I recently moved to Seoul, South Korea to study abroad at Korea University for the Fall semester. This study abroad was the first time I used the subway system since I’m from Florida, a place where subways don’t exist. I would like to imagine that there are other people out there who are as clueless as me when it comes to subways. Thankfully, the Seoul subway system is one even beginners can master, so I put together this guide to help you travel confidently when traveling to South Korea.
To start off, get yourself a subway app – the one I use is called Subway Korea but another popular one is KakaoMetro.
They both work in a similar fashion such as letting you know where to transfer, how much your fare will be, and how long it will take to arrive at your destination. Besides that, here are the most important things to know before using the Seoul subway system:
- T-Money: Get this card as soon as possible, along with some Korean Won. You can use all of the Seoul transportation with this card (subway, buses, even taxis!). All you have to do is swipe and you’re ready to go! The best part is that you can keep it in your wallet or phone case and the scanner will accept it.
- Reloading: When you get your card, you will most likely “top it up”, or make the maximum payment, but once you need to re-load it, look for any of these machines (see picture on the left) and you can use the English mode to re-load it. PS- these machines only take cash! Also, make sure to leave your card on the machine until it finishes reloading –that was the first mistake I made.
- Station: This is your ultimate destination, for example, Hongdae, Anam, Myeongdong, etc.
- Line: No, not the messaging app. Your line is where your station will be. For example, if I wanted to go from Anam to Ewha University, I would take line 6 at Anam, transfer to line 2 at Sindang and then get on the train heading towards Ewha.
- Signs: The station you’re going to is on a specific line. On the app I mentioned, locate the 1st and last stop on your line. Along the walls, you will see your line number and both of these stops. For example, if you were on line 6 at Korea University and you want to go to Itaewon, follow the signs that say “World Cup Stadium” to take Line 6 towards the correct direction.
- Seating: There are clearly marked seats for pregnant women, elderly, disabled persons at the back of every cart on the train; they are usually a brighter color than the rest of the chairs and at the last cart. The pink seats in the middle of the carts are specifically for pregnant women. You will see some people sitting there that aren’t supposed to but don’t risk it, just find a seat in another cart if you need to.
- Exits: This determines where in the station you will get out from. You want to find which exit is closest to your destination. You will see your exit number on the sign in the picture below. But don’t worry, if you don’t
know which is your exit, there will be a small sign that tells you what landmarks are near the exit. This way you choose the landmark that is closest to your destination. If you take the wrong exit, that’s okay. One exit might leave you across the street from where you want to go, while the other will leave on the right side; that’s the only difference. PS- when meeting with friends, make sure to decide which exit you want to meet at!
- Transfer: At first this might seem confusing. But it’s actually really easy. Follow the app to know where you need to transfer, then follow the signs on the walls and they will guide you towards the tracks your line is on. PS: Instead of having to transfer in the subway, check if there is a bus that can take you directly to your destination.
If you don’t want to get lost, I highly recommend that you get yourself a map of Seoul and its subway system. Sit down one night and familiarize yourself with it before you go anywhere. Get the app and go with confidence. (I do suggest you also go
with a friend the first time if possible). Although the system might seem daunting at first, it is one of the most foreigner-friendly systems. Even the announcements are in English! But, in the case that you somehow get lost, just go to an information desk and they will help you.
Although this guide might seem overwhelming and daunting, I promise that you will understand the subway system by the second or third time on it. I just want to make sure that you all have as much information as possible for your trip abroad, so good luck on your adventures and as always, feel free to ask me any questions down below.