Tips on getting around Seoul

One of the things I really like about Korea is how easy it is to visit different places without having a car. Buses and trains make it easy to reach even some of the smaller cities in Korea. Whether you’re visiting Korea for a short trip or looking to move to Korea, these tips can make getting around Korea simpler. 

*Disclaimer: This article is not sponsored by any of the apps mentioned and I have not been compensated by any of the companies in question. Links to the apps are from the company’s respective Appstore/ Google Play Store pages. 

Get a Tmoney/Cashbee card

Tmoney and Cashbee cards allow you to ride many of the buses, subways, and even some taxis in Korea. 

Tmoney and Cashbee cards come in a variety of designs such as Kpop groups and characters.

Getting one is fairly simple. You can pick one up at the airport money exchanges/banks, most convenience stores, along with major subway stops as well. Currently, they cost 2,500 won ($2.16 as of 1/13/2020) with no balance on them. 

Loading the cards is also easy. You can take your card to a convenience store such as GS, CU, Emart24, or 7-eleven and pay in cash or card to load money. 

I tend to load my card 10,000 won at a time and that tends to last me a while. If you’re at a subway station, there are also machines there as well where you can recharge your card or check your balance. 

For the most part, it doesn’t matter if you get Cashbee or Tmoney as they function the same. From what I can find; some areas of Southeast Korea (Gyeongsangnam-do) don’t accept Cashbee cards. 

At the front and back of each bus, there’s a card reader and you just tap your card and it will show the amount deducted and your remaining balance. When you get off the bus, you will want to tap again. This will allow you to transfer at a discount within 30 minutes to catch a different bus or subway. 

Download KakaoMap/Naver Maps 

Google maps can provide very basic navigation in Korea, so I tend not to use it while traveling around Korea. Luckily, there are two main app options that include Kakao Maps and Naver Maps. 

Both of these apps let you type in the English/Romanized version of your destination to varying degrees, but it’s always a good idea to have the Hangeul version available as well just in case. 

They can give you up to date information on bus/subway times depending on your location, and in case of KakaoMap, it will also enable you to open up KakaoT and order one. 

A nice feature of both apps is that it will tell you how much the trip will cost so that you can choose whether the taxi, bus, or subway will be the best option. KakaoMap also allows you to set notifications/alerts to let you know when a subway or bus is about to arrive. 

Android users can download KakaoMap

Apple users can access KakaoMap from the Appstore

Download KakaoT

If you want to be able to order a taxi in Korea with your smartphone, KakaoTis the way to go. Ridesharing services don’t currently exist in Korea, and though Uber exists, most taxi drivers make use of the KakaoT app. 

Similar to the navigation apps, it will tell you how much your taxi trip will cost. Personally, I haven’t experienced it, but other friends have said that some taxi drivers have tried to overcharge on taxi fares. By knowing the amount beforehand, you can stay informed and make sure you’re being charged the right amount. 

Usually, I have better luck with searching locations using Hangeul, so having the address saved on your phone can be a good idea. The English/Romanized versions can also work as long as you spell the place correctly as well. 

You can save your card information on the app or pay in person after you have gotten to your destination. You can simply hand your card to the driver or pay in cash (the amount of available change a driver has can vary, so I typically pay with a card). 

Android Version

Apple Version

Walk around

Walking around Seoul can be an adventure all on its own. You can find various little shops, restaurants, and food stands while walking to your destination. 

During warmer months, it’s not uncommon to find street performers covering different Korean and English songs. Hongdae is one of the more popular places, but you can find people listening in quite a few of the tourist areas. 

Winter weather brings out sellers of Bungeoppang (붕어빵) and other street foods. These fish-shaped pastries are usually filled with a semi-sweet red bean paste, but some bakeries also offer chocolate, peanut butter, and cheese-filled options as well. 

Bungeoppang is fairly inexpensive as well. You Can usually get a bag of 4-5 for around 2,000 won and they are best enjoyed while they’re still warm. 

Coffee and tea shops are another location you can find by just walking around. Each cafe has its own vibe or theme and can be a nice respite from cold weather while you plan out the next place to go on your trip. 

Make sure that you are wearing comfortable shoes and clothing whether you plan on walking around or will take the bus/subway. Investing in a good backpack can also make sure that you have everything you need for your day around Seoul. 

Plan for downtime

Even if you taxi to each of your destinations, there will be some downtime while you’re going between places. Wifi is common throughout Seoul and even some buses are equipped with it as well so you can listen to music or watch some shows during your wait. 

Keeping your devices charged can be challenging sometimes, so I try to bring a couple of charge banks in my bag just in case. Having your smartphone can make it simpler to get around Seoul, but a dead battery can cause you some delays. 

If I don’t have my camera with me, I try to take pictures on my phone. Regardless of how you get around Seoul or Korea as a whole, there are a lot of opportunities to photograph the areas around you. 

I like to use my downtime to photograph the world around me. Almost a year into living here in Korea and the discovery of new places isn’t lost on me yet.

When I’m riding on a bus or subway, I’m thinking about where I’m going: planning out where to eat, where to get off, and even what to write about. It makes the downtime go by fast, and I’m able to enjoy every moment of it. 

Deoksugung Stoneway Walkway in Seoul

Seoul can be a great city to visit with a wide range of museums, restaurants, shows, shopping, and whatever else you can think of. With these different tips and information, I hope that your trip to Seoul (or other parts of Korea) can be made a little simpler. Did I miss any other tips or do you have one to share? Have a question that you want to ask? Want to make a suggestion on the next article or destination? 

Comment below and I will try to keep the article up to date or add to it in a future article. You can also ask questions on the Facebook group where you can watch videos, see pictures, and stay up to date on the latest videos and posts from Sapphire Kitsu Travels. Until next time: teach, learn, and explore. 

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