Seoul Living: Buses

Now let’s talk about the bane of most foreigners. The bus. I know they might seem scary, but honestly they can be one of the best forms of getting around in the city.

Seoul has approximately 400 bus routes with 8,500 city buses that cover all farthest reaches of the city. In some parts of the city there are lanes that are solely for buses and it is strictly enforced 24/7.

These lanes are marked with a blue line on the road and in Korean it reads BUSU. If you drive in this lane you can expect to get a fine. Just don’t do it.

You can expect to see 4 different colored buses in Seoul. There are yellow, green, blue, and red. The yellow buses go in circles and go the shortest distance. The yellow buses are for easier access to shopping and business areas. The green are the branch buses so they travel in a confined area, the blue go from area to area called “gu.” The red buses are express buses that travel out to suburbs and they make a minimal number of stops.

Just so you know. Seoul is broken up into 8 areas called “Gu.” The Gu’s are like boroughs- kinda like how New York City is broken up into Manhattan, Brooklyn, etc. The smaller areas are called “dong.” So you might live in Yongsan-gu (big area) Yongsan-dong (small area.) So…don’t confuse your gu with your dong.

So back to buses.

For example if you are on a green bus in Gangnam-gu then it will stay in that same gu area.

Now the blue buses go from gu to gu so they go from 1 part of the city to another. For example you can travel from the Coex to Itaewon on the Blue bus, but you can’t do that on the green or yellow bus.

Now the red buses are citywide buses so they will travel the farthest distances in Seoul.

Let’s go over a bit about how the 8 different gu’s are broken up. Because by understanding this you’ll be able to understand how the buses go from one place to another.

Now, I want you to imagine a donut broken up into 7 sections. The numbers should go around clockwise with 1 starting at the top. Just remember. Clockwise. So 1, 2, 3, 4 etc.

Section 1 is the Nowon area. 2 is the Dongdaemun Area. 3 is Jamsil. 4 is on the lower right side and this is the Gangnam area. Area 5 is Dongjak. Area 6 is the Guro area. Area 7 and this is Mapo and you are back to the top and next to section 1, the Nowon area. The donut hole is area 0 and this is the Yongsan and city hall area.

Now this is the fun part. There is a method behind the madness of the bus numbers.

The first number is the departure region and the second number is the arrival region. The other two numbers just distinguish it from other buses.

Yellow buses usually only have 2 numbers so bus 03 is a bus that stays only in the Yongsan area and it goes from Seoul Tower to Seoul Tower.

So…Green bus 0013 is a bus that starts in region 0 and finishes it’s route there and loops around. 13 is just its name.

Green bus 0211 is a bus that starts in region 0, and finishes in region 2. So it starts from City hall and goes to Dongdaemun area. 11 is just distinguishes it from other buses.

Blue Bus 143 starts in region 1: the Nowon area and travels through to region 4: Gangnam, and back. It will make stops through region 0: Yongsan.

So…bus 401 starts in region 4 and finishes in region 0: Yongsan

(In a teacher voice)

So class, where does bus 501 start and finish?

(Beat answer in a student voice)

It starts around Region 5 dongjak and
goes to Region 0: city hall: the donut hole.

And what area would yellow bus 61 be in?

Region 6: The Guro Area, the upper left side of the donut!

Stop there if we are running out of time and say this: It looks like I’m running a little out of time. I’ll talk about red buses next time.

Now the red buses are just a little tricky. They start out with 9, this designates it as the Wide Area bus. These are buses that start in the suburbs so let’s use Red bus 9602 as an example. 9 designates it as a wide area bus. 6 means it starts around Incheon and 0 says that it will travel to the City Hall area.

Pop Quiz!

Where would red bus 9202 travel from and to?

It would start in the suburbs of region 2: dongdaemun and it would travel to City Hall which is region 0!

It’s that easy class!

Now red buses that have 5500-1 or 102 are technical not Seoul buses, because they travel outside of the Seoul area. I’ll get into more detail about those buses later, but here is a quick tip to our Bundang listeners. The 5500-1 will take you from Sunae to Hannam dong and Insadong.

Well, I hope that has helped you to understand the bus system better.

For more information you can go to an interactive map that, unfortunately, only works in Internet Explorer at Sorry, Firefox or Safari web browser users.

Or dial 02 120 on your cell phone.

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