Seoul’s Superb Subway System


Inhyuk K and Rod M at Nakseongdae station


The red line

Seoul Subway System

Getting around Seoul, an enormous city, is reasonably easy, due to the great public transport system, especially the Subway System.

The Seoul Subway System is excellent, with 9 main lines and 9 other lines. There’s English-language signage in the trains and in the stations, so foreigners can fairly easily figure it out. In addition, each line has a number and a color so it’s quite easy to follow directions and transfers. Every station has a name and a number and it’s possible to follow your route on the English-language subway map.

What you see above each carriage door opening on the platform
a transfer sign
My City Pass

To get around it’s best to buy a T-money card, or City Pass card, which you can use on buses, the subway and taxis.

They are available at most convenience stores and at all subway stations. You have to buy the card for 3,000 won and then load it with any amount you want, and re-load later. We bought ours at the subway station near Seoul National University and reloaded them there too. The first time, our Korean hosts showed us how to use the rather bewildering ticket machines but after that we could cope on our own, as most instructions are also in English. Prices start at 1,150 won per journey and rarely go above 2,000 won, even though many of the trips we took were very long and often required multiple transfers.

ticket machines



transfersignOnce you’ve figured out where you want to go, you enter through the turnstile and tap your T-money card. At the end of the journey you tap out again and the correct amount is deducted from the total on your card.

Most subway carriages don’t have rows of seats, as we are accustomed to in the west. Rather, there are long benches on either side of the carriage and a big open space in the center, to accommodate more people. And, the trains sure do get very crowed! Trains are spotless; some have stainless steel seats along the sides, which I imagine is easier to clean.



A pretty empty train

All stations have good public toilets and many have shopping centers too.

A marvelous system!cutesign





You can also follow the signs on the floor in the stations

Sculpture to Honor Road Workers

The plaques with names of all the workers are on back right edge of plaza

statuecloserAt the Nokcha Service Area on Highway 10 in the SW part of Korea we saw a really gorgeous outdoor sculpture in the gardens—huge, bright, shiny. We found out from Chang that it’s to honor all the people who worked on the construction of Highway 10—one of the amazing highways with so many tunnels that we lost count. Highway 10 is the Namhae Expressway, started in late 1972, and completed April 2012. What a great idea, as there must have been millions of man-hours involved!

Viv M in the sculpture—shows how big it is!

statueupThe stone plaques behind it list all the names of the workers apparently—obviously we couldn’t read any of it. Chang could not find a plaque with the name of the sculptor, though. Most of the service areas have a garden/park area, and many have a sculpture or statue or two.

Korea’s Highway Service Areas

Nokcha (Green Tea) Service Area
Dinosaur Service Area
Nokcha area has the green tea theme throughout

After the conference in Suncheon in SW Korea, we were very fortunate to go on a wonderful road trip with a Korean colleague, Chang Hyun Kim. He went to an amazing amount of trouble to drive us around and show us as much of the SW part of the country as possible, as well as making sure that we tried lots of the delicious Korean food and learned about the history and culture. More on the road trip will be coming in the weeks to come.


At the Dinosaur Service Area

We were very impressed with Korea’s extensive highway system. Many interconnecting highways and freeways must be a Civil Engineer’s dream, with so many long tunnels (it’s an extremely hilly country), long bridges over deep valleys, and causeways to the many small islands in the south.

A notable feature of highway driving is the regularly-spaced Service Areas—with gas stations, large toilet facilities, bus parking, many restaurants and coffee shops, other small shops (for clothes, holiday necessities, tools, food, fruits) and sometimes even a small grocery store. Usually there’s also a special closed-in smoking area, something we were interested to see, as Korea tries to cut down on the number of smokers. We were there in the summer, so the areas were always really busy and crowded—a veritable hive of activity. It was fun to stop for coffee and/or a light lunch, for us usually noodles, and watch the people and the hustle-bustle.

Information about the dinosaur area in Korea
Smoke Zone—you can smoke here any time
More information about dinosaurs in this part of Korea

Most of the service areas have a special name and theme, usually linked to where they are. So, for example, we stopped at the Nokcha Service Area/Boseong Nokcha (nokcha means green tea), close to the part of the country where green tea is grown. Another day, driving back from Geoje Island, we stopped at the Dinosaur Service Area. In this part of the country, many dinosaur fossils and footprints have been found.

What a neat idea.

Our Korean Trip Deserves Its Own Blog

At one of the service areas along the highway
At one of the service areas along the highway

In August this year (2015) we returned to South Korea for another visit, partly for a big conference for Rod and partly for enjoyment and traveling around. We’ve had so many trips to so many wonderful places this year, that it seemed to me that my regular blog (Around and About With Viv) was jumping around too much from place to place, with no real continuity or coherence. So, I thought I’d try putting all the posts about the Korea trip here, separately.

We may return in April next year, so this would make sense for then too.

Rice and chopsticks---part of every meal, practically
Rice and chopsticks—part of every meal, practically

Let’s give it a whirl!! Happy Travels to this lovely country, with its welcoming people, outstanding food and a very long history.