I believe the first form of transportation a foreigner gets to know when they first come here is the subway system, especially if they live in Seoul or another major city. You learn the line numbers and stops which get you to familiar places. Figuring out how to transfer becomes second nature and before you know it you can get off at your stop without even listening for the English announcements.
But let's say you don't live near a major subway station or you know that there are busses in your area but don't really understand where they go. What do you do? Does Korea have bus maps like they do for the subway?
The answer is yes, but I would say they come more in a digital form instead of a little carry-along map in your pocket.
Since I live kind of on the outskirts of the subway system I know that there are busses that will get me into Seoul faster than if I took the train. I am going to share with you one website that I have found tremendously helpful when figuring where a bus goes.
What you will need for this to work out is a basic knowledge of Korean. By basic I mean being able to read and being able to recognize what you are reading.
Naver Bus Map Service Site:
Since this is a Korean website and I know that most of you might not have a hang on Korean yet I will navigate you through how to use it.
How to use it:
- Enter bus #: Walk around your neighborhood and jot down the bus numbers at your nearby bus stations. Come back home and enter them into the search area of this site. What will happen is that in the left area of the screen you will get choices. There are different # busses for every area. Here is where your knowledge of Korean is going to kick in. Scroll through your choices and find one with a heading that is within your local area. For me that is "60 경기 경기 광주 일반" or Bus 60 Gyeongi Gwangju. Or just click on the choices till you can see that yes it goes in your area.
2. Using the Map: Once you click on a choice the path of the bus will come up in the map area along with a list of the stops it makes. You can read through till you find one in your area or zoom into the map and see physically where the bus stop is near your home.
From here you can follow the trail the bus makes seeing where it goes. I use this alot to see how close it gets to a subway station in Seoul that I am heading towards. If you take the bus alot you will know that sometimes the stop is further away than you thought it was from where you need to go.
*Make sure you zoom in far enough that the "green little" bus stops show up. Hover your mouse over these and they will tell you what bus stop it is. If you click on it a list will come up showing you all the buses that come to that stop. This is especially handy if you want to transfer buses or find a savvier way to get where you are going.
That is basically how to use this website. If your Korean typing skills are really great than you could just type in the search area your area and get a list of buses that way.
Other Bus sites:
Of course this website is not the only place you can go to figure out your way on the bus. So here for you is a list of other sites (and in English!)
Those are the ones that I can think of. If you know of other sites that you use frequently let me know! Also if you own an iPod touch or iPhone there are a lot of apps on there for the subway and buses here in Korea. Just do a search and see what you find.
Bus Riding Tips!
Riding the bus out here can be a bit of a rush the first time, so knowing these tips might help you before you step on.
- Pay at the front. In cash (exact change) or use a "T-Card". That's those prepaid cards that you also use for the Subway. Just "beep" on the thing and move.
- "Beep" your card again on the way out. Be quick, too as the people behind won't be shy to push and shove.
- Know when your bus stop is coming and get ready to depart. Most busses have announcements of the upcoming stop and the one after it. If you know Korean well enough this comes in great. If not just keep your eyes peeled for the area you want to go to. When you see it coming click the "red" button and stand by the exit.
- At the bus stop: Look for your bus coming. If you are the only one there don't be surprised if your bus passes you by and doesn't stop. It's not because they hate foreigners it's because you forgot to use the protocol. That is to wave the bus down. When you see your bus coming just gently wave your hand back and forth letting them know you need it. They will stop and let you on. (I made this mistake a lot).
- Reading the Bus Destination: Before you get on the bus double check its the one you want. Also know whether or not the bus you want to get on is the kind that will have 2 destinations. Meaning some buses with the same number will go right and head in one direction, while the other will head left and head in the other direction. (This is how I get lost a lot). One way to check is look for a small sign on the front window with the destination labeled. Again you need to learn Korean.
- When the exit door opens get out as soon as possible. The bus driver is not going to wait while you take your sweet time putting on a glove or hat. I've had to shout stop a few times to get off. Also I have experienced the bus starting to take off as I had one foot on the bus and one on the ground.
- Crowded Bus: Squeeze in and pack yourself in tightly. Move to the back when things start to get crowded.
- Elderly: Give up your seat to an elderly or handicapped looking person. They might give you the "no" but you were polite at least...right?
- Hold on! If you are standing then plant your feet and hold on tightly. Bus drivers are very aggressive here and don't mind slamming on the breaks or taking a turn swiftly. Being prepared will help you from falling on some poor sap sitting in front you.
- Some bus drivers are super friendly and will say hello in English. ;)
I hope this information comes as handy for you in the future. :) Happy Bus Riding!