One of the things that shocked me the most about Korea when I first arrived here was the transportation system. It was amazingly convenient and really easily accessible to anyone. You can go anywhere you want without worrying about driving all day. It is really a savior especially if you are a foreigner who wants to explore South Korea. Koreans are also always in a hurry to catch the next train or bus even if the time intervals between the next bus is not that long. So do not be too alarmed if a few people are suddenly running around in the station.
Types of transportation
Although taking the subway can be intimidating at first once you get the hang of it you will be hooked. Granted the you may get a little lost the first few times if you are not careful. Especially in a busy city like Seoul, there are so many subway lines that it may scare you off from riding the subway. But trust me, it is so convenient especially during peak hours as there is no traffic jams that you have to worry about. The subway system is also really fast compared to other transportation means like the bus or taking the taxi.
The transportation fees is also really cheap as each ride only ranges from 1,250 won to 2,000 won per ride. What’s more great is that each time you transfer (갈아타다) to another line or transfer from a bus ride you will only get get charged 200 won and sometimes it’s even free per ride.
As most of the stations are located close to each other, you may find yourself on the train that is moving toward the opposite side of where you want to go. When this happens you do not have to panic, just get off on the next station and find the station that will bring you back to your original route.
Buses are also a very convenient way to travel around Seoul. There is also free wifi on most of the buses. If you intend to go somewhere far away then remember to bring your earphones and watch anything you want on your phone. The bus drivers drive really fast so you might wanna be prepared before your first bus ride. However it is very safe as the drivers know what they are doing.
Bus fees are also really cheap as they range from 1,250 to 1,500 won. However some buses like the red buses will charge you 2,300 won so make sure your transportation card has enough balance before getting on.
How to pay
One of the most easiest ways to pay the transportation fees is by buying a transportation card called tmoney card. You can buy is at any local convenience store like CU. All you have to do is top up the card at CU or even subway stations and you will be able to use it until your balance finishes. Once your balance is empty just top up the card again to use it next time. You need to always check your balance before getting on buses as you will still need to pay in cash (coins) if your card has no balance. The cash option is normally 100-200 won more than the original bus fare.
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I prefer this payment method as it does not require me to top up my card so often. Everytime I use my card to pay it automatically deducts the fees from my bank account which is really convenient. But you need to check your card first before using it as a transportation card as some cards cannot act as a transportation card. To do this just look at the back of your card for the words ‘t-money’. If the words are there then you can use your card to pay transportation fees.
The gps system in Korea is so developed that you can get anywhere you want just with your smartphone. Naver is one of the most famous gps apps in korea and it also provides directions in English so you do not have to worry about losing your way. The app even tells you which station to get off on and the time taken to get to your destination. It ahows the approximate time you will arrive at your destination and give you detailed directions.
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This app is also a very useful app as it also notifies you when to get down at your station. So you will not have to worry about missing your stop. As Kakao is a very famous app in Korea you might want to install it on your phone so that you will be able to find directions easily when someone sends you a location using the app.