Incredibly, Visit Seoul are currently offering a free shuttle bus between Seoul and three major tourist destinations in Korea. This is part of their oddly named Visit Korea Year, which would be all well and good if it weren’t for the fact that it runs from 2010-2012.
The destinations a foreigner in Korea can travel to for free are:
Gyeongju – Korea’s historical capital and former seat of the Jeoseon Dynasty for centuries. This is the best place is Korea to get a sense of historic Korea, and one which has not been rebuilt.
Busan – Korea’s second city, famed for being more laid back than Seoul, and home of the famous Haeundae Beach. It also hosts the expansive Jagalchi Fish Market and good ferry and plane links to close neighbour, Japan.
Jeonju – Supposedly the culinary capital of Korea. All you foodies take note. There are a number of sites of historic interest here also.
This offer runs from now until December 31st, 2011.
The buses are phenomenal; only 3 seats across each row, spacious, comfortable, air conditioned and shiny deluxe buses. Aside from the lengthy visit Korea promo video which plays for a while once the trip has started, it is easy to fall asleep and wake up at your destination.
What’s more, there is NO catch. You don’t have to buy anything, you don’t have to visit any specific places and get herded around like cattle, you just get on at a designated spot and off at your destination. You can travel free either one way or return, and there is no time limit on how long you wait before returning.
The buses travel on every day of the week except Mondays. Plan your trip accordingly.
To reserve your seat, click on this link and have your passport handy. You must reserve in advance, you can’t just rock up and get on the bus.
So far I have only been to Gyeongju and back using this service but I highly recommend it and will certainly take the opportunity to visit Busan and Jeonju using it also before 2012.
A few rules for riding the bus or subway to ensure you do not get scowled at nor told off by a disgruntled, elderly Korean lady:
1) Seats at either end of a subway carriage are reserved exclusively for the elderly, disabled or pregnant women. Do not sit in those seats at any time, even if the car seems quiet. Sometimes in the space of one subway station, the train can fill up. Buses have single seats closer to the front that are also reserved.
2) Give up your seat to someone more in need if the train or bus is very full.
3) Wait for people to leave the train before attempting to enter. On the bus, you enter through the front and exit via the middle door only.
4) Sometimes old Korean ladies (affectionately known as ajumas) will barge you out of the way. They are much stronger than they appear. They apparently have right of way and there is nothing you can do about it. It is better to take this slight with good natured aplomb, rather than get annoyed, as this will never get you anywhere and you will just look daft.
5) You can eat on the subway or bus, but be aware that most people sharing the ride with you probably don’t want to smell what you are eating.
6) If you want to fit in with the other Koreans on public transport, you can either a) watch t.v. on your smart phone (oh yes, mobile phones have full connectivity deep under the city even)
c) listen to music
or d) play games on your smart phone
Keeping these things in mind, you should be all set to ride Korea’s public transport hassle-free.