I thought it would be great to talk about some of the everyday things that I experience here in Korea. Let’s start off with public transport.
My apartment (here they call these APT – ahhh – peh – teh) is a bit out of town. I have to catch the bus every day to school and back. There are several different kinds of buses in my town, based on colour. The most common (and expensive) is the blue bus. These usually have three numbers, for example 138. They run every ten minutes, but cost 1,500 won minimum. The other bus, the green bus, runs less often (usually every 20 to 25 minutes), but it costs much less, from 900 won. These buses have two numbers, for example 72. I usually take the cheaper green bus.
The bus system in Korea is very efficient. The trick is to find out which bus you should catch. I’m lucky in that all the buses that go past my APT ride along the town’s main road. so I can catch pretty much any bus that goes past. However, if I want to go a bit further, say to the nearest subway station, I need to be more picky and be prepared to take a long ride in a public bus.
It’s very easy to pay for a bus ride. You can pay cash, though this has risks as you can accidentally put the wrong note into the cash box. My wife and I made this error the other day. We dropped a 10,000 won note into the cash box, and the bus driver WAS NOT happy. We had to make all sorts of arrangements to get the rest of the money (8,000 won) paid back to us. The bus drivers don’t have access to the cash boxes.
It’s much easier to buy a transport card. The most common of these is the T-Money card, and another card is eB. I got a transport card that uses both systems.
You can buy these cards at many convenience or stationery stores. The stores normally have a sign outside indicating that they sell these cards. You load the cards with a certain amount of money, for example 10,000 won. Whenever you get on a bus you swipe the card past a cardreader next to the driver.
The cardreader automatically deducts the bus fare from your card, and then you grab your seat. BUT, when you leave the bus, you need to swipe the card again so that you record that you have gotten off the bus. If you don’t do this then the cardreader will assume you took the longest possible trip on the bus and deduct the maximum fare from your card. This is not cool. So don’t forget to swipe your card twice.
Also, unlike in South Africa, most local buses in South Korea have TWO doors. You enter at the door by the driver, swipe your card, and sit down. When you are near your stop, you press one of the red “stop” buttons placed on the walls of the bus. When the bus stops you go the door in the MIDDLE of the bus, swipe your card, and get off. Don’t try and get out at the driver’s door. He will not be happy with you. Expect to be shouted at.
The T-Money card can also be used for the subway. You simply swipe the card at the turnstiles when you enter and exit the subway, and the fare will automatically be deducted from your card. There are also machines at the subway stations to add more money to your cards.