How to take the bus in Tokyo and Seoul

Foreigners living in Korea or Japan may have a hard time getting used to the bus because it’s hard to find the correct bus, and you need to know when to stop the bus in the native language. There is little English available on buses compared to subways.


Since I have lived in both countries, and I take the bus almost everyday in Seoul, I noticed some similarities and differences in the two bus systems. Hope this helps anyone who is trying to take a bus in Tokyo or Seoul.



How much does each ride cost?

-Seoul: the cost depends on distance
cash 1150 KRW. t-money card 1050 KRW.
※ 10 – 40 km: +100 won for every 5 km     
※ After 40 km: +100 won for every 10 km

-Tokyo: 210 yen per ride. It is a flat rate as long as it is within Tokyo.


Is there a discount?

-In both cities, children and the elderly pay only half the price.

-It is slightly cheaper if you use the t-money card instead of cash.


Is there a day pass?

-Both cities have a day-pass for tourists. The card can be used for the subway and the bus, and it is around 15 USD.

-In Tokyo, there are multiple bus companies so it could get complicating. But for Toei Bus, there is a one-day bus pass that is around 5 USD.


Pay by cash? Or a card?

-In both, most locals pay by their smart card that is specifically for paying for transportation. There is a discount for paying by card.

-Seoul: T-money card. Available at subway stations and convenience stores.

-Tokyo: Suica or Pasmo. If you pay by cash, you need exact change. Some buses won’t have change.


When do I pay?

Seoul: As far as I know, most Korean buses are front-boarding ones that require you to pay first. If you are paying by card, you have to tap the card when you get on the bus AND when you get off the bus.

-Tokyo: Buses in Tokyo could be front-boarding or rear-boarding. Most of them ask you to pay first, but some have you pay at the end. So you really have to just watch and learn from locals.


How are the bus names/numbers organized?

-Seoul: I love how Seoul’s bus is organized! It’s so easy to understand! The colors of the bus show if they will be on the main streets or smaller streets, and the numbers show which area they depart from and arrive to.


-Tokyo: The bus are usually named with one Kanji character and a number. The kanji character shows which station/area it starts from. I’m not sure about what the numbers mean.

How can I find the bus that I need?

-Seoul: I usually use Google Maps (in English). But I think the best way is to learn Korean and use Naver Maps. That is the easiest and most efficient way of finding the best route.

-Tokyo: I usually use Google Maps (in English) or Yahoo Japan (in Japanese). I haven’t used NaviTime before but it seems like a popular app.


What are the hours? Is there a time table?

-Seoul’s buses run longer from 4am to 2am. It even has special late night buses in those gap hours, but those only run on the main streets.Their time table is not as accurate, but in many bus stops, there is an electronic sign that shows which buses are coming up next.

-Generally, Tokyo’s buses run from around 6am to 11pm. There is a specific time table for weekdays and weekends/holidays. There are more buses per hour during rush hours.

How do I get off the bus?

-Push the red button that signifies that you want the bus driver to open the exit door at the next stop. If you are paying by card, tap the card before you exit.

-Buttons in Tokyo are usually yellow or purple, and it said “Tomarimasu” which means “will stop.” Push that button before your next stop. If you paid by card, you don’t need to tap again at the end because it’s a flat rate.


How do I say, “I want to get off(I’m getting off)!”
in Korean/Japanese?

-Nae-ryeo-yo! 내려요!

-O-ri-mas(u)! 降ります(おります)!



Is there a bus lane?

-Blue buses, which run on the main streets usually run on lanes that are reserved for buses. This makes things much more efficient. Less traffic jams!

-There is no lane just for buses. Buses get stuck in traffic because it’s under the same fate as any other car.


How are the bus drivers?

-Politeness or friendliness depends on the bus driver. They sometimes say “Hello,” or “Welcome.” Most seem indifferent. Most bus drivers probably don’t know English.

-Although Japanese bus drivers could be indifferent as well, a greater percentage are trained to be professional and polite. Most bus drivers probably don’t know English.

Are there any reserved seats for the elderly and disabled?

-Seoul: I usually see maybe 2-8 seats per bus.

-Tokyo: There are usually 3-5 seats per bus.

-In both cities, anyone can sit in those seats as long as they give up their seats for those who need it more. This is surprising for Seoul, because in subways, reserved seats are empty until an elderly person comes along. 


Are there any other questions about buses in Tokyo and Seoul?
Do you have new ideas on how to compare Tokyo and Seoul?
Please let me know!



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