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Riding a taxi is a different experience wherever you go, but if you’re riding a taxi in Korea, follow these tips so you’ll know to be prepared for super speed racers, what the safest way to pay is, and what hours to avoid. Ride taxis in Seoul like a pro with these Korea travel tips!
1. Pay with Your T-money
All taxis are equipped with the same sensors that you use when paying for the subways and buses with T-money (a card or microchip on a phone or keychain used for paying through a prepaid debit system) . You don’t have to pay with cash and worry about handing the driver a mistaken sexy Shin Saimdang (50,000 won bill) when you meant to give the driver a Yulgok (5,000 won bill). It’s super convenient, and a very safe way to carry money around. Btw… we’ve got you covered if you want to know how to not get ripped off by Korean taxi drivers! Seoulistic is mad helpful, yo!
2. Avoid Taxi Rush Hour
Taxi rush hour in Seoul is usually Friday and Saturday nights at hotspots. Everyone’s been drinking at a few bars or clubs and wants to get home, but they’re all fighting for a limited number of taxis. On rainy days, it can sometimes be mega difficult to land a taxi in Seoul because just like you, Korean people don’t like walking in wet socks . Avoid these locations at these hours if you can.
3. Forget Addresses – Use Landmarks
If you’re traveling to Korea, you might have a little piece of paper with an address to your destination. You can definitely show it to the taxi drivers, but unless it’s a Seoul landmark, they won’t have an idea. That’s because roads in Seoul are close to impossible to navigate with just street addresses. Give a Seoul taxi driver an address, he’ll put on his glasses and struggle to figure out where he has to go (he might utter complaints under his breath, too). Tell the taxi driver a landmark near your destination, and he’ll say “Yes ma’am!”
Tip: Corporate buildings, major intersections and large hotels also count for landmarks.
4. Walk Down the Street to Get a Cab
If you are stuck in taxi rush hour, and you’re fighting tons of people to get a cab, there is a move that you can do to up your chances of getting a taxi on a busy day in Seoul. Walk against the traffic from where all the taxis are coming from. It’s kind of a jerk move because you’re essentially skipping “the line,” but if you keep walking past all the other people who can’t get a cab, you’ll be the first in line to snag one when an empty one finally does show up! It’s your decision: jerk vs waiting forever.
5. Learn the Hand Motion
Watch Seoulistic’s video on Korean body language to see the motion for “come here” (0:07). In addition to mimicking Korean body language and fitting in better with Korean society, you’re being respectful to the Korean taxi drivers. With Korean body language, you’re supposed use your palms face down to call people over and use your palms face up to call your pet dog over. That’s mad rude, yo, and you don’t want to be rude, right?
6. Get Ready for Adventure
Taxis in Seoul have built a reputation to be really aggressive drivers. Although not everyone drives like Speed Racer, if you take enough taxis, you’ll find that some taxi drivers in Seoul will zip past the speed limit, cut off other cars, and tailgate other cars just to cut off a few minutes off the ride. It can be scary for someone not used to driving like they’re in a video game. Buckle your seatbelt and pray!
Bonus: Learning Korean? Practice in a Taxi!
Korean taxi drivers are great conversation partners if you’re learning Korean. You might get mixed results when you’re talking to strangers in Korea, but Korean taxi drivers are pretty close bets for having great conversations. Many will try to speak English with you with varying degrees of success. But if you’re in a taxi, what better way to practice your Korean with some bored Korean cabbie who’s been stuck in a car all day?
Have any other tips that would help Korea taxi riders? Any experiences riding the taxi from hell? Share with us in the comments!