Alrighty then! As I've promised, I'm going to write a more in-depth post on transportation in Seoul. Since I spent majority of m...

Getting around Seoul

Sunday, April 21, 2013 Unknown 0 Comments

Alrighty then!

As I've promised, I'm going to write a more in-depth post on transportation in Seoul. Since I spent majority of my time in Seoul, without the need/chance to travel elsewhere, the following information is strictly about Seoul transportation.

Traffic in Gwanghamun

First, you will need to get TO Seoul if you arrive at Incheon Intl Airport, as it's located in another city. No fear though, because the transportation choices are plentiful.

For light travelers, usually vacation-visitors, who do not have big, heavy suitcases to lug around:

  • METRO! That is probably the cheapest way to get to where you need to be from Incheon. Just go down the escalator that's inside the arrival hall. You will see a few machines for ticket purchasing, all of them have an ENGLISH option, that makes things that much easier. I assume you won't have the T-money card that Koreans use for subways, thus you will have to chose the Single Ticket option. I have never had to use that, but I believe there are a few options available if you're traveling with someone else.
  • Points to remember - you need to know your station, chances are you will have to transfer at least one line. Also, there will be plenty of stairs between you and your destination :)
  • Cost: starts at 1150KRW (that's about 1USD), and increases with distance
For those of us who have big suitcases and/or just prefer a direct A-to-B route:

Option 1:
  • Limousine buses! You'll find them parked right outside the Arrival hall, each bus has its own stops, and thus they are lined up according to their 'number'. On both sides of the exit from the Arrival hall, outside, are the ticket booths. The staff's English is quite decent, so you shouldn't encounter any communication problems. You only need to tell them your destination name (name of the stop you need to get to) and they'll issue you a ticket with the corresponding bus number.
  • Points to remember - you will need to know your destination stop, usually they are easy to locate, or you can just tell them the title of the neighborhood you're traveling to. You will also have to keep track of the stops they announce in the bus, to know when to get off. Additionally, the driver will take your luggage and stick a number onto it, giving you a second one. Guard it with your life, as they unload the luggage quickly, if you give them the number, and you may encounter problems if you've lost it.
  • Cost: starts at 10,000KRW (about 9USD)
Option 2:
  • Cabs! As you exit the Arrival hall, you'll see the cabs parked behind the buses. You approach them in an orderly fashion, waiting in line to get your cab. 
  • Points to remember - the driver will most likely NOT speak any English. However, if you have your address on a piece of paper, just hand it to him and it will be fine. Moreover, there is always the option of Free Interpretation - you will see a sign of it on the door of the cab, and you just need to tell the driver "Free Interpretation" and he should give you a phone to dial the number. Operator is fluent in both English and Korean and will translate whatever you want to say to the driver for free. It's quite nifty, really!
  • Cost: regular cab fare starts at 2,400KRW (around 2USD), and getting to any point in Seoul should NOT set you back more than 30,000KRW (about 28USD). Most likely you'll end up paying somewhere in-between 10,000-20,000KRW. You can pay either by cash, or credit card.
There you go! These are the options for traveling from Incheon Intl Airport to Seoul. I personally took the bus, and was very, very pleased with the journey. Buses are very comfortable, with AC, the announcements are in Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese and it only takes around 40-50 minutes to get to central Seoul.

Now, for further travels around Seoul you have the same 3 choices (replace Limousine bus with a regular bus and you're good to go ;) ). Most common is the subway, naturally, as it will get you to any point in Seoul without much of a hassle. As mentioned before, you can either keep purchasing a Single Ticket, or get a T-Money card, which reduces the cost by 100KRW. My card looks like this:

You can charge it with any amount you want, depending on how much you intend to travel. The ticket, bus or subway, costs 1050KRW at the base, and will increase at some point by 100KRW per region.
This website is the best place to check your trips. It will show the shortest possible travel, with all connections, time and prices:
(I am in no way affiliated with the website)

As for buses, I have yet to find any reliable source, other than the bus stops themselves, regarding the destinations. Also, while fast, buses are slightly risky for 2 reasons:

  1. Korean public transport drivers are NUTS. I am not kidding, they drive so fast and crazily, you have to hold on for dear life, if you don't have a seat. Get on the bus, check your card and RUN! Sit down, or grab onto something ASAP, otherwise its very likely you'll end up on the floor.
  2. You have to know the name of the stop in Korean, only very few routes have English announcements. and you must press the STOP button when they announce your upcoming stop. If you don't do so, its likely the bus won't actually stop there, unless there are people waiting. So don't take your chances and Press That Button!!
The price system is exactly the same like the subway, but you can also pay by cash (I believe the base price is 1150KRW).

Also, at any Information booth in the subway you can ask for an English subway map. You will get this little pamphlet:

This is a nifty little pocket booklet that contains not only a subway map, but also popular tourist attractions, separated into categories by theme AND subway line, with detailed directions of how to get there. I always carry this around with me, just in case..

There you go, I truly hope this will be helpful, as its tough getting around a city that does not speak your language!

Ciao for now!