Seoul, the vibrant capital of South Korea is notorious for its traffic jam. To save travelling time and cost, walking and commuting on the subway is the way to go. To do this effectively, having a good GPS is essential. But, which is the best GPS to accompany tourists as we explore Seoul?
If you are toying with the idea of driving outside of Seoul, read about our Driving Holiday in South Korea where we share tips and the dos and don’ts.
For guides on buses, train and subway, our good old Google Map will do the job. For walking guides, you will have to go with either one of these two Korean GPS, Naver Map or Daum Map (renamed as KakaoMap). Based on online reviews, both GPS are very similar. However, the Korean uses both to counter the situation where Naver Map may find a location but not Daum Map, and vice versus. Having “been there done that” as a tourist, we don’t suggest using both since handling one is enough of a hassle! We went with Daum Map.
Google Map is the only foreign GPS that provide guidance on public buses, trains and subway in South Korea.
After your search on a destination, Google Map will return all the possible routes to that destination as shown in the picture below (in my example, I am going from Myeongdong Cathedral to Lines Friends Store Itaewon):
Seoul’s subway lines are colour coded and numbered. In the above scenario, only the last two suggested routes (highlighted in red box) are via subway.
We find Google Map most helpful when commuting on Seoul’s subway, because majority of the names of the subway station are in English. The details given are also superb as shown below:
The only setback here is the walking part. From your location, how do you know which direction leads you to Myeon-Dong Station; and from Itaewon Station, which direction to Lines Store Itaewon? In South Korea, walking function is disabled in Google Map.That’s when the Korean GPS, in our case Daum Map, comes into play.
You have read from travel forums that Daum Map (KakaoMap) only recognises Hanguk language. Rejoice! As of January 2018, you can search for a place of interest by name in English! This applies to both the web and mobile version of Daum Map.
In cases where Daum Map returns zero results, you have three options. Easier is to find your destination in Hanguk and copy that into Daum Map. Second choice is to search by telephone number. Do ensure that the telephone number is the correct or updated number for your place of interest. Lastly is to search by address. You need to input address in Hanguk though. As mentioned in our post Which GPS To Use For Driving In South Korea, using Google Translator for this purpose is unreliable. Instead, search for your destination online and copy its address in Korean into Daum Map. This method works perfectly for us.
The upgraded Daum Map is also able to display search results in English. For mobile apps, make sure English is selected at Setting. To save a location as a favourite, you need to create a Kakao Account. Favourites are accessible from the web or mobile version.
Daum Map provides detailed information on getting to your destination with estimated fares and time to destination.
Drive is especially useful when taking a taxi. Traffic condition to your destination is provided. Estimated cab fare is given based on current traffic condition. If you see your route painted red, that means super jam. It also helps you to determine if the taxi driver is taking unnecessary long route so as to increase the fare.
*Tips: Near to midnight, calling for a cab is a must since all empty cabs will shun you. After midnight, getting an cab is impossible despite having to pay midnight surcharge! If you choose to call for a cab via KakaoTaxi, you will be delighted to know that there is no booking fee.
Subways guides are similar to Google Map except that the stations’ names are in Hanguk language which is of not much use to us. The only exception where we used Daum Map for subway is in Busan because Google Map have very limited information.
Walking guides are detailed and accurate but in Hanguk only. But, how often do we really read the instructions? Total distance and estimated time are given. The little yellow circle with a number (in this case 3) is the nearest subway exit to your destination. Once on the main road, you need to be on the correct road for the little dot (that represents you in the map) to be in sync with you….quite a hassle and headache at times.
In cases where the walking distance and time provided by Google Map and Daum Map differs, our experience tells us that Google Map tends to be “too optimistic”.
Combining Google Map with Daum Map (or Naver Map) will ensure that you have a smooth and enjoyable time in Seoul.