Moving to Seoul?
Seoul: International Districts and Transport
Popular International Districts
There are different international districts in Seoul which attract well-to-do Seoulites and expatriates alike. In this section, we will introduce them briefly:
- Itaewon-dong (Yongsan-gu) is located near Yongsan US military base and is home to the largest expatriate community in the entire country. It is also a very popular tourist zone. Visitors and residents alike enjoy the numerous shopping opportunities, clubs, bars, and restaurants. As it also offers affordable housing, it has become the residential area of choice among expats.
- Hannam-dong (Yongsan-gu) lies near Itaewon and has a significant number of foreign diplomatic missions and embassies. It is divided into two areas — the UN Village and an ordinary residential district. With its significant number of fancy villages and Western-style houses, it is primarily a residential area.
- Ichon-dong (Yongsan-gu) is known as the home of most Japanese expats in Seoul. Currently, there are about 5,000 Japanese people living in Ichon-dong. Historically, it has been home to embassy staff and the employees of different trading companies.
- Seodaemun-gu is situated in the northwest of Seoul, surrounded by mountains, and very popular among foreigners. Foreign students and professors in particular like to settle here. They enjoy the close proximity to different universities such as the Ewha Women’s University, Hongik University, and Yonsai University.
- The Greater Gangnam Area (Gangnam-gu, Seochu-gu, and Songpa-gu) offers various cultural and business facilities such as the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) or the Seoul Arts Center. This area is popular among Koreans for its excellent public transportation and its fantastic schools. Despite the rising housing costs and the hectic traffic, foreigners love to move to this district as well.
A Well-Organized Public Transportation System
Seoul has a comprehensive public transportation system which allows you to travel almost everywhere without much of a hassle. The bus system, for instance, is reasonably priced and operates from 04:30 to 01:00. While some bus route maps are also displayed in English, drivers usually understand only Korean. The bus number will tell you which districts the buses serve.
There are three types of buses:
- red long-distance express buses
- green and blue buses, which link subway stations in one district or inner to outer districts
- yellow short-haul buses, which circle around the city center
Alternatively, you can also rely on Seoul’s extensive subway system. Although it is quite fast, cheap and safe, you should try to avoid rush hours when the trains are very packed. The subway runs every few minutes between 05:30 to around midnight.
Prefer Traveling by Car?
Taxi rides can come quite cheap, especially if you share a taxi with your friends and colleagues. Regular taxis (ilban) charge 3,000 KRW for the first two kilometers and 100 KRW for each additional 144 m or 41 seconds. Deluxe taxis (mobeom) are black with a yellow stripe. They charge 5,000 KRW for the first three kilometers and 200 KRW for each additional 205 m or 50 seconds. Unlike regular taxis, they do not require a 20% surcharge between midnight and 04:00.
While only very few taxi drivers speak English, some companies offer a free interpretation service. In addition, in 2009, Seoul International Taxi started operations, offering drivers who speak English, Japanese, and Chinese. All taxis come with a meter. However, keep in mind that on the Incheon airport route you will have to pay for the road toll in addition to the regular meter charge. Tipping is not customary and hence not necessary.
Of course, you could also rent or buy your own car to get around Seoul. However, if the urban traffic is still new for you, you should avoid driving. And even if you have lived in Seoul for a while, ask yourself if you are ready to deal with traffic jams, the recklessness of other drivers, and the lack of any street names or directional signs before you get behind the wheel.
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