Visiting a new country for the first time is stressful enough without factoring in language barriers yet. Winging your travel could only cause more stress as Seoul has a comprehensive transportation network.
Frustration is quick to hit when you find yourself wandering around aimlessly around the busy streets or looking for the subway map trying to figure out the fastest route. What’s worse is when you have to line up at the ticketing machine during peak hours.
Luckily, all you need are three things to explore the city stress-free and time-saving! Here’s what you’ll need:
Topping the list of handy travel must-have is Seoul’s T-Money Card. Like most fast-paced and developed cosmopolitans, having a prepaid travel card reduces travel time and in some instances, commute cost. If you’re an active explorer swooping around the city, this card is the key to many doors.
T-Money can be used on all forms of public transport including train lines, local and express buses, and most taxis as well. This applies throughout the country so don’t worry if you’re planning on intercity travel!
Purchasing the card is simple. You can easily buy a T-Money Card at convenience stores, independent vendor stalls and ticket vending machines in a subway station. Depending how fancy or cute you want your card to look, the general price will range from 2,500-4000 won. You’ll need to add more to the card to be able to use in the transit system.
Those with busy itineraries should consider charging it with a minimum of 10,000 won to minimize constant top ups but be careful not to lose the card. To recharge, look out for a ‘Ticket Vending and Card Reload’ machine in any subway station and follow the instructions. There’s an English menu available for easy navigation so all you need to do is prep your 1,000 won, 5,000 won and 10,000 won notes as the machine takes cash only.
One last thing: Make sure you keep track on how much charge is left on the card, or keep some cash on you just in case it runs out of credit. You don’t want to hunt down an ATM in the midst of it all.
2.Pocket Wi-Fi or Data Card
Seoul’s is surrounded with Wifi located in almost every café, some restaurants and public areas . For non-Korean speakers, having extra support doesn’t hurt either. Korea, being the first country to have 5G internet, makes it hard to resist the speed of instant data access.
Carrying pocket Wi-Fi or using a data card allows flexibility with travel plans. Changing itineraries is a matter of pulling up the internet and searching other to-do activities in the area, or checking opening hours for a particular attraction. It allows access to maps and real-time transport schedules so you can time your travels right and follow the GPS. For those in groups, it means easy communication and the opportunity to go do your own thing without worrying about missing the meeting time or getting lost in the crowds. Not to mention, it is more cost efficient when you are splitting the wifi costs amongst others too.
English isn’t spoken as much outside of tourist dominant areas. Access to the internet can help with translating questions or keywords, as body language can only get you so far. Seasoned travelers might not find language barriers an issue but if it’s your first time abroad, more forms of communication can go a long way in making you feel more comfortable.
Phone cards are also available for purchase at airport booths (SK Telecom has good reception across the city) for convenience offered at competitive pricing.
Tip: Also check if your hotel or Airbnb offers any pocket wifi to lend out or check the listing!
Now moving onto what you’d use Wi-Fi for…
3.Navigational Apps or Maps
Exploring Seoul can be made easy and stress-free with the help of these apps:
- Naver Map
Naver is South Korea’s equivalent of Google and much more accurate when it comes to Seoul’s terrain. Thanks to its interactive nature, you can download maps for offline use. The best feature is being able to save and download locations so you can easily pull out the address if you need some local help.
Here’s how to use Naver Map! Simple to use, and you’ll save so much time during your travels.
Why not Google Maps you ask? While Google Maps is known to generally one of the most trusted sources, it may not always be the most convenient in Korea. While it shows the driving distance and transit routes, it fails to mention the good old walking method. You’ll find it mentions there is no route detected to walk from location A to location B!
With Naver, as shown in the video above, it gives you an estimate time of the walking distance and directions of where to walk so you’re not aimlessly wandering around to figure it out.
- Subway Korea
The train system might be convenient but navigating station names and transfers might not be. This app saves you hassle by showing you the subway routes, quickest routes to destination, which train car allows the most direct transfers, and train schedules to the minute. This way, you can plan routes ahead of time or change directions on the fly.
Learn how to use Subway Korea by clicking the link down below:
- Kakao Taxi Services
Chances are you won’t need to use a taxi service but just in case you’re stuck out after hours of head banging (because karaoke is a must), Kakao Taxi will get you back safe and fast. Where individual taxi drivers might charge your entire wallet for a ten minute ride, this app guarantees cheap fares and quick arrivals. You just need to set your location and destination.
- Naver Dictionary and Translate
This is the extra insurance mentioned above – a tailored translation app for your convenience. Type what you need translated for a quick fix and play the audio for your helpful stranger. Where Google Translate throws you the best translation in its database, Naver is more flexible, allowing you various potential sentences to choose from based on context.
It’s easy to use, and many of the locals have the app to help you if you’re ever unfamilar of how to use it as well
Handy right? Exploring Seoul doesn’t have to be stressful. As long as you’re geared with a T-Money Card, pocket Wi-Fi and these helpful apps, navigating around the city just got 10x easier!