Seoul Public Transport: Getting Around Seoul

Where to buy T Money card? How to use Seoul public transport? What are the Seoul Subway operating hours? Where to find a Seoul subway map in English? Is there a Seoul Subway pass for tourist?

Seoul is a huge mega city which is stretched over 605.2 km², not a surprise if you know there are over 10 million people living in Korea’s capital. With so many inhabitants, it is no wonder that the Seoul public transport system is excellent. Not only is the whole city well connected, using public transportation in Seoul is affordable, fast and convenient to use for foreign visitors. Read on to learn more about getting around Seoul.

Seoul Public Transport

What To Know About Seoul Public Transport

  • Data: To navigate on the transportation in Seoul you’ll need a WiFi connection. Get data or a WiFi egg upon arrival at the airport and never get lost again. More info here.
  • Water: Compared to other countries in Asia, tap water in Korea is some of the safest water. In many subway stations, you’ll fund water fountains, so don’t be afraid to use them.

Seoul Public Transport: Tickets

Even though you can buy individual tickets for the Seoul subway, it is recommended to buy a Seoul transportation card. These cards can be used on the bus, subway and taxi in Seoul and the rest of the country. The benefits of using a T Money or other transport cards are listed below.

  • Each ticket for the bus and subway is 100 won cheaper than when buying individual tickets
  • Saves time. Once in a while you need to top up your card instead of buying a ticket for each ride.
  • No additional fare when transferring between bus and subway (up to 5 free transfers). Without a transportation card you will end up paying two fares. This free transfer only counts if you get onto another bus or metro within 30 minutes after leaving the previous one. Between 9 PM and 7 AM, it is within 1 hour.

There are different types of transportation cards available to buy, but for most travelers getting a simple T Money Card will be good enough.

Seoul Public Transportion ticket

1. T Money Card

A T Money Card is a rechargeable card used to pay transportation fees and it can be used on all public transportation in Korea including buses, subways and taxis. A T Money Card can be purchase online and be picked up at Incheon Airport upon arrival, delivered to your home or bought at any convenience store (cash only) and tourist information centers . The price of the card is between 2500 and 4000 krw. The price depends on the design which is on the card. The fare for the subway using the T Money card on the subway is as follows:

AgeT Money SubwayTicket Subway
Regular (19 years and over)1250 krw1350 krw
Youth (13 – 18 years old)720 krw1350 krw
Child (6 – 12 years old)450 krw450 krw

Note: when buying a T Money card for children under 19, make sure to mention this to the sales person.

An additional fee is charged for the Airport Railroad Line and the Sinbundang Line. After 10 kilometers, an additional fee of 100 won is charged for every additional 5 kilometers.

1.1 Buy T Money Card Online

Listed below are different T Money Cards that can be purchased online. Check what package suits your needs and where the pick up point is located.

  • T Money Card – 3500 krw – Incheon Airport Pick Up – Buy here
  • T Money Card – 3500 krw – Taoyuan or KL Airport Pick Up – Buy here
  • T Money Card – 3000 krw – Malaysia Home Delivery – Buy here
  • T Money Card – 2400 krw – Incheon Airport Pick Up – Buy here
  • 4G Sim Card + T Money Card – 23 000 krw – Incheon Airport Pick Up – Buy here

1.2 Korea Tour Card T Money

If you are planning on doing a lot of shopping while in Seoul, it might be worth buying the special Korea Tour Card from T Money. This card is exclusive for foreign travelers and it offers additional discounts at department stores and touristic attractions. This card costs 4000 krw and can be purchased at convenience store in major tourist areas, Incheon Airport Railway Travel Center and Seoul Metro vending machines. The card works just like a regular T Money card. More info here.

1.3 T Money Refund

If you have money left on your T Money card and want to get a refund you can go to any convenience store and ask for a remaining balance refund. This is only possible if the balance is between 500 krw or 20 000 krw. If you balance is over 20 000 krw you need to go to the Smart Card Office ( address: 10th Floor, Seoul City Tower #581, Namdaemunro 5ga, Jong-gu, Seou, 100-741). 500 krw is charged when asking for a refund.

2. M Pass card

An M Pass is a Seoul subway pass for tourist traveling multiple days (also valid in Jeju). The pass offers 20 rides a day from the moment the pass is activated. Normally tourist won’t take 20 rides a day but if you need to be all over the city, this pass might be worth it. The pass can be bought in Incheon Airport, Seoul Station and Myeongdong Tourist Information Center. More info here.

DaysPrice Price after 5 PM
1 day pass15 000 krw12 000 krw
2 day pass23 000 krw 20 000 krw
3 day pass30 500 krw 27 500 krw
5 day pass47 500 krw 44 500 krw
7 day pass64 500 krw 61 500 krw

3. Discover Seoul Pass

The Discover Seoul Pass is a special pass for tourist coming to Seoul. The pass is a T Money card and gives instant free access to over 35 attractions. Additionally, the card offers discounts for certain big department stores and performances in Seoul. If you are planning visiting major sites and attractions, this pass is really worth it. The DSP can be purchase online for Incheon airport pick up or in major tourist information centers in Seoul. The passes bought online are 5% cheaper then on location purchases. More info here.

TimePrice
24 hours39 000 krw
48 hours55 000 krw
72 hours 70 000 krw

Note: the special BTS limited edition Discover Seoul Pass does not have the T Money function.

To use the DSP as a T Money card it first has to be topped up. The card can be topped up in the subway and convenience stores. Initially there is no credit on the card. When the 24/48/72 hours of the card run out, you can continue to use the card as a transportation card.

4. Pay By Cash

Instead of buying a transportation card, it is also possible to purchase individual tickets on the Seoul public transport like bus or subway. This can only be done using cash and it has a couple of disadvantages. Namely, each ride is 100 won more expensive than when using a card and when transferring from bus to subway an additional ticket has to be purchased.

4.1 Pay By Cash In Subway

Single journey tickets can be bought at the vending machines located in each subway station. The instructions on the machine are in English and are very straightforward. Namely: pick the English menu, select ‘Single Journey Ticket’, pick your destination, select the amount of passengers, insert cash into the machine.

When purchasing a single journey ticket a 500 krw deposit is required. You can get back the deposit upon arrival at the destination when returning the card.

4.2 Pay By Cash In Bus

Upon entering the bus, next to the driver there will be a money box which you can put your cash money in. Try to pay the exact amount in coins or bills and avoid paying with bills over 10 000 krw as you will receive your change in 100 krw coins.

5. Korean Bank Card

If you are permanently living in Korea and have a Korean bank account, you can go to your bank and get a bank card which is both a debit card and T money card. This means you won’t need to recharge your transportation card and you get charged once a month. The money gets taken automatically from your bank account. This card can be used on all public transportation methods in the whole country including on the bus, subway and taxi. The transportation fare using a bank card is the same as when using a T Money Card.

Seoul Public Transport

Listed below is everything you need to know about using the Seoul public transport system. It includes how to use the metro, buses, city tour buses, taxis and city bike.

1. Seoul Subway

The metro or subway is a convenient type of Seoul public transport as its easy to use and fast. You can get from one side of the city to the other in less than an hour. The total distance of all the subway lines in Seoul is 287 km, with 70% of this running underground. On the Seoul subway network there are over 22 subway lines, 291 subway stations and it connects Seoul, Incheon, the Gyeonggi and Chungnam province. The subway is by far the most convenient way for getting around Seoul. An English Seoul subway map can be found here.

Each subway line has its own colour and name in both Korean and English. In all subway stations and inside the Seoul metro all maps, signs and announcements will be both in English and Korean. On popular lines these will also be in Chinese and Japanese.

seoul subway map

Note: bikes can be brought on the subway (except for the Sinbundang line) but only in the last carriages and on weekends. Small pets are allowed on the subway, only if they can be carried in a bag or stroller.

1.1 Seoul Subway Operating Hours

The Seoul subway operation hours are from 5:30 to 24:00, but this differs from line to line. The estimated travel time between two stations in central Seoul is 2-3 minutes and the time it takes to transfer in between 2 lines is usually around 3 minutes. Most trains come every 5 minutes, but again, this differs from line to line.

seoul subway pass for tourist

1.1 Seoul Subway Fare

The starting price for a regular subway ticket using a T Money card is 1250 krw for the first 10 kilometers. For every 5 kilometers and additional charge of 100 krw will be added. After 50 kilometers an additional charge of 100 krw will be charged per 8 kilometers.

AgeT Money SubwayTicket Subway
Regular (19 years and over)1250 krw1350 krw
Youth (13 – 18 years old)720 krw1350 krw
Child (6 – 12 years old)450 krw450 krw

The Incheon airport railroad line and Sinbundang line are the only lines that are more expensive than the other lines.

2. Seoul Bus

Using the Seoul bus is very convenient, but for first timers to Seoul, taking the bus is more difficult than taking the subway. Most main bus routes have signs in both English and Korea but there are quite a few buses and bus stops that don’t. Many bus drivers in Seoul speak no or little English.

There are 8 types of buses running in Seoul and each one has a different colour. Namely the blue, green, yellow, red, long distance, town, airport and midnight bus. Each bus has a different fare and operation frequency.

seoul bus app

1.1 Seoul Bus Fare

The most common type of bus, the blue and green one have a starting fee of 1200 krw for an adult. After the first 10 kilometers you will be charged an additional 100 krw per 5 kilometers. Children under the age of 6 ride the bus for free if they are accompanied by a guardian (maximum 3 children).

Type of bus T Money BusTicket Bus
Blue Bus/Green Bus 1200 krw 1300 krw
Red Bus2300 krw 2400 krw
Yellow Bus 1100 krw1200 krw
Late-Night Bus2150 krw2250 krw
Shuttle (Town) Bus900 krw1000 krw

3. Seoul Taxi

If you want to get somewhere fast and you don’t mind paying a bit extra, than getting a taxi is another good option, especially when traveling in group. Taxis in Seoul are rather inexpensive compared to other countries in the world and they are easy to find. Just a 5 minutes wait at the side of the pavement and you’ll get a taxi. Standard taxis can fit up to 4 people. Tip: if you are planning on using taxis regularly, install Kakao Taxi App. On the app you can request a taxi and see the ratings of the driver.

Note: during peak hours it is not recommended to take a taxi, getting there by subway will be way faster as you can be stuck for hours.

3.1 Types Of Seoul Taxis

There are 5 different types of taxis, each with a different colour. The standard taxis are the orange, white, grey and sky blue taxis. These are mid-sized sedans and are the cheapest ones to take. The sky blue taxi is an electronic taxi which was only introduced earlier this year. Deluxe taxis are black and more comfortable than regular taxis, they are also more expensive. The black jumbo taxis can accommodate up to 10 passengers, these are more expensive, but usually due to the size of the group it works out cheaper per person. International taxis are orange but have a sign on the top of their taxi saying ‘international taxi’. The drivers of these taxis can speak a foreign language like English or Japanese. These taxis are more expensive than regular taxis.

If you are going to or coming from the airport it is recommended to book a taxi online, you can leave the time and pick up address when booking. This is more convenient than waiting at the side of the street and certain taxis won’t be willing to take you to the airport as then they have to drive all the way back. Book a taxi here.

transportation in seoul

3.2 Seoul Taxi Fare

The fare depends on the distance and the type of taxi you’ll be taking. Listed below are the fees for the regular and deluxe taxi. Each taxi has a meter and the taxi driver should turn on the meter when starting to drive.

FareRegularDeluxe/Jumbo
Base fare3800 krw / 2 km6500 krw / 3 km
Distance charge100 krw / 132 m200 krw / 151 m
Idle charge100 krw / 31 s200 krw / 36 s
Late-night surcharge20% from 12 AM ~4 AMNone

3.3 Paying In A Taxi

There are 3 ways of paying in a taxi, by card, cash or using the T Money Card. Make sure to ask for a receipt when leaving the taxi, just in case you would forget your wallet or phone, you can call the number on the receipt.

It is acceptable to tip taxi drivers in Korea. Normally tipping in South Korea is not done, but when paying with cash in a taxi you can tell the driver to keep the change.

seoul public transport: seoul taxi

4. Seoul City Tour Bus

There are Seoul City Tour Buses driving around the major attractions in Seoul to make visiting the highlights easier for foreign tourists. For only 18 000 krw (13 000 krw for the Gangnam Tour) you can use the city tour bus all day and get off or on at any stop you want. There are 4 different courses to pick from, namely the Downtown Palace Namsan Course, Panorama Course, Night Course and the Around Gangnam Course. Tickets have to be purchased in advance online or at one of the ticket selling points in Seoul. Buy tickets for here.

5. Seoul City Bike

The last option is the Seoul City Bikes which can be rented at multiple points around Seoul. Renting one of these bikes is especially worth it when spending time at the Han River. A map of all the Seoul city bike points can be found here.

If you have a Discover Seoul Pass, you can rent a bike free of charge. Otherwise it is 5000 krw for one day or 1000 krw per hour (less than 5 hours).

Seoul Navigation Apps

When looking to use the Seoul public transport like subway or bus it is recommended to download some of the navigation apps on your smartphone. The best apps to have are Seoul Subway, Kakao Maps or Naver Maps.

seoul subway app

The Seoul subway app is the best to navigate on the Seoul Subway. The app is in English, doesn’t require an internet connection and gives real time updates. Download it here. More info here if you want check the Seoul subway map English desktop version. If you want to use the bus then getting Kakao Maps or Naver Maps is necessary. For using Kakao or Naver Maps an internet connection is required and most of the text on the app will be in Korean. Google Maps also works in Korea when it comes to taking the bus or subway. It doesn’t work for navigating in a car or on foot.

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Are you coming to Seoul and will be using the Seoul public transport system? Have any questions about getting around Seoul? Is there anything to add to this article? Let me know in the comment section below.

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