Seoul has an excellent, user-friendly subway system which connects up with destinations well beyond the city borders, including Suwon and Incheon. The minimum fare of ₩1350 (₩1250 with a T-Money card) takes you up to 12km. In central Seoul the average time between stations is just over two minutes, so it takes around 25 minutes to go 10 stops. Some top-end hotels and a few sights are a 15-minute walk from a subway station but you can hail taxis from the closest station.
Most subway stations have lifts or stair lifts for wheelchairs. Escalators are common, but you’ll do a fair amount of walking up and down stairs and along corridors. Neighbourhood maps, including ones with digital touch screens, inside the stations help you figure out which of the subway exits to take. The closest station and exit number is provided for all listings.
Regular orange- or grey-coloured taxis are a good deal for short trips. The flagfall for 2km is ₩3000 and rises ₩100 for every 144m or 35 seconds after that if the taxi is travelling below 15km/h. A 20% surcharge is levied between midnight and 4am. Deluxe taxis are black and cost ₩5000 for the first 3km and ₩200 for every 164m or 39 seconds, but they don’t have a late-night surcharge.
Few taxi drivers speak English, but most taxis have a free interpretation service whereby an interpreter talks to the taxi driver and to you by phone. Orange International Taxi has English-speaking drivers; these can be reserved in advance for 20% extra on the regular fare and can be chartered on an hourly or daily basis for longer journeys. All taxis are metered, tipping is not required.
Seoul has a comprehensive and reasonably priced bus system. Some bus stops have bus route maps in English, and most buses have their major destinations written in English on the outside and a taped announcement of the names of each stop in English, but few bus drivers understand English.
Using a T-Money card saves ₩100 on each bus fare and transfers between bus and subway are either free or discounted. Put your T-Money card to the screen as you exit as well as when you get on a bus, just as you do on the subway.
Red buses Long-distance express run to the outer suburbs.
Green buses Link subways within a district.
Blue buses Run to outer suburbs.
Yellow buses Short-haul buses that circle small districts.
Cycling the busy main streets of the city is not recommended but a pedal along the cycling lanes beside the Han River and through several parks can be a pleasure. Bicycles can be rented at several parks along the Han River including on Yeouido, Ttukseom Resort, Seoul Forest Park and Olympic Park. Rental is ₩3000 per hour and you’ll need to leave some form of ID as a deposit. There’s also free bicycle rental from designated subway stations.
Reservations need to be made for water taxis which can be boarded at 12 stations along the Han River: Jamsil Pier, Ttukseom Resort, Seoul Forest, Jamweon Pier, Ichon Geobukseon Naruteo, Yeoui 119, Yeouinaru Station, Yanghwa Dangsan Station, Yanghwa Ferry, Seonyu-do, Mangwon and Nanji.
Commuter services run between Yeouido and Ttsukseom and Yeouido and Jamsil (₩5000; 7am to 8.30am and 6.30pm to 7.30pm) on weekdays. The taxis can also be hired for private tours (for up to seven passengers) ranging from ₩50,000 to ₩130,000 for trips of 20 minutes to one hour.
Car & Motorcycle
Driving is on the right, but due to the traffic jams, the impatience and recklessness of other drivers and the lack of street names, directional signs and parking, we recommend first-time visitors to Seoul give driving a miss. Public transport and taxis are cheap and convenient.
To rent a car you must be over 21 and have both a driving licence from your own country and an International Driving Permit. The latter must be obtained abroad as they’re not available in Korea. Incheon International Airport has a couple of car-rental agencies. Try KT Kumho or Avis. Daily rates start at ₩80,000.
Tickets & Passes
Bus, subway, taxi and train fares can all be paid using the rechargeable touch-and-go T-Money card (eng.t-money.co.kr), which gives you a ₩100 discount per trip. The basic card can be bought for a nonrefundable ₩2500 at any subway station booth, bus kiosks and convenience stores displaying the T-Money logo; reload it with credit at any of the aforementioned places and get money refunded that hasn’t been used (up to ₩20,000 minus a processing fee of ₩500) at subway machines and participating convenience store before you leave Seoul.
Thanks to Lonely Planet for information about South Korea Seoul