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Seeing Seoul Is a Cinch: Joan Trip Part III

Follow contributing editor Ed Perkins as he embarks on a round-the-world “Joan Trip.” (What’s a Joan Trip? Find out in Take That Special Trip … While You Still Can.) According to Perkins, “neither frequent-flyer miles nor people improve with age,” so he’s working off a bundle of miles seeing the world, combining places he missed over the years with some old favorites. Read the rest of Perkins’ round-the-world-trip posts.

Overall, Seoul is a pretty easy destination for even the most language-challenged Americans. All the public signs that matter are in both Korean and English, and navigating is a snap.

The excellent subway system is by far the best way to get around town. Just about any place you might want to visit within Seoul is accessible. Station maps and recorded announcements are in both English and Korean, and signage is excellent. Escalators are available to take care of the biggest jumps, but you may have to climb a few shorter stairs.

Fares start at about $1 for short trips, going up to about $4 for longer ones. You buy a single-ride ticket from a machine—again, with excellent English instructions—and you pay an extra 50-cent deposit for the RFID fare card, which you get back from a special machine at the end of your trip.

The one exception to my language observation is restaurants. Although many local operators speak enough English (or Globish, if you prefer) to get by, and many menus are printed in both languages, you quickly run into a blank wall as soon as you try to get more detailed. Naturally, it’s easier to communicate in the more tourist-oriented spots. Outside of the tourist areas, not many local restaurants display the credit-card logos you expect, but many do accept cards, anyhow. If you aren’t sure, try a card, but be prepared with cash if need be.

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(Photo: Shutterstock/Chris102)

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