Explore Seoul with the subway – good things to know

After spending a lot of time got stuck 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 5 tipps for you after using the subway multiple times.

Seoul station, traffic, seoul square panorama
Seoul Station – always busy

1. How to plan your route?

You can easily get a subway map everywhere: from your guide book, from a tourist map, google maps, etc. However, the subway network in Seoul is incredibly huge, that’s why you may need a magnifier to read all station names on those maps.

What you would need is “Naver map” – an smartphone app that is available in itunes and google play. Comparing it to other navigation apps such as Google or Apple maps, there are a lot of advantages:

  • Route calculation possible for driving with car, taking subway or busses, riding bicycle or walk
  • You can enter destinations in English or set it via map
  • You can easily share a Naver map link to the destination with your family and friends
  • Routes can be calculated in most case. That sounds strange, but with Google or Apple maps, you may face the problem that the route cannot be calculated
  • Alternative routes are available for you to pick the best
  • While traveling with subway, this map will show you also which entrance and exit should be taken to reach the destination fastest.

One minus point of the app is, that it can only work online.

Here is for example a route suggestion when you want to travel from Deoksugung Palace (in Jongno) to Dongdaemun Design Plaza:

Fastest route
Start: City Hall Station
then take the green line (Line 2) to Dongdaemun station

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 following again the dotted line.

There is a similar map application – Kakao Map, which works well in Korea, too. Since I’ve get used to Naver Map very quickly, I just keep using it

2. How to find the right gate?

Metro logo

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 metro line number to find the entrance gates with the green arrows.

Entrance gates at Yongsan station

The walk from the main entrance to the gates can take longer time, depending on how big a station is. But it will never be boring, because a lot of surprises are waiting for you underground: book stores, jewelry shops, clothes stores, cute coffee shops, restaurants, etc. Same for the way from gates to exits.

Shopping possibilities in the Sogang University station

After exiting the train, you need to check, which way to go to find you exit and follow the signs.

Good to know which exit to take

Otherwise it might take you longer walk, when you’re lost in such a complex station as Seoul Station or Gwanghwamun.

Seoul station has 15 different exits

3. Where to buy subway ticket?

Ticket will be checked by the card readers with the green arrows when you enter and exit the station. 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 recharge and use multiple 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 the right tracks?

Some subway stations will be mentioned beside the line numbers to show the direction. What I would suggest is, to shortly double 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.

Line 2 – which way now?

I barely have to wait for a train for longer than 10 minutes in seoul. So, if trains are really packed during rush hours, you can always skip one. The next one, that will arrive shortly, may have more space for you.

In the trains, all station names will be annouced and showed in both Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese. Hope you won’t miss the destination. If it’s the case, it’s actually no problem. You just need take the train for the opposite direction then.

5. Transit

It’s not unusual that you need to transit to another metro line or bus to reach you destination. But don’t worry, the Naver Map App will help you to find the right connecting line as well.

For example, when I want to go from Seoul Station to Lotte World Tower, the highest building of Korea (2018), Naver shows me the following options:

Naver Map, U-Bahn route
From Seoul Station to Lotte World Tower

The fastest connection will take around 40 minutes, with a transit at Dongdaemun History & Culture Park station.

Route mit Umstieg
Here are details

Have you noticed the numbers behind the „Fast transfer“, as well as „Fast arrival“? It shows you, in which cab and through which door you should enter the subway, in order to get to your transit metro line or exit the fastest.

I’ve tried this recommendation out and it worked quite well in most cases.

Seoul, Schöne Aussicht, Fluss
View from subway to the Hangang river

Have a nice, quick & safe trip in Seoul!

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