CONTRIBUTED BY NICOLE
I’ve been preparing for this blog post almost since we moved here. I’m not sure why it has taken me this long to write it all out. Perhaps I’m waiting to know everything? Impossible, never going to happen!
Here are some myths about the subway in Seoul that I quickly discovered to be FALSE!
Myth: You can’t take a baby stroller into the subway.
Truth: (Disclaimer, although false, the fastest way in and out of the subway without a doubt is to wear your sippy cup sojourner. If there are times were convenience and need dictate you use a stroller, it is possible!)
FALSE! Almost all the subway stations in Seoul have some type of help for mommy and stroller. You aren’t always going to find the perfect elevator that takes you from entrance to train and back but there are ways to do it.
The best advice I have is carry a small stroller, not necessarily an umbrella stroller but I’ve found strollers with a width of less than 26 inches are best. When I went to buy Sam a new stroller I pulled out my measuring tape and measured the distance between the “no stroller/luggage bar” and the side of the escalator. Yes, I’m sure I looked like a complete weirdo but it was totally worth it when I bought my Bugaboo Donkey Mono and it glided past the bar at the escalator! Mommyhood point for me!
I take the elevators where I can but at times I need to take the escalators. There are a few stations that have neither elevator or escalators. I only had to make that mistake a few times and have learned to check my route on the smrt website before heading out the door. Most of these stations can be avoided by taking an alternate route. (Scroll down to the bottom of the map and click the icon for elevator and all the stations with elevators will light up.)
As soon as you walk into the station take a minute to stop and read the subway map. Finding the best route with a stroller is always best done right from the start. Don’t assume the elevator takes you where you are trying to go. There are usually several lines at a stations and several exits. Once you’ve checked the map and have a mental picture of where you need to go, it makes things a lot easier.
Both the bicycle and handicap signs will direct you to a subway car with stroller parking.
No need to battle with the turnstile, there are usually stroller entrances.
Myth: Subways are unsafe for children.
Truth: FALSE! I’m from New York, NYC subways are unsafe for running toddlers. I let Sam out of her stroller or carrier at every chance I get when we take the subway here in Seoul. Those WONDERFUL glass walls that protect the public from the subway tracks and cars are a mother’s dream come true. (Can the rest of the world’s cities please construct these? Yes, London, I’m talking to you too!) I never worry that a train will come barreling through and Sam will get pushed onto the tracks by the rush.
Myth: The subway is confusing.
Truth: Okay, this is just silly. FALSE! You can’t walk 2 feet in the subway station without seeing some kind of map. Also, there is WiFi in the subway and wonderful apps to help you find out not only where you are but where you need to go. Most signs are universal. If you are looking for stroller access just look for the handicap/ wheelchair sign. This will generally lead you to elevators, and stroller parking on the subway.
Well worth it to take the time to stop and read these maps!
Myth: Taking the subway is harder than driving if you have kids.
Truth: Maybe. It really depends on the child and the situation. I’ve been stuck in enough Seoul traffic to make me never want to get behind the wheel of a car again. There is nothing more frustrating than hearing Sam screaming at me because she is wet, hungry, and tired, and there is not a thing I can do about it. Compare that to when we take the subway. I have my hands free to cater to her every need the whole way home. *spoiled* I can get out her snacks, buy her a bottle of water when her sippy cup dries up, change her diaper while we wait on the platform for the next train.
Speaking of which, I’ve gotten that down to a science. Since every subway stop is equipped with these wonderful train tracking screens I always know exactly how long I have to wait for the next train. If the train is 3 or more stops away I have just enough time to change Sam’s diaper. If the train is 2 or more stops away I have time to stop by the vending machine and grab a drink or snack for Sam. All of this and I haven’t mentioned my favorite part of subway travel. Built in baby entertainment, ajummas!
Perhaps it’s because Sam knows how to bow when I tell her to say, annyeong haseyo, but the old ladies on the train just eat her up. Sam is finally at the age she loves the attention. Sure, you want to entertain my child with games of peek-a-boo and paper fans from your purse, which gives me a few minutes to check my e-mail inbox on my phone, WHY NOT?! She is all yours!
Also Good To Know
For a picture and video step-by-step on how to get a t-money card check out the VisitKorea site.
Children under the age of 6 can ride the subway for free. Adults over the age of 19 pay 1,050 Won per ride when using a t-money card. For more information on discounted fairs for students and more check out the Seoul Metro website. If you do buy a multiple fair t-money card you can also use it to pay for tolls while driving and for taxi rides. T-money cards can be purchased at most convenience stores. (And at the Dragon Hill Lodge.)
Best Time to Travel:
The subways are least crowded during non-peak times, between 10am-4pm Monday-Friday. That is thankfully when Sam I most use the subways so we rarely have to deal with crowds of people. There are times we do take the subway during peak times.
If possible, avoid traveling during peak times with a little one.
Several subways have nursing rooms for baby care. There are times when the weather is too cold or the diaper too dirty to make a quick change on the platform. Thankfully these changing rooms are common sights. Most in car maps have signs indicating which stops have nursing rooms available. It’s an obvious sign of a mother holding a baby. You can also check which stops have them by checking the smrt website. (Scroll down to the bottom of the map and click the sign for breastfeeding room. All the stations that have them will light up. )
This is more of an issue in the summer months than winter but there is a way to stay cooler in the subway. The cars at the front and rear of the line are cooler than the middle cars.
Some subways are nice enough to host a wedding. Yes, this has actually been done.
Around major sights the subways add to the fun of sightseeing with it’s own touches of Korea.
Sam, her dad, and I love the subway. In fact Sam is even beginning to look just like a local. 😉