Not understanding the language, culture and the routes, it does sound like a daunting task to travel in South Korea without a tour guide. You may give up when you think of the endless research you have to do about the subway maps and lines before u start your journey. However, if you follow these tips, nothing can stop you from going to the country where your K-drama superstars or K-pop idols live!

Photo from Website Soompi

Must-have app: Naver Map

Transportation is probably one of the most important factors when it comes to travelling, taking taxis of course is an option, but travelling by MRTs or buses in Korea can be thrilling and exciting. Having a map in hand is essential to tourists but you do not necessarily have to get a hard copy of that. Naver Map will be the must-have app for tourists travelling to Korea. Naver Map has the most complete map data of Korea. Think of it as a map only? Naver Map has all the functions that any other Korean-related transportation apps have. That includes navigation system, bus schedule, estimating cost of taking taxis, buses and Mrts. If you don’t know how to read Hangul (Korean alphabet), don’t worry because it has an updated version that includes English. By having this app in your smartphone or tablet, you can refer to it anytime, anywhere without the need of flipping through the map.

Naver Map

Why don’t we use Google Maps in Korea?

Google Maps is of course one of the most popular digital maps in global but it actually does not have the accurate map data of Korea. Naver is called The Google of South Korea and dominates the search engine in South Korea. Due to the difference in syntax between Korean and English language, Naver builds its search algorithm around the Korean language to deliver more relevant results than Google.

Therefore, sometimes Google Maps shows irrelevant content from search result. It can somehow delay your journey because you might take longer time to search for the most accurate routes. If you are unfamiliar with a place, it is better to use maps or apps that are specially designed and contents are only for that particular place.

Tips on taking MRTs in Korea: The Seoul Metropolitan Subway

If you are planning to take MRTs, one important thing that you need to take note is that you can’t get back to the original location (stop) simply by taking another train at the opposite direction. There are a few staircases in the station. Each staircase leads to a different platform and the platforms are not always connected.

If you go down to the wrong staircase, you may end up going to the wrong platform and taking the wrong train. To avoid this, there are actually some simple yet useful tips. Before going down the staircase, you can see that there are some sign boards with names of stops and arrows guiding you to different platforms. If you are going to Myeongdong, you should make sure that the name “Myeongdong” is written on the board before going down the corresponding staircase.

If you still feel uncertain about it, you can double check by checking the names of stops shown on top of the train and refer to the app mentioned above before getting into the train.

Signage in English and Korean shows the travel direction of the train

Must-have card: T-Money Card

Still thinking to buy a ticket every time you take a train? Rather than buying single journey ticket, why not try the T-Money card? T-Money card is a reloadable card that can be used for public transportations such as buses, subway and taxis.  

If you run out of cash, you can even use your T-Money card in most of the convenience stores, some fast food restaurants, bookstores bakeries and large supermarkets. T-Money card is a must-have card in Korea!

T-Money card can be purchased at the price of 2500 KRW (approximately 3.10 SGD). You can top up your card using ticket vending machines at subway or at convenience stores such as GS25, CU, 7-Eleven, Ministop, With Me or Buy The Way.

Ticket vending and card reload device (Photo from visitkorea)

Besides, if your card balance is 20000 KRW (approximately 25 SGD) or less on the last day of your Korea trip, don’t worry because you can get a cash refund at any T-Money affiliated convenience stores before heading to the airport. But if your card balance is more than 20000 KRW, you have to visit the T-Money headquarters.

It’s no longer a dream to travel in Korea by your own, keep these useful tips in mind and have a happy holiday in Korea!

Photo from gapyear website

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