How to take the Bus in Seoul
It can be tricky to use public transportation when in a new city. In a previous blog post we showed you how to take the metro and how to hail a cab, but in this blog we will be explaining the intricacies of taking the bus.
Now if you're like me you may have never had to take the bus before in your life because you've either always drove everywhere or maybe you've only taken the metro. So taking the bus for the first time could definitely be a change or scary for you at first, but don't worry, it's not as bad as it seems.
As many foreigners still believe it to be confusing to take the bus, I am here to give you a little more peace of mind on the matter. When I first arrived in Seoul, I also found the bus system a little confusing because everything is in Korean and it can be hard to know which stop to get off at, some busses will announce the stop in Korean and English and will show it on a screen at the front of the bus, but this is not universally used. Not to worry though! I am here to give you some peace of mind about taking the bus!
How do I pay for the Bus?
Most busses take cash as a form of payment, but you will need to have exact change to put it in the little box when you enter the bus. However, it easiest to just have a T-Money card or transportation card. When you board the bus there will be a place for you to scan your T-Money card and when you get off the bus you will need to scan your T-Money card again so that you are charged the correct amount. Sometimes there will be transfer fees for longer journeys but generally these cost around 900 won. There are other ways to pay for public transportation, but a T-Money card will be the easiest for you to use. For more information on other options visit.
What is a T-Money Card (public transportation card)?
If it is your first time in Korea than you may be wondering, what is a T-Money card, how do I get one, and is it necessary? A T-Money card is a transportation card used as e-currency. You will need to have one if you plan on taking public transit such as the metro or the bus. There are also transfer discounts when you use a T-money card, whereas if you will not be eligible for these discounts if you are using cash. Also, if you plan to travel around Korea, there will be quiet a few transfers to get to places, so you will definitely be saving money by purchasing a T-money card.
Where can I purchase a T-Money card?
T-Money cards can be purchased at convenience stores or in the metro station. When you go to a convenient store you can ask for a T-Money card and they will ask you how much you would like to load onto the card. Depending on how long you are staying and how much you will be using public transportation you can start with around 20,000 won and then reload it from there. You must pay in cash when purchasing a T-Money card and when reloading the T-Money card.
When you go to the metro station there will be machines on the side that look like the images below. You can choose to reload or purchase a T-Money card here. The blue square on the far right is the option to reload your card. There will be an english button option if you are not familiar with Korean. From there it will guide you on how to reload the card. Keep in mind that you will have to use cash, so make sure you have some with you when you go to reload your card.
Reload your T-Money Card at this machine.
Source: 10 Magazine Korea
Purchase a T-Money card at this machine.
Source: Walk with Cham
What to do if you have money leftover on your T-Money Card?
If you come to the end of your stay in Korea and realize that you still have quite a bit of money left on your T-Money card there is a machine in each metro station that lets you refund the money that is on your card. It only does full refunds not partial refunds, so make sure that you are positive that you would like to refund the whole amount.
Bus Colors & Hours
Busses in Seoul are color coded based upon the type of routes that they run. Most busses run from 4:30am - 1:00am and the Night Bus runs from 1:00am - 4:00am. Treksplorer explains the bus colors in more detail:
Blue Buses: Operate the main lines within the entire city of Seoul and fares start at 1,300 Won
Green Buses - Travel shorter distances and carry travelers between transfer points between bus and subway stations, these also are typically found within neighborhoods. Fares start at 1,300 Won
Red Buses - Are express buses that connect Seoul, Incheon, and Gyeonggi. They travel longer distances connecting the cities and run to suburban areas. Fares start at 2,400 Won
Yellow Busses - Operate through the main areas of downtown Seoul. Fare starts at 1,200 Won
Night Busses - Are generally blue and the number will start with an “N.” Fares start at 2,150 Won
Source: The Seoul Guide
Taking the Bus: Step-by-step
Now that you know how to pay for the bus and what the different bus colors mean, it is time to learn how to actually take the bus.
Photographer: Ryoo Geon Uk
Step 1: Download Navigation App
As you may already know, google maps is not the main source of maps here so you will need to download either Kakao Maps or Naver Maps to navigate the bus. Also, I would recommend downloading Kakao bus so that you can see the arrival of each bus. I personally like Naver Maps better, but both work equally well and will give you the same results. Both of the apps will have an english version but some content may still be in Korean. So I would suggest downloading the app Papago so that if you have trouble you can screenshot it and open it in Papago to translate it.
Source: Go! Go! Hanguk!
Source: 10 Magazine Korea
Step 2: Inputting Address
Naver Maps and Kakao Maps will give you similar information. Here is exact instructions for taking the bus using Naver Maps.
Using Naver Maps to take the Bus
Step 3: Boarding the Bus
When you board the bus you will board using the doors in the front and exit the bus using the doors in the middle of the bus. You will need to scan your T-Money card on the pad (pictured below) when boarding the bus, to pay for your bus fair.
NOTE: Make sure that you are taking the bus in the right direction. The bus goes in both directions so when you are coming back from your location you will take the bus in the opposite direction, you will not get on the bus at the same stop that you exited the bus.
Source: In My Korea
Step 4: Riding the Bus
When you are riding the bus the stops will be announced. It will announce the upcoming stop and the next stop after. Most buses will have a screen at the front of the bus above the windshield that will show each stops name in both Korean and English, but don't rely on this as not all buses will have them. So when you are riding the bus it is easiest to expand the names of all of the stops and follow along until you get to your stop. Once you get the hang of the bus, you won't have to do this anymore, but it is the best way to not get lost.
Photographer: Ering Song
Step 5: Exiting the Bus
When you exit the bus you will use the doors towards the back of the bus. You will also need to scan you T-Money card on the pad by this door as well. The reason for doing this is so that you will only be charged for the amount of time that you rode the bus. If you do not scan your card on the way off of the bus you will be charged for the whole line, meaning that you will be charges as if you took the bus to the very last stop.
Go! Go! Hanguk
In My Korea
10 Magazine Korea
10 Magazine Korea - Kakao Bus
90 Day Korean
The Seoul Guide
Unsplash - Erin Song
Unsplash - Ryoo Geon Uk
Walk with Cham