Cultural Xplorer

Navigating Seoul’s Subway System [+Video]

Riding the subway in Seoul is an easy, fast, and efficient way to move around the city. The entire system is in both Korean and English, making it very simple for English speakers to use.
Riding the Subway: T-Money Card

There are two ticket options for using the Seoul Subway: A T-Money Card and a Single-Use T-Money Card. I recommend purchasing the T-Money Card as the single-use costs more and has to be purchased each time you enter the subway.

The T-Money card is the transit card needed to move around on the Seoul subway and bus system. It can also be used to pay for taxi rides! The T-Money card is very economical and only needs to be purchased once and refilled each time it runs low.

To purchase a T-Money card, use one of the T-Money machines or go to the counter at any convenience store (which are located in most subway stations) and ask for the card (₩ 2500).

Adding money to the T-Money card is simple and can be done inside a convenience store with a T-Money symbol, or directly at a T-Money machine.

At the T-Money reloading machine, directions are provided in Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese. Here are the steps for adding money to the T-Money card at the machine:

Entering the Subway in Seoul

To enter the subway, you need to tap your card on the – that states ‘Place Your Card Here’ (카드 대는 곳).

The top number on the reader tells you how much money it costs for the base fare ( 1050) and the bottom number tells you how much money is left on your card.

If you do not tap you card hard enough, or if there is not enough money on your card, you will not be able to enter. At that time, a little gate will block your entry and a small alarm will go off.

Finding Your Way In the Seoul Subway System

Finding where you need to go on the subway is extremely simple and there is signage in each station telling you where the exits are, where the transfer points are, which direction each train is heading in, and the current, previous, and following stop names.

Line maps are located on every platform telling you in which direction the train is heading in along with the names of the stops in that direction.

Boarding & Exiting the Train in Seoul

The platforms are lined with glass doors that align with the doors of the subway cars. In front of each door, there are feet and arrows. The arrows have numbers on them (i.e. 3-1) and are the same on each platform to assist people in finding each other. The feet tell you where to stand in order to board the train.

It is polite to wait on the side of the doors as people exit the train before boarding, however you will find that many people do not always wait until people get off before squeezing their way on.

When you are exiting the train, there will be a screen telling you what stop you are at, what transfers are available at the station, and on which side the doors will open on.

Riding the Subway in Seoul

Riding the subway is very convenient, and like any major city can get very crowded during rush hours and holidays.

The seating all the way on the far ends of each car are meant for the elderly, so avoid sitting in those seats.

The seats in the middle of the car can be used by anyone and – are conveniently located above the seats to hold onto.

Exiting the Seoul Subway System

The first thing that needs to be remembered is that you have to ‘tap-out’ of the subway system since it charges by distance traveled. You can tap-out the same way that you tapped-in to enter the system.

Each subway station has multiple exits that point in various directions. Signage around the subway station and maps located in each subway station will help you to know where to go in the local area.

If you are meeting someone, it is best to ask them which exit you will meet at as some stations (such as Gangnam Station – 강남역) can have upwards of 12 exits.

Additional Notes + Video

– Downloading a subway map application onto your smartphone is a great idea for navigating the large system. I used the Metroid HD app for Android, however, there are a number of other free apps available for downloading.

– Cell phone and data service are available on the train, both above ground and underground.

– Bathrooms are free of charge and are located in each subway station, generally near the exits.

– The T-Money card can be used in all cities in Korea that have metro systems (such as Busan and Daegu), however they cannot be recharged in these cities.


Have you been to Seoul? Did you find the system easy to navigate?