South Korea has one of the most comprehensive and organized transportation systems in the world, yet it’s so idiot-proof that you won’t get lost – provided you have basic map reading and navigation skills. The easiest way (and yes, the cheapest, too) to get around in South Korea is through public transportation.
T-Money and Cashbee
T-Money and Cashbee are “rechargeable ” transportation cards that can be used on most modes of transportation throughout the nation – subway, bus and taxi. With this system, one can save the hassle of purchasing single journey tickets. Here are the logos for the cards. They usually appear on stores that sell them.
These cards can be bought on convenience stores (GS25, CU, 7-Eleven, Ministop, With Me, Buy The Way, Story Way, etc.) for 2,500 KRW. T-cards can also be bought from ticket vending machines and card reload devices in the subway stations. Such as these:
Once the credit is exhausted, they can be “charged” again from the same convenience stores and reloading devices. The good thing about using this payment mode is the fact that it saves 100 won for each trip as opposed to paying cash. For example, the regular fare for an adult on a subway is 1,350 KRW by cash, 1,250 KRW whenever the card is used.
The cards are pretty much straightforward to use, too.
On Subways: Just tap the card on the turnstiles that lead to the station where you need to catch your train. The charge and the remaining balance will be displayed.
On Buses: Place the card on the sensors located in front of the bus when you board until it beeps. The charge for the ride will be displayed on top and the balance at the bottom. If you need to transfer, just put the card on the sensor until it beeps again. If you don’t tap your card when your get off of the bus, the transfer discount won’t be applied and you’ll be charged the regular fare for another bus ride instead.
On Taxis: Most taxis on the major cities in South Korea are equipped with payment terminal. Simply inform the driver that you will pay using transportation card, tap your card on the terminal. Your fare will then be deducted from your T-money balance. In the event that the fare is higher than the card balance, all the balance from the T-Money will be taken, and the remaining amount can be paid for using another means (I.e. cash or credit card).
These cards can only be used when one is inside a city. And most of South Korea’s major cities use them so it would really be advantageous to have one even if you are just visiting, especially if you are anticipating a lot of public transportation rides.
To get a refund, for balances 20,000 KRW and below, following a 500 KRW service fee, one can get them at the above mentioned convenient stores. The card cost is fully non-refundable. The card balance can also be used to purchase items on the same convenience stores like a debit card.
That’s it about transportation cards.