Getting Around Seoul
The best way to get around Seoul is via the subway. You can throw in a taxi ride here and there if you plan on staying out late, or a bus ride if your destination is too far to walk. Seoul is too massive to be explored solely on foot, but it does contain some neighborhoods that were made for walking (Bukchon Village, for example). Because Seoul's public transportation is so cheap and extensive, we advise against renting a car (plus, traffic in the city is legendary). If need be, you can rent a car at either of Seoul's two airports, Incheon International Airport (ICN) and Gimpo International Airport (GMP). The vast majority of international flights come in via Incheon. You can take a taxi from Incheon or Gimpo into Seoul, or if you're looking to save a little coin, the AREX (Airport Railroad Express) train goes directly into the city too.
The Seoul subway is inexpensive and widespread, making it an effective way to get just about anywhere in the city. So long as you avoid rush hour (8 to 9 a.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. on weekdays) and don't try to ride between midnight and 5:30 a.m. (when the system is closed), you should have a pretty smooth subway experience. The signs, maps and recordings in the stations are in English. Seoul residents use cards known as Multiple Journey Transportation Cards (or T-money cards) to pay for subway rides, with fares starting at 1,350 won (about $1.20) for the first 10 kilometers of travel. T-money cards cost 2,500 ($2.24) won for the card; fares for 10 kilometers traveled cost 1,250 won ($1.12).
While Seoul's subway system is easy to navigate, its bus routes can be a bit more complicated and daunting for foreign travelers. Most bus maps are not translated into English, and most bus drivers speak only Korean. To ride the bus, you can pay the bus fare in cash on the bus or use a T-money card, which decreases the bus fare by 100 won for adult travelers. Buses and bus stops are color-coded to reflect different routes. Blue buses (main line buses) travel long distances within Seoul city limits and cost 1,300 won ($1.17) for a single journey ride. Green buses, which cost 1,000 won (90 cents), cover the same area but travel shorter distances. Yellow buses run a loop through downtown, and cost 1,100 won (about 98 cents) per ride. Finally, red buses run to Seoul's outer suburbs and cost 2,400 won (about $2.15) per ride. Enter the bus from the front and always exit through the back, unless the bus is only equipped with one door. Buses run all hours of the day thanks to the night bus, marked with an "N" before the bus number.
You can hail a cab pretty easily in Seoul, and a short ride can be very inexpensive. Silver, orange or white regular taxis cost between 2,800 to 3,000 won (about $2.50 to $2.68) for the first two kilometers (about 1.25 miles) plus an extra 100 won (about 10 cents) for every eighth of a mile thereafter. Between midnight and 4 a.m., taxi prices increase by 20 percent. Deluxe taxis, which are black with a yellow stripe, cost 3,200 to 5,000 won (between $2.90 and $4.50) for the first three kilometers (about 2 miles), with an additional 200 won (around 18 cents) for every additional tenth of a mile. Aside from the price, the differences between these taxis and regular ones are more passenger space and no nighttime surcharges. There are also international taxis that guarantee bilingual drivers, but those must be reserved in advance (can't be hailed). If you opt for regular taxis, it's a good idea to write down your destination to show to your driver to avoid miscommunication.
Driving around Seoul tends to be hassle-prone: Traffic in the city happens more often than not and drivers can often throw caution to the wind when getting around in a hurry. Avoid the headache of driving and make use of Seoul's public transportation instead – there's probably a subway or bus stop wherever you need to go, and both forms of transport are markedly cheaper than renting a car. However, if the urge to drive is insurmountable, you can always rent your own set of wheels from rental desks at Incheon airport. You'll need to be 21 or older and hold an international driver's license (which you must acquire before your trip).
Seoul is too big to traverse on foot alone, but it does contain a number of neighborhoods and hiking trails that provide nice areas to put one foot in front of the other. Just be careful when crossing the street – green lights given to pedestrians tend to be short to help the flow of traffic, so cross briskly.
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