After spending a lot of time stucking in traffic jam in Seoul, I felt it really not funny, sometimes even frustrating, to drive in Seoul ?. For me, the best way to travel in the city is to take the subway (지하철 metro) and walk. There are a lot of information online for tourists how to use the subway, e.g. from the Seoul Metro site. But here are my additional 4 tipps for you after using the subway multiple times.
1. How to plan your route?
You can easly get a subway map everywhere: from your guide book, from a tourist map, google maps, etc. However, the network in Seoul is really huge, that’s why you may need a magnifier to read all station names on the maps.
What you would need is “Naver map” – an app that is available in itunes and google play. Comparing it to other navigation apps such as Google or Apple maps, I’ve found the following advantages:
– Route calculation possible for driving with car, taking subway or busses, riding bycicle or walk
– You can enter destinations in English or set it via map
– Route can usually be calculated. That sounds strange, but with Google or Apple maps, you may face the problem that the route cannot be calculated
– Alternative routes are calculated and shown to you to choose
– While traveling with subway, this map will show you also which entrance and exit should be taken to reach the destination fastest.
One minus of the app is, that the app can only work online. Here is for example a route suggestion when you want to travel from Deoksugung Palace (in Jongno) to Dongdaemun:
So, you just need to follow the dotted line to reach City Hall station, then take the Line 2 to Dongdaemun, exit through exit 2, then folling again the dotted line.
2. How to find the right gate?
You may already notice that a subway station can be huge and complicated, have a lot of levels, gates and transfer way to different lines or be connected to a building. Luckily, each entrance gate has an unique number and can be identified with the metro logo:
Once you enter the station, you just have to follow the signs with your line number to find the entrance gates with the green arrows.
The walk from the main entrance to the gates can take longer time, depending on how big a station it. But it will never be boring, because a lot of surprises are waiting for you underground: book stores, jewelly shops, clothes stores, cute coffee shops, restaurants, etc. Same for the way from gates to exits.
After exiting the train, you need to check, which way to go to find you exit and follow the signs.
Otherwise it might take you longer walk, when you’re lost in such a complex station as Seoul Station or Gwanghwamun.
3. Where to buy ticket?
Ticket will be checked by the card readers with the green arrows when you enter and exit. So you will definitely need a valid card to ride. The easiest way is to buy ticket at the machines right beside the gates.
You can either buy a single use ticket or a transportation card, in which you can precharge and use mutiple times. The Seoul Metro site as very detailed information about the tickets. I prefer to use the transportation card T-Money, since I can use it multiple times and also use in busses or taxi.
4. How to find the right track?
When you put your ticket on the card reader at the gates, you can go to the train. But how to find a right tracks?
Some subway stations will be mentioned beside the line numbers to show the direction. What I would suggest is, to shortly doulbe check in your Naver map to find out, which way to go. Once you reach the track, you can see the next station name above the door to confirm that you’re on the right track.
I’ve never had to wait for a train for longer than 5 min.. Trains are really packed during rush hours, but you can always skip one, and wait for another, that has more space, if you have time.
In the trains, all station names will be annouced and showed in both Korean and English. You only have to make sure that you get out of the train at the intended station.
Have a safe trip!