The Seoul subway system is daunting at first, but with the help of free, English subway maps and bilingual signs/announcements, what seems overwhelming becomes, in fact, very simple. You can find a subway map in English at this website: http://www.nsubway.co.kr/korea/seoul/seoulsubwaymapen.htm.
Note: This website does not contain the two newest lines: Line 9 and the Airport Express (AREX) lines. There still is not a current online English version of this map available. However, if you go into any subway station or tourist help center, you can pick up a hard copy of the current map in English, Japanese, and Chinese. You can also download a current Seoul Subway map onto your smartphone or Ipod.
For each subway line in Seoul, there is a different colour and name. Most subway lines are simply numbered from one to nine, but some of the newer lines are named for their destination, such as the Bundang Line (which goes to Bundang) or the Incheon Line (which goes to… surprise! Incheon!).
The longest subway line is line number one, which not only goes through major stops throughout the city but also goes all the way to Dongincheon and Cheonan on one end (which are both located on the border of Gyeonngi Province to the South and West) and to Ujeongbu to the North border of Gyeonngi. The subway system is immensely useful and one can take it to all different parts of the province.
You can use your T-money card or U-pass card for the subway and the prices will be a bit lower. Even if you buy a ticket at the single ride ticket machine, your transfers will be free. The new ticket vending machines are in several different languages which makes buying a ticket or adding money to your T-money card much easier, since most ticket vendors only speak Korean. If you want to buy a one time use ticket the cost is 1500 won. 1000 won is for the ride and 500 won is for a deposit. In an effort to encourage people to recycle, you will received 500 won back when you insert your used ticket into the ” deposit refund device” machine. It can be found near where you exit the platform. Purchasing a T-Money card is the best way to go, especially if you plan to use public transportation often. You can buy a T-Money card at the subway station ticket vendors or at most convenience stores in Seoul. The cost of the card is 2000 won, and you can add additional money to it at locations all over the city. You can also use your Seoul T-Money card in other cities throughout the peninsula to ride public transportation. For example, there is no reason to purchase a separate T-money card if you want to visit your friends in Busan. You can even use your T-Money card in a taxi, bus, and many of the various vending machines in the subway station including the adorable photo booths.
Here is a list of the lines and their associated colours, as well as some of the major stops on each. Subways tend to arrive every three to five minutes at each station:
- Line number one: dark blue (Cheonan, Suwon, Seoul Station, Yongsan, Jongno, Ujeongbu)
- Line number two: green (Sadang, Sindorim, Gangnam, Hongik University, Ewha Women’s University, Sinchon, Seoul City Hall)
- Line number three: orange ( Suseo, Nambu Bus Terminal, Apgujeong, Express Bus Terminal, Bulgwang, Daewha)
- Line Number Four: blue (Oido, Geumjeong, Seoul Grand Park, Sadang, Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, Nowon, Danggogae)
- Line Number Five: purple (Gimpo International Airport, Mokdong, Yeouido, Jongno 3-ga, Sangil-dong, Mache)
- Line Number Six: brown (Bonghwasan, Korea University, Yaksu, Itaewon, World Cup Stadium, Bulgwang)
- Line Number Seven: dark green (Dobongsan, Nowon, Children’s Grand Park, Banpo, Onsu)
- Line Number Eight: pink (Cheonho, Jamsil, Songpa, Garak Market, Bokjeong, Moran)
- Line Number Nine: gold (Gaehwa, Gimpo, Sinnoheyon,Yeoido, Express Bus Terminal)
- Bundang Line: yellow (Seolleung, Dogok, Suseo, Seohyeon, Ori)
- Incheon Line: periwinkle (Gyeyang, Bupyeong, Incheon Bus Terminal, Dongmak)
- Jungang Line: teal (Guksu, Jungang, Wangsimni, Oksu, Ichon, Yongsan)
- AREX Line: Express Airport Line (Seoul Station, Gimpo Airport, Incheon Aiport)
While most of the subway is underground, when you start getting out into Gyeonngi Province most of the rails and stations will be above ground. Subways run from 5:30 AM to 1 AM on weekdays and 5:30 AM to 12:30 AM on weekends. You can find English subway maps in subway stations as well as in Groove and Eloquence magazines, which are found in expat hangouts all over Seoul.
There are certain seats reserved for the elderly and pregnant women at the front of each car and you are expected not to sit in these designated areas. Also, during rush hours it is polite to line up for the subway. In Korea it is considered polite to give up your seat to an older person, but these days the gesture is rarely seen. If you speak loudly on your cellphone, or to your traveling companion on the subway, you will be given some strange looks from the locals. it is very common to see a Korean person cover their mouth slightly when they take a phone call in public and speak very softly. You also should be very careful not to take up more than one seat (place any carry-on bags or luggage in the overhead racks), and eating while on the subway should also be avoided.