How to Ride the Seoul Metro
The subway in Seoul is fast, reliable, and safe. Here’s what you need to know.
The Seoul Metro is incredibly easy to navigate, and maps can found either on a handful of smartphone apps or the old-fashioned paper variety at the information desks of larger stations. Another bonus is that all station stops are announced in Korean, English, and Chinese.
You’ll need to start by purchasing a ticket, which for a single journey costs 1,350 won ($1.14), plus a 500 won deposit, which is refunded when you return the ticket in a refund machine at any station. The price goes down to 1,250 won if you use your own refillable card such as a T-Money, Cashbee or Korea Tour Card, which can be purchased at convenience stores, and topped up at any subway ticket machine. These rechargeable cards can be used on taxis, subways, and buses, and must be topped up with cash only.
The Seoul Metro operates from approximately 5:30 a.m. to midnight and is considered an extremely safe option any time of the day or night.
Peak times can be very crowded, but fortunately, the trains are air-conditioned during the hot summer months.
It’s considered very impolite in Korean culture if you don’t give up your seat to a person older than you who is standing.
Many stations are stair-access only, so check the Seoul Metro website for accessible travel options if necessary.
Download a map of the Seoul Metro before making your trip. And for more information from bike storage, to which stations are accessible by elevator, visit the Seoul Metro website.
Navigating through bus systems in a foreign city always seems daunting at first, but figuring out Seoul city buses is relatively simple. For one, they’re color-coded by the type of destination. For example, blue buses travel on major roads for long distances; green buses go between major transfer points like subway stations. Each stop has a screen that displays the bus numbers and the minutes until the next bus arrives, and information is generally written in English and Korean.
Bus fares can be paid in cash or with a transportation card. If you do use the transportation card, be sure to tap it both when you board and exit the bus.
Taxis are prevalent, and though convenient and relatively well priced, can be a time-consuming choice, as they must navigate traffic and the sheer size of the sprawling city. While some taxi drivers speak English, be prepared with your destination typed out in Korean on your smartphone; unless the destination is a famous tourist attraction, there’s a good chance the driver will need to enter the address in their GPS system.
Regular and Black/Deluxe are the two main types of taxis in Seoul, and both use meters. The starting fare for regular taxis is 3,800 won ($3.20) and covers the first two kilometers of the trip, with 100 won being added for each additional 132 meters. Black/Deluxe taxi fares start at 6,500 won ($5.48) for the first three kilometers and an additional 200 won every 151 meters. The main difference other than the price is that Black/Deluxe taxis are generally just a nicer model of car than regular taxis.
Seoul Public Bike is an excellent and easy to use bike rental system that operates throughout the city. The bold green and white bicycles can be found at docking stations near many subway exits and popular tourist attractions, and users can rent or return the bikes at any station. Different pricing plans are available, depending on how often you plan to use the bike service. Rentals average around 1,000 won (84 cents) per hour, which you’ll need to pay with a T-Money card or through the bike rental app (no cash). Helmets aren’t provided, so plan accordingly.
Most visitors to Seoul use public transportation, as parking, navigating, and traffic in Seoul can be problematic for those unfamiliar to the city. If you do want your own set of wheels, you must have a valid International Driving Permit along with your regular driver’s license, and cars can be rented at Incheon International Airport.