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Seoul Searching | Riding a Bus in Seoul.

After having spent a fortune on cab fare during our first trip to South Korea, I decided to learn the ropes of riding the bus and taking the subway this time around. It is a cheaper option after all (flagdown rate for cabs in Seoul is at 3000 won; bus/subway fare is only 1300 won), and I can no longer use the sub-zero weather as an excuse to take a cab.

Imagine having to wait at bus stops in the dead of winter with a kid in tow? Or having to walk from the subway to our destination and vice versa while the flurries are falling? Que horror for my poor lungs! Now that it's spring, the weather is a tad warmer, a lot nicer, and let's put it this way - it's a bit more conducive if and when you get lost, haha!
Photo credit: Seoul Sync.
But to save you from that trouble, let me give you an introduction to the Seoul bus system. These buses are differentiated by their color and the number of digits in the route number.

Let's learn about the colors after the jump! :)

1. Airport Limousine Bus
Before the advent of the Airport Railroad Express (AREX) in Seoul's subway system, the main way to get to downtown Seoul from Incheon Airport was by limousine bus. There are 19 bus routes, and the fares differ for every route. Bus fares range from 7000 to 15000 Korean won.
Photo credit: Airport Limousine Korea.
This is the first bus that we rode when we first arrived in Seoul. We took the 6013 bus, which runs from the Incheon Airport all the way to Myeonmokdong. Bus fare for this route is at 10000 won for adults and 8000 won for kids.
Outside the Incheon Airport, waiting for the 6013 bus to arrive.
2. Blue Bus.
Also known as 'trunk bus', the blue bus operate within the city limits of Seoul. Unlike the green buses, the blue buses cover long distances throughout the whole city and and run at faster speed as they often use the median bus-only lanes. These buses always have three digits.
Photo credit: Kojects.
3. Green Bus.
This bus connects nearby residential areas to subway stations and main bus lines. It functions as a feeder to Seoul's subway system, hence, it is called the 'branch bus'. This is the bus line that we ride most often since it stops at the nearby Ttukseom/Seongsu (subway) station. Green buses always have four digits. 
Yue aboard a Green Bus.
Fares for both the Blue and Green bus are as follows:
Adults: 1200 won using T-money, 1300 in cash
Students: 720 won using T-money, 1150 won in cash
Children: 450 won using T-money, 450 won in cash

4. Maeul Bus.
The Maeul Bus or the village bus operate on very short routes within local areas to connect residents to main transport hubs. Not to be confused with the Green Bus, these buses are relatively smaller (like a mini-bus), and have two digits only. Fares are cheaper too - adults at 900 won, students at 480 won, and children at 300 won.
Maeul Bus.
5. Yellow Bus.
Buses that go in a circular patter around the very central part of Seoul are called 'loop buses'. These buses are not very common, and usually operate only during the rush hour. Yellow buses have two digits, with fares ranging from 1100 won for adults, 560 won for students, and 350 won for kids.
Loop Bus.
6. Red Bus.
Unlike the intercity buses that run from one bus stop to another, the red bus or the 'express bus' connects the inner suburbs of Gyeonggi-do to Seoul. These buses cover long distances of over 40 kilometers and run from one to two hours from the first to the last stop. This bus also has four digits.
Photo credit: Kojects.
7. Night Bus.
Buses that operate from midnight until 5am are called night buses or owl buses. The bus number begins with an 'N' and has two digits. Owl buses cover most areas of Seoul and have similar long routes like the regular blue buses. However, the frequency of owl buses are quite low (about 40-minute intervals) and have more expensive fares (adults at 2150 won, students at 1360 won, kids at 1200 won).
The Night Bus.

Now that you know the differences between these buses, riding the bus is now a breeze! Here's how:

1. Find a bus stop.
And wait for the bus to arrive. 
Bus stop at Yeongdong Daegyo.
Most bus stops in Seoul have digital displays with real-time bus information. The sign shows which buses are arriving, and the arrival time of each bus.
Bus stop sans the digital display.
2. Get on the bus and pay your fare.
Use the front door to get on the bus, and pay your fare by either scanning your T-money card (tap it against the reader located near the driver seat and hold it until you hear the 'beep' sound) or by dropping cash in the cash box. 
Inside a Seoul city bus.
If you're paying in cash, try to pay the exact amount if possible. Otherwise, you may end up with a handful of coins as the driver can not take the cash notes out of the cash box and can only provide coins for change.

3. Press the buzzer to get off.
When the bus is approaching the stop at which you’d like to get off, hit one of the buzzers. Usually, the next stop is announced on the intercom in both Korean and English.
The buzzer is that red thinggy behind me.
4. Alight the bus.
But don't forget to tap your card before you do! Otherwise, you run the risk of paying a higher fare and in some cases, a minor infringement to the card is charged for other services.
Tap your card on the reader located near the rear door.
More often than not, buses in Korea tend to be jam-packed and stop only for a very short time. As such, it is recommended that you get up from your seat and make your way to the rear door just before arriving at your stop so you have time to tag off first.
Aboard the Green Bus, en route to Dongdaemun. :)
Most of the time, we transfer from the Green Bus to the nearest subway station. I'll be blogging about Seoul's subway - how to's and what not's - in a separate post (because it's already 4 freaking AM and I need to sleep, haha)!

4 replies:

Gideon Nikos Liquid said...

So that's what those colors meant, nice to learn more about our friend Seoul! I'm not sure what exactly stops the Philippines from getting into a bit of technology and having all buses have a tap-card system but maybe we'll get there someday.

Mai C. said...

I don't know how other countries manage an awesome bus system and we can't. That's how it is in Hong Kong as well. Thanks for all the tips!

Rebecca Swenor said...

The bus system in Seoul sounds like it is awesome. Taking a bus is indeed much cheaper than taking a cab. I love how they have the different colors for different destinations and the fact that there is a bus that runs all night is amazing. Our bus system here doesn't run all night and they stop runs at 6 pm. Thanks for sharing all the bus information.

Nicole Herose said...

I love the blue bus! It is so fun to have a ride, my son will be so exciting about it.

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