Best Apps for Seoul: Subway 지하철

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Korea’s subway system is kickass.

Trains that arrive on time, are clean, travel fast, have racks for you to put your bags on, segregated carriages for those who need seats – I was so impressed by their system while I was there. Taking the train no longer felt like a drag, I actually enjoyed my commute. (The bus system was something I didn’t try because it was mind-boggling to say the least) Their app is the cherry on top of the already delectable fresh cream cake, and it’s equally, if not more impressive.

The app is called Subway 지하철 and can be found on the Apple Store and Android Play Store. The Android version is a bit different and I don’t have an Android device to show you a tutorial on, but it should be kind of similar to the iOS version.

To take the subway, you’ll need a T-money card. Go to the nearest convenience store (GS25/Story Way/etc.) and ask for a T-money card. The card alone costs ₩2,500 with no value but you can top it up on the spot. 

First of all, changing the language.

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Okay, so now your app is in English. Just a quick demo using two of my daily trips.

On Fridays, I make this one special pilgrimage to all of my favourite places in Seoul. This means beginning from Gangnam (Line 2) to Myeongdong (Line 4) for street food and lunch, then heading to Sinchon (Line 2) for shopping at U-Plex, then ending the day with the language exchange at You Are Here Cafe near Hongdae / Hongik University (Line 2) and then making the trip back to Gangnam (Line 2) again.

Those are days I easily clock 16,000 steps, or 12.0 km. In the first weeks when I was unfamiliar with the subway map, this app helped to plot my journey.

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Note that I chose Sinchon as the arrival point instead of Hongik. This is because when you choose Hongik with Myeongdong as a through point, you are unable to select Sinchon. The app does not allow for selection of 2 through points. Also, the route with Hongik as an arrival point involves taking the train from Myeongdong to Seoul to Gongdeok, Daeheung before going to Hongik – and that train takes a long, long time to come. 🙂

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Both of these routes are pretty palatable, but I usually choose the fastest route so that I can stop over at Express Bus Terminal (Line 3) for more shopping if I feel like I need it.

Demonstrating with another route – this is my occasional weekday route and my regular Sunday route. There is a cafe at Apgujeong Rodeo (Bundang Line) called The Min’s Cafe that is owned by 2AM’s Changmin’s parents, and is frequented by BTS. Talk about incentive to go. 🙂 More on this cafe another day, but my usual weekday route would be to The Min’s and back, or on Sundays with the girls, we meet at Apgujeong Rodeo and then walk 2km past Jellyfish Ent. and Bighit Ent. (in the hopes of serendipity) before ending the day at Sinsa (Line 3) where I detour into Garosugil for supper or sometimes tarot reading.

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Topping Up Your T-Money Card

Go to the top-up machines located at the stations, and select English. It’s fully guided. 🙂

More tips for navigating the subway:

– While transiting, look closely at the signages. Recognize the major stops along your route, major transit stations, and follow the signages closely.
For eg. the signs for transit at Express Bus Terminal (Line 3) will say Jamsil in one direction and Sadang in another. If you’re heading to Gangnam, go towards the Jamsil station. There is no way to hop over to the other Line 2 platform once you’re on the wrong one, you’ll have to go back to the Line 3 platform and walk the entire length to get to the other side of the Line 2 station. Especially if you’re catching the last train.. this is a fair warning 😉

– Whenever you’re looking for a destination, look for the nearest subway exit as well. There is substantial distance between the subway exits, especially at major stations like Gangnam (Line 2), City Hall (Line 1/2), Seoul Station (Line 1)

– There are subway stations with very similar names, like Sinchon (Line 2) and Sincheon (Line 2).. same line, in opposite directions.

– Say you’ve been out all night and it’s time to go home. It’s around 11:30PM/12:00MN and you see a last train. If you’re not crossing the Han river, it’s okay to take a taxi, but if you’re going across the Han river (like Sinchon to Gangnam), take the train as far as you can. Sometimes the train stops at Daerim, or Sillim. It’s OK, just make sure you cross the river before taking the taxi. Or take the opposite direction – whatever gets you across the river before taking a taxi, to save your wallet. Sometimes hitting up a jjimjilbang or staying whereever you’re at till first train is not a bad choice too. Plenty of busking and 24-hour eats along the streets, especially near Hongdae/Sinchon. Enjoy yourself. 🙂

That concludes this sort-of tutorial – hope it helped! If you need any help, just reach me on Telegram or Kakao (ID: @chelseasj). Bon voyage!

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