The QiRanger Adventures

Teaching in Korea: Mass Transit

with 2 comments

One of the first thing I did when I made the decision to come to Korea to teach was sell my beloved Toyota 4Runner. now I will be the first to admit, that I loved that thing. I took it everywhere and in seven years managed to put on over 150,000 miles and never had any trouble with it. So ditching my very mode of transportation and coming to Korea scared me a little, since I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get around as easily as I did back in Arizona.

The truth of the matter is, I love not having a car and don’t miss it one bit. Sure there are times when I’d like to have a car or motorbike when I go shopping (especially in the show or rain), but that is a rare occasion. Here in the Seoul metro area, I can get anywhere I need to be with the use of one of, if not, the best mass transit system in the world.

Since I live in the Seoul area that’s what this post will focus on. That being said, the rail and inter-city bus system can get you anywhere you need to go around the country. Furthermore, most cities have some sort of transportation system as well.

Now let’s get back to Seoul… I was recently on the phone with an old professor friend of mine and he shared with me he was in Washington, DC and loved being able to get around on their metro system. He asked me if there was anything like that here in Seoul, and I honestly laughed. The Seoul metro system is massive. Larger than anything I was prepared for when I first got here.

Seoul Subway System from a few years ago (that means it's even bigger now)

As you can see, the system is sprawling and connects every inch of Seoul together. Furthermore, there’s an amazing system of local, city, inter-city, and express buses that enable one to get anywhere. Even more, there’s no shortage of taxis available for a direct route from A to B should you want to go that route.

There are some drawbacks though.

First, the system shuts down around midnight. This means that if you’re going into Seoul for a night of partying, you need to make the decision to either go home at 11:30pm or stay out all night until the first buses run at 5:30am the next day. That’s the second drawback. Since the system closes so early in the evening, 5:30am is a late start in my opinion. 4am would be a better call.

One thing that is great, is that users can load up their T-Money cards (actual cards, chips in their cell phones, or key fobs) and ride the system. The fare is automatically deducted and calculates when and where you used the card. This is important, as sometimes you’ll start off on a bus and then transfer to a subway to get to your final destination. Not only do you get a reduced fare for using the card, but your transfers are free. Some banks even can tie your debit card into the system, thus eliminating the need to ever recharge the card.

So put your fears to rest. There’s never any problem with getting around in Seoul.


Written by Steve Miller

November 16, 2009 at 5:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. Looks and sounds a lot like Tokyo. I am out in the sticks…so no mass transportation system in our town, just the bus lines. Of course the bullet train and two other train lines go through. The Tokyo lines are easy once you figure them out, but alas, after 18 years of being here, I still only know ONE line in Tokyo! God forbid if I had to get on another line! LOL


    November 16, 2009 at 7:26 am

    • Some of the smaller towns only have one subway line, but all the towns have some sort of rail connection… or a way to get to one via bus. There are times I’d like to experience rural Korea… but I do love my Seoul. I have a huge map in English of our subway here!!!


      November 16, 2009 at 10:11 am

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