Seoul has one of the cleanest, fastest, and most efficient subway systems in the world and it’s easy to use even if you do not speak Korean! That said, there are 12 lines that are officially part of the Seoul city transportation system, and dictionary lines that connect to other cities just outside of Seoul as well. Since there can be many different route options to get to your destination, it’s easiest to plan your travel route in advance so you don’t accidentally take the wrong transfer and end up on a train headed for some unknown location⸺ something I’ve done a few times.
There are a few resources you can use to plan your travel route in both English and Korean. This article will take you through the basic steps of how to plan your route using the popular route finding app, Kakao Metro!
Seoul City's subway system currently consists of lines 1 through 9 plus the Jungang Line, Bundang Line, and Gyeongui Line. Each line is numbered as well as color-coded for easy use! Below I’m going to take you through a couple of apps that will make using the subway even easier.
KakaoMetro allows you to select your departure and arrival stations, shows you the estimated travel time, and tells you which is the fastest or easiest route to take in order to reach your destination. KakaMetro is available in Korean and English, you can choose the language setting in the app. When you open the main screen of the app it looks like this:
In addition to showing the official subway lines that run in Seoul, KakaoMetro shows the subway lines that connect to smaller surrounding cities. In total, there are 23 subway lines that you can use to plan your route. When planning your route, select your departure station and your arrival station on the map. For example, if I am going from line 3 Anguk station to line 2 Gangnam station, my map would look like this:
After you select your route your screen map will look like this, displaying the details of your trip:
It is automatically up to date with the location of the trains in service so you can time your departure and not have to wait at the platform for the next subway to arrive. It also tells you which platform to stand at to make transferring to the next station easier, how many stops until your location and how long it will take, the time it takes to transfer at the station (if you need to transfer), and which side the doors open on when you are in the subway⸺ a feature that has saved me many times during rush-hour. You are also able to change the time of your departure to check future trains or check what time the first and last trains of the day are.
Another great feature of KakaoMetro is that it shows the subway systems in 4 additional cities. So if you are traveling around South Korea, you can use this app outside of Seoul as well!
KakaoMap is part of the Kakao Friends empire and is directly connected to all the other Kakao Apps. KakaoMap can be used similarly to Kakao Metro, but will also show you alternative routes you can take that sometimes involve taking a bus and subway! KakaoMap tracks your location and shows you your position in real-time as you move. When you open KakaoMap it shows you your current location. This is what the homepage looks like:
You can enter specific addresses in this app for a more detailed route plan. For example, to get from Hongik University subway station to Fritz Cafe, you can click your starting and ending points and see what the app suggests for you. In this case, the app has suggested two ways of getting to Fritz since there is a bus and subway option.
Directions for the bus include waking time to and from the stations to your destination, bus number, time until bus arrival, number of stops, and the time of the bus ride. It looks like this:
Directions for the subway option also include walking time, directions to take the subway, time until train arrival, number of stops, the duration of the ride, and the platform you should stand at. It looks like this:
KakaoMaps also gives you options to map your route for walking, riding a bicycle, or driving.
A huge advantage of using KakaoMap is if you want to save an address, you can bookmark addresses in customizable folders on the app. That way you are able to return somewhere you visited if you really liked it! It will show up on your map like this once you save it:
There are various other apps that can be used to help you plan your travel route within Seoul, and outside of Seoul as well! Below are a few that offer services in English!