You Might Lose 500 Won Every Seoul Subway Ride (1 Use Cards) – Seoulistic

You Might Lose 500 Won Every Seoul Subway Ride (1 Use Cards)

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Many people coming to Seoul for tourism may be taking the subways for their method of transportation. It’s cheap, convenient and takes you to all the major tourist attractions in Seoul. But many Korea travelers end up paying 500 Won for every subway fare. Here’s how you can save that!

Note: As of January 2016, 500 Won is approximately equivalent to .46 USD.

If you’re a penny pincher who glosses over details (oxymoron?), this tip’s for you!

For those taking the Seoul subway, you might just go up to the machines at the stations, punch in your destination, pay for your ticket and be on your way. It’s simple enough for anyone to do. But for Seoul travelers looking for a more time efficient method, you might want to purchase a T-Money card (for around the 5,000 won range), which will allow you to just charge and go without having to punch in your destination every time. Also, it’ll give you a 100 won discount for each ride!

But if you’re ok with just punching in the destination every time for those 1-use cards, you might want to know that you’re supposed to return them. The minimum fare from any one station to another in Seoul is 1250 won, but you’ll have to pay 1,750 won for 1-use cards. That extra 500 won is returned to you once you get out of the turnstiles of your subway station and insert the card in the Deposit Refund Machine (image below).

Korea Travel Tip: Save time by just returning all the cards at the same time on your trip’s final subway stop!

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And just for the heck of it, here are some things you can buy for 500 won!

  • Socks – This is the cheapest of sale prices. Remember, anything that comes off of the back of a truck is a deal! 😉
  • Processed Meat Stick Sausages – Sold at convenience stores, this is highly processed and probably not the healthiest of snacks. But it’s an old school Korean snack that’ll make you feel mad Korean.
  • Odeng – This fish cake Korean street food snack is great for winter nights. And you get the broth the fish cake is cooked in (odeng gungmul) as a bonus!
  • Cute Korean Stickers – head into any children’s stationary store and you’ll be able to buy some cute Korean princesses stickers to put on your guitar case!
  • Crappy Pens and Pencils – Sorry, the higher end stuff can go up to 15,000 won for a single pen/pencil (gets high tech yo!). But at least you’ll have a pen to scratch your hard to reach areas 🙂
  • Hotteok – The price for this favorite Korean street snack for your sweet tooth can go as low as 500 won. *Fist pump*
  • Single Serving Mini-Chocolate (Snickers, Twix, Kit-Kat, etc.) – Head over to the convenience store after eating. These are great for topping off Korean meals 😉

(If you know something else that can be bought for 500 won, share in the comments!)

Which would you choose? Spend 5,000 to save time, or buy crazy cute socks? Share with us in the comments!

Keith Kim is a Korean-American who has been living in Korea for almost a decade. Being in a unique position as both a Korean and a non-Korean, he's put all his experience and knowledge for surviving in Korea in Survival Korean . Read it to learn how you can survive in Korea. Follow him on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.


  1. 147 says:

    I bought the T-Money card for the convenience and for the discounted fare, plus then you add in the discounts on the buses, it adds up. The 5,000 won investment in one pays for itself if you use public transit a lot.

  2. David says:

    I bought myself this mini t-money card, but i wonder.. if you don’t use it for 1 year, is it still valid?

  3. SeoulMate says:

    sure David! there is no expiration date^^ i think Korea’s transportation and T-money make people comfortable!! 🙂

  4. Okay, technically, you’re not losing money, since it’s a deposit you’re expected to reclaim once you’ve reached your destination. Second, if you’re living in Korea, there’s absolutely no reason not to get a traffic card. One thing that’s missing with the one-time use cards is the inability to transfer to a bus for free. I tell tourists that are coming to Korea for more than a few days to pick up a card, purely for that reason. It’s just easier to use.

    Next, too many cards do not cost 5000. They cost 2500 or 3000. The only reason to pay more for than that is if you want a cutesy design that dangles from your phone.

    Factor in the lines found at many ticket buying machines, and it saves you time. The only reason to use a one-time use card is if you’re staying in Korea for only a couple of days, or if you’re on an incredibly limited budget.

  5. Keith says:

    Absolutely recommend getting the T-money for everyone. Probably should have just wrote a post about that! 🙂

  6. Ana says:

    I’ve bought a T-money card named Seoul CityPass+ . When I’ll go back to Korea is there a way to check how much money do I have on it? It was easy to travel with this card and I also used it at GS25 to buy food&drinks. I’ve bought the card with 3000KRW.

  7. keyshia says:

    So can i also use the T-money for cabs or is that a different set up?

  8. Winda says:

    Hi! I’m going to visit Korea this autumn with my big family (14 people). Can I just buy 1 T-money card and use it together with my family groups everytime we use the subway/bus? tq

  9. alex says:

    Can i return the t-money card at the end of my 3 day stay and get money for it?

  10. Tom Reiber says:

    I stay in downtown Seoul 1 week and wish to buy Tmoney for a 5 day period before the week and another 5 day period after. Can I use same card if I add cash or does Tmoney Mpass expire after my first 5 day pass is up?

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