next installation in my Travel Korea series!!
Planes, trains and automobiles! The ultimate guide to getting around in Korea.
the plane part can be found in pt.1 here ~
As for subway/train/underground transportation, i wrote a little about how to get on the initial ride from the airport on part 1 as well. But for the most part the subway was the easiest way to get around in Korea. All you needed was an app and a T-money card. If you cannot read Korean get the kakaotalk subway app. It is written purely in English and is most accurate in my experience. All you did was type in your station destination and your current location and BOOM all the stops you needed to pass laid out for you plain and simple. Most subway apps have a map with all of the lines drawn out.
Transfers on the subway are super easy because the automated voice on the subway dings and lets you know where the next stop is and which line it transfers too. I’ve heard this voice speak in Korean (obvs,) English, Chinese and Japanese. If any of these are unfamiliar to you then you need a really nice app to guide you! Or an amazing tour guide ^^ All the subways have signs that light up telling you where the train is headed. There are employees stationed at desks by the exits and entrances that are available to help you but they are not the friendliest. Most of them are older gentleman who cannot speak English. I had no problem since I am fluent in Korean but there were many confused foreigners staring at subway maps posted on the walls. If you get lost I advise you write down where you are going and show it to the employees and they will at least point you in the right direction and the right train number to get on.
When you get to the right subway train you’ll know because there are arrows in each direction. If you are at Itaewon station for example heading towards Noksapyeong it’ll show up like so:
Hangangjin > Itaewon > Noksapyeong.
Your current location is in the middle followed by an arrow pointing towards its next destination. The first name is the destination it is coming FROM. Be cautious and don’t get assume the first name you see is the next destination!
The good news: There are legit signs EVERYWHERE. on the columns, on the ceiling, on the walls, on the stairs. Signs that tell you what direction you are walking in. The bad news: subway stations are known for the STAIRS. the walking is straight ridiculous. South Korea is a mountainous country. There are hills and stairs errwhere. More bad news? Most subway stations have multiple underground levels. Once I had to go down 4 levels to get to my train. Getting lost is very possible. That said, try having a native with you your first few trips in case you get overwhelmed or lost.
^^This is a brand-spanking new subway line in Incheon (about an hour away from Seoul). My friend lives here and this picture was taken about two weeks after the line opened. DUDE. The station is so sparkly and newwww~ So clean and bright. It was really cool. It even has a new type of subway car that drives without a driver. It is automated and mini! So it’s significantly smaller than normal subway cars. There is a huge window in the front of the car so you can actually see the inside of the tunnel!! Perfect for children or just enjoying the view 🙂
Taking a taxi in Korea is not as bad as I thought it’d be honestly. I’ve heard so many horror stories of drivers ripping people off or being rude because they’re foreigners. I fortunately did not get ripped off or was discriminated against. There were some rude drivers though. Hailing the cab is the hardest part. I was partying in Hongdae late one night and although there were a million taxis in the streets, almost none stopped to even hear where my destination was. They all just zoomed right past me. I even had two friends who also tried and failed for 30 minutes. Needless to say our arms got tired and we eventually went inside a pizza parlor to get some foooood. I asked the cashier what was the deal and he said it is virtually impossible to get a cab past midnight in Hongdae or any other nightlife area. Two big reasons for this: the cab already have passengers inside or they have already been reserved. Kakao has an app “Kakao Taxi” that lets you reserve a taxi ahead of time just like uber. These things drastically reduce your chances of getting a cab. Unfortunately Kakaotaxi cannot be downloaded on non-korean made phones. If you bought your phone and your phone plan in Korea you can probably get it but I got my phone in America so no dice. Thankfully after pizza we eventually found a nice taxi driver who was done for the night but drove us home even though it was farther than most drivers are willing to go.
Taxi prices are really good. soo cheap. compared to New York or any other U.S. city taxis are cheap in korea. I took a 20 minute taxi ride at midnight that only cost me about $5. Most Seoul taxis are cheap! If your’re outside the city it might cost more so beware. Naver has a cool tool that shows you how much your taxi ride will be based on your destination and location. (my friend showed me this ^^)
Another bad thing I encountered: crazy ass drivers. I rode a taxi going to my cousin’s house in Songtan (2 hours south of Seoul) around midnight because the trains stopped for the night. The guy was nice and everything but he was such an aggressive driver. I was in the front seat and shared the cab with two other people but the driver had no regard for us. He was some sort of speed demon. He drove 20 miles over the speed limit in neighborhood and ran past stoplights numerous times. He’s lucky there weren’t a lot of cars around or we would have died. He was so crazy weaving through roads and doing so many illegal things…like actually dangerous things. I didn’t think to say anything because the other two people were in a rush and he was trying to get them there in time. Later I found out that this was not normal behavior and he was in fact reckless in this country too. LOL. but I survived so I guess that’s all that matters.
Taking the public bus in Korea was by far the most difficult mode of transportation. Simply because I did not understand how to know my bus was coming. There were plenty of bus stations and signs that worked similarly to the subway stations but…alas..I could not do it alone. My native friend always went on the bus with me and led me everywhere. Even he got confused! First of all buses are really crowded. Smushing against people is not something I freaking enjoy. The bus is cheap and you can use a T-Money card or a credit card for payment. You beep your card upon entering the bus and beep it when you get off too! Don’t just walk off the bus! Just watch what everyone else is doing and follow suit~ Most buses also have little automated voices that tell you where you’re going. And they have the side buttons you press to let the driver know to stop at the next station. This is pretty much the extent of my knowledge on bus systems, sowwy!
That is all for this installation of getting around in Korea! Until next time lovelies~
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