TRANSPORTATION IN SEOUL
You’ve just arrived in Seoul. You don’t have a car or know anyone who can give you a ride.
Luckily, there are many options for transportation. Let’s take a closer look at them, how to pay, and some tips to make you the perfect commuter!
What Kinds of Transit Does Seoul Have?
In general, Korea’s public transportation is top-notch and safe. Here’s an overview of the different types of transit you’ll find in Seoul.
Efficient, reliable, and easy to use. You’re better off taking a bus to get around the city, especially during rush hour.
Seoul has several types of buses, identifiable by color. The blue mainline bus is for longer distances and major roads,
While the green branch bus connects passengers to different bus terminals and subway stations and goes for shorter distances.
The green local bus (also called village bus or maeul bus; 마을 버스) serves specific residential areas,
The red rapid bus goes from downtown to metropolitan Seoul,
And the yellow circulation bus circles around downtown Seoul.
You can also get night buses, or “Owl Buses,” if you’re travelling late at night/very early in the morning.
Leaving Seoul? Or coming in from another city? Take a train.
Korea has several types of rail service. First, the high-speed trains, operated by Korean Train eXpress (KTX) and Super Rapid Train (SRT). Inspired by Japan’s Shinkansen, or bullet train, the railway lines have three speeds: 300 km/h, 200-300 km/h, and under 200 km/h.
Then there are the Intercity Train eXpress (ITX) trains which only operate on certain lines: ITX-Cheongchun and ITX-Saemaul. They are slower and only offer Economy Class seats, compared to KTX which offers Economy Class and First Class.
Nostalgic for the days when trains weren’t so electric or fast? You can get tickets for the Mugunghwa-ho train. This train is the slowest of them all. Take one if you want to look at the scenery outside of Seoul.
Last but not least, there’s the subway. Seoul Metropolitan Subway is the world’s longest subway system, with 9 of its 23 lines reaching over 320 km. There’s not much else to say, except that the subway will make travelling in Seoul so much easier!
Other trains include the Nuriro on the Seoul-Sinchang route and the luxurious Rail Cruise Haerang.
If you need to get home from the bar or reach a destination quickly and in private, a taxi is your best option. Most Seoul taxis accept credit or transportation cards. However, some taxis in the outskirts will only take cash, so be prepared. Taxi fares are also higher if you call instead of flag them down.
For international tourists who aren’t confident with their Korean skills, there are International Taxis whose drivers speak several different languages.
The International Taxi looks like the standard taxi, which is orange in Seoul and silver in the metropolitan areas.
Other taxis you can find in Seoul include the electric taxi,
The deluxe or “model taxi,” which is more expensive due to its high standard of service,
And the jumbo taxi, which is perfect for larger groups. Make sure to check for the jumbo taxi label, as it can get confused for call vans. (Call vans charge more and are for transporting people with luggage).
What Pass Should I Get?
If you’re going to be in Seoul for a while, transportation fares will start adding up. You can save money and earn discounts by getting a transportation card or pass instead. These cards are available for purchase at convenience stores and subway stations.
The basic transportation card. It works on subways, buses, and on some taxis. When taking the bus or subway, remember to scan the T-money card after boarding and before getting off. You can also use it at some tourist attractions, including Lotte World.
Korea Tour Card
This card is exclusively for foreigners in Seoul. Besides transportation, it offers discounts for shopping and attractions. There is a limit of 500,000 won but no expiry date for its use. (If you want more access to tourist attractions in Seoul, then get the Discover Seoul Pass. There are three options, and they all expire after a set number of hours.)
Metropolitan Pass (M-PASS)
Like the Korea Tour Card, this card is only for foreign tourists. However, it’s confined to the Seoul metropolitan area. The pass comes in 1-day, 2-day, 3-day, 5-day, and 7-day options, with 20 rides available throughout the day. It cannot be used for taxis.
Exclusively for tourists, this pass gives you access to all trains run by KORAIL. There are two options: Consecutive Pass (3 or 5 consecutive days) and Flexible Pass (2 or 4 consecutive days). You can buy it at the station or online at KORAIL’s website.
Etiquette for Commuters
Just like any country, Korea has some rules for people taking transit. It’s especially important to be aware of them as a tourist, so your commute will be much easier!
Keep your voice down on the train/subway. Don’t raise your voice when talking to people or on the phone. In fact, avoid phone calls, since everyone can hear you.
Give your seat to people who need it. This includes seniors, pregnant women, and people with disabilities. If you see them close to you, give them your seat. It’s a sign of respect and shows that you care.
Never sit in a priority seat. Always leave these seats empty, even if you’re used to sitting in them in your home country. Otherwise, you’ll get dirty looks from the other passengers!
Make room. Keep bags on your lap instead of the seat beside you. Don’t cross your legs or sprawl forward. Finally, if you want to sleep, stay in your own seat. Don’t lean on other people – it might feel comfortable, but you’ll have some unhappy fellow travelers.
Don’t take open food or drink onto a bus. Finish eating before you get on. It reduces the risk of spills, especially if the bus goes fast or brakes suddenly.
Stay at the back if you want to get off. Buses can get pretty crowded, especially at rush hour. Once you’ve pressed the bell for your stop, move to the back door (exit) straightaway so you don’t keep everyone waiting.
Hold on tight! Like we mentioned earlier, buses have the habit of moving fast and stopping unexpectedly. If you haven’t found a seat, grab something sturdy and brace yourself. You don’t want to fall over or knock someone else down.
It’s a lot of information to take in, but the more you take transit, the easier it’ll get. Soon, you’ll be commuting like a native Korean! Travel safely, wherever you go in Seoul.