Last week, while we had family in town visiting,(Jim’s mom and brother) we decided to check out the Seoul City Bus Tour. I have only ever been on one other bus tour before, which was in London, and I really enjoyed it. We thought this would be a great way to see the city and learn more about Korea.
We boarded the Seoul City Tour by walking out Gate 1 from Yongsan Garrison (this is bus stop #9 on the tour.) If you walk out the gate and turn left, you will see a sign that says “Seoul City Tour.” After boarding, we paid the driver (10,000 Won per person) and took our seats. There were headsets at each seat for every person and a variety of language choices on the headset box. (Make sure your headset works before the bus departs; mine didn’t work the first time.)
We looked at the map that we received from the tour guide and chose which stops we wanted visit; the bus stops at 26 different places. Many attractions are closed on Mondays, therefore they do not run bus tours, and some are even closed on Tuesdays, but the bus tour is still available. You can hop on and off the bus as many times as you like between 9:00 AM and 9:00 PM (times vary depending on which stop you are getting on and off at and the last complete tour starts at 7:00 PM.)
As we drove through the city, waiting to arrive at our first stop of choice, we listened to the headset as the prerecorded guide talked about Seoul. Much to our disappointment, there wasn’t much to learn about each stop. Each stop was talked about for only a few minutes, followed by a long time of silence between stops. There was more silence on this tour than talking, which was very surprising. We expected to learn more than we could on the internet by taking the tour, this definitely didn’t happen.
Along with the fact that there wasn’t much information given on our tour, there was also a lot of traffic. Total travel time from start to finish is said to be 2 hours. I can’t imagine how the whole tour could only take 2 hours, no matter what time of day it is because of the constant traffic in the city.
The first stop on our list was the Seoul Tower. I must admit, taking the bus to the Seoul Tower was worth the 10,000 Won that we paid to ride the bus all day long. I had never been to the tower before, but I have been told that you can either: hike up, take a cab, or take a bus shuttle. The Seoul City Tour took us right up to the bus drop off and we only had to hike up a little ways to the actual tower. We didn’t mind the short walk up and enjoyed being able to take the bus back down to ground level after we were done exploring the tower.
The next stop on our list was the Changgyeonggung Palace. It took a long time to get there but it was nice to sit in an air-conditioned bus while driving along the very busy streets of Seoul. Our third stop was The Blue House. We only walked to President’s house and then back to the stop to board again and continue on our way.
More traffic ensued this time around and we stopped at the last stop of the tour for 30 minutes before the next tour started again. At the time, we didn’t know this was going to happen or else we would have hopped off and watched the changing of the guards at the nearby palace, but since this wasn’t clear, we sat on the bus wondering where the driver went.
We finally started moving again but by this point we just decided to just go back to our hotel for dinner. Most of the palaces and museums close by 5:30-6 and we wouldn’t have had time to explore any more of the stops before our final destination.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this tour to anyone unless they were planning on going to the Seoul Tower, or had no idea how to use the subway system. Yes, getting on and off the bus was convenient, and seeing all of Seoul was pretty cool, but we sat in way too much traffic and could have done more if we just used the subways. We only had one good tour guide that told us about the stops (in English) on top of what was being said on our recording. If all of the guides were like her, maybe my review would have been different, but most of the tour guides just sat there and told us when to get on and off. Seoul City Tour should add more Seoul facts to the tour to enhance the travelers experience.