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Almost nothing affects today’s urban citizen more than how they get around their city. From work to play, from home to the office, billions of people every day step onto the bus, ride the subway and glide through town in a streetcar. These cities, taken from “world’s best” lists in publications such as Travel + Leisure, Wired, CNN Travel and Gadling, are global destinations known for their efficient, well-incorporated mass transit systems.

Greater London comprises 32 boroughs and the City of London, an area of more than 600 square miles. And all of it is served by a vast network of coaches and trains, including underground, overground and lightrail. The London Underground, known as the Tube, opened in 1863, making it the oldest underground system in the world, and this year, a series of celebrations are planned for its 150th anniversary. It is also the most expensive public transportation in the world, according to research compiled by the House of Commons library, but it does have one of the best-designed maps in transit history. The map, an evolution of Harry Beck’s revolutionary 1931 design, has clearly delineated lines and interchanges, and probably no other city has station names with such enticing and enduring flair: Elephant and Castle or Mile End, Peckham Rye or Ladbroke Grove. Londoners check Transport for London before their morning commute for up-to-the-minute travel delays, and the site’s comprehensive Journey Planner provides route options from A to B, including how far you will have to walk to the nearest bus or Tube stop. The 250-mile long system covers an area that goes from densely urban to glorious countryside in just a single fare, easily transporting passengers from Central London into Epping Forest or the Chiltern Hills.

In transport terms, London is made up of concentric zones from 1 through 6, with 1 being the city centre – roughly transcribed by the Tube’s Circle Line – and 6 being the farthest out. London real estate is some of the most expensive in the world, and prices in zones 1 and 2 are eye watering. The average house price across Greater London is 445,000 pounds, but in desirable areas like Notting Hill or Kensington, the average price is closer to 1.5 million pounds. In less popular areas like Lewisham in southeast London, the average price is just less than 300,000 pounds. The average rent for a two-bedroom flat in Notting Hill runs at 577 pounds a week, while in Lewisham, the same size flat averages 284 pounds a week.

The Seoul subway is the longest system in the world, with 508km of track and more than a dozen lines running across the city’s 25 districts. The immaculate, hi-tech stations have signage in both Korean and English, and digital touchscreen kiosks provide real time information, maps and tourist information. During rush hour, trains arrive every two minutes and off-peak, they arrive every five, making commuting and travelling around the city convenient to residents and tourists alike. Also convenient is the free wi-fi (available in stations and subway cars) with high download speeds and uninterrupted service, not to mention the subway cars’ digital TVs and heated seats in winter. The city buses are colour-coded to instantly telegraph what type of route they ply: red buses are express, green buses run short routes between subway stations and other points.  

Across the city, the housing market is in a decline, with falling prices and falling demand, so the South Korean government has plans to loosen rules around purchasing property in hopes of stimulating the market. These include exemptions on property acquisition taxes and financial support for first-time buyers. However, Seoul remains fairly expensive, especially in traditionally desirable areas such as Apgujeong-dong, Daechi-dong and Gaepo-dong, all part of the Gangnam district, and newer areas such as Banpo-dong in the Seocho district. The average price of a home in Banpo is a a healthy 34 million won per 3.3sqm, and an 115sqm apartment rents for around 3.1 million won a month. The average price for a flat in Gangnam is around 808 million won and an 185sqm apartment rents for around 6.5 million won a month.

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