The following topics I will discuss are pretty important if you want to make the most of your time abroad—especially in South Korea. With the recent exponential development of Korea, you might already be aware of their extensive public transportation system. If you are unfamiliar with it, as I was, it is okay! I will help you out to the best of my ability.
First things first, to be able to do any moving that is not with your own car or your own body, you need a thing called a T-Money card.
It’s the currency of transportation and small convenience store snacks. These can be purchased from any convenience store and can be loaded with money there and also within the metro system.
Once you have your card, stop and get a few different apps. See the List below:
It may seem like I am biased with the Kakao service on my list, but that was only because I could not figure out how to get my Naver app to work in English. For my time in Seoul, I used the Kakao suite of apps, but looking back on it Naver maps was quite like Google or Apple Maps if you are familiar with those apps.
For a little description of how I used each Kakao suite app, we first look at KakaoMap. I used this one for general locations of places. Which metro route was it closest to? What exit would I take once I got nearby? I used it as a navigator once I got to the station.
The KakaoMetro app was for navigating from the current station to the destination station. It did so by offering the fastest, or simplest route (if you’re a beginner), and real time updates on when the trains will arrive. Tip: if you’re not in a hurry to get somewhere don’t be too frightened if you see people running passed you. They have a schedule they’re trying to make. If you’re like me (after I became comfortable using the system) and realize the next train won’t come for another 5-10 minutes, then you’ll start trotting too. I just didn’t want to waste my daylight!
I did not use the KakaoBus version as much because I did not use buses as frequently as the metro, but I also hear that it is simple as well once you use it often.
Although you are in a Korea where the official language is Korean, it is heavily traveled by foreigners. So within the transportation system are many maps, signs, and announcements in various languages to help travelers out. Always double check which way you are going on the metro route because that will save a lot of time and heartache in the long run. I say this from personal experience!
My first time attempting to navigate public transportiation, I followed the crowd and ended up almost going the wrong direction. Luckily the doors opened, and I walked to the other side to get on the correct train. If this happens to you, don’t panic! Just get off on the next stop and reroute yourself using signs, maps, and apps.
I suggest going in a small group size at first so you can get your bearings together, and once you feel comfortable you can try a solo adventure! You’ll feel invincible once you can navigate the transportation system by yourself.
As invincible as you might feel, the subway systems are not 24 hours so if you find yourself out during the non-operational times (which I found myself a few times) a bonus app to have is Kakao T (T as in Taxi). It works much better than trying to hail a cab from the side of a road and may also prevent the taxi drivers from trying to scam you as a foreigner—which I have also experienced. But once you get a taxi, how do you get back to home base?
Know the basics of the place you are staying, including: the name in both English and Korean, and maybe the closest subway station to your location. That way if they do not understand where the place is they can get you to the station and you can walk from there.
This was just a brief overview of some steps I took to get familiar with the transportation system in Korea. By no means is this all you should do, but think of it as a starter guide. Did I leave something out? Anything unclear? Leave a comment below and I’ll make sure to update you!
Until Next Time!
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