Ode to the Inter-city Bus System

Inter-city Bus Terminal, Photo by Howard Lee

(Media1=William Harlow) During my last trip to Korea, I found I had some extra time in my schedule so I decided to get out of the area around Seoul and head to the southern coast of the country (but not Busan).

Normally, I would take the railroad. There is no better way to get to Busan than by taking the KTX (high speed rail) from Seoul station. This time; however, rail connections proved undesirable so I decided to take the inter-city bus and was glad I did.

Prior to this trip, the only buses I normally used were the local city buses and the airport express bus to and from Incheon. I hadn’t used the inter-city bus system since the mid-1970’s.

Back then these buses were old, crowed, and the terminals were marginal to say the least. Now this has completely changed. The terminals were modern and well-appointed throughout the bus system. The tickets were for assigned seats on a luxury bus with large seats on a clean, comfortable, modern bus.

The tickets were easy to obtain from either a machine or a ticket window and were significantly less than a rail ticket. The bus left on time, took rest breaks at designated highway rest areas, and almost always arrived on time (subject to the vagaries of traffic in Korea).

Like rail, you were dropped off in the center of your destination city with easy access to local transportation such as city bus, subway, or taxi. Buses to most destinations were frequent and unless you are traveling on a holiday or weekend, had seats readily available.

Buses have luggage compartments below and room for small carry-on bags above your seat. The seats are wide (routinely just three seats across the width of the bus), recline, and are plush. Of course, as with any ground transportation, the fewer bags the better.

The only drawbacks to taking the bus over rail are speed and traffic. The buses move slower than most trains and are also subject to the whims of the traffic gods. This is not such an issue away from Seoul; however, the closer you get to Seoul the greater the chances of traffic delays. On the plus side, the bus offers more direct shots to may destinations and can save you time during transfers.

Regardless, for my trip to selected cities on Korea’s southern coast, the bus proved an efficient and enjoyable choice. The centrally located bus terminal and shopping center in Daejon was especially nice and is a good central location for catching connecting buses around Korea.
The bottom line is, for seeing many of the smaller cities in Korea, taking the bus may be the way to go.