Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Getting around Seoul

There are 10 million people living in Seoul, more counting the suburbs, amounting to about a third of South Korea's 48 million people. The vast majority live in high-rise flats. Four million of them use the metro every day.

topping up

There are eight subway lines, with the basic fare starting at 1000 won (~P40), discounted with a transportation card, which works for both buses and the metro. There are two cards you can choose from: the T-Money card or the City Pass Plus card. The T-Money card is 1500 won for the card alone, which you can top up. The City Pass Plus is 3000 won and is available at the GS25 convenience stores and tourist info offices. It's like the T-Money card, with discounts for tourist attractions. We got the City Pass Plus, which was worth it because the discounts saved us quite a bit.

The metro trains are just like the LRT-3, with a few extras. Some lines have screens showing the name of the station and on which side the doors will open, and an overhead rack for bags. There is a good proportion of elderly people here, and there are several seats allocated for the elderly, pregnant and disabled.

On Sunday, there was a woman demonstrating how a sink declogger works. Someone actually bought one from her. There was also a man without a hand going from one train car to the next, announcing something out loud, probably begging for alms. But nobody seems attentive. People keep quiet, even in the queue (unheard of in Manila) to enter the train. If there is a beggar in the station, there would be no more than one.

There is a full-length mirror in every metro station, which I found interesting. The exits, and directions to the platforms are clearly marked in English. It is not easy to get lost.

Buses are harder to figure out because there are no bus maps being given out and only the stops for metro stations are in English. But the metro is good enough for most of the attractions.

passing through a mountain tunnel

We only took the bus twice--to and from N Seoul Tower--so I can only describe the Namsan circulation buses. There are very few seats in buses, most reserved for the elderly. There are recorded announcements of the next stops in Korean, Japanese and English, so you don't have to talk to the driver (who probably won't understand you anyway).

However, there is the hop-on hop-off Seoul City Bus for tourists. The route and fees look reasonable, but there is no operation on Mondays.

I wish we had an efficient transportation system in Manila. Maybe then we can dress better.

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