- Download our Moving to Seoul Guide (PDF)
The best way of getting around in Seoul is by using public transport. Although the city isn't as congested as Shanghai or Bangkok, it has its fair share of traffic jams that cause significant delays.
The extensive subway system in Seoul means that there's usually a subway stop within a 10-minute walk of any destination, and its public buses are also an efficient way to get around. Street signs and subway signs in Seoul are typically written in both English and Korean.
Public transport in Seoul
Expats will easily be able to take advantage of integrated public transit in Seoul. Commuters can get to almost anywhere in the city using the subway and buses. They can also take advantage of initiatives such as the rechargeable T-money card, which offers lower rates than purchasing single-ticket rides and can be used on Seoul's metro and bus systems.
The subway system in Seoul is extensive, clean and efficient, and can be used to get around most of the city. Passengers need a subway or T-money card to use the system, which can be bought at subway stations and some stores.
In addition to the subway, there is an extensive public bus system in Seoul. Buses are colour-coordinated depending on their circuit: green buses travel only around their base neighbourhoods, blue buses go between neighbourhoods across town, yellow buses do short circuits around tourist areas and red buses go to different cities. Passengers pay when they get onto the bus with their T-money cards.
Taxis in Seoul
There are two types of taxis in Seoul. Black taxis with a yellow sign are luxury taxis that are pricier than regular cabs but provide a better service. Silver taxis are regular taxis and are cheaper, these taxis also charge up to 20 percent extra for late night travel. Most drivers don't speak English, so it's a good idea to have a Korean friend or colleague write the destination down in Korean to show the driver.
Some taxis advertise a free call-in interpretation service that English-speaking passengers can use to establish a fare before they go or to explain where they want to go. It's also sometimes possible to use a T-money card to pay for a trip by swiping it at the start and end of the journey.
Alternatively, a local app-based ride-hailing service called Kakao Taxi allows expats to order a taxi service to their exact address. Many expats prefer using this and similar apps as they allow for automatic credit card billing as well as greater control over their route. Expats will need a basic understanding of Korean or know their destination in Korean to use this app. After a previous banning, Uber has returned to Seoul and expats can therefore also use the Uber app to get around the city.
- Expats looking for English-speaking taxi services can visit the official website of the International Taxi service.
- For ride-hailing options, expats can check out Uber and Kakao Taxi.
Driving in Seoul
Many expats find that owning a car in South Korea is unnecessary or even best avoided – especially if they don't plan to do much travelling in the countryside.
There are plenty of car rental companies, including well-known international names, that expats can use if wanting to take a trip out of the city by private car. For inner-city travel, however, parking is often difficult to find and navigating the heavy traffic can be troublesome.
See Transport and Driving in South Korea for more on driving licences in the country.
Walking in Seoul
Although Seoul is large and densely populated, there is usually a subway stop within a 10-minute walk of anywhere an expat might want to go within the city. As a result, it's possible to navigate the city through a combination of walking and riding the subway.
The city itself occupies a relatively large area, making it impossible to cover more than a tiny portion of it on foot. The networks of roads and back alleys can also be confusing to travel through, so it's best to take note of major landmarks.
► For answers to common queries about life in the city, read Frequently Asked Questions about Seoul
"Public transport in the big cities is outstanding! And to go from one city to another, you can use the KTX, which is the high-speed train in Korea. The trains in South Korea are pretty much always on time, at least this was our experience." Learn more about French and Hong Kong expats Guillaume and Hammer's experiences in Seoul.
"There are frequent subways and buses in and around Seoul, accompanied with apps you can download that give you detailed information about the journey you want to take, or bus and subway schedules. A memorable experience was in my first month, I took a bus for an hour in a random direction, got off, ate, and realised that I was lost. I found a close subway station and had to figure out how to get back. There's no faster way to learn about the subway system until you're lost and need to go home." Read more about what Malcolm thinks of different aspects of life in Seoul in his interview with Expat Arrivals.
Are you an expat living in Seoul?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Seoul. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
Cigna Global Health Insurance. 20% off premiums booked before 31st March
Medical insurance specifically designed for expats. With Cigna, you won't have to rely on foreign public health care systems, which may not meet your needs. Cigna allows you to speak to a doctor on demand, for consultations or instant advice, wherever you are in the world. They also offer full cancer care across all levels of cover, and settle the cost of treatments directly with the provider.
International Movers. Get Quotes. Compare Prices.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.