I had read that travelling by public transport on Jeju island was not easy and travel forums were full of enquiries about full-day taxi services. However, taking one of those services sounded too excessive for a single traveller, as it would generally cost between 120,000 to 150,000 won (abt 150-180 SGD).
The other option was to take bus tours and YEHA Guesthouse offers 3 different routes, costing only about 79,000 won each (before a 10,000 won discount for guesthouse customers). However, further examination of the bus tour routes revealed that there were certain places I would not be interested in. In addition, the lunch-stops that were included in the tour packages were at non-halal places.
There is also a Jeju city tour bus with a hop-on hop-off format for a mere 5,000 won; however, that will only take you to attractions in Jeju-city, covering only a small part of the island.
So I decided that I would try to travel by public bus (and occasionally taxi if necessary) on my day of arrival (Thursday) and the next day,my first full day in Jeju, and then decide whether I wanted to go on a bus tour on Saturday. The problem was that I could not find much info on bus routes around Jeju island… not in English anyway.
Thus, it was a pleasant surprise to find bus route information and route maps posted up in the lobby and lift-landing area of YEHA Guesthouse . I tried to take a bus to a nearby attraction (Dongmun market) on the afternoon of arrival day and was happy to find out that bus-stop locations were announced in English, in addition to Chinese, Japanese and Korean. The announcements mentioned both the present bus-stop location, as well the next location. When the bus was nearing a bus-stop, another announcement would be made and that would be just the right timing to press the bell. The smooth experience built my confidence to travel by bus on subsequent days.
It helped that the bus-stop in front of YEHA had many buses that went around the island, so I did not have to make my way to the Jeju-si bus terminal (which was 2 bus-stops before the guesthouse) to begin my journeys. The YEHA bus-stop was called the Tamna Medical Center for the Disabled.
On Day 2, I took intercity bus no. 730 to the starting point of Jeju olle trekking route 5 in Namwon city. I then took the same bus to Soegwipo after giving up my trek halfway. Part of the route is coastal and offers nice views.
On Day 3, I took bus no. 700 to Seongsan port bus-top. From there it was about 10 minutes walk to the ferry terminal to Udo island. After returning from Udo island, I went back to the same bus-stop and I hopped back on bus 700 to continue on to Soegwipo. I could also have taken bus no. 710 to Seongsan port, but if I remember correctly, bus 710 is less regular than bus 700.
From Seogwipo, there are several routes back to Jeju si from the local bus terminal. I tried two different ones 780-2, and 780-516 and enjoyed most the scenic route (on 780-2) that took me right across the centre of the island, through Hallasan National Park. While I did not climb Mt. Halla on my two feet, I was able to “climb” its foothills on the bus. That was also the shorter route, taking only about 1 hour to reach Jeju si.
- The bus-stops display bus time-tables and bus-routes only in Korean, so best to decide on the bus routes based on the English info provided in the guesthouse before setting out.
- There are several bus routes plying the Jeju-si to Seogwipo (and vice-versa) route. The shortest route is the 780-2 line, cutting across the centre of the island (indicated by the light blue line in the jeju bus map here) takes abt 1 hr or so. The coastal routes (e.g 730, 780-516 Jungmun) take 1.5 – 2 hours. Taking the longer routes is a fun and cheap way of seeing more of the island.
- Almost all the intercity buses at the Seogwipo intercity bus-terminal make the trip to Jeju-si bus-terminal (and vice-versa). There are some exceptions, though, so do ask around if you are not sure
- Jeju buses accept T-money card! Get yours at the airport convenience store or other convenience stores in town. You can also top up your cards at most convenience stores. I used the bus a lot over 3 days, so had to top up about 20,000 won. For short bus rides in Jeju city, there is a flat fare, so you can just tap the card when getting off the bus. For intercity bus trips (e.g. Jeju-si to Seongsan port), you need to inform your drop off location to the driver. He will help determine your fare so that the appropriate amount is deducted when you tap on the T-money post.