The easiest way to get around a foreign country is to rent a car and be in control of your own schedule. Our family has been relying in car rentals or cabs whenever we travel. Mom tries to stay on the safest side and most convenient way of roaming a city. For her, renting a vehicle is the best.
On the other hand, our South Korea trip didn’t follow her usual path of getting around. I’m somehow a risk-taker and has the eagerness to experience new and adventurous things. For a change, I urged mom to take the metro subway instead of renting a van, which is more costly.
The good part about Residence Unicorn, the place where we stayed, is the hospitality and accommodation we received from Ponny, one of the owners. Acting like a concierge, Ponny assisted us in all our tours and how to get our way around Seoul. On our first day, we met Ponny in her coffee shop to plan our day. She gave us a map of the city, which includes the subway guide, and sat down with us to pinpoint where to ride, where to get off, where to ride next, what to do, so on and so on. She lent us her pocket WiFi for us to take as we move around the busy city of Seoul. In case we get lost, she is just a Whatsapp away! Mom wasn’t too confident about us riding the subway. But because of Ponny’s helpful tips and guide, navigating the city became easier for us.

Seoul Subway Tips:

1. Get your own Seoul Subway map and familiarize yourself with the system. 
Taking the subway in Korea appears to be more complicated compared to Manila’s. If you look at the map closely, you’ll encounter various colored lines representing the subway lines, difficult to pronounce names and intersecting colored lines showing transfer stations. Know your destination and encircle the stations where you should ride and get off.
2. Know what type of ticket to avail.
To purchase your subway ticket, go to the ticketing machine near the subway entrance or exit. Decide whether you’ll get a T-money card or a single journey ticket. T-money card, a rechargeable card, is convenient for tourists as it could be used to pay other transportation fees like in buses, taxis or trains and purchase some items in convenience stores. One card costs around 2,500 won. A single journey ticket is a one-time use to bring you to the station you pick. There is a deposit of 500 won, which you can claim back when you return the ticket after the ride.
Basic fare is around 1,150 won for the first 10km. You’ll enjoy riding the subway knowing this is the cheapest way to explore Seoul.
3. Don’t panic about putting out your phone and using it. 
You are a Filipino when you hide your phone as you use it. In Korea, using phones in the subway is very safe. Almost everyone has their eyes on their phone’s screens, using Facebook or playing games. From my experience, the environment didn’t scare me to keep my gadgets in my bag.
4. Stay on the right side of the escalator if you’re not in a rush.
There are certain stops in Korea, busy stations like Myeongdong and Gangnam, where people walk rapidly like being late for their next meeting. If you cannot speed walk like them in escalators, keep walking on the right lane or stay on the right side of the escalator to avoid conflicts with the locals, especially those who cannot speak in English.
5. Take time to walk around Seoul’s underground shopping malls.
Many of Seoul’s subway stations leads you to underground shopping malls where you can find cheap bargain fashion items, souvenirs, discounted beauty products and so much more. Try checking out Myeongdong and Gangnam’s underground shops.
6. Find cheap snacks in subway stations.
Foodies, this is for us! I was able to purchase from Manjoo Hana and bakery shops on our first day. I planned to skip breakfast but the strong aroma of such stores tempted me not to.

Be vigilant and clever when you take the subway. Remember that not everyone in Seoul can understand your English. Stay on the alert and study your map before jumping in.
Once you survive your first day, you’ll get used to the next ones.

Have you tried taking the subway in Seoul Korea?
Share with me your thoughts! 🙂
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The Food Scout