Master the Subways in Seoul

A full guide to understanding the subway and metro system in Seoul! The subway is an extremely helpful and convenient way to explore the city- and you will understand it in no time!
Learn how to navigate your way through Seoul in 3 simple steps 🙂

1. Tickets

One of the first things you should do upon arriving in Korea is stopping at a nearby convenience store and buying a T-Money card. With a T-money card, you get a discounted rate each time you use the subway! Think of this card as the ultimate subway ticket! You can even use this card in taxis.

In the convenience store, just ask the person working in the front for one. After getting one, go ahead and visit your nearest train station.

You will see a couple of these machines in the station! Change the language settings to fit your needs. Once you’re there, follow the instructions and fill up your T Money card. 

**Make sure to bring the Korean currency with you – these machines only accept cash**

I recommended putting 5,000 won in for your first time to get an idea of how much you need in the future. Congratulations! You now can use your T money card at any subway station!!

2. Navigating the Subway

Now figure out what station is closest to you/ which one you are currently in! You can do this easily by looking at the map in the subway station (it is written in English and Korean) or downloading Kakao Metro. 

On the Kakao Metro app, you get a full view of the Subway lines, it will show you the one you are currently in, and can even give you instructions if you are trying to get to a different station! 

Here is a full look at the subway map: seoulmetro.co.kr 

All the signs in the stations are translated in English and once you’re in the train, the announcements are also in English! 

I recommend downloading Naver maps as well as Kakao Metro! Both of these apps are in English and give you step-by-step instructions for your subway route!

Once you know where you are going, follow the signs in the subway station and make sure you’re heading in the right direction! Don’t be afraid to check the map or ask for help. In most subway stations there are plenty of stores, so feel free to go in and ask them to point you in the right direction. 

*Pro tip* If you don’t know which direction/side train you need to board, look at the map and find the next stop (going in your direction) 

3. Important Tips

  • Each subway line is color coded so they are easy to spot!
  • In every train there are designated areas for the eldrey and pregnant- in the picture above you can see three seats separated from the rest – these are for the elderly.
    – The reserved seats for pregnant women are colored in pink and have an image of a pregnant person in front of them
    – If you don’t classify in these groups, don’t use those seats
  • Before boarding the train, let everyone exit first
  • On the escalators, make sure to stand on the right side unless you are in a rush (the left side is for people who need to get through)
  • Try not to make noise on the train, especially in the early hours
    – In the morning many people like to sleep on their way to work, it is seen as rude if you talk on the phone or disturb them
  • Keep track of the operating hours!! This is especially important for weekends
    – The subway closes at 11:30pm-12:00am depending on the line. To avoid this cut off, you should start heading home at 11pm. The trains open again at around 5 am

Final Thoughts :

The subway can seem scary when you first arrive in Korea, but don’t worry! Just remember to refill your T-money card (bring cash), download naver maps and kakao metro, and pay attention to the signs! 

Don’t be scared to ask for help or to stop and look at the map. Everything is translated in English so it is easy to read! When you first start using the train, try to pay attention to the announcements (they are translated in English). 

Train etiquette is something you will pick up quickly, so don’t worry about memorizing everything 🙂 

Last Tip: During the pandemic, there may be times a train will stop operating to be cleaned. If you happen to be on this ‘cleaning’ train, an announcement will inform you of the last stop. Don’t panic, just get off at the stop and wait for the next train. 

Thank you for reading!! You now know everything about the subway system in Seoul! Have fun exploring the city 🙂

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