Navigating this city is pretty straight forward. However, know going in that this city is huge. Although I never experienced an area I couldn’t get to via metro, know that getting to your desired stop may take a couple transfers and take a little longer than you might think just looking at a map. Here is a guide how to guide to help use Seoul’s public transportation system.
Getting to the city is easy and I’ll focus on getting into town from Incheon since that’s where I arrived. Immigration is a breeze and took about 5 minutes total with the bulk of the time just waiting in line.
Getting from Incheon to the city
Once through, you have a few options to get into the city. Depending on the size of your party, it may be cheaper to just split a cab. There are also airport limo buses you can take that will drop you off at different places (probably right in front of your hotel). You also have the option of taking AREX, the high speed train. There are 2 trains the first being the express train that will get you to Seoul Station in about 40 mins and the all stop train that will take slightly longer. I took the express train for 9000won (I think…it was under 10,000) Just follow the signs to the bottom floor and buy your ticket at the booth or at a kiosk.
Navigating the transit system in Seoul
Once at Seoul Station, you can transfer to the metro to get anywhere you need. Buy a T Money card which is a reloadable card that you can use at the kiosk in the station. They have 2 separate ones. One is geared toward tourists with a 4000 won deposit and the other is for locals and is more expensive. I don’t know what the difference is or why someone would spend more but maybe they’re more durable? Also, know that the 4000 won is for the CARD ONLY and does NOT come preloaded with any money. You’ll have to do that separately (but at the same machine).
One piece of advice I can’t stress enough. Make sure you check the map when leaving the station to take the correct exit. For many, this might be a no brainer but to some, it might take some getting used to. Luckily, this is a mistake you only make once in your life and I’ve done it enough times in other countries to finally learn my lesson.
The cost was only 1250(?) won each way so it’s actually very cheap to ride. I don’t know the distance that covers but I was able to get everywhere from Seoul Station at the same price so it covers a fair amount of ground.
Also, remember to tap in to get on the metro and tap out to leave. Sometimes, the entrance/exit won’t have a barrier that prevents you from just walking in/out. However, my guess is, if you don’t tap in or out, you’ll be charged the maximum fare since there’s no way to know exactly where you started/ended your trip. Also, for just over $1 US, is it really worth it?
Finally, if you’re uneasy about taking the metro, Seoul has made it about as easy for tourists to navigate the system. All signs are written in Korean and English at the very least. Stops are announced in Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese. Kiosks also allow you to change the language so you know exactly what you’re doing.
The different metro lines are not only colored but numbered as well and if you’re transferring to another line and not sure if you’re going the right way at the station, just look at the wall. You’ll see a huge stripe on the wall that matches the same color as the metro line and you basically have to follow that stripe all the way to the correct platform. If you’re on the platform, a song will start playing when the subway is about to arrive, and if you’re riding and it’s too loud to hear or you’re not in a position to see the stop, just listen. If the upcoming stop allows you to transfer to another line, a little song will start to play. If you can’t transfer, there’s no song.
I seriously don’t know if it could be any easier.