Public Transportation Etiquette in Korea
See & Do Tours
Seoul is a city with a good public transport infrastructure that can take you anywhere you want. A daily average of 7.19 million people use public transportation in the capital area (as of April 2019). Since so many people use public transport, it is important to be considerate of others as another passenger. This little consideration can go a long way in making things better for everyone. Here are four simple tips you should know for a more pleasant trip.
Approximately 30% of all subway seats in Korea are "priority seats." These seats are reserved not only for the elderly but also for the physically disadvantaged including the disabled, people with infants, children, and patients. In a subway car, there are four priority seats in the front and the back. In addition to the yellow priority seats, there are also pink seats reserved for pregnant women. These seats are also available to women in early pregnancy who do not look pregnant. By leaving these priority seats vacant, it will make public transportation a safer and better experience for everyone.
Backpacks are very important for travelers. However, we should be aware that what might be important to you may cause inconvenience to others. In Korea, there has been a lot of criticism against people who wear bulky backpacks in public transportation. Sometimes, the careless actions by people wearing huge backpacks in a narrow space can damage other passengers' belongings. If you have a big bag, you can either wear it in front or put it down, and take extra caution to not to turn your body recklessly. Such considerations can help greatly in making everyone start their day on a happy note.
Some people ride a bus with a cold drink in summer and a hot drink in winter. However, you should avoid carrying drinks that can be easily spilled or food with a strong smell when using public transportation. Since January 2018, Seoul City has placed a ban on riding buses with take-out coffee. This was done for the safety of other passengers and to prevent risks of spilling hot or cold drinks or food on buses. A warm or cool drink can have potential to become an annoyance to others.
Unlike buses, which have a separate doors for getting on and off, there is one very important rule that riders should follow when using the subway where people get on and off through the same door. Wait until after people get off to get on. Also, in order for passengers from a packed train to get off smoothly, you should wait in line and take a step back when the door opens. Be considerate of those who get off, then board the train one by one. For the sake of safety as well as starting your day off right, make sure to get on a subway after all the passengers get out of the car.