Korean How-To Guide: Booking Express Buses Online
Korean Express Buses (고속) are by far the most effective way to get around the country. Here we’ll show you how to make a reservation online, using the Korean-language only website.
For three years Anthony has traveled Korea – largely by express bus, though also by planes, trains, and automobiles. He likes the express bus the most, to the point that all weekend trips are exciting, never mind the destination. Here he gives you the pro tips on reserving express buses online.
At some point, most foreigners come to one realization: Korean websites are awful. Forcing you to use Internet Explorer; playing endlessly looping jingles in the background (without a mute button); and enough annoying pop-ups to give Justin Bieber epilepsy seem to suggest that, despite the highest Internet penetration rate in the world, Korean Internet users are nostalgic for the Myspace and Geocities eras.
[note title=”The Honam Line” align=”right” width=”280″]Buses running to/from these terminals:
- Central City (Seoul)
- DongSeoul (Honam/Yeongdong lines)
- Gochang [/note]
The Kobus website is not quite that bad. The English site is fairly simple and well-designed, and you can check bus routes, times, and available seats. It even works in Chrome and Firefox, though, like most English sites in Korea, could have used a good, native English-speaking copywriter.
What it doesn’t have is the ability to actually make reservations, nor does it allow you to inquire after or reserve buses running on the Honam line (these buses can be reserved on the Easy Ticket website, which does not have an English-language page).
In order to reserve Express buses running on the Gyeongbu line (as most buses do), you’ll have to dive into the Korean-language site. For those who can’t yet manage that level of Korean, I’m going to run you through the process step-by-step, with images and annotations.
[note title=”More Information” align=”center”]For more general information on The Korean Express Bus service, as well as the many other types of transport in Korea, check out our guide to traveling in Korea.[/note]
[note title=”Temporary Website” align=”center”]As of the 3rd of December, the Korean-language Kobus website is under construction, and is featuring a temporary front-page. I would delay this post, but that the Easy Ticket website listed above was undergoing similar work that lasted about a year. When and if the site is restored I will update this page with the appropriate changes.
Additionally, if you attempt to navigate directly to the site by typing www.kobus.co.kr you will reach a blank page. Use this link instead.[/note]
- Before you start: What do you need?
- Step 1: Select points of departure and destination; date and time; number of passengers
- Step 2: Select your bus
- Step 3: Choose your seats
- Step 4: Pay
- Step 5: Retrieve your tickets
1. Before you start: What do you need?
You will need to use Internet explorer, and be able to make payments online, either with a Korean credit/checking card (if it’s embossed it should work) or by online bank transfer.
2. Step 1: Select points of departure and destination; date and time; number of passengers
Scan the drop-down lists to find the Korean words for your destination and departure, then select a date (format year/month/day) and time of departure (it will list the first 10 after the time you select, and you must select a time). At the bottom choose the number of adult and child passengers, then hit the orange button to go to the next page.
Two dialogs will pop up about something or other; click “OK” then “Yes”.
You can leave the “Bus Grade” option as it is (it defaults to “All). FYI, the stuff on the right is for retrieving a booking so you can change or cancel it.
3. Step 2: Select your bus
Here the website will list the first 10 buses to leave after your selected time, along with their time, bus grade, operating company, number of available seats, and the options to select a bus, or view later and earlier buses.
At the bottom is a table displaying details about the route. The bus company doesn’t matter much, so far as I can tell, but the grade of bus will make a difference to the price and your comfort. I would recommend always taking the “limousine” buses (우등), but if you’re on a tight budget the general buses (일반) are usually a little more than half the price.
The far-right column is for late-night buses (심야우등). These are more expensive again than the limousine buses, but often the only option to get home after a long weekend of temple raiding.
When you know which bus you want, click the “선택” button next to that bus. The page will ask you to confirm your date, so check it then click Yes.
4. Step 3: Choose your seats
Yes, it’s a row of check boxes: don’t question the design, just click the seats you’d like to reserve.
If you don’t know, limousine buses have 3 seats in a row: two together on the left side, then the aisle, and then a lonely seat on the right. General buses (as pictured here) have the usual 2 seats-aisle-2 seats arrangement. In this diagram the drivers seat is on the bottom left and the back row on the far right.
Seats with a blue border are available, and grayed-out ones are reserved.
Once you have selected your seats, scroll down to the payment section.
5. Step 4: Pay
At the bottom of the same page you will find the payment box. You can pay either by card (Korean check or credit cards are acceptable; ask you bank whether you can use your card online) or Internet transfer.
The box defaults to card payments. To pay by card, fill in the details for your card, then click the orange button.
To pay by account transfer, click the button at the top-right of the payment box, then hit the big orange button at the bottom.
Bear in mind that Korean online payment systems are about as confusing and unnecessary as Bruce Willis’s music career, and that you will probably have to install every damn popup it throws at you.
Fill in your account details on the pop-up, and your phone number, then enter the 4-digit number sent to you. Unless your bank is weird that should be it!
6. Step 5: Collect your tickets
Before your bus leaves turn up at the terminal and locate the ticket machines. They’re specifically for retrieving pre-booked tickets, so all you have to do is swipe your bank card or enter your phone number. The machine will find all reservations linked to that account, and let you print out the tickets associated with them.
Easy? I think so, but what do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
The South Korea Travel Guide has great information on bus terminals in the Gangwon-do area, besides loads of other travel stuff.