reservations, free shuttles have been announced from Seoul for event ticket holders (reservations open Friday 26th). See here
(update: unfortunately this won’t actually be much use to most people making plans from overseas, as a Korean phone number is required to register)
The 2017/8 season is now in full swing, and the Pyeongchang Olympics are just 5 weeks away. Ticket sales have been slow (perhaps due to all the nuclear sabre-rattling that’s been going on recently), so it’s still possible to put a last-minute plan together to come to the 2018 Winter Games. Reasonable accommodation is pretty booked up in Pyeongchang, but there’s still 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
There are still plenty of rooms 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.
There’s still loads of availability on Airbnb, but also at jacked up prices near the venues. For those still looking, Yangpyeong (between Seoul & Wonju) could be a good base with 15 trains per day each way.
See here for a full guide on where to stay
Lunar New Year transportation situation: the Korean New Year holiday of Seollal falls on February 14th – 18th, so those dates will be very busy and have a different reservation system. Unfortunately, it was finally announced that bookings will be available from January 17th at 6:00 (Korean time) for people in Korea but not until 16:00 for people outside Korea.
This essentially means that the seats will likely be sold out before Olympics visitors have a chance to try and reserve them. This is obviously causing a good deal of anger & frustration, especially for Pyeongchang Pass holders who’ve already paid only for other passengers to probably buy the very seats they thought they were paying for.
Standing room tickets are also available though there’s no clear information about how many exactly, so a lot of people are concerned they won’t be able to make it to their events on those dates.
The latest response from Korail is that they’re confident the capacity is high enough for the combined demand from Seollal travel & Olympics spectators. To be fair, the population in the region is small so the Seollal demand won’t be as crazy as it is on the main Seoul – Busan line… we just have to hope that Korail have got their capacity calculations correct. I’ll endeavour to update this box with any new information as & when.
Update: trains didn’t end up being instantly fully-booked by local passengers on the 17th (probably due to it being a rural region with low population density), and there was still reasonable availability when tickets became available to overseas customers at 4pm; seems like most people who got online at that time were able to book at least workable train times (though in many cases not their 1st choice options). However, by now (24 hours later) the trains are mostly booked out on the Seollal dates. If you’re still searching, remember to also check Cheongnyangi & Sangbong stations (in eastern Seoul) as they have more departures & arrivals than Seoul Station; and if that’s no good, there’s still (hopefully) hope as Korail have announced a second special reservation period for Pyeongchang Pass holders (see the announcement here). Remember there’s also standing room on the train, but we don’t know what the capacity will be. If you have events on those dates and haven’t booked accommodation yet, you should probably consider options other than Seoul (see here)
Opening Ceremony: there’s also been some concern for those wanting to get back to Seoul from Jinbu after the opening ceremony on the 9th; although not shown on the schedule here (page 4), trains were also made available at 0:44 to Sangbong Station and 1:24 to Cheongnyangni Station (originating at 0:20 and 1:00 from Gangneung). Seats are now fully booked on all of them, but for standing tickets you can try 22:54, 0:44, and 1:24. Again, if you’re attending the ceremony but haven’t booked accommodation yet, you should probably consider options other than Seoul (see here)
Pyeongchang 2018 Transportation
Olympic Shuttle Buses
We have a clear picture of the shuttle bus system, with one caveat – so far it’s very helpfully only been posted in Korean, here
(scroll down). If an English version doesn’t show up in the coming days, I’ll make one!
The new KTX line to Pyeongchang & Gangneung started service on December 22nd, and you can see the full schedule here (pages 5 & 6 for the Olympic dates, and page 9 for the Paralympic dates); the Korail site has finally been updated to show the new stations, so you can now search & book online here (KTX reservations can be made 30 days in advance, extended to 60 days for the Olympics (except Feb 14th to 18th, see box above) – recommended to do so ASAP if you want to have a seat!)
Korail’s also selling a Pyeongchang Rail Pass for the Olympics; this is key for anyone staying in Seoul and making repeated round trips by KTX to the venues. Available until January 31st, details here
For full details on the new train line see here
Awesome Discounts at Phoenix Park (until Jan 20th)
If you travel to Phoenix Park on the KTX (via Pyeongchang Station), you can present your KTX ticket at the lift ticket window for some really good discounts as shown here (all in Korean, but you can see the prices are basically 50% off). They close for the Olympics in a few weeks, so take advantage while you can!
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
Olympic Host Resort Closures
The Olympic host resorts are affected as follows:
Yongpyong open throughout, but with the Rainbow and Silver areas (gondola included) closed off.
Phoenix Park open until January 20th, with Phoenix Peak closed off but most of Mont Blanc (the main hill) open bar the boardercross and halfpipe.
Jeongseon not open to public
(For the best places to actually do some skiing yourself during the Olympic season, see here)
Visiting Seoul in Winter
Check out the Snow Guide Korea guide to visiting Seoul in winter!
Any questions? Leave a comment below!