a first-timer's guide to the subway in Seoul

Full disclosure: the Seoul subway system isn't hard to navigate. Despite this, it seriously shocked me how much easier Nanjing's metro was comparatively given they have the same city population. Seoul's metro is an easy and efficient way to see all that Seoul has to offer and it's your best bet for covering as much ground as possible in a city as vast and diverse as South Korea's capital. 

Here are some tips for those first-timer's out there...



Seoul is a city of 10 million people, commuting here there and everywhere around the vast city through a system of 17 train lines. The train cars are quiet and clean. The commuters of Seoul seem to follow the rules of the subway with the utmost care-- pregnant women and the elderly get the right to seats first, everyone listening to music has earphones, and people move over so that groups can sit together. 



There are two ticket options for the Seoul Subway: a reloadable T-Money card or a single-use ticket. I highly recommend purchasing the reloadable T-Money card. A single-use card has to be purchased every time you enter the subway and it costs a bit more. Save yourself time and money {and help the environment} by buying a reloadable T-Money card! 

You can get a T-Money card at almost any convenience store, including ones located in the metro station. Once you've purchased a card, take it to the T-Money machine and load it up. Machines have language options, so you won't be shooting in the dark in a feeble attempt to figure it out. Simply place the card in the "reloading" section, choose the amount of money you'd like to load onto the card, and wait for the machine to tell you to remove your card. After loading your card, it's ready to use immediately. 



I have said it before and I'll say it again, download City.Mapper! It really is the easiest way to navigate yourself to the places you're determined to get to, especially if you're on a time crunch. 

Metro stations are clearly marked for the most part, though the larger stations can take you for a bit of a loop if it's your first time really utilizing the system. Pay attention to signs for exits and line transfers. If you're unsure which train to get on, don't fret! Each station has signage that clearly displays which stop is next so that you always know which direction you're heading.

The most important thing to know when navigating your way around Seoul's metro is which exit you need to use. Stops have an abundance of exits making it easy to get exactly where you need to go...or making you feel like a groundhog popping your head up then heading back underground to try again. 



There are free bathrooms at every subway station {some are cleaner than others...}, though, in true Asian fashion, toilet paper is hit or miss. Bring your own with you wherever you go! 

It was also nice to know that cell phones worked on every train I rode on, whether it was a train across the river bridge or underground. 


I LOVED South Korea. It felt a bit closer to the Asia I know and love. The metro system made it easy to see and do much of what I hoped I would on my short week stay. If I can figure out the metro in Seoul, anyone can-- trust me! 

What tips am I missing? Let me know in the comments below for my next trip...or stay...