Living in Korea Tourism TOURISM TALK

Travel Korea via Subway / Metro – Intro & How to take Korean subway / metro

Travel Korea via Subway / Metro - (1) Intro & How to take Korean subway / metro
Image by 스마트랜스 from Pixabay

Hello fellow traveler! Congratulations on choosing your next destination! Oh, wait, you are not 100% sure if Seoul is the right place to visit? Hmm, let me think for a second. If I’m guessing correctly, you are hesitant because:

Well, the good news is that the first three reasons can be easily refuted.

  • You don’t have to speak Korean – although Korean people will certainly appreciate and it will further enrich your travel experience if you at least tried learning some, not knowing the language won’t be an obstacle. English is widely used in Korea and road signs and street signs are also written in it. More importantly, most Koreans have (especially the younger generation) a good understanding of the language, and they are extremely considerate when it comes to helping a lost foreigner. But just in case, you might want a quick crash course on Korean etiquette – Korean Etiquette 101 – The do’s and dont’s of Korean culture.
  • You don’t have to know your way around in Seoul – Yes, it is a big city, but it is not a maze. The streets are clean and well maintained, so simple planning ahead and a copy of the tourist map [Amazon] (or Google map, if you prefer) will guide your way through.
  • You don’t have to have a car – now this is what makes Seoul stand out. Seoul’s public transportation system, especially the subway (or metro, depending on where you come from) system is one of the best in the world. It is punctual, safe, and so well-connected to cover every corner of the city. You can go anywhere you want, just by taking the subway alone. Did I mention it? It is dirt cheap.

As you can see, Seoul is a safe, clean, and friendly place to visit, and taking advantage of its subway system gives you the freedom and power to explore! And we are here to give you a complete guide on how to fully enjoy all of Seoul’s gems, only by taking the subway alone – something never done by any other travel guides before..

So what are you waiting for? In December 2015 alone, over 11 million tourists visited Korea, and you should join the club!

Oh, and as far as Kim Jong Un is concerned, no one knows what’s on his mind but 50 million Korean people do not seem too concerned and you shouldn’t be either – the South Korean and U.S. Army have an impenetrable defense cordon.

Ok, then! Let’s get on the train!

Due to the constantly changing/developing nature of the city, information such as directions, time and cost provided in this book may be inaccurate or outdated. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you not rely solely on the information contained in this book and always utilize other supplementary tools available to review and confirm the details before heading out the door.

Facts about Seoul Metro System

  1. It is the world’s longest multi-operator metro system by route length.
  2. It was rated as one of the world’s best subway systems by CNN and Jalopnik..
  3. Cutting-edge technology such as 4G LTE, WiFi, DMB, and WiBro are accessible in all stations and trains.
  4. Nearly all stations have platform screen doors, adding an extra layer of security for passengers.
  5. All lines are equipped with T-money smart payment system which incorporates RFID and NFC technology for convenient and speedy automatic payment.
  6. Transfers between lines within the system are free (see the rules below)
  • Total trip has to be less than 10km and has to be paid using T-Money card.
  • You can transfer up to 4 times max.
  • Transfers have to be made within 30 minutes after tapping the T-Money card (it is extended to 1 hour during 9 P.M. – 7 A.M.)
  1. It is the world’s only subway system with full-color LCD screens that display real-time arrival time of trains.
  2. All stops are announced in Korean and English, and some major stops in Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese as well.
  3. Stops are announced with a cool traditional Korean music called gugak. The melodies will get stuck in your head for quite a long time even after you leave Korea.
  4. It is cheap – one-way fare is 1,250 for adults (19+) 1 KRW(about $1 USD), 720 KRW for teens (13-18), and 450 for children (7-12).

Base fair for10 km : T-Money \ Cash
Adults (19+) – 1,250 KRW \ 1,350 KRW
Teens (13-18) – 720 KRW \ 1,350 KRW
Children (7-12) – 450 KRW \ 450 KRW
Under 6 – Free \ Free

  1. Again, paying with T-Money card is way cheaper and it makes a great souvenir we will give you a step-by-step guide on this as well.
  2. The fare above is for the first 10 km. Between 10 to 50km, 100 KRW is added for every 5km. Between 50 to 100km, 100 KRW is added for every 8km. Even still, it is extremely economical.
  3. Children under 6 ride free.
  • Requires ID card to register for the discount.

Types of Subway Cards

Single-ride Card

  • One-way ride only (Not rechargeable).
  • Only 1 card can be purchased at a time.
  • Deposit fee of 500 KRW which is refundable after use.
  • Free transfer not available at some stations.
    • *Seoul Station (Line 1, 4 <—> Gyeongui–Jungang line) Can be purchased at a kiosk in any subway station.
  • Ideal if you only need to take a single ride.

T-Money Card

  • Multiple uses (Rechargeable).
  • Remaining balance is refundable.
  • Free trasnfers (remember – 4 max, >10km, within 30 minutes)
  • Can also be used in combination with bus rides.
  • Has to be purchased at an outlet bearing the T-Money logo (e.g., 7-Eleven, CU, GS25, Mini Stop, Buy The Way, With Me, and etc.)
  • Ideal if you plan on taking many subway rides.
  • Getting a refund can be done by:
  • If less than 20,000 KRW, remaining,
    • Convenient stores listed above.
    • T-money refund center located in subway lines 1~8.
    • ATM machines at a bank (Shinhan, Hana, Woori, Jeju, Nonghyup, Shinhyup, and Post Office).
  • If more than 20,000 KRW but less than 50,000 KRW remaining,
    • -T-money refund center located in subway lines 1~8.
    • -ATM machines at a bank (Shinhan, Hana, Woori, Jeju, Nonghyup, Shinhyup, and Post Office).



  • Foreigners only.
  • Provides 20 rides a day (available in 1/2/3/5/7 day).
  • Expires at midnight of the last day.
  • Can also be used as a T-Money card after adding money to it.
  • Deposit of 4,500 KRW (refundable) and 500 KRW (non-refundable) service charge.
  • Deposit & Remaining T-Money balance is refunded when you return it to any of the selected outlets.
    • Incheon Int’l Airport Passenger Terminal (Gate 5 & 10, 1st Fl.).
    • Seoul Travel Information Centers (+82 32-743-3270).

M-PASS Card Types & Prices
Card Type / Price
1 – day (20 rides) / 10,000 KRW (500 KRW / ride)
2 – day (40 rides) / 18,000 KRW (450 KRW / ride)
3 – day (60 rides) / 25,500 KRW (425 KRW / ride)
5 – day (100 rides) / 42,500 (425 KRW / ride)
7 – day (140 rides) / 59,500 (425 KRW / ride)

Getting a Single-Ride Card

1. Find a “Ticket Vending and Card Reload Device” located in a station.
2. Select your preferred language.
3. Select single-ride from the menu.
4. Find the name of your destination
5. Enter the number of people
6. Insert money
7. Take the card from the vending machine.

Getting Your Deposit Back

For single-ride cards, you can get your entitled deposit refunded once you make your one-way transit. Simply find a “Deposit Refund Device” located inside a station and follow instructions. You will be rewarded with a 500 KRW coin. It doesn’t sound like much, but let us tell you what you can buy with 500 KRW.

  • A cup of PREMIUM coffee at a coffee vending machine
    -A 500ml bottled water (you know you will die if you don’t drink water, right?).
    -100g of bean sprouts
    -10 pcs of disposable dishes

Getting / Charging a T-Money Card

Getting / Charging a T-Money Card

T-Money card has to be purchased first at any of the authorized retailers bearing the T-Money logo :
– 7-Eleven, CU, GS25, Mini Stop, Buy The Way, With Me

  • The least expensive card is 2,500 KRW. You can have money added to it at any of the locations listed above, or at a kiosk inside a station.

  1. Select T-Money option (the rightmost)
  2. Place your T-Money card on the designated slot
  3. Choose the amount of money you wish to add
  4. Done! Enjoy your T-Money card.

Getting an M-PASS Card


As mentioned previously, M-Pass cards can only be purchased at a limited number of locations.

  • Incheon Int’l Airport Passenger Terminal (Gate 5 & 10, 1st Fl.).
  • Seoul Travel Information Centers (+82 32-743-3270 / 032-743-3270 if on Korean line).
  • Since it is a pre-paid card with a specific number of usable rides assigned to it, choose carefully before you make a decision.
  • Any unused portion of the purchased rides will become obsolete and not refunded once past the expiration mark.

Using Your Card

Using Your Korean Subway Card T-Money

At every turnstile security gate, there is a card reader.

  1. Simply place your card (Single-ride, T-Money, M-Pass).
  2. You will hear the beep and the reader will display the amount deducted and the remaining balance.
  3. Pass through the gate and enjoy your ride!

Useful Resources

Korea Subway Info : Metroid (Google App)

  • Provides essential information such as timetable, optimal route calculator, station information.
  • Available in 6 languages: English, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Malay

Subway Korea by Malang Studio Co. Ltd. (iOS App)

  • Provides the latest subway map of Seoul and all subway maps provide real-time transit, timetable, transfer information.
  • Provides optimal route calculator.

1330 Travel Hot Line
+82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
*In Korea, dial 02-1330.
-Friendly operators are available to answer your question!

Guide Books

Lonely Planet Korea 11 (Country Guide) Paperback – Illustrated [Amazon]
Seoul Michelin Red Guide 2020 Paperback [Amazon]

The content you are enjoying is complimentary from Korean Culture Dictionary. If you want to learn more about Korea, from kimchi to K-pop and K-drama clichés, it’s available on Amazon Worldwide!

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