Wow! I’ve been in Korea for over 10 weeks now! Time sure flies! Reflecting on my experience so far, I realize I’ve been traveling around Seoul a lot recently. So, how do I usually get around Korea? Depending on where I want to go, I rely heavily on the subway system. If I can’t get to my destination with the subway, I will use the buses. And, as a last resort, I will reluctantly take a taxi. The best thing is that you can use one transportation card, called the T-Money card, on all three of types of transportation!
My residential area is pretty close to most of the popular attractions in Seoul, so public transportation is very reliable feature. Luckily for me, my apartment is right next to Sindang’s subway station Lines 2 and 6, with Line 2 being the main Line I take (since it connects to all the places I usually go). Sadly, it’s on the opposite side of the station from where I enter, so a seemingly one minute walk down to the station turns into a 7 minute walk. There are other subway Lines littered around my area such as Line 1 and 4, but they are about a 10 minute walk to get to either of them.
Speaking of subway stations, the transportation system around here is a bit different from what we are used to back in Philly. Something I noticed about each stop is that they all have an actual station where it has shops, food, and bathrooms for everyone’s convenience. For safety, all the stations have glass doors around the tracks to prevent you from falling. Walking into the trains, the first thing you notice is how spacious it is. The seats run across the walls, which is quite different from SEPTA’s two seats per row seating. In addition, there are reserved seating for pregnant women and a section in each cart for the elderly, handicapped, young children, bikes, and suitcases. I was very surprised that most people adhere to these unspoken rules and won’t take the seats even if no one needs it. Another fascinating aspect of their system is the fact that you have to scan out of the train station (and buses!). This is to measure the distance you traveled and measure the fare accordingly.
I prefer taking the subway over buses, even if I have to walk a bit more to get to my destination. From my experience, buses take longer than subways because of the major traffic all around Seoul. Not to mention, the lights have such a long waiting period, so if your bus were to miss a light, be prepared to be waiting their for more than a minute at a time. One thing I find fascinating about the buses is that they are color coded and there’s probably hundreds of routes!
Coming from Philly where cabs seem to be almost non-existent, it’s a bit weird to see cabs EVERYWHERE. Cabs are pricier than trains or buses, but are very convenient at certain times. Usually, the base fare is 3,800 won and goes up in increments of 100 won. Unfortunately, it is quite hard for foreigners to use taxis as it is very rare to get a driver who speaks English. However, give them a couple of minutes to figure out the address and you will be on your way! For me, I only use cabs if I am desperate and running late. For example, I was on a serious time constraint at one point because I accidentally took the bus in the wrong direction. So, I decided to grab a taxi instead because I didn’t know when the bus would come. Spoiler: I got there on time. 🙂
All in all, I would recommend the public transportation system when traveling around Seoul! Of course, you would want to use the trains and buses as much as you can because it is way cheaper! 🙂