5 Common but Simple Seoul Subway Mistakes to Avoid

Ok, so you’re public transportation master in your hometown. Seoul subways should be a cinch right? Sure it is! But you can still get caught up with these super simple Seoul subway mistakes. Read on to be prepared :)

1. Watch for Turnstile Arrows

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You bought your ticket no problem and you think you’re set. You head over to the turnstile and click your card, but nothing’s happening! The more you click, the angrier you get. But before you transform into the Hulk and start breaking stuff, back away and see if there’s an arrow. These arrows indicate if that particular gate is for entry. To make foot traffic flow smoother, Seoul subways designate half the gates for entry and the other half for exits. And you’re probably just at an exit gate. So put your shirt back on and move on over to a turnstile with an arrow, Bruce Banner.

 Tip: If you’re at a gate with an arrow and your card still isn’t working, maybe you’re low on funds? But if the obvious isn’t the problem, take your card to the station manager who will fix it for you :)

2. Carrying Luggage? Use the Wheelchair Gate

If you’re traveling to Korea with one of those big daddy travel suitcases, you might have trouble getting through the turnstiles. Although many of the newer Seoul subway stations have entry points without turnstiles, many of the non-upgraded stations will still have them. And that ain’t good for big papi. A lot of times the handles get stuck in the turnstiles, or sometimes the suitcase just doesn’t fit. So instead of lifting your suitcase over your head like a pro wrestler looking to bodyslam some luggage, do the easy thing and head over to the wheelchair access gate. All subways are equipped with this gate to provide access to the disabled as well as travelers that love to pack their entire wardrobe. Just “click” your T-money card on the sensor and be on your way!

Tip: If you have a lot of luggage, use the elevators. Nearly all Seoul subways stations can be accessed by elevator.

Tip 2: Gates can be used for strollers.

3. Got on wrong side? Go to Wheelchair Access Gate

Sometimes Seoul travelers occasionally get on the wrong side and need to cross to the other. This isn’t an issue if you’re at a one-platform subway station that has trains going in both directions. But if you’ve made this mistake at a station that requires you to go up to the turnstiles and cross to the other side, you won’t want to use your T-money card to get out (you’ll be paying an extra fare). Instead, head over to the wheelchair access gate (see #2) and press the button and wait till the gate opens (sometimes there will be no sound). Then head over to the wheelchair gate on the other side. If they see you they’ll most likely have it readily open for you. If they don’t see you, you can press the button again.

Tip: The speakers let you talk to the staff members to explain your noobie mistake, but many times the staff won’t even ask and just let you through.

Language tip:

잘 못 탔어요 (jal mot tasseoyo) – I got on the wrong side

4. Change Your Mind? Recharge Your Funds

Seoul subway fares are determined by the length of your ride. But if you like bragging about being a “spontaneous traveler” and decide mid-ride that you’re going to go a little farther than your original destination, your fare might increase. And if you don’t have the right amount charged on your card, the gates will be really mean and refuse to open. Instead of being super criminal of the year and jumping over the turnstiles, be a bit more civilized and pay the extra few hundred won. All subway entry points will have machines to recharge your funds. Here you can pay whatever extra you need and be on your way.

Tip: This tip is also for when you run out of funds on your T-money card.

Super Secret Tip: If you’ve run out of cash (or you’re super cheap), you can press the button at the wheelchair gate (see #3). Most of the time staff won’t even ask and just let you through. But you didn’t hear it from us 😉

5. Get Your Refund for Single Use Cards

This tip we covered for mega Seoul subway noobies, but if you’re going to buy your tickets at the station, you will have to purchase a single use card. And the Seoul subway staffers like to get those cards back to sacrifice to the subway gods (or maybe just to recycle them :P). And to ensure that they’ll be getting their sacrificial lambs back, they ask subway riders to put a 500 won deposit for each ride. When you get off at your station, you of course get that money back at a refund machine. This is a super simple tip that too many tourists gloss over. So remember to get your 500 won back at the end of  your trip, which’ll keep your wallet and the subway gods happy.

Tip: To avoid this hassle, just get a T-money card. Trust us. It’s worth it.

Now that you know about the super simple Seoul subway mistakes, think you can handle:
How to Ride the Seoul Subway Like a Local?

About Keith

Keith Kim is a Korean-American living in Seoul, Korea. He likes espresso shots, photography art and he loves his Playstation 3. He started seoulistic.com as a hobby site, and is now in the process of turning it into a full-time business. Wish him luck! Check out his blog for an uncensored view on entrepreneurship, dating and life in Korea.Personal Blog: gyopokeith.com Facebook: facebook.com/gyopokeithkim Twitter: @gyopokeith Youtube: "Gyopokeithe-mail me anytime at: gyopokeith [at] gmail.com

9 comments

  1. geline

    very useful information.. I’m learning a lot in this site.. Thanks ^.~

  2. rachel

    i like you super secret tip #4

  3. Diana

    i like you guys you give very practical info unlike other sites i visited 😀
    keep up the good work ^^

  4. Oleg

    I learnt #1 and 2 from my experience, when I was in Seoul last October. #3 – I just asked a staff and they let me go through these gates to the other side, they are always so supportive. #5 – I made such mistake and throw away used cards but subway gods didn’t punish us, kamsahamnida.
    So you see your tips hit the right nail.

  5. En

    Thank you for your tips! i’d appreciate if you could post about korean indoor/outdoor games someday too. Koreans are known as huge gamers. What are the most popular games they like playing when come together with friends?

  6. Eric

    Also, I would mention that on the subway that there are seats for only Older/Handicap people. I think many foreigners don’t know about this and would sit there.

  7. I’d like to add to this list that it’s easy for people to confuse Sinchon and Sincheon. Watch out for that mistake!
    They’re not even close to each other.

  8. Justin

    Refund the unused money on a one time use card?? That’s why I love Korea! Customer care at its best!

  9. anggie

    Hi Eric,
    I want to do city check in at Seoul station. Is there any elevator to reach B2? i will bring 2 luggages :( TIA