If you come to Korea, you really need to know how to use the public transportation. It is clean, reliable, and cheap. The first year I came to Korea, I road a bus all the time to work, church, and shopping because in the town where I was living there were no subways. Now a days, I have heard there is a train that goes from Seoul to Paju City, where I was living, but back then, there were only buses or taxis. If you look at a map of S. Korea, you will see that Paju City is way up north close to the N. Korean border. It only cost me 1,000 won every time I road the bus, and I could go anywhere I wanted, even from Paju City to Seoul for 1,000 which is about one American dollar. I only stopped riding the buses at the recommendation of my doctor. She said someone like me should never be riding the bus.n That is a whole other story. My daughter and son in law take the bus everyday. Most Koreans do. I am going to explain the bus stops and how to catch a bus in case you end up in Korea.
First of all, you can spot the bus stops. Some have awnings and benches, and others just have a pole with a sign. There will be signs to help you understand what is going on. Each bus has a number and a certain route. If you stay on a bus and don’t get off, you will eventually end up back at the bus stop you got on at. One of my students fell asleep on his way home from school one day and ended up going the whole route of his bus. These buses can run just around in the city where you are or all over Korea. From the same bus stop in Paju City, I could catch a bus inside Paju City to my school, and I could also catch one to Seoul. Mu student who fell asleep went to the university inside of Seoul, but lived out in Gyeonggido Province. He had a long bus ride everyday. When I came to Seoul on Sundays, I went one by bus one way, and then got off and used the subway to go the rest of the way when I got in Seoul.
There are signs on the bus stops that tell you where each bus goes that comes to that bus stop. They are labeled by numbers, and then all the names of the bus stops where that particular bus goes are listed. It helps to read Korean when you try to catch a bus so you can read the name of the bus stop where you want to go. If you look up at the top of a bus stop, you can see the name of the bus stop as well as what the name of the next bus stop is going both directions. There is also a sign that is constantly changing because it monitors the buses and tells you when they are coming.
If you look on the buses, each one has its own number. Besides the numbers telling you where that bus goes, the names of the bus stations where they go are written all over them in both Korean and English. There are different colors of buses and different kinds of buses. The different colors tell you which company they are from. The bus lines are privately owned, and each company has a different color of bus. These green and blue buses are the local buses. If you see another bus, it is not a local bus. The local buses are not luxury buses. They are kind of like riding in a school bus. You can also stand in the aisles in these buses if all the seats are full, and there are straps at the top for you to hold on to. Lots of students of all ages ride these buses to school and back. People ride these buses to work and to shopping.
When you get on a local bus, you must get in the front door by the bus driver. When you enter, there is a place to pay there. If you have the cash, just put the cash in the bin and walk to your seat. The bus driver will be watching. When I road, it was only 1,000 won, but my son in law says he thinks it has gone us a few hundred won since then. He rides the bus all the time, but still doesn’t know the exact price. How can that be? Most Koreans may not know the exact price because it is very cheap and because they use cards, not cash. The Korean government has encouraged the use of transportation cards and credit or debit cards. If you have one of these cards, you scan it as you get on and as you go out the back door when you get off, you scan it again. Don’t forget to scan it because it messes everything up. Your credit card may misunderstand and send you a big bill if you forget. You can buy the transportation cards in convenience stores and in the subway stations. You get a card, then just put a certain amount of money on it and use it for a long time until you realize there is no more money on it, then you fill up the same card. This is how parents keep control of how much money their kids are spending. They give them money to put on their card, maybe 10,000 won which is about 10 American dollars, and the kid is expected to only use it on subways and buses and not throw the money around.
There are also luxury buses that cost more money in Korea. You can catch them at Incheon Airport, and they bring you into Seoul. You can also catch them at Gimpo Airport or at Express Bus Central. They will take your luggage along and have seats with high backs that sometimes lay back a little for comfort. They have a place under the bus to put your luggage as well as a luggage wrack above the seats. If you want to travel to a different city in Korea, this is a good way to go. If you catch the bus at Gimpo Airport, you pay when you get on like you pay when your ride the local buses. If you catch it from Express Bus Central, there are ticket booths to buy tickets. There is a big mall over at Express Bus Central with a big book store that carries English books, McDonalds, a movie theater, candy shops, lots of restaurants, a DVD and CD shop, etc. When we lived down south of Seoul in Seosan, we used to take a bus up from Seosan to Express Bus Central just to enjoy the mall and go Christmas shopping.
You will also see another kind of buses on Korean roads. They are short yellow buses. They are private buses that belong to these Korean hogwans (the schools the kids go to after school), maybe to Taekwando(Korean style karate) places, or even churches. You won’t be catching these small yellow buses at the bus stops. You can only ride them if you are part of the organization they belong to.
If you come to Korea and are able bodied, buses one of the best ways to go from one place to another. They are cheap and convenient, and they aren’t that hard to figure out. Here in Korea, there are many English teachers from England, America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries where they speak English as a first language, and most of them don’t own cars or take taxis unless it is a special occasion. They use the buses just like the Koreans.