My main mode of transportation in Korea, and when I visited Japan, and Taiwan, was the subway. Major cities in Korea have a subway system, (smaller cities/ rural areas are easily accessible via bus). Prior to moving to South Korea, I had never ridden on a subway. This was something that I had to quickly get accustomed to, as it would be my main mode of transportation during my time there.
My very first day in Busan was also my very first day riding a subway. My co-teacher at the time, taught me how to ride the subway, when we rode it together to have dinner. Afterwards, I took the subway back to my apartment alone. This doesn’t sound like a big deal now, but back then, I was quite terrified. It was my first day in a super huge city, I had no cell phone, (mine decided not to work, so I eventually had to get a new one), and none of my friends lived near me. My co-teacher had asked a local hairdresser if I could use their phone to call her when I came back, to let her know that I’d made it. I remember sitting there, watching other passengers, and thinking that they had no idea how nervous I was! I kept my eye on the signs that announced each upcoming stop, and made it back to my place safely. The next day I was not nervous to take the subway alone, so I have my first co-teacher to thank for that.
After that night, I was a subway warrior! Once I figured out how to transfer, the subway system in Busan was pretty easy to navigate. Taiwan’s subway, (MRT) was also easy for me to navigate, it was quite similar to Busan’s. Seoul and Osaka’s subway systems were a totally different story. The subway maps looked like someone had taken a small handful of cooked spaghetti, and dropped it onto a plate. In Osaka, there were different trains owned by different companies, there’s also a line that is a big loop. There was a train that would eventually exit the loop, and one that just went around the loop, so I had to be mindful of which train to get on. Not to disappoint, but I definitely got on the loop only train once, and rode around for a bit before I realized my mistake!
In Seoul, transferring was the issue for me. The places that I wanted to visit required me to transfer often. This was a lot more walking to the transfer line than in Busan, so I definitely got my steps in! Subways are typically cheaper than taking a taxi, and you can avoid sitting in traffic during rush hour. Subways can be packed, with standing room only at certain times, but they continually run, so you won’t be delayed if you plan accordingly.
For every city I visited that had a subway system, I downloaded the appropriate app, (highly recommended when traveling) and was able to move about well that way. Of course there were times were I still got confused/lost, but I always managed to find my way. Now that I’m back in the States, I often miss having reliable public transportation.