CONTRIBUTED BY AMY HICKERSON
Public transportation is amazing in Seoul, and most people learn the subway really quickly because it is in English! The city bus system is more of a challenge due to the lack of English, but it is so inviting because you can actually see where you are going.
The app I use is called Seoul Bus, and here is what the icon looks like:
Some friends of ours who have since moved showed us how to use/read it. I know how to read no Korean, by the way, and I am terrible at reading maps, so if I can use this, anyone can!
I am going to use the example of Bus 143, because that goes to several locations that are popular, and are much faster to get to by bus. I should also admit, here, that the biggest bonus of the bus is, in my opinion, that you don’t have to go up and down 18,000 flights of stairs like you do getting into and out of the subway!
When you first open the app, you will see this screen:
Tap “Route”, and you will be taken here:
The first time you use it, you will not see numbers under “Recent”… those are the last buses I have searched. So, using the example of bus 143, tap in the line that says “Search with route number” and type in 143:
Now tap OK on your keypad. You will be taken here:
Don’t freak out. I can’t read that either. 😉 Look at the bottom of the screen, at the map point icon beside the star. Touch that, and you will be shown this map:
Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. (I added the red labels to show you the highlights). This shows the route of the bus. Each blue circle is a stop. From here, you can zoom in and see exactly where it goes. I zoom in and look for subway stops to help orient myself since I know the subway system really well, and which stops go to which locations. Let’s zoom in and take a closer look at this map.
Let’s say you want to go to the express bus terminal. You can see this bus goes there, but where do you start? Zoom in on the Yongsan section and you will see the bus stops a little clearer, like this:
Again, I added the red label. To get to this bus, you can exit the commissary gate and go either right or left (I think the stop to the left is a little closer). As with the subway, you need to get on the one going in the right direction. To get to the Express Bus Terminal, stay on the same side of the road as the post wall. Exit the commissary gate and, as I said earlier, go either right or left until you get to the stops shown above. A bus stop looks like this (this is NOT the stop found outside the commissary gate; more on this stop later). When you get to the stops outside of the commissary gate, you will see 143 on the chart (again, not shown here because this was not taken at those stops):
Once you get on the bus, you have two choices for payment. TMoney card (like on the subway) or cash (cash prices for blue and green buses are: 1,150W for ages 19+, 1,000W for ages 13-18, 450W for ages 7-12, Free for 6 and under). There is a cash box right beside the TMoney reader if you choose to pay that way (I have found this is a great way to get rid of the mounds of Won coins we collect!) You will see both of these right by the driver when you get on the bus. In this pic, the cash box is the silver box with the clear top with the red “01” on the side. Under the TMoney reader, is a coin changer. The driver can give change for small bills, but not large ones.
Ok, so, you are on the bus, headed to Express Bus Terminal for some shopping! Where to get off? Well, honestly, on the bus, I tell most people, just look out the window! Haha! There IS an announcement system on the bus, like the subway, that tells the name of the stop (in Korean and English!) but sometimes the stop names don’t match up with where you are going. When you are ready to get off the bus, you must push the red stop button. I don’t have a picture of that, but they are all over the bus. You can’t miss them! To exit, depart from the door at the back of the bus. If you scanned your TMoney card to get on the bus, don’t forget to scan when you get off! If you paid in cash, just hop off when you reach your stop!
Zooming in on the route map above, this is where the bus stops at the Express Bus Terminal. Under the middle red circle above the words Express Bus Terminal, a blue circle is hiding:
ProTip #1: To get home, do the same thing you did to get there. Just remember to cross the street and get on the bus heading back to Yongsan! If you stayed on past the Express Bus Terminal, this bus also heads into Apujeong and to Coex.
Now, pretend we are back on Yongsan and want to head the other direction, to the 5 story Daiso. Go back out of the commissary gate, but this time cross the road and go left. You want to go the other direction, so you must get on the side of the road where the traffic is going that way. Again, find your bus stop, and get on and pay as directed above. This time, you are looking at the other end of the route, so to zoom in, you want to find the stop that is near the Jonggak station, like this:
See the Jonggak station? The first blue circle after it is the stop that lets you off practically in front of the big Daiso! When you get off, it will be a little to your right (again, look for the blue circles. I will say here, I’m not sure what the red circles are for. Even the green buses we have taken use the blue circle stops.)
When you are ready to come home, as stated before, remember to cross the street and head back to Yongsan.
Now that you have mastered this bus, it’s time to branch out to different numbers! How? Easy. Now that you know how to use the app, when you come to a bus stop like this one that I showed you earlier, simply open the app and key in the numbers listed at the stop on the search line, and check the route. One of them is bound to get you where you are going! If not, walk a little farther, find another stop and check those numbers!
ProTip #2: There are MANY buses that go through Seoul Station. We have not had to make a transfer yet, but if you can’t find a bus that goes directly where you want to go, if you can get to Seoul Station, chances are you can find it there!
ProTip #3: As I have learned bus numbers (where they start, where they go), I have made a note in my phone. Here are the notes of the buses I have learned so far.
So there you have it! I hope this has been helpful to you, and if you have not started using the city bus, you will now!