Seoul on a budget: Taking the subway

It rained the whole day last Thursday but that didn’t stop me from going out. I was craving for “buchimge” or korean pancake and one of the best places where I had it before is in Gwangjang Market. I could’ve made it myself but I wanted something really good. As it was raining, I preferred to take the subway rather than get wet waiting for the bus.

Subway fare is 1,000 won for the first 10 kilometers. Using a transportation card (T-money or U-pass) saves one 100 won. The subway is the more efficient way to travel in Seoul, but there are times when I just take the bus for convenience.

Taking the subway shouldn’t be intimidating even for first time tourists to Korea. There are English signs and just using common sense will get you where you want to go 🙂 If there’s one thing I had a problem with before (like six years ago), it was buying tickets at the counter. I couldn’t pronounce Korean well that time and sometimes I needed to point to the handy map, which you can get from a lot of places, where I was going before the ticket clerk could understand me. Also, some stations have similar sounding names like “Sinchon” and “Sincheon” which are really far from each other. That’s why it’s really wiser to have your own transportation card so you won’t need to talk to the clerk when purchasing a ticket. 😀 With a transportation card, you won’t need to pay additionally when you transfer to a bus within 30 minutes. You can also use the card to pay for taxi fare, and it makes a good souvenir too.

On my second day in Korea, my husband taught me how to take the subway. On my third day, I took the subway by myself. On my fifth day, I traveled to the province alone by express bus. There are English signs in Korea and the people are helpful. Majority don’t speak English though, so in case you get lost and need assistance just call BBB at 1588-5644 (if you have a cellphone) or you can call me. 😀

Check the pages for the Seoul subway map and transportation card.


^^ Here’s the entrance to a subway (underground). There are a few stations that are elevated (like in the Philippines.)


^^ The subway map, usually near a ticket counter, shows how much is the fare from the point of origin to the destination. There are more than 10 subway lines differentiated by number and color (line 1 is dark blue, line 2 is green, line 3 is orange, line 4 is blue, line 5 is purple, line 6 is brown and so on.) You can transfer from one line to another when you see the “taeguk” symbol (“yin yang”).


^^ Ticket vending machines. Starting this year, paper tickets will be gradually replaced by (reusable) plastic cards.


^^ Train information for commuters. It’s only in Korean though but it gives you an idea where the incoming train is.


^^ Exit signs are written in both English and Korean.


^^ The neighborhood map is quite useful as it tells you approximately how long you’ll have to walk and which exit to take to your destination.


^^ Sliding doors are meant to prevent suicidal people from jumping on the tracks.

18 comments

  1. this is a very good encouragement, betch. it took me awhile before i was able to go out on my own. tapang mo, on your 5th day nagprovince ka na alone:-). jaz and i were talking yesterday, mas marami ka pa nga daw alam sa kanya considering na mas matagal na sya dito.

    wendys last blog post..And The Mother Speaks

  2. thanks for this wonderful info! my BF and i are planning to go to Seoul next year. Pero mas gusto nya Tokyo kaya, bato-bato-pick ang labanan. Anyway, it’s really comforting to know that we can call you in case maligaw kami. hahaha

  3. when I was there in 2006, we used subway going to point A to B around Seoul. Fornately, my sister already knows how to speak korean knows how to use the handy map. She looks like Korean that’s why some Koreans ask her. hehehe….Yes, you will not get lost in Korea…one funny thing about subway…there is steel doors before entering the train cab…my sister said it is because many Koreans do suicides…

  4. thank you for the advice. my friend and i have been wanting to visit seoul. thank you to cebu pacific, it seems that our dream would soon come true. we are planning to go there during spring time. we really wanted to see cherry blossoms and peach blossoms.

  5. Mrs Betchay is brave one taking train on third day. By the way the sliding door to stop suicide jumpers is an idea that should have been implemented long time ago, thanx for interesting pictures.

  6. Dear Betchay,
    I emailed you before asking about affordable accomodation in Seoul and you did not respond. Maybe you misunderstood that I was asking you to give me accomodation. Far be it. I find your website very informative and you have helped a lot of people, giving needed info. So I was very disappointed when you did not answer me. I am planning to go there for a month or month and a half. I’ve checked the hostels but they charged by the nite no matter how long you stay and hard to get a single room. I will be travelling alone. Package tours are only a week and I find that too hectic a schedule. I like to enjoy the city and its surrounding at a leisurely pace. I like to make friends in Korea before I get there and was hoping to make friends with you but my emails had been ignored. Can you please tell me why?

    1. Hi Rosita! I get about 30-40 emails from individuals a day and I only have about an hour to answer them during the weekdays. I don’t have access to computers from 11AM to 9PM (I commute and work during that time) and I reserve my evenings for my family. I might have missed your email, because like I said I get about 30-40 a day on this email address alone. That’s not counting the emails I get on my other email. Oh I have four very active email accounts. So I apologize if I missed it.

  7. Naks! Ms. Betchay,
    Bait mo naman….hehehee, so how can i call u when i got lost? i’ll be alone most of the time when i visit SK….hope to meet you…

    Galing ng blog mo po..God bless!

  8. i agree w/you, ppl were very helpful when we asked for direction in the subway such as which exit we take going to point A or B even with little English i admired Koreans for being so generous in their time & assistance! I also preferred to get the multiple T money card which is very convenient, all u need is to re-charge it & it’s less hassle! I love the subway in Korea, it’s clean, safe but the only setback i had as well as my sister’s who traveled w/me was the walking distance to transfer from one station to the next, we always wore comfortable running shoes, other than that, Korea really is a very nice place to go for tourists! I also liked that concept of having those glass doors for safety of passengers – excellent indeed! Before leaving Korea, my sis & I were pretty much familiar with the subway’s in & out & we were both elated by that, we felt we’re able to accomplish something 🙂 Thnx for sharing, this is really helpful for first timers in Korea. (I love Korea really)!!

  9. hi i really wanna tour Seoul but i don’t have income tax return or ITR which is a visa requirement coz i’m a part-time Occupational Therapist

  10. I’m so glad I came across your blog. Ever since I visited Korea in March, I can’t get over the country and the culture. I want to live there someday!

    I agree with how efficient the transportation system is in Korea (bus or subway). It’s one of the first things I noticed during my stay there.

    I’ll keep on reading your blog. Cheers!

      1. Really? You should find time to visit the island. It is splendid. If I have the resources, I wanted to retire there. Very lovely. 🙂

        Korea is such a wonderful country. I swear, after I finish my Masters I’ll do everything(!) that I can to find a job there. 🙂

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