The wheels on the bus go round and round

Since we are on the topic of transportation…..riding the city buses in Korea sometimes seem the most underused mode of transportation for foreigners. Taxis are quicker and easier, but buses are much, much cheaper. Buses can be tricky though as most routes are still only in Korean.

However, with a little bit of determination you can figure out how to read hangul or maybe even find a Korean who will help you out. Also, many cities are starting to put the English translation under the Korean to help out new foreigners. If there isn’t any English, don’t worry sometimes a ride to the wrong place can become an adventure. Lindsay hung out with bus drivers on break one day when she accidentally rode to the end of the line. If nothing else, she had a story.

Here are some tips:

Buy a bus pass. Most city buses cost 1,000 won to ride, but if you have a bus pass it will only cost 950 won and you can transfer within an hour for free. Most convenient stores sell these passes in your city.

Ride a few routes on the weekend. This will allow you to get to know a route and not make you late for any important appointments or work.

Learn Hangul. Reading the bus map was probably how I sharpened my ability to read. It also helped me to get around town much, much easier and cheaper.

Ask for help. I know I keep saying it, but Koreans love to help a lost foreigner.

Be aggressive. There is no such thing as being polite when loading on a bus, especially if the bus is crowded and it is raining. It’s okay to be a little rude, but don’t use it as a way to take out all of your aggression. I have missed a bus or two for being passive.

Be ready to unload. Bus drivers in big cities don’t think it takes long for people to get off because most Koreans are ready to unload. Don’t be a victim to the automatic backdoor. Get off quickly.

Give your seat up to an ajumma. There is such a thing as being rude on the bus. If you see an old Korean woman who looks like she needs a seat more than you, give it up. They’ll refuse at first, but insist. You will impress them so much, they will probably offer to hold your bag in their lap and you might even turn a stoic face into one that can’t stop smiling.


  1. Another excellent post 🙂 When it comes to buses in other cities, it helps to know geographic directions (which way is XYZ Park?). The buses in Seoul usually show subway stations in English, while more signs are bi-lingual.

    It's always fun to jump on a random bus and see where it goes. If you find yourself back in some bus terminal, take the next bus back towards town and continue the adventure 🙂


  2. crossfield says:

    Oh! I had completely forgotten about the ajummas holding your bag for you… so sweet! Your stories and insights are great.


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