Master the Seoul Subway system
The best way to make your way through Seoul is definitely through their subway system. Not only is it extremely convenient, but is actually one of the best transit systems in the world. At first glance, the incredibly detailed subway map might sway you to the taxi line, but hear us out – it’s not as complicated as you think!
Keep reading and In less than five minutes, you’ll have the knowledge of a local!
First thing’s first – where is the subway?
With over 20 subway lines, the nearest subway station is most likely just across your accommodation! One way to find out is to use Google Maps to detect the location of your Seoul accommodation and you’ll instantly find the nearest station. Most subway entrances take the form of a covered staircases by the sidewalk, accompanied by a yellow train logo.
Alternatively, you can ask your hotel’s reception area, or even access their website, for transportation information. In a matter of seconds, you’ll have your answer! Everybody uses the subway, so it should be common knowledge for locals.
Subway ticketing options
Image from english.visitkorea.or.kr
There are two primary ways to pay for your train ticket – by cash or the T-Money Card.
“Cash” means you’ll need to purchase single-journey tickets for every train ride that you take. If you only intend to use the subway less than five times, this would be a better option. Otherwise, we highly recommend purchasing a T-Money Card for your journey.
The T-Money Card also needs to be topped up using cash, however, instead of paying for a single journey, you can top it up with enough cash for the day, or even your entire trip. A minimum of ₩3000 is required to activate the pass, and tourists can put up to ₩20,000 inside their T-Money Card.
In addition to the convenience, each ride is actually cheaper with the T-Money Card.
Check out our table below for cash-basis and T-Money card fare comparison.
* Prices written above are base fares, covering the first 10 kilometers of your journey.
* An amount of ₩100 will be added for every five kilometers past the first 10 to 50 kilometers of your journey
* Past 50 kilometers an additional ₩100 will be added per 8 kilometers
Purchase your T-Money Card on Klook
Although you can conveniently pick up T-Money Cards in convenience stores around the city, we highly recommend purchasing your pass before your trip!
Each T-Money Card purchased on Klook is preloaded with ₩5000, which allows cardholders to use the subway as soon as they get off the KTX Seoul station from the airport. This is also great if you haven’t had the chance to change your cash to Korean Won (₩) just yet!
PLUS: the T-Money Card can also be used for other transportation services, such as buses and cabs. Additionally, you can also purchase items from convenience stores, vending machines, department stores, and pay phones.
Reloading your T-Money Card
You can top up your T-Money Card at any subway station in Seoul.
Here’s how to reload your card:
- Locate the nearest ticketing kiosk
- Select your language (English, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese are available)
- Place your T-Money Card on the reload plate and your balance will appear.
- On the screen, select the amount you want top up.
- Insert cash totalling to the selected amount. All the kiosks only accept cash and coins.
- Wait for the reload to complete.
- Remove your T-Money Card once your new balance has been reflected on the screen.
Getting around and reading the Metro Map
Click here for a full-sized image of the map.
Now that your T-Money Cards are all charged up with cash, it’s time to conquer the Seoul subway! By the ticketing kiosks, you’ll find a huge and seemingly complex subway map. But don’t panic – it’s not as complicated as you think!
Read on as we break down the steps for you below:
- Identify what station you’re currently in and the station you’re headed to.
- Follow the line from your station to your destination.
- Take note of each line change or transfer. You can identify this by checking the color of the line.
- Count the stops in between the two stations on the line you’ve followed.
- Identify the first train line you’ll be riding and the line’s final stop. This stop acts as the direction of your train line, so take note!
- Follow the signs provided in the subway towards the first line of your journey.
- Once you’re on the platform, you’ll notice a horizontal map featuring the lists of stops divided in two. Check for the direction or final stop (mentioned in #5) and find your station.
- Stand behind the numbered platform lines and wait for your train!For transfers/connecting trains
- For transfers: Although it’s a good practice to take note of your transfers before boarding, the TV monitors on trains will also announce available transfers in each station
- For transfers: Once you’re in your transfer station, you’ll find directions to your next line immediately as you exit the train doors.
- For transfers: You don’t need to tap out of the station unless your connecting train is in another station.
NOTE: The great thing about the Seoul subway is that there are signs everywhere – on top of the platform lines, by the train doors, and the train monitors! Of course, for first-timers and even frequent rides, it is still possible to get lost. However, as long as you’re attentive, you’ll make it out alive! There are also helpful information representatives in case you need extra help.
You can find a virtual interactive subway map here.
As tourists, it is our responsibility to abide by the rules and common courtesies of any country we visit. As for Korea, there are a couple good practices that we tourists need to observe when using the subway. Although you might encounter some offenders, and unless you want to get dirty looks (and maybe even get cursed at in Korean), you should follow these simple practices:
- Always stand behind the numbered platform lines.
- Wait for passengers to exit before entering the train car.
- Do not seat on train seats designated for PWD, pregnant women, and senior citizens.
- Stand on the right side of the subway escalators if you are not rushing.
- Refrain from making noise and eating inside train cars.
The Seoul subway is operational from 5:30 to 24:00 (1 AM, next day). However, some train lines close before this 1 AM cut off, so pay attention to the train announcements being made in each station. This way you can avoid transportation problems. Do note that not all Subway Apps do not update these closures in real time, so don’t depend on these solely!
To avoid rush hour, do not ride the train from 4:30 PM to 8:00 PM. We suggest using this time to get some good KBBQ in your stomach!
Image Credit: english.visitkorea.or.kr
Most, if not all, subway stations have convenience stores and restaurants located inside the area. So in case you’re in need of a snack, or have to squeeze in a meal before your next stop – you Seoul’s subway system’s got you!
Shopped too much? Meeting a friend after work? You can leave your belongings in lockers found in most stations for 2 to 4 hours! There are three sizes you can choose from, however costs will differ per station. But, good news – you can pay using your handy T-Money Card!
New mommas can find comfort in knowing that Seoul is aware of their needs. Although there are only specific stations that hold breastfeeding rooms, you can locate them on this cyber map.
You no longer have to worry about lugging around your heavy suitcases to or from the airport! A good number of Seoul’s subway system now have elevators in addition to the escalators in each station.
If you’re travelling with someone in a wheelchair, be sure to check this virtual map for stations that have wheelchair lifts for maximum convenience!
Bicycle Racks and Transfer Parking Lots
One way to lessen the transportation fees is to bike or drive to the nearest station that offers bike racks and parking facilities! To note which stations have these, check out this virtual map.
Purchase a T-Money Card before you leave for Seoul! Preloaded with KRW5,000 perfect for your first subway ride from Seoul KTX Airport station. You can pick this up with your voucher at four airport locations.
Discover Seoul Pass
The Discover Seoul Pass, offered in 24hr, 48hr, 72hr options, can also be used as a T-Money Card! Just top it up at any subway station and make your way to any of the listed 35 free/discounted attractions accessible on the card!
For BTS fans, you might want to hurry and grab the limited edition BTS Discover Seoul Passes while it lasts!
4G Pocket WiFi
You’ll need a handy pocket WiFi as you explore the streets of Seoul! Get yourself a 4G Pocket WiFi device from Klook and stay connected to all your subway app and social media channels!