Seoul Subway 101
The Seoul metropolitan area has one of the worlds largest subway systems in the world. you are able to travel from one end of the city to another, a journey that can take 2 to 3 hours for as little as $3. After 5 years of being a daily commuter these are some of the tips and tricks we have picked up.
Keep your subway card charged
One of thing that ruins your day is not being able to get through the subway turnstiles and having to find an ATM and reload your card. This can cause you to become late for an appointment and cause embarrassment. Tend to put a large amount on the card each month, around $50 after pay day and keep a close eye on the amount in the later days of the month. Also, some of the newer bank cards and Credit cards allow direct deduction from your account, this is by far the easiest solution but can be difficult to acquire if you’re visiting or have only been in the country for a short time.
Bonus hint- If you’re going to be riding the subway more than 2 times a day, each station has a special card that costs $40 to recharge, but it allows 50 or so rides in a 30 day period. It basically equates out to 10 free subway rides compared to the normal t-money amount. However because of the limited period (30 days) its only worth it if you are riding the subway 3 to 4 times a day, almost every day.
Where to sit?
During the daytime, seats on the subway are generally easy to come by. However in rush hour periods (7-10 am and 6-9pm), the subway cars turn into mobile sardine cans. It’s best to avoid traveling at all during these periods. However, if you must travel, here are a few hints: Try and get on the last or the first subway car. These tend to be the least packed areas. You can usually grab a seat here. Also the largest influx of people getting on or off the subway tend to be at transfer stations. So keep a look out for them coming up. During the transfer station its generally easy to get a seat from a fellow rider who is getting off the train, and just before the doors open allowing the new passengers to enter the train.
This designates extra large areas for handicapped riders to park their wheelchairs. Seoul is not the most handicapped accessible city in the world, which is a sad, but true statement. Its semi-rare to see someone using a wheelchair on the subway so you can make good use of this extra area as a leaning stand up area. However you better move your ass if someone with a wheelchair gets on.
Similar areas to stand and lean on are also present in the first and last subway cars, on the wall behind the driver’s area. However, this area is again reserved for people bringing their bikes on the subway, which, is a slightly more happening occurrence than spotting a wheelchair.
However, the best spot to seek space on a packed subway ride is the small areas between the subway cars. Everyday riders seem to have a fear of standing in them. So they are usually empty and a great place to lean. However people moving from one car to another can cause some discomfort as they pass back and forth. Also these areas are tough to get out of if you have to transfer. Only use these if you will be riding on the same line for an extended period of time. They also make a great place to have a phone call if you can shut both the doors. This allows you to have any discussion in a public place free from the ears of potential eavesdroppers.
Where to wait?
While waiting on the subway platform make sure you wait off the left or ride side of the doors. There should be a large open space for the people exiting the train. There is nothing worse when getting off a train to a wall of people who awkwardly push through to get a spot on the train. Don’t be an asshole. It’s public transportation, not your own private train.
When traveling with friends
When traveling, try and keep the noise down to a minimum. Technically not illegal, you can drink on the train, although you do look like an ass hat when you do it. If its a must, brown bag that shit. Everyone can smell it. But sometimes… out of sight, out of mind.
The subway system is one of the best thing about living here, The ability to move freely and quite quickly across the massive urban landscape makes it a great benefit of living and visiting Seoul. Subway stations tend to be about 1 km or so apart from each other. If visiting or traveling through and you want to use the subway , the App Jihachul is a great smart phone program that works on and off line as a guidance map to get all across the city to all your favorite spots.